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Sunday July 20th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I'm caught up and have the day off. Yesterday's post was quite interesting, but has scrolled off this page. I put a lot of work into it.  If foundation interests you, check back there.

We had more rain last night, and today promises to be cooler than recent days.

I've been leaving the windows open day and night lately, but I guess that as the days get visibly shorter and we approach the autumnal equinox, we can expect the hot days to be less hot and the cooler days to be a little colder as time passes.  One month of the summer is now passed.

We are now only three months away from the first snow that could stay for the winter, although sometimes we get a few more weeks after that before the real cold weather hits.

What does this mean for our bees?  Well, by mid-September, the more conservative queens will be shutting down, so we now have only two months to get our smaller hives built up to wintering condition.  Wintering condition involves two things:  population numbers and the condition of each individual bee. 


Potentially, if we have good queens laying now at 1,500 eggs a day, by September 20 we might have another 91,500 bees started in each hive.  In all that brood, varroa will be developing.

It is important that the bees that survive at the end of the season and go into winter are well fed and not parasitized or injected with the various diseases that varroa enable and transmit, so hopefully varroa numbers are low.

If a successful spring treatment was done, this will be the case. 

By effective, I mean a treatment that achieves over 90% efficacy in every hive.  Only a few treatments do that.  Apivar is the number one choice right now, but we must verify that by doing routine spot checks and not just assume it works or because we do not see varroa that all is well. 

By the time we are seeing varroa in the hive when just observing bees it is too late.  Either a mite drop test or an alcohol wash MUST be done to find the truth.

I've covered the math in previous years' posts, but basically we don't want to see more than the occasional varroa in an alcohol wash of 300 bees taken off open brood at this time of year. 

The bees for alcohol wash must be taken from the combs with open brood since that is where the varroa are concentrated.  Measurements from elsewhere will be misleading and may only show 10% of the true numbers.

Three varroa in 300 bees means a  1% infestation, and that will become much higher by the time the supers are off.

Whereas varroa only increase slightly when only worker brood is available,  varroa can multiply by three to five times each time a new round of drones hatch when drone brood is developing throughout the hive!

Since we now have quite a lot of drone brood in hives, the varroa will be accelerating their build-up over the next few weeks and the counts we find now will increase by an order of magnitude by fall.

Now is the time to take a few samples any time brood combs are exposed, just to reassure ourselves that we have control.  If we see more than the occasional varroa in the alcohol wash, we don't have control and we must contemplate how to lower the varroa numbers before the last hatch of bees is started in late August.  These are the all-important winter bees.  If they are parasitized, the risk of winter loss increases greatly.

If the varroa counts are out of control now, then the supers must be removed early and treatment begun as soon as practical.

This is a terrible conundrum: varroa control, or a crop of honey?  Best to avoid that dilemma by treating well in spring, but it is a bit late for that now and a salvage operation is all that one can accomplish.

For our bees here in Central Alberta, we can expect another month of flow and perhaps two. 

Some years the frost comes in late August and other years, frost holds off until October.  Although on average, we can expect good weather into October, it only takes one really cold night to kill the plants that provide the majority of nectar and pollen and end our season.

We now have to start thinking of winter and the time for splitting is over. 

We must remember that any new queen that starts laying today will not have young bees emerging for three weeks.

The time for combining down poor hives is coming. although we may have flows into mid-October, some years there is nothing after August 20th in Central Alberta.

*    *    *     *    *

I had been thinking of going up to Gull lake, but think I may just stay here and get a few jobs done.  At the moment I hear rain outside the window.

*    *    *     *    *

I've been playing with the page layout and graphics.  It's fun, but I am not at all sure what the effect is.  Brickbats or Bouquets?  Comment in the forum.


Its funny that while you are singing the praises of Pierco one piece frames, I'm cursing every one of them.

I'm running an older(30 yrs?) C&B (Cook & Beals) line, and it DOESN'T like Pierco. They slide back down the loading conveyor, slide and fall off the unloading chains, and if one is first in line to be pushed by the loading ram, it breaks every time. I'm currently culling them all into brood chambers, and getting wood frames (with Pierco inserts) into the supers.

I wonder if the newer C&Bs have this problem? I thought at one time Pierco was going to build in little ridges or grooves on the underside it the ears to help remedy this problem.

My friends run Bogenschutz or C&B uncappers.  I have not paid a lot of attention when watching, but they uncap and extract the Piercos and, in fact, buy large numbers of these frames themselves.

I have heard that many have problems, but also that quite a few beekeepers use Pierco without problems, some exclusively.

It seems to me that I have heard that

  1. the frames do not slide so badly after they have been in use and the tabs get gummed up a bit. 

  2. beekeepers having problems feed in some wood frames to push the plastic frames up the ramps.

Tim Townsend was one of the first to use Pierco and a call to him might help solve the problem.

I decided to clean house today and one job I have put off is getting rid of Ellen's clothes.  She had a lot of very nice clothes.  I offered them to friends and family and donated some already and now just have what's left.  I have wanted to get this job done and the bedroom cleared out before the family comes in August.  I bagged things up and sorted as I went, checking pockets, too.  I'm petty well done now, but found the job exhausting.

My software crashed again just now.  There seems to be a conflict between M$ Office clipboard and Mouse Without Borders clipboard sharing.

Tonight, I am expecting a beekeeper to come for some bees around 1900.  The day was rainy, but turned sunny mid-afternoon.  I see bees robbing lightly on the truck at the north door.

My customers came as expected at 1900. We looked into a few hives and picked them out a good triple, loaded it, weighed it, and they were off.  They were nice folks and we had a pleasant visit in the North Yard. This is the way I like to sell bees.  No pressure. No rush. Cash money.  I charge GST on the equipment only and send a receipt later by email.

Before they came, I checked the foundation test hive.  At this point in time,  Acorn is winning. These are two centre frames and the same visible difference extends out from centre each direction.

Pierco at left, Acorn at right.



As far as cell bottom shape or size is concerned, I can't say I see much difference between the two when looking straight down in a close-up.

From watching the bees draw out the initial wax coat into cells, though, it appears that the thinner, sharper stub wall in Pierco requires more wax to achieve the same cell depth as the bees can build on the broader bases which already have the bulk from the design. 

I was afraid the cell wall bases might be too wide in Acorn, but it appears that on Pierco, the bees employ some of the wax coat to widen the bases to the same width, requiring more wax.  (See close-ups above).

As far as I can tell, what we see on the frames so far is the work of those few bees visible on the frames in the picture, and at this point they are only using the wax that came on the frames!

Frames can be ordered with double wax and I think it would be a good value from what  see here and the accidental over-waxing mentioned in Yesterday's post and shown again at right. 

We see there, too, if too much wax is applied to the bare foundation, that  the excess may just remain on the midrib.  We don't know that for sure, though, since the frame I came across (right) was only partially drawn.  I don't recall where I saw it.  At the time it was just a curiosity, not a potential experiment.

I considered turning the test foundation box 180 degrees to exchange left for right in case whatever is below the frames has an influence, but did not.

Actually, looking back, the opposite side was favoured in the box I took off that was all Pierco.  I repeat that shot again here.

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way."
Mark Twain


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Monday July 21st 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I've been spending a lot of time writing lately and turned out some pretty interesting work, if I do say so myself.  Today, I propose to try to keep away from the keyboard and do 'real things'  That is not to say I won't be answering email to doing a little last-minute bookwork, but I'm taking the day off diarizing.

Today my goals are

  • to do three alcohol washes

  • to vacuum and tidy

  • to take the books to the accountant

That's it.  people who know say that the way to achieve in life is to set one main goal for each day and achieve it.  If other things distract, then avoid them if possible.  Of course this conflicts with the second secret to my happy life: "Be ready for anything and always answer when opportunity knocks".

That's why I only follow one rule: "Break every rule".

(I hope the recursive humour in the forgoing rule is obvious).

*    *    *    *    *

This morning, I closed the windows and started the furnace.  It was 62 degrees in here and cool and cloudy out.

My eyes have been bothering me a bit since the SLT so I called and made an appointment to see the doctor Wednesday.  Maybe it is nothing, but eyesight is not something to gamble with.

After lunch, I went down to the Swalwell Hall to talk about the memorial plans.  It all seems cut and dried.

Now I have to go to town to see the accountant at 15:30.  I'll take some clothes for the donation bin.

In the meantime, I have promised myself and readers that I would do an alcohol wash. 

I might be able to kid myself along, but can't let folks down, so I plan to go out and do three hives. 

Three out of ~100 hives.  Is that a meaningful test?  In many ways, not, but but the longest journey begins with a single step and if I hit any mites at all -- even one -- it'll be a wake up call. 

If I see even one mite, I'll have to spread the net wider.  If I don't even see one, then the pressure is less to widen the search or act immediately.

It's not that this job is all that difficult.  All I need are the supplies shown at right, but I hate killing innocent young bees and I am too lazy to do a sugar shake. 

The sugar shake takes longer and is less accurate.  For this test, I want to see all mites without any doubts.  If it turns out that I need to do a wider testing, though, once I determine the need, precision will be less important and I'll break out the sugar, then deal with the inadequacies and added steps of that more benign method.

I went out and picked two of the strongest colonies.  That means more lifting, but also means I am sampling the hives that have raised the most brood.

I was hoping for zeros, but the first one shook out two mites.  The next one showed five, plus the two already in the jar from the previous hive and this is still July.  That computes to 0.3% and ~1% if I actually shook 300 bees and I was not too careful about that seeing as I was ballparking the question and these readings are approximations at best of times.  They only become truly meaningful when a number of samples are combined.

Now what?  Looks like a fall treatment coming up for sure.

*   *   *   *   *

I drove to Three Hills and went to the accountant's office.  While I was waiting for him to be free, Nick called.  He was worried how my test had come out.  I reassured him that his product seems to be at least as good as Pierco and perhaps better at this stage. He was also concerned about warping and has his team working hard on that problem.  I told him that if he can solve it, he will have a clear winner.

My analysis of the cause of warping is the lesser mass and therefore faster cooling rate in the frames' foundation surface compared to the surrounding frame itself. 

My guess is that the foundation sets first, then the frame, being more massive, sets up a bit later.  As the frame cools, it shrinks.  This shrinking squeezes the already hardened and set up foundation around the edge, causing it to bow out to the side.

It's that simple.  If the frame solidified and cooled first, then the foundation would be cooling under tension not compression, resulting in a flat surface.

After supper, I went out and observe little difference in the foundation drawing progress on the test hives.  We have not had a flow the past two days, so the test hive has done very little more, and the other two hives have not yet begun to work on the foundation in the fourth boxes.

This morning I said

  • to do three alcohol washes (Did two and am thinking...)

  • to vacuum and tidy (Only a little done there)

  • to take the books to the accountant (Done)

Two out of three ain't bad.

Parents were invented to make children happy by giving them something to ignore.
Ogden Nash


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Tuesday July 22nd 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I slept in until almost 0900 and am feeling much better today.  I don't know what hit me over the past few days, but I was feeling weird and having some vision issues.   Today all that is gone.

I have the day in front of me. 

I began with answering email and one was from a sailor putting together a crew for September. I recall I am speaking at the BCHPA on the 25th through 27th and also considering Western Apicultural Society (WAS). 

I could not recall the WAS dates, so started looking them up and found the WAS has no dedicated web site.  I've flogged them for that before, so grabbed the bull by the horns and registered http://westernapiculturalsociety.com/.  Now I have made more work for myself, but I am hoping some qualified volunteer steps up.

Here, back in the so-called real world at Swalwell, Alberta, I look away from the screens and see a sunny , cool, breezy day outside.  I should set some priorities.  How about

  • yard tidy up

  • lawn mowing

  • house cleaning

In the back of my mind is the matter of varroa loads, but they are not an immediate problem.  Having found a 1% infestation after sampling only two hives, I have to ask myself, "what are the odds I hit the worst case right off?"

If my sampling had been random, the answer would be, "Not likely", but I did pick the two strongest looking hives, so the odds are better, however my SWAG is that there must be several hives with worse loads -- somewhere.

Should I test further now?  My answer is, not until I am ready to do something about the problem.  The hives should be OK for a month or so, but I should plan on pulling the honey by late August and sampling and treating again at that time.

Someone asked if I am seeing Apivar resistance and I referred to this previous diary entry with comments on that question.  I have also contacted Medhat.

Frankly, I doubt it, but have no easy explanation.

I didn't get out of the house until 1300.  When I did, I changed the arrangement of frames in the test hive so that Acorn and Pierco are alternating.

BTW, here is what Nick says:

The comments from your friend are true

The One piece plastic bee frame may look like a simple part but it is a tricky part to mold warp free

Our current QC maximum allowable bow is .080 using a pin gage and a straight edge ruler.

If a .080 diameter pin rolls under a ruler placed corner to corner across the surface of the cells, the part is deemed unacceptable

We initiated this tighter tolerance about 4 weeks ago. You may have received parts molded before this.

The other thing we are going to study is the effects of the hot wax sprayed on the frame. Is this causing

warping once the product is in the box at a later date??

We plan to spend a lot of time in the off season Aug Nov working on our molding processing and also looking

at the actual tool design itself to see what could be done it minimize warping . Our goal is to come out with

the flattest One- piece frame to ever hit the market- We already know the bees are accepting our cell foundation excellently

I know we can do this!!

1/16" is 0.0625" and the current warpage measures about 3/16" or 0.19" and 0.08 is a little less than half the current warping.

Of course, we must double those numbers to see how much the spacing is reduced where two adjacent frames warp in opposite directions.

If 0.08 is accepted, then the worst-case spacing variation would still be 0.16" from ideal, or more than +/- 1/8" (0.125") variation where frames are not arranged all the same direction.

So, I conclude that 0.08 is much better than we see now, but that it is a maximum (barely) acceptable deviation, not a target, and 0.0 should be the ultimate goal.

Just sayin'.

The afternoon was spent vacuuming and sorting books and magazines.  I'm throwing lots of books out, but keeping the bee magazines.  I figure someone collects them.  I've seen ads for specific copies.  I must have a stack seven feet tall. 

In the process of cleaning out my magazines, I came across several to which I contributed.  At left is one of the issues with my Lusby series in it.  At right is a cover I shot.

My articles reported on my visits to Lusbys'. At the time I did not realise how seriously people would take Dee's claims and that a beekeeping cult would result, partly enabled by my innocent reporting.

I also threw out more of Ellen's clothes and things.  I'm down the scarves, gloves and shoes-- and sweaters. It is a hard, hard job as all these things are perfectly good and were prized.  Besides, each has a memory for me.  I got it done.

Parents were invented to make children happy by giving them something to ignore.
Ogden Nash


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Wednesday July 23rd 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Today, I have to be out the door by 0645 to be at my eye doctor's at 0845.  I had eye problems the other day and felt it best to see him.  My eyes are just fine today (wouldn't you know) and I could have cancelled, but figure eyesight is nothing to trifle with.

Today promises to be hot.  That always presents a problem with the dog.  She hates to be left home, but If I take her along, I have to worry about keeping her in the shade or somehow keeping the van cool.  She starts to cough if the temperature gets over about 25 degrees C. 

The Toyota's air conditioning is getting weak, too. I charged it earlier, but it balked and would not fully charge, and I have yet to follow up.

I could take the Caravan, I suppose, but since the door was crushed and replaced last winter there has been wind noise.  I know how to fix it, but I have been ignoring that issue, plus a number of little vehicle repair jobs that need doing.

I looked at used vans again the other day.  I could get a lovely one or two year old top of the line luxury van for $20-30K, but I have discovered that if I spend money I don't have it any more so I drive beaters and enjoy knowing I could buy a van if I wanted too, and that is a greater joy -- so far -- than the pleasure of driving a newer van with an empty wallet.

My present fleet costs me only the price of basic insurance and basic maintenance, most of which I do myself.

I drove to Calgary during rush hour and arrived in plenty of time, having allowed two hours and fifteen minutes to drive the seventy-five miles.

The eye doctor looked at my eyes and pronounced them "OK", so I drove home.  I spent some time in Westbrook Walmart along the way, went to the Zoo for a while and also stopped at Lowes at Crossiron.

Zippy was beside herself to see me.  When I drove up she was barking inside the house.  I wonder if she barks the whole time I am gone.  I think not, but she sure gets excited when she hears the van.

I was in the beeyard south of the house the other day and heard her barking.  Turned out she had lost track of me.  Hmmmm.

I know some people put their dogs out, then go to work.  The dog barks all day and drives the neighbours nuts, but the owner never figures it out until someone complains.

I'm selling a hive in four boxes with honey already in the supers tomorrow, so I have to go out and find one tonight.

I went out and located a suitable hive.  The customer wants a hive in four boxes with honey in all but the fourth.  The fourth should be just part full. 

I thought I'd better test for varroa.  I did, and shook a zero. (at right).  Bonus!

 This alcohol wash is more reassuring than the previous two.  The tally so far is 2, 5, & 0  varroa mites.

This hive has four boxes of drawn comb and about 130 pounds of honey.

I'm selling active, producing hives and that makes sense when you think about it. 

So many beginners buy packages and kill or main them, get no honey, then lose the hive over winter.  They never get to have a good strong hive and produce honey.

These folks can extract next week and if they don't get too greedy, just leave the hive and it will winter. 

With luck, they should be able to extract again once or twice more before the end of the summer, but then they might have to feed.  Feeding a bit is a good idea anyhow.

The equipment I sell is the same equipment I use and some boxes and frames may be brand new, and some older, but all are sound.  It is like buying a bag of oranges or a sack of onions.  There is some variation

The third box on the hive is a newly drawn Pierco super with only one frame still partially drawn  The rest are full to varying extents, with some capping started.

We had a hail storm the other day and I have not yet finished cleaning up after it. 

My front walk looks especially bad and I am increasingly noticing that it is slanting and cracking.  I think I'll pour a new one over top.  That should be about a day's work unless I get creative and try to change the design.

It's funny how we get used to things.  When we moved here 46 years ago, the sidewalk was only twelve years old and like new.  gradually over time, it has cracked, sagged and broken up.

I mentioned the recent hail storm.  Although it did not damage my vehicles noticeably, it did dent the EPS boxes, not that it matters.  In fact, it adds a patina and character.

I am really happy with these EPS boxes.  I still have a lot of wood boxes and use them, but although I used them by the thousands over the last four decades, they seem strange and unnatural to me.  As I have said before, I don't much care for wooden frames any more either.

I corrected, clarified, and added a bit to the posts from recent days today.

Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.
Russel Lynes


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Thursday July 24th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Today, I have a customer coming at 0700 so she can get the hive home before the day gets warm and the bees wake up.

My customer came and we weighed and loaded the hive.    It weighed 215 lbs.  I had intended to load the hive in one piece, but without the forklift, we decided to load the hive onto the truck one box at a time.

The bees were already awake. I had worked the hive with smoke and no veil last night. but I guess they had the night to contemplate the events of the evening and were on guard.

All went well when I lifted the first three top boxes off, but when I got down to lift the last (bottom) box I was a little careless and I got a faceful of bees.  Fortunately, most of them did not sting, but I got enough stings to slow me down for a moment while I found a veil.

Early morning, a strong hive that had been disturbed previously, and an approaching storm are not a great combination for working without a net.  Someday, I'll learn.

We screwed the four boxes together and to the floor with lath and drywall screws, then tarped the hive. 

The tarp drapes over the hive and is weighed down at the bottom with rocks and bricks.  There is enough air circulation under the edges to keep them happy.

I spent the day cleaning house and throwing things out. 

I was never much good at throwing things away.  I hate to just throw useful items into the trash and recycling is a real hassle. I have books and magazines that are of no use to me -- and probably anyone -- and called the recycling depot see if they take them.  They say, yes, but they must be sorted according to various criteria.

Sorting is a big job.   Ellen took some papers to recycling once and received a phone call berating her for some sorting errors.  We decided, never again.

I was recently listening to a "reduce" advocate (as in reduce, reuse, recycle).  He was saying that recycling of papers is about six times more wasteful in terms of energy use than employing new fibre.  I don't know if it is true, but I think I'll just use these books and papers for heating  the house.

Progress is slow.  I could just throw all the papers and books into a bin and be done with it, but my nature is to look at things as I go and sometimes I find myself reading a few pages in books and magazines.  The time consumed by browsing adds up.

Fen, Bert, Maddie and Elijah came for supper.  I cooked a bean stew and ribs.  Bert brought some of his saskatoons.  His berry crop is ready

Life is just one damned thing after another.
Elbert Hubbard


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Friday July 25th 2014
Five more months until Christmas.

Today, 25 July: Cloudy. Rain beginning this morning. Local amount 10 to 15 mm. Wind becoming west 30 km/h gusting to 50 then northwest 60 gusting to 80 this morning. High 16.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I closed the windows last night and had started the furnace the other day.  Today, the weather is overcast and breezy.  It looks like a good day to work indoors.

Not a good day to have a new strong hive of bees on your acreage, apparently:

From yesterday's customer:

We're finding the bees quite aggressive and we suspect they might not be a good for our small acreage: we have neighbours, hikers, and kids to keep in mind. Even at 6-8 feet away, the bees come out and circle us and follow us back the house. I understand they might be grumpy after the drive, so I will give them a few days to settle in. However if they stay this aggressive, we'll need to move them off the property.

I don't know how you've handled this kind of situation in the past--or if it's ever come up.

My reply:

Interesting. As I said, I had been working them with no veil previously and was surprised to be stung when loading them.

I attribute that to the disturbance and the weather, but we'll see. Strong hives are not like small hives.

I've never had this happen before, but don't know where you have them located. Are they facing south and in full sun? A picture might help.

Placing any hive where people will be active in the direct flight path or within twenty feet in front is never wise. Urban people often locate them behind a fence to force them to fly up when coming and going. Normal flight is overhead unless it is windy.

This hive is also use to having the top flight holes open, so if you have not opened at least some of the holes, that may be a cause of confusion for a day or two. I'd advise you to open them.

The same hive of bees will often act differently in different locations and at different times and be cranky if taken off a honeyflow as these were. Is there anything for them nearby? It takes a day or two to find it.

Anyhow, please keep me informed and we'll work through this.

This is one aspect of selling strong hives I had not considered.  People who have only had experience with weak hives may be surprised.

I always size up buyers to make sure they are not biting off more than they can chew.  My impression of these folks is that they are pretty competent and will be able to manage the situation over the next few days.

They say they are on an acreage.  If so, then there should be no problem after the bees settle in.  I mowed all around, and right next to, that same hive and other hives in the group the previous week wearing no veil.  There was no chasing.  I even bumped against them with my tractor and 52" mower and the grass clippings landed on entrances with no response!

Moving hives can be unpredictable.  I'm thinking that if this hive proves to be a problem, any hive they get that develops to be a producer will also be a problem there. I have mentioned how my hives were cranky before 0900 in the mornings on canola pollination and gentle as kittens after 0900; how bees that were vicious in Ontario were gentle when I brought them to Alberta; and how US beekeepers said that bees they worked without a veil in California were hot, hot, hot when moved to Arizona.

These folks are in the foothills and an in an area that is not normally considered good bee range.  They have a good microclimate from what I was able to ascertain in conversation, though.

*   *   *   *   *

I spent the day doing the sort of small tidying jobs that aren't really obvious, but have to be done from time to time.

I should do one thing  that makes a difference.  I think I'll change the bearing on the Crossbow sailboat trailer after supper.

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living.
The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
Mark Twain


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Saturday July 26th 2014

Today, 26 July: A few showers ending this morning then clearing. High 23. UV index 7 or high.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I did not work on the Crossbow sailboat trailer after supper.  I spent the evening studying apnea again. 

I have had strange sleep results.  Earlier, I had an AHI index of 10.5, but was down to zero after time without the machine and had only an occasional central, lasting twelve seconds and no obstructive events.  This  suggests the problem may have been allergies.  It could also be inactivity at times or something else, like diet.  I just can't figure it out, and although I write a diary, I'm not finding the diary too helpful for figuring this out.

This morning, I awoke at 0400 and realised that I would not sleep unless I got up for a while.  That happens and there is no sense fighting it.  Reading the CPAP machine's data card card in Sleepyhead software, I see I have some sleep events again. Go figure. One thing that has changed in the past few days is that I have closed windows and started the furnace.  Allergies??

Breakfast is at The Mill at 0830.  I'm going, assuming I get up in time.  I'll have a cuppa coffee, then back to bed.

What the heck.  I think I'll have breakfast, too.  I'll be ready for another by 0830.

*   *   *   *   *

I went back to sleep and woke at 0800. Zip and I drove to The Mill and had a long breakfast with the usual gang and drove home.  

The Mill breakfast is pancakes, an that is about the last thing I should eat in the morning.  My normal breakfast is three eggs.  period.  Sometimes, I'll make an omelet.  If I eat a high-carb meal for breakfast, I feel like shit all day, but I need the social contact and just have to remember not to eat more than one or two.

Writing about this, I realise that, other than Fen's kids we are all widows/widowers.   I don't think any of us thinks of ourselves that way or as 'singles', and none of us are looking for a mate.  We're just friends.

Arriving home, I stopped in the Quonset yard and saw bees hanging at the entrances, so placed six boxes of foundation on the strong hives and decided to mow grass, seeing as the mower was in the Quonset.  I did a bit and the motor quit. The mower was out of gas.  I had thought that I left it with a half tank.  Hmmm.

After lunch, I went back out and worked through nine hives, removing seven boxes of honey.  Two hives, I combined down with others as they apparently had no queen and it is getting too late to try to requeen them.

As I work through the hives, I am moving them onto the new floors and onto hive stands made of old supers with sixteen-foot rails laid on top.

I quit around 1730, did nothing all evening, and went to bed early.

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living.
The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
Mark Twain


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Sunday July 27th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

We have another week of hot weather coming, it seems.

I got back out to work on the bees.  I'm pulling out honey and replacing it with supers of foundation.

I did an alcohol wash on another hive as I was working and got another zero. (Right).  I tend to forget to do the test unless I put the shaker right in my path so that I can't help but remember.

My varroa tally now: 2,5,0, & 0.

That varroa average is much better than the first two tests suggested.  Some scatter is to be expected, and the hives with higher counts are more at risk now and during winter, but I am seeing the entire outfit is not too bad -- if the trend continues.

Maybe I am psychic and picked the only two hives with significant varroa for my initial test?  I doubt that, but I doubted that water witching worked until I tried it. 

I was amazed when I walked around a friend's yard and found his buried irrigation lines without fail.  I also found an overhead wire and was puzzled until I looked up.  I wonder if I could witch for varroa?

I had a nap, then went out again at 1600.  The sun was still hot, but I did a few more hives, then quit to do some lawn mowing.  I can ride the tractor that when it is too hot to work long on the bees.  I've considered building a sun shade for it, but I have a lot of low tree branches that grab my hat when I pass and an umbrella would have issues, too.

I've done fifteen hives now and have fifteen heavy boxes of honey.  I estimate I'm doing two hives an hour. At the rate I am going, this job will take all week. 

What have I gotten myself into?

After supper, I did some more yard tidying and mowed grass until the gasoline ran out.  I had siphoned some from the yard truck yesterday, but only got a few gallons before the siphon sucked air.

I considered doing more bee work, but decided against it.  I also looked long and hard at the forklift.  I'm going to have to tackle that job.  I need the forklift.

Jon and Kalle come on Thursday morning at 1025.  That gives me three more days until they arrive.

I don't really need to do the work I am doing with the bees.  I could just stack on boxes, but at some point, I'll have to remove honey.  I'm doing it now because I am moving from four-way pallets to floors in rows and removing fat combs to get them uncapped and flattened. 

Fat combs result from

  • uneven spacing,

  • placing foundation between drawn combs in non-brood areas of the hive,

  • outside combs in hives with insufficient super space,

  • eight and nine-frame supers.

Fat combs are unsuited to use in brood chambers and passing them through an uncapper can make a huge difference.  Alternately, we can use a cappings scratcher to liquefy the fat parts, but then wax and honey runs all over.  The simplest solution is to uncap them in a machine or with a knife and extract them

I have fifteen heavy boxes of honey ready to extract.  I don't have a forklift, so I'll have to hand-bomb them onto a pallet and drive them over.  I reckon I'll wait until I have at least twenty-four and maybe thirty.  Each box weighs seventy-five pounds, I'm guessing.  My truck can carry three thousand pounds, and that would be forty boxes, but that is getting to be a big load.

Forty boxes is three and a third extractor loads and takes less than an hour to run though the 120-frame system.  If my guess is right, that truckload would yield 2,400 pounds of honey and wax.

*   *   *   *   *

In the evening, I watched what appears to be the last episode of The Guardian.  I could see the plot devolving over the past several episodes and wondered where they could go with it as they painted the characters into corners.

The conclusion looked preordained and I suppose that maybe this was a series that was written with a final episode pre-planned and designed to go a certain distance and quit, like Life on Mars

I don't really trust a sane person.
Lyle Alzado


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Monday July 28th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

First thing today, I have to go to the cemetery and place a flag so Remco can find Ellen's grave an put up the stone. 

Then, off to town to get the books back from the accountant and pay my taxes.  I get to pay taxes this year.  Yay!  That means I must be doing OK.

Actually, looking at the forecast, I think I'll go to town in the heat of the day and get things done here at home in the cool part of the day.

I've been putting off assembling the swimming pool due to lack of an assistant and also because I need to find level ground. 

The first year, I chose a good spot, but one where I had to drain the pool in fall to allow the coal truck to reach the bin.  Last year I found what looked to be a good, level spot, but after the pool was assembled and filled, I found it was not as level as I had thought and the rails came apart a few times.  I think that could be dangerous if not managed carefully, and do not want that to happen again.

Not only must the spot be level and flat, but the location should be convenient for watching the kids and running power.

I have to find an 18-foot plank and a level, and use them to locate a suitable spot in the yard for the pool, then set it up and fill it so the water can warm up in this expected hot weather.

I drove down to the cemetery and placed the flag, then came home and tried charging the Toyota air conditioning again. 

For some reason, I cannot get a pressure reading on the low side.  I wonder if it is my gauges.  They worked on the Caravan as I recall, but the fitting on the Toyota is really hard to reach and I am never sure I got the fitting connected properly.  At any rate, I do have some cooling, but it is slow to get going.

At left is a shot of the drill bit I use to make the 1" holes in all my brood chambers.  It is turned either by a cordless drill or a brace (as in brace and bit).

I have a hole in the front and also the back of every brood box so that the boxes can be rotated 180 degrees when  desired and also so that a flight hole can be allowed at either front or back or both.

These holes can be used to provide winter ventilation or to manage flight from nucs and full-sized hives.  By opening and closing the appropriate front and back holes, bees can be encouraged or discouraged to enter or exit a nuc placed on top of a hive.

When introducing a queen into a nuc on top, losing the older bees can help with acceptance.  That is easily done by closing the front hole and opening the back hole.  The experienced flying bees will be frustrated when they return to their habitual entrance and migrate to the hole immediately below the nuc and go  into the main hive below. Young bees will exit the rear and orient there.

Auger holes also are useful to ensure that the bees in the upper boxes in multi-storey hives in spring are aware of the outdoor conditions and can exploit good weather.  It gives them a window so they can look out and not have to walk all the way down to the bottom entrance.  Bees hate to walk.

*   *   *   *   *   *

I decided to do some yard jobs, including setting up the pool.  In my search for flat spots, I found myself looking at the trailer I use to haul trash to the dump.  It was sitting on a flat spot and I have been intending to move it anyhow, so I hooked up the 4X4 and pulled it out.

When I stopped at the air hose to check the trailer tires, I left the door open so I could continue to hear the radio, but the key alert chime was driving me crazy, as it has since I bought the truck two years and 4,500 miles ago.

Every time I am listening to the radio and want to leave the driver's door open while I work near the truck, the chime makes listening difficult.  I know the key is in the ignition.  How else could the radio be on?  Why should my truck be bossing me around?

I decided to fix the problem and the answer turned out to be simple.  Of course, however, I did not go directly to the solution.  I took the long way around.  At the time it looked like the direct route, but until I asked Google, I was in the dark.

There is a feeler wire that slips onto the the key switch.  It has a whisker that feels for the presence of a key.  It slips off easily and I pulled it off left it dangling -- and the problem was solved.  I suppose I could also have filed a notch in all my keys.

Anyhow, these apparently simple jobs always take far longer than each actual fix takes.  Since I started by looking for the door switch (which must be some sort of proximity detector since I never found a switch) I found myself checking to learn why the speaker in the driver's door does not work.  I proved the speaker is OK, and the problem must be a connection inside the truck.  That's a job for another day.

I also spent a while looking to see why the lumbar support adjustment on the driver's seat does not work.  Google was a big help: 1999 Manual Lumbar FIX - F150 online Forums.  One more job for the future.

I managed to use up three hours doing almost nothing, but I am pleased with myself.  After that, I moved the trailers out of the yard so I can do more yard cleanup and mowing. 

Next: a trip to Three Hills for mower gas and to pay my taxes.

I drove to town and did the chores, then came back home.  The day is heating up and I always worry about taking Zip with me, but she wants to go.  When she gets hot, she coughs.  I wonder what's up with that.

As I drove home, I received word that the 'monument' has been placed at the cemetery with these pictures of the stone in place.  Looks good.  Even the ghouls are online these days.

Come to think of it, I don't think my Dad has a gravestone.  I phoned Mom, and no, he does not.  His ashes are upstairs at home.  He didn't believe in using up land for the dead.  I guess that is where I got my philosophy about these matters. 

He also said one time, "There is no yesterday.  There is no tomorrow.  There is only today". 

We did not agree on a lot, but on these things, we agree.  He was a chemical engineer and said he wished he had learned more about art.   I learned a lot about art and I am not sure it was a good idea, but I took one for the team.  Do I have regrets?  Good question.

I always say that my motto in life -- besides "Break Every Rule", was "No Regrets".  Looking back, I can see that each is impossible.  No sentient, moral,  caring being can live without regret. 

The secret is to not let the regrets eat you up and weigh you down.  What is done is done.  There are no Mulligans or do-overs.  Move on and do your best in the fast-moving present.

As my pals in the winding shop used to say, "The next time is the first time".

*   *   *   *   *   *

I mowed grass until the oil light came on and I got off.  I'll check it out when the machine cools down. I was mowing very heavy growth, so maybe the oil just got thin.  Or,  Maybe it is just due for an oil change.

I've changed the oil faithfully and the machine is only three  years old. (or is it four now?)  I did notice a slight leak at the drain, last time I changed the oil, but I check the level every time I start the mower (almost) and it has not been dropping..

Tonight, I finally got around to calling to reserve a hotel for the BCHPA Conference and the reservation agent asked me if I had been to the Delta Airport before.  "Yes", I said, "Thirty-two years ago".  Time flies.

Dewey Caron, Marla Spivak, Eric Mussen, and Medhat,Jean-Marc and Shelley Hoover are on the same programme.  I see that on the programme I have been awarded a doctorate.

I have given two cousins to war and I stand ready to sacrifice my wife's brother.
Artemus Ward


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Tuesday July 29th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Last evening, while mowing, I noticed a beard on one of the foundation test hives, suggesting the hive is filling up.

I lifted a lid to check, but was driven off and I'll check them for progress this morning. 

I was surprised to find them defensive.  I've worked them before without a veil.

That is the thing about bees.  Any time you lift the lid of any hive, be prepared for a surprise.

Beginners tend to think that because a hive has been gentle in the past that they will continue to be gentle.  That can result in a lot of pain for someone not accustomed to stings. Always remember, "The next time is the first time".

Speaking of defensive bees, I wrote the customer asking if there were any further issues and received no response, so I gather the issue was temporary.  Bees always inspect their new environment closely after being moved to a strange location, as do cattle -- or for that matter, people.

Elijah came over at 0800 an was out gardening when I went out to mow grass.  I mowed until 1030.  The oil light I saw last night was just a reminder that comes on every 50 hours to remind me to change the oil.  I had changed the oil at the end of last season, so it is fine.

I went back to check the foundation test hive and found the entire super is drawn and half-filled, and the queen is laying in a centre comb.  Goes to show what a hive of bees can do in ten days, and this is not even a big hive.

I had shaken the hive down to a single and then added a super of mixed Pierco and Acorn waxed black foundation frames.

At first, I had Pierco on one side and Acorn on the other, but a day or so later realised that the bees might just draw one side first due to factors other than difference in the two brands of frame and decided to alternate he two brands for a more unbiased test.  The result is that all combs were drawn equally well.

See the posts beginning on Friday July 18th 2014

From the customer who bought the strong hive:

> They settled down a bit. Still feistier than the other hive.

Strong hives tend to be more active in every way.

> New challenge: I examined the hive today and found 14+ queen cells (cups
> or emergency cells built in the middle of frames, extending out from the
> top of regular brood cells) and three long queen cells (in the middle of
> frames, but lying down, lengthwise across the frames). Larvae are in the
> cells with royal jelly. I didn't spot the queen after nearly an hour of
> searching. She might be there but I didn't see her.

I saw the queen when I inspected the hive prior to your pickup.

Could be she was killed in transit. That happens. Moving hives can kill queens. Estimates are as high as 10%.

Did you see any eggs? Fresh eggs stand straight up and they begin to lean over when three days old.

I may have seen cups when inspecting. I don't usually bother with them.

If you are only seeing larvae in a few queen cells, I would leave them alone. The bees know what they are doing. If you see many, then a swarm may result, or more often this late in the summer, they will just requeen themselves.

They'll continue to make honey just as if they have a queen and in a few weeks the new queen will begin laying. New queens have added vigour and catch up before fall.

Did you add more boxes? They were somewhat crowded in four.

> Either they're preparing the swarm or they've lost their queen.

Or they are simply replacing her. They do that more often than people realise.

> How do I handle this? I wasn't expect such an eventful transition!

Depends on whether there are more than a few active queen cells. (Cups don't count), and whether you are seeing new eggs.

You picked up the hive on the 24th and today is the 29th, so if the queen was lost in the moving, there would be no new eggs today. All would have hatched.

At any rate, they will requeen if the cells were not damaged during inspection and all will be well. You'll have a new queen going into winter.

If they swarm, the swarm usually issues around solar noon or a while after. Are you home then?

I doubt there is much to do except make sure they have enough room.

*   *   *   *   *

>  I hadn't added a new box-- I decided to let them be, they were so cranky.
> I had planned on extracting honey and putting that box back on (once extracted),
> but, like I said, I let them sit. They're now pretty full. Looks like the queen
> larvae are about 4 days old. I saw a handful of new eggs, maybe 3-4 days
> old. I don't have anymore boxes. I am sometimes home around noon, but
> we have company coming this Thursday, so that changes things...

> Hmmm.
> Hard to say from here, but if there are still eggs, then they did not lose the
> queen in transit. Eggs hatch on the third day.

> I suppose the question is how many queen cells actually contain
> larvae.  Do you recall?  (Don't take them apart again to see).

> Three or four, especially built down from worker cells,  means supercedure
> or emergency replacement.  Ten or twenty mean swarming.

> I'm guessing the former.

> Regarding swarming, five boxes is the standard stack for a hive that
> size, and I have had up to seven or eight on hives, but some manage
> with as few as four if they extract often.  I just assumed you have
> extra boxes.  Should have asked, I suppose.

I guess it is a matter of wait and see. 

> If they are queenless, then the choice is to let them work it out
> themselves or drive over here and I'll give you a nuc with a queen
> you can combine with the hive.  That is the most reliable way to
> requeen them.

> Personally, I'd wait and see.  I doubt they will swarm, but I've been
> wrong before.

Today, I mostly cut grass.  The day is very warm and I am not feeling very energetic.

Well, the problem is solved, sorta.  She is bringing the hive back for a refund, less a restocking fee to cover wear and tear, the effort of preparing it and loading, etc.

Seems there are worries about the neighbours and family, etc.   I thought she would be up for it, but I guess anyone who has only had a small hive finds a production hive scary.  It's the difference between a cute, harmless calf and a full-grown cow or bull.

In the evening, I went out after the heat dissipated a bit and began setting up the pool and quit as it grew dark and the mosquitoes came out.

I happened by the South of the Hedge Yard and see the bees found it hot today, too.  Guess which end of the row is open to flight and closer to the flowering crop, and which end is near a tall hedge.

All in all, today was not what I had expected.  Oh, well.

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
 Alexander Pope


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Wednesday July 30th 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

Today, 30 July:: Sunny. High 34. UV index 8 or very high.

Here comes another hot, hot day.  I'm up at 0600 and going out shortly to assemble the pool before things heat up.  The water will be chilly until it warms up, so the sooner I fill it, the better.

Elijah was here at 0800, gardening, so I went out to finish assembling the pool.  We got it up quickly and with very little difficulty.  Two people make the job much easier.

At 1300, it's filling at a rate of five inches an hour and standing at eighteen inches, so should be full by suppertime.  The temperature of the water is 15 C or about fifty-eight degrees F,  I'm hoping it will warm in the hot sun.  I'm going to need to be really, really hot to go in unless it is near twenty Celsius or seventy Fahrenheit.

It is getting hot, though.  I'm not used to temperatures in the eighties in the house.  I do know that if I go into that cold water, I'll be cool for an hour after, so I may just do that.

I have some tidying to do today to get ready for Jon and Kalle tomorrow.  There is not much, but Saturday, the Wickenedens arrive and the Piirtoniemis...

I should really go out and put on a few more boxes.  I looked into the bearded hives yesterday and some are not up into the top box yet, but the bees in front suggest crowding, even with the top holes open.

At 1430, the pool is half-full.  I looked over at the bearded hives and see they are still hanging out a bit, so I lifted a lid -- on a different hive this time.

I see that the top box is about complete, and I have to put boxes on, sooooo... I took the plunge. 

Otherwise I was too hot to work.  The water is chilly, but bracing!

Now that the pool is up and and providing instant refreshment, I realise I should have had it up a month ago.  Whenever the urge hit me, I was too hot to do it because the pool was not up.  It is also on of those jobs that is awkward without help. 

Moreover, last year, once the pool was up and filled with $100 worth of water and chemicals, I discovered that it was distorted and wanting to come apart because I picked a bad spot.  So, this year I spent too much time worrying about where to place it.  I had to cut grass and check with planks and a level quite a while before finding what I hope is a good enough spot. 

The yard looks level, but when I really need an 18' x 9' flat spot, I find there are very few. that don't slope or have a hump or dip.  The spot I chose slopes about an inch side to side, but should be okay.

This cold plunge reminds me how we set up a honey tank full of cold water next to the deck for the extracting crew to jump into when they got too hot back when we were extracting all summer.  The tank was seven feet deep and we had a step ladder to climb out.  Crude, but effective!

We also had a 3' x 10' horse watering trough set up in the days when Jean was little and she used to splash around happily on hot days.

I went out and pulled five boxes of honey, stopping to take a dip in the pool three times. It's cold.  The pool is now within a foot of being full.

At 1900, the pool is full and I have adjusted the chemicals -- and been in and out at least six times.  It's over thirty outdoors and over eighty F in the house, but I am cool and comfortable.  When I start to sweat I go in again.

After supper, I pressure-washed the north and front steps and walk.  I figure I'll probably cast new concrete over top, but for now they really needed cleaning.  The recent wind and hail storm covered them with needles and cones.

Honesty is the cruelest game of all, because not only can you hurt someone
 - and hurt them to the bone -  you can feel self-righteous about it at the same time.
Dave Van Ronk


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Thursday July 31st 2014

Click here for current conditions in my back yard

I am expecting to be unloading a hive this morning around 0800.  My customer decided to return the hive and I agreed to take it back, minus a restocking charge.  I'm crazy, I know, but I'm soft-hearted.  The whole thing has been time consuming and turned into a bit of a farce.  Apparently the buyers were not ready for a real hive of bees.

From the last correspondence, there were indeed eggs in the hive, and once I got to thinking about it, I wondered what in the world they were doing working through the entire four-box hive frame by frame shortly after taking it home. 

It also turned out they had no more boxes to put on the hive.  It was full of honey and half done the fourth when it left here, as they requested,.   That hive could finish that box in one good day of honeyflow.  She says there are queen cells in the hive.  When I heard  the whole story, and thought about it, I'm not surprised.  I doubt they'll swarm, though.

As for temper, yesterday afternoon I pulled honey out of sister hives right where it had been, hives with the same number of bees and supers, with bare hands and without a veil and only a bit of smoke, so if it is a cross hive, I'll be surprised. 

The hive could conceivably suddenly have gone rogue -- it can happen -- but I should know shortly.

I know that hive stung me a few times as I loaded it onto their truck, but I had examined the entire hive frame by frame before the sale, moved the hive across the yard, bumped it as we put it on the scale, and lastly, disassembled it and loaded it onto their truck box by box --all this without a veil.  Then I carelessly moved too quickly when loading the last (bottom) box without using smoke and some flew up in my face.  A few got into my hair and I got a sting or two on the neck.  I'd have stung me too.  I deserved it for being so stupid.

I'll bet the hive will be a bit grumpy, though, for a day or two after the ride there, being disassembled and reassembled, then trucked back. I'll be interested to see.

After that job is done, I have to pick up Jon and Kalle at YYC.

It's 0134 as I finish this and get ready to go back to bed.  The temperature is over 20 degrees C, so I imagine the pool will have warmed somewhat by tomorrow afternoon.

*    *    *     *     *

I'm up early and finished breakfast.  The temperature is 16 C. 

I walked out to check the pool and light a smoker.  I'm expecting to see the hive show up around 0800, so I want to be ready.  I walked by the bees and see that they are still bearding.

Most of the honey I removed yesterday was taken by shaking frames one by one.  I don't worry about shaking all the bees as the others leave after a few minutes, but I want to be sure I don't take the queen way.  She might not find her way back.

At the end of the job, I left two full boxes tipped up to allow the bees to abandon.  Since I don't have excluders in the hives, I am concerned that I might lift a queen off with the super, so I smoke gently a number of times before removing the box and wait to give the bees and queen time to go down, then leave the box until the bees are gone. 

If I see a cluster in one of these boxes when I return, indicating a queen or brood, I know which hive I got it from and will return the bees or brood there. 

At this time of year, I can leave the boxes standing on end for days without anything bothering them.  We often left them overnight in the outyards before returning to pick them up back when we were commercial beekeepers.

*    *    *     *     *

Well, the 'grumpy' hive is back, weighing about the same as when it left.  The hives here made a lot of honey while it was gone.  When we unwrapped it , the bees seemed just fine.  I had to lift it down from the truck one box at a time and I see that the frames have been rearranged and boxes seem to have been exchanged.  Oh, well. 

Were they vicious?  Not particularly.  Bees came out when I separated boxes to lift them down, but returned to the hive.  I didn't need much smoke.  I worked with bare hands, but wore a veil this time.

They seem just like any hive of bees to me.  We'll see.

*    *    *     *     *

I met Jon and Kalle at YYC, right on time and we drove to Crossiron Mall for a snack.  Jon had an hour-long conference call in the van while Kalle and I wandered around, then we bought groceries and drove home.

At home, I changed to my swim suit and went outside.  Curious about its temper,  I stood in front of the 'grumpy' hive a while and watched it work, then had a dip in the pool nearby. The water is still chilly at 18 C, but most refreshing.

The hive?  It was just like any other hive and took no notice of me and my almost naked body, sweaty from the van ride (the air conditioning has stopped working completely now) standing there, six feet directly in front of the entrance.  If it is grumpy, then all my hives are grumpy.

I have yet to pick up those two supers of honey tipped up on the hives. (Above).

I am still adjusting the pool chemistry (right).  It takes a while to get everything stable.  The test panels are shown at right.

The quickest way to a man's heart really is through his stomach,
because then you don't have to chop through that pesky rib cage.
 J. Jacques


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