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Here is a view under the pillow of a good honey bee colony with Apivar inserted. 
The five Global patties fed a short while ago are almost entirely eaten

Thursday September 20th 2012
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This morning, there was no skunk in the trap. No bait, either.  Somehow, sometimes they manage to take the bait without tripping the trap.  I see signs of a skunk having worked on a hive entrance, so that problem is not over yet. 

The game camera had no pictures, either.  I must have failed to turn it on.  When mounted, its operation state is sometimes hard to see.  I should mount it higher up, I suppose.

I looked into more hives this morning, and see that the 5 patties I put on fairly recently have disappeared from the best hives and are being consumed on the rest.

I am not worried about the best hives, I am worried about the ones consuming slowly.  There could be many reasons for slower consumption.  Some are worrisome, some at not.

Worrisome:

  • Queenlessness (I checked recently and they were all OK)

  • Disease (None detected)

  • Smaller populations (Some are small and that is one reason I am feeding late)

Not worrisome:

  • Brood rearing has shut down for the season

  • Plugged hive - no room for brood. (Should not be the case)

  • Cluster located down away from the patties
    (I adjusted them recently so that should not be the case

Nonetheless, I'll get out today, adjust the patties, give them more patties, and mark the slowest ones for further observation. 

Once the centre part of the patties is eaten, the weaker colonies have only the patty that may be outside the cluster remaining, so I'll move that in and add more on-centre for them.  I'll pile the patties up rather than spread them out on such colonies.  My pillow and lid system makes this possible without losing the hive-top seal which is very important in this windy country. 

I want to use all the pollen patties before freeze-up.  Patties should not be kept in storage for long periods.  After six months or so, the feed value declines and I have read studies where old patties were found to be useless and even slightly harmful.  

I'll also apply some more formic pads and use them up.  You can be sure I'll be using gloves and being careful.  My fingers are still sensitive.

I went out and counted the first drop board.  A day has passed.  I estimate about 200 mites without actually counting.  Counting is too much work.  I'll wait a week and put in clean boards.  When there are 50 or fewer in 24 hours, I'll consider counting again. 

I have no idea what 200 means in terms of control.  The number I really want to see -- eventually, is zero, however to get there, we have to have accelerated drops and higher numbers. 

In the meantime, I really should make a workable mask to cover 3/4 of the board at random so I have 1/4 of the counting to do.  Multiplying that count by 4 should give an estimate that is close enough for practical work.  In fact, when we used drop boards in our commercial bee business, we used to just glance at the boards to see how heavy the mite drop was and act on that.  We seldom counted.

The boards were just a sheet of white Permadent sprayed with Pam cooking spray and covered with a 6-mesh screen.  A tab made from duct tape sometimes provided a pull tab and label for the hive number.  Mite_Drop_Board.jpg (40516 bytes)

We just stuck the boards into the centre of the hive and recorded the date.  When we came back, we knew how long they were there and could see if there were many mites or not.  Usually the 'count' was just a quick glance and the decision--  PASS or FAIL.

No matter what anyone says, this method of non-invasive observation was plenty good for maintaining varroa control without disturbing hives and I don't think we ever lost any of our thousands of hives due to varroa while using this monitoring method.

I checked the hive scale and it gained 2 lbs since the last reading.

Then I went to work on the north yard, applying formic and adding patties.  Interestingly, although the Global 0% patties have been my favourite in the summer, I found a few had dried out badly now, in fall.  Most were eaten right up, though, even the dried ones were being consumed.  The 15% patties, which I find a bit gooey in comparison, did not dry out.   The test formula patties stayed moist, but some coarse particles are being discarded and the patties tend also to be mealy and tear apart.  All the patties work just fine, though, and are consumed rapidly. 

This pallet (left) demonstrates the range of consumption, with the lower left hive being the worst in the yard and upper left one of the best.  The two on the right are poorer than average.  All the hives started off with a similar amount of feed, (as seen on the hive with the least consumption). These are all doubles and on the weak end of the yard.  This is the hive scale pallet.  The bees have been smoked down, BTW.

I did notice a big difference between the triples, with three brood boxes, and the doubles, with two, in terms of strength and general robustness.  The doubles tend to plug early and have smaller populations and less brood.

I had a long nap after lunch, then went to the south yard.  Most of the hives still had a fair amount of patty, but I evened it out and added more, then treated with formic pads.  (See left).  Neatness does not count.  It also does not much matter IMO if the formic contacts the patty, although I do move the patty back to make room for the pads.

I settled on a pair of tongs from a Dollar Store to handle the pads and they work well.  I seem to recall that is what we used when staff handled the pads and applied them to hives.  I would never take chances with someone else's hands that I did with mine.  Goes to show the precautions were justified.

I'm seeing skunk scratching here in the south yard, too.  It seems my tolerance has come back to bite me.  Skunks not only scratch the landing boards, but also scratch the EPS boxes if they are left to do so.  The damage is minor and cosmetic -- mostly the paint so far -- but enough is enough.  This is war.

*   *   *   *   *

When the south yard was done, I began on the quonset yard.  All the hives are eating well and that is a good sign.  I discovered, though, that drying of the patties was becoming a problem in some hives and with the 0% patties mostly.  Some edges were rock-hard.  It seems the bees are eating them, though and I don't see debris at the entrance.   I assume that this drying, which I have never seen before, is due to the dryness of the ambient air and excess airflow through the hive, so I closed off the upper auger hole entrances.  I would have sealed up the auger holes and the pillow gaps anyhow to keep the formic fumes in the hives longer, but this gave me added incentive.

The drying seemed to be happening most in hives where I had been careless when putting on the pillows and lids on the last pass and had left a gap that allowed airflow under the lid.  At the time, I was not concerned and figured it would not matter.

I ran out of pads in my carrier around 6:15 and counted the remaining hives before going in for supper.  I see 35 are left to do.  I have 2-1/2 boxes of patties left.  That is 100 patties, or about three per hive.  Then I am out unless I get more.

I think this late summer patty feeding has served my purpose, though.  I wanted an extra round of brood rearing this late summer so the slower hives can catch up, and also to delay the final round of brood rearing that gives us the 'winter bees" until after the Apivar knocks back the varroa a bit.  The final round begins when pollen gets short.  I'm trusting that this applies to patties, too.

I have a half-tote (150 gallons) of thick sugar syrup and could feed it anytime, but am waiting a bit so as not to plug the hives prematurely.  I like them to finish brood rearing first.  Early October is the optimal time to 'top them up' IMO and that is still a while away.

I worked all these strong hives all day without a veil and only a little smoke.  This has been pleasant work, opening hive after hive to find the bees are eating well and the colonies look wonderful, then placing pads and more patties.  There are a few exceptions to the good news, but maybe only 5 colonies look weaker and slower so far, and those hives still have promise.

I feel confident, even if I have hives dropping 200 varroa a day.   I trust that this high drop is due to the efficacy of the Apivar I inserted and the formic treatments.  I also expect it will diminish in a week or two to under ten a day, then less.

Hmmm. 10 days at 200 mites a day is 2,000 dead mites.   How many mites were in that hive to start?  And, how many were dropped during the past two weeks?  The first number I can't know as there is no way to know, and the second number I did not count it is simply too time-consuming.

We can guess, though. 

  • Since Hive #1 was dropping 78 varroa a day -- average natural drop -- before treatment, I would have guessed the hive had 5,000 to 10,000 varroa in total just by multiplying the average drop by 100 -- plus or minus. 

  • The alcohol wash gave 11 mites per 100 nurse bees at the beginning of September.  Extrapolated to the adult population of 40,000 bees, that would yield 4,400 back then.  Of course this extrapolation is invalid as the nurse bees carry a disproportionate concentration of the phoretic mites and 2/3rds or more of the mites are currently in brood.

I really do not know how to convert either the drops or the wash number into total mite load in the hive which is the total of mites on adults plus mites in brood.  We don't have the data to give anything more than a WAG. 

When there is no brood, we can use the wash number, but even then, the wash numbers given by different samples from the same hive at the same time can vary wildly from one another.  Only by taking the average of a number of samples over time can we hope to have any degree of confidence.  (Note, I did not say accuracy).

So it would seem that we have to drop more than 200 varroa/day for 10 days in that particular hive, and 200/day, it seems, would only get a portion of the total.  Actually, 200 a day for 42 days -- the Apivar treatment period -- would kill 8,400, but we know the treatment effects are not linear over time.  Besides, I have used both Apivar and formic acid pads (twice).  Who knows?  Not me.  We'll see.

Normally varroa levels as measured by alcohol wash go up by a factor ranging from 3 to 10 as the last brood hatches out and as a result, hives which seemed fine may suddenly go over threshold.

My Apivar removal date is October 24th (+/- as I installed it over several days) so the Apivar still has more than a month to work.  The two formic hits should have had a strong effect, too.  I am realizing that I should stop stimulating brood soon, since the Apivar has about 33 days to go and worker brood takes 21 days to complete development and emerge.

Ideally, brood rearing would reduce or cease while the Apivar is in so that more mites are forced to be phoretic for longer, but it seems that I may have mis-timed things for that to happen.  (You can never have it all, it seems). 

I will feed the last of the patties regardless, and trust that the Apivar will get the emerging varroa as they cycle through the brood.  Hopefully, there is not a lot of drone brood now, since varroa multiply far more abundantly in drone cells, but there is some.

I'm thinking that the best I can hope for is to knock the mites down to where they do not adversely affect wintering, then hit them again in early spring.  I'll be monitoring and hope to see very low levels in late October.

Last year, I began my varroa checks October 9th and they were much lower than what I am seeing now.  Our 2002 and 2003 counts were also much lower.  I don't have numbers from other years.  I don't know what causes the the difference, unless it is that these EPS hives encourage more brood and thus more varroa.

Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

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Friday September 21st 2012
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I went out early and checked the skunk trap, which I had left in the south yard this time.  It had caught another one, a smaller one this time.  This is skunk number six in the past few days, and from looking in the quonset yard and north yards, skunks are still at work there, too.  How many are there, anyways?  I thought ten, but now I'm wondering... 20 ... 100?

In the picture at left, we see the discards for a patty recipe we have been testing and also the disturbance in the dust from the skunks' claws.  They provoke the bees by clawing, then eating the defenders when they come out.  This has to stop.

I called UFA and they have no traps in Trochu, but Airdrie has two in stock.  I think I'll buy two more traps and have three, including this borrowed one.  That should shorten the time until the problem is solved.  I'm tired of having to go out each day and pick up one more skunk, then wait a day for the next.  In the meantime, the damage continues.

I smelled a slight hint of formic when walking into the yard that I treated late in the day yesterday, and see I did some brood damage again from the formic (right). 

Again, I see visible damage only in the doubles.  Pupae about to emerge seem vulnerable to formic damage if it is paced too close to them.  See the picture at right.  Those are new young bees dead on the landing board and in the grass.  I have to assume that the open brood is getting hit, too.

*   *   *   *   *

If you have ever wondered how to handle gooey patties, and get them out of the box without mashing them, here is a trick. 

Cut the box down to the essentials -- a bottom and two sides.  The bottom to use as a tray and the sides to keep the patties from getting you sticky when carrying.  When revealed this way, the patties peal off quite handily.

At left is my formic application kit.  Eye protection, etc. not shown. (I don't use them, but you should).  I use a food container and salad tongs, plus heavy nitrile gloves and have a pail of clean water and baking soda in a jar at hand at all times when handling formic pads.

I mentioned that some patties were drying out.  It seems that drying is greatest in hives with a poor top seal.  On a few hives, I had not pinned the pillow down properly around all edges with the lid and those hives experienced patty drying.   I am using lids designed for standard wood boxes and they just perch on top.  Making new lids is somewhere on my "urgent" list.

Bees keep their hives quite humid, but if there is excess forced ventilation, then only the cluster area can be kept moist.  In arid regions or during hot, dry spells, in hives with with too much ventilation, dry, warm air will dry the hive interior excessively.

Global 15% pollen patties seem to dry out the least of any in this test.  The 0% and the test patties dried considerably more, but the bees seemed to be taking them.  The bees discarded some of the test patty, but never, it seems any of the 15% or 0% patties.  Even though a few 0% patties were pretty tough, the bees seemed to be able to eat them.  I did not see any hard 15% patty remnants.  Even the crumbs remained soft, even after drying a bit.

I closed off the flight/vent holes when treating in order to conserve the fumes, but maybe saving moisture, here in the dry, dry prairie is a good idea, too.  I open them in winter, since otherwise water builds up in hives, but close some in spring to conserve heat, and, I guess, also moisture.  Moisture is a critical factor in initiating and maintaining brood rearing in spring.  Protein is the other.

*   *   *   *   *

I finished off all except 16 hives before lunch.  After lunch I went to finish the rest and that was quick.  I did another 8, then ran out of pads and all the hives had lots of patties still from when I put in the Apivar a week or so ago.  I'm off to Airdrie to shop and get more traps.

*   *   *   *   *

I bought the two traps, but they are a different design and smaller.  I think they will work.  Ellen has been having deer problems in her garden, so I bought her an electric fencer.  After buying groceries, I drove home. 

By the time I got here, I was too tired to set traps and that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Be honorable yourself if you wish to associate with honorable people.
Welsh Proverb

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Saturday September 22nd 2012
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First Day of Fall 2012

Fall for 2012 begins in the Northern Hemisphere on the Autumnal Equinox which is on September 22, 10:49 A.M. EDT.

Hi Allen -

Been reading your comments about the plastic frames. I saw the photos you posted, and they look all too familiar:

I only have about 250-300 PF100s, but after getting disappointing results in the hives, bad combs, ugly drawing, I got fed up and pulled almost all of them last year. I subsequently set to work on them during the winter -- i.e., I scraped down all of the errant cell areas, sometimes entire sides of the combs, down to the plastic, and painstakingly rolled and painted molten beeswax on them. It kept me busy for quite a while. I did this to scores of Piercos as well, which appeared bowed, and installed dowel braces down the center to reinforce and keep the midrib straight. It's not something I'd ever want to do on any large scale, as it wouldn't be worth the time, but it was sort of an experiment to see what would happen, and to get these frames back into useful brood service.

Result? The bees built much better combs on the re-waxed PF100s this summer. A majority of them are very nice indeed. However, the project was pretty time consuming, and in the end they ended up being a very UNeconomical product. I would have been so much better off buying wooden frames with Pierco sheets in the first place. No more PF100s for me.

AD:> I usually just scrape the badly drawn section and put the frame back into a hive.  Some hives, at some times, just don't do a good job.  Other hives at other times repair the bad spots.

AD:> I'm not all that worried about a bit of comb here or there that does not meet my standards.  I figure the bees know what they are doing and sometimes just tolerate a bad patch until I can deal with it without disturbing the bees too much.

AD:>  The more hives I run, the less I try to control any one of them.  Years ago, before I went commercial, I used to go through and scrape the frames every few weeks.  Now sometimes I leave bits of burr or ladder for years -- until it interferes with my manipulations or the hive dies and I have to go through the empty brood chambers.

Comb-drawing aside, I have seen a lot of warping or bowing of the midrib in the one-piece plastic deeps, whether they're Pierco, Dadant or Mann Lake. This makes cells too shallow on one side and too deep on the other, makes for comb surfaces that are not flat, and affects adjacent combs, esp. with 10 frames tight together. Others have brought this up in discussions online, as you related to me before.

AD:>  Yes.  I have theory on that which I have not tested yet.  I suspect that the worst warping is from leaving new foundation exposed to the hot sun.  When I do, I notice serious bowing and I wonder if it ever completely goes flat again.

AD:> I do notice the occasional brood chamber where one side of a one-piece is not drawn or not filled with brood.  I have not really investigated this and don't know how seriously this affects the hive as a whole. In a single BC with excluder, it would matter more than in my three-storey hives which typically have brood scattered through all boxes, even this late in the year.

AD:> One solution proffered has been to turn all the frames the same direction.  Apparently they all bow the same way.  Again, I have never been too concerned.  Another solution is to space the frames out a bit more -- or just not crowd them.

My results with Mann Lakes 6 1/4 plastic frames are much better, however, with very nice drawing (no extra waxing) and excellent resulting combs. I just hope I won't start to see them chipping and shattering too soon.

AD:> The mediums have a smaller surface span, so any bowing will not be as obvious.

My latest shipment of PF120s is a different color -- sort of a "natural" light yellow and I'm not 100% sure but they don't seem to have quite the brittle quality of the white ones I got in previous years.

As for Pierco, I have only had a couple of frame lugs break off in the past decade or so, which I figure is pretty good.

AD:> I like Piercos and I don't much like wood anymore.

You mentioned a 20 frame extractor being just too small to be very useful in your application. Do you find, using deep extracting frames, that the small diameter extractors (such as a 20 fr.) just take far too long? Furthermore, can they even fully empty a load of deeps? I've used a 33 frame machine in past but with deep combs even that seemed slow or the combs did not completely empty.

AD:> I found the 20-frame model was flimsy and that putting frames in and out of the small opening is a hassle.  Everything is too small and cheap. This one has needed repair a few times in the past several years.  Bearings a time or two, and the tank split another time. 

AD:> A 20-frame load is slow, too small, and requires too much watching.  The 20-frame unit I borrowed did a good-enough job, though, and even if the radius is on the small side for extracting the bottom bars of standards, we got most of the honey out.  (Remember, though, that I was just trying to empty some combs enough to use them for brood combs and a little honey residue is a good thing for that purpose).A repower kit installed on a Kelley 72

AD:> A larger extractor has easier access, better tank capacity, less vibration, and shorter run time.  I have an ad out looking for an old Kelly or such.  I just cut off the drive and build my own compact, quiet automatic drive for a few hundred dollars (Right).

I hope you will have excellent success with your mite control measures and wintering preps.

AD:> Thanks.  Me too.

Thanks again for all the info on your site.

AD:> You are most welcome.

Best regards,

Joel
Massachusetts

I had a problem this summer when I took some newly-drawn Pierco to my friends' for extracting.  The frames were drawn and capped, but the copings were flush with the top bars, making it difficult to uncap.  In retrospect, I realise that when I saw a full box of drawn frames that were not capped, I should have pulled a frame and adjusted the rest to 9-frame spacing.

After I treated all the hives with formic twice, I got to thinking, especially in light of the brood damage observed in a few hives.  I have given no consideration to potential queen loss.  No one really gives this a lot of thought anymore, but at one time and occasionally, it has been a problem.  I console myself with the fact that I did smoke the bees down well before applying the pads and most were applied to triple storey colonies, so the fume  concentration should not have been excessive.

I glanced at the drop boards this morning.  Hive 1 has dropped about 1,000 mites since the boards were changed on the 19th. Before treatments, that hive averaged 78 mites dropping per day.  1,000 (est. -- feel free to count them at left) mites in three days is not bad. I can see hope for knocking the varroa population to very low levels in the next month if this keeps up.  What we see here, though, is the Apivar and the formic both at work.  I won't be applying more formic.   Several of the other boards only show less than 100 over the past three days.

Low mite drops right now can mean good things or bad things.  Low drops may mean low levels of varroa infestation and/or that previous treatment has worked well, but low drops can also show that the treatments are not working. 

The former is far more likely, given that we are using two treatments, both of which are known to be very effective, but we always have to be on the watch for the alternate explanation.

 The scale has lost 6 lbs since the 20th, or 3/4 lb per day per hive.

I don't know if I have described this cheap-and-dirty el cheapo honey extractor drive on the site somewhere.  If not, I should, so how about here?  Maybe I'll build another one and if I do, I'll post the parts list and the drawings -- and a better photo.  In the meantime, here is a side view, crudely drawn, at left. Click to enlarge.  There are some mistakes in the drawing, but if you can't see them, you probably can't build this thing anyhow.  I'm tired and done for now.A repower kit installed on a Kelley 72

The drive basically it consists of a Masonite fibre friction disk on a fixed countershaft (actually a 8" x 7/8"  bolt welded to a base plate) sandwiched between the Browning hub of a small sprocket driving the main shaft and a large Browning hub pulley which is driven driven by a cheap 110 volt motor.  This $350 drive can be fitted to almost any extractor and works about as well as any fancy drive IMO.

The motor base and shaft base are on separate sliders which can be moved in relation to each other and the the main shaft to get the correct chain and pulley tensions, then locked in place with four 5/16" bolts threaded into the extractor cross member.  This adjustment needs only be done once, during setup.

The sprocket and pulley hubs are bushed with bronze and are free to turn on the shaft.  An automotive valve spring compresses the pulley/fibre/sprocket sandwich with one sealed ball bearing on top and one underneath to transmit the spring pressure frictionlessly.

Spring pressure is applied to the friction clutch disk and is adjusted by the nut above the spring on the countershaft.  That pressure and the resulting friction control the amount of force transmitted to the drive sprocket through this slip clutch, and from there to the main shaft.  The amount of that force determines the rate of acceleration of the reel and its load of honey -- and the time required to reach the top speed.

  • The single nut is the acceleration adjustment and is fiddled usually only once a season or whenever the machine is too slow or too fast and is starting to break too many combs.
  • We used a variable 2.5 to 3.5 inch adjustable pulley on the motor and found it worked best somewhere in the middle.
  • The extractor final (top) speed is set by choosing the correct pulley and sprocket for the extractor diameter when building the drive and then by fine-tuning via the variable drive pulley on the motor.
  • Although these pulleys or sprockets should be selected differently if extracting all shallows or all deeps, the small difference in extracting time is not important in many operations, especially where the operators have jobs to do while loads are spinning.

In many operations, too many adjustments are a problem, not an aid.  When people fiddle with adjustments, things break or time is wasted and the owner does not always know why things are going wrong. 

If a speed change really needs to be made -- say near the end of the season due to increased granulation in combs -- it is a ten-minute job to adjust the motor drive pulley and not something that some part-time help can screw up without telling anyone.


FWIW, below are some calculations for possible sprocket/pulley combinations for the Kelley 72-frame machines we used. 

170/246 were the speed maximums we chose.  These correspond to the maximum and minimum adjustments on the drive (motor) pulley. 

For extracting only medium depth frames, the 204/295 sprocket/pulley combo might be a good choice.  We seldom see need for speeds under 200 RPM on that machine.

The rate of acceleration is determined by the average weigh of combs in the load as well as the friction adjustment.  Due to greater inertia, heavier loads spin up more slowly than light ones.  That is a good thing as it allows most of the honey to come out before applying full force.  It is therefore not a good idea to mix heavy and light combs in the same load if combs are tender or there is granulation, since the heavy combs need longer to empty before reaching top speed in order to avoid breakage and the load may speed up too quickly.

The centrifugal force -- and thus the optimal RPM for any extractor -- varies with the radius of the extractor. Thus an extractor with a reel half as large in diameter requires twice the RPM to do the same job.

Also, since centrifugal force varies with the square of the RPM, a small incremental increase in top speed can blow up frames.  i.e. a 10% increase in top speed results in a 21% increase in force on the frames.

I've often said that if I had to keep bees out of a pickup truck again, I'd quit.  I don't have to since I have the forklift, but I do use this old truck a lot, so I decided to take the Sawzall to it today.  I'm half-done but it is hot outside, so I am on a break, a siesta in fact.  When I am done, it will be a flat-deck -- a real bee truck.

I finished cutting off the sides.  Maybe I should have just dropped the box off, but I wanted to use the bed and the wiring.

After supper, Ellen and I went out and set up an electric fence in hopes of discouraging the deer which have been destroying our gardens and shrubbery.

If at first you don't succeed, find out if the loser gets anything.
Bill Lyon

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Sunday September 23rd 2012
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Today, I'm off to go sailing on Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary with a friend on his San Juan 21.  The event is a race and I have long forgotten most of what I knew on the subject.  I haven't raced sailboats for about 55 years. so I'll have to brush up on the rules.  I did participate in a race on English Bay back five years or so, but was mostly just good for ballast.

Before I went, I checked the skunk traps and the hive scale.  The new trap was sprung, but empty.  The old one was in the north yard and sat open.  The hive scale has gained 2 pounds since yesterday.

Zeke, Charlie and I went sailing on Glenmore.  I had not realised how quiet that little lake is and how easy it is to reach now.  It is in the very centre of a large city.  Years ago, driving to Glenmore meant going down slow city backstreets, but now freeways come within a half-mile.  It is now actually closer and more accessible than many of the lakes I have sailed over the years and only an hour and twenty minutes away.

At first it looked as if we would have no wind and we delayed launching, but then we got enough to sail and went out.  We took second in the first race, but did not have time to stay for the second race.

After sailing and putting the boat on the trailer, we went for a beer just up the hill in Heritage Park at the Big Rock Bar. Rather than beer, I asked for a Diet Coke .  It arrived and I drank it, only to be surprised by a refill.  Then it struck me.  It was free.  They assume anyone ordering a non-alcoholic beverage in a group of three is the designated driver.  I had chosen to forego beer because beer in the afternoon puts me to sleep, because I had a long drive ahead, and because I have decided I have been drinking too much.  The past year has been stressful. 

At any rate, this was a pleasant surprise and a contrast from drinking on Yonge Street in Toronto on Saturday nights back in then '60s. Anyone who did not order another drink every 20 minutes  was ushered out the door.

I stopped at Princess Auto on the way home for more electric fencing supplies, then Home Depot for some plywood.  It is nice to have a pickup truck again.

Ellen reports the fence seems to be discouraging the deer.  She claims she knows if they have eaten even one leaf from her gardens.  So, there is hope. 

I set the skunk traps before sundown.  Wildlife is getting to be a problem around here.  The deer and skunks are nuisance lately.

Nobody hunts much anymore and the new pesticides are not killing birds, fish,  and everything else the way the old ones did in the '70s.  

Birds are not a problem -- although the magpies harass everything and an owl tried to carry off our cat a while ago -- but some of the mammals are.  We hear coyotes close by at night and I hear raccoons have been spotted not to far away.  We don't need raccoons, and we're not in bear territory -- not yet anyhow.

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Monday September 24th 2012
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Three More Months and it's Christmas Eve!

Nothing is pressing today.  I have to prepare to go east this coming Saturday, but I'll only be gone a week. 

I have some paper to shuffle and the truck deck to build.  The yard needs cleaning and I have a big load to go to the dump.  The pool needs to be rolled up and put away.  Ellen may have plans for putting up more electric fence.  Then the quonset and work area needs organising.  I need to make up 16 brood chambers to go under the doubles and a hive loader to lift the hives onto them.  New floors and lids would be nice, too, and the basement shop needs about three days of cleanup and organising...

Once the sun came up, I checked the skunk traps.  They had defeated the new one again, it was tripped, but the bait was gone, so I am returning it.  It does not work.  The old trap was untouched.  They have fooled it a time or two, but it has usually worked for me.

This morning, early, I improved the design details for the extractor drive described above, on Saturday.

Later, I got to work on the truck.  I got to the point where I have to decide how best to proceed and got stuck, so I vacuumed the hall and bedroom. I try to remember to vacuum every two months whether the place needs it or not.

This is a heavy half GMC 4X4 with a 4"lift kit.  I cut the sides off with the Sawzall, leaving the deck, which was a pretty slick trick if I do say so myself.  I kept the deck mainly for the cross members. 

Somehow, I had not expected the deck to be as good as it is.  Except for the wheel cut-outs and a little rust, and a need for edges, it is perfect for what I want to do.  I had bought two sheets of 3/4" plywood yesterday, thinking to just cover the whole thing, but now I see that the deck is good.  Moreover, the deck is two inches longer than the plywood, so I am dreaming up a workmanlike way to finish.

I could, just fill in the wheel cutouts with plywood or steel for that matter, and put on a wood or steel edge -- or -- I could cover the whole deck with plywood. 

The deck is about 6' 1-1/2" wide as it is.  If I use the plywood, I would make the deck 8' wide.  A wide deck has the advantage of greater capacity, but the narrower one is easier to work across and I am not planning to take it on the road.  This truck is licensed and insured, but is just used to run the yards and back on my own land and to haul odds and ends.  A good truck flat deck, at the right height, makes a good work table for use anywhere it is needed.

Sometimes, the best solution is to stop thinking about a problem until it solves itself somewhere in the back of the mind.  Yeah, that is my junk in the background.  I have three trailers sitting there, and a forklift plus two trucks -- all  for 90 hives.

I think I decided.  I'll use the plywood crosswise and limit the with to about 6' 6".  That way, I can reach half-way across the deck.  At 8', I could not.  I'll use 2X4s for edges.

Sometimes in the evening lately when I am too tired to do anything else, I've been watching Glades on Netflix.  In the summer the idea of watching a drama does not appeal, but as the days grow shorter, it gets more attractive.

I sometimes watch on the widescreen TV and sometimes on my Tab, and now even on my LG Optimus Black smartphone.  With headphones, there is not a whole lot of difference if I wear reading glasses and hold the screen reasonably close.  With these little devices, I can watch out in the garden on the swing, or even in a waiting room or in the truck.

If two people know a secret, then it's no secret at all.

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Tuesday September 25th 2012
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First thing today, after asession at the keyboard, waiting for the sun to come up, I went out and blew off the drop boards and I plan to see what the 24-hour drop is tomorrow. By now, we should be seeing something interesting. 

As I checked the hives, I see more skunk damage.  I have caught 6 skunks so far and that does not seem to be slowing the problem yet.  This damage is as severe as I have seen.  (See the shot at left and the detail at right).  I wonder how long it will be before they discover they can tear the boxes apart. I don't want to wait and find out.

Although raising the hives and using carpet tack strips on the entrance is supposed to stop skunks, the picture at right of a pallet raised up on an extra pallet and with the tacks along the entrance proves that this is not much of a setback for a determined skunk.  I suppose I could raise them higher and devise other discouragements, but the fact is, there are just too many skunks for the available food and they are starving.  Otherwise skunks don't bother beehives.

After putting in the drop boards, I checked the trap down at the quonset and found it caught skunk number 7 last night.  It seems there are a lot of little skunks and only a few larger ones, so I suspect that several families grew up nearby this summer.  It was a fantastic summer, with hot weather and just enough rain.  We did not see the foxes around this year and the coyotes have not been near at night lately, so the skunks managed to out-populate the carrying capacity of the locale and are getting desperate.   Who would have guessed there would be so many?  And who can guess how many are still out there molesting my hives?

> Allen, I noticed on the 20th you said that your trail cam. hadn't taken any pictures and
> you wondered if you had forgot to set it.

>A couple of months ago I was researching new ones, and somewhere on this site
> http://www.chasingame.com/ I found some information about failure to sense.
> This happens when, for whatever reason, your camera just isn't taking photos.

> I found with mine that just resetting it is often enough to fix the problem.
> I have been lucky enough to avoid skunk problems and I suspect the bear fence
> keeps away more of them than it does bears.

> Adrian.

Hi,

Thanks. I think I had turned off when I was trying to turn it on. Then I had the SD card in the house for a while and never remembered to take it back to the yard.

Tonight I went out and put the card in and intended to turn it on and the flash went off in my face. I guess it was on ever since I turned it off last.

Anyhow, it is on right now and has a card in it, and is taking pictures, apparently, so we should have some pictures tomorrow. One will be of me flashed full-face. Another may be of the skunks walking away satisfied after stealing the bait out of the traps.

Whatever the cause (probably my error and then neglect) it seems to be working now.

Thanks again. That site looks interesting.

BTW, maybe I could use an electric fence against the skunks, but that does not solve the potential dog and skunk problem and the excess population here.  It is also a huge hassle (and expense) to put up three fences, and to have to put them up and down to do anything in the yards.

I went to Trochu and stopped at the GuZoo along the way and borrowed some more traps and a pail of tiger and cougar poo for my wife who is combating deer in her gardens.  My Trochu trip was to return the two traps I had bought, but Lynn, who is an expert in these things, figured they are fine and should work, so he kept one and I took the other back home.  I went to town anyhow and picked up 50 more posts for electric fencing.

I intended to help Ellen put up more fence after supper, but fell asleep and awoke an hour and half later.  By then she had done what she wanted to do.  I went out and set four skunk traps, hoping to get at least one tonight.  My bait is Global 15% patties. The skunks love them.

Today was dull and I got a few things done, but not as much as some days.  Tomorrow, I get to check the drop boards.

People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.
Samuel Johnson

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Wednesday September 26th 2012
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Ah, yes, the drop boards.  At 6:46, it is still dark out,  Just a few weeks ago, the sun would be coming up about now.  Winter is coming. 

A soon as the dawn breaks, I'll go out and bring them in.  24 hours will not have elapsed, but I should get a good idea how things are going.  If the drops are fairly low as judged by a glance, I'll just put them back for a few more days before counting -- if I do count.  IF they show heavy drops, I'll count a few and clear them off before putting them back.

The problem with doing drops is that if there are more than 50 mites, counting accurately takes too long.  We have to decide why we are counting.  Are we counting for a scientific examination of the patterns of apparent cause and effect, or are we simply trying to see if we have a problem?

If we are doing a scientific study, we need to decide on the degree of accuracy required and then take measures to achieve that, even if we have to count every single mite.  If an approximation is sufficient, then counting a random portion of the boards is adequate, especially if there are a number of boards to increase the sample size.

if we are just trying the make sure our varroa levels are low enough for colony health and survival, then really rough estimates suffice.

At daybreak, I went out and retrieved 4 boards.  Here are the results for a little less than 24 hours.  I may have switched hives 3 and 4 when picking them up.  Not sure.  I really should label them better.

So, what am I looking for in the 24-hr drops?  I am looking for the day that the mite drop falls below and stays below the average drop back in early September.  That would be a fairly clear sign that the total mite population is diminishing as hoped. 

When can I expect this happy day?  That is a complex question and that day will be different for every hive.  The position of the Apivar, the location, age distribution and amount of the brood, the hive population number of boxes will all affect the rate of mite attrition, as will other more subtle factors.

I see I got another skunk, and that the messing on the hive doorsteps has stopped.  I looked no further, but did pull the SD card from the camera to see what pictures might reveal.

There were only 6 pictures.  Besides myself coming and going, I see only one skunk wandering around, then the closed trap. Maybe this is the last?  I'd be surprised.  We'll see.

While walking through the yard, I saw small clusters at the entrances (right).  I don't know why the bees were hanging there unless they were waiting to go for water or there is some sort of flow.  It could be they are trained to be defensive and are waiting for the skunk.  If so, they play right into the skunks plan. The weather has changed for the cooler and I would have expected the bees would be settling down for the season, not hanging out.

I have closed off the auger holes and maybe that is causing the bees to hang out at the bottom to see out.  I'll open the holes in the seconds, but leave the top holes closed for now to preserve humidity for the patties.

*   *   *   *   *

Saturday, I fly East to see Mom, haul my boat, and close Pine Hill.  I have allowed 8 days for the trip.

*   *   *   *   *

I went out to liberate the skunk I assumed I had caught and the trap was empty.  Somehow they are beating the traps these days.  They get the bait and spring the trap, but manage to get out without being caught.  They only way I can imagine this is if there are two skunks in the trap.  The game camera is not catching the action for some reason.  It catches a skunk walking around and the trap sprung, but nothing in between.  I am going to try setting the camera on "video" and see what I can learn.

As for the bees at the entrance, I now think the skunk was hassling them.

I made a post to the HoneyBeeWorld List today.  Since I have not been moderating, sometimes BEE-L goes over a day without messages coming through. It all depends on when Aaron gets around to it.  Maybe it is time for the HBW list to get a little more active again.

The hive scale shows another 6-lb loss since the 23rd, or a half-pound a day.  There are 7 months until any kind of significant nectar flow.  That is about 210 days and at this rate, the hives would lose 105 lbs each.  Of course, this rate of loss will not continue after the bees quit flying and settle down. 

Nevertheless, extrapolating this rate of loss gives a hint that the hives will need lots of feed to winter well, and I always figure they should have 20 lbs or so extra for a safety margin.  Even if there is feed left in the corners of the hives, that is often of little use to the late winter cluster.  We need lots of feed and above the bees, not somewhere down below. 

Some of the weight beekeepers count as winter stores when just going by weight may be granulated or otherwise inaccessible.  Cutting it close on winter feed is a risk.  More is better.  I like three brood boxes because there is lots of room for feed and bees and the bees need not be right down on the floor at the beginning of winter.  There is lots of room for feed above them and fro larger populations.  They eat more, but they also survive better and can be split sooner.

I'll be open feeding syrup to top up the lighter hives once I return from Ontario.  I don't want to do that too soon since I will just plug the heavy hives. The later hives still have a lot of comb dedicated to brood.   When the brood has hatched out and the bees are settling down, is the best time to provide some syrup to fill in the voids. 

If I had pulled a lot of honey and my hives were light, I would have fed two rounds by now.  Hungry hives fly themselves to death in fall and die in winter.  I like my hives heavy in fall, and, believe me, mine are heavy.  I'll still feed.

Meijers came by late in the afternoon and brought back my supers and drums.  We had a good visit and supper.

After supper, they left and, since I was tired, I had what once again turned out to be a long nap.  This is the second day in a row that I have fallen asleep right after supper and slept for more than an hour. 

Ellen and I have both been very tired lately and both have experienced some digestive upset.  There have been recent meat recalls due to e. coli in Alberta and I wonder if we got a touch.  We always cook hamburger well, but sometimes eat steak fairly rare.  Both have been the subject of the recalls.

The more sensitive you are, the more likely you are to be brutalized, develop scabs and never evolve.
 Never allow yourself to feel anything because you always feel too much.
 Marlon Brando

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Thursday September 27th 2012
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It seems that a fair number of people drop by this diary and a few write me.  For some reason, very few post in the Honey Bee World Forum. At one time, the forum was very active, but lately it has been very slow.

The forum was offline for a year or two due to SPAM until I brought it back with hardened security.  Ever since, though, the traffic on the forum has been very limited.  People obviously visit it and read the public content, but don't post.  I have asked a few times whether the sign-up process is too daunting and received no replies.  I've tried it myself from a strange computer and had no difficulty.  So, if you have tried to use the forum and had difficulty, please write me.

We are entering another cooling trend (See the forecast image above and the history image below) .  Nectar flows have pretty well ended, but the bees are still fairly active.  Maybe the cooler weather predicted will encourage them to settle down for winter.

I caught two more skunks last night.  That adds up to eight so far and I'll set the traps again tonight.  There seems to be no end.

I have been thinking. I need to lift some hives up enough to place a third box under them before winter and had though to build a loader arm and presented the plans here a few days back. 

It occurs to me that in order to use that arm, I'd need to build a cradle to grip the hive to lift it.  that could be a simple as forks that go in the entrance or as elaborate as a cradle that grabs the handholds and presses down on the lid.  I've used both in the past. 

The former is very simple, but requires smoking the bees well so they are up off the bottom bars and presents problems when lowering the hive onto the new box, since the forks must be withdrawn from the stack somehow.

I have a hive mover, designed for wooden boxes, and it sorta works on EPS boxes, but it does not lift the hive up high enough.  I could actually just lift the double hive up manually, but they are heavy and awkward and my hands would be full.  I'd be unable to place the new box without setting the hive down for a moment.

Possibly, if I set up several boxes on which to set the double while inserting the new box on its stand, I could make it work, but it would be difficult and awkward.  The job could be done with little prep, though.  I think I'll try that first.

*   *   *   *   *   *

It worked!  The doubles are incredibly heavy, but I was able to lift them against my knees using the handholds of the top box and spin around with them.  Thankfully, they were well enough glued that none of the bottom boxes fell on my foot.  That would have been a bad experience.

So, this afternoon, I placed a third box under all the doubles and finally, I am really done working the hives -- except for removing the Apivar in a month and feeding syrup any time now.  Given the weight of the lightest hives, I think I'll wait a while.  I'll also move them around a bit before winter and maybe do a little forklift equalizing.  I'm also still thinking of spray painting the boxes in place.

Yard

Boxes/Hive   Total Hives
1 2 3 4
South Yard 0 0 15 2 17
Quonset Yard 0 0 53 0 53

North Yard

0 0 19 0 19
Total Hives 0 0 87 2
89

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

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Friday September 28th 2012
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Tomorrow, I'll be in the air by now with any luck.  I'm going a way for a few days, so I have a lot of last-minute things to do today.

First thing, I checked the skunk traps.  I got two more skunks, small ones, last night for a total of ten to date, and I suspect there are still more skunks working the hives.  The new trap finally caught one.  They tripped one trap of the four -- a Havaheart --  again without getting caught and I don't know how they do that unless several are crowding in and that keeps the trap open until they exit.  It is a mystery. 

I'm going away tomorrow.  I'll be up at three to catch my flight at seven, so I doubt I'll be inspired to check traps in the morning.  I won't set them unless I am sure I will have the time and ambition to empty the traps promptly.  I can't leave a skunk sitting in a trap for a week.  I may be inspired, though, because skunks do so much damage once the begin eating the bees and it bothers me.  They eat a lot of bees and the loss of bees may affect wintering.  The scratching also damages the hives.

I washed the tarp I used with the honey load, filled up the truck with fuel and am putting away the pool.  It is amazing how hard it is to get granulated honey off a tarp with a pressure washer.  After the pool, I have to run to town for some blood work and then tidy the equipment.

I drove to town and back, There were no lineups and the process took only minutes.  I drove the truck.  I didn't have to, but I enjoy it.

Oene dropped by in the afternoon to pick up the Apivar. We had a good visit.  After, I finished picking up the pool parts and putting them away.  It was dusk by the time I finished that and miscellaneous tidying jobs.

I must say that tonight I am very glad I don't have an iPhone .  As I was putting the pool parts away in the basement, my LG Optimus Black smartphone slipped from a breast  pocket and hit the concrete floor with a thud.  I picked it up and it was the same as ever.  If it had been an iPhone, it would have exploded and I'd be out $600 or a big repair bill.

The Optimus Black is a great phone and beats the newest iPhone 5 for slimness and lightweight.  It has the 4" ultra-bright screen Apple just managed to achieve and it has Google Maps.  I've had it for a few months and am completely happy with it.  At $250, new, it cost me less than half what Apple wants for an inferior (IMO) phone.

The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof,
a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths,
and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us.
Paul Valery

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Saturday September 29th 2012
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I'm writing late today.  I was up at 2:45 AM and at YYC by 6.  The flights were uneventful and I arrived at YSB at 2:30 PM.  Along the way, I watched The Sting.  It was a good today as it was back in 1973, and that is very good.

Mom picked me up and when we got to 1207 a half-hour later, we had a chat and than I slept an hour and a bit.  After supper, I settled in and here I am now. 

The weather is cool and the wind is from the east.  Looks like some more cool, damp weather is coming.  Alberta continues warm for a few days, but is promised snow and frost Wednesday.

I watched The Misfits pilot for something different on Netflix.  It was bizarre, if nothing else.

To see what is before ones eyes is a constant struggle.
George Orwell

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Sunday September 30th 2012
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I'm in Sudbury today.  Mom is off to church and I'm relaxing and getting caught up on computer things, including looking through my Evernote backlog.  Every so often I go through and delete old notes and label and sort the ones taken on the fly in the past month or two so I can find them again.  Having them organized helps a lot when trying to find things on one of my handheld devices.

Here is one I don't know if I posted here or not.  It is a clip from Jean-Pierre Chapleau's site.  I keep coming back to natural drops as an easy way to look into hives in summer when the supers are on and the brood frames are not easily accessible.  Click the thumbnail to enlarge.

I'm not sure what date he is talking about here, when he speaks of "summer", but early September is still 'summer', so some of the the drops I recorded in the last days of August and the first days of September look pretty lethal according to his chart.  Hives 3 and 8 were in the danger zone.  I got Apivar into the hives fairly promptly -- it took me more than a week -- so here is hoping I got them in time.

I am also now wondering if I was wise to use formic or not.  Tracheal has not been a problem and formic does have side effects on some hives, with brood damage and potential queen loss. 

I did get the formic on more quickly, though, than I was able to place the Apivar into hives due to my determination to place the brood and Apivar in the top box.  My insistence in doing so was due to my hearing that some beekeepers had placed Apivar into the top box of doubles and then fed five Imperial or 6 US) gallons of syrup.  That drove the bees down to the bottom box and apparently the Apivar did not work very well for them.  I need it to work very well.

I may have over-reacted, though.  One formic pad could have been enough, according to my friends comments in discussion later.  Of course all the recommendations are for singles and doubles in wood and most of my hives are triples in EPS.  Nonetheless, I did have 15 doubles at the time, and a few of them did show brood damage, with pupae on the doorstep.

All these so-called "soft" treatments do harm to the bees and brood. Caution is advised, but due the variation between hives in populations and configuration, some are bound to be overdosed and some under-dosed, and the window between the two undesirable outcomes with these harsh chemicals ('natural' or not) is narrow.

After church, Mom and I went out for lunch.  After, I tidied up some back pages in the diary and did a few other tasks until supper.  I also cleaned up the Selected Beekeeping Topics page.

When cleaning up back diary pages, I don't change the content, but do remove dead URLs and tidy the formatting.  I also sometimes find bad internal links and fix them up.

After supper, I took a stroll around the neighbourhood, looking at the houses where I delivered newspapers 55 years ago and the new houses that filled in since then.  Back then, it was much less populated and we had lots of bush to play in.

 Most of the greatest evil that man has inflicted upon man comes through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.
Bertrand Russell

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