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A positive attitude may not solve all your problems,
but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
 -- Herm Albright (1876 - 1944)

 

Pictures from August
Aaron and I went tubing up on the Sacandaga in the Adirondacks', then visited one of his yards near Albany

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November 2008
Novembers past: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

 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
Novembers past: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Honey Bee World Forum

Convention Notes:

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 year.

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:

Allen:

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.

Kenn

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 the world.  He needs -- for our sake as much as that of science -- to network with them and attend International meetings.  He has 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 (CHC) 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 holding together.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

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.

I've 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
Novembers past: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

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 participation.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

Green Certificate

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:

Hi Allen.

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 area.

HENRY CZARNOTA
Green Certificate/FOIP Coordinator
Student Recruitment
Olds College
4500 - 50 street
Olds, AB T4H 1R6  Canada

Phone:  403-507-7912
Cell Phone: 403-507-0434
Toll Free:  (800) 661-6537
email:  hczarnota@oldscollege.ca
www.oldscollege.ca

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 days.

  • 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 wooden parts.

Saturday, November 8th, 2008
Novembers past: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

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 compensate.

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 splits). 

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 camaraderie.

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 interpreted.

(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.

Dr. 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 pollination.

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.

Speaking of Global Patties, 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 has no secret ingredients or fancy ads.  Most of their business comes by word of mouth.

Sunday, November 9th, 2008
SunnyMax: 4.1C Min: -3.8C
Novembers past: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Honey Bee World Forum

Jean, 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 walked 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 dime more.

AFB research

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.

A 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).

 Hi Richard,

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 wasteful.

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 and error?

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
CloudyMax -2 Min -7C
Normals: Max: 3C Min: -8C

Novembers past: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

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 levies.

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 be funded.

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 to:

1.) 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
 (A warning)

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 available at http://www.globalpatties.com/pages/why.htm

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

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 schools.

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 career counsellors.

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.

Sincerely,

Nicole Hornett, B.Sc, AHT
Green Certificate Program Coordinator
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

Ph: 780.644.5378
Fax: 780.422.7755
Web: http://agriculture.alberta.ca/greencertificate

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 now.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *   

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:

067189 Re: Genetic compatibility effects on caste determination
067188 Re: healthier colonies
067166 Re: healthier colonies

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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 west.

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 Schedenfreud 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.

Some 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.

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