A Beekeeper's Diary

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Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
-- Albert Einstein --

A pic from a yard of 15 hives that we thought above the flood line. Flood date 15 Feb 2004. Yes our company will pay up. 
Kevin Gibbs, Masterton, New Zealand

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Friday 20 February 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Four Years ago | Forum | Sale | Home | Write me
Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.
Groucho Marx

Before the day's program began, I was sitting at the computer in the lobby of the hotel checking my email -- they have a free high-speed terminal there for guests' convenience -- when I was approached by a member the AHPC board.  He interrupted me to explain that he was feeling as if I had taken him outside and beaten him, after hearing (second hand) about my diary entry from the 18th.  I listened to him and appreciated what he had to say, and I admit to feeling more than a bit of sympathy.  I'm sorry if he takes it personally.  As I see it, we are both victims of the same system.  We are just on opposite sides of the same bad culture.  I think the whole AHPC/BeeMaid management needs considering anew, especially since the Co-op and BeeMaid are not doing so well these days.

At no point did he tell me I was wrong in any of my facts, but I could see that he feels that by writing about my complaints about AHPC and BeeMaid here, that I am somehow being unfair.  I gather he thinks that the board should be able to dictate and that the board's determination on every matter should be considered fair and final.  I feel the board is abusing their power against me, particularly in regard to changing policy without consultation and what I consider arbitrarily assessments and even confiscation of my assets -- in spite of my protests -- and I feel that this is unfair, so I write about it in my diary, and that seems fair to me.  This is how I ruminate and meditate over events and sometimes get some guidance or illumination from friends.  AHPC may have decided that I have violated -- or not obeyed some of their rules and edicts -- but they don't seem to realize that they have violated some of my rules, or some of generally accepted rules of fair practice, particularly in regard to funds held in trust and disputed charges.

In the past, the Co-op boards have had almost absolute power over members.  It was 'my way or the highway', and the boards are not used to being challenged or placed under scrutiny.  Aggrieved members have found themselves powerless.  Of course a member faced with an unacceptable board decision could always appeal again to the board, or once a year to the annual general meeting, but that is a somewhat unrepresentative sample of the ownership and chancy due to personality politics. Co-op members meet once a year, and not all attend, so any attempts to organize the membership to better recognize and enforce their own interests is difficult at best.  Management knows that and makes sure they have a good presentation for the meeting.   Rather than fight, many former members have voted with their feet and gone elsewhere over the years.   I have asked for the membership list and have been told that I can look at it, but not have a copy.  More on that later.

In my opinion, as a result of the inflexible and uninspired approach of the organisation to member relations and to 'purchasing'1, and the uninspiring cash return over the years, the packing and bulk throughput has not been growing as it would if things were better.  The Co-op, rather than being the customer of choice, has become the customer of last resort for many beekeepers, including some (many) members.  If AHPC could only improve the returns by a small amount, they would have to fight off producers wanting to deliver honey, but an accumulation of mistakes over the past decade or so have made their record look poor compared to the competition.  After all, a Co-op should be able to provide a superior return to its members compared to privately owned competitors by at least the amount of the profits that those firms pay to their owners, and I am certain that the competing firms must be making 5% or more on their gross sales.

Note 1: As I understand it, AHPC does not purchase honey from members until after it is sold.  Members deliver honey to AHPC and receive an advance, which is dependant on the levels provided by a federal loan under Advanced Payment for Crops, however the members have no control over what price they eventually receive, and find out only about a year after delivery.  This 'free' inventory places BeeMaid, the marketing arm, at a huge advantage over competing buyers, since BeeMaid has no locked in cost of honey.  Some members (me included) think that this gives BeeMaid an unfair advantage over competitors who would bid higher prices for honey if they were not concerned that they will be undercut by BeeMaid with their 'free' honey supply.  In spite of this huge advantage and free inventory, BeeMaid has proven unable, on average, to pay more back to the members -- even after a year of holding unpriced and risk-free inventory -- than competitors who pay cash or close to cash, take risks, and make a profit.  More later...

Anyone who uses the phrase 'easy as taking candy from a baby' has never tried     taking candy from a baby.

My perception is that AHPC and BeeMaid are in a precarious position and rather sensitive to criticism, no matter how constructive.  One reason that I have been very reluctant to start writing about what I perceive to be a dysfunctional culture at BeeMaid and AHPC, and a major reason why I have delayed facing this topic and tried other alternatives, is that I know that some of my friends are going to feel hurt.  Laying all this out is also a big job, and is going to take me days, literally and I would have better things to do, if things had been handled a bit better over the past few years, as we shall see.

Maybe it is not obvious, but I do try to avoid unnecessary criticism and finger pointing.  I try to respect others' privacy and sensitivities, and thus often avoid naming names; I try to be discreet when I know of things that really do not need to be revealed. 

I realize that people who run for positions in the Co-op and work there are doing the best they can, and many believe strongly that they are selflessly serving the members, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions and in my opinion, this situation has evolved to the point where it is time to lay the cards on the table, and -- to mix metaphors -- let the chips fall where they may.

Perhaps an examination of the Co-op's performance on several levels will bring change that will benefit everyone.  The Co-op has had a culture of secrecy which I have found destructive, and will discuss later, but I believe that, within reason, transparency can be very beneficial.  Nonetheless, feelings will inevitably be hurt, and if anyone feels hurt, he or she should not feel alone.  I personally feel very hurt, and I am aware of a lot of pain that members have suffered under arbitrary actions of various boards, and the pain that many of us have suffered from seeing inferior returns for our honey when delivered to an outfit that we own, and which should serve us better. 

For me, the decision to ship outside the Co-op was a very tough decision that still pains me, but it is clear that the way the Co-op is run has forced that decision on many before me.  Some of that number were very deeply involved with the organisation and donated much time and effort to its operation, but wound up alienated.  Unless something changes, and changes drastically, it is crystal clear to me that some of these currently judging me -- at least some of those who are actually honey producers -- will be faced with that same decision, and be forced to choose to sell elsewhere for self-preservation.  I think that with some management, cultural and policy changes, that can be avoided.

I tend to doubt myself, and I like to double-check my facts.  I want to be very sure what I write is true and fair-minded.  Shortly after the experience I described at the computer, I happened to have a chance to ask a former chairman of AHPC, who has been a vocal critic of current policy, if he ships his honey to AHPC.  His response was, "Do you think I'm crazy?"  I had asked him once before, not too long ago and the answer was the same.  I just wanted to be sure.

Anybody can win unless there happens to be a second entry.
George Ade

In case anyone gets the idea that I want someone's head on a platter, I do not.  I respect and like all the people involved in running AHPC, but I do not like the culture, or the way things have been going.   I realize that some may take it personally and feel hurt when I say that I don't think that they have what it takes to run the Co-op or BeeMaid, but maybe they should know that I don't think for a moment that I have what it takes either.  I have allowed my name to stand for the board (and been defeated - more on that later) several times, but if I had been elected, I would have pressed for better management and a more professional board structure.  I believe that you get what you pay for and that a board that serves with no pay is worth exactly what it costs.  Sorry.

I realize that it is much easier to criticize than to accomplish something, so I have been very reluctant to step up to the plate and take a swing.  I am making every effort to restrict myself to fair comment and avoid cheap shots.  Let me know if you think I am being unfair. 

If you think you have a better explanation, or insight into something I have reported, please send me your comments with permission to include them here.  If you take that effort and can make any kind of case, I gladly will.  Write me, and have your say.

Back to the meeting:

9:00-9:30 Medhat Nasr: Future of the Honey Market: Food Safety & Traceability.

It is very clear to all of us who are watching that this is the wave of the future.  Although it will add cost and complexity, it is the only way we can guarantee continued good prices and continued consumer confidence, and the only way we can differentiate and defend our markets.  At the meeting, in conversation, it was brought to my attention in Abeilles, the Quebec beekeepers' newsletter, that, oddly enough, the Canadian government is giving $20 million to China to improve their rural food processing as part of some wheat deal.  I don't see that much being offered to Canadian beekeepers to get this program going, but the feds are putting some money into it and working with the industry to establish procedures that we all should find reasonable. 

I was impressed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) people who attended our conference and think they are people we can work with.  I haven't had that opinion of all the CFIA people I have met, and actually fired their inspection service for acting more like Gestapo than our allies in food safety.  The ones who are supposed to be opening the border to queens seem to be out-to-lunch and sure to miss the boat for this year.  Let's hope the positive and collaborative approach I am observing at this stage, on this project, with Don Wismer, extends into CFIA field activities.

9:30-10:30 Ralph Büchler: Integrated Varroa Mite control in Europe.
10:45-11:30 Medhat Nasr: Basics and Practices of IPM.
11:30-12:15 Sue Cobey: Breeding and Queen Production: Opportunities and Constraints.
1:15-2:10 Sue Cobey Queen Quality: The Big Unknowns and Expectations.
2:15-3:00 Ralph Büchler: Breeding for Varroa Resistance.
3:15-4:00 Medhat Nasr: Nutrition: Does it matter?

Medhat asked me to speak on bee nutrition in his slot and then followed up with some very apt comments.  I quickly outlined the nutrition project we are planning to do together, but somehow have not managed to get underway.  I am torn between dealing with the Co-op topic and diverting attention to this project.  I'll be home for a few weeks and hope to get something done soon.

All the the talks at this meeting were useful.  I won't comment on them all, but should mention that this event is annual and that it is not just for Alberta beekeepers.  It is held at a nice and reasonably priced hotel at a time of year that gives beekeepers a chance to renew contacts and catch up on the news for the coming season.  Mark your calendar for next year.  At the rate it is growing in popularity, they may need to reserve a bigger room.

Friday : Sunny. Low minus 6. High plus 5. / Normals for the period : Low minus 12. High zero.

Saturday 21 February 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Four Years ago | Forum | Sale | Home | Write me

We don't know a millionth of one percent about anything.
Thomas A. Edison

I slept in, then, around noon, Neil M. came by to pick up the wax tank, then went to Global to get his patties on his way back to BC.

In the afternoon, I took out ashes and filled propane bottles.  I spent quite a bit of time at my desk as well.

Ruth, Flo, and the P-Ss came over for supper.  Ruth brought her computer for repair.  Windows would not recognize her modem.  Apparently, she had done a Windows Update recently, and immediately after, found that she could not dial out.  I had suspected a virus or dialer or some such tomfoolery, but she turns out to be pretty savvy and has her machine well protected and maintained.  The problem seems to be that Update has uninstalled her modem driver.  I've heard of such problems with bad patches occasionally, but this is the first I've seen  She did not have the driver disk along, so she will fix it when she gets home.  The fix should be simple.  I hope.

Today, I again asked Aaron to relieve me from my (unpaid volunteer) job of moderating BEE-L.  I have tired of reading conjecture, slogans, half-truths and rhetoric on a list that claims to be "Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology" and don't want to have to read it all any more.  As a moderator, I have been bound to read everything thoroughly to decide about approval.  As a subscriber, I can just pick and chose, and just delete all the junk without reading it.  There are some writers that I can delete after just reading a few lines.

If you are wondering, there is no acrimony, just ennui, (or maybe it is just February angst).  As always, Aaron is still counted among my best of friends, as are many of the folks on BEE-L.

I think I am in a cranky mood.  Having to dredge up all this Co-op stuff and think about it is not making me particularly happy.

February is also not the happiest month, even though the days are much longer and brighter, and water is dripping from the roof.  It is good to be home again, and we will not be off again until mid-March, when we will be in Rhode Island to help with the grandkids while Sarah has a minor operation on her wrist, so maybe I can get caught up a bit.  The cattle seem to be doing well, although the prices could be better.  At this point, no one knows what will happen; things could go one way or the other.  The border could open or assistance or price controls could be announced.  Or the market could continue to slump.  For the meantime we continue to feed, and I won't worry about it.

The sunny days are looking so good that I must get to the mountains soon.  I'm a bit concerned that I am a bit out of shape, but I'll have to just take it easy.  This is time of year when the coldest, darkest days have passed, and the rocks are buried deep under snow.  The best of the ski season is about to begin.

of the Day

Pascal's Wager | more | more

Computer Gripes

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. High 7. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low minus 9. / Normals for the period : Low minus 11. High plus 1.

Sunday 22 February 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

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An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex.
Aldous Huxley

It's another beautiful day and I'm thinking of doing something outdoors like going to the zoo.  Now that I have quit BEE-L, I am thinking of resurrecting Best of Bee.  That was a list I started in 1997, and which contained the best posts (IMO) from BEE-L and other Internet sources.  BoB quickly grew to rival BEE-L in size, but the large volume started to overwhelm my servers and I ended it.  Now, with better technology and bandwidth, it might work again.

Friends have written indicating support for my problems with AHPC and offering to intervene.  I appreciate the offers, but, at this point, would prefer that they wait a while until I tell more of the story, since there are two sides and, besides I don't think that an ad hoc solution is needed.  I think rather that the whole culture and attitude of the Co-op needs overhauling.  Just dispatching my problems would still leave all my friends stuck in the mire, and the wheel would still keep spinning.  I'll be proposing some solutions, just as I did to the (now former) CEO some time back.  The response at that time was. "That would be good for the producers, but it would not be good for us".

I guess that was the watershed moment in my relationship with the Co-op.  The scales dropped from my eyes, and I realized at that moment that the Co-op had lost its bearings; the interests of the producers (the owners) were not paramount, and would never be.  The Co-op would never match the market unless drastic changes were made, and I began to realize that take care of my own interests and not count on management or the board to do so.  There were other revelations that followed later, concerning the financial structure, the risks facing the members, and other matters, but this was the moment of truth for me.

I was just as disillusioned in 1965, when, in an assembly at Convocation Hall, Claude Bissel, the president of the U of T at the time, announced that it was doubtful if undergraduates could be considered part of the academic community.  That is the only part of his talk I remember to this day, almost four decades later. but I remember it well.  I felt the same sense of betrayal when Mr. Cozine, for whom I had high expectations to that point, wrote me his response to some very good suggestions.  When I heard of his perspective, I abandoned all hope.

At this point, after waiting and watching, again, one more time, for signs of hope, I am taking it upon myself to try to rally the members to bring the management to heel, take back ownership of the Co-op, and make certain that it is run for the members benefit.  I believe that some simple changes could bring that about, and I will outline them shortly.

In the meantime, I have a life, and it is sunny outside.  Maybe I'll go lift a few lids.  As longtime readers know, our hives are set up so that, even though they are insulated, they can be worked at any time of year just as easily as in the summer (see selected topics).  And, to those who have been asking, I have about 50 hives left. but have promised them to Leroy, if they survive.

Burning Down the House

Ellen was washing dishes in the kitchen this morning, and smelt something burning.  She looked around and discovered that a pitcher, which we keep full of drinking water, was acting as a lens and had focused the sunlight from a window onto a place mat on the table.  You can't see the burn very well in the picture, but a spot on the mat is scorched brown, and could have been about to burst into flame.

I experienced this phenomenon once before, when a gallon glass jug full of drinking water, which was left on the front seat, burned a neat cone-shaped hole into the seat of my 1956 Rocket 98 Oldsmobile.  Initially, we were mystified as to what happened, but then we puzzled it out.  Fortunately, the seat must have been treated with flame retardant, since no fire resulted, but the old warnings about forest fires being started by broken glass acting as lenses, came to mind.

I have now observed this effect twice in my lifetime, and am thinking that this is a more common phenomenon that I had previously imagined.  I thought I'd pass on this warning not to leave glass or clear plastic items full of water -- or perhaps even empty -- anywhere where they can catch and focus the sun onto something flammable.  Not every item of clear glass can make a lens, but round items, are particularly suspect.  It might be worth a look at what is near your windows.

BTW, here are my BEE-L posts since December 15th, 2003.  I haven't posted them here for a while.

Item # Date Time Recs   Subject
047145 03/12/15 10:46 73   Re: Sugar Sensitivities
047146 03/12/15 10:09 46   Re: budget boxes
047159 03/12/16 10:34 115   Re: budget boxes
047166 03/12/16 18:16 37   Re: Brewer's Yeast
047193 03/12/17 13:44 65   Heads-up on Nitrofurans
047196 03/12/17 14:54 46   Re: new bioterrorism registration
047209 03/12/19 11:48 82   Re: Seperating brood above an excluder
047222 03/12/21 09:06 77   Re: Maths and strong laying queens
047233 03/12/22 12:32 104   Singles, Doubles, No excluder?
047245 03/12/23 07:29 70   Re: Sucrose Octanoate
047254 03/12/23 11:34 42   Re: Oxalic
047255 03/12/23 12:33 34   Re: Sucrose Octanoate
047265 03/12/24 03:10 81   Re: # of cells in a frame/room for brood
047266 03/12/24 08:51 66   Re: Oxalic
047279 03/12/26 10:18 91   Re: Vs: Re: [BEE-L] Oxalic
047296 03/12/28 05:06 66   Thymol in August in England
047305 03/12/28 13:54 135   The 'M' in 'IPM' stands for 'Management'
047306 03/12/28 14:13 38   Re: Bobs two queen system
047321 03/12/29 09:19 60   The Effort to Obtain Oxalic Approval in North America
047328 03/12/29 11:54 78   Commercial Oxalic Evaporation Methods and Approvals
047331 03/12/29 13:54 78   Re: The Effort to Obtain Oxalic Approval in North America
047347 03/12/30 11:01 39   Re: The Effort to Obtain Oxalic Approval in North America
047349 03/12/30 12:17 51   Re: Oxalic acid strips
047359 03/12/31 04:12 74   Re: Vs: Re: [BEE-L] Oxalic
047370 04/01/02 09:42 63   Re: Varroa treatment concoctions
047379 04/01/02 15:36 38   The Re-invasion Problem has been Greatly Exaggerated?
047401 04/01/05 14:00 78   Re: The Effort to Obtain Oxalic Approval in North America
047436 04/01/08 10:33 26   Re: How many hives should there be in a yard?
047452 04/01/10 18:25 19   Another Comb Honey Format
047540 04/01/24 05:59 88   ABF Meeting
047549 04/01/26 05:29 39   Re: wrapping
047554 04/01/26 10:35 29   Re: wrapping
047583 04/01/29 12:29 26   Re: Indoor Splitting of Hives
047593 04/01/30 13:49 43   Hives Buried in Snow Drifts
047602 04/01/30 23:58 27   Re: Hives Buried in Snow Drifts
047609 04/01/31 08:09 34   Re: Vs: [BEE-L] Hives Buried in Snow Drifts
047612 04/01/31 13:58 25   Re: Univited Hive Occupant
047625 04/02/01 21:05 52   Re: cell size in 1940's
047630 04/02/02 08:06 46   Re: cell size in 1940's
047634 04/02/02 12:01 40   Re: drone comb (was cell size in 1940's)
047646 04/02/02 18:07 23   Re: Vs: [BEE-L] Hives Buried in Snow Drifts
047647 04/02/02 18:10 20   Economic Injury Level for Varroa
047683 04/02/03 21:21 30   Re: 5.2 performance (was cell size in 1940's)
047727 04/02/05 20:56 22   Re: 5.2 performance (was cell size in 1940's)
047798 04/02/08 09:01 27   Re: raising queens
047799 04/02/08 09:10 36   Re: Fall Requeening (from raising queens)
047826 04/02/09 09:21 35   Re: Reversing
047846 04/02/09 22:29 30   Re: Reversing : Only to cross the gap?
047971 04/02/18 08:50 29   Re: Almond Bloom in California
047974 04/02/18 13:03 52   Re: Goble style inner covers
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Back to the LISTSERV home page at LISTSERV.ALBANY.EDU.

Ellen & I decided to go to Red Deer and we met up with Jean, Chris, and Mckenzie for an afternoon of strolling at the Bower Ponds, followed with a visit to Bower Place.  The ladies shopped for clothes, while Chris and I went looking at computers.

of the Day

Monday 23 February 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Four Years ago | Forum | Sale | Home | Write me

I'm not sure I want popular opinion on my side -- I've noticed those with the most opinions often have the fewest facts.
Bethania McKenstry

Today I have a lot of desk work to do, and need to order coal, as well as get the car serviced.  The paperwork has piled up while I was away as well, and we have not done the T4s.  We only have two to do this year, but the deadline is looming.   We also need to spend some time looking at the cattle, and planning management.

The assessment of the Co-op is coming along better than I expected, but there is a lot of revision, and detailed history to add.  I also should like to try to explain things from the Co-op's perspective to the extent I am aware of it.  They do have their point of view, and there are things to be said in their favour.  I hope to get around to that, but don't feel totally obliged to defend what has turned out, clearly, as predicted, to be a losing strategy, nor do I feel obliged to defend their policies or their implementation of them.

I intend to get around to discussing some of those aspects, however, at this point what is of interest is how current policies have contributed to inflexibility, shrinkage of supply, and lost opportunity.  I will again outline what I previously suggested to Don Cozine -- a simple solution that would give members the best of both worlds: security, service, and the opportunity to take advantage of market fluctuations when they need to, such as when nearing retirement.  It would enhance and expand the role of the organizations and, IMO, also bring in more membership and supply without burdening the organizations or diluting the returns.  The idea works on incentives and choice, rather than pressure and punishment.  We'll get to that soon, I hope.

Below is an email that illustrates a little of why the Co-ops are on a downstroke.  Of course, for completeness, I also welcome letters that outline the co-op's points of view.  I am focusing now on the problems that are plaguing the Co-ops and which have brought me to object to their treatment of me, but that is not the whole story.

There are obviously many who find the Co-op's performance acceptable or even admirable, and we must remember that, in spite of the high market prices that astute (and lucky) beekeepers managed to get, some producers averaged less on their direct sales than what the co-ops paid to their members.  When the various services that the Co-ops provide are added in, many find the security of having their marketing handled by the firm works for them.  At least it has thus far, but this is a new millennium.

I'm sending you a couple of pictures of a tracheal mite infested hive from last winter.

Here's an email that just came.  My comments are in italics...

Hello Allen:

Reading with interest your battle with the co-op.  Seems like there is a price to be paid for finding a home for our honey, no matter where we ship it.  The retail food business in North America is full of kickbacks, rebates, bought shelf space and imported honey.  I used to ship to the co-op and my father before me.  It would seem a logical place to ship and get a good price but it WASN'T, OR ISN'T -- still.

On some store shelves you will find Bee Maid along with Smart Choice and a couple of other brand names [up to a dozen different brand names] all packed by Bee Maid.  Are they competing against themselves?

The co- ops sometimes dump honey below market price into the bulk market.  Several years ago at a bee convention I watched a well-known Canadian bulk honey broker offer her service, at reasonable cost, to a Bee Maid director, even guarantying a better return than they were getting by themselves. They refused her offer.

I know, and it galls me no end.

Some of us saw this possibility, and we actually managed to get our Co-ops to take a less adversarial and predatory approach to the competition for a while -- we thought -- but it seems that the potential for co-operation is easily lost.  The co-ops definitely think they should, by rights, own the lion's share of the market in Canada, and rather than earn it by innovation, salesmanship, competition and hard work, they use the honey we place in trust with them to sandbag the other players.  They don't seem to realize that producers have entrusted them with their honey to maximize profit and the goal is to maintain a maximum profitable bulk and retail prices for the benefit of members sales both inside and outside the Co-ops.

The management and salespeople have repeatedly revealed that regard themselves as honey packers rather than as a honey marketing firm working to obtain maximum return for the owners from the market, any way they can.  Moreover, we, the owners and suppliers, have been told directly that they regard the high price of honey to producers as a problem, rather than a good thing for the owners of the firm, and an dilemma rather than an opportunity to be exploited.

Their insistence on selling our good white Canadian honey into the Canadian market when much higher prices for Canadian were available in the USA has resulted in returns to members that are 20% lower than those provided by the competition.  In the past year, a nimble competitor -- one person -- with very little infrastructure and investment, reportedly managed to sell almost as much honey as the entire AHPC organisation, with an immediate cash return to producers of about 125% of what the co-op eventually announced.

The co-op rationale was to pack and sell cheap to maintain the market for future, but that has turned out to be a false hope and waste of potential, since, in the same period, a foreign competitor moved in and has taken a big chunk of the Canadian market -- in spite of the huge cost to members of that strategy. 

The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who
doesn't get it.

Management and board think and talk primarily in terms of pounds packed, in preference to thinking of return on capital, or of profit as a percent of sales, the benchmarks of successful businesses.  At one 'information' meeting, the board and management would have had the members in attendance believe that the business had shrunk over the previous year, since poundage was down marginally.  In fact, sales had roughly doubled, but this fact only showed up after puzzled members questioned the assumptions in the presentation at the end.

As for profits, what does 'profit' mean when there is no cost placed on the members' honey?  Yet profit is the basic yardstick for any non-communist business and the indicator whether a business is using its capital effectively or wasting it.   More on this later.

Haven't shipped a pound to the co-op since 1972.  They sell a lot of bee supplies and the profit from this must also subsidize their final payment.  I've never been able to figure out exactly why they can't pay their members more than the going rate.

You are pretty smart.  Many are not so astute.  Bee Supplies is the ONLY profitable activity in the entire BeeMaid enterprise, if normal business accounting were used, with a price placed on raw honey delivered by members, at time of delivery. 

The bizarre aspect of this particular point is that we are making the  money off OURSELVES, and increasing our own input costs in the process compared to having supplies for members obtained on a non-profit basis.  We are not making it off the public; we are making it off ourselves, then using it to subsidize the price paid to us for our honey!  I've suggested that the co-ops close down the unprofitable 'profit centres' (honey packing and everything to do with honey) and open more bee supply outlets. (laugh here, if you can).

The thought of a BSE-type thing in honey and the loss of the US market would mean 35-40 million lbs of Canadian honey without a home.

Hey!  you are stealing all my thunder, and I thought that nobody else could see potential disaster lurking in the wings and the risks due to lack of diversification faced by Co-op members who may have all their personal net worth tied up in bees and equipment, honey, and Co-op cash accounts.  I have to say that, in view of the good work CFIA is doing, that the danger is looking more remote than earlier, but it is there

Many Co-op members not only have their honey sitting unsold in a co-op warehouse for a whole year, but they also own that warehouse that does nothing but store and package honey.  Many also lend their life savings to the co-ops by leaving their excess cash in their accounts.  Guess what happens if the unthinkable happens?  I'll spell it out later for those who can't figure it out for themselves, and it seems there are many.  At one co-op meeting, the management seemed pleased that AHPC is usually entirely member-financed.  

Management did not seem aware of the risks to the members of such concentration of their risk in one commodity.  At the same meeting, management revealed that the recent rise in the Canadian dollar to more normal levels had wiped out $75,000 of expected revenue from past sales.  Apparently they had not taken inevitable currency fluctuations into account when planning and executing foreign sales, and had not hedged.  To my mind, this is speculation and, as such, it is unwise at best.

Forex hedging costs almost nothing, but does require a little knowledge of markets, and it does lock in the revenue from a particular sale so that it is possible to see if the transaction in question will be profitable.  There is no safe way to do business in foreign currencies without hedging, particularly when margins are slim.   Previously, as I recall, AHPC had financed the new plant on floating rates, but sold the old one for a fixed rate.  That time they were lucky, but it is clear that the management is speculating on large amounts without being aware of the risks.


You bet!  My standing instructions are to send me every cent that is deposited to my account the moment it is placed there.  For some reason, I have had to remind them over and over.  I'm also contesting some funds they have confiscated without my consent or input.

More on that later.  We are only scratching the surface.

Best regards,


Both the cockroach and the bird would get along very well without us, although the cockroach would miss us most.
 Joseph Wood Krutch

Let's cut to the chase.  I'll get back to the boring details later, but for now, let's look at my major premise.  Businessmen want (need?) to know what they are going to receive for their products when they are delivered, not a year or so later.  The lack of such assurance is responsible for 95% of the Co-ops' PR and membership problems IMO.  That seems to be at the root of current worries and the cause of many of us shipping elsewhere.  Moreover, a packer needs to know what the product inputs cost to judge performance.  That is a huge part of BeeMaid's performance problem, and a major reason they are considered to be an unfair player in the Canadian market by other players.

A few years back, Roy tried guessing and proposing a price at delivery time, to set a reasonably high target for the competition to meet, partly as a result of my prompting, and fears that, in a price vacuum, beekeepers might sell low to competitors and kill the market.   He was close the first year, but proved to be a long way off the next.  I took an advance against that number the second year, and wound up owing the Co-op money at year end and into the next year.  That was fine, and I respected Roy's attempt to assure us of a return, however, we learned that the market cannot be guessed in advance.  And, that is why the Co-ops do not price honey until it is sold.  Smart, actually, but there are side effects of that solution that are toxic and have been a thorn in the side of the Co-ops as far back as I have been involved, and before.

At this point, you probably perceive that I have a very strong affection for my co-op, and will recall that I have already mentioned that the decision to ship outside was a very hard one for me.  I am sure it was very hard for the others, too, but the current system simply forces us to do it.  That is why I suggested an obvious alternative and why I was so surprised and discouraged when it was dismissed as "...good for the producers, but ...not be good for (management)"

I got a start on the huge pile of paper on my desk, but hardly made a dent before I had to take the car in for an inspection at one.  The Achieva now has 125,000 kms on it now and, besides, I need to register it here in Alberta.  The inspection cost $140, and It turns out that it needs about $750 in additional work.  Seems $1,000 is the magic number for any car that I show to a mechanic these days.  The work is all legitimate and I'm not being not overcharged.

Anyhow, I said, "Go ahead".  The parts are on order, and the work will be done on Thursday.  We also ordered our tickets for our planned trip to visit Jonathan, Sarah, and our grandkids.

Today : Sunny. High 9. / Tonight : Clear. Low minus 7. / Normals for the period : Low minus 11. High plus 1.

of the Day

Tuesday 24 February 2004
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It's foggy out this morning.   After a much colder than normal winter, we are finally having a stretch of warmer than normal weather.  Lately, we've been running temperatures that reach well above freezing during the day, and have experienced mostly mild temps at night.  The days are stretching longer, and we are getting close to spring.  Spring is less than a month away, now.

I'm back at the desk and hoping to make headway against the paper.  I also started a page for the SABA Bee Nutrition Project and hope to get more done in that regard.

I'm giving the AHPC project a rest for a day or two, since I'm short of time.  Besides, the job is quite painful.  Contemplating the many lost opportunities, errors in judgment, outdated, petty policies, disenfranchisement, and confiscation of our assets is not a pleasant activity, no matter how badly it needs doing.  So far, I've just scratched the surface. 

I notice that readership has jumped, so I gather the Co-ops and their culture is a topic of interest to many.  Apologies if I take my time, and deal with more urgent matters as I work through this.  Please write me if you have anything to offer one way or the other on this matter.  Emails I receive are considered confidential unless you state otherwise.

Delay is the deadliest form of denial.
Peter Drucker

Speaking of uphill battles we've been forced to fight against injustice and oppression, and one that seems to have been won, I'm told that the importation of mainland US queens is pretty well certain for this year.  I'm told that it is a done deal.  However, I'm also seeing that the queens may not make it into Canada in time for the period of maximum need, which occurs in April and May.

It seems that the people at CFIA who have been charged with getting the obstacles to import removed are not as competent at dismantling barriers to trade as they are at throwing them up.

They can close the border in a New York minute with or without much consultation, but don't seem to be able to open it -- even given many months -- when it has been clearly proven there is no scientific case for maintaining closure, and that the prohibition has been and continues to be extremely damaging to the largest portion our domestic industry.  Curious, don't you think? It's pathetic, really, and we're seeing the same thing happening on the beef issue.  It has been shown that the Canadian meat production and inspection system has more safeguards than the US system, and that the beef populations of the two countries are completely intermingled, that BSE is not any more likely to pop up in Canada than the USA, yet the Canada/US border remains closed to live cattle -- even those that are zero risk -- under 30 months of age.

The bee and the beef situations are very much analogous.  Canadian and US cattle slaughter and markets became completely integrated in the past several decades, to where Canadian beef producers came to rely almost entirely on the US for slaughter, and closed most of our own facilities, while increasing production of animals for delivery to the US plants which depended on a supply of Canadian animals to fill their needs, along with US produced animals.  Each region evolved to employ its comparative advantage, as proposed by sound economic theory, and outsourced some essential, but less economic, portions of their industry to the other region.  Canada and the US became interdependent.  That worked fine, and efficiencies were experienced that benefited all, until a scare from one isolated BSE find allowed a disruption of trade, cutting the Canadians off from their US market and the US market off from the Canadian supply.  Although the majority of producers and consumers immediately felt the effects and suffered from loss of income in Canada and higher beef prices in the US, the ban remains.

In this business you either sink or swim or you don't.
David Smith

What is is fascinating is that, in each case, the scare justified a temporary closure pending fact-finding and evaluation of risk, and was hard to oppose.  However once the closure was in place, those who benefited and made a windfall from the disruptions began to lobby hard to maintain the closure even after the concerns were allayed.  In the case of the honeybee ban, even though the benefits of the closure are long past and the 'science' attempting to justify continued embargo has been discredited, and although serious and present economic damage from continuing closure has been proven beyond a doubt, the border remains closed to bees.  Judging by this experience, I don't have a lot of hope for reintegration of the beef industry in the short term.  Irrational noise from self-serving minorities, which have hit the jackpot at everyone else's expense, seem to stymie efforts to do the right thing for the majority.

Although traceability is an issue for some provinces, it is an entirely separate issue and not a federal matter.  The traceability question has, by consent of all participants, been separated from the question of obtaining imports ASAP, and is now an entirely separate matter to be decided by the provinces who care about it, at their own pace.

Actually, it is now becoming clear that the traceability issue was simply a smokescreen and stalling tactic.  No province traces Australian or new Zealand imports, although the quality of the genetics and the potential impact on local breeding programs is likely to be worse from those stocks, than from US stock. 

The disingenuous nature of the traceability argument is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that -- when asked for input on the standards for proposed traceability rules -- those provinces who have cried loudly for traceability have not -- AFAIK -- even bothered to reply as of this date.  Get ready to laugh, though; Alberta promptly offered comment, and, so far, is the only one to oblige the bureaucrats to help them move that process along -- even if Alberta does not desire any traceability.  See the irony here?  And a pattern of delay after delay??


Thanks for the link to the IR hive pictures from the Chez. Rep. I've gotten access to IR imaging, on a trial basis.

Kim Flottum, Editor, Bee Culture will publish a paper -- I'm doing the old, I'm reviewing equipment for a trade journal approach. Those cameras are too pricey to buy to try.

FYI, the IR folks provided the attached photo of a bee colony in the wall of a house. The exterminator knew that there was a big colony, but not exactly where it was in the wall. So, they imaged the wall, drilled a hole, etc. Don't know that I approve of the use to destroy bees, but it sure worked well.


I've complained here that most bee associations do not complete and sufficient information about their upcoming meetings, then wondering why all the confusion and low turnout.  The Irish beekeepers show us and example of how to do it right. They have the word out early, and they have a detailed outline of the planned content to titillate potential attendees.  As well as having a detailed lineup, they have provided three levels of content to suit beekeepers of varying experience. I am very tempted to make it to Gormanston this year, especially with what they plan to offer.

To do just the opposite is also a form of imitation.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

The day was spent in paperwork, but in the afternoon, I went for a bike ride, and on the way back, dropped in on our neighbour who tends our cattle to discuss the management and look them over.  Jim and his son do the day-to-day feeding and yard work, since he has a feedlot, the equipment, and the expertise, but we have to make the decisions as the project proceeds.  Since the cattle have now been here for a few weeks, the weather is better, and they are settled in, we are better able to appraise them than when they arrived, back during the bitter cold spell.  He is very pleased with the quality and performance.  So far there have been no problems, but we are going to treat for lice, since some show signs and the problem only gets worse, not better.

We have them on full feed and plan to weigh them at the end of the month to appraise the gain.  Feeding seems to be contrary to what most others are doing right now.  Most are backgrounding, I am told to hold the cattle back pending a border decision.  Fools rush in and we are looking at June or July delivery.  To me that seems as good a time as any, and maybe we will get lucky.  Since, unlike some, we are paying by the day for labour and yard space, time, as well as feed, costs us money.  When we figured it out, we decided, as the Chinese say, that a short pain is not like a long pain.

Joe, Oene, Jake and Durkje came for supper, and we had a great time.

of the Day

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. High 10. / Tonight : A few clouds. Low minus 3. / Normals for the period : Low minus 11. High plus 1.

Wednesday 25 February 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

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Ten more months until Christmas

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it

I was up off and on during the night working on a computer that had been dropped off here by a friend.  I used the software listed on my security page and found at least six viruses and trojans with my first sweep, as well as about 10 dialers or references to dialers.  Then if found over fifty pests with the next program, and another dozen or more with a third. I had to drop into DOS to kill one particularly nasty bug that had protected its files in Windows somehow, and also manually delete a dialer connection from 'Dialup Networking'.

Updating Windows took about six hours of downloading, since I am on dialup.  The connection got dropped at one point and I found the disconnect when inactive was set at 20 minutes.  I unchecked that feature so things would proceed without hanging up again.  I thought that I got pretty well  all of the garbage off the machine, but noticed that I was getting a virus warning on boot.  The offending file was in a 'system restore' folder.

The computer had been used on the Internet with no protection: no firewall, and no virus checker.  In no time it had been plugged up with dangerous software that had come in via various routes.  The most obvious symptoms were the flashing porn on the screen, I am told, (I did not see that, since I cleaned the machine immediately on bootup) and several large phone bills from the 900 number(s) the computer had dialed, unbeknownst to its owner.

Without basic protection of a firewall or virus checker, malicious attackers use various tricks to hijack machines.  Cleaning these machines up can be a big job.  Actually, the best solution is often to wipe the hard drive and re-install the operating system, then immediately install and update the firewall and virus protection, then Windows® before it gets infected again.  This can be a bit difficult, since it may be necessary to download the virus software from the Internet, and there is a small risk of some 'exploit' coming in during the process!   In retrospect, that would have made sense here, since the machine has not seen much use and had no important content. But I like a challenge, and I had some fun.

I had a nice surprise.  Someone who used the ideas on my security page to clean up her machine sent me $20 and a nice note in the mail, in appreciation.  That was not necessary.  I enjoy sharing what I know, especially if it cost me a lot of trouble learning it, and I expect nothing in return, but I very much appreciate the gesture.  It makes me want to make that page even better.  Thanks!

We took the car up for work in the morning.  It took a while to get the truck out of the snow so that Ellen could follow and drive me home. 

In late afternoon, the car was done and I picked it up.  I decided to drop off the red car and get the shop to put in my parts for me, since I haven't gotten around to finishing the job, and have no great enthusiasm for it.  I was too late to get the insurance and registration done on the same trip.

of the Day

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light this morning. High 9. / Tonight : Clear. Increasing cloudiness overnight with 30 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 3. / Normals for the period : Low minus 11. High plus 1.

Thursday 26 February 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

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If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside.
Robert X. Cringely,
Here, just in, is the kind of email that I like to get.  It addresses the issues in a calm manner and allows us to consider the issues coolly.  I'll get to replying to it it soon, but, for now, here it is:

Hi Allen -- from Saskatchewan.

Regarding your comments in your diary:

"Actually, it is now becoming clear that the traceability issue was simply a smokescreen and stalling tactic. No province traces Australian or new Zealand imports, although the quality of the genetics and the potential impact on local breeding programs is likely to be worse from those stocks, than from US stock. The disingenuous nature of the traceability argument is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that -- when asked for input on the standards for proposed traceability rules -- those provinces who have cried loudly for traceability have not -- AFAIK -- even bothered to reply as of this date. Get ready to laugh, though; Alberta promptly offered comment, and, so far, is the only one to oblige the bureaucrats to help them move that process along -- even if Alberta does not desire any traceability. See the irony here? And a pattern of delay after delay??"

The amount of information that has circulated in Saskatchewan regarding this issue is poor. When you say traceability, we have been told that that was more an area classification to protect buyers from resistant mites and AHB. Now I am not certain with what the intention of the traceability portion of the protocol is.

Actually, I was not thinking of Sask, so much as Ontario. 

For one thing, I guess I had unconsciously scratched Sask off my list of credible participants due to the casual manner in which SK stats are collected, and didn't consider the Sask position as representative, due to reports I've heard about the punishment of dissent there.  I do know what some very significant and respectable SK beekeepers say to me privately and it does not fit the party line.  They do not dare speak up at SK meetings and are, thus, totally unrepresented.  When I looked at provincial stats SK looked very fishy to me, and I concluded that we really do not know much about the reality of Sask beekeeping.  We don't really know how many hives or beekeepers there are or how much honey is produced in SK.  We just have guesses.  IMO, it is time for an audit.  Sorry about that.  Anyhow, my mistake.  Goes to show that these questions can get complex and that one often overlooks some thing or another.  I confess a bias and will have to think about this.  Any help -- like your note --  is appreciated.

Perhaps ON punishes dissent as much as SK, but I do believe the ON numbers, (understanding, however, that production figures tend to be understated wherever there are direct sales from the beekeeper to the public).  ON has been throwing up roadblocks wherever they can, and I was thinking of ON more then SK.  PQ has been a wildcard in the whole mess, at times for such irrelevant reasons as lack of translation, and I discount PQ since, when I sit down with a few friends for a beer, we few men represent more hives than are in the entire belle province.

At any rate, back to the issue: AHB quite definitely is not likely to be a serious risk to anyone in Canada.  For that matter AHB are already in Canada, brought here deliberately and as such (no such deliberate introduction was AFAIK made into Alberta) and nobody seem to know or talk about this.  According to Dewey Caron, AHB behaves itself in temperate zones.  AHB has been taken throughout Europe numerous times.  I know of specific cases.  No problems have been reported, to my knowledge.  Besides, the science for detection of AHB is flawed in several ways.

As far as resistant mites are concerned, the current generation of chemical controls are nearing the end of their useful life -- partly because of the damage they do to hives and bees and  the risks to honey and users.  Other controls are in the pipeline.

Resistant mites and diseases, these things are coming, one way or the other, simply because the advantages of moving bees and buying bees are too important for many to be able to resist, and the benefits to individuals and society outweigh the costs of dealing with these pests.  People can and will buy bees and move bees, no matter what the law or punishment is, because they simply cannot afford not to.  Of course, some will not because they do not need to, or because they cannot see the advantage.  More to come...

You state the Oz and NZ queens and packages are not traced in that way... ummm still to the best of the information I have, why should they?

Well, NZ has varroa, and likely form a different source than our original infestation.  Aus has had incursions into its territory of varroa and is very close to potential sources of even worse things.  their early warning systems are only good enough to -- hopefully -- save their domestic producers from disaster, but not nearly good enough to give their customers warning.  They have a lot of coastline and a vulnerable location.  Why not be worried about them?  We now what the US has -- pretty much what we have, plus two other pests that do not thrive in our Canadian environment -- and that they can handle their pests at costs that are affordable.

When it comes to resistant AFB, resistant mites, AHB, hive beetles... these, to my understanding do not occur to us poor beekeepers because we read the package wrong or because the wind blew from the east when we applied medication rather from the south.

rAFB is pretty well everywhere, and apparently is caused by plasmid migration from other nearby microorganisms that are already resistant.  rAFB's advent coincides with a widespread occurrence of resistance in other microbes and likely has little to do with our medication regimes.

The problem of disease and mite spreading is and always has been.... RUBBER WHEELS. Beekeepers spread disease not some natural resistance to treatments. That is bull crap that researchers try to shove down our throats that we are our own worst enemy because we don't read instructions.

I doubt that beekeepers can be blamed for the various resistances that pop up.  They are natural phenomena and are certain to arise, given enough time and widespread use of controls.  Nature readjusts.

RUBBER WHEELS bring good and bad.  Throughout history, the good has outweighed the bad often enough that few chose to forego the benefits of communication, transportation and trade.  Those that do, usually fall far behind and eventually fade away.

The Sask provincial apiculturist was asked about the natural spread of tracheal mite, then varroa, then resistance. And then I asked him how me as a beekeeper swapping formic acid treatments with Apistan treatment is going to do anything for me right now???

Not sure what you are saying, here.  Not much, I'd venture, assuming that you monitor the natural mite drops before and after to make sure Apistan® still works.  I'll also say this: formic will do in your tracheal mites, and John is very right about that.  I was impressed that he was reporting the re-emergence of tracheal as a problem and also re-evaluating the effectiveness of the Hamilton board and the way it has been used until recently.

When those resistant mites show up in my back yard it will be because they hitched a ride in a truck and I get to deal with the results of those freeloading mites.

Don't worry so much.  You'll be able to handle them.  and, if you were able to buy good packages for a decent price, you'd also have an option if something else kills your wintering bees.  It happens to everyone once in a while.

I shall say this, resistant mites started along time ago in a place far far away, and the damn things even evolved to tuck in there wings and sit tight on the back of a truck to spread where they have.

Could be.  That's what I think.  Knowing that won't change that, though.  Trucks will run, and there is no stopping them.  Might as well try to make that fact work for us.

The only problem I have with American queens coming into Canada is , Please not in my backyard. Several years ago when I first met you had told me about some of your neighbours and how the newest and grooviest disease are on your doorstep. At that time you said, " I am too old to start from scratch fighting these things again ". I had interpreted from you that dealing with resistant mites is best by walking away and letting the next generation take care of them... Is that true?

Well, there are a number of factors at play here.  I have no doubt that I could handle all these challenges, but there is a time, once in a generation, when everything lines up and you get a chance to make a graceful exit.  After that, you are trapped until the wheel turns again.  My partner did not want to expand -- or even stay in the business -- and, when our pollination contract was cut back and we had a chance for a cash settlement, we took it.

We had expanded our hive numbers to maximize our potential for pollination and converted supers to broods.  Moreover, when going into pollination, we had already been at the limits of our outdated extracting and storage facility.  In leaving pollination, or even cutting back, we were faced with running twice the number of hives for honey that we had  previously in an outgrown and  outdated facility.  Times had changed in the expectations for honey handling, and we simply had to either build and new, modern plant or quit.   We quit.

Although I would never have willingly used coumaphos in a hive, I am convinced that oxalic and formic can do the job, in the hands of a good manager.  See selected topics. In the meantime, a single strip of Apistan worked well.  Although I do not like the idea of fluvalinate, the low dose I was using was a compromise I could accept until I could verify the efficacy of oxalic in my own situation.

I generally avoid temptation, unless I can't resist it.
Mae West

Also I have always wanted to ask you about your assumption that Alberta has been held back. The USA has always been know to the premier capitalist country and when money is to be made and American shall do it first do it best and do it big. With all that said, why is it that the American hive count has not increased at a rate that you believe the Albertan hive count could have if American Queens were available?

Price and urbanization, but particularly price.  All things considered it is amazing that they have held steady.  More to follow.  Canada has not.

If I am correct there are some 2.4 million hives left in the US down from what I was told was 4.5 million hives only 5 or 6 years ago. So tell me if you can why and American that can freely increase hive counts a lot quicker and easier than us poor northern Cannuck beekeepers, why haven't they? Why is each successive month in the USA less than the month before?  Why Allen?  Is there a dying industry in the US?  Is is the diseases?  Is it pesticide use?  Why is it that in the most industrious country in the world, hives are going down in a market place whereby the exact opposite should have occurred three years ago?

Well, we all have been believing the Big Lie.  Check here and here for the truth on the US hive numbers.  In spite of punitively low prices and being targeted by cheap imports, they have held pretty much even -- at 2,590,000 in 2003 vs. 2,648,000 in 1995.  See here  for official details.   Why do people lie to us?

Anyhow I am done droning for now I shall crawl back into my hole as I saw my damn shadow again see you again in 6 weeks, in spring.... later!

The young Ol' Droaner

Much appreciated.  Thanks for the dialogue.

A reply came in...

Hello Allen:

A reply to my beekeeper friend in Sask, the young ol' droaner

"If I am correct, there are some 2.4 million hives left in the US down from what I was told was 4.5 million hives only 5 or 6 years ago.  So tell me if you can, why and American that can freely increase hive counts a lot quicker and easier than us poor northern Cannuck beekeepers, why haven't they?  Why is each successive month in the USA less than the month before?  Why Allen?  Is there a dying industry in the US?  Is is the diseases? Is it pesticide use?  Why is it that in the most industrious country in the world, hives are going down in a market place whereby the exact opposite should have occurred three years ago?"

If you look at the statistics -- lbs per colony yield, say in Calif., price of honey and pollination fees, current market price and downward trend of it from cheap foreign honey  -- plus the RISK. of getting a crop to more than cover expenses.  No wise gambler would be in this honey business, especially in the U.S.  Large increases made in one year cost a lot in terms of production -- you cannot hang a honey crop on foundation.  Besides the U.S. honey packers are addicted to that cheap foreign stuff and the ones in Canada are just getting started.

"The only problem I have with American queens coming into Canada is , Please not in my backyard."

Everything [disease, parasite] that is out there, is going to arrive in your back yard, sooner or later.  Smuggling, colonies kept too close to the border, packages from New Zealand.  Don't worry it will get to you.

Thanks Allen, good discussion


Intaxication:  Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

When  I studied the Canadian provinces and the US as a whole, I found that any US decline, such as it was, was pretty well all explained, mathematically, by the drop in their domestic price due to the strong US dollar and foreign competition.  During that same time, Canadians were able to export into the US at prices that looked good to us mainly because our dollar was very weak.  That saved us. 

We must remember that, if breakeven is at $1.00 per pound (say, for example) then $1.10 gives us a 10% profit and $1.50, a 50% return (profit ) on our expenses.  On the other hand, if the price drops to $0.90, then we are losing 10% and if it goes to $0.50, then we are losing 50% on our expenses.  Even for a well-capitalized beekeeper, that cannot continue for long. 

In Canada, we were making a little and getting by during the worst years, but, in the US, they were losing every year.  Thus those who were hardest hit -- drought hits here and there every year and makes things even worse for some -- started cutting corners on treatments and other inputs such as labour and feeding. 

We hear horror stories, blaming mites, but we all know human nature.  They blamed mites and other factors because they were simply too proud to admit they were going broke and could not afford to keep up with bee management.  Steel mills and other businesses were being boarded up during that time, and that was not due to mites.  US businesses were just very uncompetitive under the strong dollar policy.  Many are still marginal, even after the recent US dollar decline, since Argentina and China peg their currency to the greenback.  These real reasons are too hard for many to understand, so we hear, "Mites drove us out".  Those of us who bother to dig deeper know better.

Also, Canada was not on the honey exporting countries radar, yet.  Now we are and, unless we can find some defense, we may be looking at $1.00 honey in Canada before the smoke clears.  Most of my predictions are above that, in the the $1.20 CAD range and up.  I am counting on the rest of the world to start eating more honey soon.  Nonetheless, Brazil is a huge country with very low costs, and they are just discovering honey exports.  Maybe I should be investing there?

See my articles on Beekeeping Economics in Alberta since Border Closure.

Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating.
The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

BTW, the following Selected Topics are always available in the left panel

From: What's Buzzin' on Bee-Mail -- Quick notes to a world of sweet information on the Worldwide Web. For more, visit www.honey.com , www.nhb.org  or www.honeylocator.com .

Increased FDA Inspections Expected

The Food and Drug Administration announced its budget request at $1.8 billion, an increase of $149 million over FY 2004. The FDA ( http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2004/NEW01015.html ) is expected to conduct 97,000 import field inspections, a more than 60 percent increase over last year, and seven times the number of such inspections in FY 2001. The FDA also intends to conduct nearly 26,000 examinations of domestic food firms, almost 11 times the number of exams in FY 2001.

Speak when you are angry--and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret.
Laurence J. Peter

I spent the day at the desk and reading.  Jim plowed the snow by our quonset so that a young fellow can get in tomorrow.  He wants to buy all our pallets and I'm inclined to let them go, except for the hive pallets.

of the Day

Today : Cloudy with sunny periods. 30 percent chance of flurries this morning. High 9. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low minus 8. / Normals for the period : Low minus 11. High plus 1.

Friday 27 February 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years.

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Here is an interesting story. It is not unusual, I suppose, but I know both the players.

Last evening I received a rather anxious call from a young beekeeper I have spoken to a few times over the past years.  He lives east and north of me, a few hours drive away, and he was looking for advice, and, I think, help.   He had just received a visit from a Saskatchewan beekeeper who came by to announce that he is planning to move a large number of bees into this fellow's home territory, then on, to pollination in Southern Alberta, then back.  He asked the visitor to, instead, consider some of the vast amount -- thousands of square miles -- of other similar terrain nearby, but his plea did not seem to make any impact, and he was wondering what he can do.

As the caller relates the tale, he has had some bad luck in recent years.  He had about 300 hives a few years back, but became allergic and had problems that forced him to cut back, but still has all the equipment and his locations.  He says he has since gone through allergy treatment and is now okay to work the bees, and in the interlude, he has been working in the oilfield to get enough capital to get back into beekeeping.  He has only a few live hives at present, but this year, he has 200 packages ordered and plans to get back up over 200 this season, then expand next year and thereafter.  I gather that his locations have been in his family for decades, and they are all in a small area about 30 by 20 miles around the his home town.

The cure for writer's cramp is writer's block.
Inigo DeLeon

As it happened, I've met the visitor, and have known him for quite a while.  As a matter of fact, a while back, he tried to buy my outfit and territory with very little or no money down, as I recall, since he didn't have any.  We said, "No, thanks".  He later decided he wanted to buy some of our wraps that we had for sale and I thought we agreed on that, but then he announced that he was paying less than our price, since he was doing us a favour taking them, or some such thing.  I said, "No, thanks", and, as I recall, he then started badmouthing the wraps he was trying to buy.  I found that amusing and I said that, if he thought they were that bad, he should not buy them.  I forget the exact details, but it went something like that.  Things did not go quite the way he wanted, and he hasn't been very friendly since.  He is not exactly easy to deal with, although I am sure he tries.  I am not sure what he planned to accomplish with his visit to the young fellow, but I guess he did not make a friend, if that was the intent.

At any rate, the young beekeeper is concerned.  He will have packages and, since the area where he lives is isolated, should have expected to be mite-free for a year or two -- maybe more -- if no other beekeeper moves nearby, but now he has to think differently.  He wonders howcome a Saskatchewan beekeeper can move his hives on top of him when he cannot go into Saskatchewan in the same manner, and if there is any protection.

I wonder the same thing, we usually rely on the good sense and mutual respect of beekeepers to keep things fair, but also understand that we have made a conscious decision here in Alberta to allow free movement.  Some people always push the limits, but we know from watching other jurisdictions that the costs of legal restrictions on movement outweigh the advantages that may be gained from them, in most cases.

As a result, we have had some problems -- there are always some who have no clue or respect for others -- but, for the most part people are considerate, and we are free in Alberta to run our businesses as we need to, and we don't (AFAIK) have people afraid to speak their minds or afraid of being prosecuted by the Province for making good economic decisions.

I'll be interested in how this plays out.  In some ways this might appear to parallel the experience of Alberta beekeepers moving down to BC for winter.  Things are never simple, however.  There are differences, and there are similarities.

  • In the BC/Alberta case, the beekeepers on either side of the line are all free to move either way, and some do.
  • The movement has at times been responsible for some transmission of disease and pests to non-participants in Alberta, and perhaps, BC.  Everyone seems able to deal with their problems, however.
  • There are very limited areas in BC which are suitable for wintering, and thus there is no alternative for newcomers but arrange to shoehorn in.  Some do this better than others, and at times Paul has had to intervene to ensure that dialogue takes place.

In the case reported here, there has been an attempt at dialogue, but I am not sure that both parties came to the same understanding.  We'll see how it plays out.

Here's a note from Gus in Hawaii.  I'm a big fan of his queens, and he has always treated me very well.  My comments are in italics.

Dear Allen,

I enjoyed reading your January 24th notes of the convention review. As you know I was not able to make it but of course I do stay in contact as a (ABF - ed.) board member.  Your comments and understanding of the breeding programs that people hope will "fix all soon" was excellent.  There is headway being made but it usually doesn't keep up with the wishful thinking.

...Or the advertising in some cases.  I (allen speaking here) used to say that mite resistance is easier to achieve in advertising than in the beeyard. 

We are off to a great start here with fabulous weather for breeding, improvement to our systems, and a great crew. We are far ahead of the weather on the mainland as our usual Cal, FL, and TX, destinations have been cold, wet and late.


We've had a colder than normal winter up here in Alberta too, and we have had full snow cover since November.  I can remember many years when we had no snow on the ground most of the  winter.

I checked the Daily Cattle Report this morning and see that (finally) our herd is back up to the price range where we bought them, and that live cattle are up to where things look a bit more promising.

What happens when the future has come and gone?
Robert Half

I am not particularly superstitious, not a believer in horoscopes, and I am very much aware of all the arguments against such 'unscientific' oracles, but I do read occasionally visit one source particular from time to time, usually when I feel a convergence of forces in my universe.  At such times, I often find there is an eerie correlation to what is happening in my life.

After making a small start on dealing with analysis of AHPC, the problems that face it, and some obvious solutions, my gut told me to take a breather.  Today, I happened to look at the following, and maybe it is coincidence, but I am amazed to see how they fit, and how they parallel my instincts.  Note that I read all these predictions (cited below) today, not previously.

Judge for yourself:

February 22, 2004: There's good potential and bad potential. You're destined to hook up with one or the other, but you do have a choice in the matter. Never underestimate your strengths or overstate your weaknesses. All you get is one wrong move, and if you make it, you'll unleash forces that could take some time to undo. Be careful what you say. Take attendance in the room before venturing into controversial territory. The wrong ears are connected to some dangerous minds. To avoid mishaps, stick to unimportant business, and do it as well as you can. The right people will ask to see more.

February 23, 2004: It's not easy to see the light on a complex issue, but you've spent enough time with this to get a feeling for why it works. Congratulations, and now what? You have some decisions to make. Long-delayed events are finally in motion. Certain ideas may have changed between the planning and the execution. What's possible might not be easy, especially if you have to find new helpers or track down the appropriate resources all over again. Good things happen to those who are ready for them, although it could be a question of making your own luck if you truly want to succeed.

February 24, 2004: Looking inward might be unusual for you these days, but you haven't done this for a while, and you're already familiar with the external view. How you interact with human society these days is a reflection of your changing psychic landscape. Maybe some unexpected event forces you into this soul-searching, or maybe it's just your mood. Start out by learning something about yourself, and you'll learn more about others, too. That's just the way it works. At first you might question why the stars brought you to this place, but after you spend some time here, you're reluctant to leave.

February 25, 2004: Cooperation is more than just a good idea. It's the only way to keep things running. Critical people should keep their comments to themselves instead of trying to resolve all the issues up front. There's no time for digression. The stars give you the demanding job of reining in the prima donnas and talking them down from their high horses. Beware of becoming self-righteous. Avoid the temptation to use the common good as your personal weapon. Try not to take cheap shots, even if your target really deserves a hit below the belt. You have to be fair.

February 26, 2004: In the world of pay-to-play, basic service is mandatory. Service with a smile is icing on the cake, but you intend to do it right as long as you have to do it at all. Making friends with the enemy only goes to show that you're really on the same side. Anyway, the person who seems so annoying at first might be in genuine need of your help. Don't be one of those people who's so self-involved that he or she is never ready. Somebody is usually willing to make a few accommodations in return if you're the one doing him or her a favor.

February 27, 2004: Personal involvement has its limits. When you care about someone, you want to know the reason for everything. Strange behavior amuses you at first and alarms you if it goes on, but you might not get to the bottom of this. Don't make things worse. Back off, wait for an explanation and find other ways to pass the time. In all areas of your life, the stars encourage you to use a light touch for getting what you want. Strike up conversations that will set people at ease instead of putting them on their guard. Greasing the wheels isn't necessary, but it certainly helps.

I dropped by the Honeybeeworld Forum and found that it has come back to life.   I hadn't looked for a week or so.  I have to get it to send me an email when someone posts.

From a regular correspondent.  As always, my comments are in italics...

Hi Allen.

Snow piles are melting and the air temps are starting to climb up to normals.  Talked to the neighbor's that were in Texas this week & every thing there is at least 2 to 3 weeks behind due to the cold & rain.  Very few hives even have drones.


It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right?

And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

#1 son checked a hundred or so last weekend for the 1st time since he wrapped then & put them to bed last fall. He had to put some candy boards on & clusters were small, but only found 1 dead one.  He was real pleased.  I will check some tomorrow here near the city if all goes well. 

I have to chuckle on the north of the boarder queen deal.  Queens are damn tough to get due to the fewer & fewer breeders left in the business here in the states.  I paid the 5 breeders we buy from the last week of December. Many were sold out at that time & had saved some for us as we are long time customers. If we did not take the production and pre pay for them they could have been easily sold them to some one else.

I think the guys all across Canada who have been quietly importing all along have their orders in already, same as ever.  The only difference will be that the delivery to Canada will be legal this year -- hopefully. 

The only new business looking for queens will be from those who have been waiting for the border to open, or all the hypocrites who have been fighting this, but will turn and order US queens as soon as they are defeated.

We have heard lots of horror stories of dead bees & such. Yesterday I was told of much of northern Iowa was begging for bees. All our queen people tells us of record number of calls for queens. JZ ( Jim ) Paysen also seems to think his plastic queen products are doing very well this year over last. So time will tell.

I was surprised to read about your cattle venture.   Not a bad business to get into for investment purposes.  Seems to be record numbers of cattle on feed in most of Nebraska. 

The problem up here is an oversupply for what we have slaughter capacity to handle, and live cattle cannot yet go south to the US plants like before the BSE scare.  The two main plants up here have been making out like bandits, buying low and holding cattle of their own to drive down the price, while selling at US prices.  Very much like the kind of operation that got them fined well over a billion dollars the other day in the US.

I do 95% of the grocery shopping in our family & beef in the grocery store is still moving pretty darn good for the Mad Cow Scare. No real bargains to be found at all.

Same in Canada.  Retail prices are up 10% in Canada over what they were before the BSE scare, while the live cattle price has been down 30% or so.  Profiteering by the packers and stores?  You betcha!

'Who are you and how did you get in here?' 'I'm a locksmith. And, I'm a locksmith.'
Leslie Nielsen,  as Lieutenant Frank Drebin, "Police Squad"

We need to butcher some pork & I thought they would be cheep by now due to cheep beef with the close of the export markets. What a joke.  I had to pay in the middle 40's for hogs. Getting back to the beef, seems like our cousins are hauling several loads of corn a week to feed lots near by due to all the cattle on feed.  Price is not bad by any means either.

Allen, I find it hard to believe that this drought is by any means over. Good grass could be darn tough to find by July 1st.  Be careful. This whole deal can change overnite.

So I've been seeing.  The cattle price up here is a roller coaster.  I almost threw up several days after we bought and the bottom promptly fell out.  We're climbing back up for another plunge, so let's hope that -- just like a roller coaster -- the first drop in this ride is the worst.

Hold on tight!

I'm supposed to be doing the T4s, but find I am procrastinating instead.  I keep trying to get away from this page, but keep finding more fascinating stuff to share.  I've said, "Done" several times now, but this time, I am serious.  I'm shutting down until tomorrow.  Really.

Okay, Jake came over with the trailer and tank, and picked up the computer.  That took an hour.  Then El & I went out for supper and to get a few groceries.  Did I finish  the job?  Guess...

I added some more to the discussion from with the ol' droaner from Sask (see the 26th, above).  Interesting discussion.

Today : Fog dissipating near noon then a mix of sun and cloud. High 4. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low minus 8. / Normals for the period : Low minus 11. High plus 1.

Saturday 28 February 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Four Years ago | Forum | Sale | Home | Write me

Our cattle are in pens about 500 yards from our house, and are fed every morning between 8 and 9.  Today, I decided to take some pictures.  The sky is overcast and there is hoarfrost on the trees, but the weather is mild.  Here is the process.

The cattle wait.

Barley ration is loaded.

Concentrate measured in

Feed is weighed.

Silage is loaded...

and added to the ration

The feed wagon arrives.

The cattle eat.

Did I mention that the prices have been creeping back up to where we bought in at?

Jean and Chris and the baby, came for the weekend.  In the afternoon, we walked over the see the cattle.   Mckenzie was having such a god time she wouldn't go to sleep until late and we were up until almost midnight.  Although she is now 10 months old, she still does not always sleep through the night.  I'd forgotten how much work a baby is.  I'm always amazed how young parents -- and we were no exception in our time -- are up to the job, and greatly enjoy it.

I dug out the US colony counts from the past decade and a half.  Here they are:

Year 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02
Colonies 3,271 3,316 3,370 3,528 3,220 3,211 3,045 2,875 2,783 2,655 2,581 2,631 2,633 2,688 2,634 2,506 2,524

On the left, Price, Total return (price x production)
On the right is the same data, but with the total return held as a constant.

It is dangerous for a national candidate to say things that people might  remember.
Eugene McCarthy

Note that when the effects of price are removed (right) the hive number line is flat. Thus we can conclude that total return is the main driving force controlling hive numbers.  The effects lag price by a year or so.  Note the rise in the colony count in 1997, 98, and 99 (left chart) following the price bump in 1995 & 96.  It takes time for profits or losses to accumulate enough to have an effect on investment.  We can expect a jump in hive numbers when data from the current year and the next few years are available, and if these high prices continue, we'll see a big rise.  We're already seeing an upward inflection in the numbers.

The major drop was between 1989 and about 1995.  I think we can attribute that drop to mites.  There may be other factors, though.  (Any suggestions?).  During this period, mites became widely distributed.  Some beekeepers stuck their heads in the sand and lost their businesses.  It also took a while for new management systems to be developed, disseminated, and accepted. Those beekeepers who were not able to adapt, dropped out, after that things stabilized.  After that, mites no longer had much impact on the industry.

That was about seven years ago, and that is the point -- IMO -- where our border closure ceased to offer a net benefit (in the regions there was a net benefit) to us, and where the benefits of being reintegrated with the US became greater than the costs and the risks that are always associated with trade.

Many people are just starting to wake up to the facts, now and realize that border closure has cost many Canadian beekeepers a bonanza and also made Canadian beekeeping so difficult that it is hard to attract new beekeepers. 

Alberta always considered the benefits of border closure to be marginal at best, when considering the damage that disrupting our traditional trading relationships caused.   Alberta was always evenly divided over the question, until a few years ago when it became obvious that we are losing HUGE money due to the embargo, and pretty well everyone saw the benefits of opening the border to queens.  Quite a large number can see that cheap and plentiful US package bees could add a lot of income and simplify management as well.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Eleanor Roosevelt
A question received by email:

Re: Feb 23 pictures:

"I'm sending you a couple of pictures of a tracheal mite infested hive from last winter."

What makes him say that ? like what evidence show him that in the pictures?   If its a clue that we watch for what is the clue???  (if you don't ask you don't know)

The loose heap of dead bees out front. I assume there was feed in the hive, and perhaps some abandoned brood. Nevertheless it is just a guess -- I guess -- but a good one.

Maybe he will say?

Hello Allen:

I heard this from other beekeepers, bees dying from tracheal mites all fall out the entrance in a pile in front of the hive.  I don't know if this is true?  Any opinions on this?  ... maybe an old wives tale for all I KNOW.

These are carnies and should be relatively tracheal mite free but always see a couple out of a hundred colonies die this way.  Could it also be a virus?

I really do not know, but I think that TM is usually the major cause in such cases.  Old bees, and perhaps a virus may possibly be the explanation at other times, however.

As for expecting carnies (carniolans) to be tracheal mite free, don't count on it.  Occasionally we have heard of exceptionally susceptible carnies from a very good breeder.  TM resistance is hard to maintain.  It requires regular tests of mother stock, and these tests -- developed by Medhat -- are not cheap or quick.

Don't forget that when you buy 500 queens at once, you are practicing monoculture.  They may all be sisters and if there is a bad gene, you have it in all hives.  That's why I always bought smaller lots over a number of weeks, and traded with neighbours.  Although the odds of getting extra good luck, the chance of getting really really bad luck diminishes.  We can get by without hitting the jackpot, but we risk losing all if we bring really bad luck on ourselves.

of the Day

Apis-UK a very good beekeeping newsletter.  Current issue

Failure is part of success

Today : Fog dissipating this afternoon otherwise a mix of sun and cloud. High 4. / Tonight : A few clouds. Low minus 7. / Normals for the period : Low minus 11. High plus 1.

Sunday 29 February 2004
I'm retired now, and days or weeks may pass between beekeeping articles  I recommend visiting pages from previous years
One Year ago | Two years ago | Three Years ago | Four Years ago | Forum | Sale | Home | Write me

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.
George Eliot

The kids are still here, so we will spend the day visiting with them.

I spent several hours early this morning filing those two T4s using the web.  The government, with all their resources, should be able to do better when it comes to designing the web forms.  Any error, and their page gets confused, and periodically, all previous work gets lost.  This is announced by a less than reassuring error message, written in the cryptic form favoured by high school programmers.  I restarted from scratch at least 7 times before I got all the way through.  I use to play text adventure games back in the early days of computers, so I consider this to be just another such challenge, but how do others cope?

The afternoon was warm and bright, so Chris and I went out to get the motorhome out of the snowdrift, then we took a run down to look at the wintering bees.  All the lids are on, and bees were flying, but we did not lift any lids.

I'm getting bandwith limit messages from my server.  Hits have been climbing, and visitors have drawn down over 2 gigs this month.  Good thing that Feb is a short month.  The size of this page is part of the problem, I suppose.  It has grown to over 150K in the last 10 days.  That is too big, but that will change tomorrow with a new month and a new page. 

Those with high speed Internet will not have noticed, but those on dialup may be cursing me. Is this page to big and slow loading?  Write me, if you think so.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. High 2.
Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low minus 8.
Monday : Sunny with cloudy periods. High minus 2.
Tuesday : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of flurries. Low minus 13. High minus 10.
Wednesday : A mix of sun and cloud. Low minus 18. High minus 8.
Thursday : Cloudy. Low minus 13. High minus 1.
Normals for the period : Low minus 10. High plus 1.


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