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More snow!

Thursday March 20th 2014
First Day of Spring 2014

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I'm back in Swalwell.  The weather forecasts were optimistic.  There is a little new snow and the forecast is for more -- and wind.  This is hardly weather for working bees.  I could have stayed in Sidney.  I can, however get the tax papers together in any weather and be ready for any decent weather we get.

I woke up tired from the flight and the late night, so I began the day with something easy and undemanding -- by going over to Shirley's to clean up her computer.

Her home machine has been invaded by MyPC Backup, Conduit Search, and Advanced System Protector, the same junk that was on her computer at Stemz.  I assume she had visited the same infection source on both.  She has Norton on this machine and it did not prevent the invasion.

I downloaded Malwarebytes and ran it, getting 409 bad items.  I removed them and rebooted. Then I went through the registry with regedit and removed all the MyPC Backup entries.  I also deleted all the rogue program directories.

After that, I downloaded Winpatrol and Spybot 1.6.2 and installed and ran them.  Spybot found more items that Malwarebytes had missed (!?), and deleted them and rebooted.  Spybot is running a boot-up scan now.  That takes a while.

I drove home and back a couple of times while the scans were running. The first trip was OK, but by the time I went the second time the roads (right) were slushy and I encountered white-outs in the half-mile trip.

When the cleanup was complete, I set up two non-admin user accounts on the machine, one for her and one for her husband.  They had both been using the administrator account and blaming one another for the infections

The infections are usually not the user's fault since this stuff is everywhere and tricky.  Unless the user is very savvy or well protected, it gets in.

Even smart, informed users get the odd bug.  I've had the odd one and who knows?  Even in spite of several layers of defense and scans, I could have one now.  The anti-malware developers are always, necessarily, one step behind the malware developers and learn about these nasties after they are in the wild for at least a little while.

Shirley was going to leave for Calgary, but I told her to forget it.  She would not get far.  I was planning to invite the usual suspects here for supper, but that idea is not going to work out.

This is the sort of weather that weakens and kills overwintering colonies.  They can stand cold, especially before they build up, but now, when after they have been weakened by winter and are beginning to expand the brood area, they are vulnerable to chilling and starvation.  Unless they are safe from wind, and well insulated, they will be stressed.

This a  reason not to feed too early or otherwise stimulate colonies.  If colonies expand their brood area too early, parts of it will be chilled and the bees will be stressed trying to keep it warm.

In my experience, colonies that conserve food, energy and strength for when conditions are right will result in colonies that surpass colonies that are stimulated early, and be healthier.  Nosema is a stress disease, and stressing bees is linked to high incidence of nosema.

I had intended to get out to install Apivar into the hives and to put on patties, but today will not be the day.  I still have a week or so to get it done on schedule, and I need to go to Airdrie to get patties.  Today will not be the day for that either.

Joe Latshaw just sent me a link to a 6-frame EPS nuc box available in the US.  Does anyone have experience with them?

As time passes, I am increasingly having problems with my web software.  The techs who maintain my servers keep bricking up openings in the servers that could be exploited by hackers, but this also restricts bona fide access.   I was locked out yesterday, as any who looked for the day's post might have observed.  I was on the boat and using cellular access, so did not pursue the matter then, hoping it to be transitory.  Apparently it is not.

If this keeps up, and the direction it has been going, nobody, including the owners and authorized users, will be able to access the machines.  Currently, I am having to FTP, rather than publish by HTTP, and this method is awkward since I have more limited ability to access multiple directories at once.  I'm hoping that the latest problem can be identified and fixed.

Well, up until now, when I need FTP, I have been using Filezilla but not taking full advantage of the advanced features for casual uploads.  It seems now, however, that I need them, and I am appreciating what this free (I think I donated, though) software can do  This software has come a long way from the command line FTP I used back in the 200 baud dial-up modem days of Internet.  For one thing the synchronized browsing feature is slick and allows co-ordinated browsing through two copies of the same site.

Heav'n hath no rage like love to hatred turn'd, Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn'd.
William Congreve

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Friday March 21st 2014

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I'm up at 0400 today and cooking beans.  Congestion again, and things on my mind.  Today, I plan to exercise and to shuffle paper.  I have a day of this, at least, that must be done, and another week of going through old files that I should get around to.  Weather-wise, today does not look much better than yesterday.

Regarding the web problem, here is what my techs say:

"As for FrontPage extensions themselves, support for them has been completely dropped, FP has for quite some time been at end of life, and Microsoft is dropping support for the software itself in April this year completely as well, so extensions have been dropped already, and there won't be further support for them.".

I knew this day was coming, but was hoping not too soon.

Oh, well.  Everything passes, but things are piling on this week.  I wonder if it is time to give up this diary again.  I stopped writing for a while back in 2005 and took down the site, but put it back up a year later, due to demand.

When I get up, I like to listen to Calgary CBC radio, but before 0500, Local (Calgary) CBC plays material from other networks offshore and they tend to be about grim topics.

As a result, I use Tunein radio on my tablet or phone, or radio websites on my computer to time-shift and listen to morning shows from elsewhere.  Right now, I am listening to CBC Sudbury.  Their weather sounds to be no better than ours.  I'll be there in a little over a week.

I recall when listening to foreign shortwave stations was an exotic experience with fading, phase shift, and telemetry interference adding to the mystery.  These days, just about any major radio station in the world is streaming online.

What is that forecast again?  At 0830, the sun is coming up and the day looks promising.

We are still a long way from seeing runoff.  I'd say it is still a week away, at least.  In average years, we had the pond melted and filling quickly on March 17th, but this year things are still buried deep in snow.

Call me a denier if you like, but Global Warming is not happening here that I can see.  I did notice that they changed the title of this scam to "Climate Change" when the warming did not work out as planned.

IMO, the effect of human activity on overall warming is impossible to determine, but there are definitely localized effects, particularly near power plants and cities.   Elsewhere, the normal climactic fluctuations make separating the signal from noise a rather subjective pursuit. 

The globe has been warming for at least 10,000 years.  10,000 years ago this location was under a mile of ice according to the same sort of jokers who are telling us industrial activity and fuel consumption  are causing the warming.  Climate change has been happening throughout recorded history and before, destroying civilizations as their water supplies and agricultural areas changed.

 As for the claimed influence of human released C02 on warming, I think that is a myth and a huge scam.  People believe the most preposterous things, and this is only one.  Populations cannot be ruled by logic. If people think they understand and can argue, they will, but if the lie is preposterous enough, people tend to believe. 

All civilizations have been controlled by myths.  Who among us can recognize all the myths that constrain us?

Global warming has been going on ever since the last ice age and is actually the cause of civilization, not the result of civilization.  Looking back in history and beyond, warming, climate change and the effects has been a constant theme and advances have coincided with warming periods and hardship and greater strife with the cooling periods. 

Today is no different, except for the amazing scale of human populations. The real problem with what we are doing is not climate change so much as the pollution and depletion of natural resources resulting from our unprecedented population boom.  Historically, population and resource problems have resolved themselves with the aid of The Four Horsemen.  I am hoping this time will be different, but can't se any reason why it should be.

I'm finished procrastinating for now and am going down to exercise, then shuffle paper.  Have a nice day.

Well, I figured out how to delay the paperwork a bit longer.  I called Mike at Global Patties about another matter -- we are going sailing in May -- and I'm headed down there to get some patties so I will be ready to finish my hives when the weather is right.

I have about seventy hives and if sixty are good, that means 1-1/2 boxes of Global patties will put one patty on each hive.  My hives are set up so that I can put on many more, and I plan to be away for a while so I'll put on at least four per hive (average).  I'll put more patties on strong hives and fewer on weaker ones.  That means I need six boxes -- minimum.

I'll install the Apivar at the same time and hopefully will not have to do much feeding.  I don't want to play with feeders.  If some hives hare too heavy and some too light, I may move feed. There also are usually good feed combs in deadouts and as long as they are not dirty, I'll use them, too 

I do have frame feeders and a tote of syrup, but filling them means setting up pumps and fooling around.  I also want to do a minimum of disturbance and do not want to stimulate the colonies too much.

I drove to Airdrie over icy roads, had a good visit with the Darazs, then loaded 10 boxes of patties and went grocery shopping.  On the way home, I called Ruth.  She was at the Guzoo and Zippy was with her, so I drove by the zoo and picked up Zippy.  As I returned home, steam was rising from the pavement, but the temperature is still almost minus ten.

He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.
 Sir Winston Churchill

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Saturday March 22nd 2014

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I slept nine hours and awoke refreshed. Last night I had very little congestion for a change.  Some time back in 2012, I read an article by Dr. Gabe Mirkin: Chronic Stuffy Nose and bought some bacitracin ointment.  I can't recall if it worked at the time or not, but I decided to try it again yesterday.  So far, so good.  Here are some related articles on Dr. Mirkin's site.

We are again finding our temperatures far below normals for an extended period, but the sun is higher in the sky and the days are now longer than the nights.  This should clear the snow quickly in the coming weeks when we do get warm days.

When I returned home, I had planned to get the beekeeping done and rush back to Sidney to be there when Jean and the kids go out to visit Mom on Monday, but now am thinking that I will stay here in Swalwell until later in the week.  There is much to do, and, besides, I like it here.

In spite of the cold weather outside, the living room is bright and sunny. I have lots to do and good companions, in Zippy and Amos, and my tropical plants.  I'm looking forward to working on the bees.

This year, I have received a lot of interest in purchasing bees from me.

So far, my response has been:


People are starting to think about bees for this year and calling and writing, but it is still too early for me to predict how many I will have, the prices, or to predict delivery dates.

Some want to buy packages or nucs, and install and nurse them
through to the main flows in July and August, but I do not get involved in that business. I sell colonies that are ready to go and need only minor management -- adding an optional second brood chamber and supers -- to produce honey.

I sell established single box colonies ready for seconds and supers. These hives are built up and ready for purchase in late May and June. If I have hives left after that, I'll sell hives in July and August if anyone wants them.

I will not be selling nucs or packages or queens, but may have a few spare queens in May and after.

My experience this last year was positive, with many satisfied customers and no complaints. Although there is always some risk of queen failure, etc., the risks in buying established colonies are fewer than with packages and nucs, and less expertise is required to produce honey.

I expect to have enough hives to meet demand and am adding the email addresses of people who contact me to a list. When the time comes, I'll email everyone with details.

My stock is mostly Saskatraz and raised in my own yards.

Allen Dick
The Old Schoolhouse
Swalwell Alberta T0M 1Y0

Everything is an essential utility that I use every so often when I need to find something on my hard drive.  Other searches do not find everything, but Everything does, and quickly.

I am expecting company this afternoon and for supper, so that gave me an excuse to get out the little vacuum cleaner I bought for picking up water in the basement and cleaning up after my plants.  The dropping leaves are mostly from the ferns.  Ferns seem to drop more than all the others combined and the pieces they drop are hard to clean up.  My  regular floor vacuum does not handle leaves well.

This little machine is cheap to buy -- $39 at Home Depot -- and is very portable and powerful.  I have one down East that I used to empty the water out of Carpe Diem, my 23.5 Hunter sailboat, after I pressure-washed the interior last June.  (For some reason, I paid only $20 for that one in Sudbury, and double that for this one in Alberta).  It is an amazing tool for cleaning water up off the floor.

> One observation that I have made, (re: early or mid. May Formic
> treatment), is that any traces of nozema disappear quickly once the
> treatment starts, perhaps it is just the fact that any sick bees are
> quickly knocked off by the treatment?

Could be. I don't know what you mean by traces of nosema though, since nosema by itself shows no unique visible symptoms. Diagnosis has to be done by mashing the digestive tract and examining a diluted slurry under a 400X microscope. A visual examination of the digestive tract can be done by pulling the bee apart, but that method of diagnosis has proven unreliable.

> I have suspected also that any fecal contamination may be sterilized
> by the formic. I may be way off on that assumption, but I am
> thinking that Acetic acid has a close acid number to Formic Acid.

That is possible.

> Acetic Acid is recommended to treat dead out frames.

I have never found that to be necessary and doubt it does much good except to keep beekeepers occupied and too busy to molest their beehives, which often stresses the bees and spreads disease.

(I think of opening hives and moving frames in the same terms as open-heart surgery. Do it when absolutely indicated and with full knowledge of the parameters, but don't do it just because you can. By all means, lift a lid in almost any weather to take a glance, but don't meddle further unless conditions are right and you have to).

> I have wondered also if Acetic acid has any effect on the frame
> containing honey?, as bees could be infected with old spore infected
> honey.

I think we worry too much about spores and infection, other than the spread of active infections by rough handling and crushing bees unnecessarily or injudicious moving of obviously infected frames between hives.

The contamination in fecal smears declines over time and with exposure to air and light. In my experience, strong colonies can handle reasonable amounts without apparent harm in the summer season.

I never fumigate and I have almost no nosema when I take out the microscope to check. I see a bit of streaking sometimes, but its cause is usually something else. Streaking seems to be normal, even on apparently healthy hives at certain times and can be the result of too much moisture and full rectums (is that the plural?) from confinement or fermented food -- or organisms other than nosema.

> For many years I have used the recommended Fumagelin Antibiotic
> treatments

I don't use fumagillan or other antibiotics unless a sample has conclusively proven the need. (Even then, I never use it). Additionally, fumigillan use may exacerbate the problem in some circumstances.

> It seems that eventually if there is some focus on Nozema control,
> (including recycling the old black frames) Nosema becomes less and
> less of an issue.

I don't worry about the age or colour of frames and only cull if the frame is otherwise unsuitable.

> Somewhere along the way I would much prefer to avoid antibiotics
> perhaps

At times, an antibiotic can be the best solution and save bees and equipment, but only where the need has been proven and the appropriate method and amount has been determined.

Fumigillan is an antibiotic and is banned in some European countries for its mutagenic properties.

OTC and Tylosin are also antibiotics. Each has its proper place in the IPM toolkit.

> To change the subject a bit, Acetic acid was also considered as a
> frame treatment for American Foul brood, has this been
> determined not to be the case?

I doubt it has any effect and AFB is far less of a problem than people think. If detected early, AFB can usually be cleared up with little fear of recurrence.

Beekeepers who are properly trained, bother to look, and have good vision and good light can spot it easily and prevent the typical disaster that happens only after the infection has gone undetected for weeks and months. If you see sunken capped cells with melted pupae inside, chances are that the infection is weeks or months old.

Good, hygienic bees can clean up small amounts of AFB without a trace. A little antibiotic, applied carefully, can assist the process if there is doubt.

> In a recent seminar Medhat stated that only the Iotron
> treatment will destroy AFB bacterium?

He is basically correct if we mean the spores. Although the vegetative stage of AFB is susceptible to drugs, spores (seeds) are really tough to kill, but time and coating with wax can reduce their viability.

Iotron uses electron-bean radiation that kills more diseases than AFB and may have an effect on viruses, too, although most viruses don't last long outside the host anyhow.

A problem with irradiating comb with AFB scale is that later, when placed back in a hive, if the bees do not remove it the beekeeper cannot tell if it is from a fresh infection, or from a previous infection that was irradiated.

It takes a number of viable spores germinating in a pupa in a very limited window of time to kill the pupa and produce a breakdown. One spore can't do it.

Good bees in a strong colony will detect the dead pupa and remove the infection before sporulation occurs.

(The weather is) Not much good for bee work. I have ten boxes of Global's best patties and packages of Apivar sitting waiting to go on. I'm hoping to get out there in the next few days.

Mike and Liz came by and stayed for supper. After supper, I decided to use the dishwasher.  I don't usually have enough dishes to make running it worthwhile, but tonight, I did.

The problem was that the last time I ran it, the dishes did not come clean.  I knew I would have to take it apart and clean the screens.  After a few initial false tries removing the bottom spinner -- I always forget the centre screws down, not up, as would seem logical -- I remembered how to do the job and it only took a half-hour.  The dishes are washing now.

Although we were careful what went in since the last time I had to clean it (Mar 3, 2012), at right is part of what I found blocking the screens.  Yes, that is a shard of glass, some paper, and a big piece of melted plastic. I also have found that using powdered detergent instead of the pouches or pucks seems to leave a residue of insoluble powder that plugs things further, but I has some and have been using it up.  My mistake.  See also November 5th 2011.

This dishwasher automatically adjusts the cycle according to how long it thinks the load will take and shows the calculated cycle on a readout.  The cycles were as long as 97 minutes before the cleaning, and the dishes did not come clean.  The first load after cleaning the filters ran 27 minutes and everything came out sparking.  I think I will throw out the rest of the powdered detergent as it simply does not work as well, and leaves a residue in the machine in crevices and the filter.

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

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Sunday March 23rd 2014

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Another cold day is coming up, and I am waiting for an opportunity to work on the bees.

I managed eight hours of sleep last night, but the congestion is back.  The bacitracin did not work this time.  I still cannot pin down the cause of the sinus problem.

I am starting to wonder when the runoff will occur and how heavy it will be.  I am concerned that being late by weeks, it could be fast.  There is a lot of snow on the field above the pond and I suspect there is potential for the pond overflowing.  The days in coming weeks will be longer and the sun hotter than even a few weeks ago, when we normally see the last of the snow melt and run off.  This could potentially result in faster melting upstream and stronger runoff.

If the overflow is heavy, there is a risk of the berm washing out.  The overflow (spillway) should carry the overflow safely -- as long as it is not blocked by ice and snow.  Since I am scheduled to go away by April 1st, if the final flush does not happen by then, I will have to get my neighbours to watch for problems.

Here are some interesting links:

From Joe Traynor's March newsletter

Clearing the Air

A few years back, one of our beekeepers used most of his almond check to upgrade his bee hives – replacing tattered, leaky boxes with brand new tight boxes.

The following almond season, he went from bringing great bees to bringing weak, struggling colonies – from lousy looking boxes with great colonies to beautiful boxes with lousy colonies. When the pollen patties he fed during the winter turned moldy he got a clue: poor air circulation was damaging his bees, making them more susceptible to diseases. This makes sense when one considers that colds and viruses can spread rapidly when school children are confined to small classrooms. Bees naturally prefer and, if given a choice, will choose a domicile with good air circulation (a tree-hollow or an old house).

Here’s Ben Franklin on fresh air (excerpted from an essay on the subject): “Another means of preserving health is the having a constant supply of fresh air in your bedchamber….Confined air, when saturated with perspiable matter will not receive more, and that matter must remain in our bodies and occasion disease.”

The beekeeper referenced above drilled upper entrance holes in his top box and his colonies are much improved. A 1947 book on hive ventilation was reprinted last year and is highly recommended: The Ventilation of Bee-Hives by E.B. Wedmore.

I found this interesting since I have auger holes in all brood boxes.  I also have plugs to open and close them. 

I seldom use entrance reduces, except in new splits.  In new splits, colony geometry has been changed and the result may be stress until the colony adjusts.

Warning: Keep in mind that ventilation can be overdone, especially in continental northern climates.  Bees need to maintain heat and moisture within limits and a reasonably tight hive with small, properly located vents can assist in this goal.

Too much or too little ventilation will result in colonies -- especially weak colonies -- expending a lot of energy on controlling these factors, rather than doing other important tasks, and this burden may have an impact on the health of the colony.

At the Calgary presentation I gave recently, there was some concern about Amitraz, the active ingredient in Apivar.  I indicated that I am not greatly concerned about risk, as all the treatments have their risks and almost all are artificially produced, not "natural".  Besides some "natural" products are quite noxious and toxic.

I mentioned that Amitraz is used in sheep drenches and flea collars.  Here is a link.  And another

I am not saying Apivar is harmless, but that it does not seem more noxious than many of the "natural" chemicals like menthol, thymol, eucalyptus, etc.   There is some suggestion that Amitraz could be carcinogenic, but many common chemicals are, and the risk is usually proportional to the amount, the method and length of exposure.  For that matter, fumagillin is suspect as a mutagen.

Apparently, the mammalian system can clear Amitraz and recover completely, although the literature seems sketchy and toxicity does vary among species. (Does anyone have better info?)  

I trust that with appropriate gloves and care and with using the minimum allowable treatment  for the proper period that the risk in using Apivar is negligible.

I had a nap in the afternoon and fell into a very deep sleep as I often do when I lie down in the afternoon.

Oene and Joe came for supper and brought me some more Apivar.  I had been a bit short of what I expect to need for my colonies. 

Once the Apivar is in, I am hoping I don't have to worry about varroa for a year, although I will be checking.

For centuries, theologians have been explaining the
unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.
 Henry Louis Mencken

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Monday March 24th 2014

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Today is Monday and, although we are starting off as cold as recent days, today promises to more promising than the days since I returned.

I'm hoping the fields will continue to melt down to bare ground, lessening the risk of rapid runoff, and that the day will prove suitable to start working on the bees. 

My patties are in the van still, and I should warm them before I take them out.  I should really have brought them in a day or two ago.

I brought a few boxes in to warm up in preparation for working on the hives later today.  They measure minus one on the thermometer (right), and are probably colder than that inside and will take a while to warm up.  I could put the patties on cold, but I try to minimize stress when working with the bees and I think that pays off in less nosema and other stress diseases.  Warming the feed reduces the stress of disturbing them.

By four in the afternoon, the breeze had died and the sun was warm enough to allow me to work on the bees.  I could have begun earlier, except for the wind, but I did go out to plug in the truck at two-thirty and put a battery charger on.  I had tried starting, but it had cranked slowly.

At 1600, I went to start the truck and it just clicked.  I think the starter has failed.  It was getting weaker and weaker lately. Fortunately, I think I have a brand new one downstairs, left from when I ran a fleet of 6.9. diesels. This is a 7.3, but the charts say they cross over.

I got out the kids' sled and prepared to get to work.  I expected to need snowshoes, but the snow crust was strong enough, I just walked to the hives over the top of the drifts.

The first group I worked on were the worst of last fall's hives.  I had brought them up from the south yard and they had never done well.  In fact, there were quite a few losses in that yard even before I moved them up. That is them on the right and the loss in that group was 25%.  Where I had doubled up weak hives in that bunch last fall, the combined hive was strong.

It turned out that most hives have five frames of bees right now.  If they were spread out, they would have ten, but right now, they have 5 frames +/-1 or 2.   Only two hives had enough bees that they warranted an extra strip according to the label. 

I figure if the instructions say a strip for each five frames of bees, anything with les than 7-1/2 full frames of bees gets one.  Anything with more than 7-1/2 gets two.  How many full frames of bees do you see in the hive above at left?  At right is the same hive with patties added.

At left is a good-looking hive with a strip hung in the middle using a toothpick.  Using the tab that is punched from the strip hangs the strip from one side only and tends to bow the strip, forcing it against the comb on the opposite side.  A toothpick lets it hang straight down.

Note the wax on the top bars.  Leaving the wax and not scraping top bars unless a box is going on leaves these handy spacers to hold the patties off the top bars to allow better bee access and prevent crushing bees when applying patties.

Controlling bees in winter and spring with just smoke is difficult since the bees just ignore the smoke.  Spraying the bees lightly with water occasionally while smoking makes the bees respond to smoke and achieves much better control.

It feels good to get back out there, and although the first group was a bit depressing, the second made up for it. I managed to get Apivar in and patties onto almost half my hives, rearranged the feed in two hives -- and it only took two hours.

  I have now worked on 29 hives with 5 being dead, for a loss rate so far of 17%. 

That is not too bad if the count does not go up.  Some of the hives that are dead were not very good in the first place. The second group I did had no dead hives and is more typical.  I do know that several are dead south of the pond, though, so if the final loss is 15%, and does not increase much before May I will be pleased.  My long-term median loss was in the 15% range. 

Each beekeeper will have different reported results due to differing ways of operating, and of counting loss.  Some cull heavily in fall or double up all the weak hives, taking the loss in fall, not winter, and not counting it as winter loss.  Others, like myself let weaker hives have a chance at wintering and expect to have a bit higher winter mortality.

Some count their losses in April, some at splitting time in May.  Some count anything under two or three frames as 'lost', others boost them and nurse them and call then 'live'.

Although the poorer hives have a higher likelihood of loss, some usually perform very well.  The reasons for a hive looking weaker in fall may be simply be things like a late start for the queen, drifting, a conservative bee type that normally winters with small clusters, or other factors which do not necessarily mean the hive will not winter or build up in spring.  Often these weaklings will surprise us since they have young, fresh queens that did not start until fall after the hive dwindled a bit under the former queen.

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
C. Northcote Parkinson

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Tuesday March 25th 2014

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At 0824, the sun is coming up nicely, and although we are still at minus eleven, there is hope for the day being a good day for outdoor work.

Today is my chance to finish the bees.  I may be able to do some work in the coming days, but we are promised considerable snowfall over the next few days and the forecast is for overcast skies.  I will open hives regardless of temperature above minus ten as long as the sun is high in the sky and there is no wind.

I also will test and maybe replace the starter on the truck.  First I have to prove that the problem is the starter motor itself and that is easy to prove.  I'll put a jumper from the battery positive to the power stud on the starter.  It should spin.  I may also have to activate the solenoid if it is mounted on the motor.

Now, at 1134, we have a strong, cold SE wind. I'm hoping it dies down soon.

I went out and confirmed the starter is shot, then looked online.  I'm not so sure now that the one I have is right. We'll see. I did not want to spend the time today o changing starters since I don't really need the truck and it turned nice enough to work on bees.  I need to do the bees.  I don't need to do the truck.

I walked over, pulling the sled and did the Quonset West yard.  All eight look 100%.

 37 hives done, 5 dead.

Some were so good that they needed two strips.  I put five patties on some of them.

It occurs to me that what we are really treating is the brood area, not the total number of bees.  Although there are varroa all through the cluster, the greatest concentration is near the brood on bees that seldom venture far from brood except during honey flows.  Placing the strips right in the middle is essential.  I wonder if the nurse bees are territorial or if the will wander from occupied brood frame to occupied brood frame or stay on just one frame?

I took a break and then hauled more patties out to the Quonset.  The first group had nine hive and three were dead. The temperature was fairly mild, but the water in the nozzle my spray bottle froze, making it useless.

I came across one hive that had dwindled to a handful of greasy-looking bees (left).  I shook them out.  They were miserable and had no hope, plus pose a risk to other colonies.  The picture somehow makes them look much better than they actually appeared to the eye.

As I worked, I had to add feed frames to some hives and doubled two fairly weak ones up to make one hive.

 46 done and 8 dead.

The next group had five hives, with two dead.

51 done, 10 dead. 20% loss so far.

I began on the second last group and did three hives before it began to snow. I now have thirteen hives left to work over.

Total wintering hive count: 67.

Delay is the deadliest form of denial.
C. Northcote Parkinson

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Wednesday March 26th 2014

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We received the promised snow overnight and more is coming.  We're at minus eight this morning, but I hope to get out and finish the bee work today.  I might even swap starter motors on the truck.

Although I hate to work bees in cool weather, I found yesterday that I was doing considerable good and that the bees were not being harmed by being opened. 

The colonies are strong and, even at minus temperatures, bees flew up and back into the hives.  Any that were dropped on the snow or left out when I closed up, obviously perished, and that is sad.  I was as careful as I could be. 

I am consoled by the knowledge that doing this now is an necessary evil, and that I must get the Apivar in now, and the patties on so that the hives will flourish later.  In a few cases, I found colonies  were getting to where they would run out of feed soon and had to add frames of feed so that the hives would not starve in coming weeks. That said, many -- most -- would have been fine on their own until May, other than needing the Apivar. 

I know that if I do not treat now, in this ideal window of time, that huge problems will emerge later.  I have tried other ideas, and they were problematic.  Apivar in spring is the answer, for now, and this is the time, weather or not.

I have to finish up here soon and return to Sidney at some point to escort Mom back to Sudbury on the 1st of April.

Since Mom is 95 an requires assistance walking, I managed to arrange with Air Canada for an "attendant's fare", and paid only $17 for the flight to accompany her from YYJ to YYZ!  Her fare from YYJ to YYZ was about $265, but I will probably pay close to $300 to fly to YYJ this week as I am flying on short notice since I do not know when I will be ready to go

My van is sitting at YYZ and has run up a $300 parking bill by now, I estimate, and I am hoping it will start.  Modern vehicles run down the battery when sitting as they have alarms and door lock radio sensors that drain power.

I posted on Facebook today (right).  I try to limit my posts there and make them interesting and relevant as I know how annoying it can be to see a blizzard of trivial posts from some "friends".  I have had to hide posts from some people who post too often and even unfriend some.

That said, I cannot figure out Facebook.  Sometimes there is a whole page of fresh posts and then for weeks, little change.  Is that a Facebook feature, or is something wrong -- or do all my "friends" decide to post at once? 

I also find FB tries to serve me what it thinks are "Top Stories and never are, but I have found that if I use https://www.facebook.com/?sk=h_chr to access the page, I get a "Most Recent" sort.  The Android app is another story.

I suppose I should really read up on FB.  I set up a page for Cassiopeia, but do not see how to put it to any real use.  If you know the answers, please advise in the forum.

I picked this up on FB just now, posted by a person who sent a friend request, and whom I do not know at all.  I checked out her page and among a forest of memes (which I detest), saw this reference.  I find the story shocking and immensely sad.  I did not repeat it on FB as I do not know its veracity although it appears legit.  I also try to keep my FB posts interesting and positive, not preachy or sententious.

I know dolphins are also threatened by driftnets and indiscriminate fishing practices that net everything and discard the non-target species.  Dolphins are mammals, like us and need to breathe.  If they are tripped below the surface for too long in a net, they drown.

Dolphins are a sailor's friend and often greet us at harbour mouths, river bars or at sea, and escort us for distances, playing in the bow wave.  I recall, one night out in the Atlantic, while standing the midnight watch through a warm front crossing the Gulf Stream, being escorted for hours by a school of dolphins.  The night was dark, but the dolphins were clearly visible as ghost-like shapes just under the phosphorescent water, then rising and leaping before submerging again to race along beside the bow a foot or so below the surface.  There is something magic about their presence and it always a joy to meet up with them.

I have been worrying about runoff and am happy to see this note I posted on on FB last year.

If this year is like last year, I should be back before the final runoff flood. A few hot days could bring it all to an end, but who can predict?  In 2012, there was no great runoff, and the flow from the fields was largely over by March 12. 

I am scheduled to return on April 9.  In the meantime, I will have friends on the watch, but things like this I like to observe myself.

At 1243, it is still minus 5 and the snow continues to fall.  I plan to go out later anyhow.  I figure I can finish in an hour or two.

My day did not go as planned.  Around noon, it went off the rails.  Mike called to say the forms on Global Patties website had stopped working and shortly after the lawyer emailed, needing more documents.

The website problem was related to the FrontPage deprecation and my need to switch to FTP upload to the server.  Apparently doing so had broken the forms, so I spent then next eight+ hours building new ones.  I'm done now.

I have been avoiding making changes and considering off-loading some of my my web clients, but Global is like family and they are high priority.  At any rate, I needed a form builder and did a quick search, settling on this software

Any software has a learning curve, and the editor is a bit limited, but I got the job done.  I have some cleaning up to do, but the forms tested out and I am quitting for the day, now, at 2057 hours.

I still have the hives to do, the papers to take to the accountant, supper to make for the gang tomorrow, and a meeting with the lawyer before I lift off for Sidney.  My dreams of sailing down to Roche Harbor from Sidney are fading, at least for now.  If I go Saturday, I have Sunday and Monday before flying to Toronto with Mom.  Of course, Roche harbor is only two hours fron Port Sidney Marina, so we'll see.

So long and thanks for all the fish
Douglas Adams

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Thursday March 27th 2014

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Work is piling up.  The web work took the better part of yesterday afternoon and evening, and I was up before 0500 finishing up this morning. 

There was a lot of fiddly work and I am still learning the software.  Each round of tweaks requires a series of actions -- tweaking the forms, prompts or outputs, manually editing one generated script, uploading a set of directories and files, then filling and testing the forms, evaluating the output, and starting the sequence again.

Anyone who has filled out web forms knows how frustrating they can be, asking for information, then refusing the input with no hint of what is expected or demanding information that is in no way relevant to the query.  Many of us have simply abandoned an online order or request from frustration. I know I have, more than once..

Designing forms requires thinking like a user, asking only for relevant and necessary information, providing meaningful prompts, not insisting on unnecessary information or formatting, plus providing a way of offering free-form input that the designer might not expect to be offered.  The idea is to make things easy for the user, not drive him or her away.

Some constraints and mandatory fields are wise, though, since they can be easy for humans, but discourage robots.  I don't know if or why a robot would fill out an order form, since doing so would not accomplish anything, but I don't want to find out.

You can see my forms at here and here.  They are still not perfect, but work.  How did I do?

I have a lot to do today, and my trip to Victoria is looking more and more like a quick flight to pick up Mom and fly East.  Her house is ready for her return.

I still have to finish the hives and will see if I can get out today, regardless of the weather.  I have to do it.  I also have to go to town to get groceries for supper and hope to drop the tax papers at the accountant's on the same trip.

Basically, I have three things holding me back: the papers, dealing with the estate, and the bees.

I had no congestion last night!  Of course, I only slept a little over four hours and the congestion is usually worst in the latter parts of the night.  Oddly, my shoulders have quit bothering me.  What's up with that?  Only thing I can think is that I did change my sheets yesterday.  I do that every ten days to two weeks, though.

*   *   *   *   *

One advantage of discussing things is that new perspectives emerge, and often we remember things we would otherwise have overlooked.  When people ask advice or tell me what they are doing, my response quite often clarifies something in my mind. 

As case in point is that a regular correspondent wrote me saying that the weather is too bad to get the Apivar in and she is facing the same problem as I, she going away for a while. 

> The weather is horrid though, wind gusts up to 50 mph
> and cold. I leave Saturday for a week I doubt I can get it
> in before I go.

It is worth putting Apivar in now if you get any opportunity, even at night. Delaying now is going to create management issues later.

> ... I will have to get to it when I get back, get patties on then too.

Patties are not nearly as important now, and putting them on makes the job much slower.  Just inserting a strip takes seconds -- literally.

Bingo!  I solved my own problem. 

If need be, I can just walk out and pop Apivar into the remaining thirteen hives.  The job would take twenty minutes from start to finish and I could even do it in the dark, need be.

The problem was that I had planned to open hives, add patties, adjust feed, etc. and add the Apivar and that stuck in my mind.  That requires nicer weather and takes several minutes per hive.  I was finding that I could do about eight hives an hour.  Inserting  Apivar without doing anything else could take twenty minutes, total.  The question is whether a beekeeper can open a hive without being tempted to do more than just put in a strip?  I think we all know the answer :)

The only job that absolutely needs doing now, on schedule, is to put in the Apivar, and if the bees are clustered, the job is simple as long as they are in the top box. 

This one job can be done in any weather -- any.  although cold and blowing is less than comfortable for bees and beekeeper, a quick opening, inserting and closing will do no harm and a lot of good.

The place for the Apivar is the centre of the cluster, and the number of strips depends on the number of frames of bees (Most recent Canadian label).  The centre is easy to spot and the bees are very quiet in cold weather.  They usually won't break cluster in the time needed to insert the strip(s) or fly.

All that I have to do is determine the centre, estimate the number of frames of bees, and insert the strip(s).  Most of my hives are close enough to five frames of bees that one will do for most.

Inserting the strips into a dense cluster requires some care.  The outer layer of bees is dense, but the centre is less populated.  Therefore, the strip should be jiggled through the dense outer layer, then slid smoothly down into place, remembering the queen is likely in the centre of the cluster.

That's it and each hive should not take more than a minute as long as there is nothing on top of the frames.  Adding patties, checking feed and all the other tasks take longer, but if time is very short, all those other tasks can be left for later.

 I found a wrapper and scanned it (above right).  I see now (below) that I was wrong about the instructions.  I sais that reason would suggest that if five frames gets one strip and ten frames get two strips, the divide to two strips should be at 7-1/2 frames.  Apparently, by the label, anything over 5 frames gets two strips.  The question now is what constitutes a frame of bees?

At mid-day, the snow continues.  The weather is getting worse, not better.

I decided it is now or never and went out to do the last thirteen.  It took me an hour and in that time, I put feed in several light hives, and Apivar and patties on all.  Now I am done.

I went to town, bought some food, some propane, and delivered the papers to the accountant. Then I drove home and made supper.

Elijah came and shoveled some coal and we finished up the supper. preps  Fen and Maddy showed up, then Ruth an Dave.  It was a smaller crew, but that was intentional.  I'm too weary to cook for a horde today.

They all left at 2030 and at last, I am free.  Ruth and Dave took Zippy along and she seemed reluctant this time.

I booked a flight tomorrow to YYJ. I could have made the early flight, but decided that I don't need a deadline, so  I booked the noon flight.

The weather forecast (above), as they say, sucks, but at least it is not freezing.

What has been holding me up?  Besides the four hours of bee work, and the hour or so of finding the tax papers, I have been waiting on the estate lawyer.  I seem to be the last thing on their mind, but probably not when it comes billing time.

I loaded the dishwasher and called it a day.

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

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Saturday March 29th 2014

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My plan is to go to Roche Harbor today.  Roche Harbor is about 11 sea miles from here, across the US/Canada border and I thought it would be an interesting cruise. 

It is dull and breezy here in Sidney.  I have three days here before I have to go to Sudbury, so this is my chance.

At home, things look overcast as well.  I see I have lots of coal on the auger.

I have not been to the San Juans since May 2010, when I sailed out of Bellingham.  On the chart at left, my planned route for today is in dark blue and my 2010 tracks are in various colours.  I had thought of going down to see the whales feeding further south off San Juan Island, but the wind is against me and the websites that track the whales do not report sightings.  I may detour, though.

*    *    *    *    *

It's 1640 and I'm sitting at the nav station in Cassiopeia's saloon with the portlights open and the sun shining in, making coffee and then supper.  The boat is tied to a free mooring ball in Bedwell Harbour at the end of another good day.  The wind is howling in the rigging and the boat is rocking gently.  That's how I like it.

I did sail to Roche Harbor this morning, on a close reach and speeds up to eight knots.  On arrival, I checked in with Homeland Security.  The process was simple and the staff friendly, and pretty, too, (if I am allowed to say that in 2014).

Above: Roche Harbor from the docks

Roche Harbor was much as I remembered it, only better.  I can't believe how fresh the paint is on all the old buildings and the homes up the street.  I had planned to have lunch at the Lime Cafe, but it was the only restaurant that was open in town that I could find and it was jammed.  I went back to the boat and ate cold chicken and Caesar salad, washed down with Coke Zero.

Having seen everything there is to see in Roche Harbor, at least for now, I decided to leave and go to Bedwell for the night.  Friday Harbor was another option, but that would have added another two hours to my eventual return trip whereas Bedwell is on a triangle with Roche and Sidney.  I am still undecided what I am doing in the next day or two and in a hurry, for no real reason. I have tomorrow and the next day before we fly east.

In the twenty-three miles I covered today, I experienced everything from sun and  steady breezes to calm and mist, then pelting rain with gusts and strong, shifty winds blowing up to twenty-five knots. Along the west side of Stuart Island I had to dodge a lot of floating junk, including some fairly large logs.

Coming out of Roche Harbor, I was not really paying attention and found myself halfway out the 'wrong' side of Pearl Island before I noticed that the depths on the chart and the sounder were dropping and at one point I saw as little as 1.2 metres under my keel.  That is four feet and is plenty, and we were past low tide, but when the water gets that thin and getting thinner, I slow right down to a crawl and watch like a hawk.

I remarked here back in October I had heard some poor boater stuck in this same passage calling for help on the VHF and how I was glad it was not me. Today it could have been.  At least I was going through on a rising tide and would have floated off.

On entering Bedwell Harbour and approaching the customs dock, I realised that the customs site was probably unmanned at this time of year.  Fortunately I had the customs phone number at hand and so I called in.  I got a polite bawling out for not being at a manned customs dock, but was given a clearance number and told not to do it again.  Welcome home, eh?

A government big enough to give you everything you want
is strong enough to take everything you have.
Thomas Jefferson

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Sunday March 30th 2014

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I awoke at 0530 after a full eight hours of sleep, realising that I left the boat hook on the foredeck last evening when catching the ball.  It is funny how the mind works.

I must have come awake at least ten times during the night, too.  Maybe it was the boat bumping up against the mooring ball occasionally, on the other side of the thin hull of my forward cabin. (Note to self: tie with a longer bridle next time).  Maybe it was my left shoulder complaining again after being recruited to to some grinding on the winch yesterday.  Whatever it was, congestion was not the problem, and I am reasonably well rested this morning. 

I sleep lightly when at anchor due to concerns about dragging, but I am tied to a well maintained ball.  Mooring balls have been known to fail, but very, very seldom.

As for the left shoulder, it was much worse in recent weeks, and it is not really bothering me lately, although lying on it in certain positions still makes it complain.  I have been advised to put the shoulder through a full range of motion to rehabilitate it, though, but not if the motion causes pain.  The shoulder  has been better lately and so I have been using it more.  I don't want the muscles to atrophy.  Yesterday, I did some cranking with my left arm, being careful not to push hard, since that seems to be what is painful.

What to do today, I wonder.  My expectation has been to get back to Sidney in time for supper tonight, but we will see which way the wind carries me.

Checking my cameras at home, I see that two I added recently are not reporting this morning.  That is odd, but not worrisome.

My Lorex system has been on and off, but mostly works. I imagine those two will kick back on again.  If not, I'll have someone see what is wrong.  These cameras were not critical anyhow.

It's 0651 now and daylight has returned.  The sky is overcast, but that is how days often begin here.

I went up and took a panorama shot.  I see I did return the hook to itys place last night.  It is funny how the mind works.

The local forecast? 

Today, 30 March: Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Windy. High 12. UV index 3 or moderate

Windy?  That is good.  The tides?  No extremes, but low tide of 3-1/2 feet at 1117 means that getting to the dock at Sidney will require caution.  I was thinking of returning around noon, but that does not look prudent.

At 0945 yesterday, I was only seeing 1.2 metres under the keel going out.  That was right at low tide with 4-1/4 feet of water over datum, or 1.3 metres.  At a really low tide, I'd have been touching.  I don't like my new position on the dock.

Speaking of depths, the charter company has a diver check every boat each time a new user takes over, so that any damage can be charged to the right person.  This boat has had to be repaired four times now.  At any rate, there is a wait for a the diver to come, then the cost, and the pictures are not always very good.  I've been thinking a camera on a stick could do the same job on demand and more cheaply.  I'm looking at the GoPro HD Hero3+ Waterproof High-Definition Sports & Helmet Camera - Black Edition.  I see it is available locally back on the Island.

The surveillance cameras are back on at home.  It looks like a cool and snowy day.

From Bedwell Harbour, I sailed south and west towards Sidney at up to ten knots, and stopped into Van Isle Marina for fuel. 

Cassiopeia took $46 worth of diesel.  That surprised me as I had not motored much at all since I last filled and must have used the fuel in the furnace during my last stay and this one.

I motored out of Tsehum Harbour past Roberts point and was minutes from home and realised the day was still young, and that it was exactly low tide.  As mentioned, I have concerns about access to my dock at low tide, so I decided to sail around either James Island or Sidney Island, depending on the winds.  These islands have tempted me for a while, so off I went.  Again the weather went from sun and steady southwest winds to blustery, shifting  winds, to rain, then calm and back to steady wind.  Sailing in the islands is not like sailing offshore. 

During the afternoon, I noticed a slight sore throat and some faintness, and feared I would be coming down with a bug, but by the time I was back to the dock and tidied up, the symptoms had passed.

At 1500, after travelling a total of 28 sea miles today, I tied up at Port Sidney Marina, tidied the boat, then drove to Future Shop to buy a GoPro 3+ Hero Black.  My main purpose in buying it is to film the bottom of boats.  The salesperson assured me that it would take better pictures underwater than my $135 Fuji and I figured to get the best I can get. The price is not too important if the camera can replace a diver.

I got back, unpacked the camera (the packaging is obscene) and read the instructions.  Soon I was taking movies with a camera on a long stick.  It sorta worked, but I have some learning to do. 

At left, that's me sitting at the nav station on Cassiopeia controlling the camera and viewing the pictures using my cell phone. The camera is tiny, but comes with a wireless remote, but the cell phone is a handier and more familiar interface.

I knew the light was fading when I took the videos and they were OK for a beginning, but we'll need more light for a really good job.  Maybe I'll read the detailed instructions, too.  So far, these images do not look much better than the pictures my Fuji takes, but the mountings and wireless capabilities make using the GoPro easy and a lot of fun.

It appears that in Swalwell we got a lot of new snow again today (Right).  This winter just won't quit. One of my outdoor cameras is aimed at the pond, since, other than the heating system, my big concern is runoff.  At this point in time, runoff does not look likely in the next week.

Experience is not what happens to a man;
it is what a man does with what happens to him.
Aldous Huxley

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Monday March 31st 2014

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I awoke at 0618. feeling great.  No congestion, no aches and pains.  How can that be?  I just cannot make sense of it.

This is going to be a busy day. I have to get ready to fly east tomorrow at 0630 hours.  In the meantime, I have to pack, tidy and figure out how to get myself and Mom to to YYJ by 0530.  Tomorrow will be a bigger day.

Today was not too bad.  I rented a car, puttered about the boat and played with the camera, fixed the counter edge, drove to Mom's to pick up her baggage to save time tomorrow and to have supper.  When I arrived, she was too tired and I was not hungry, so returned to Port Sidney Marina and packed.

Funny.  I rushed out here because Mom was asking daily when I was coming, but since I arrived Friday, she has been too buy for a visit.  This is the first time I've seen her since I came out.  Mom has made friends here and had a good time.  I hope she is not homesick for Victoria when she gets home.

At left is what we have to look forward to in  Greater Sudbury tomorrow.  This is a picture taken today by a webcam at the opposite end of the Lake from Mom's.  At home in Swalwell it is snowing and blowing again, or should I say still.  The horizontal streaks are snowflakes blowing though the camera's field of vision.

Facts can't be recounted; much less twice over, and far less still by different persons.
... What happens is that your wretched memory remembers the words
and forgets what's behind them.
Augusto Roa Bastos

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