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Alfalfa in Full bloom

Monday August 20th 2012
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The flow is on again and we have some great bee weather in the forecast.  I had thought that I'd be headed back to Ontario shortly --  tomorrow, in fact, but at the rate I'm going, it may not be for a week or even more.  I'm off to do the river trip today and then I have at least three or four days of bee work.

I have yet to examine all the hives, adjust the space and remove excess honey, then get some feed on hand for when the flows cut off.  I also have to do some mite tests and I have promised to test a new protein feed formula for Global.  

The test will be a simple consumption test.  I placed three patties on each hive: a Global 0%, a Global with 15% pollen and a new formula patty (no pollen), in that order.  I'll randomize the order in the next group of hives, but first I want to see what the bees do.  I already stored the patties for a month and they all did well in that test. 

I'd like to do a real in-depth test with detailed comparisons of hive parameters between the three feeds, but to start at least, I'll just do what beekeepers always do -- see how well the various patties are consumed in comparison to one another. 

Once I establish how attractive they are in relation to one another, I may decide to set up a small comparison test to see if I can detect any differences between hives fed the various feeds, but I don't pretend it would be very scientific.  I'll be looking for large effects.  Slight differences are almost impossible to prove definitively, and there is no practical way to control what else free-ranging hives are eating. 

Testing non-free-ranging hives may sound like a worthwhile plan, but we really want to know how the feeds affect real hives in the real world, not hives prevented from foraging, so such results would be subject to serious question.  No way around it.  We have to test real hives, not artificially manipulated and confined hives and we know that the results every time will be different simply due to real world effects which are never the same twice.  However, I believe we can bracket in on some sort of truth.

Frankly, in spite of the higher protein claimed, I am not expecting any miracles.  We'll see, though.

Last night, I put patties on three hives to see how they react.  In previous years I fed all summer, but this year, with all the foundation I am using, I am not sure where to place the patties.  Normally, I put them close to the brood, and I often do lift some brood up as I place on a new super, but I just don't seem to have a clue this year.

What happens to the patties in the next several days will guide me as to how I will proceed, I hope.  I know I took pictures of the patties on the hives to record the positioning, but it seems my phone lost the pictures.  Odd.  I've had this happen before.  No explanation.  I placed three patties on each hive and am concerned that the markings could be lost if the patties are eaten quickly and the paper is shredded by the bees

*   *   *   *   *   *

The river trip went off quite well after we all managed to get together.  It seems that Emil was not used to the country and drove far out of the way looking for the Ranch and arrived over an hour late.  From there things went like clockwork and we had a pleasant afternoon drifting down the River and swimming when we got to hot.

We got back the Ranch at 4:30, left the canoes, and drove to Three Hills.  There we bought some groceries.  Fen and Emil went to the Mill and the rest of us to Swalwell.   Fen dropped off Emil at the Mill and picked up my chairs and tables which were still there from the memorial the day before last and brought them over so we had something to sit on.

Cheryl, Ellen's roommate from university appeared, as expected, around 7:30 and we all had wings and wine outside in the perfect, calm, warm evening.  I finished off the day with a swim in the pool.

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Tuesday August 21st 2012
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It is still hot and sticky this morning, with another hot day predicted.  I intend to get working on the bees again, early, and before the day heats up.  I have decided that being out working bees between 1 and 3 makes little sense on hot, sunny summer days since the sun is overhead and the heat is uncomfortable when wearing a bee suit.   I prefer to work without a shirt and during those hours, the UV is at a maximum.   So, and I plan to use the cooler hours for the bee work and find other things to do during the hottest hours.

That said, I had best push this keyboard away and get going.   Hopefully, I can get another 1/3 done and maybe some varroa checks.  I have patties to feed, too.

*   *   *   *   *   *

As it went, I did not get out until almost noon, and did 10 more hives by 1.  When I was done I had 11 queenright, viable hives, since one of the boxes I had tipped up previously from a dud proved to have queen just beginning to lay.  I knew something was keeping the bees from abandoning this one box since the bees left all the other tipped-up boxes in the two days since I tipped them.

Boxes can be left tipped for days and be totally ignored by foraging bees if there is a flow on, but not even for a few minutes if there is a dearth.  IF there is no flow, the bees can empty a tipped box in less than an hour.

33+10=43 original hives checked so far.  25+11=36 are OK.  That's 84% success so far and I am about 40% done checking.  I have been doing about ten hives and hour in this bunch.  That includes checking and pulling frames and doing various odds and ends of jobs.

Anyone following this will see that drawing conclusions from any small sequence of hives could be very far from the eventual true.  From experience, I have been predicting 80 good hives into winter from the 110 or so I have now, or 72% success, but projections using the each of the groups I checked would have been 60%, 100%, 72%, then 110%!  All would be wrong. 

Since the blocks were roughly equal in size, the average of all these predictions is close to what I am seeing, but only an average over a larger percentage of the hives will predict well, assuming that the entire operation is essentially homogenous in success rate, and only a sample of 100% of the hives will tell the absolute truth.

The assumption that there is consistency through the whole operation is rather chancy, though, since each group was done at a different time, and sometimes in a different way.

I also have 13 boxes of honey to extract from those 43 hives I have worked through.  I simply pulled out any finished combs that were not brood combs from the boxes I examined. I left far more than I took.  Many are newly drawn and half-capped Pierco and I am wondering if uncapping will tear up the new cells.  I might be better to stack them on a few hives to get fully capped and hardened up a bit first.  My goal is to get lots of good brood comb, not lots of honey and damaged combs.

*   *   *   *   *   *

At 2, I went out to check more hives.  Including the time for a swim in the middle and at the end, I did 9 hives before 4:10.  The going was slow.  9 out of 9 were good and I had a lot of honey to deal with. At midday the sky became overcast, so the work was not too uncomfortable, especially with the cool pool (22 degrees C) for respite.

I now have 22 boxes of honey after going through 52 hives.  Of those, I found 45 of them to be good.  The rest I shook out or combined.  Here is what my yard looked like at the end of the day (left).

That is 86% success, but I am not expecting things to continue like this.  The last twenty hives are hives which received the most attention and were worked the earliest in the season.  I may have already checked them once a few weeks ago and that would account for the low loss rate for these two groups on this round.  I'll be coming soon to some with, maybe, 50% success.

As I go through these hives, I am having a chance to compare the various new foundation/frame combinations that I have been trying over the past few years and I am sad to say that the PF-100s are no better than I expected.  Bees do accept them, and often draw them perfectly, but draw strange patterns far too often for my liking.  I think that says something. 

I am still reserving my final verdict, but at this point, I still like the Pierco standard black frames best.  I seldom see any burr or brace comb and never see anything like what is shown at right on two different PF-100 frames.  In the middle are wood frames with Permadent or something comparable.  They draw well, and look nice, but have far too much frame (wood) area for my liking.  I love the way that Pierco frames feel like honeycombs, not rigid pieces of furniture.  They flex a bit, like wax and the surface is mostly comb, not wood.  The bees apparently love them too, as they draw them wall to wall, flawlessly, time after time.

So, after working three days, I'm half done checking.  I can see I'm going to need to pull honey again.  I've been doing it frame by frame and walking around a lot.  This is very inefficient.  Back in my commercial days I'd have pulled twenty boxes in fifteen minutes, and that is on a bad day.

BUT, I'm not pulling honey, except as a necessary activity in checking the hives. Nonetheless, I really should get organized and use the forklift more, and my legs less.

When we hired help, some workers would drive me crazy.  Instead of parking the truck right where they were loading, they would carry the load, piece by piece,  20 paces or more to the truck if I did not watch them.  These same guys would complain how tired they were and how hard they had worked.  I told them, "I don't care how tired you make yourself by not thinking and by ignoring instructions, but I do care how much you get done, so smarten up!  You'll get more done and be less tired.  That way, we'll both be happy".

I had thought that the season is over and it sure looked that way for a few days.  Now, the flow is really heavy and the hives are filling.  I've done my best to weaken the hives by splitting, but even little splits are making real honey.  Some years, I've seen really poor spring hives make a bumper crop.  This might be one of those years.  If so, maybe I'll have to just "go with the flow" (so to speak) and make honey, but Ontario waits.  Carpe Diem sits tethered to a dock in Muskoka.

There are two more hives to check in the quonset yard, then the swarms.  I've been moving the swarms incrementally closer to the middle of the yard to palletize them since the swarms chose my various old equipment stacks at several spots distant from the yard.  As a result, the swarm hives are all in wood boxes and on old brood frames.  I have to say that after using EPS, both painted and unpainted, that wood seems really primitive and unnatural.  Although I do like wood for floors and lids, it really pains to to have any hives in wood boxes anymore.  I'll be moving those hives into EPS soon.

After drawing lots of foundation, the older wood brood frames look ancient.  Some are warped, some are chewed, some are broken, and some have patches of drone comb, but I know the older ones, no matter how they look, are the best brood frames for wintering, and that the bees will winter much better on them than new, white combs.  However, aesthetically, the new frames have  a lot of appeal.  I also know that after they have been in service a while, that these white frames will be fine.  I'll put the new frames in the bottom boxes and next year they will be promoted to brood chambers.

> ... I am having a very good year with the bees. A freaky mild winter, and a 100% survival rate followed by perfect spring build-up and well timed rains have given me a 100lb average yield this year. Atypical results which I am attributing to good fortune and good weather.

> Anyway, I continue to be an avid reader of your diary. I really enjoy what you have to share. I have an observation or two and a couple of questions. I run Mann Lake Black PF's exclusively for my brood nests.

I'm assuming that you mean PF-105s.  There are also PF-405s, but they do not seem to come in black.

> I have 18 hives in production. I have been keeping bees since 2008. I started with these frames for the supposed small cell benefits, and have stuck with them as I have known no different. I also deal with burr comb on a continual basis and have got used to it.  I can see that for someone with commercial expertise and experience it would come across as a pain in the butt; However, I have never had a colony starve out near honey. Is it possible that burr comb over the winter may be a benefit, as the bees don't seem to recognize a break in the comb and move from box to box and comb to comb more easily?

In my experience, the term "burr comb" means different things to different people and may include ladder comb, brace comb, and and "stools: the little bumps bees sometimes place on a bottom board.  Here is what I found on the web:

"Burr Comb
Any section of comb that is not a part of the main comb piece within the frame or hanging from the top bar."
From http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Beekeeping/Glossary:
 

"Burr comb
Comb built out from wood frame or comb, but usually unattached on one end.
Found on http://pages.prodigy.net/dscribner/bees/ "
From http://www.encyclo.co.uk/define/Burr%20comb
 

"Brace Comb
The sections of seemingly random comb that connect hive parts together. Brace Comb is a form of Burr Comb."
From http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Beekeeping/Glossary:
 

When mentioning burr comb in regard to to foundation and these frames,  I am mostly referring comb built between and parallel to frames and the brace comb built at right angles between adjacent combs or to the box sides, and not so much to the ladder comb, which is the comb built between a frame and the frame below.

Bees will often attempt to make a continuous comb of the frames in several boxes, Ladder comb helps ensure that the queen can go up and down when that is desired, as some queens do not like to cross wood or voids. I sometimes deliberately drop scraps from scraping between boxes to encourage bees to go up.

Ladder comb building is most evident when when new frames are being built from foundation or when hives are crowded and not given sufficient space.  At such times, bees tend to build comb in every possible empty space, even in bee spaces.

The ladder comb problem, if it is a problem, is often exacerbated by hives off-level or frames not perfectly aligned above one another as in the transition from 10-frame spacing in brood boxes to 9-frame or 8-frames spacing in supers.

Personally, I like a little ladder comb in brood boxes and expect it in newly drawn foundation boxes, but I do scrape top and bottom bars in hives I plan to work often, such as these hives that are being split regularly and manipulated often.

Here's at trick for scraping the top and bottom bars in an occupied box:
Remove the box and stand it on end on the ground.  For some reason, the bees are easily smoked off the top and bottom bars when the bars are vertical and stay off long enough to pass a tool down without killing many.  When the same box is on the hive, the bottom bars are inaccessible (of course), and bees tend to boil up onto the top bars where they are  get killed when scraping is attempted.  Try it!

> Also half of my medium extracting combs are on PF's. Last year I bought about 18 boxes worth of wood frames on discount from Mann Lake and have a couple of further observations. The burr comb between these combs is negligible as compared to the PF's; They don't slide around in the extractor as much as the plastic frames do; However, I notice that the plastic frames are not as easily propolized together as would frames - have you noticed that?

Yes.  I agree on all points.

> Overall, I would say I am happy enough PF's as brood frames, but would not recommend them as extracting frames.

Thanks.  I'd say that if you like the PFs, you'll love the Piercos.   Piercos are tough and also rounded a bit, giving a much nicer feel.  The PFs break easily and cannot stand much prying.  They also tend to be poorly drawn and encourage burr comb compared to Piercos in my limited tests.  Also medium depth Piercos have a slightly larger cell than the full depth Piercos.  The larger cells extract better, but makes the mediums a poorer choice (IMO) for brood.

I am also drawing quite a few black Mann Make wood frames -- like you are -- and they are drawn as well as the Piercos are, with less ladder comb, but they have more wood than I like and they also have something like 20% fewer cells per comb due to the wood and large cell size.  After handling the Piercos, I find wood frames clunky and artificial feeling.

I will grant that the PFs and the Piercos have more ladder comb when first drawn, but when properly scraped and then used in a hive that is adequately supered (not crowded), with boxes that are precision-built with proper bee spaces, they don't have much more or less ladder comb than wood.

> Lastly, I remain in awe of the bees will to reproduce. A big challenge for me is to keep my bee numbers at a level that will remain compatible with my work and family life; I have to admit I am kind of amused (and surprised) that despite your extensive experience this seems to be an issue for you as well. I hope you are not offended by me inferring this, but one of the reasons I follow your diary is the honest musings in there about choices you make.

That is my goal.  I am always amused in reading old entries how much I forget, how I am often doing something different from what I think I am doing and how often I change my mind or have it changed by the bees.

As for keeping the hive numbers down to manageable, there is always a market for hives since some people seem to kill bees as easily as we multiply them.

If that fails or does not appeal, my solution is to simply combine the hives in  fall by simply stacking every other one on the one next to it.  If extremely oversupplied with hives, combine three into one. 

This should be done at least one brood cycle before cold weather so the existing brood has a chance to emerge and for the the brood nests to combine into one and for the stores to be moved into proper position by the bees.  Late in the season, the chances of swarming resulting is about nil.

The bees will move the feed up and after a while there will be an empty box or maybe several on the bottom. These can be removed or just left there.  Bees winter better higher off the ground with dead air below them and the empty bottom boxes need not be wrapped.  Of course an upper entrance is essential since it will be a very long way down to the bottom entrance.

The resulting hives will adjust in population, then winter extremely well.  In spring, they will have to be spilt, though, or they will swarm early.

> Feel free to reproduce any of this in your blog if you want to.

Thanks.

For some reason, the Honey Bee World Forum is quiet lately.  I guess everyone is busy.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on,
or by imbeciles who really mean it.
Mark Twain

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Wednesday August 22nd 2012
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I realised last night that I am quite excited about what I am seeing in my hives.  The combination of Meijer EPS boxes and black Pierco is working far better than I expected.  The bees are doing very well and handling the equipment is far more pleasant than handling wood.  The newer Pierco design makes a difference that is obvious when comparing to the Mann lake PF frames which are sharp and also brittle by comparison.

Time is flying and I must get caught up.  I've been working in my best yard, one which is sheltered from north winds and am nearly finished there, with only two hives to do.  The other two yards are not sheltered from the north, and I see that today the wind will be from the north, predicted to be at 20 KPH.  I'm thinking that I could have planned better, but this wind is fairly light and may make the work more pleasant.  We'll see.

Last year I had some problems with the north-facing hives in the North Yard being weaker than the south.  I'm seeing that again this year.  I have not observed that often before.  I wonder what it is about this spot?

The forecasts keep changing and I see we are now expecting cooler weather for a few days.  The days are also getting much shorter.  I awake at 5 AM and see that it is still semi-dark.  As the fall equinox approaches, we experience the maximum rate of change and the days really shorten.  Nonetheless, we can have strong flows if things work out.  Or we can have a killer frost that ends everything for the year.  The number to watch is the nighttime temperature prediction.

On opening one hive the other day, I found eggs and decided it had a queen.  I needed to shift it to another base, so I moved it over onto the new stand next to the old one.  When I looked on the floor where the hive had been sitting, I found an apparently perfect queen lying still in one corner.  I examined it carefully and decide that she musty have fainted,.  I have heard of such things, but can't recall seeing it before.  I dropped her into her hive and marked it for checking in four days, after the current eggs have hatched.

I took a peek at the patties I put on the hives several days ago.  Here is a shot showing relative patty consumption so far.  The patties are not necessarily near brood, as they are on the top box of three-storey hives full of honey.  I'll explain which patty is which later.

I worked through 8 hives in the north group and only one was a dud.  Another was very small, though.  This is quite fascinating, watching what happens in a bee yard if the bees are disturbed, then allowed to recover their own way.

60 hives are now checked with 52 turning out OK.

If picture is worth 1,000 words, these pictures should show how beautifully the bees draw the black Piercos in these EPS boxes.  These entire supers of foundation were put on several weeks ago.  Click the thumbnails to enlarge.

    

For contrast, compare these to the picture at right of two different PF-100s.  Granted, these two combs are the worst examples I happened on that day, but I have seen plenty more as I work through the hives.  I also see many PF-100s drawn perfectly, and in fact the opposite side (not shown) was OK, but there is quite a variation in how they are drawn compared to the Piercos, which seldom have flaws.  Usually any flaws on newly-drawn Piercos are a piece of brace comb to the next frame or the hive wall that is easily removed.  The resulting gouge is then reliably repaired by the bees.

I put some screened bottoms on this yard in preparation for mite drop counts.  I chose only hives which appear to have had queens all season, based on their strength, on the assumption that these will have the most mites.  Interruptions in brood rearing reduce mite loads significantly.

If I had been really thinking and really co-ordinated, I could have made a point of using oxalic acid during those broodless periods for an enhanced mite kill.  Of course, to do it properly, I would have had to know which hives were broodless, and proving that can amount to a lot of work, or just do all the hives.  As it is, I'll have to watch and maybe act as early as September.  Last year, I began in October and it seemed to work well enough.

The worst thing that could happen to anybody, would be to not be used for anything by anybody.
Kurt Vonnegut

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Thursday August 23rd 2012
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I started the day by driving Cheryl to YYC, then stopped in Airdrie for a visit and to register the truck.  This afternoon, I plan to take my extracting over to Meijers to get the combs emptied.

When our son was quite young -- can't recall the age, but young enough that he thought it cool to run around in a T-shirt and rubber boots and nothing else -- he used to occasionally give us the slip and disappear outside with his ally, the dog. (We are on a large country acreage). In those years I always had hives near the house, and one day we caught up with him only to find him at one of the hives with several frames -- bees and all -- leaned up against the hive just the way he had seen me do it. I don't know how much farther he would have gotten, but he was having no worries.

Another time, I was pulling honey from about twenty hives on the large lawn between our place and the country road on a bright, sunny summer day in July that just happened to be the town's sports day. Among the entertainments was a small train of wagons behind a garden tractor that rode the local kids around the town. We are on the edge of town -- about 400 yards from it -- and when the little train came within sight of me, the driver noticed me blowing bees in only shorts and sandals and pulled into our circular driveway, stopped and gave the kids a good view from about 40 feet away-- right in front of the hives. What could I do? I just kept working. Nobody got stung. (Thank Goodness).

I loaded the honey which I had moved into wood boxes for transport and extraction, and was at Meijers just after 3.  I was headed home by 5.   In my travels, I noticed alfalfa fields in full bloom throughout the country.

The job itself only took less than a half hour.  I had 24-1/2 supers weighing 1818 lbs, including pallet.  When extracted, the same pallet load weighed 690 lbs.  That means that we got about 46 lbs out of each box on average and, since the pallet weighs 60 lbs and an empty super weighs around 18 lbs, it seems that 690-(25x18) or 180 lbs remained in  the boxes, or about 7 lbs per box did not come out.

That was largely due to the fact that the uncapper had problems with such thin combs.  Normally, commercial extracting supers have only 8 combs in the space of 10 and the combs are much fatter.  *-frame spacing reduces the cost of frames, the labour of extracting them by 20%, and makes fatter, fuller combs that hold more honey and are easier to uncap. 

In fatter combs, the wax extends beyond the frame and is easy for the knives to reach.  My combs, drawn from foundation with 10-frame spacing, were thin enough that the knives missed entire sides occasionally and often missed patches.  Nonetheless, the job was plenty good enough for my purposes and very quick.

     

Again, the PF-100s came up a little short.  While the wood and the Piercos climbed the conveyor nicely, the PF-100s went crooked and fell into the tray (middle) or slipped in place until a wood frame or a Pierco came along behind it to give it a push (right).

I returned home, had supper, then went out and put the extracted frames (still in wood boxes) onto a group of hives I have yet to check and which need supers.  I wanted to get the job done while I have the energy and before tomorrow's rain.  I'll be transferring the combs back into EPS boxes when I work those hives.

The bees will lick these wet frames out and repair the comb by tomorrow.  Maybe they will move up some of the honey that is in some cases plugging their brood nests.  There is also a good chance the queens will lay a few of the new frames full of eggs by the time I get around to looking again.  Queens love "stickies". 

In supering this group of 27 hives, I noted that 9 are weaker than the others and did not yet need another box.  One had dwindled right out, but other duds looked as if they may be queenright, but just under-populated.  We'll see.  Being weaker does not necessarily mean they are queenless.  Maybe they were just slow getting a new queen or were the weak half of an uneven split, but I marked them and they will be the first I check when I get to that yard.  The strongest ones are obviously queenright and only need supering.

There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.
Booker T. Washington

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Friday August 24th 2012
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Today is rainy and cooler. This rain will keep things growing.  It is predicted to end around noon, but at mid-morning, there is no such indication.  If it ends, I'll work on some hives.  If not, I'll get some bookwork and cleanup done.

I'm glad I put those boxes on hives last night, but sorry that the boxes are wood.  I am sure the EPS boxes are drier and warmer. 

Something I noticed while adding the supers was that some of the hives which are still in doubles and are packed with honey seem to have fairly low populations for the amount of honey they made.  I am thinking they may either be small due to having been queenless a while or were plugged and consequently have reduced brood areas.  I'll be working through them soon and I'll see how much brood they have.

Some small colonies I have examined have had a surprising amount of brood.  After being queenless, for three or four weeks, colonies have a pent-up potential in terms of young bees ready to feed larvae and huge pollen stores accumulated during the queenless period and explode after the new queen gets started.

For the small, but queenright colonies, I'll either exchange their with strong colonies by turning pallets around or exchanging them so the weaker ones pick up more bees, or combine them with strong queenless colonies before fall.

I've installed three screened floors now and will put down more in the coming days.  I have yet to put in the sticky boards.  It occurs to me that I need a way to lift hives off the bottoms so I can clean off the screens.  A hive loader would be ideal, but there are other ways, perhaps employing my forklift.

The sun came out mid-afternoon and I got out and did some odd jobs after the wind went down.  The rest of the day was spent in deskwork.

Now that I have a diesel truck again, I am thinking about the 100 gallons of diesel that has been sitting in one of my tanks for about ten years.  I pumped some out and took a look at it and it appears fine.  I'll put some into a glass jar and look closer.  I tried giving it away about eight years ago, but my friends did not want to take a chance on one-year old fuel.  So, I have been doubtful about using it.  Boaters, however, often have very old or dirty diesel in their tanks and simply polish it with filters if required or have it polished by portable filters.  Matt says he can't see why it should  not be fine.  After all, people are burning a lot of strange things in diesels these days.  With the high cost of cleaning injectors and rebuilding pumps, though, I want to be careful.

I have ever deemed it more honorable and more
profitable, too, to set a good example than to follow a bad one.
Thomas Jefferson

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Saturday August 25th 2012
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Today is expected to be sunny and right around 22 degrees C.  That is ideal for working around the yard and working on the bees.  I started by mowing the grass around the south yard and the shed.

I have looked through 60 of my ~110 hives and have the rest to go.

*   *   *   *   *

It was too windy to be pleasant north of the hedge, so I decided to finish the quonset yard, which is more sheltered.  There were two hives yet to do and I checked them.  They were OK.  Then I started on the swarm hives which were in wood boxes of brood comb, mostly heavy with honey.  They need to be transferred by fall and I need to check them and remove honey as well.  The first four went fine, but then I had to come in to wash my hands; they were getting very sticky.  I had forgotten the water bucket when I went over. there.  It can be an essential item.

*   *   *   *   *

I've now done the last nine in the quonset yard. There is one small swarm yet to remove from the stacks, though.  The count is now 69 checked, with 61 good ones in that count, or an 89% success rate.    40 left to go (est.)

The honey removal and extraction has slowed me down a lot.  I think I may need to find an extractor if I plan to continue this enterprise.  An old Kelly 72 would be perfect.  One of those would have done my boxes in three loads.  As it was, though, Meijers saved the day for me.  I extracted with a 20-frame machine the other year and those things are murder.  They are just too small.

*   *   *   *   *

I went out and worked on the north yard again and checked 8.  All have queens.  The hives are either small -- one is a single -- or  plugged in three or four boxes.  I tired of pulling honey and just reversed them and/or put them on screened floors.  The count is now 77 checked, with 69 good ones resulting in a 90% success rate.  realise that I forgot to count the small swarm.  That makes for 78 and 70.

It seems that, given long enough, most of the walk-away splits have queens.  I've waited five or six weeks now since the last spilt was made, partly because I am patient and partly because I just did not get back. 

Where do these queens come from?  I think that if hives fail to raise a queen that stray virgins wander in.  Maybe the hive has a smell?  Maybe they hang out a sign, "Queen Bee Wanted.  No Experience Necessary. Apply Within".  Whatever they do, only a few actually fail to the point of dwindling to nothing.

I now have 7 hives left to do in this yard and the 27 in the south yard.  I seem to do about 20 a day.  Today was a big day, though, since I had to transfer frames and sort through the swarm hives.

I'm getting tired of this.  Why am I doing it?   The answer, of course, is 1.) that it is so much fun and 2.) I have split to the point where I have more hives than time.  I could be sailing a yacht or travelling the world and here I am playing with beehives. 

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most
of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.
Theodore Roosevelt

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Sunday August 26th 2012
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Here comes a hot day.  There was a little robbing yesterday and I hope that will stop.  I should go out and check if the alfalfa field that was in full bloom across town is still standing or if it has been cut.

I went and checked.  It is still standing (right).

We're planning a barbeque tonight and have to run to town to get supplies.  I'll also try to finish the north yard today.  Last night, the bees were getting pretty cranky before I quit for the day.  I was rearranging hives and reversed quite a few since I don't want the new comb on top, and that is hard on bees, even with careful motions and use of smoke.  I quit pulling honey, though.  That was slowing me down and, besides, I would just have to extract it.  I'd rather winter on it and sell the balance with the hives in spring.  I am getting some interest in hives already.

I did the last hives in the north yard and found 2 more duds.  One was small and had no queen The other had dwindled to almost nothing.  I used the one with bees to boost the single.  There are now 20 colonies in the north yard. Current tally: 85 and 75 -- or 88%.

Now I just have the 27 in the south yard to do.  I've marked 9 there as doubtful just from looking at the outside and under the pillow.   I have only 200 EPS boxes that are not in service.

The following is of importance to beekeepers who work hard on hot days.  It is from http://www.drmirkin.com , a site I find very informative and useful.

THE ONLY MINERAL THAT EXERCISERS NEED TO REPLACE IS SODIUM, COMMON TABLE SALT.
The definitive studies on minerals and exercise were done during World War II. Dr. James Gamble of Harvard Medical School paid medical students to lie on rafts in his swimming pool, taking various amounts of fluids and salt and having blood drawn to measure salt and mineral levels. He showed that you have to take a lot of salt when you exercise for several hours, particularly in hot weather. For many years after that, students at Harvard Medical School heard Dr. Gamble give his lectures on minerals and exercise, and today, most serious students still read the Gamble lectures published in 1958 by The Harvard University Press. Now, more than sixty years later, nobody has improved on his research. After Gamble published his studies, people who worked or exercised in hot weather were given salt tablets. Then doctors became concerned because they thought that a person could have his blood pressure raised by taking in too much salt, so they recommended restricting salt, causing many people to suffer heat stroke and dehydration during hot weather exercise. A low-salt diet does not lower high blood pressure for most people. A high-salt diet causes high blood pressure usually only in people with high blood insulin levels. Eating salty foods and drinks when you exercise for more than two hours is unlikely to raise blood pressure. We don't recommend salt tablets because they can cause nausea and vomiting, but you can use table salt or any salty food. If you don't take salt and fluids during extended exercise in hot weather, you will tire earlier and increase your risk for heat stroke, dehydration and cramps. We eat heavily- salted potato chips or peanuts and drink fluids at least every 15 minutes when we ride in hot weather. Potassium deficiency doesn't occur in healthy athletes. The only mineral that athletes need to take when they exercise is salt.

After lunch, I ran over to Drum in the truck to get groceries then got home just before 5.

We had friends for supper and ate outside.  Ellen and I have both been tired this last few days and may have some low-grade cold since we are both congested a little, especially at night.  I suppose it could also be an allergy, but we both are experiencing it.  Anyhow, we both tired a bit early and since the group came and hour earlier than usual, we broke up for the evening an hour earlier than usual, at 8.  We all had a good time.

Criticism is nothing more than other people's opinion.
Clint Eastwood

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Monday August 27th 2012
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The bee work drags on.  I had forgotten how much worth 100 hives can be.  Another hot day is expected today and I hope to finish up the bees.  We'll see.

I have been puzzled by the lack of stable flies this year.  We have had unbearable numbers at some times over the years, but this year they have been few.  I always considered stable flies to be an indicator of a good honey flow period, but we had good flows this year without many at all.   I was wondering, therefore if the lack of flies has to do with the disuse of the nearby feedlot or some other such factor, but I see the fly numbers increasing over the past few days.  They are a real nuisance.  It is a mystery.

I've been tired for the past few days, but got quite a bit done.  Today, I plan to try to do the south yard and get the drop board under the nine hives where I placed screened bottoms.

*   *   *   *   *

I vacuumed the swimming poll, then prepared the and drop boards.  I find that spreading and rolling Vaseline is a lot of work, so I got out a gallon of mineral oil and a spray bottle.  Spraying with oil is much easier, but I seem to recall I had some issues last year with it soaking in, etc.  What are others using?  Reply here.

I placed the boards at ten and will check them tomorrow, but unless I see a lot of mites, I won't count until three days have passed.  Last year, I did daily checks to get a better understanding.  This year, my goal is just to monitor levels more approximately.

This is supposedly a bright hot, sunny day, but it is overcast and we had to start the furnace.  It is warm enough to work the hives, though.  That said, I lay down and had a 1/2-hour nap.  I have been very tired the last few days.

Three hours after putting the boards under, curiosity got the best of me and I went and pulled several boards.  The first board had 10 visible to my naked yet.  That works out to 80 a day, far above the 24/day threshold, and we know that it will only get worse as the brood area reduces and hidden varroa are forced out onto adult bees.  Compared to last year, it looks very high for being so early.

Of course this is just a quick and tiny sample in time, and from a tall corner hive, but if that was just one hive of 100, logic says there must be worse hives out there!   The other boards had none and one.

I think I'll put on my glasses and take a closer look.

I went out and recounted, wearing reading glasses this time.  The results: 20,1,4,17,6,1,7.  I'm still not sure how close I came since, even with glasses, I can't be 100% certain about some of the objects.  It takes better light and a magnifier to be sure.

We all know how dangerous it is to extrapolate from small samples, but let's do it anyways.  These numbers suggest daily drops of 160, 8,32,136, 48, 8, and 56 a day.  I didn't bother with the last few at this point.  These numbers are serious if they bear out over a three-day test.

I also saw, for the first time, a live varroa running around on the board.  It was soon overpowered by the oil on the board and died, but I see the oil is soaking in. and need to apply more.

*   *   *   *   *

I sprayed more oil onto the drop boards, then got to checking the patty hives.  They had eaten all the patties about equally, so the new test formula passes that test, but I saw some crumbs on the entrance and in front.  I've never seen that with Global, so we are looking into this.  I'm now placing samples of each over screened bottoms to see where the crumbs come from.  I'm pretty sure it is not from Global's standard formulas, and comes from the new formula under test, but I like to be sure.  Suppliers can sometimes alter their specifications like particle size and 'forget' to mention it, so we keep a close eye on quality.  These particles are huge, by bee standards.

That's how my days go.  Distraction after distraction.

I did get to work on the south yard after the sun got lower and the heat lessened.  I had been tired all day and took two naps, one for all of an hour before supper and felt more energetic after.  So, I set four hives on the scale to start monitoring weight gain again, lifted the pallet of patties that was being molested by some critter onto drums, and then went south.  I only did four hives there then called it a day.

The hive scale gained two pounds in the last minutes before sundown as the field bees returned.  The end of day reading was 36 at 7:45.

I had thought of putting mouse poison out, since it apparently can kill skunks, too, but then decided I don't know what is actually bothering the pallet.  It could be anything.  A fox or even a coyote would not concern me as much as a skunk, since they don't eat bees from the fronts of hives like skunks, and I am not seeing signs of skunks working the hives although I saw a little one the one day walking around in the yard.  I got out the game camera, but the batteries are dead and I don't have replacements, so I decided to just put the pallet up out of reach.  We'll see what the hungry critter does next, and I'll have to get some batteries.

I counted my hives today and here is the count: 55 in the quonset yard including swarms, 20 in the north yard, and 26 in the south (with several more duds suspected). That amounts to 101 good hives at his point, so my estimate of 80 for winter may be low.

At this point, it appears that I have roughly doubled my numbers from last fall and made about 50 lbs per hive based on my spring count.  That is not too bad, and I could probably extract at least as much again if I cared to without harming the hives.

Looking back, I think I should forget about using purchased queens and just graft a few bars of cells every week or two and stick them into all the splits whenever they are ready.  I should then just distribute the cells to all colonies that might need one and not bother checking for queens.  I can do that immediately after grafting or any time until emergence.  Grafting is easy, and placing cells is easier than inspecting for brood.

All in all, I got a lot done today, although I have yet to do the sugar shake.  After I find some hives with known mite drops, I'll do a few hives to try it out.  Drops are easy, though, once the floors are in place.

Sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities.
Erica Jong

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Tuesday August 28th 2012
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Another beautiful day is coming up.  I think I'll get out and get at those south hives before the sun gets hot.  I slept well last night and am full of beans today.

From BEE-L today:

> What is the threshold for a sugar shake for spring and fall?
> Is this out dated? (right)

I think the thresholds are the same for the Minnesota sugar shake and for alcohol wash if they are done correctly. However there are huge caveats in using small samples, either in hive numbers or in replications, and interpreting the results is about as objective and sometimes as meaningful as readings obtained from tea leaves or chicken entrails.

I've done a lot of alcohol washes and mite drops and have to say that any one reading may not have any direct relationship to another from the same hive or to the true situation in any one hive. Any one reading can easily be off by a factor of 10 in high infestations and or even infinity where a zero count is found.

This unreliability is due to uneven distribution of varroa in hives and to the problem of sampling in the correct area of the hive. A Bee Culture writer I often disagree with said it simply recently and earned my respect. He said that to get an accurate reading, _the sample MUST be a sample of young nurse bees which are found directly on an area of brood that is about to be capped_. Any other sample will not compare to what most researchers are using for comparison.

Interestingly, though, the Reuter and Spivak poster does not appear to specify where in the hive to find the bees to shake. It also suggests a threshold that makes me shudder: The Minnesota poster says "If your colony has over 10-12 mites/100 bees, you should consider treatment.

On the other band, the Ontario table says 2 or 3 mites/100 depending on season. I am far more comfortable with that.

I guess it all depends on where you live how lucky you feel. I have the greatest respect for both Marla and Gary, but where I live, in my opinion and the opinion of successful beekeepers I know, the Minnesota recommendation would, with great probability, lead to disaster in a large outfit -- especially if that was a spring count, and far less so if that count was found after all brood had hatched in fall.

I would love to hear Medhat's comments on this since he brought Alberta losses down from unbearable levels to near-normal by advocating very low thresholds, similar to Ontario's. Most Alberta commercial beekeepers take Medhat's thresholds as an upper limit and if any hives in a yard show the threshold, they treat all hives in that yard at the next window of opportunity. We are lucky to have Apivar and it is highly effective if properly used.

> I recently read that the threshold numbers have been changed to a lower
> mite count. They do not include a sugar shake on the Varroa Mite Threshold
> Levels table posted here.
> http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/food/inspection/bees/11-treatment-recomms.htm#Monitor%20Varroa 

I think it is safe to use the alcohol wash numbers with the sugar shake, but I would be sure first to verify for myself that several of my sugar shakes get the same results as alcohol wash by putting the sugar shake bees and the sugar shaken out through an alcohol wash using isopropyl alcohol (98%) available at pharmacies (not washer fluid)

Sadly, no test is idiot-proof and there are many details to observe. Fore one thing, in an alcohol wash, make sure the alcohol is at room temp or higher or the mites may not release in the one-minute shake.

Also the 300 bees recommended is slightly too many for the standard shaker jar screen and will filter some mites from running into the lower jar if the operator technique is not perfect. I prefer 250 or 200 bees. The lower number results in less mathematical certainty, but the lower number also gives higher accuracy for the sample since mites are not caught in the mass of dead bees.

Anyhow, this is big topic. My advice is to b41e conservative and take measures any time you see varroa in any numbers. Once they get ab90ove a low threshold, they balloon in numbers and the effect on the hives is IMO geometric155ally -- not linearly -- related to the number of mites/bee.

Levels of other pathogens tend to 76build after several years at threshold and then collapses can occur at below-threshold levels.21

Is "geometric" the right word?  I suspect the effects of varroa go up far faster than the mite population.

I counted the mite drop after 24 hours and am amazed.  There were problems with some boards soaking up the oil to where they were dry to various degrees compared to the Vaselined boards.  This could affect the accuracy as I saw quite a few live, mobile mites.  It seems that Vaseline is necessary on Masonite. Here are the results. 

HIVE # COUNT
1 41
2 90
3 155
4 76
5 21
6 22
7 31
8 174
9 4
10 113

I don't know about you, but that looks scary to me. (scream)  Red numbers are for less oily boards.  All these hives were chosen for drops because they were the largest and assumed to have had queens and brood continuously all summer.

What would you do in my shoes?   Let's discuss this in the the forum.

*   *   *   *   *

El & I went to town, mid-afternoon as it was too hot to work outside and we got a 15-gallon electric weed sprayer.  We've been using a one gallon hand sprayer and I figure we need something more heavy-duty and easier to transport, especially since El is weaker than last year and we have decided to maintain some of our hedges and tree lines better.

After the wind and the heat went down, I worked on the south yard and did another 4 hives, shaking out two duds in the process.  I also realize that i am an idiot and I've gone and found myself with 100 large, heavy hives with a mite load that needs attention soon or I will have even more boxes of feed with no bees.  All this and I am supposed to be in  Ontario, sailing and relaxing.  My cup runneth over.  I'm getting sick of bees.  Man, am I sick of bees every day!

I also checked the drop boards and found the oil has soaked in again, perhaps due to the heat and saw mites were running around on them.  I sprayed the boards with oil again (in place) and hope it lasts until morning.

The scale is at 48 tonight ay 7:10.  That is a 3lb/hive gain for today.  If this year turns out like 2009, I am in trouble.  From this date to the end of the flow, another 75 lbs/hive came in.  I'll need more boxes or I'll have to extract! 

Here is the gain data from that year.  Note: the left chart shows gain per hive per day and cumulative gain per hive and the right chart is the total of the four hives on that pallet per day.

    

As it stands now, I have 100 hives with an average of -- I'm guessing -- 160 lbs of stores already.  This getting to be a problem.

No problem is so formidable that you can't walk away from it.
Charles Schulz

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Wednesday August 29th 2012
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There is lots of forum activity this morning.  Check it out.

I got out and counted the mites again.

HIVE # 28th 29th
1 41 107
2 90 6
3 155 106
4 76 29
5 21 21
6 22 39
7 31 103
8 174 102
9 4 71
10 113 54

It almost looks as if I somehow reversed the order since #9 is low the first time and #2 is low the second, but I am sure I did not.  It is often tempting to "correct" the data to make 'sense' to human minds, but I always resist that urge. and present exactly what I got.  There may be an error, but if so, it is an honest error.  The data has not been fiddled.

I can see that I need to improve the drop board coatings or even add inserts since I am having some boards dry out.  Also cleaning them is a lot of work.  I am going to try the air hose next.

Hot dog!  It works and in a jiffy.  I've been worrying about wind blowing mites off boards when I take them from the hives to the truck and it never twigged until now that I could use that effect to clear the boards between uses.  Remind me to wear my bee suit, not street clothes next time, though.

> There is typically so much hive trash after 48 hrs that it gets hard to
> see the mites.

After doing a lot of drops and thinking about drops a lot, I find that there are a lot of subtleties to consider. The drop surface is one, and getting it just right is not always simple. The surface has to stop the mites and also keep ants from carrying mites away. Breezes can blow mites off boards. Blocked screens from dropping bees and debris can keep mites from getting to the drop board. Hive manipulations, disturbances and changing environmental conditions will affect drops, and changes in the amount and position of brood in the hive from day to day will affect the drops. Season has a huge effect, and I am seeing things now that I never saw last fall like mites running around and more of the immature stages of mites.

I was looking just as carefully before and think that seasonal factors like day length and night temperatures are the explanation. Bee behaviour changes with season, too. Location may have an influence and explain why Pierre, Randy, and I are all seeing different things. The same applies to hive configuration, flow conditions, hive equipment and beekeeper management practices.

_A bigger issue_, too is whether most beekeepers even can count mites properly. Although we were pretty good with drops a decade a go, when recently, I started doing drops, I began with a casual and confident approach, but discovered that my eyes are not what they once were. (documented here).

I discovered that I had to look much more carefully. Moreover, the new drop boards I was using may not have been capturing the mites adequately, so I had to play with the stickum I used.

I also found that when counting, I needed light as bright as full sunlight, reading glasses AND a magnifier to see all the mites. The dark mites lying flat are easy, but a lot of mites, especially those on edge, are not easy to spot. How many people are counting mites with adequate conditions? It is easy to miss half the mites -- or more. I have proven it by counting the same boards with naked eye, glasses only, glasses plus magnifier, then bright light, glasses and magnifier.

> The alternative that I prefer is to do a 3-minute (total time for me)
> alcohol wash.

It is easy if the brood is accessible, but in doubles, hives with supers, or hives that have become plugged, that number could be far higher. I've done a lot of washes, but even with practice, I would say 3 minutes is in ideal conditions and does not take all the background prep, etc. into consideration.

Oftentimes, the proper brood area is not found on the first try, if at all. Opening brood chambers can lead to distractions from the job at hand, and it is invasive.

Washes cannot be done in all weather, either.

I see these to techniques as complementary, not as alternatives, with each having its place.

Jean and the kids came for the day, arriving mid-morning, and leaving before supper.

Just as I figured.  I have a skunk.  Here he is looking up at the pallet of patties I raised onto drums in the open shelter to get them out of reach.  The game camera caught these shots and many more.  He spent a lot of time looking up.  I don't know what the black bar is.  I think I may have stretched one of the bungees over the lens.  Duh.

He was eating my patties and who knows what else in the yard.  I can see no signs of him bothering hives.  If he were, there should be muddy, scratched patches in the grass near hives, and there are not, but I find it hard to believe that he is not eating the bees which hang in clusters from entrances on hot flow nights.  Next I'll set the camera to watch the hives.

My philosophy is live and let live -- to a point.  I have a trap, if it comes to that.

I found a truck toolbox on Kijiji and sent a text to the seller.  By evening, I had bought a box and it had been delivered to Jean's house in Lacombe.  Kijij is a good place to find things and text messaging is a great way to contact people and see pictures of items sent from the phone.  In fact, it is now rude to phone people without texting first.

Late in the day, after the hottest part, I went down and did another 4 or 5 hives in the south yard.  This job is going very slowly.  The hives are full of honey and I am having trouble deciding how to deal with it.  I don't mind wintering in four boxes heavy with honey, in fact that is my preference, but I am concerned that if I lose hives again, I will have far too much feed in combs.  I may have to extract again, but I really must treat for varroa, and I must get East soon.

Everything is simpler than you think and at the same time more complex than you imagine.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Thursday August 30th 2012
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We are expecting company, so I went out two hours early, at 8, to count the varroa. The counts are down and it makes me wonder if the higher drops were due to the fact that the hives had been recently worked and the screens were placed under recently, or if ants are taking the mites off the boards.  I don't see any ants, though.  The boards are drier than I like, but that does not seem to be a factor.  I am not seeing live mites today, so I wonder if the live ones fall between 8 and 10 or 11, when I have been counting lately, or if they are more active as the day gets warmer.  Our nights often get down to plus 5 Celsius.

Choosing the right amount of grease and oil for drop boards is an art, it seems.  Too much oil, and the debris is soaked and hard to identify.  Too little, and the mites can walk away, in warm weather at least.

Hive
Number

March 29

April 13

28 days

Per day 15 days Per day

1

0

0

Removed

Removed

2

13

0.5

12

0.8

3

8

0.3

4

0.3

4

82

2.9

77

5.1

5

18

0.6

26

1.7

6

2

0.1

1

0.1



The table at left is from My April 18, 2012 entry and as I said at the time:

If these drops are from current mite deaths, then I have to be concerned. 77 mites over 15 days is three mites a day and that is too high for this time of year IMO.  I figure one per day is plenty, and maybe too high.  Medhat's recommendations say 10 mites a day is the threshold in spring and early summer, but I would say that is the upper limit and will result in heavy loads by fall treatment time.

The chart at right above is from Jean-Pierre Chapleau's website.  I appear to been above the thresholds all season, judging by spring counts and my three measurements so far this week.

I like the trend I see in the table below, however.  I should also point out that I am counting mites that many would not even see and sometimes immatures that maybe fall below the colour threshold.

HIVE # 28th 29th 30th
1 41 107 28
2 90 6 2
3 155 106 60
4 76 29 8
5 21 21 10
6 22 39 15
7 31 103 86
8 174 102 86
9 4 71 32
10 113 54 29
Total 727 638 356
Average 73 64 36

The scale reads "53" this morning.  I forgot to check it last night. That's a 5-pound gain for the 4 hives, plus whatever weight was lost overnight.  That comes to a 1.25 -pound gain per hive yesterday.

At right (click to enlarge) is another shot of PF100s that I am coming across in the hives as I work.  Not good.  I also see some with chips out of the plastic.

The following is from my diary on Oct 12, 2011, but is so important, I am repeating it here.

Bill says on his website:

24-Hour Prorated Natural Drop Test for the Varroa Mite:

Calculating the prorated 24-hour natural drop on a full size sticky board collected over a 3-5 day period provides the best indication of mite infestation levels.
The strength of the hive is important to obtain a reasonable indication of infestation. All data in our literature is for hives of approximately 30,000 bees, 10 frames of bees and 3-5 frames of brood in two deep boxes. In the early spring and late summer your hives will probably be this strength.
Always count the entire board. Prorating and counting half the board is a big mistake.
Count only mature female mites. Concentrate on the size and shape. Be aware that mites can be of any shade of brown from light to dark to fully black and reportedly half black and half white.
Do not count mites of smaller size, w
hite, pearly white, or yellow. These mites are either males or immature mites, which cannot cause future damage.

Here is my answer (below) from Jean-Pierre Chapleau's web site.  I highly recommend checking out the site.  He provides the clearest and most detailed presentation on the topic I've seen.  I also very much like his Apinovar concept.

CAPA's website, on the other hand does not specify which mites to count, but does offer these handy conversion charts.

 (I think that the x-axis numbers need to multiplied by 100 to give the mites per 100).

And this advice:


Click above image to expand for easier reading


Jean-Pierre Chapleau also provided the following chart.  "Average natural drop in September vs. the strength in April". It is a bit hard to understand, but basically, the x-axis is the number of frames of bees in April and the bars show the 24 hour mite drops of the hives in each strength group the previous fall.  They are "Dead, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, and 9+" (The "@" means "to" here and can be confusing.

We can see how he came up with 24 as a fall threshold.  Basically, Dead starts around 60/day fall count, but anything above 24/day is associated with lower spring strength.

At left is what the game camera showed last night, two skunks cleaning up the crawlers, but not bothering the hives.

I finished the south yard tonight and just have cleanup tomorrow.  (Right)

Current Hive/Boxes Count
Boxes/Hive 1 2 3 4 5 Hives
North Yard - 4 9 7 - 20
Quonset 1 7 42 4 - 54
South Yard 0 1 ?6 9 2 18
Total Hives 1 12 57 22 - 92
Total Boxes 1 24 171 88 10 294

I have 9 EPS boxes that are not currently on hives.

The hive scale reads, "70".  That is a 17-lb gain from this morning, or a little over 4lbs per hive today.

The south yard had big losses compared to the other yards, partly due to making late splits.  Once the summer honeyflow is on, success seems to drop. 

Current success tally: 112 checked and 92 found OK -- or 82%.  This not far from my expected 80%, and I would not be surprised to find the rate is 80% by the time I put them into winter. My original prediction was 80 hive going into winter.

Looking back, I would make the later splits into singles, not doubles, and use excluders on them.  I'd also plan on extracting and ideally have a 72-frame extractor and an uncapper.  These boxes of feed are an obstacle to treating for varroa.  I like the full new boxes of Pierco.  That worked well.  It now occurs to me that I could have grafted cells weekly and inserted them into almost any queenless hive, then distributed the cells to all colonies periodically and improved my success rate.  One of the reasons I have so much feed is the honey from queenless hives has gone onto the good ones.

I'd also have fewer hives and hope I can sell down to 20 or so in spring.

Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.
Clarence Darrow

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Friday August 31st 2012
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The long weekend is upon me and I have finished the round of bee checking.  It took much longer than I would have expected and now I have to decide when and how to treat for varroa, as I have varroa at serious levels. 

I also have to decide whether to pull more honey.  If I do, I should do it before evaporating oxalic, although, frankly, it should not matter since oxalic acid is a a natural constituent of honey (Ref.) and no threat to humans in the minute amounts it does. 

Rhubarb and many other foods have far higher levels than honey and are eaten in larger amounts (Ref).  OA is metabolized and excreted by the human body body.  Although trickling (drizzling) raises the in honey slightly, the levels, at under 100 ppm are still extremely low compared (~1/10) to other foods.

From this document:

Having considered the criteria laid down by the Committee for the inclusion of substances into
Annex Il of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2377/90, and in particular that:

  • oxalic acid is a substance of endogenous origin which occurs in all mammalian species and in plants,

  • plant derived food constitutes the major source of dietary oxalic acid and the intake in European diets was estimated to be in the range of 5 mg to 500 mg/day occasionally exceeding 1000 mg/day.

  • oxalic acid is occurring naturally in honey with an average content of approximately 200 mg/kg (range I mg/kg to 800 mg/kg) and no significant increase of the natural content was observed following treatment of bees.

  • the theoretical intake of oxalic acid in honey from either treated or non treated hives is insignificant compared to the overall intake of oxalic acid in daily food from other sources:

the Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products concludes that there is no need to establish an MRL for oxalic acid and recommends its inclusion into Annex Il of Council Regulation (EEC)
No 2377/90...

I checked the mite boards again this morning at 8.  I also looked at the hive scale and see it lost 4 lbs overnight (total for 4 hives).  I assume that his represents the moisture driven off from the 17 lb gain yesterday.

Hive Number 28th 29th 30th 31st Average
1 41 107 28 72 62
2 90 6 2 7 26
3 155 106 60 122 111
4 76 29 8 21 34
5 21 21 10 10 16
6 22 39 15 22 25
7 31 103 86 92 78
8 174 102 86 186 137
9 4 71 32 45 38
10 113 54 29 81 69
Total 727 638 356 658 595
Average 73 64 36 66 59

It is clear that the test hives are about twice over Chapleau's 24-mite benchmark.

I checked the scale and we had another good day.  The scale reads 81.5, for a gain of almost 3 lbs/hive.

There are no solutions...there are only trade-offs.
Thomas Sowell

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