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The North Yard - pulling honey using the abandonment method

Thursday August 1st 2013 
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This morning is warm and sunny and a warm day is predicted.  Jon flies back to LA to pick up his kids and will return tomorrow.

First thing, I drove to Three Hills to see Ellen.  She was asleep, though, so I went home.  Jon went up and she was awake, then he drove to YYC and he is home in Laguna Beach tonight.  Tomorrow, he is back in Swalwell, with his kids.

Jean visited Ellen around noon and then went on up to Lacombe.  Word is that the new house is coming along fine and that they are pouring the basement floor today and will be wiring and plumbing next week.

I went back up to the hospital in mid-afternoon and had a visit with Ellen.  She seems to be recovering.  Otherwise, I spent the day tidying and preparing for company.

Vote early and vote often.
Al Capone

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Friday August 2nd 2013 
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Today will be a big one.  Jon returns with his kids.

> I was wondering if you knew why some bee stings are minor and yet
> others can swell up beyond belief.

Usually people do not swell as much at first as they do while they are building immunity.  After immunity develops, there is almost no swelling, although the first stings of the year may swell a bit.

I hardly swell at all, and only around the eyes.

 

> Allen, I saw this on your diary page

> "In our case, I slip a brood box of honey underneath in September to
> make them into doubles. That box has about 60 pounds of feed and with
> an additional 20 pounds drum fed to fill in the voids, is enough for
> winter."

> Can you explain why you put the honey under and not over the brood. I
> would have thought that the bees would prefer it over them. Why do
> you do it this way?

Good question.  That was a quick and undetailed reference to my default, idiot-proof method given my circumstances.  It is one that can have some drawbacks, and is not necessarily the best for all situations, but one that will never do harm. 

In actual fact, I will probably place some boxes on top and some below as I see what each box and each hive indicates to me.

> Is there not a danger that they won't find their way down through
>
it by winter?

I place it on early enough to ensure they have the ambient heat and time to reorganize it and carry some up, and  also feed at that same time if there is no flow.

> Do you scratch some frames to show them the way down?

No.  I generally avoid handling the frames.  I like to handle boxes at that point.

> Is it that you prefer they work on their fresh stuff in the top box
> later in the winter?

Yes, that is a minor consideration, I suppose, but I also assume that they will be carrying feed up to pack the top box if they have time.

You have me puzzled.

Sorry.  I'll discuss further. 

Reasons to place it below.

  1. The current brood chamber in use is the brood nest and is arranged the way the bees like it and the comb is not brand new. 
  2. This position (below) is least disruptive and can be done any time of year without applying any expertise.
  3. The honey in the box being added may or may not be liquid and the frames may have been collected from different hives resulting in a less than optimal positioning.  By placing the feed box below, the bees are encouraged to liquefy and reorganize the stores and carry feed up into the current nest.
  4. Placing even an empty box below a wintering single greatly improves the odds of wintering survival IMO, and also improves the probable size of the spring cluster. 
  5. Placing a box on top in fall stresses the bees a bit as their brood is then suddenly located down below.  Not a big issue, for a strong hive in warm weather, but minimizing stresses later in the season reduces risk of triggering stress diseases like nosema IMO.

Reasons to place on top.

  1. It is much easier for the beekeeper.
  2. If the box being added is simply a brood chamber that is mostly darker comb, properly organized and full of feed, there is not much work for the bees to do. 

Regardless, such boxes should be added in early September since even a perfect box that has been in storage must be 'conditioned' and accepted by the bees.

It is an observable fact that bees are often reluctant to stand on "strange" comb at first.  This is particularly noticeable when making splits.  If combs from storage are placed in a split, they are often avoided at first.  They must cover it with their 'home' scent to make it theirs.

  1. Feed placed below is less accessible if the box is placed there too late in fall or colonies are weak.
  2. If the comb in the current brood chamber is less than ideal, the bees will move up over winter into the new box and the comb will be empty in spring and can be removed.
  3. Any pollen in a newly-added bottom box will likely be uncovered as they move the feed around and either be consumed or become dried out.  This seems wasteful.

So, if conditions are right, I'll probably place many or even most heavy brood boxes from storage on top, especially if they are brood boxes that were simply removed from a hive and not rearranged since the current brood boxes should be mostly brood with very little feed at that time.

This is assuming that all the honey gathered in August goes into supers, and that is the idea behind running singles, other than making the brood chambers easier to work through.    A few weeks later, by October, the brood will be down to three frames or less and the box will be packed with honey if there is a flow.  If the brood rearing has cut back and there is a lot of feed in the hives when I add the box, though, I'd tend to put the feed box below.

The single box that currently makes up the hive will have been used for several rounds of brood and is therefore an ideal nest for the winter cluster and perfectly arranged by the bees.  If the box I am adding is mostly  newly drawn comb, it goes below.  Experience shows that bees don't winter well for me on new, white comb, although a few new combs in the nest don't seem to hurt, as long as most are older and the bees have lived in them for a few weeks.

Today, we are about one month from doing mite washes and placing the second box on/under the hives.  The mite washes will indicate how quickly I have to get around to mite treatments. 

I'd like to get to where I am doing varroa control in spring, not fall.  In spring, I use less than half the chemical and spring treatments are very effective compared to fall treating.  The problem is that I have been fall treating and the only way to switch to spring is to do an extra treatment next spring.

One has to check in fall, though regardless, as sometimes mite populations balloon in summer and sometimes mites may arrive from elsewhere.

I think that fall formic treatment is a good idea, though, as formic hits any tracheal mites in the outfit before winter, the time of year that tracheal mites are most damaging.

*   *   *   *   *

After visiting Ellen in Three Hills, I returned home, then drove to YYC to get Jon and the kids.  They arrived on time and we went grocery shopping.  Arriving home at 5:30, we had pizza and they drove north to see Ellen.  I had a nap.

I was expecting a beekeeper to come tonight to look at bees, but apparently his friend with whom he was coming did not show up.

After they returned from the hospital, Jon, Katrina, Kalle and I made popcorn and watched We Bought a Zoo.  It is pretty much a kid's movie.  This the second time for me this week.  I watched with Jean, Mckenzie and Nathan earlier.  We don't watch much media, but watching with the kids is a good family activity.

The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.
Tom Clancy

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Saturday August 3rd 2013 
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Matti comes in from Sweden tonight.  Jean and family will be down, too.

I cleaned up at home, then drove to Three Hills to visit Ellen.  She is doing well there and likes the service.  The nurses are very kind.  I returned home and Kalle and I took a bike ride.

I'm tired today, so I had a nap after lunch. I think now that I'll go out and check for honey in the supers.   We're having a cool August so far, but it is surprising what bees can do.

So far I have not gone out.  I vacuumed and made up the guest bed and cut up a watermelon, etc.   Jean arrived.  The kids swam, Jon drove to YYC and picked up Matti then returned and we visited until midnight.

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.
Plutarch

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Sunday August 4th 2013 
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We'll have a hot day today if the weather guesser are correct.  It appears we may have to drain the pool as it has settled unevenly such that the rails are not interlocking properly.  There may be a risk of collapse and we cannot fix it with the weight of water on the supports. That is a shame as the pool takes time to fill and warm up, plus the water in it costs about $65 plus the chemicals add another $15.

We all drove to Three Hills to visit Ellen in the morning, then returned home for lunch.  Later, we drained the pool a bit and managed to hoist the sagging part enough to get the rail to fit properly and should be able to save the rest of the water.

I was hoping my friends might be by for supper and bring more empty boxes.  I went out and pulled five boxes, then called to see if I should pull more or might not have boxes to put on as replacements if they do not come.  They are not coming, so I decided to stop.

I prefer to pull honey before the frames are completely full and capped as my management method insists that hives should always have some empty comb so that there is no backpressure on the broodnest and I have a limited number of empties.

I am right out of boxes and although some hives have not done much in their super, I can't remove it for use on the productive hives as I need it there to keep the hives from plugging.  Many colonies that are not working in the super are still making a queen or have a new one and the brood combs are full of honey. When the new queen starts filling the brood chamber with eggs and larvae, then suddenly a lot of honey goes up -- or the hive plugs up.

I suppose I could put some of my foundation on, but foundation causes backpressure, too.  It is backpressure from lack of ready cells that causes the bees to hold nectar in their crop and triggers wax building. 

The picture at right shows what happens when you have too few boxes on a hive.  The boxes on end are honey supers that have been removed and left a few hours.  The bees have left and I am picking them up at the time the picture was taken, around 8 PM.

Although uncrowded bees naturally make a certain amount of wax during a flow without trying and with no cost in terms of crop or reduction in brood , trying to produce more than a little new comb costs in terms of production and population.

The gang went to the splash pool in Three Hills mid-afternoon and I played with our pool, which had emptied enough that I could lift several supports with the forklift and drive boards under them.  That was enough to solve the problem and I refilled the pool.  I was hot and had a dip.  The water was cold as 1/4 of it was fresh from the tap.  That cooled me down.  A five-minute dip last me an hour or more.

We had a casual supper of hamburgers and smokies and sat around the pool after while the kids swam.  After that, Kalle and I watched Back to the Future, a family tradition.

He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.
Abraham Lincoln

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Monday August 5th 2013 
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Today, I'm going to have to decide what to do about adding more space to my hives.  I may need to run over, drop off the 40 supers of honey and pick up some empties.  I don't want the hives to plug.  The alternative is to use my own equipment, but I do not want to have any more brood combs filled with honey or have any newly drawn combs extracted as it is too hard on the fragile combs.

If I do that, I'll need to fill the truck tank with enough diesel for the trip.  I've run the tank down near empty with the intention of dropping the tank to clear a breather obstruction and to calibrate the gauge, which has been reading incorrectly.  I don't know if I feel like starting that job while I have company here visiting.

Matti and I drove up to see Ellen at ten.  She was awake and they had a good chat in Finnish while I went downtown and bought some food for supper.  Jon has promised to cook ribs, so I stocked up.

Kalle, Mckenzie, Katrina, Matti and I lit a bonfire in the afternoon, then went swimming.  The Orams decided to go to the hoodoos. 

Meijers came by with more boxes for me and took away the honey I pulled earlier.  I have plenty of boxes now. I just have to put them on.  What is my schedule?  I don't like to work the hives more often than once a week.  I'll have to check.   I went out before supper and pulled another six boxes in the North Yard and replaced them with empties.

Looking back in the diary, I see I worked the North Yard last on the 27th or 28th and that is over a week ago, so it is time to do another quick check.  There are several hives that did not have queens.  Hopefully they should have queens by now.   I'll take a look.

I have to pull supers in the Quonset yard, too and work through them quickly.  I drove through to check and saw some hives beginning to hang out.  I had a skunk showing interest in hives earlier, but did nothing and see no more signs.  That is a good thing, especially when bees hang out as a skunk can do a lot of damage when the bees are easy to reach.  Pulling the honey and adding a box will get them back inside.

This year, with the cold weather and small clusters due to splitting, adding more than one or two  supers can be a problem.  Most years, with strong hives and warm nights I stack on as many supers as I have available, but bees only store in parts of the hive that they can keep warm.  Small hives like mine will ignore supers and plug the brood nest if I stack on too many boxes, as any extra upper space outside the cluster will get cool at night.  Limiting the space to what the bees can actually occupy allows heat to be maintained and keeps the super(s) warm enough to attract honey. 

The problem with limiting the storage space on the hives is that I have to check often for honey and remove it as soon as each super fills.

I have thought of inserting a sheet of foundation into the middle of the brood chambers, which I sometimes do, but this year I am not seeing much new comb.  They are drawing wax in the supers above the brood, but I am not seeing newer combs with a patch of unfinished foundation in the brood area being completed.  The weather is just too cool for good wax drawing lower in the hive it seems.  Maybe as the colonies expand and new bees hatch, that will change.

Speaking of bald patches, I am seeing more bald spots on the Pierco that I recall and the foundation does seem a but bowed.  I am now making a point of facing the Pierco all the same way.  That is easy as the brand on the top bar shows the orientation.  I have yet to verify that the direction of bowing is consistent.

With nine-frame spacing, slight bowing and other imperfections matter little, but with ten-frame spacing, they can become obvious and result in patches where the frames are too close for brood rearing.  Since Piercos crowd well due to the hollow shoulder design, they crowd right in to exact ten-frame spacing and I am seeing some broodless areas if two frames bow towards one another.  If the both bow the same direction there is no issue.

That makes me wonder about beekeepers who shave their frames to get closer spacing and 11 frames into a 10-frame box.  I've run both normal and nine-frame spacing and saw no difference in hive performance, so can't see how closer spacing would do anything but make things harder to work.  I ran 9 frames/box in double brood chamber hives where there are 18 or 20 frames for brood.  With singles, I am trying to get maximum number of cells for brood into one standard box and use 10 frames.

In America, anybody can be president. That's one of the risks you take.
Adlai Stevenson

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Tuesday August 6th 2013 
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This should be a warm, sunny day.  I should get out and pull some honey first thing and if I have time, work through brood chambers.  The family is here and we have some trips planned, but not for specific days, so this job may get preempted if I don't get at it early.

It is 11.5 degrees out at 0725 hrs and sunny, so I can start anytime.

By 0800, the temperature increased to 13, but the sky became overcast and the breeze picked up to 6 MPH. 

I went out an pulled another 13 boxes.  It seems that the last round of splits have not requeened as well as hoped, but maybe I have not waited long enough.  I see signs of queens having emerged, but no laying queen.  Some that I placed eggs into ten days ago have cells, so I wonder...  Once the main flow starts, requeening can be iffy.

We swam a bit, then went to the GuZoo.  It is a little country zoo and animal rescue farm.  They have an amazing collection of animals.  We have known the owners for decades and Jon went to school with their son and used to go up there and play with a tiger cub.

It was the GuZoo or the Calgary Zoo, and the choice was a good one.  The drive was twenty minutes compared to over an hour and parking was free and right at the gate.  There were no crowds and at the end of the tour, a volunteer brought out animals for the kids to handle.

I left early and bought groceries, then met the others at the hospital.  We visited Ellen for a few minutes and returned home.  Jon cooked supper, I had a nap, then we had a bonfire.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work;
I want to achieve immortality through not dying.
Woody Allen

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Wednesday August 7th 2013 
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Today, I have to pick up the honey that has been sitting for abandonment and then visit Ellen.  After that, we are off to Heritage Park for the afternoon. 

Jean and the kids will return home and Jon, Matti and I will go sailing withy Zeke.  Zeke keeps his boat at Heritage park's launch ramp.

I went to pick up the honey and had to pull another 40 boxes.  They were full.  Seems like the honey flow is now on - finally.

Everyone wanted to go to Heritage Park, and I was in no hurry to go, so they took the Toyota and went around one.  I took my time, had a swim, and left at two.  I was there by three-thirty and we wandered around while the kids went on rides.  At five, I went to the marina and had a nap. 

Zeke showed up at five-thirty and we rigged, then launched the boat.  Lon and I sailed with Zeke and he found Matti a spot on another boat.  We did quite well in the first two races, then just before the start of the third, the wind picked up and turned gusty.  I suggested reefing, but the gusts overpowered the boats, so the race was cancelled.   We tacked into the dock, de-rigged, and loaded the boat on the trailer and returned it to its parking spot.

From there, we drove to the Glenmore Yacht Club and had a steak supper. Around ten, we left.  Jon drove, and we took Zeke home, then returned to the Old Schoolhouse.

It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
Niccolo Machiavelli

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Thursday August 8th 2013 
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We were planning a river trip today, but the weather is damp and cool.  Everyone is just sitting around.

I decided o go to Meijers to drop off honey and have supper, but was just too tired, so stayed home.  I did not visit Ellen today.  This is the first time since she has been in the hospital, but quite a few others were going and I figured that we could overdo it.

I helped Katrina bake a cake.

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

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Friday August 9th 2013 
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We'll start the day with a trail ride.  We have to be at the TL Bar ranch by 10AM.

Below are excerpts from an email exchange about Apivar:

> If they have 3 mediums for the brood area can they get away with 4
> strips or are they going to need 6? What if they are running 4
> mediums? I assume the strips are cut for deep boxes.

The strips are cut for deep boxes, but if the frames are spaced
properly, the strips should go down into the next box.

Up here, the rule is a strip for each five frames of bees and no one
uses more than 2 strips. Strips must be close to open brood as that is
where the heavily infested bees are located. Located elsewhere, they
are next to useless.

A big problem her is that beekeepers place them in the brood area, then
feed heavily. The brood hatches and is replaced by feed as the brood
area is driven down and the strips are then away from the brood. The
result is poor control.

When placing strips, this must be considered, and sometimes the strips
must be re-positioned halfway through the treatment.

> Is it temperature sensitive?

Only in the sense that the bees need to move around it to pick up the
chemical (like a cattle oiler).

> Some of my hives are 2 deeps and 1 medium, I can not get to where
> they are in the winter and they need that extra box for honey, will I
> have to treat three boxes am I looking at needing 6 strips in my
> hives?

Only place strips in the brood chamber next to brood. The brood is
usually in a fairly tight sphere. Two strips should be enough and they
should be removed after 42 days unless they are re-positioned in which
case an extra two weeks are allowed.

Click here for Dadant's info.  They are selling the strips and their
 recommendations are IMO for people who do not know where
the brood is located.

*   *   *   *   *

One more thing: If treatment can delayed until spring, one strip is enough and further, only surviving colonies are treated.  Big savings and great control.

The Canadian label is at right (Click on thumbnail).

*   *   *   *   *

> ...spent some time reading about Apivar last night and the
> recommendations state a low dose could cause resistance.

While that may be true, it is a low probability. A lot of what is
written is speculative and impractical. No matter what we do, resistance
will eventually come about.

FWIW, Too high a dose can have the same effect. So can the correct dose.

A high dose eliminates all but the most resistant mites, which then
interbreed into supermites.

The real question is _where_ the dose is applied. Few understand or
emphasize that factor, but targeting is the key to effective and
economical treatment. Do your fishing where the fish are.

You can put in twenty strips, but if they are not in the correct place,
they are useless. If the nurse bees are not in contact with the strips,
the strips are a waste. Even missing the cluster by one frame means
total failure. Missing the brood means partial failure. Accurate
positioning means success. It is that simple.

The strips MUST be in the brood. The mite density on bees is up to _ten
times higher_ on open cells about to be capped than elsewhere. Why
treat empty space or the older bees which varroa mites avoid?

One thing is certain, the cluster is centred on the open brood in spring
and fall.

> But I like your recommendation (more affordable too) -"Two strips
> should be enough and they should be removed after 42 days unless
> they are re-positioned in which case an extra two weeks are
> allowed."

I was an inspector and spoke to many beekeepers. In Alberta I know
of only one beekeeper who used more than 2 strips in fall. I have
no idea if that was any better since the others had good control
with two.

> I will tell the people using four mediums to have the strips in box 4
> and 2 being sure they line the boxes up well. People using three
> meds, I will tell them to use four meds.

Talking about boxes and frames is a distraction from the real issue and
will be all that anyone remembers.

Keep it simple. Every beekeeper's hives are different. Too much
explanation confuses. Draw the cluster on a blackboard or on a handout
and show the brood position and let people figure out how best to get
the strips where they need to be.

Tell them to find out exactly where the brood is and place the two
strips so that they are a frame or two apart measured out from the
centre of the brood. The brood will be on only a few adjacent frames by
fall and in a sphere a little larger than the length of a strip.

Telling people to place strips in specific boxes is a disservice and
ignores the absolute need to know where the brood is and where it
will be if there is a flow -- or if the bees are fed.

We are treating a specific cohort of bees in one specific location,
not boxes. Placing strips in specific locations without knowing where
the brood is is a total waste of strips and id guaranteed to result in
poor control.  Sorry.

The cluster is most defined in the morning of a cool day. The brood
will be in the middle of it. A cheap handheld IR thermometer can
help locate the brood centre, but is just a gimmick. Most people
should be able to find the brood.

We got to the TL Bar on time and mounted up for the ride.  This time, we took a different trail, up the valley wall.  We were back by 1130 and drove to the hospital where we sang Happy Birthday to Ellen and ate the cake the kids made last night.

On returning, I noticed that robbing has picked up and there is heavy robbing in some stored equipment. (See left).  Note the robbing stain at the entrance holes.  We just got going nicely on a good flow and the rain hit, stopping the flow, dead.

The honey I pulled is sitting on pallets outside under cover.  The bees do not seem to have discovered it yet, but if they did and I did not act, it could all be back in the hives in a day.  I'll have to watch it.

The rest of the day, we sat around and rested, and I mowed around the hives in the Quonset Yard.

In the evening, Katrina, Kalle and I watched Back to the Future III.  Watching Back to the Future is a family tradition.  It is mostly harmless and a movie series all ages can enjoy.

Happiness is good health and a bad memory.
Ingrid Bergman

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