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Tuesday July 1st 2014
   Canada Day, eh? 

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I slept in until 0855 today.  When I looked, the temperature was already 23 degrees. 

My ankles are still sore, but not too bad. I have a big day ahead.  Shopping, bees, lawn mowing, BBQ...

Zip and I drove to Three Hills.  I was surprised to see there were only a few cars at the store, today being a holiday and also 10% Tuesday.

I had called the IGA from Drum yesterday to verify that the IGA would indeed be open today and to verify that today would be 10% Tuesday.  I'd only bought basics in Drum on that understanding and figured it would be worth the gas and the time to drive to Three Hills today.

I filled my cart and went to the till, where the cashier said, "You know that 10% Tuesday is next week, not today?

 "No", I said, "I called yesterday to make sure you were open and that 10% Tuesday is today."

The manager was nearby and overheard, and said that the chain had decided to put it off until next week due to the holiday.  They had advertised the fact in the flyer, etc. 

Nonetheless, the 10% Tuesday signs were everywhere in the store and in the window.   He smiled and said to give me the discount regardless, but added, "Don't come back next week and expect to get the discount twice."  He obviously did not mind and appreciates the business.

This is a great store that does it all right.   Service is personal.  They have carts where you need them (in the store and not chained up).  Their meats are superior to all others except maybe Costco and prices competitive. There is always a cashier open with no lineup and they bag groceries -- and offer to carry out.   Ample parking is mere feet from the entrance.

The store is small, but has a complete selection and carries all the specials.  The only rub is that their prices tend to be a bit high.  A 10% discount brings their costs in line with about what I pay in the big stores.

When the total rang up, it was $152.78 and that put me over $150, the line for a 15% discount.  I paid $130.38.  Bonus!

I drove home and put the food away.  I can see I will not get to the bees today.  People are coming at five.

As I drove up my driveway I realised that I am very happy to be home.  The Broughtons trip was very memorable and I'll probably do it again, but in some ways it was an ordeal and I need to charge my batteries.

In late May, June, July, August, September and into October, The Old Schoolhouse is paradise.  Coming up the drive, I see my domain is looking overgrown, lush and fabulous. 

Some years, we manicured the place and others, just let it go wild.  This may be one of the wild years.  I consider selling, but don't need to, yet, at least, if I can solve the winter upkeep problems...

After lunch, I drove down to see Ray about having more floors and lids made.  He made forty sets for me previously, but was holding out for a higher price.  I gave him time to think about it and he decided he would make more for the same cost.  I have several other prospects, but he does a beautiful job and I figure "better the devil you know..."

My friends came for supper and we barbequed in the back yard.

Sitting here at 2200h, I smell a skunk.  Not good.  Skunks bother bees and my dog tends to follow her nose and not see where the trail ends until too late.

Businesses planned for service are apt to succeed;
businesses plan for profit are apt to fail.
 Nicholas M. Butler

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Wednesday July 2nd 2014

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This morning, I have to be in Three Hills for my annual physical and I am fasting for a routine blood test I'll  get done on the same trip.

These items will take up most of the morning.  Then I have to get working on the bees.  The day promises to be a hot one, but we'll see what I can get done.

These hot days warm the hives and  soften the wax and honey enough that  the bees can work a lot of comb quickly. Queens really spread out, and even small colonies can perform what looks like miracles to people who are only judging by what the same colonies do the rest of the year.

This effect always takes beekeepers by surprise every year and many neglect to add extra space beyond a minimum, or too late.  They come back to find the lids glued down, the bees swarmed or plugged or both, and a lot less honey than they might have had if they had added more space.  A good indicator of failure to super adequately is fat outside combs in the brood boxes. 

Once the weather is settled and nights are warm, smart beekeepers always add one more box than the bees need to require at the moment.  Sometimes they are disappointed, but sometimes rewarded. 

I recall putting supers of foundation on hives in June one year back in the seventies, just to get the stacks of finished boxes out of the shop so my staff would not see them sitting as if they were not needed and think they had done their job -- and slow down production.

I returned to that yard a week later to find the boxes drawn and plugged.  What I thought was unnecessary space proved to be less space than they could have used!

If I had not put the boxes on, I would have never known what I missed.  The lids would be stuck down, the combs would be fat, and the bees lazy -- or swarmed.

If you have not already, go out now and put on one more box than your bees seem to need.

Later, in mid-August in my part of the country, we start cutting back on space, but never to the point they do not have an empty super of comb until mid-September.  At that time, we can reduce them to doubles for winter.

*    *   *   *   *   *

After lunch, I went out and started going through brood chambers and checked two more hives.  What do I see?  So far, only new queens, some with sealed brood and all hives have more honey than I like to see.  I am short of empty combs to slip in, and inserting more than a few sheets of foundation does not provide immediate room to lay, which is what some hives really need.

I'll work through more hives shortly, but came inside due to the heat of midday and to get water and sunglasses.  Right now, I miss my pool and will have to set it up soon.  That job is on my list of backlogged jobs to do.

I'm looking for hives ready to sell.  The flow is coming up soon and people will want them in time to super them up.

*    *   *   *   *   *

I went back out and did a few more hives before the heat got to me.  I'm not finding a lot of hives ready for sale, but, then, I am looking in the worst group.  So far, I found three, and two queenless, plus the balance coming along nicely, but with new queens and less brood than I had hoped.  The two weeks of being sick delayed my splitting and that slow start delayed the build-up. 

Oddly, though, many of the hives with original queens are not seeming as large as expected.  Maybe that will change with the ongoing hatch of brood.  Also, today was a flow day and half the bees were out foraging, and perhaps that affected my perceptions.

I am still suffering the after-effects of the winter I lost all the hives early in winter, when they were still full of feed.  My hives simply have far too much honey in them and it is affecting brood rearing.  I can add foundation, but it is not the same as empty drawn brood comb.

This day was less productive than I had hoped.  I did work through some boxes and I did work through some hives, but I have a lot left to do and am not seeing what I had hoped to see.

At this point, I simply have far too much honey in the hives and I'll need to extract if this keeps up.  I'm going to need to add foundation to these hives, too.

I tired out early and wound up mowing grass.  That is a mindless job that I can do when I run out of energy and ambition.

Logic is in the eye of the logician.
Gloria Steinem

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Thursday July 3rd 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I have more bee work today, and I plan to begin earlier to beat the heat.  Predictions are for thirty-one degrees (88 F) today.

Thirty-one degrees (88 F) is getting very close to brood temperature, which is 35 C or 95 F.  That means queens in small colonies are much less constrained by temperature and also that the nurse bees may be found more dispersed through the colony.

Bees form a cluster when ambient temperatures drop to ~55 F. At ambient temperatures below 55 F, the colonies just try to maintain a comfortable temperature in the volume inside the cluster.  If there is brood, that central area will be 95F, but the temperature will drop from there to the periphery.  Outside the cluster temperatures will be close to ambient.

 As ambient temperatures rise the cluster loosens and becomes larger.  When the ambient temperature reaches 95F, there is no cluster and the potential brood area is defined by the bees' ability to cool, rather than maintain heat in the brood zone.  Once the bees are able to maintain the entire hive interior at 95F, the queen may lay anywhere in the hive if there are sufficient bees to occupy that space.  The bees will also store nectar anywhere in the hives.

If, however, the interior temperature drops, the bees will retreat and take their honey with them to the warmer areas, but some bees will remain with any brood patches to try to maintain that zone at 95F.

That is why extreme hive ventilation can be a big problem if not used with care and understanding.  Extreme ventilation is anything over a few square inches of entrance area. Standard entrances are about ten square inches (3/4" X 14.5") and completely adequate.  Hives do well with half that and in nature often choose less than ten square inches

Honey bees naturally choose cavities with small openings (two to five square inches)* and can ventilate adequately through them.  Most of the time in our climate, colonies are more concerned with heat and moisture conservation than ventilation. 

In our region, weather can drop to near-freezing any month of the year.  Cold penetrating the hive sends a strong signal to colonies to reduce their occupied volume.  They retreat from the cooler areas, stop drawing foundation in the outer regions, and pull honey back down into the brood area, often plugging out the queen.

In the southern USA, where days and nights are near nest temperature for much of the year (and where much of our bee literature originates), different shade and ventilation rules apply. 

Cold is much less of a problem there, but, when ambient temperatures rise above 95F, which they do for days at a time some places, the bees are forced to divert effort to cooling.  They gather water and evaporate it to cool the brood area.  Again, in this situation excess ventilation can bring hot air in, challenging their abilities.

Use enhanced ventilation with caution.

Another thing to think about when considering how the bees cope on hot days is that dark coloured hives and lids can increase the heat inside the hive by a lot.  While that can be a good thing most of the year up here, in summer it can add a lot of heat to the hive and force the bees to ventilate.  Insulated lids year-round make sense.

* "...Most nest entrances consisted of a single knothole or crack with a total area of just 10 to 30 square centimeters (2 to 5 square inches) (fig. 3. 5). And typically they were located near the floor of the tall tree cavity..." - From DREAM HOME FOR HONEYBEES

Thirty-one degrees C (88 F) is also getting very close to my body temperature, and requires my body's cooling system to work hard.  If I generate heat by working, and also absorb heat from the sun, I have to get rid of a lot of heat by sweating.

I am not used to the heat, after coming from the Coast, where temperatures were cool for the past two weeks.  I find I am limited in how much I can do in the heat.

I went out around 0930 and by 1100, I quit and came in. finding the sun too hot for me.

I'm finding my hives are plugged or plugging and will be adding foundation.  After working through about 30 hives, I have identified eight for sale now and found two queenless hives that were too small to save.

This year,  for some reason, I am getting stung around the eyes far more often than usual  It does not swell much, but does distort my vision an bit which is a nuisance.

*    *   *   *   *   *

At 1400, I am in the house, running the fans to circulate the cold air up from the basement.  That also serves to dry out the basement which gets damp in summer.  The wind is picking up and that makes being outdoors more tolerable.  Elijah showed up to do garden work in the heat of the day.  He had slept in.

I was outside for a little while, putting foundation into boxes.  I'll have to put a box on every hive. 

Then I came back in, and immediately received a call from the Drumheller Library wanting a 20-piece show of Ellen's art for September in their new Civic Building.  Earlier on, they were booked for a year or more ahead, but I'd said I could come up with something if someone cancelled.  I guess someone did. I agreed to September, subject to confirmation. 

*    *   *   *   *   *

I am finding that my carpenter glued everything well except the one spot that really matters and some warping is happening on a few lids.  I also need to explain to him that the better side of the plywood goes on the top of the lids and the top of the floors.

*    *   *   *   *   *

Around 1600, Nick Lissaman called.  That is interesting as I had written him three weeks ago about his new enterprise and he had not replied.  This afternoon, I remembered and called the number on the website.  Nick called me back and we had a long chat.  He'll be sending me samples of his new frames and I'll be reviewing them here.

Readers will know that I love Pierco black one-piece frames and use nothing else in spite of a slight warping in the comb surface.  I have other combs, of course, but when I buy new, I buy, I buy Pierco black one piece frames.

Nick has been the face of Pierco for several decades, but he and the owner of the company have parted ways.  Nick tells me that he has started a new company and made new molds with improvements and I am looking forward to trying out his products.  If they are as good as Pierco but stay flat and don't warp, I'll be delighted.  If competition drives prices down, that will just be gravy.

*    *   *   *   *   *

I went back out and worked another hour or two.  The flow is definitely starting and I am putting on foundation and supers as fast as I can.  I finished the South of the Hedge Yard and almost all of the North Yard.   I'm finding lots of good colonies.

I don't seem to be tired today.  I've adjusted to the heat, I guess, but I am quitting at 1730 for a while at least.  Looking in the mirror, I see my face is red.   I'd love to have my pool set up and ready to go, but setting it up means a few hours of work and I am behind with the bees.

*    *   *   *   *   *

I have been wanting to buy a CPAP machine and looking online.  I know the model I want and was about to buy from a discount store in the US this morning, when at the last moment before ordering I remembered Kijiji. 

I searched and found several on offer within driving distance, so I answered several ads.  Just now, at 1758, the phone rang and I am off to Airdrie to make a purchase.  The seller grew up in Three Hills, as it turns out.

*    *   *   *   *   *

I drove the truck, planning to also pick up some 2X4s for hive stands. By the time I met with the CPAP seller and a beekeeper at the A&W, Home Depot was closed.  Home Depot in Airdrie now closes at 8PM and that really makes me wonder how well they are doing.  It seems to me that homeowners shop in the evenings.  Is that business declining?  There is Rona nearby, but I do not like their setup, so I skipped the lumber purchase.

I drove home, figured out how to set the CPAP machine and went to bed.

This machine is a premium model and like-new.  I saved quite a bit over buying online, and paid less than 1/3 of what Funcktional Sleep Solutions was talking about.  Of course, there is always risk in buying second-hand, but hopefully it is minimal in this case.  I figure it either works or it doesn't, and it does.

Talent does what it can; genius does what it must.
 Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

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Friday July 4th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

The machine worked well, and I slept better than previous nights, but my mouth was dry.  I still have a few settings on the machine to figure out it seems.  I suspect the heated tube.  One of the things I liked about CPAP from the first was the cool air under pressure.  I did turn on all the features last night, so maybe this one can be turned off.

Today is Stampede Parade Day in Calgary.

I'll be making up hives for buyers today. 

As I was checking hives, reversing, and moving hives onto clean stands, I noticed something interesting. 

My pallets have drain grooves running fore and aft and the EPS boxes sit high enough over the pallets (since they are larger outside than the wooden boxes for which the pallets were designed) that the drains provide bee spaces that bees can travel between hives on the same pallet. See pictures. I wonder if this affects queen replacement and acceptance.

I recall seeing Babe at Babe's honey showing us pallets they designed such that eight hives shared the pallet and there were beeways between the hives.  Each hive had a queen, but if the queen died or became poor, the bees could support another queen.

I dropped two EPS boxes full of frames yesterday and they split open.  Today I repaired them.  The job is simple: brush Weldbond onto the broken surfaces, align the pieces, slap the box together, and drive in several 3-1/2" drywall screws to clamp the joint.  The box can return to service immediately.

I like plastic equipment much better than wood.  As I go through the hives, I am always impressed when I come across the black Pierco frames.  I have a lot of them now and many have been in service for a number of years.  These combs are, often as not, the best in the hive, although the queens still love old dark frames when they come across them.  The Pierco frames are the nicest to handle and usually contain more brood and pollen than wood frames.

I accomplished quite a bit  of outside work today, transferring singles to wood boxes for a customer who needs eight singles, but in wood boxes, and checking for queens in other hives. 

I'm discovering that I am arriving about a week early to assess the new queens as some have not yet begun to lay. 

These spits were done on June 13th. That is barely twenty-one days ago and today is the very earliest that I should expect to see laying queens from emergency queens.

I dropped cells into about 2/3rds of the hives when I split them, and if the cells hatched, those queens should have been laying for about week by now, but if the cells were not successful and the bees built backups, queens from those backup cells will require a few more days to develop. I'm seeing some queens that have been in business for about a week, judging by the brood, but almost none newer.  If I wait a few more days, I should see more queens laying and more brood.

Assuming there are larvae of appropriate age and the bees start emergency queens on the day of splitting, a queen will emerge twelve to fourteen days later and be laying as early as twenty days later.  However, this is idealized and usually things take a bit longer.

Typically, the bees do not start cells immediately on becoming queenless, and if there are eggs in the split, they often wait until the eggs hatch before beginning queen cells. That can add another three or four days, and if mating weather is poor, the emerging queens may mate a little later than the ideal case.  Generally, waiting at least twenty-four to twenty-eight days to check for queens pays off.

For one thing, after the queen has laid a few days, there will be more than one frame with a patch of eggs.  That makes finding eggs easier and requires less hunting through the hive to verify presence of a laying queen.  All I need to see is some eggs in worker cells.  I don't need to see the queen.

Being ill in early June set my beekeeping back a long way.  Splitting has to be done at the right time and delays result in problems that carry on down the line for the rest of the season, into winter and the following spring.  Beekeeping is an art that involves careful timing and expert manipulation of space.

As a result of delays, I am late in delivering hives and my hives are plugged with honey.

At twenty-five degrees, today was not as unbearably hot as yesterday, but it was hot enough that I came in at midday, made a bean and rice stew, and had a good nap during the heat of the day.  This CPAP machine seems to work well.

I went back out and worked until 1815 and came in. I'm taking the night off.

I've noticed that I am expecting too much of myself and simply cannot meet my own expectations.  Time to lower them a bit.

Tomorrow, I have two buyers coming.  One in the morning, one at night.  I'm not ready for either.  The first will take ten minutes or so; the second will take me a few hours.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain

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Saturday July 5th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

The new CPAP machine, a ResMed S9 AutoSet, works well, but I find wake up periodically with a dry mouth and AFAIK it is not from mouth breathing. 

I did not have this issue with the Philips Respironics System One RemStar Auto with A-Flex (551P) I had on loan previously, so will have to research the problem.  Turning off the climate control seems to have been beneficial, but I still need to make some more adjustments. One thing is notable: I have not had sinus congestion since using this machine.

I'm still feeling tired and noticed that I was a bit depressed yesterday. 

I found I was wondering why I am doing this beekeeping when I could be at the Stampede, visiting down east, or spending time on my boats or at the cottage.

I suppose that a let-down feeling can be expected after all the excitement involved in getting ready and going on the flotilla, and the adjustments to single life.  It was a year ago now that Ellen's condition worsened and she was hospitalized.

I just don't seem to have enough time or energy to do everything I have planned.  I need to catch up my books and to write everyone on my Memorial list at least one month in advance,  That gives me another three days. And I need to set up the pool.

I have a customer coming for a hive at 0930 and one at 8PM, so that defines my day.  The morning is starting cool and overcast, but the day is predicted to reach twenty-six degrees.

I really need to contact the rest of the buyers on my list, but have to get caught up with the bees, too, and dealing with people takes time. I am not quite ready for more business than I have lined up now.

The main flow is beginning, and my buyers will want to take advantage of it.  Most are not concerned with getting every last drop of honey, though, and the idea is to provide flow-ready hives that are strong enough to make a crop, but not likely to swarm.

My 0900 buyer came and went.  He took one single and I went through it to make sure I saw a queen.

I always worry when I sell hives.  I want the buyer to get a good deal, but also want to make sure I don't give away the farm.  It is always a judgment call.  Hives that look large and crowded in the evening of a hot day always look small in the cool morning the next day.

I recall one time a commercial beekeeper friend wanted some singles and I got them ready for him.  They looked great, but he came after dark one cold June evening on the way home from B.C.   He looked at them and decided they were too weak and passed.  I looked at them again the next day and they looked great again.  If he had come then, he would have been delighted.

I also hate to sell just one hive.  With bees, the odds of success are about 90%.  If a buyer get 100 hives or 10 hives, the odds are that there will be a few failures in the lot due to travel and normal attrition, but the balance will work out well.

When a person buys one hive, though, odds are that one time in ten, the hive may not work out and if their number comes up, that means total failure.

I worry about that as I cannot give any guarantees and can only hope that all goes well.

I quit work at suppertime, tidied around the house in the evening, and went to bed early, at 2200 to try to maximize sleep time.  I find that the sun wakes me early in the morning. If the sun does not wake me, sometimes a fly finds me and tickles me until I get up.

Yesterday, I discovered a wasp nest in a super of partially drawn foundation. The wasps were quite gentle and did not sting me, even as I manhandled their nest.  The nest is quite fascinating.  The larvae wiggle and appear to beg for food like baby birds.  I placed the frame with the nest into an empty box and we'll see if they are able to survive.

Nearby, I found bumblebees in a mouse nest under an inverted drum, and in some stacks, I have been finding mice.

In fact, I feel as if I am running a mouse farm.  I am seeing them everywhere this year and most are deer mice.  That is the kind that can carry hantavirus, so I take care when I come across their nests.

As I was working the bees at around 1900, I saw a large sprayer go by a quarter mile away.  It was spraying around the outside edge of the a canola crop in full bloom south of me.  It made just the one outside round and then appeared again on the other side of the tracks.  I cannot imagine what chemical they are spraying or what the target pest is, but think that whatever they are spraying, it cannot be good for bees.

You can do anything, but not everything.
David Allen

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Sunday July 6th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I slept over nine hours in the last twenty-four.  I'm trying to catch up on sleep and get back to feeling 'normal'.  I've been home almost a week now.

Conventional wisdom states that napping in the afternoon affects nighttime sleep adversely.  That has never been my experience.  I find that any sleep is good sleep.  I usually sleep an hour exactly if I lie down in the afternoon.  My internal alarm clock seems to be stuck "on".

My new (used) ResMed S9 AutoSet machine seems to help me sleep better. If nothing else, it is a new tech toy and I love tech toys.  I take the card out every day and read the data with Sleepyhead software.  I downloaded the Respironics software, but it does not seem to run right, even after reinstallation.  Action buttons are missing on various pages.

This machine does not provide the same data as the ResMed unit I had on trial and I miss some of the output.  I can infer some of it, and need to study the subject more. I am beginning to see that this whole question of sleep and what may underlie sleep problems is more complex than it seems on the surface.

Mornings these days start off cool and overcast, then the days clear off and heat up.  I have work to do outdoors and plan to get at it early today.  The day should not be uncomfortably hot, but the best times to work outdoors are early and late in the day.

I was reading back over last year's entries for this time of year.  Interestingly, at this date, it was not apparent to me that Ellen would die a month later.  At the time, my assumption was that the chemo was giving her issues.

I should get out and get going.  I have been finding that even if I am feeling tired and unambitious and I get up, go outside and begin working, my energy returns.  My right ankle still gives me a bit of pain but is getting better.  The other one is fine now.  I have no idea what causes this.  I had the same problem a year ago.  The right ankle stiffness may be exacerbated by holding the accelerator on the lawn mower for hours at a time  I think the problem was originally triggered by repeatedly stepping down off the forklift.

Speaking of the forklift, I have yet to change the tranny.  I have been away, too busy, or too tired.  Since I put the 8' X 8' deck on the yard truck, I have been able to get by.   I'll get around to it, but I am held back partly by my fear that the new tranny won't work after I go to all that bother.

I have to have eight singles ready by 1930 tonight.  Three are already done and I need to find and work through the rest. 

The customer wants these in wood boxes, so:

  • I open hives, evaluate their size. and choose the largest
  • Select and transfer at least six frames with brood to a wood box
  • Find and evaluate the queen
  • Add pollen and honey frames
  • Place an excluder on the original bottom brood chamber
  • Place the made-up single on top.
  • Close up the hive.

Before the customer arrives this evening, I'll smoke additional bees up into the split, remove it, and place it on a floor and add a lid.

I'll then keep the bees smoked in until they are loaded.  If a few fly back to the original hive, no problem.

*   *   *   *   *

I went out a little after 1000 and by 1115 had made up three more, plus accomplished a few small tasks.  As I go, I make sure the untouched hives have enough space for the next week or so..

I am using up the rest of my Global Patties.  Patties should not be kept long after they are purchased.  Their nutritive value diminishes with time and old patties have even been shown to be harmful.  As you can see, the bees are eating them.  bee need a lot of protein to raise brood.  Even if there is pollen in the hive, it will not last long if there is a rainy spell or the flowers stop yielding.

I have mentioned placing supers on hives before the bees get crowded so they will know the space is there and use it when it is needed.  I  have also extolled the virtues of waxed black Pierco one-piece frames. 

At left is a picture showing how a hive has begun drawing the cells using the wax on the sheets. 

Looking to the top, only a few bees can be seen, and the ones on it in the picture are the ones that were there when I lifted the box (no smoke) but from the evidence of their work, one can deduce that bees have been up there at some point since the box of new foundation frames was placed there several days ago..

I was finished the singles by 1500 and decided to mow the lawn.  It is really long.  Mowing in the middle of the day is said to be hard on the lawn, but my goal is not to have a perfect lawn. but to get the grass down to where it is not a fire hazard and will be neat enough for the memorial.  We used to mow regularly, but I decided to spend the money on the gardener this year and let the lawn go wild.

1700h: Elijah has been here working on the garden this afternoon.  His Mom came along to help and they bought some annuals with them that they found at a close-out of the local greenhouse.  The gardens are looking pretty good.

My customer is coming at 1930 to pick up 8 hives.  I'll have to put them on floors and lids before he comes, but for now, I'll take it easy.  I have a turkey leg in the oven.

He arrived at 1930 as planned and we had him loaded in short order.  After he left, rain began and continued into the night.

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

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Monday July 7th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Weather this past week has been ideal for bees.  Days have been hot, but not too hot, and nights have only dipped briefly to eight degrees. The coming weeks promises to be as good or better.

I have nothing pressing today., but should get out and work on the bees.  Some need boxes and I want to identify and prepare hives for sale.

I realise that I have not yet contacted people who want bees.  I also have not updated the Nucs and Hives for Sale - Spring 2014 page for a week now, so did so just now.

From a reader:

Very interesting that you should move the wasp nest to a safe place....most people would have just destroyed it.

The photo is fabulous, by the way.

You reminded me of a time, many years ago, when I tore down a small rotting wooden structure in my yard early one summer only to discover a tiny - and now mostly destroyed - wasp nest that had been attached, just under the ground, to one of the support posts. Closer inspection revealed several tiny larva moving in their cells, and motherly instinct - coupled with an innate curiousity in all things of the natural world - compelled me to see what would happen if I tried saving them.

I put what was left of the tiny torn nest into a margarine container with holes punched into the lid for air, and spent the next several days poking canned catfood on the end of a toothpick into the mouths of the remaining larva several times a day (research had revealed that larvae are fed only protein, in the form of insects, but catfood was much handier). Three of the pale little larvae survived and slowly became little fully coloured wasps. One day, one of them rose up from the nursery bed and took off on its very first and very wobbly flight into the couple feet of vertical space over the kitchen counter where I had been feeding them. And then a second one took off, a few minutes later, both of them wobbling around directly in front of me.

Just then there was a knock at the door, and being in full view of the person at the door I had no choice but to answer. Seeing someone I didn't particularly want to visit with in the first place AND knowing there were two baby wasps having their first flights in my kitchen (with two very curious housecats around somewhere that loved chasing things), I blurted out "I can't visit right now, the wasps are flying" or some such nonsense, and closed the door in the poor woman's face.

Both wasps eventually returned to their little remnant of torn nest, and I cut a larger hole in the lid so they could now come and go as they pleased, put a dab of catfood on the floor of the margarine container, and sticky-taped the entire thing onto a sheltered crossbeam just under the roof of my deck outside.

I kept watch over them throughout the summer, putting a bit of food into the container from time to time (changing from catfood to sugar water as apparently only the larva eat protein and the adults eat only sweet). The three of them survived and added on to the little scrap of their original home in the margarine container until they had a perfect little wasp's nest, fully enclosed and with a small opening at one end, the entire thing only about 2.5 to 3 inches in diameter.

In the late summer/early fall, they died one by one over a period of a couple weeks, each one's little body lying in the bottom of the margarine container next to the nest. My three little wasp babies. And yah, I admit it, I cried over each one.

Needless to say, I wasn't one, even before this, to intentionally destroy a wasp nest unless I absolutely had to (and that was only once, so far) and I still don't. They have their place here too. Research has it a single wasp nest can kill hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes (and other insects) throughout the summer to feed their larva. And in turn, are food themselves for birds and other animals.

If I don't want them nesting in a certain place (like around my doorways or walkway), I hang a small puffed out paper bag in the area as queens are territorial and won't set up if they think another nest is nearby. Probably based on supply and demand for food. And if they happen to come around when I'm eating outside (which never fails to happen it seems), I set a place for them with a bit of protein and a bit of sweet and shoo them over to it. They eventually "get it" and I can eat completely unmolested.

I think being safe around wasps, for the most part, is a lot like being safe around bees - it helps if you understand their nature a little.

I hope you enjoyed my little story :)

I enjoyed your note, and think it is worth sharing.


I also thought that picture was outstanding.  I shot it rather casually with my phone while holding the frame with one hand.   It seems if a person shoots enough pictures, one is bound to be exceptional.

I almost sent it to Kim Flottum at Bee Culture. He would appreciate it.  I sent him a picture once and it became the cover of an issue of Bee Culture.  This one would not, though, even with the honeycomb in the background -- or would it?

I also found the wasps quite appealing.  They were obviously observing me, as I was observing them, but they were holding back on the nuclear option which they had at the ready, so how could I not spare them?  The larvae were also quite charming, although I might not have thought so if they were wax moth larvae.

My computer friends got involved in the SETI project early on, but I thought they were insane.  Why would we want to contact aliens, Star Trek notwithstanding? 

What if they are hungry? 

Look at how we treat one another and the other intelligent species on our own planet.  What are the odds that aliens would not eat us, or just wipe us out prophylacticallyif they happened to catch a glimpse of -- and comprehend -- an episode of reality TV?

(Did you see my dolphin videos?)

I remember sitting in at a talk by Christine Peng a long time ago (1986?) and one thing she mentioned was raising honey bee larvae to maturity in a petrie dish.  I found that fascinating, and remembered her descriptions years later when Dee was claiming cell size was a huge factor in every aspect of bee development and performance -- and that cells are not merely a container as it seems -- for most purposes -- they are.

Christine Peng also discussed the narrow middle ground between dosages of OTC which will not control AFB and dosages that are toxic to larva.

As a bee inspector and one who had experimented with using OTC against AFB, and also used sulfathiazole (legal at the time) I was very aware of the limited efficacy of OTC and her words explained a lot.

I heard recently that Tylosin is now approved for use on bees in Canada.  That is a good thing in that Tylosin is 100X? as effective compared to OTC against AFB.  This approval can also be a bad thing in that Tylosin and its metabolites are very persistent. Tylosin  must be used with extreme caution to avoid contamination of honey produced in the treated hives, even months or a year later.

I confess to killing a wasp nest inside the wall above my deck door last year as they were stinging people, but I generally leave wasps and hornets alone and enjoy their presence. 

Years ago, wasps built a large nest in an upper corner of a basement door jamb.  They used the door as one side of the nest such that the brood was exposed every time we opened the door.  We found it amusing and no one was ever stung. They stayed there all season.

I don't even kill mice when I find them in my equipment.  I dump them somewhere out of the way and if the babies fall on the ground, I put them in the remains of the nest I have placed out of my way.  The mother usually takes them away before long.  Or something does.

I seem to lack the killer instinct, although I squash bees that harass and sting me while I work without any qualms and with some satisfaction. 

I also know for a fact that I kill bees each time I work through hives.  At this time of year, with bees spilling over the boxes and floors, killing some is unavoidable.  I justify this with the belief, firmly held, that I am doing more good than harm. 

*   *   *   *   *

This morning, I worked on a few hives, then came in for lunch and had a nap.

After that, I went out and looked around, then decided to mow grass. Mowing with this 52" tractor is effortless and mindless work and it restores an appearance of normalcy to the place.

I have been letting the lawns go wild, but decided that I like it mowed and that I need the grass and weeds cut to be able to do various jobs around the place properly.  Besides, I need to mow the spot where Orams put their tent trailer.  The yellow clover was getting as tall as I am.

What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence.
The only consequence is what we do.
John Ruskin

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Tuesday July 8th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

When I awoke, I noticed I am swelling slightly around the eyes.  The bees have been targeting my eyes lately and a few get me.  I guess my immunity to stings is wearing off, but even when immune, slight swelling at the sting site is not unusual.  I prefer not to wear a veil and have been a bit negligent about smoking the hives.

Most places on the body, that small amount of swelling does not show, but any distortion near the eyes is obvious, both to the person with the swelling, and to people he meets.

I'll have to be careful about getting stung in the face for the next few days.  I have a laser eye operation on Thursday and probably should not show up with a distorted face.

*   *   *   *   *

Proper smoking of hives saves the bees and saves the beekeeper.  Smoking bees properly is not as simple as it looks.  Most people do not know how to light a smoker or how to apply smoke properly. 

I use burlap, cut into strips about three inches by sixteen or so.  I also use wood pellets sometimes, but they require some material on top to keep them from spilling out when the smoker is tipped.

Whatever the fuel, the beekeeper must always be aware of the potential for fire and keep the smoker where it cannot start a fire, either by flaming, as it will in wind, or from sparks or fuel spilling out.

A beekeeper should always have a full bucket of water at hand for various purposes, including putting out fires.

A propane torch will light a smoker, but I just use a six or eight inch square of crumpled newspaper and a barbeque lighter.  I light the paper, drop it into the empty smoker and watch it burn.  When the paper is in full flame and no un-charred paper remains, I dangle a small piece of burlap over the flame and puff lightly, then drop it and leave the smoker sitting like that.  It smolders, then smokes liberally.  Ellen won more than a few smoker lighting contests with that technique. 

The tricks to quick and reliable smoker lighting every time are

  • an empty smoker,

  • no more paper than specified,

  • waiting for the fire to peak and begin to fade,

  • adding only a small amount of dry burlap.

After the smoker has been going a while, pack in more burlap to reduce the airflow and slow the burn rate.  If the smoker is burning too hot and fast, pack it down and if that does not slow it enough, dampen a bit of burlap and pack it on top of the burning fuel.

When smoking hives, less is more.  The idea is to confuse and disarm the guard bees and to suppress and mask the alarm signal, not to burn their wings off or totally confuse and panic the hive.  Too much smoke will make the bees run, make working difficult, and send the queen running somewhere where she is hard to find.  Excess smoke can also damage the bees and taint the honey.

Usually, sending a few puffs across the entrance and any other openings is sufficient.  It is important to smoke across the entire entrance as one side will be the cooling air intake and the other will be the exhaust.  Blowing smoke across the exhaust side will achieve nothing.

Which is the intake and which is the exhaust will be obvious by the way the smoke is carried by the air currents.  Smoking at the intake guarantees some smoke will go inside.

The smoke must actually enter the hive and contact bees to be effective.  I see many beekeepers smoke over or near the hive without checking to see if the smoke is drawn in and actually contacts the target bees. 

Bees are very good at fanning smoke away from themselves, so some trickery is in order.  A smart beekeeper looks to see where the air is being drawn in and puffs some smoke there, then waits a moment until the smoke is being blown back out and smokes the other side which will now be the intake;.

Remember, though, that the idea is not to disturb the bees unduly, but merely to lower their defenses.

Also remember to check to make sure periodically that the smoke is cool and that the fuel is not flaming.  Hot smoke angers bees and flames will harm them.

Each time a lid or box is lifted, blow a puff of smoke into the crack before lifting to prevent an alarm, and to reduce the likelihood of having a squadron of defenders attack from the new opening.

If a hive or group of hives gets hard to handle, stand upwind and create a large cloud of smoke that drifts down and blankets the offending hives.

This came by email today:

Dear Allen,

We corresponded briefly on this subject in 2012.
You may be interested in this article in the J. Apicultural Research:

Best wishes,

Dr David J. Heaf
Cae Llwyd
LL52 0SG

Thanks.  I appreciate the reference.

I see that the author of the above study reaches the same conclusion I did when I examined the question more than a decade ago and debated the issue with Dee Lusby.

IMO, "Small Cell" is a cult, based on a false belief that is strongly held. The explanation given to substantiate the underlying claim is sufficiently convoluted, hard to understand and difficult to research that many just take the claim on faith.  The expression, "Bullshit baffles brains" comes to mind. 

The author of the study actually examines the original writings in detail and completely debunks Lusbys' theory that a different measurement scheme was used in historical records as the hoax that it is and moreover confirms the truth of what we all knew in the first place..

David is the author of two books on Warre hives and his site is worth a visit. 

FWIW, I am not an advocate of Warre hives, or top bar hives for that matter.  I am too invested in my current setup, but imagine the Warre system has its pluses and minuses like any other.  For some beekeepers, it may well be ideal.

I had a cell amplifier device to return to The Source within the thirty-day return period and time is running out.  I bought it to use on the flotilla, but did not need it.  The boat already has one, although I am not sure it worked. I also have to confirm that I will be putting up a show of Ellen's work in Drumheller and wanted to see the gallery before committing, so I drove to Drum around noon.

The gallery turns out to be around fifty feet by thirty feet with all four walls available for paintings.  That is huge, so I'll have to check the inventory in the studio.  I have done nothing with the artwork since she died last August 15th.

I had other things to do in Drum, but had brought Zippy along and could not find any shaded parking, so I returned home.   Once home, I had a nap.

Once the day cooled down, I went out and worked on some more hives.  I see a few are thinking of swarming. It's about time.  The hives have been slow developing this year and I am not the only person to notice this.

I got a bit done, then came in and watched an episode of The Good Wife on Netflix. This seems to be a pleasant series. I was watching The Guardian for a while, but have been finding it less appealing lately.  I seem to be on a lawyer kick.   I watched several episodes of House recently as well, though, but I am not sure what I think it it yet.

When hungry, eat your rice; when tired, close your eyes.
Fools may laugh at me, but wise men will know what I mean.

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Wednesday July 9th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard


> How are your hive sales going? I see in your diary that you have some
> leaving.

I am selling what I want to sell, so far, but have been slow getting them ready. We had a slow spring and I was late splitting due to the infection.

I have to decide what I am doing and want to do.

> Our nectar flowing is slowing down...

Ours is just getting going and should carry on for a month or two from here if the weather cooperates.

> I never heard back from the Acornbee guy so I ordered Pierco frames
> because I really need the frames now.

Nick has not been good at answering requests. He did send me samples, though. They are expected to arrive this week or next.

> I am working really long days but do not mind. Keeping busy is
> my sanity right now.

I think beekeeping is driving me crazy -- or where my insanity manifests itself. I don't seem to have much energy or ambition lately and am starting to wonder why I have so many hives. I have 97 right now and just ordered more floors and lids.

I'm tired again today and did some deskwork and basement work down where it is cool.  Outside it is 31.2 C or 88 F.  My plan is to go outside at 1600, once the sun is lower and do some more bee work.

It is 1644 and the temperature is not dropping.  On the radio, I hear that this is officially the hottest day of the year. so far.

I did go out and worked trough ten hives or so, then cam back in.

I'm seeing hives plugged with honey.  If only I would follow my own advice and super them up.  If only I had enough supers.

When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of
 twelve people who werent smart enough to get out of jury duty.
Norm Crosby

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