Honey Bee World Forum
I'm back. I've taken a few years off
from this diary, and I'm going to start writing again.
I may have to change my portrait on this page (left), though. A few years have
passed since that one was taken.
I've been doing a bit of yard cleanup.
Since we sold out, I've let things slide and I figure now is the time to get
down to deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. I still have a
number of the items in "For
Sale", and I suppose I'll have to clean those pages up -- eventually.
We do still have quite a few winter wraps available.
I started with putting some better tires on the old 4X4
and making a start on repairing the quonset. The cover got loose at one corner, and
although the tarp is still quite good, that part was wind-whipped and separated, and I hadn't figured
how to repair it. A few years ago, good
tarp tape was not available, but now I was able to get a 50' X 12" strip of
self-adhesive tape from Inland. The frame is bent a bit from wind pressure
and the way that I had tied it down, but it straightened well, so we are well
on our way to getting it fixed. If anyone wants to buy a quonset, I might
consider selling it. It is 102' X 32' and breaks down so that all the parts fit in a 1/2 ton
truck box. Although the current cover is still serviceable, a new one is
about $2,500 and lasts over 10 years.
Thursday, November 6th, 2008
Honey Bee World Forum
The Alberta Beekeepers Commission
(AB) held the 2008
AGM at the Fantasyland Hotel at
West Edmonton Mall
on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Or is it the 2009 AGM? Seems the
2008 fiscal year end has passed, but maybe not.
I missed the first day and half of the second, having somehow
decided that the meeting was to start Wednesday. Quite a few conventions
begin later in the week, but the AB has always started on Monday, and I somehow
forgot. I haven't been as plugged in lately, and, as many have remarked, I
lapsed in writing this diary for quite a while. Moreover, in recent years, I have
reduced my membership to 'hobbyist' level. That may change in the coming
On Tuesday, I woke up and realised that I was
missing out, got into the car, and made it to Edmonton in time for lunch.
I had been of two minds about attending, given that the registration cost has
been escalating in recent years -- it is now over $250 -- and rooms are
$179, minimum, if not reserved far in advance. I had not reserved, and,
besides, even the $124 (plus tax) bargain convention rate is a lot for one person to pay
just to sleep a few hours, shower and go to meetings. I thought rooms were high at
$75 a year or two ago.
At any rate, I decided that I had to go
and, when I got there and was greeted by many good friends of many years, I wondered
how I ever had doubts. I must be losing my mind. Whatever it cost, the experience is worth the
money, and, as it turned out, I got the discounted rate simply by asking
at the hotel desk when I checked in. Funny how that works. I've done
that trick lots of times. After being quoted rack rate by phone, I've
shown up and asked for the convention rate -- and gotten it! Go figure.
|A note from Kenn:
The first question is a good one. The second question is easy - as
shown in the financial statements - the year end is August 31.
I remember talking about which AGM we were having way back when we
were on the ABA board in the 70's. The commission regulation
requires that an AGM must be held at least once in a crop year and
within 15 months of a previous AGM. The regulation is silent
on exactly what number you assign to a particular meeting.
The Commission is following the Association practice of naming the
AGM for the calendar year in which it is held.
So I guess this was the 2008 AGM.
Have a good winter.
I only needed the room one night, and was
planning to leave on Wednesday, however I got talked into being a scrutineer for
the election and was still there at 5:30. Adony mentioned that Steve had
left and he had an extra bed, so, since there was blowing snow to the south and
it was getting dark, I decided to stay. As it turned out, Medhat had some
business to conduct over supper, and has no budget for hotel, so Adony brought
in a cot and we all shared the room. Room sharing has gone out of style,
but it makes a lot of sense. Why waste money on expensive rooms when all
we need is a place to sleep for a few hours?
I am hearing stories about how Medhat is
getting less than wonderful support from Alberta Agriculture. I
understand that he has been shuffled for one department to another, and that he
has to work to dig up budget. An example is that he has no budget to
attend our convention and is expected to give his presentation and head right
back to the office. Maybe this makes sense to someone, but the convention
is where the beekeepers are and where he can save time and money by seeing
people without driving all over the Province. Moreover, like Nabi Chadouri,
he is a tremendous asset to the organisation, and and an essential resource for
consultation. When he is at our meetings, he is constantly being consulted
and it is his best opportunity to do extension work. We need to lobby
Alberta Agriculture to give him budget to attend meetings.
Medhat is also a world-class bee scientist
with close personal connections to the top scientists across North America and
He needs -- for our sake as much as that of science -- to network with them and attend International meetings.
been doing this, when he can, on his holiday time and his own expense, or
sometimes with support from the sponsoring societies which call on him to speak.
This is nuts. Alberta Agriculture should be supporting him in this work.
He helps put Alberta on the map and draws in world class talent to speak at our
meetings. We don't know what we have. Medhat is the guy who does the work to get us
imported queens and new treatments, and we benefit -- then the rest of Canada
rides our coattails.
We need to let our MLAs and Alberta Agriculture know
how much we appreciate him, and we need to stand solidly behind him.
Beekeepers like to grumble privately, and always will, but we must be careful not to express any doubts
in the direction of Alberta Agriculture that would
justify their current shabby treatment of our man in Edmonton. Hopefully
the new executive will escalate enhancing his budget and support to top priority.
* * * *
In recent years, the Alberta Beekeepers
Association, a seventy year old organisation, has been transmogrified into
the Alberta Beekeepers Commission. The main difference is that the former
was a voluntary association, and the latter is a legal entity under the
Marketing Act with compulsory registration and compulsory fees. The fees must
be paid, but are refundable in part or in full, on request. That notwithstanding, the
transition was peaceful and well-managed, and the Commission was and is -- so
far -- managed in a most agreeable
and considerate manner. Those who truly object are
able to recover their fees by applying to do so, but AFAIK, few, if any, have
done so. Yet, at least. So far, the organisation has been run with
great sensitivity to the opinions and fears of those less enthused with the
changes, and the transformation has gone quite smoothly. I'll have a few
comments on the meeting later.
There are a number of reasons a member might
ask for the fees back. Being broke or having a bad crop is one, but
honey prices are not too bad.
|There are only two kinds of scholars; those who
love ideas and those who hate them. Emile Chartier
Disagreeing in principal is another, but,
although some mutter, so far people are going along. The $40+ thousand of
dues (is it $45,000 or is it $40,500?) to the
Canadian Honey Council
being paid from the AB compulsory levies is another, and this is the wild card. There
are enough members in the AB who feel oppressed (and rightly so) by the CHC's refusal to
acknowledge and represent the legitimate needs of Alberta beekeepers that this
could be a problem for the Alberta Beekeepers Commission. CHC's
longstanding and deliberate
opposition to Alberta's efforts to accomplish reasonable goals, it is feared,
may motivate these AB
members to withdraw their support from the AB, simply to clobber the CHC. We'll see.
* * * *
I'm not going to pick on the CHC right
here and right now, since I'm out of date on happenings at Council over the past
year. They have
been attempting another reorganisation in order to be able to better finance
themselves and (supposedly) to appear to better represent the industry's true wishes and
we are (again) giving them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this time they
will manage to accomplish some magic. I'll believe it when I see it, but
we are once again giving them some room to try. It's not as if this is the first
or even second (or third) time
they have attempted this apparently impossible feat. In fact the CHC has been in crisis and a
source of conflict and uneconomic policies in our industry for the almost forty
years that I have been aware of their existence. Nonetheless, hope springs
eternal, and they continue to suck money out of Alberta while actively opposing
measures that would greatly assist Alberta beekeepers without harming the rest
of the country.
I have noticed recently, though, as have others, that the CHC
website is broken in a number of places, and seeing as that was one particular
thing that everyone agrees that CHC did well in the past, and since the site is quite
important as a directory for the industry, one has to wonder how well CHC is
* * * *
As it happens, this year would have been the 75th
anniversary of the Alberta Beekeepers Association (ABA), but, since the
organisation has been replaced by the Alberta Beekeepers Commission --
which is technically a new organisation but is essentially exactly the same
group under a new charter -- "The Alberta Beekeepers" celebrated that milestone.
Who's to argue? We were treated to a well-designed slideshow at the
President's Luncheon. I was told who put it together with a lot of work,
and ingrate that I am, I've forgotten who. Maybe I can get a copy and post
it here, and give credit where credit is due.
* * * *
This is also the 20th year of Gertie
Adair's office management for the Alberta Beekeepers. Gertie has been a
backbone of the organisation for two decades now. Thinking back, I recall a number
of previous secretaries, including Louise Z., and Jean Guilbeau. Each made
a big contribution. In Jean's day, the job was voluntary, and the
organisation ran on a shoestring, but she made it work, and work well.
attended these AGMs, and many board meetings since the early seventies. A
lot has changed since then. Much of it has been for the better, but I
think the gang had a whole lot more fun in the old days. There is no
shortage of proof in the picture archives. As (I think it was) Kevin said,
if we had that much fun today we'd find ourselves in handcuffs.
Friday, November 7th, 2008
Honey Bee World Forum
A note to those who operate in Southern
Alberta, particularly those in pollination: The Southern Alberta Beekeepers
Association has a website at
http://southernalbertabeekeepers.com/ for member information and
* * * *
Hey Dude! What happened to our
training programme? The Alberta Government spent a lot of money
getting a all-encompassing, hands-on beekeeping course ready, and I personally spent a lot of time writing
it. Consulting groups of beekeepers met and hashed over the details.
After an initial splash, I have seen very little, other than that we won an
award and it is supposedly operating. I heard nothing at the AGM, and
Alberta Agriculture did not have anyone representing GC at the meeting -- AFAIK.
We had high
hopes that the Green Certificate Beekeeping Programme would assist us in training young beekeepers to
work in our operations and hopefully be able to buy in. Is GC operating?
Anyone here participating? A few years ago, I sweated blood writing the
textbook, and was slated to maintain a website with up-to-date material relating
to the course, but even though I contacted the manager of the programme, nothing
came of it.
I seem to recall having received a promotional email in
September, so I followed the links and arrived
here. That did not tell me much, so I have a phone call in (got a
machine) and a few emails out to some of the contacts. I'll report back.
In the meantime, if anyone has any news,
email me, please.
Here is one reply:
I presently have 1 beekeeping
student who is registering in Beekeeping in Central Alberta. All
schools are aware that there is a beekeeping Green Certificate
program. Interest appears to be on Hutterite Colonies in our
Green Certificate/FOIP Coordinator
4500 - 50 street
Olds, AB T4H 1R6 Canada
Cell Phone: 403-507-0434
Toll Free: (800) 661-6537
Thanks, Henry, for the quick response.
Beekeepers! Lets demand some action and get
our employees and kids on the program.
Also, be aware that the manual should be
available for purchase wherever Alberta publications are sold, and no, I do not
get a royalty.
* * * *
A Canadian national commercial beekeeping
organisation to replace CHC?
Remember the Canadian Commercial
Beekeepers Association effort a few years back? We had a meeting or two,
and a website, but it seemed that CHC was coming around, and we really did not
want to divide our scarce resources if that was the case, so the idea died.
Maybe it is time to resurrect it again.
* * * *
|I said to myself, I have things in my head that
are not like what anyone has taught me - shapes and ideas so near to
me - so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't
occurred to me to put them down. I decided to start anew, to strip
away what I had been taught. Georgia O'Keeffe (1887 - 1986)
Drums and Totes: After years of
posturing, threatening, and then failing to do anything meaningful, CFIA and the
industry have finally reached the point where strict rules are coming into place
regarding bulk honey containers. (See
this document) In the past, just about any food drum was considered
useable (I can tell some stories), especially if a liner was employed. Those days are gone
and it is high time, IMO.
Only new food-approved drums or freshly-certified remanufactured drums are now
acceptable, although North American juice drums can be employed if conditions
are met and documented. A few beekeepers are still using old drums, but
IMO they risk their crop. Recent seizures at the border have shown that
saving a few dollars on drums is false economy. Any old crop honey sitting
around should be sold ASAP, since the rules will only get tighter in coming
- New drums are quoted at $60 (or was it $40?)
from Great Western Containers, and Vesper is
offering quality remanufactured drums at $25.
- As for totes, any used ones must be
certified as having been used for food only or have new bladders -- and no
Saturday, November 8th, 2008
Honey Bee World Forum
Meetings, Roberts Rules, etc.: I
might as well get this out of the way. I've been a member of the ABA and
attended conventions since the early seventies, and served on the board numerous
times over the years. I have found being an active participant in the
organisation and attending the AGM a very valuable experience.
Contributing to an organisation like the ABA is one of those things that takes
time and effort, but which pays back more than it costs. I know that this
seems counter-intuitive, but it is true. Ask anyone who does public
service. Although it can be a burden, the information flow, the contacts,
and the energy that comes from being part of a motivated group more than
I still have bees. I put four hives into
winter, as I recall, or maybe it was three. I did not treat
them for anything.
At any rate three hives were strong this spring
and put one strip of Apistan in
for the required time, beginning mid-March, then I split them all,
using queens I was given.
Later, I split the strongest ones again since I
did not want to produce honey. I let the splits raise their
own queens (walk-away
They are now very heavy and I got several supers
of honey in spite of my efforts. I expect I'll winter them in
three, and just wrap the top two boxes. I've done that before
and it works well.
However, there have been years I did not bother
to attend the Alberta meetings, but rather went to other provinces to attend their meetings instead.
The reason is simple, and I bring it up here as a warning of what can happen.
I remember a time when the ABA was a pretty
jolly bunch, with large groups attending from California, since we were well
integrated with the beekeepers down there. We hauled honey south and
returned with loads of package bees. Californians operated outfits in
Canada and vice versa, and families intermarried. Young beekeepers went
south in winter and early spring to work in the US operations and learn their
techniques. But that is not what I am writing about here.
Beekeeping was booming (That was before
border closure) and a number of
fairly aggressive individuals got into struggles about how they thought the
organisation should be run and the meetings degenerated into arguments,
sometimes even on the podium. At that time, the
rules were not published in the
programme and chairing was quite loose. I recall one meeting where there
were more non-members than members voting on a critical issue. I was in
the back, counting. When the chair did act, often it was to summarily cut
off discussion, sometimes in response to rude calls of "question", "question"
from one or two impatient people on the floor.
All this made for unpleasantness, infighting
and divisions among the members, some of whom quite rightly felt ignored or
outmanoeuvred on important matters. The conflict suited some folks just
fine, but it weakened our group and saddened most of us. It was obvious
that the issues needed to be discussed, and for as long and as often as it took
to achieve a consensus, but a few people worked hard to polarize and split the
membership, and succeeded -- for a while. Fortunately leaders appeared who
worked hard to unite beekeepers with conflicting interests, communicate
openness, and we managed to achieve a high degree of inclusiveness and
The point is that this harmony was not achieved without
very deliberate intent and a strong focus on bringing everyone, and I do mean
everyone, into the organisation, including sideliners and interested hobbyists.
Although some wished to have only a commercial organisation, we realised that we
could not succeed in our goals without getting everyone into the tent and
working on compromises that everyone was involved in working out.
One thing we saw quite clearly was that,
although we could use coercion to achieve goals by political arm twisting,
procedural tricks, out-voting and by using
The Alberta Bee Act and Bee Regulations (which we wrote and re-wrote several
times over the years at board level in consultation with Government) the result
would be more rancour. We saw this happening elsewhere, and I have to
applaud the wisdom of my peers who pointed that out, since I was not sure that
quarantines and regulation were not the answer to the invading mites. At
any rate, we
decided consciously as a board not to restrict beekeepers, but rather educate and encourage
open dialogue and co-operation. The result is one of the best beekeeping
organisations in North America, representing almost 100% of Alberta Beekeepers
and beehives, and meetings that are very useful and friendly. Our industry is
growing, while elsewhere in North America beekeeping is in conflict and decline.
The reason I mention this is that such a state of
co-operation is not a permanent, stable condition, but requires constant
maintenance. It will only persist as long as the members and executive
remember to respect every other member, to encourage open discussion, and
communicate that openness. That means tolerating meetings that drag out
longer than some would like, and long rambling comments by some who may seem out
of touch, and occasional breaches of the rules of order in order to accomplish
the real objective, which is understanding and a feeling by everyone that no one
has been suppressed, ignored, cut off, or treated with any disrespect.
IMO one parliamentarian is more than enough, and
the parliamentarian should only be consulted
very occasionally: when there
is conflict -- or a legal matter. Most
meetings can be run quite informally, with quite
a bit of latitude. This is quite
legitimate if no one protests or if those
attending are in general agreement. I
recommend everyone get a copy of Roberts Rules,
read it, think about the rules, then forget
about them and concentrate on being courteous
and considerate of others.
In my mind, this imperative transcends the
rules of order and must be in the mind of anyone who chairs a meeting, and
in the mind of any appointed parliamentarian. IMO one parliamentarian is
more than enough, and should only be consulted very
occasionally when there is conflict or a legal matter. The rules should serve
the meeting not vice versa
A home-made alcohol wash device made from two peanut
butter jars and a piece of screen. Either isopropyl alcohol
with a drop of detergent or winter windshield washer fluid can be
used. The design is not mine, but credited to a Southern Alberta
beekeeper, John Williamson of Fort Macleod. They are now
available from him or through the co-ops.
I used Shoe Goo to glue the jar lids together.
Not sure yet about the gasket.
The technique is to gather 300 bees from the brood
nest, close the jar and shake 30 seconds. At that point, 80%
of the mites should drain into the bottom jar for counting. 9
mites is the threshold.
The solution is then run through a screen to
remove the mites and re-used.
I have seen the 'rules' used to disrupt debate
and oppress members -- in total contrast to the intent of the rules -- and
consider this an abuse. The rules do empower those being suppressed to object
and provide other remedies, but that gets too technical for most (including the
parliamentarians I have observed) and typically the rules are applied in such an
ad hoc, crude and blunt fashion that simple good manners and mutual
consideration would serve better. Most meetings can be run quite
informally, with quite a bit of latitude. This is quite legitimate if no
one protests or if those attending are in general agreement. I recommend
everyone get a copy of Roberts Rules, read it, think about the rules, then
forget about them and concentrate on being courteous and considerate of others.
* * * *
And before I leave that topic entirely, more
study of the charter or constitution or enabling legislation might be in order.
Given the text in the AGM programme book, technically it appears that I, as
someone who had paid "a service fee", should have been due a vote.
That may have been an error, and it may not have been. No matter, I don't
care and will pay the full up membership if I really want to vote, but I think
the new executive needs to troubleshoot these details.
* * * *
Another thought: Sponsors donate
door prizes in hopes of getting their name and product recognised. At
one time, we made sure that whoever was handing out door prizes named the
sponsor and described the product being given away as they did the draw.
I'm sure the sponsors expect and appreciate that -- after all, the product costs
money -- but lately prizes have been handed out without comment or even
identifying what the prize happened to be! I'm sure that is disappointing
to the sponsor and it is quite inconsiderate.
* * * *
And I should congratulate and thank Terry
Greidanus for stepping up and letting his name stand for president, then
winning. I know he has a full plate already, but I also know he will get
the job done, and well. We've had a run of excellent presidents lately.
Leadership determines the tone of an organisation, and I know that Terry will be
a good listener and a capable leader.
* * * *
BTW, I see the
Alberta Beekeepers Commission
website is being maintained again. Looks good.
* * * *
Varroa detection and management:
Alison Skinner mentioned that
monitoring mite levels is key to control. She also noted that when
sampling bees for varroa using alcohol wash, apparently it has been discovered
that samples from the entrance or the top bars of supers do not give the same
results as samples from the brood area of the same hive! The mites tend to
concentrate in the brood chamber and that is where samples should be taken.
Unfortunately, sampling for nosema is best done using the older bees that are
found at the entrance and the top bars and that complicates sampling.
Alcohol wash of ~300 bees (less
per hive if a number of hives are being done) is the gold standard these
days. Ether roll and other methods have fallen into disrepute, although
natural and forced mite drops are considered just as good, as long as the
factors that might affect drop are taken into consideration.
Every method has its problems.
Alcohol wash only tests for phoretic mites, not those in cells, and the amount
of brood present can affect the meaning of the results. Mite drops depend
on many factors, including temperature, amount of emerging brood, etc. etc., so
the take-home message is that results must be
(I have to confess here, that although I
am/was a commercial beekeeper, I have always hated killing bees, or even brood.
There are exceptions, and I have taken great satisfaction crushing bees that
were stinging me. Not the ones that stung tentatively, but the ones that
really got into it).
Medhat said that his recommended
action threshold has been lowered in recent years to 1-3% if I understand
him correctly, depending on time of year and other factors. It has always
been known that 6% is a critical level, since at that level, multiple mites
infest some brood, with escalating virus problems being the result, but now,
with nosema and virus problems compounding the effects of mites, prudence
requires tighter mite control.
Lipinski pointed out that timing treatments is crucial, since there are
times when the mites are more vulnerable. Also, he said that adult bees
can tolerate varroa, but that developing larvae and pupae are seriously damaged
and that this is especially critical in fall when the winter bees are being
raised. His slide (Click to
enlarge) is self-explanatory.
The red arrows coming down from warplanes point to critical
mite-fighting periods. (He is a fascinating speaker, with many unorthodox
-- from our perspective at least -- views on societies and history. I had
a chance to chat with him
over supper at Tony Roma's, and came away with some new ideas).
Interestingly, my varroa treatment method, learned
from Reece years ago -- using one strip of Apistan in mid-March -- agrees
completely with his observations and takes advantage of a critical period in
mite development. A caveat: I haven't seen fluvalinate resistance yet, so
don't try this at home unless you are sure you know what you are doing, but keep
in mind that window of opportunity no matter what control you use.
No discussion of mites is
complete in my mind without a discussion of nutrition. Varroa places a
load on bees and anything that strengthens the bees helps reduce the ill
effects. I am a strong advocate of feeding patties in spring -- as many
and as long as the bees will take them. I have written about that
previously and will cover it again, but it is so obvious to me that I have
trouble understanding why people have problems with the concept. I don't
recommend fall feeding, since I am not sure that an extra brood cycle is a good
thing, but I do intend to investigate feeding patties in summer while on
Something interesting that I
leaned from my friends at Global
Patties is that in the US, beekeepers are feeding patties in the
entrance on the floorboards with success. I have to see this to believe
it, but if it worked here, it would make feeding simpler.
apparently their patties have achieved widespread acceptance across North
America. They opened a plant at Butte, Montana to supply the US and it is
doing well. Here is a story of a small, family company which did a good
job for Alberta beekeepers and went on to expand internationally. The
secret of their success has been producing a simple, effective, consistent
product at a low price from safe, food-approved ingredients, and with attention to customer feedback.
Big guys like Mann Lake imitated them, but failed to match them. Global
no secret ingredients or fancy ads. Most of their business comes by word
Sunday, November 9th, 2008
4.1°C Min: -3.8°C
Honey Bee World Forum
Chris and Mckenzie came up to visit. Meijer's and Ruth also came for
supper. P-Ss could not make it. Oene brought their Bobcat and
smoothed out some dirt for us before supper.
This morning we (J,C&M, and Ruth
plus A&E) had a big breakfast, visited, Ruth left, then the rest of us
down to the hall for the annual turkey supper mid-afternoon.
* * * *
Back to the convention.
Billy Bee has been sold to
McCormicks, an international spice and food business. Details are
here. Representatives addressed the AGM and explained the
company structure at length. They also emphasized the integrity of the
company and how they intend to treat beekeepers very well, etc.
Afterwards, I spoke to some beekeepers who told me that even though the going
price is $1.50 and all other buyers have been phoning offering $1.50 (I got one
such call myself), Billy Bee had been calling offering $1.40. Seems the
more things change the more they stay the same. We always knew in the past
that however much Billy Bee was offering, that someone else had to be offering a
|Ideals are like stars: you will not succeed in
touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the
ocean desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and
following them, you reach your destiny. Carl Schurz (1829 - 1906)
Adony gave an interesting talk
about the work done at Beaverlodge on AFB resistance over the past few
years. It seems that, although some progress has been made, that Minnesota
hybrids and, surprisingly, some Chilean imported stock still surpassed the Peace
River selected stock in resisting infection.
The Peace stock has been selected
using standard techniques and now the researchers are looking at a more
targeted approach. Historically, AFB resistance has been associated with
the ability of bees to detect and remove dead larvae and pupae, and a surrogate
test -- frozen brood removal -- has been used widely, but it has long been
known that the are other mechanisms such as the ability of nurse bees to filter
spores out of brood food, and the production of antibiotics in some brood which
resists the action of AFB. There are others, too. Apparently the
Beaverlodge researchers are now identifying and listing these traits,
ranking them by heritability, and seeking genetic markers that will simplify
breeding for them. Exciting!.
Of course, I have been saying for
years that resistance may be the goal, but susceptibility is the Achilles heel.
It only takes a few hives in an outfit breaking down due to a few susceptible
queens to cause a situation that will challenge the most resistant bees,
since the equipment and honey become contaminated. After all, even
resistant bees lose brood and expend effort when challenged by AFB, and
contamination by AFB costs us money even if the bees are able to manage the
threat and appear healthy. So, although high resistance may be the ideal,
simply eliminating highly susceptible genes from the pool will have a huge and
perhaps more important effect. It is easier to reduce or eliminate a
characteristic than to breed for a characteristic, since the former should not
narrow the pool of genes nearly as quickly unless, by chance, that
characteristic is linked also to highly desirable traits.
boat that is sound except for a few rotten
planks will sink, no matter how sound those good
planks might be. A chain will break if
there is one weak link, no matter how well
reinforced the other links are. In the
same vein, an apiary with a few susceptible
queens will suffer from AFB no matter how
resistant the remaining queens are. The
goal must be to eliminate susceptibility, not to
seek high resistance alone, unless variability
is reduced reliably in the process.
* * * *
|In Canada, we have universal
health care. It is wonderful, but, as new diseases and treatments
are discovered, and as people live longer, the costs just keep going
up. Although technology may be part of the problem, maybe it is part
of the solution, too.
Here (below right) is a letter
written by a friend to our MLA (Member of the Alberta Legislature).
I heard recently that Alberta is
putting health records online. That is wonderful. It is a great
start, and I am thinking that I should share some ideas I have that
could make huge savings in health care costs. Hope they intrigue you
and come to pass. Maybe you have already thought of them.
I'm not sure these ideas could be
implemented quickly or without a lot of resistance from the
entrenched establishment, but who knows? There is a shortage of
doctors, especially in the rural areas, and these ideas would
eliminate a lot of the drudgery and redundancy that physicians
complain about, so they might just come aboard. For the users, these
ideas could reduce and eliminate the driving and waiting room time
by a factor of two at minimum and probably more. All told, I think
that these ideas could cut costs 50% at the front end of health care
(GPs, emergency visits, and referrals), and maybe by quite a bit,
further into the system by reducing redundancy, improving
information, and reducing error.
Being a consumer of health care, I
have been an interested and appreciative observer. As a businessman,
I have been astounded by the redundancy and waste of everyone's time
and unnecessary travel, and the failure to recruit the patient to
participate in the diagnosis. I'll use myself as an example.
In my own case, I am reasonably fit
and healthy, but, for various reasons, I have seen at least 20
"family doctors" in the past thirty years, if you count the
emergency visits, walk-in visits, the several local GPs and the Red
Deer and the Calgary doctors I have been forced to see due to lack
of local doctors presently. I'm not counting the out-of-province
visits (12) over that span.
My comments here are about doctor
visits that are not the result of an obvious injury or illness, but
rather more general complaints such as allergies, aches, pains,
age-related matters and less specific concerns.
For the record, I have had stress
tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, EKGs, EEGs, two biopsies, and various
blood tests over the years. Some of that was due to symptoms at the
time, but some was ostensibly to create a background for the
eventuality that I develop a serious condition (my father died at 65
of a massive heart attack and I am 63).
The strange thing is that all that
expensive material is scatted all over the Province, and some in
another province where I spend some time -- and essentially lost.
Not only that, each doctor I visited sat me down, interviewed me and
spent time making notes of basically the same material. By the time
they were done, they had little time to actually do much.
The thing is obvious to me is that,
given a way to do so, I could have presented a list of my symptoms
before I entered the office, possibly making that visit unnecessary
and saving everyone time and effort -- and myself driving 75 miles
there, waiting an hour, then driving 75 miles home, and then doing
the same to see a specialist days, weeks or months later.
In this day and age, there is often
no need to be physically present to get a job done. My son is an IT
professional who lives on the West Coast and works for an East Coast
company. He works over the Internet, and hasn't been East for 6
months. He tried to quit that job, but they wanted him to stay on!
He says he gets a lot more done, working at home.
Granted there are often advantages to
being physically present, but there are also costs, so if there is a
way to decide in advance if a face-to-face meeting is necessary, a
lot of time and travel can be saved. In the case of doctors, I have
often seen a GP, just to be referred to a specialist or sent to a
lab, and told to return later. Three or four trips or visits could
have been reduced to two, saving everyone time and money.
Alberta has now made a huge first
step in the right direction by deciding to put medical records
online. The savings in time, money and lives will be significant, as
will the convenience and simplicity of access from anywhere anytime.
I'm sure I'm not the first to think
of this, but it seems obvious that the next step is to have patients
enter symptoms online in advance of office visits, and that leads to
the most exciting prospect: using artificial intelligence software,
running behind the database, to examine the records and the reported
symptoms and highlight potential conditions and performing a form of
triage -- directing patients to the most suitable doctors and
facilities (emergency or routine) and, if necessary, prescribing
tests to be done before visiting the appropriate doctor.
I realize that this sounds a bit like
science fiction, and that implementation will have both political
and technical problems, but the technology presently exists, and is
relatively cheap, secure and reliable, The need exists, too, since
health care costs are escalating and will continue to do so. We need
to concentrate the money we have on the most important aspects of
the system and streamline the parts that are cumbersome and
Even a decade ago, such an idea would
not have worked. The technology was not mature, and the population
was not computer literate. Today, almost everyone has a computer and
Internet access and knows how to use it. People routinely shop,
bank, trade stocks, gamble, file taxes, find mates, and do all
manner of research on the Internet -- and have confidence in its
reliability and security.
These tools have brought great
efficiencies to all the above activities. Why not apply these tools
to health care and make use of patients' skills in reducing wastage
As readers will know, I used to be
heavily involved in BEE-L, but left
the list due to moderation issues. I still moderate BEE-L occasionally in
the background when Aaron is away, but do not post there because I don't wish to
expose myself to abuse unnecessarily. I am sure there are many nodding in
agreement as they read this, having been driven off the list.
For some reason, there have always been a few
serially abusive personalities on BEE-L, and the list owner does not seem to
catch on until the damage has been done. When I was a moderator, I kept
these things in check, as best I could, but often without support. As a
result, what started out to be an international list of knowledgeable and polite
researchers and experienced beekeepers degenerated to its present state.
At any rate, seeing as I am writing again, I'm considering posting there again,
or perhaps running a shadow commentary here. We'll see.
Monday, November 10th, 2008
-2 Min -7°C
Normals: Max: 3°C Min: -8°C
Honey Bee World Forum
Wasted research money:
I've written about this before, but it is a
pet peeve, and here we go again. One of the reasons that the Alberta
beekeepers Commission was formed was to raise money for research from the entire
beekeeping base in the Province, seeing as beekeepers have proven very reluctant
to contribute to a general pool of funds for that purpose. The utopians
think that this is due to some flaw that must be remedied by government and
That has not been my experience. Any
time I have asked beekeepers to reach into their pockets to finance research
that can assist with making real-world decisions that involve making or losing
money, they have been more than generous, and even sought me out to contribute.
The problem is that when there is a research fund, it attracts request to fund
impractical, marginally useful and even hair-brained research. The money
is always spent, and yet there are seldom results that are useful to real
beekeepers. No wonder that smart, results-oriented beekeepers are
reluctant to throw money in without knowing what specific research is going to
I am not criticising the legitimate practical
research done by Beaverlodge, Medhat and other workers, but I have heard
rumblings about the amount spent on garlic studies and I have seen money spent
on other non-practical work in previous years.
That having been said, I am thinking we need
Get a list of the things that we think would give us the biggest bang for the
buck, raise some money for each project and get going. Of course you
know I think that we need to get more scientific about supplementary feeding of
protein. I am convinced that beekeepers are not anywhere near optimizing
patty use or anywhere near the potential. An example is the use of protein
supplements while pollinating canola. Nobody does it, but we all know the
bees are suffering.
2.) Find out who the young grads are and if
they need projects and funding.
We did that
once before (see Mar 8, 2002) and learned a lot for very small expenditure.
* * * *
I've got the
Honey Bee World Forum going again.
The old one was getting badly spammed, but I think I can handle that now.
Drop in and post a comment or question.
* * * *
BEE-L again. OK. I posted on
BEE-L. It's a bad habit.
We'll see how long it takes to get censored or draw abuse.
067166 08/11/09 Re: healthier colonies
* * * *
Here is an article I wrote for
the Global Patties site and sent in for BeeNews. This is another
of my pet peeves.
The Cost of
Not Feeding Enough Protein
In the last ten years, most
successful commercial beekeepers in North America have learned the
importance of feeding protein patties in spring.
My point in writing this note is to
express my concern and disappointment that many -- if not most --
beekeepers are not feeding enough protein for a long enough period
to obtain the maximum bang for their buck or to protect their bees
from wintering losses. Many beekeepers are only feeding a patty or
two, and some have decided not to feed at all. Some feed too early.
A year or two back, some very good
beekeepers I know and who had fed patties for years quit feeding
patties because they figured they had enough -- or even too many --
bees and did not think they needed to stimulate the colonies. Since
they had been feeding patties for years, they had become used to
great wintering success and good spring build-up and got to taking
that for granted.
HOWEVER, this year, for the first
time in a while, they had late winter losses and bad build-up that
affected their honey crop very significantly. Sad, but entirely
predictable. The patty feeding had given their bees an edge, but the
charm wore off after they quit feeding.
Frankly, I feed as much as a colony
will take until mid-June at least, and for a very simple reason. In
my early beekeeping years, we had variable and unpredictable
wintering success, and also variable spring build-up. When we began
feeding patties, we immediately noticed that the bees were more
robust-looking, BUT the huge bonus was that our wintering loss the
following winters stabilized at around 12% - 15%, meaning that 85%
of the previous year's colony count was viable in mid-April. (We
don't cull in the fall. We just winter everything that is alive) and
the surviving colonies thrived better in the spring.
|I owe my success to
having listened respectfully to the very best advice,
and then going away and doing the exact opposite. G. K.
Chesterton (1874 - 1936)
We subsequently noticed this
consistently excellent survival rate over a period of many years.
Previous to feeding patties, we had had losses ranging up to 40%, or
even 50% on occasion. Small, predicable losses were a huge relief
after the catastrophic losses we formerly experienced and convinced
us that feeding patties was good, cheap insurance.
Packages are expensive. Feeding
patties to your existing hives is the cheapest way to get more bees,
and also simplify hive management. Granted, some years, the results
of feeding are less obvious and it almost seems that feeding was not
necessary, if you look at only the immediate results, BUT, if you
consider the reduced probability loss the next winter, the patties
pay for themselves many times over.
Losing even one hive means a cash
loss in the order of $100 or more. That $100 would feed 4 patties
each to more than 20 hives and make some hives survive that
wouldn't, and make more hives splitable. Each extra surviving
overwintered hive, or additional split pays for many, many patties.
Plus, finding weak hives in spring means far more work, less honey
income and less pollination bonus.
What kind of patty is best? I suppose
it depends on your intent. If you want to feed lots of patties and
keep the hive loaded with patties, as they do in some areas of the
US, then fast consumption is desirable, and extra pollen might be
advisable, but many beekeepers just put on a patty or two and that
is it. In my opinion, they are not getting the full benefit of
feeding and maybe even doing some damage on occasion. If they are
only planning on feeding a patty or two, it would be better if the
patties were consumed more slowly, so the cheaper, no-pollen patties
would be my choice.
My advice? Feed as many patties as
the hive will consume during build-up and until the weather is
settled or the main flow is approaching. I think you get a bigger
bang for the buck from patties without pollen, or maybe 4% at most.
I realize that the higher pollen levels may increase consumption and
be a little more nutritious, but as far as nutrition per dollar, I
think the plain patties are the best deal.
More ideas on protein feeding are
* * * *
I received another reply to my
enquiries about The Green Certificate.
|Good Morning Allen,
It's always nice to hear from the authors and contributors of the
curriculum manuals! I'm not sure which website address you followed,
but the Green Certificate Program website (
http://agriculture.alberta.ca/greencertificate ) has direct
links to the beekeeping specialty and resources. The website
features an overview of the beekeeping specialty along with a small
page of resources.
Currently the beekeeping specialty has 8 trainees across the
province actively enrolled. 6 are in the Peace region with the south
and northwest regions each having 1 trainee. The Green Certificate
Program has 890 trainees (active) to date.
In regards to promotion of the beekeeping specialty (and the program
in general), the Green Certificate Program is represented at
agricultural tradeshows across the province. This year we'll be at
the Peace Country Classic and Lethbridge's Ag-Expo. We just got back
from Red Deer's Agri-Trade. We'll be attending the 4-H Leader's
Conference as well as looking to speak at the 4-H Senior Members'
Conference. This past August, a Green Certificate presentation was
highlighted at the National Agriculture Awareness Conference.
The program's 5 regional coordinators continue to present the
program to interested students, trainers and testers in their
regions in addition to coordinating testing events, off-farm
training days and orientation events.
Over the past years, the Green Certificate Program has presented at
'Building Tomorrow Today' (a conference for career counsellors) and
Alberta Education's CTS Conferences (which is the area that Green
Certificate falls under in the high school system). This is in
addition to numerous general agricultural tradeshows, 4-H
conferences, home school conferences and speaking in Alberta high
March 2008 marked the launch of the Green Certificate Employment
Directory, which is an online resource making it easier for Green
Certificate program trainees and graduates to make connections to
agricultural employers. The directory also features a twist! Youth
and adults who are interested in receiving Green Certificate
training, but perhaps do not have access to a farm/agricultural
operation can indicate their interest on-line. Employers and
trainers are encouraged to post job opportunities, as well as
consider if they have room on their operation to have a trainee work
along side of them. To promote this directory (and the program in
general), I've been attending career fairs hosted by Alberta
Employment, Immigration and Industry in various communities across
the province. Recently I presented at the Alberta Career Educator's
Network conference in Leduc, to an audience of very enthusiastic
More specifically about the beekeeping specialty, the first E-News
article to go out was focused on the beekeeping specialty -- and the
same article ran in the October 2008 edition of the Green
Certificate News. This newsletter is mailed out to 1200 households
three times a year. If you're not already on the mailing list, I'd
be happy to add your name and address.
I receive the Alberta Bee News magazine at the office, and have been
in contact with Gertie Adair for permission to cruise the Alberta
Beekeeper's Association website job ads to place them on the GC
employment directory, as well.
I hope this additional information about the Green Certificate
Program's beekeeping status, new employment directory and
promotional work helps to answer your questions. I have your phone
number written down from the phone message, so perhaps I'll send
this e-mail first and then follow up with a phone call to ensure
you've received it... and to answer any additional questions.
If you're not already signed up to receive the E-news letter, I hope
that you'll pop over to subscribe.
Nicole Hornett, B.Sc, AHT
Green Certificate Program Coordinator
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
I really do not need another newsletter, but I
would like to see the programme promoted where it will do the most good: to
beekeepers, and I would like to see the programme maintain up-to-date resources
on a website that correspond to the references in the course.
I replied saying that I'm glad that things are
progressing, but that the programme needs to be promoted to
beekeepers, since future beekeepers usually learn about beekeeping
and opportunities from beekeepers and we are not hearing much about the
programme. Hopefully they will start advertising at conventions and
meetings and in bee newsletters. Readers here have some contact points
* * * *
I posted to BEE-L again first
thing this morning and the message still has not been approved, although
several others have come through since. Here we go again.
(Later) It turns out that the
moderator's Spam filter had eaten several posts and my messages are now
approved. Nonetheless I am a bit hair triggered since I am still sore
about being attacked and having my mild and polite response delayed by the
moderator several years back. That had been the last straw and the final
cause of my leaving BEE-L. I had -- apparently unsubstantiated -- visions
of that starting again. I should know these things can happen because I
was a long time moderator, and because I wrote the BEE-L
rejection explanation page, but it seemed
too much of a coincidence on my first day back to be an accident.
Apparently it was. Here are today's posts:
||Re: Genetic compatibility effects on caste
||Re: healthier colonies
||Re: healthier colonies
* * * *
Beekeeping Economics in Alberta (again):
We've been over this more than few times,
but it seems that whenever we take the heat off, everything comes to a halt.
The long and the short of it is this: Alberta agreed to an embargo on mainland
US bees temporarily when tracheal mites were a new and unknown
threat. The closure might well have been impossible without our
co-operation.. As it was, the border was closed in two stages, east, then
Once the threats of tracheal mites and varroa
were found to manageable and that the mites were less damaging than being cut
off from our traditional source of bees in California, we found that our
'friends', the people we had helped by being so agreeable, would not return the
favour, and fought us tooth and nail, and even exhibited some large degree of
and nastiness whenever the topic was brought up. Our president, Barrie
Termeer, who was a
strong supporter and contributor to CHC was rudely and loudly shouted down
at a CHC meeting in Banff when he dared suggest that
we rationally discuss the topic of sourcing US bees.
There is a lot
more history, including the matter of Alberta managing to get bees from Hawaii,
against great opposition from out of province, then finding the very provinces
which had fought the initiative lined up to compete for supply.
Several years ago,
I spent months researching and writing articles examining the question.
I figured that once the facts were known, that the problems would solve
themselves. Sadly, the articles are a relevant today as they were back then.
|Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but
wish we didn't. Erica Jong
If CHC cannot decide to assist each province
in achieving its goals, then it has to go. It can and will be
replaced by a co-operative organisation that respects and works for the goals of
all member groups.
On issues like the border, in order to
please the provinces which need bee imports, there is no reason that the
border cannot be opened completely federally, with provinces each having their
own regulations regarding what may and may not enter their domain.
We do that with alcohol. If an 18-year-old Albertan wants to bring some
liquor back from the USA, no problem --as long as he/she is entering Alberta.
That same person would have trouble crossing from the USA into some other
provinces with that same bottle until a year or more later. The same logic
can apply to bees and bee items. It is too simple.
might claim that the border between the provinces are not well protected,
but in my experience, provincial borders are respected every bit as as much as
the US/Canada border is. There are incidents of bees being moved across
borders no matter how well defended, and bees already fly freely across between
the US and Canada in many provinces!
Here is a map of Canada (Click
to enlarge) for those who are unaware how much bee pasture lies right
along our international border. Seven out of ten Canadian provinces and one
territory share land borders with the US. Six of those seven have
significant bee populations adjacent to their US border!
Who are we kidding? There is no
sensible justification for prohibiting traffic in bees. The whole idea is
based on hypothetical arguments, ignorance and fear.