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The first big hatch has emerged and is being replaced with eggs
and larvae as quickly as the cells empty

Thursday May 1st 2014

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I slept through last night, waking up only once and I think that was from habit more than anything.  In the morning, noticed I had been breathing through my mouth a bit and my nose was congested, but not my sinuses.  I suppose there is a learning curve to the CPAP machine, but so far my experience has been favourable.

This time of year I am doing interesting beekeeping work.  Each year I have documented different ideas and practices.  My understanding and perspective changes over time, so those interested in spring management may wish to go back to the posts made in this timeframe over the past decade and learn from my successes and failures.  You can learn from my mistakes, even if I don't seem to..

After a week or so, I don't go back and change posts other than to clean up typos and broken links, so  a reader can see what I thought and what resulted.  During a current month, I do change posts a bit to improve clarity and also do alter or delete comments that I decide are not constructive.  Links to the current month in previous years precede each day's post.  Here, again, are links to past May posts: 2013   2012   2011   2010   2009   2005   2004   2003   2002   2001   2000   1999.

After being up for a half-hour, I went back to bed and slept until 0910.

Today, I am having guests for dinner again.  My plan is make spaghetti.  I also have a pile of paper on my desk and need to pare that down.  Then, there is the forklift and the bees...

My cactus is blooming again (left).

The pile of paper has actually grown bigger than when I started and I haven't done anything outside today other than check to see that the bees are consuming the feed from the drums.

Supper tonight will be black bean soup, spaghetti and meatballs, and salad.

My friends came and went and I left the cleanup for tomorrow.

The chief product of an automated society is
a widespread and deepening sense of boredom.
C. Northcote Parkinson

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Friday May 2nd 2014

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The weather made a drastic change overnight and we are looking forward to a cool, week of rain and sub-normal temperatures.

I'll have to check the feed drums for water.  I should have covered or sheltered them yesterday but did not.  There was rain last night and rainwater will be floating on the syrup.  If I leave it, the water will dilute the syrup, and the syrup will ferment.  Additionally, the water will wet the straw or grass and make it useless as a platform for feeding bees.  Syrup does not wet the straw in the same way as water does.

Today was one of those days when nothing seems to get done.  I spent much of it reading up on sleep and CPAP.  0.9.4 with Graph Pinning CapabilitiesI read various discussion boards and downloaded Sleepyhead software to read the data card for the machine I have on loan.  The data collected by the device is fascinating. 

I'm learning, but I don't know much yet.  It seems that my "mild" apnea means lots of sleep disruption.  I wonder what serious apnea is like.  (I don't really want to know.  This is bad enough).

I am finding I sleep better with the machine although I still have questions.

Sex and religion are closer to each other than either might prefer.
 Saint Thomas More

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Saturday May 3rd 2014

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Wow! Today is cooler than yesterday and snow is predicted.

At least we had a few days of warm weather to allow the colonies to expand.  Once brood is established and growing, it adds metabolic heat to the hive -- not as much as adult bees AFAIK, or enough to withstand cold without the assistance of adult bees to cover it -- but some.

I used the CPAP machine last night, but awoke sometime around 0450, realizing it had quit.  The machine does make a difference.

Breakfast is at The Mill at 0830 today.  At 0511, I am still up, but thinking I'll go back to bed and see if I wake up again in time.

*   *   *   *   *

That is what I did.  I went back to sleep at 0620, slept another hour and awoke refreshed, then dressed and headed for The Mill.

What I find most interesting is that the congestion that has been plaguing my sleep has not been a problem for the past few nights, since I began using this machine. 

I had suspected that my sinus congestion might be related to shallow breathing and resulting accumulation of normal mucous in my lungs and sinuses due to too little little lung expansion and too little air movement. and maybe that is the case.

The one airway concept suggests that problems in any part of the lung/sinus airway system manifest elsewhere as well.  I was noticing congestion in my sinuses, but I also knew that my breathing was shallow and that I accumulated mucous in my chest after a few hours of sleep as well.  I often take a deep breath and hold it for a moment if I cannot sleep to stretch my lungs and fill them completely with air.  It seems that in natural sleep I tend to shallow breathing.

Interestingly, using a CPAP machine reminds me of SCUBA, which also involves breathing with positive pressure. 

Unlike snorkeling, which requires inhaling with only atmospheric pressure pushing the air into the lungs, SCUBA apparatus forces air into the lungs under slight pressure.  I find that pleasant. 

When snorkeling, I worry about breathing out too much and finding I have no air left to blow out water if and when some comes down the tube, which it often does  When using SCUBA, I don't worry since more air is always freely available and a mouthful of water is never an issue as I always have enough air to blow it out.

I like SCUBA and so far, I like CPAP, although, other than the device itself, the equipment is a bit primitive.  Although this mask works, finding a better mask is high on my list.

At any rate, I sleep much better with this device, inexperience, air leaks and all.  Moreover, with CPAP, I find I can sleep on my back and that is good for my shoulders.  Shoulder pain was the other issue affecting my sleep and which sometimes limited my comfortable sleeping positions.

This (at right) is the machine I have -- as far as I can tell -- but the whole CPAP business is shrouded in mystery.  Manufacturers deliberately name the various models with similar and confusing names, the software to read the data generated by the advances machines is expensive and restricted, and the people who train users only provide basic information.  Moreover, a prescription is required to buy a CPAP machine, although I can't imagine how a person is likely to harm himself with one. 

Fortunately the web is populated by groups of helpful people who are willing to share experience and expertise, including the fellow who wrote Sleepyhead, a free program that does a beautiful job of revealing what the machine learns every night.

I am still early in the treatment experience, but I am amazed at what I am learning.  Since my diagnosis was mild and borderline, I did not rush to get involved with what seems like an expensive, cumbersome system, but I am thinking now that my sleep problems are worse and more dangerous than suspected by me, or by doctors. 

In fact, I am surprised that doctors did not spot this problem sooner.  I was the one who suggested the sleep test and the follow-up.  I am learning quickly that most people, including doctors and even some sleep technicians are quite ignorant about anything more than the most superficial aspects of sleep issues.

I recommend a sleep test to anyone who has reason to suspect that sleep might be the underlying issue behind a wide range of problems, from obesity to fatigue and joint pain to moodiness and forgetfulness.  This a partial list.  One writer shows anecdotal evidence that bad sleep can cause elevated fasting blood sugar. (That is interesting to me since I saw a drop in  my morning readings when I first used the machine.  I have not taken follow-up readings).

I may and probably will write much more on this topic later, but am just learning and, besides, have other things to do today.

From the NE USA:

Hi Allen,

> The patty consumption is amazing and it is hard to predict
> which hives will vacuum up the most.

When I see a hive is not eating their patties I look further to see why. The last hive that had not touched them has a drone laying queen. I saw the queen and two frames of drone brood. It is not the queen they started into the winter with because she was marked and I doubt they plucked her paint off. I may get back to combine, the weather has been wet and cold and it is so few bees it is not much of a loss if I don't get back.

I do have a nuc that is ignoring their patties, they have two frames of brood and a 2 year old queen who seems to be doing as well as the nucs with young queen.

I have a nuc where I found the queen dead in front of the hive and they had 1 emergency queen cell that has emerged but I can't imagine there are to many drones around but I am letting it go since I don't have any options on queens right now. I have some coming from the south the middle of May, if it ever stops raining down there. 

There is fresh pollen coming in when the bees can fly but that has been may be 3 days out of 7 days.

> nobody seems to care about price lately.

I had a guy call me yesterday and offer me $200 if I would take a package away from someone who has already ordered and paid and sell it to him. I said no, jeez what a briber. Not the kind of person I want to do business with.

> I've been on this bus before and in my experience, this
> state of the public mind comes just before a fad ends
> and demand crashes, followed by  price, but we will see.

To tell you the truth I hope the fad ends soon. It is getting very crowded around here. I can't set bees any where now without other hives in their flight range. I bet there are 25 hives within two miles of my home yard. Plus the package bee industry can not sustain this craziness. I had to stop taking names on the waiting list for nucs, to many people.

> The BS about bees disappearing does not seem to be wearing out and > everyone is out to 'save the bees' by having a hive.

Yes and they don't know what the heck they are doing. They find it is not easy, they think the problem is the commercial guys treating the bees like livestock instead of like pets. Then they find they are having a hard time keeping their hive healthy and alive and stop bad mouthing all the other beekeepers.

Or they go treatment free and the hive is still alive after 1 year so they know it all.


These gloomy, rainy, chilly days are getting to me.

It was breezy with light snow falling when I pulled out of the drive on my way to breakfast. Zip and I arrived at The Mill on time.  Breakfast was over at about 1130.

I returned home and did the dishes, then went outside even though the temperature is right at freezing.

I went to check the feed drums, but decided to fill the frame feeders nearby.  The drums were empty and I should fill them again.  At right, all that can be seen in the bottom with the drum tipped over a bit is a little rainwater.  Notice how clean the straw is and how few dead bees there are, even after the bees removed 1/3 drum of feed.

Looking into the hives, most frame feeders were empty so I filled them and and also added thirds to four doubles hives that were hanging out the bottom entrance (left).  One hive was building comb in the feeder and that was my cue to add more space.  I would rather they draw combs than build in feeders.

I could have reversed the hives, but since they were crowded enough to hang out, I figure they need the space.  If they don't have enough, they just build burr comb and fill the feeders with comb.  Besides, I want to get my empty brood boxes occupied and conditioned by the bees and when the bees are confined, they have the time to do so.

I think 2014 will be an excellent honey year here.  I have houseflies already and the red ants are already showing up under hive lids.  The hives are exploding and need splitting any time now.

I have to decide if and how to raise queens.  My immediate thought is to use the queenless half of a good split for the cell builder, rather than making one specially.  If I pick the right weather and the right hives, they will make me ten good cells, and the only extra effort on my part is to graft the cells and place them into the hive.

I'll have to shake some bees into the mating nucs, though.  That is simple.  I used to run over a hundred such nucs.

I have the five nucs, but could use some additional cells, come to think of it.  They are ideal to place into newly made splits.  Adding a ripe cell can speed up the appearance of a mated queen in a split by twelve days or so compared to allowing them to raise their own.  I'll have to decide.  I'll also have to find the cell cups and cell protectors.

A confession, though.  I have never grafted even one larva!  I always had others do that job.  Ellen was a fantastic queen raiser.

I came back in about five as it was beginning to snow too hard to work on the bees any longer.  By 2100, the ground was covered with 2" of fresh, fluffy snow.

We must not say every mistake is a foolish one.

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Sunday May 4th 2014

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The temperature is at the freezing point and the sky is overcast. Snow continues to fall.  This looks like a good day to work indoors.

This is the kind of day that makes me ask those who only feed one patty or saw a little pollen coming in and quit feeding patties, "What were you thinking?"

We are expecting more of this weather, and any pollen the bees may have found in the past few days is already gone.  What are they supposed to eat during these cool, rainy, windy spells?  Sure they'll survive, but will they achieve their potential??


> > I have been thinking of pricing brood on the basis of the number of bees contained in the capped brood
> Too much math for me. Will you have to measure the frames for the amount of brood or just eyeball it?
I wrote it up in my diary the other day., but this bears further consideration. 

The first and most important consideration not covered so far is that the price of anything  depends on supply and demand, the number of buyers and sellers (size), distances, confidence in quality (standards), and the timeliness of the transaction.

Although the utility to the buyer and pricing and convenience compared to substitutes are the underlying considerations in whether to buy or not, the following will affect the price.

  • If there is a lot of something and few people want it, the price will be low, if a buyer can even be found.  If there are few selling and many seeking, the prices will be higher.
  • If there are only a few buyers, they are harder to find and prices will be lower.
  • If distances are great, examination and delivery can be difficult, reducing interest. Location matters.
  • If buyers cannot be confident in the quality and reliability of the supply, interest and prices will be lower.
  • If timing of delivery is uncertain or distant, prices tend to be lower.
  • For fashion and fad items, the decision is emotional and logical analysis is less applicable.

That said, in a healthy market like the current nuc and package market in many areas, the main factors are

  • utility to the buyer and
  • comparison to potential substitutes
  • irrational demand

Let's examine those aspects. 

Obviously, for those buying to produce honey at a profit, the cost of bees is important.  To hobbyists and idealists, price is much less of a factor.  Bees are a "gotta have" fad right now, so there is an irrational component to demand.

Looking at the rational aspect to set a base value, and assuming that package bees are the main market substitute -- and that package pricing is rational due to the larger and more national market, let's price nucs against packages.

Packages contain two, three or four pounds of bees plus zero, one or two queens.

We'll use a Canadian 2-lb or 1-kg package with one queen at $170.

To price the bees, remove the price of the queen, using the local delivered price.

Queens here cost about $25 each.

Therefore in this case, the bees in the package are worth $(170 - $25)/2lbs = $72.50/lb

These bees may be young if the source hive is queenright, shaken weekly and during a flight day, but we have to assume that a percentage are part-way through their expected 6-week life.  Depending on unknown factors, package bees may be anywhere from 90% young bees to 90% old bees on arrival.

An estimate is difficult, and you can assume the average package bee has lived 1/2 her life, but I have seen packages where all the bees are already old since they came from a "first shake" or the source hive was queenless.

In such cases, the buyer is lucky if the bees that start the brood live long enough to see it emerge, and I have seen instances where the adults died off, leaving the brood without supporting bees, resulting in colony death!

When selling nucs and singles during the build-up season, the adult bees will range in age from newly emerged to worn out and about to die.  During build-up, the average adult bee in a nuc can be estimated to have already lived about 1/3 of her life.

So, how do we estimate the value of a nuc?

For simplicity, we can just value the bees at $72.50/lb, but how many bees are in the nuc?  Estimating the number of bees on a frame is difficult as it depends on the frame, the temperature, the flow conditions and the time of day.

Just making a quick estimate, and knowing that one side of Permadent has about 3,500 cells, and can readily observe that a bee standing on comb covers about three cells, then we can estimate that a comb evenly covered on both sides by a single layer of adult bees standing shoulder to shoulder would have 2 X 3,500 / 3 = 2,300 bees.

Figuring roughly 4,500 bees per pound, we can see two such frames would carry a pound of bees and that a nuc with four such frames would have roughly two pounds of adult bees.

So, the described nuc has the same two pounds of adults plus emerging brood but the ages of the adult bees may or may not be comparable, depending on the package source.

Now for the brood in the nuc: The brood is the most obvious difference between packages and nucs, if we neglect the value of the frames and feed.

A typical nuc with three Permadent frames, each 50% covered with brood has 2 X 3,500 X 50% X 3 frames = 10,500 developing bees.  Assuming brood in all stages and even development, they will be evenly distributed from eggs to emerging bees.

What is a future bee worth? 

  • A package will not have replacement bees emerging for at least three weeks.  In the meantime over half the original bees will die.
  • The nuc will have bees emerging daily from today forward, replacing and augmenting the dying adults and will be stronger than the package three weeks hence.

So, the difference in value comes down to what the brood is worth.  Can we value them the same as adults?  Or should we reduce their value since they will not be working for a few weeks and the open brood requires feeding now?

Let's mark down the brood price to 50% compared to adults.  That gives us a value of 10,500 cells/4,500 bees/lb X $72.50/lb X 50% = $84.58 for the brood.

That comes to very roughly $30/frame 50% covered with brood in all stages.  All sealed brood is worth more and all open brood is worth less.

So, by these numbers, a nuc with a laying queen, two pounds of bees and three frames 50% covered with brood should sell for $25 + 2 X $72.50 + $84.58 = $254.50 if 2-lb packages go for $170.

That is neglecting the value of the frames and feed included in a nuc.  A drawn frame is worth up to $5 and a pound of honey is worth $2.50 these days.

If a nuc has five frames and five pounds of honey, add up to $32.50 to the above value, giving $287 as the value of a nuc.

From the above, it is obvious that anyone who can buy a nuc for less than $287 in Alberta in April or early May in 2014 is getting a bargain!


I should reduce this to a formula, plugging in local package bee and queen prices, but that is for later.

I'll also look at the value of singles and doubles and consider the effect of later delivery.

I am doing housework and deskwork today.

I slept less well last night and woke up a number of times, but I see the CPAP has had a beneficial effect on my benchmark numbers.  I just do not feel it today.  I continue to study up on apnea and had no idea how complex the matter is and how widespread the problem. 

Estimated numbers of sufferers run up to 25% of the population.  That means one in four of my readers may benefit from a sleep study!  The other shocking thing is that apparently treatment can prevent many of the modern illnesses like heart issues.

I changed this page somewhat and added a huge background image.  Is anyone finding the page too slow?  I imagine some cell phones might find it a bit heavy.  Let me know.

The power of accurate observation is frequently called cynicism by those who don't have it.
 George Bernard Shaw

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Monday May 5th 2014

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Today is looking like another dull day, starting right at the freezing point and warming only to ten degrees.  Tomorrow is predicted to be cooler, but with some sun.  Sun makes a big difference to small bodies flying around the neighbourhood and warms them as they fly.

Although this weather does not seem great for bees, colonies will be building up just the same, and not affected much by weather if they are healthy, have sufficient populations, a warm hive and sufficient honey or syrup and pollen or patties near the brood.

Cool, wet weather is actually beneficial in that it encourages plants to grow and discourages the bees from using themselves up foraging before there is much to gather. 

The environment outside the hive is dangerous for honey bees and the work of foraging causes physical wear and tear on each forager.  Accidents and predation by birds and other hunters threaten  foragers as they go about their business outside the hive and result in daily attrition to the field force when they are out and about.

From what I can see, this year's splitting, swarming and supering dates will be right on schedule.

From a discussion with a correspondent in the northern USA:

> I am charging $110 for 3 LB packages and this year.
> (Cost is) ​$25 for the southern queens​.

So three pounds of bees at retail in your part of the NE are worth $110-25=$85 or $85/3=$28.33/lb, and that is after the price is marked up for retail!

That is a huge difference compared to what we pay here.  ($72.50/lb as calculated above, and that is the bulk price, not the retail small-order price used for the US price).

Our government is 'protecting' us from low-cost replacement bees and justifying it with scare tactics...

Disease, SHB, AHB, chemical resistance... None of these seem to be hindering the US beekeepers much if they can produce and sell bees so cheaply.


In spite of programs and subsidies and years of attempting to produce sufficient bees in Canada to supply the industry without requiring imports, we still rely largely on imported replacement bees to keep up our colony counts, and always have. 

Sure, some Western Canadian beekeepers can overwinter sufficient colonies, and even surplus colonies some of the time, but all of the beekeepers can't keep up their numbers all of the time.  Most of the beekeepers cannot even keep their numbers up most of the time without sacrificing production, increased cash expenses, and without increasing their risks, labour issues, and management complexity.

Compare the package sales to total Alberta hive numbers and it is clear there are no surplus bees here. Available packages are sold out every year, and more would be sold if available, especially if they could be had at reasonable prices.  Imagine if the bees were available here for under $30 a pound as they are in the USA.  $30 is less than half the $70 price we pay.

CAPA on the other hand seems to go by the credo that you can fool most of the beekeepers most of the time, and CFIA all of the time, and that is good enough -- even if you can't fool all the beekeepers all the time.

I wonder: is there some way we can get CAPA and CFIA to bear the burden of the needless extra costs and shortages they place on our industry by the flawed hypothetical and disingenuous arguments they dream up to justify prohibiting packages from our traditional and founding bee source, the USA?

Alberta beekeeping was founded on California package bees.  The honey bee is not native here and only survives because beekeepers work hard to keep them alive and keep bringing in new stock to make up losses.

Additionally, the pests that are used as an excuse for the embargo cannot thrive and survive here more than temporarily either.

How hard is that to understand?  The evidence is all around us.

Years back, I wrote a series of articles demonstrating how the prohibition against US package imports has damaged our industry.  That was in 2003, I believe, and a full decade later little has changed except that the monetary costs to beekeepers are much greater.

Beekeeping Economics in Alberta Since Border Closure

After lunch, the weather seemed mild enough to work on bees, so I went out to the rail shed and loaded up the gas powered syrup pump and the transmission for the forklift.

I still can't bring myself to crawl under the forklift and commit to that job, although I did size up the task. 

I hope the tranny is good.  I bought it at the wreckers a few years ago now.  As I recall, I'll have to jury-rig a new transmission mount and maybe alter the drive shaft and that is a reason I have not changed it before now. 

From there, I went over and half-filled two syrup drums for open feeding and then reversed the eight hives in the Quonset West yard.  Some have fully developed drone brood ready to emerge in the next day or two (right).

Below are shots of the three boxes of one three-storey hive I worked on. 

  • At left is the top box, shown after I smoked the bees down and took off the patties so I could scrape the wax chunks off the top bars in preparation for reversing. 
  • At centre is the middle box of the three without much smoking.
  • At right is the bottom box, which is now the top box.


Note that there is one Apivar strip.  That means that six weeks ago this hive had only five frames of bees. I am removing Apivar now when I come across it and it all comes out in the next week.

I should do some varroa assays soon.  Although I did treat, I need to verify that the treatment worked.  At some point, all treatments fail.  I have been watching for varroa in brood, like the drone brood shown above, and not seeing any mites at all, but by the time we see varroa in casual inspections like this, we are already deep in trouble.

Of the eight hives, I reduced two hives to two boxes each, as they did not need three.  The rest I reversed.  Most were ready for reversing with brood in two and three boxes and one of them I could have split into three today if I wished.

Ten years from now, make sure you can say that
 you CHOSE your life, you didnít SETTLE for it.
Mandy Hale

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Tuesday May 6th 2014

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Today: Snow ending late this morning then cloudy with 30 percent chance of flurries or rain showers. Wind north 30 km/h gusting to 50. High plus 5. UV index 3 or moderate.
Tonight: Clearing this evening. Wind north 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light this evening. Low minus 6.
Wednesday: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud near noon. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h near noon. High 11.

There is as much or as little bee work out there as I want to do.  I could spend days and weeks, months, or years -- sorting and repairing equipment,  or let it slide. 

I could just sell off all my hives or go back down to two or three hives, or plan on keeping fifty or so as I did last year.  If I sold off all the hives, I'd be free at this time of year and not have to worry about anything bee-related other than cleaning up the accumulated mess from decades of operations.  I imagine I'll keep on the way I have been for another year.

The bees, on the other hand, do need some work, regardless of what I decide. I have to do the basics regardless of what my intentions may be, however if I plan to sell bees this spring, and I must, or produce honey, which I really don't want to do, I need to prepare brood chambers and manage the hives to ensure they expand in a way that makes splitting easy.  Floors and lids are also a hassle. I have lots of junk floors and lids, but limited numbers of good ones.

*    *    *    *    *

I slept strangely last night.  This CPAP machine keeps records and I notice that I slept well the first four hours, but the second four were disturbed. I woke up, finding I was breathing out of sync with the machine which is odd because it is supposed to be following my cues -- or so I thought.

That aspect of my sleep pattern -- the first four hours of sleep are good, then quality of sleep deteriorates --  is something I already knew, and my habit has been at time to sleep four hours, then get up for one or two, then go back to bed for another four hours or so of sleep.

Last night, though, I figure that the reason for poor sleep, other than deciding to try to sleep straight through for eight hours, had to do with my choice of supper. 

I chose to eat some salt and pepper wings.  This is not my normal diet, which has tended more to rice and beans and vegetables than meats and fat.  I knew better.  All that fat is bad enough, but if I go to bed after eating any great amount of black pepper, I find my breathing tends to be shallow and disturbed.

After writing that, I was tired and went back to bed for an hour and awoke much refreshed.

I've promised to tell al the people interested in bees this spring how many I will have and what I will charge.  It still looks a bit early to tell, but I'll make a start here:

My plan is to sell single story hives in EPS boxes. 

The hives should have on average

  • Four frames with at least 50% brood in all stages.
  • A laying queen raised either this year or mid-summer last year.
  • Ten drawn frames in varying condition.
  • Two or three frames of feed.
  • Eight or more frames with bees on them from top to bottom when viewed at noon on an average day.
  • The boxes and frames vary in condition.  These are the frames and boxes I use myself and I am not to fussy.  It seems that neither are my bees.  Given a choice, the queen often picks the oldest frames in a box.
  • The feed is mostly honey, but may be partly sugar syrup the bees have stored.
  • The bees have all been treated with Apivar this spring.

What is of value and what I am principally selling are the bees, the brood and the feed and the fact that they are established and thriving.  The equipment is just the container and of less concern.

Some or all of the equipment in any specific hive I sell may be almost new or quite old.  I use wooden frames and plastic frames and cell sizes from 5.0 to 5.4 mm and the bees don't seem to care.

Much has been made of cell size, wood versus plastic and other details, but in my experience, the biggest factors in having good colonies are good bees, good feed and good beekeeping.  Bees are very adaptable and the equipment does not matter much.

I do not supply floors and lids, but can come up with something if the buyer does not have anything.  The lids and floors I give away will be good enough to get the bees home and work for a year or so for a beekeeper who is not fussy.

I may consider having buyers move the frames to their own boxes and exchanging equipment, but my preference is to sell the bees as they are is after the split.

As for the value, let's price it all out compared to a package of bees bought at Calgary in April/May 2014 for $170.


Hmmm.  I doubt anyone will pay $520, but I also see why nobody complained about the hives I sold last year for $250 to $300.

I am thinking I should charge $350 this year.  That seems like a lot to pay for a for a single, but I'll have to raise the price.

I've been putting off pricing the hives, partly because I find it hard to believe the price of bees and honey these days. 

I suppose that I am in the same position as the long-time beekeepers in the 1970s who saw honey go from $0.12/lb to $0.55/lb in a matter of months.

Looking at the utility value of these single-storey hives, though, each should produce 150 to 200 lbs of honey in a good location in a good year and the barrel (bulk, unpackaged) price of honey is $2.40/lb last I heard.

That means a return of $360 to $480 at wholesale for several hundred dollars invested, figuring on wholesale bulk price.

Direct-to-consumer sales get $5 to $10/lb, not $2.40/lb, and the beekeeper still has the bees! 

Where else can a person find such a good investment?

It will be interesting to see what hives go for at the sale Scandia Honey is having on May 8th 7th.  Last year some fairly weak doubles went for $540 in auction in Saskatchewan from what I heard.

If you have a chance, attend the auctions.  They are always entertaining. More info here.

Maybe I should hold an auction?

You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.
 Gilbert Keith Chesterton

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Wednesday May 7th 2014

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Today I have an eye appointment at 1030 in Calgary.

At 0345, the temperature has dropped to minus 7.5 C.  I'm glad there is no wind.

I stayed up an hour or two and went back to bed until 0645.  I'm quite used to the CPAP machine now, but from the data the machine generates, I probably don't need it.  For some reason, my data over the last week looks far less worrisome than the one-night test using the Stardust unit that was the reason for obtaining the device on trial.


I hope you keep me in mind for a hive when you're ready to part ways with them. $350-$375 is fine with me. Quite frankly I think you're missing the mark on the value that you're actually bringing to the table. You can calculate the price a honey and how many bees are in a pound etc. but at the end of the day the reason I want your bees is really quite simple. They are purebred mutts that winter well, fly when nothing else seems to be flying.

All of the things like the price of honey, what a package is going for, and all the other things along this line are a short term view. Whereas I believe if you look at good genetics regardless of the pedigree as a long-term view then one can only see the value in quality bees.

The hive that I got from you last year came through the winter quite well I believe. Although it certainly wouldn't hold a candle to some of the pictures that you've posted but still I'm happy.

The bees that I got from Scandia Honey also survived the winter not as strong as yours but they should make it. The hives were placed side-by-side were treated identically and suffered from the same conditions, treatments and mistakes.

As a geek I have learned never argue with success whether you understand it or not just go with it. Your bees are successful, and nothing else needs to be said on that point.

I'm hoping that you keep doing beekeeping on a small scale for many years to come. It is selfish I know but I can't help but wonder how many beekeepers you've helped directly or indirectly with your blog over the years.

Today's auction should give us some idea of the market price of hives.   1,500 is a decent size offering and should give a good idea of what willing buyers and a willing seller settle on for price.  The sale has been well advertised and everyone will have had a chance to examine and rate the hives on offer.

The hives on offer are doubles, but they will likely set a benchmark that can be extrapolated to singles and nucs in a similar way, the price of packages can be used for comparison.

*   *   *    *    *

I went to Calgary for my eye appointment, did some shopping on the way home, and picked up five more boxes of Global Patties.

I arrived home at 1800 and am waiting to hear the prices in today's auction.

In the meantime, I have discovered that the US price of packages and queens is even lower than I had assumed when comparing Canadian to US prices the other day.

B-Z Bee is offering 2-lb packages for $35, and 3-lb for $45 in over 50 quantities, picked up in Esparto.  Queens are $14 in hundred lots.

Canadians are paying almost five times as much as that for packages!

For those who don't know the history of Alberta beekeeping: Until the mid-1980s, each spring, Albertans would drive truckloads of honey down to pay for package bees, load bees and drive day and night, bringing them back.

Some went down early and worked with the package producers, raising their own queens and shaking their own bees.  Californians owned operations here in the north and trained many youngsters who later became respected commercial beekeepers. More in this article: Eastern Protectionism Costs Alberta Economy $25 Million Annually.

Managers are people who do things right,
and leaders are people who do the right thing.
 Warren G. Bennis

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Thursday May 8th 2014

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My plan for today: Go to Three hills to meet with the sleep study people and prepare supper for the usual suspects.

Today looks like a good day for the bees to get out and about.

I received some comments in the forum.  Apparently, not everyone in the US is buying packages for $35.  Location and transportation costs are a factor.

Also, I have sketchy reports from the auction yesterday.  Apparently the hives went for around $250.  They were doubles in good condition according to what I heard.

If true, that seems like a steal.  By just moving them, piling on supers and extracting, each should produce $360 before expenses.

Why the low price?  Auctions are unpredictable.  I think everyone, including me thought that the hives would go for too high a price and did not bother going.

Scandia is quite remote and too far into the south for many of the northern beekeepers who would need the bees.  Mid-week is a bad time for hobbyists to get away.  For anyone considering going, attending is a big investment of time and travel cost, requiring at least one day for those nearby and longer for those more distant.   All that on the chance that the hives could be affordable.

With an auction like this, if driving in from three or five hundred miles, the prospective buyer has to decide whether to travel light and buy the bees, then bring or hire trucks or drive heavy equipment down.

Also, it is now the busy season and all commercial beekeepers are too occupied to go.  Besides, most have the bees they need or have adjusted their plans for the number they have. 

The problem for the seller is that if the auction is held early in the year, before beekeepers get busy, make their plans and spend all their cash, he will have good attendance, but the bees will not show as well since that would be before spring build-up.

If he waits this late, the bees look great, but people are fully committed and too busy to come from any distance on the remote chance they will be able to buy.

Earlier in the spring, lots of idle beekeepers would come from far and wide to see what is happening, see their friends, and to learn the gossip.

IMO, He would have been better to have shown them and sold them in March, while they still looked good before the inevitable temporary spring dwindling, and when beekeepers had not spent all their cash.

Beekeepers run on hope, and if they see bees that have survived well until March they do not expect big populations, but see promise and will pay top dollar for promising hives.

At least that was the case last year when doubles went for over $500 at auction.

I also suspect the high prices last year may have scared off buyers this year.  There are more bee auctions coming up.  After this auction, with prices so low, I imagine people will go see their bankers and find an excuse to attend.

All in all, it seems most decided to skip it and someone made a bargain buy.

I went to town and saw the sleep guy.  My index was 10.8 before the machine and 1.8 now after a week.  10.8 is borderline.  1.8 is normal or better.  I have the machine for another week to get more data.

I pretty well wasted the beautiful bee day doing odd jobs in the house and getting ready for supper.  These Thursday parties are fun, but they do eat up the time.

Tonight I'm doing a seven-pound prime rib roast for nine people.  I decided to use the electric oven I bought some time back.  We never did use it much, but it works well.  I just have to remember that it is a lot slower than the gas oven.  The roast is only half-done in the picture.

I was speculating about the auction's low prices.  The answer came down thru the grapevine. I quote:

Heard thru the grapevine

I heard around the $230 Ė 250.

The frames were off sizes/homemade, same as boxes.

Not many commercial beekeepers interested in that kind of stuff., still would be cheap but require replacing to standard equip

Happiness is a direction, not a place.
Sydney J. Harris

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Friday May 9th 2014

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I slept until 0800.  First job is tidying.  I did the dishes last night, but still have work in the kitchen.

The forecast has improved from the predictions of several days ago.  Today, I really should start on the forklift.

As for the auction, apparently the reason for the low prices was largely that the equipment was off-standard.  That was the reason it was being sold, rather than incorporated into the Scandia outfit after Scandia purchased another bee operation.  The fact was well advertised and as a result the commercial beekeepers did not buy.

One has to wonder, though, since a beekeeper could have bought them, stacked on his/her own equipment and/or foundation, extracted $360 worth of honey and melted the original equipment after the bees went up.  Too much trouble, I guess, and there are better opportunities. 

Savvy operators keep their eye on the ball and try not to be distracted by second-rate opportunities when they have better options and limited resources.

Commercial beekeepers need to standardize their frames and boxes so that they stack properly, can be trucked without jiggling, and so the extracting machinery will not balk or break the frames.

The secret to successful commercial operation is efficient and rapid removal of honey and extraction.  The bulk of year's crop has to be removed over a few weeks and any bottlenecks or breakdowns can cost a lot of money, especially if the honey accumulates on the hives or granulates in the combs due to slow extraction.

I seem to be writing a lot in the forum today.  There is active discussion on several points. Check it out!


Hi Allen,

Would you say there is a night time temperature that should be consistent before splitting hives? This year we can't go by what's blooming, every one says at peak dandelion bloom but every thing is totally screwed up as far as the bloom goes this year.

My educated guess would be night time temps of 50 F. But I am not as educated as you when it comes to bees. I did read this page http://www.honeybeeworld.com/spring/splits.htm and you had 80 F days and 40 F nights but when we get 80 F days we have 60 or better nights. You also said when apples bloom, this year that may be late. It is 5/9 and the buds are not even swollen.

I got all the Apivar out but did not get all the bottom boards clean. It was taking to long and the weather was going to get bad for a few days so I decide to just go through the yards pulling the Apivar so it wasn't delayed by the added time of clean up. Delaying taking it out would delay the timing of getting supers on.


I don't bother cleaning bottom boards unless I am moving the bottom box for some reason, and then I switch the floor for a clean one, scrape it and move on.

Cleaning floors is the bee's job IMO and a good indicator of colony condition.  I do try to slope floors forward, though, to make their work easier and to shed water.

As for splitting, there is no hard and fast rule except that the splits should be big enough for whatever the expected temperatures will be with a safety factor for the times the weather-guessers screw up.

We are having freezing nights, but I would still split a strong double in half without moving any frames around.  I'd either reduce the entrances, if leaving the splits as singles, or place each half on another brood box to raise them away from the floor and provide future room.  I usually do the latter as I am lazy and may not get back in time to add space otherwise and I never seem to have reducers when I need them.

As for making frame by frame splits, that is trickier since the brood frames have to be arranged so as to form a ball shape and sufficient bees need to be in each split -- and remain in each split, not drift out -- to protect the brood.

I can't give rules for this, but this much is true: You can always split again or remove brood and bees later from a split made too large, but undersize splits will not develop, may die, and are prone to disease.


Thanks, I am doing frame by frame splits and want to do single nuc boxes since I am selling five frames with a queen.


Package bees can be used as an indicator of what is viable under your conditions.  Whatever brood package bee colonies are able to raise and their current populations at any date in your area is a fairly safe size of split to make at that time.

Looking at the calendar, if I wanted to graft queens to have them ready just after I return on the 20th, now would be the time.  Queens take roughly twelve days to emerge after grafting, so if I grafted today, they would be ready about the 21st and laying by month end.

I don't much feel like it today, though, and I'd have to prepare a cell builder.  I'm trying to get work done on the forklift, but got distracted sorting tools and getting ready.

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't
 Erica Jong

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