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Saturday June 20th 2015

Today Sunny. Increasing cloudiness this afternoon then 60 percent chance of showers late this afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm late this afternoon. High 21. UV index 7 or high.
Tonight Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers this evening. A few showers beginning overnight. Risk of a thunderstorm this evening. Low 10.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

Good morning.  I woke up at 0305 and was wide awake and hungry, so I got up for a while and had breakfast. I'll work for an hour and go back to bed and sleep another four.

I'm feeling overwhelmed lately.  I'm feeling I've bitten off more than I can chew.  This is not the first time, and I get like this once in a while.  I suppose if I never feel this way, I'll be shrinking, not growing.

I went back to bed at 0435 and slept until 0930.

I went out and did some yard cleanup, cut some grass, and continued to work through hives.  I'm getting to some hives that have been untouched for three weeks or more and they are looking good.

I almost finished the Quonset Yard and a storm moved in.  Storms threaten for a while, but take quite some time to actually arrive.  I usually have a sense for when the rain will hit and made it in the door just before the rain started in earnest.

I have been really stressed about the bees this spring.  What I am doing is actually not that stressful or difficult if everything works out.  The problem is that I am trying to rush things and also that I made assumptions that did not prove out -- and I had no plan B.

  1. I tried doing things a harder way than necessary this year.  I wanted to deliver bees earlier than practical because people demanded bees early last year and lost interest by the time I had them ready. I am still getting requests this year, so I imagine that I can sell enough to get down to a manageable number.

  2. I ran without excluders last summer because I was drawing foundation and wanted queens to go up to prevent plugging the bottom boxes. I wound up with far too much honey in all my boxes this spring.  I'll be smarter this year and use excluders regardless.

  3. I also left in September and did not work the bees after.  I suppose I could have taken off the honey frame by frame and reduced the hives down to doubles and sent the honey away. 
    My friends will haul the honey away for me if it is free of bees and brood, but uncapping on their system can be hard on newly drawn foundation and I was reluctant to have all the new comb torn off the foundation, and I underestimated how plugged the hives were.

    (After I wrote that, I looked at some new combs that were extracted last year and they had come out much better than the previous year.  Maybe it depends who is running the uncapper.)

  4. A major stressor this spring was a shortage of empty supers or brood comb.  Everything was plugged with honey, limiting my management options.  I had assumed my friends would have lots of boxes available when I needed them this spring, and I needed them early to hold the unusually heavy dandelion flow and they did not. They had put all their boxes all on their hives by the time I needed them.

    (This miscalculation was entirely my own fault. For clarity, my friends did get me new boxes from Beaver, and lots of frames of foundation, but by the time these boxes were here and ready, the pressure was off.  The flow was ending. The time to put on supers is before the flow, not after. I was also noticing that the hives were not yet drawing foundation, even with this heavier than expected flow due to the dry weather, so was not sure that foundation would help much.  Drawn comb can relieve the pressure while foundation in spring is not drawn until the bees make wax and that requires lots of well-fed young bees to be full of honey for a period of time.)

  5. The same thing happened last year -- I ran out of empty boxes -- and that is partly why I got plugged up with honey.  The previous summer, friends brought empty drawn supers and I put them on over  excluders.  In fall, I simply lifted the supers off, waited for the bees to leave, and they took them away.  That was perfect, and the honey roughly covers the cost of the boxes, queens and things I get from them.

Being brought empty drawn supers and having them taken away when full is perfect for me. I don't want anything to do with honey.  It just gets in my way.

Does anybody have empty drawn supers and want me to fill them?  Call me. I need to keep my brood chambers from plugging. Drawing too much foundation puts pressure on the brood chambers and gets the brood combs drawn out too fat and plugged with honey.

(After I wrote that, a beekeeper who is getting hives from me texted to say he has some boxes and I don't know why I did not think of that before.  Putting his boxes on now will allow the bees to go up and get used to the boxes and also reduce the congestion in the meantime.)

Another mistake I made this year was to not mark the dates of splits on lids.  I did not want to mark the lids up and that cost me time, and caused some confusion and duplicated effort.  I need a better record-keeping system.  My brick signals are not enough, even when I can remember what they mean.

One thing that has reduced my stress level is that I bit the bullet this year and got more new lids and floors that fit better to allow easier handling and moving of hives.

These are the two swarms I caught yesterday.  They were about the same size when installed, but one has drifted down in size.


I found a trapped virgin queen.  Her cell had a very thick end.  I liberated her and she ran off (left).  She looks great -- better than some mated queens.  Swarm queens are the highest quality queens you can get. At right is a hive that has obviously not had enough attention.

I went out after supper and finished the Quonset Yard.  I'm now running out of floors and lids again.  I must have over 140 hives right now.  Of course, that will shake down to a much smaller number by fall.

On my way over to the hives, I saw a Great White Owl circle and land in their favourite elm tree.  I had noticed that there seem to be fewer of the little skunks.  Meijers saw several (five?) the other night.  I only saw one skunk last night.

Maybe my developing skunk problem will be solved by nature.

At present, the skunks just clean up the crawlers and other dead bees in front of hives, and catch mice, but by fall food will become scarce, there will be more and bigger skunks, and they will become ravenous.  Then they start molesting the hives and can do serious damage.

Owls can take away fairly large animals.  Kalle reported seeing an owl try to take Amos one time, but Amos fought the owl off.

Few men of action have been able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time.
 Malcolm Muggeridge

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Sunday June 21st 2015
 Summer Solstice
The First Day of Summer

Today A few showers ending this morning then a mix of sun and cloud with 30 percent chance of showers. Risk of a thunderstorm. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h this afternoon. High 21. UV index 5 or moderate.
Tonight Partly cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers early this evening and risk of a thunderstorm. Clearing this evening. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 8.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

From today on, the days get shorter and we have a little over six months until Christmas.

We are coming into the prime build-up weather for bees, with warm days and warm nights.  In spite of the rains, I don't expect much of a flow for a few weeks since the spring bloom is over and summer bloom is weeks off.  Nonetheless, we could be surprised.  I was with the heavy dandelion flow this year.

Something that has become clear to me by now this spring is that I need to have a more rigid schedule and stick to it.  I am falling into the sideline beekeeper folly -- just keeping going around without a clear plan and working some hives more than others. I am driving myself crazy.

When we were commercial, we were very disciplined and made rounds according to schedule.  All exceptions were dealt with on the spot and we had enough hives and yards that we were not inclined to return too often or fuss.  All equipment was standardized and operations were y formula.

Lately, I am just working ad hoc, with no clear idea of what I have done.  As a result, I am working some hives too often and some too seldom.  I am also not ever feeling that I have caught up.

Around lunchtime, I went out and vacuumed the pool.  I still have algae in the bottom, but it may be getting better. 

Then, I went to the North Yard and mowed and tidied a bit.  I have a bit of work to do there since I had just dropped everything on my last visit, maybe ten days ago.  I think I needed something and went to get it and never got back.  As I have been saying, I am brain-dead and disorganized these days.

Then I went to pack to go to Orams' for supper.  I have a lot of shopping to do along the way and back, so getting ready requires some organizing.  I also decided that i will change the spring and the bearing on the sailboat trailer and get the boat in to the water this year, so I went down to size up what I need.

I was in the basement, looking for my impact wrench to pull the wheels off the sailboat trailer when Jean called.  I was to go to their place for supper, but it seems they are coming down with a bug, so if i don't want it, staying home would be wise.  That suits me.  I was just getting going nicely on several projects.

I mowed some grass, went out and worked on the North Yard, but realized that there are newly-hatched virgins that may or may not be mated and that rearranging hives could result in drifting and loss of mating queens, so decided to only do minimal work there.

That is why I should mark the split date on each hive.  That way I'll know when queens should be emerged and when they should be laying.

My hopes that the owls would take the skunks has not yet come true.  I went in for a while, then returned to the North Yard and found two little skunks there cleaning up the mess I'd made.  They are very tame and almost ignore me.

I counted the floors needing skids, now that I decided that is the way to go and I need enough for 60 floors. At 18" front and back, that is 180 feet of 2X4 or 2X3, or 15 twelve-footers.

Well, this is interesting.  I was downstairs on the treadmill -- I decided I need more exercise and I guess my ringer got turned off somehow -- and I noticed that I had received three calls from the 780 area code, which is quite a  ways north of here.  There was a blank voicemail, too, so I thought it must be urgent and called back.  A voice at the other end wanted to offer me supers to fill, and I explained that I have what I need for now.

Seems people do read this diary.  I never check the stats and assumed that there might be a just a few readers, but apparently word gets around.

Just so everyone knows, my problem was a springtime problem.  Bees don't draw foundation well until late June, so, although I have lots of foundation, I was desperate earlier for empty drawn comb -- especially when queens got plugged out by a strong dandelion flow.  With the dearth now, the bees are consuming honey and brood is hatching, so the queens have room again.

A beekeeper who is buying forty hives from me is bring his boxes tomorrow and I'll put them on as needed.  At this point, I doubt the bees will do much in them until July, but at least the colonies will have room for queens to lay and maybe take up some honey from the brood chambers. 

Putting on the supers as soon as weather is settled and the brood boxes are full of bees is a good idea.  If you don't you might have a heavy flow and never know it if there is no place to put the nectar.  They need at least five times the space to dry the nectar that they do to store the resulting honey.

Also, the bees seems to know they have the space and do better than if they are crowded early in the season.  After August comes, they can be crowded a bit, but for now, they need space.

From now on, on my remaining hives, I'll be putting on a box with ten frames of foundation above an excluder.  I may seed these boxes with a frame or two of brood from below to make room down there and to bring the bees up.

If I sell singles, I'll just pull the super and place it elsewhere, but having that room will allow the colonies to expand.

I'm coming across Acorn frames I put in last year and finding there are much flatter than the Piercos in the same hives. 

Some of the Pierco are quite bowed, possibly as much as 1/4" in the middle, so I have to be careful to face them all the same way to preserve bee space between them.

The Acorns I have noticed so far do not have a noticeable bow.  I only had a few boxes, so will be on the lookout, but so far, so good.

I still like Pierco standard one-piece frames, but as I say, they have to be oriented all the same direction when spaced at ten-frame spacing -- 1-3/8" OC.

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change;
the realist adjusts the sails
William Arthur Ward

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Monday June 22nd 2015

Today Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud this afternoon. High 25. UV index 7 or high.
Tonight Partly cloudy. Low 11

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

Hot weather coming!

I woke up at 0505 full of energy and ideas.  Maybe walking a few kilometers in the evening is good for me?

I sat down to do my morning computer chores and found my custom search on this site comes up 404 and Google thinks there is unusual activity from my IP.  I ran a few scans - Kaspersky - Malwarebytes - Eset - and found nothing.  What a way to slow down my day!

As time goes by, I am seeing a creep in Google's mission from observation and reporting to intrusion and control.  Where Google was seemingly passive and benign in its early years, Google is increasingly manipulating the Internet environment and users.

As Google is acquiring increased power and permissions, granted due its past affability, I see a shift to a more controlling stance. This was predictable and almost inevitable.  Regardless of intent, absolute power corrupts absolutely, with few exceptions.

Whereas, at one time, I was not uncomfortable with allowing Google access to my data, I am growing increasingly uneasy.  At one time, I thought I had some idea of what is exposed to Google and its app writers, and what they might do with it, but now I have no clue.  I have to assume there is absolutely no privacy, and I am beginning to doubt Google's motives.  Are there alternatives?  Microsoft?  Apple? Something else?

How far this will go remains to be seen.

At 0730, Bryan pulled in to drop off a trailer with 40 supers to put on the hives he is getting to take the pressure off the brood chambers. Too bad I did not think of this earlier.

*   *   *   *   *

It's 1130 and I have been to town, bought groceries, dropped off a sample at the lab, visited Rod's for parts, stopped at the Lube-go for advice on changing the oil in the PowerStroke diesel truck with custom oil filter, bought lumber, and repaired my Chrysler van dipstick and gas cap problems.  Many days, I would still be in my housecoat.

Suddenly I'm feeling like myself again.  I had lunch, then decided on a siesta.  Today is ideal weather for doing things, but first things first.

One reason I decided on the nap was that I was having visual disturbances again for the first time in over a week.  Was it the wieners and beans?  Was it the breakfast sandwich I had in town?  Was it the handful of nuts and seeds I ate?  Is it stress?  I don't know.

After my nap, I got out the chop saw and made skids for the floors from the lumber I bought this morning. 

I used No More Nails to assemble the slats onto the floors and was disappointed.  It does not measure up to its literature.  Things slide around and it takes longer to set than promised.  I also notice it does not fill gaps well.  I hope the runners stay on.

Maybe I got the wrong product.  There are several quite different versions of the product under the same name and the labels never tell me clearly what I need to know.  When I bought glue for assembling the BeeMax EPS boxes years ago, I got the wrong kind.  Later  learned that Weldbond is the one glue that really works. 

FWIW, I do not recommend BeeMax if you can get a brand of EPS box that comes in one piece.  If not, they are okay, but a bit tender.  Although I have been using these BeeMax boxes for over a decade and they are reasonably durable, they do still come apart at the corners and even when properly glued, the corners are weak.

*   *   *   *   *

These 2X4s are about the worst "#2 & Better" 2X4s  that I have ever seen, and I paid more than I would have at another yard, simply because I had a number of things to do in Three Hills and figured that even though the price was a little higher than elsewhere, I would save time and fuel.  I had not figured on paying more for poorer quality. They will do for this job, but I don't know how anyone is supposed to build homes with this trash.

This job is another part of beekeeping I don't much like.  Let me list jobs I do not like:

  • Scraping brood chambers, sorting frames, and dealing with deadouts

  • Assembling and making equipment

  • Extracting

That's all I can think of right now. I love anything that involves opening hives.

I had supper, mowed grass, worked on hives, and met a customer who came for two singles at about 2000.

We chased two tame little skunks out of the North Yard and loaded the hives into the back of her pickup.  The bees stayed in nicely without smoke. 

It never ceases to puzzle me how a hive that has bees hanging out front and flying all over earlier can be content to stay in  a while later, and how a hive that seems crowded can sometimes seem under-populated a short while later -- then seem crowded again later.  It all comes down to time of day, flow conditions, ambient temperature, and humidity, I guess.

I recall one time getting singles ready for a commercial beekeeper in June.  He stopped in on the way back from BC late one cool evening after dusk, looked at them and thought they were too weak.  The next day, after he was gone they were out on the doorstep again and proved to be just fine.  It's a mystery.

I went in and watched an episode of Suits and went to bed at 2200.  No treadmill tonight.  I'm tired.

A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries.
Will Rogers

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Tuesday June 23rd 2015

Today A mix of sun and cloud with 30 percent chance of showers and risk of a thunderstorm. High 24. UV index 7 or high.
Tonight Partly cloudy with 30 percent chance of showers this evening and risk of a thunderstorm. Clearing late this evening. Low 10.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I slept until 0715 and woke up refreshed.

Here comes another long sunny day. Sunrise was at 5:15 and sunset is at 21:56.  We have about seventeen hours of daylight and only a few hours of darkness.

My project for the day has been changing the oil in the 4X4.  This truck has a bypass oil filter that complicates things a bit.  Lube-Go offered to change the oil for $110, but I decided to do it at home, so I drove to town and got oil and a filter, then drove home and drained the oil, washed the air filter, and refilled the oil.  I might have saved myself $15 for a job that kept me busy for two hours.

I filled up in town and noticed that diesel is now ten cents cheaper than gasoline for the first time in along while!

I felt poorly all day, with a slight headache and vision disturbances in the afternoon, but did tidy-up and general odds and ends.

After supper, I went out and worked in the South of the Hedge yard until my customer came and we loaded her hive.  Tonight, the bees were hardly flying and not hanging out as they so often were in the previous weeks.  That made the loading go well.

She got home and sent a picture to make sure the bees were okay after unloading. They look fine to me.

A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.
Chinese Proverb

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Wednesday June 24th 2015

Today Sunny this morning then a mix of sun and cloud with 30 percent chance of showers this afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm this afternoon. High 27. UV index 7 or high.
Tonight Partly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers this evening with risk of a thunderstorm. Clearing overnight. Low 12.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I 'm feeling better today and I am wondering if I had food poisoning yesterday, a food allergy, allergic reaction from mowing or something more serious.  I've had episodes over the past two months now that seemed to clear up, but recur periodically.  If it is allergy or food sensitivity, it is hard to pin down since the effects are not always immediate and can linger.  I had a little congestion overnight, so I suspect mowing.

Anyhow, today looks to be another great summer day.  I plan to get out early. 

I changed the oil in the 4X4 yesterday and that was an accomplishment.  I had never changed it since I bought the truck.  The truck has a bypass filter that extends the change interval, but a filter does not remove corrosive combustion byproducts.  Now I need to change the oil in the red bee truck.  It is long overdue, too.

A great deal of fuss is made about regular oil changes and they make good sense for new vehicles since there is a long expected useful life remaining, but for a vehicle reaching the end of expected useful life, like my bee truck which barely runs well enough to go around the yard, the investment is likely to bring a much smaller return. 

When I do an oil change at the recommended interval, I often notice a chance in the sound of the engine -- engines are quieter after a change -- so oil changes do make a difference.

I was held back earlier by lack of good floors and lids and was liberated when I had more made a few weeks ago, but I am running low again, so I ordered another 50 sets.  They should come soon.  In the meantime, I can get by.

I screwed on some more runners onto floors I had been using without them -- I like to standardize -- and then worked the rest of the way through the South of the Hedge Yard.  When I was done, there were 21 hives, all but four with queens.  I had split three.

It is a huge relief to get the hives off pallets and onto floors with slats. It allows much greater flexibility and a neater yard.

I also put the customer's supers on some of the doubles that are going out as a group. He may be able to take a load Thursday. I had a pallet truck that was good for moving hives but I think I sold it.  The ones I have left have short tongues, but I see that Princess Auto has one that should be perfect.

I'm selling my doubles cheap this year.  From what I've heard, doubles went in large lots at auction for well over $500 in Manitoba this spring and I am not charging nearly that.  I'm also including a lot of honey in the brood chambers, so they are bound to be a good deal.

During the heat of the day, I finished off a banner I was working on for for the Bluewater Cruising Association.  It is a quick-and-dirty project that turned into a tarbaby.  I'm trying to promote the Thanksgiving Rendezvous I organize annually for the Calgary chapter.  Last year we broke records for attendance and i hope to break records again this year.

It has a been a long haul getting cooperation and I dragged several other events under the umbrella, but I think we are there.  I could have fiddled with it and cleaned up the banner a bit, but as with many such projects, I ran out of time. As often happens, I had trouble getting clear instructions and spent valuable time correcting details.

I seem to have lots of energy today again.  The day was hot enough that I paused twice for a dip in the pool.  The water is twenty degrees and that is just brisk enough that a five-minute soak  cools me down for an hour or two afterwards.

At 1530, I decided to have a nap and slept forty-five minutes. 

Until recently, I always slept an hour in afternoons when I napped, but read a week or so ago on Dr. Mirkin that forty-five minutes is optimal for him and all of a sudden I find that I now sleep forty-five.  The mind is a mysterious thing.

Now that I look, I can't find that article, but there are lots more...  I always enjoy Mirkin's articles because he has a critical mind.  He reads widely, then analyzes and synopsizes the material. He has his favourite themes and is doubtful about red meat, sugar, and fads.  Is he always right?  I doubt it.  No one is.

I had ordered some turkey breasts at the local IGA last week.  I buy in bulk and the butcher gives me about a 33% discount.  He called this morning to say they were in and I said I'd be up, imagining that I'd find a reason to drive the fifteen miles sometime during the day.  By 1630, I still had not gone, so I loaded Zippy into the van and drove to Three Hills.  I don't want him to think I don't appreciate the service -- and the generous discount

That is something I learned from my Mom.  While others bought the wrapped meat on the counter, Mom always chatted up the butcher and had her meat cut for her.  It does not cost more, ensures the choicest, freshest cuts and costs no more.  The butcher is proud to save the best for those who show appreciation for his/her work and sometimes marks things down a bit for favoured customers. (Don't tell anyone).

Once I got on the road, I was enjoying the drive.  The day was sunny and hot, everything was green and lush, and fluffy clouds were lined up across the sky.  I was thinking of what I could do in town -- have supper, go swimming, drive out to the airport... however, Zippy does not stand the heat well and I could not leave her in the van for long.  She starts coughing if the room gets up to 80 degrees F.  Besides, I had fresh meat to take home and in the sun, the van heated up the moment the air conditioner turned off, so I drove home, put a steak on the grill and had supper outside.

After supper I went out and hooked up a big trailer to the 4X4.  I'm planning to start hauling things to the dump. 

I have never been good at throwing things out, even when it was simple, but the job has gotten more and more technical lately.  Wood and painted wood do not go to the same place in the dump, or maybe even the same dump.

Anyhow, I hooked it up and made a start.  Then I got the mower and mowed where the trailer had been and more of the tall grass.

Keeping in kind the effects of breathing the dust from dead grass I've been experiencing after mowing, I tried using a dust mask.  How well this cheap mask sealed with my beard is a good question, but I followed up with a shower, inhaled some water, then rinsed my sinuses.  We'll see how I sleep tonight.

I followed that with episode of Taxi Brooklyn, a short series I came across which is hilarious, and then an episode of Suits.

It'll be a warm night tonight, and that is good.  At 2300, it is still 17 degrees.  Heat is what bees like for brooding up and drawing foundation.

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

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Thursday June 25th 2015
Three more months to feeding and wrapping
Six more months until Christmas

Today A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers early this morning. High 30. UV index 7 or high.
Tonight Clearing late this evening. Low 14.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

I slept reasonably well, and was woken up by a fly in the bedroom and loud trains climbing the hill -- three in an hour.  I did experience some mild congestion overnight, though, so I gather that either the dust mask did not protect me completely or I got enough dust and chaff in my eyes to bypass its benefits. I suppose I could have taken an antihistamine, but I always wonder about the side effects, mild as they may be.

I suspect that cutting grass earlier in the day does not seem to have as big an effect as mowing in the evening because my system has more time to clear the debris from my nose and sinuses while I am active and long before bedtime.

*   *   *    *   *

The railway has done a much better job of maintaining the rails in recent years, partly because the trains these days far exceed the original design loads and trains have become quieter because the rails are almost perfectly level and straight and speeds have been reduced.

I am noticing a clatter out front, near the crossing, so assume that a flat spot or crack has developed.  I wonder if I should call the railroad?

*   *   *    *   *

It is now 0657 and another train just went by, the fourth  in two hours.

I noticed last night that we are getting a bit of a flow. Not much, and we can't expect much until the crops bloom, but with this dry hot, weather coming, I expect it to continue.

I made a bean stew, then went out and did a few chores and began on the North Yard.  That yard is out of the south breeze and very hot today, so I went for a dip in the pool every half-hour.  The water is up to twenty-three degrees and that is about right.

The hive shown here is a walk-away split I made when I did not have a floor handy.  I just set an old super on the ground and set the split on top with no floor. It worked out well. 

This goes to show that the bees will happily make comb below the brood chamber, however this free-built comb is all drone, as such comb usually is.  We also see that this comb is darker suggesting that the bees reused wax from nearby.

This also goes to show that we can do good beekeeping with limited and makeshift equipment.  I think this hive had an advantage in that it did not run out of space as it would have if it had been on a solid floor.  Who needs floors?  Maybe I should be running all my hives this way.

I've heard of commercial beekeepers who simply placed hives on pallets with no floors. The bees simply came and went through the pallet slats.

That work was followed by a nap and supper and more bee work, plus dips in the pool every half-hour.

I am expecting  a customer tonight and another beekeeper will drop by to recover his trailer.

*   *   *    *   *

Everyone came and went and by 2055, I was done for the day.

This was another good day.

I didn't have my usual group for supper since Elijah's graduation banquet is tonight and some of the gang are going.  Plans are to do it tomorrow night.

Note to self: Get out earlier in the morning and work in the basement at mid-day.

At a few minutes to midnight, it is still not completely dark out. This view is looking north from my doorstep. At this time of year at this latitude (53N), the sun sets and rises in the northern sky.

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.
H. L. Mencken

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Friday June 26th 2015

 Today Sunny. Wind becoming northeast 20 km/h near noon. High 31. UV index 8 or very high.
Tonight Clear. Wind northeast 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 14.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

Note to self: Get out earlier in the morning and work in the cool of the basement at mid-day.

I have full schedule today.  I have bee work to do, as well as house cleaning and laundry to finish.

People are coming for bees and Orams may come down on the weekend, I may be having a barbecue tonight, and I have to take the Toyota to Three Hills tomorrow for air conditioning repair.  (I tried charging it, but that did not solve the problem).

The temperatures are predicted to soar this week, almost reaching 100 F at one point, so things will get really dry unless we get a cloudburst from a passing thunderstorm.  The conversion chart at right compares Celsius to Fahrenheit.

Going to the dump (AKA Landfill or Transfer Station) is not the simple job it once was.  These days one has to find when the appropriate dump is open, identify and sort the trash, then haul it to the correct location and drop it at the correct spot in the dump.

The bees are coming along well and I will have no problem meeting my commitments.   I always hope to have bees ready to go earlier than practical.  All it takes is patience.  Even with purchased queens it takes a while to get them established.  With cells it takes several weeks and a month for emergency cells.

I'm planning to run to the dump a few times in  the coming days to clean up the yard.  I changed the oil, dragged out a trailer, filled the flat tire, and am now considering a plan of action.  I have yet to verify that the trailer lights and brakes work.  Trailer lights are a perennial puzzle.

My big mistakes this year?

  • I did not have sufficient equipment on hand and ready beforehand

  • I overestimated my enthusiasm and energy

  • I did not repair the forklift

  • I used caged mated queens instead of ripe cells.

  • I did not mark what I did and when on the lids

  • I did not raise cells and queens for myself and for sale

  • I kept hives on pallets and stands instead of moveable floors.

  • (a good idea, but not suited to this management)

  • I did not place brood boxes  under the splits when I made them.

  • I did not keep in touch with buyers as well as I might have

  • I have been impatient and worried..

What I did right:

  • I used EPS boxes that simplified management greatly

  • I put on patties and Apivar on time

  • I worked through the hives and assessed them on time

  • I split on time.

  • I took cash deposits on sales

  • I took time off and went east to see Mom and west to sail

  • I ordered floors and lids when I realized that not having them was cramping my ability to function.

  • I put slats on all floors so I can switch hives (padgen) and generally move them easily.

Suggestions for additions to these lists will be appreciated.

I got outdoors in good time, shortly after 0900, but spent the first hour screwing slats onto the floors, and I am not done yet.  The main value in this work, besides getting slats on the floors so I can move hives easily, is in developing appreciation for the guy who likes to make lids and floors for me and only needs a little money in return, not my time and attention.  As I have said, I like working on the bees, but don't much care for working with boxes, frames, floors, etc.

It occurs to me that I need a shade for working hives if I am going to be out at midday as it seems I am.  They use moveable shades in the southern US to make working hives in the hot sun tolerable. I wonder if I can adapt my picnic umbrella.

At 1048, it is already getting hot out there, but we do have a little breeze.  At noon, I am just finishing the carpenter work.

 I decided I should count the hives and get exactly 140. No wonder I feel overworked.  Anyhow, sixty will be going out, pronto. and then I have to decide from there.  In the 140 are at least seventy with undefined queen status. Half will have queens, but probably twenty will have to be combined down.  My goal is to wind up with about fifty going into winter -- at most.

Fen and Rick came over to borrow a trailer and we had supper, then I went out to look at the hives again.  

I see we have a flow starting and some hives are hanging out a bit.  (Excuse the mess.  I was called away in the middle of a job).

What I see is a really good argument for my practice of  putting new brood boxes under an existing single.  That way the clustering bees are in the new box.  Hives that have recent brood chambers or supers added on top are still hanging out -- instead of going up.

I swam at least eight times today.  The water is up to twenty-five degrees C.  Balmy!

It is 2300 hours and I smell skunk.  I also twice heard the rustling of a big bird on my roof right outside where I am working.  I am thinking: the owl.

I see a little skunk out at the beehives quite often now. I see only one at a time now so maybe there is only one surviving. Can't say. 

At the hives or on the way there or back is about the only place I see a skunk now and I'm afraid they are getting quite dependent on the easy pickings.  So far, they just seem to eat the crawlers -- as far as I can tell, but I suspect they will graduate to molesting the colonies by fall if something does not eat them first.

For some reason, I feel like going to New York.  That makes no sense. Go figure.

I see my Google custom search panels are working again.  They went offline for a while and now they are back. I did nothing AFAIK.

At midnight, it is still twenty degrees out.

I have some theories about charity in general, mainly that most of it has real externalities.
Jared Dillian

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Saturday June 27th 2015

Today Sunny. High 33. UV index 8 or very high.
Tonight Clear. Low 15.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

It's 0415, day is breaking and and I have slept less than four hours.   Sleeping by an open window, the smell of skunk wafted in several times during the night, rousing me slightly and finally waking me.

I wonder what is going on out there.  I am not hearing anything, but something must have been threatening the skunk(s).  Things are getting to where skunks are obvious pretty well all the time. 

I can't ever recall that happening before, but in the past the skunks lived further away under outbuildings or somewhere unknown.  I suspect the little skunks, apparently motherless, are under my basement steps.  Maybe I will have to quit ignoring the problem before real damage begins.   When food gets short as the skunks grow and the season progresses, that becomes inevitable.

I wonder if I could build a communal live skunk trap of the sort used for mice.  I saw one in the most basic form at summer camp once.  A nearly-empty garbage can was beside a rock and a mouse had jumped in and could not get out.  That mouse raised such a fuss and more mice jumped in to see what was going on and, I assume, to help.

There are live traps that catch mice by that same principle.  Do skunks go to investigate when another gets in trouble, or run the other way?  If I could catch five or so at a time, I could take them for a drive and release them miles from anyone.

So far, Zippy has been to old and slow to stumble onto one of them, and they are tame enough that they just amble away when I come along.

How skunks spray
How far can a skunk spray?
More skunk discussion in the forum

I'm going back to bed.  Maybe I should close the window, but it is still hot compared to what I am accustomed to, at fourteen Celsius degrees outside and twenty-three in here. 

I have another problem, though, besides the skunk aroma.  There is a fly in here, the kind that likes to land on me and tickle.

*   *   *   *   *

I didn't go to bed, quite yet anyhow.  I wandered out to take a picture of the dawn and found two middle-sized skunks foraging in the North Yard.  These are bigger than I have been seeing and not the baby skunks I have seen during the day.

There are still beards on the hives, but the skunks are not bothering them.  They are eating crawlers, discards, and cleaning up scraps around the yard and getting what they can from any boxes left near the ground. They like honey and will scrap it off any frames left accessible to them.

The skunks were totally unaware of my presence until I spoke to them and then they wandered off a little, then turned and looked at me.  I understand they are quite civil and make good pets, not that I am about to try that.

This shot at right is taken facing north toward the sunrise at 0445 and is the same messy yard where I dropped everything when interrupted last evening.

I am going back to bed, but first, I'll have breakfast.  I sleep better after breakfast and a few cups of java.

I have to be in Three Hills to have the air-conditioning on the Toyota fixed by nine or ten, so if I am going to sleep, I had better get at it.  I'm quite awake by now, but three and a half hours of sleep is simply not enough.

I had breakfast and went back to bed for an hour or so.  My phone alarm roused me at 0830 with the "Robots for Everyone" refrain and I got up and drove to Three Hills, where Dan pumped out and refilled the Toyota air-conditioning system. 

It took a half-hour to totally evacuate the refrigerant and cost me $105 and another half-hour before we were done, but I now have cold air. 

However, the A/C pump is noisy and there is no guarantee that it will last long.  I think he may have said the same thing five years ago when he last charged it. A replacement would be over $600, and that is out of the question for a 1998 van with 300,000+ km and a worn CV joint. Besides, it may well last as long as I care about it.

Do I really need two vans?  Not really.  I keep a spare around for when I have company.  Jon comes once a year and uses it for a week or two.  Considering insurance and license and maintenance, a rental would likely be cheaper, and, besides, I have the 4X4 which is a good highway machine and carries up to six people.

It is hot out, but with the breeze, it does not feel too bad, so I think I'll do some bee work.  Somehow, I keep finding myself out there at mid-day, along with mad dogs and Englishmen...

My Chrysler air-conditioning does not seem to be cooling properly, so I am going back up to Three Hills.

*   *   *   *   *

I had a short nap, then drove back up to town.  We tried charging the system further, but the air still was blowing only slightly cool, so we evacuated the A/C and refilled it, just as we did the Toyota, and that took another hour.

From there, I drove to Trochu  to get more RoundUp.  I'm finding RoundUp works, but takes far longer than I had expected.  It takes two to three weeks to see where I missed.

At 1600, all I have managed to do is get the A/C serviced on two vehicles, buy a few things, and take a dip in the pool.  It is 32 degrees with only a slight occasional breeze.

I'm now about to go out and do some bee work. 4 PM is the ideal time to start bee work at this time of year since the sun is no longer high in the sky and the bees are mellow.  Around 7 (1900), the bees start to settle down for the night and by 2030, they are all home, at which point the hives get harder to work.

Well, I was wrong about that.  I no sooner got out and opened a hive when I felt faint and a bit nauseous.  The heat was getting to me already.  No sense pushing things.

I closed the hive, drove back to the house and had a dip to cool down.  Then I put a steak on the grill, microwaved a potato and a cob of corn and called it a day.

Charlie is planning to show up sometime this evening and we'll load his hive and that is it for me. 

It is 31.2 (88 degrees F) in the house right now.  Maybe I'll go and work down in the shop where it is always cool, but first, another dip in the pool.

By 1900, it had cooled enough that I went out and worked in the North Yard until Charlie came.  We loaded his hive and he left and I continued working until 2100.  The bees were fine and I was able to work without a veil.  I had another dip and came in.

All that is left in that yard is to deal with two or three hives and tidy it up.

I am having what I assume to be an algae problem in the pool.  I've used algaecide and copper sulphate and the pool was crystal clear this morning, but after a day in the sun, there are clusters of wispy grey-green something.  I vacuum them and all is clear for a while and then, later, they are back.

At this point, I have enough equipment for a while and the extra fifty floors and lids will be surplus until next year. 

That is what I mean.  I've confused  myself by the way I worked this year.  I don't seem to have a system or the discipline I usually have had.

I'll still need supers, though.  I'll see how many after the next round.  I'll be sure to use excluders this year, but the honey will be a problem unless I have a forklift or hand bomb it onto a truck.  I've had honey granulate in supers before when the forklift was not working.  Honey is such a pain.  Beekeeping is quite easy -- except for dealing with honey.

Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal.
Herman Hesse

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Sunday June 28th 2015

Today Sunny. High 35. UV index 8 or very high.
Tonight Clear. Low 15.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

Today promises to be even hotter than our recent hot days, then a slight cooling is expected over the coming week.

I am expecting to see Orams today, along with a friend of theirs who wants two hives. If I plan to get much done with the bees, I had better get out before noon.  After lunch, the day will be too hot for working in comfort and I may have company.

I see the canola starting to bloom as I drive through the country and hives are showing signs of a flow, so I need to get the hives checked and put boxes on them. 

July 1st is the time to stack on all your supers here in central Alberta.  It is better to have too supers many on too early than too few, too late.  Bees cannot fill boxes that are in the shed.

There are exceptions and subtleties such as nucs and comb honey production, or where foundation is used instead of drawn comb, but generally speaking, for normal, strong colonies producing extracted honey, this is the rule.  Where 100% foundation is used, only a box at a time is the rule and additional boxes are supplied only as the previous box is occupied and three quarters drawn and filled, but not yet capped.

I went out to check the North Yard and noticed some bits of grass un covered when I moved hives around needed mowing, so I got out the mower and cleaned up the ragged spots, then, for good measure I mowed the apple orchard.  Then  I noticed it was not yet 7 AM on a Sunday morning.

This an ideal time to do this sort of thing.  There is just enough dew that mowing does not raise a dust; there is full light, but day is still cool.

*    *    *    *    *

I looked over my orders and I need to come up with 15 singles and 41 doubles in  the next week.  That should be easy.  I'm over halfway on the doubles and the singles just need checking over.

*    *    *    *    *

In the morning, I cleaned house and after lunch, Rick returned my trailer. We visited until Chris, Rory and the kids showed up. 

A while back, I bought a little outboard for the car-top  boat, so I mounted it today made a few circles in the pond.

The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming and, later, a barbecue.   At seven, we loaded Rory's hives and everyone left a while later.

I went to bed early and slept well.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.
C. S. Lewis

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Monday June 29th 2015

Today Increasing cloudiness this morning. Wind becoming east 20 km/h this afternoon. High 26. UV index 3 or moderate.
Tonight Cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms. Wind east 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 16.

Click here for current conditions in my back yard
Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

As so often is the case, our forecast has changed considerably from what we expected a few days ago.  More moderate weather is predicted, with a chance of rain.  We could use quite a bit of rain at this point.  The lawns are brown again and word is that crops are dry.

People are coming for hives daily now, as fast as I can inspect them, mark to them for pickup and notify people.

At 0800, it is 20.5 degrees out, but after the recent heat wave, 20 degrees feels cool. 

*    *    *    *    *

Now, at 1100, it's raining.  My plans are to inspect hives today, but that will have to wait.

*    *    *    *    *

At 1337, the rain has slacked off.  I went out an vacuumed the pool.  That wispy stuff won't vacuum out.  It just goes right through my paper filter. I think it is dead algae, but don't know for sure.  It seems harmless and when stirred up, makes the water slightly cloudy.

I looked the problem up on the web and the solution is to vacuum, but discard the water from rather than returning it to the pool.  Why did I not think of that?

Ray called and my lids and floors are ready, so I went and picked them up.  I now have 50 lids and floors I will not need until next year.  Goes to show how disorganized and muddle-headed I've been this spring.

I haven't done any bee work all day, but, now at 1550, I'm headed out to check some hives.  A beekeeper is coming for 20 hives tonight.

I did get out, accomplished a fair bit in an hour and a half.  The bees are not in the best of humour, however, and the stronger hives are bearding.  At any rate, I have twenty-five of the forty hives ready and they will go in two loads of twenty over the next few days.

I notice the Saskatraz bees seem to be more prickly this year than previously.  They are selected for honey production, disease resistance and mite resistance as well as good wintering; temper is far down the list.

When breeding bees, each additional selection criterion reduces the potential breeding pool quite drastically.

Imagine beginning with 10,000 hives to select from and that each criterion is present in only 20% of a given bee population. 


  • The first selection reduces the pool to 20% x 10,000 = 2,000 hives

  • The second selection reduces the pool to 20% of the remaining 2,000 hives = 400 hives

  • The third selection reduces the pool to 20% of the remaining 400 hives = 80 hives

  • The fourth selection reduces the pool to 20% of the remaining 80 hives = 16 hives

  • The fifth selection reduces the pool to 20% of the remaining 16 hives = 3 hives

  • The sixth selection reduces the pool to 20% of the remaining 3 hives = 1 hive

Of course it is not that simple.  Some stock may have more than one trait in sufficient quantity to stay in the pool, and some stock may die before it can be used, etc. etc.

Moreover, at least twenty families should be in the breeding population to prevent excessive inbreeding.  That implies that 20 x 10,000 = 200,000 colonies would have to be sampled for a selection programme six levels deep, but only about 20 / 16 x 10,000 = 12,500 for selecting four deep.

What is most  important to you?  Temper, Honey Production? Disease Resistance or Mite Resistance, Wintering Success, Straight Combs, Calmness on Combs? White Cappings?  Pollen Collection?  Colour?  What are you willing to give up to get another characteristic?

That is a vast oversimplification, but shows in principle why selecting for more than a few characteristics at a time is difficult and expensive.

When we consider how imprecise and subjective some measures of traits can be and the complexity of breeding where multiple drones are involved, and the inevitable errors, trade-offs and seasonal effects that influence the results, it is a wonder we make any progress at all. 

Then there is the problem of maintaining the selected strains and keeping  them from reverting.

Bryan  came over after six and we loaded his bees.  Usually I like to wait until seven or later, but the day had been rainy and the bees were at home.

They stayed in fairly well with only a little smoke and we did not need veils even though some hives were hanging out. 

We were  able to get the job done in full daylight and he pulled out around 2015 in sunshine.  He has an hour drive and then has to unload.

*    *    *    *    *

Hmm.  It just occurred to me to text him and warn him to have good foot and leg protection when unloading with a hand truck, especially if it gets dark.  Crawling bees on the deck, the ramps, and the grass can drive a person crazy in short order.

We used forklifts, and even then unloading could be unpleasant, especially if an unthinking forklift operator turned on the lights.

*    *    *    *    *

I have not been painting floors and lids lately and have quit painting EPS boxes.  While there are arguments in favour of painting or dipping, there are costs involved and the job is messy. 

I don't know what it costs to paint a lid or floor, but I would guess somewhere around $6/per set of floor and lid.

A gallon of primer would do about 25 floors or maybe 30 lids, so say about a dozen sets, floor and lid.  At $25/gallon, that is $2/set, and a cover coat would cost about the same.  With set up and handling and breaks, etc., 12 sets per hour could be painted by entry-level labour (maybe).  Labour, with management and overhead included, costs, $25/hr or $2/set.  Total cost: around $6 per set (maybe).  Cost of unpainted floor and lid set: $30.  Painting adds $6.  Does it add that much to the life of the lids and floors?  Good question.  It sure delays getting them into service.

Lids are easiest to paint when in service.  They are in perfect position to be painted by roller when they are on hives.  It is just a matter of walking around and rolling them.  It would not take long at all if a person did not get too fussy.

Paint would improve the surface for writing with carpenter's crayon and cover up old markings.  The wax from scrapings left on the lids and which melt into the wood will repel the paint, though.

As far as painting boxes is concerned, I'd rather be working on the bees than fiddling with equipment.  That is one reason I use one-piece plastic frames.  Not only are they far superior in service, I cannot imagine myself assembling wood frames and inserting foundation in 2015, when there are other options.

Painting EPS boxes does extend their life, but it costs and the boxes last a long time without paint.  I have some unpainted boxes that are 15 years old.  The outer surfaces do get chalky and pitted, but they work just as well as new.

Just thinking.

Leaders think and talk about the solutions.
Followers think and talk about the problems.
Brian Tracy

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Tuesday June 30th 2015

Today A few showers ending early this morning then mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers late this afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm. Wind becoming north 20 km/h this afternoon. High 24. UV index 6 or high.
Tonight Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers this evening with risk of a thunderstorm. Wind north 20 km/h becoming light this evening. Low 16.

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Ten day forecast

 Read yesterday's post
Often posts are edited the next day for improved clarity

It is a dull, misty morning, so I decided to go to town.  My intent was to get some groceries and two handcarts, and to scratch some other items off my lists.

I started off for Airdrie and Calgary, then changed course for Red Deer since I figured I might be able to get a wetsuit there and the distance is not much different.  Each is an hour or so away.

I had to be back home in time to meet customers at 9 PM, and move two hives from EPS to wood at their request before they arrived.  I still get a few people who want wood.  Why, I just don't understand.

I stopped at Costco, then Princess Auto, where I found the carts I wanted, shown at right. 

These carts have a fold-down tongue which reaches under my hives, making lifting and moving hives easy.  They also have broad pneumatic tires which, when inflated to be a little soft but not flat, float over rough ground -- unlike hard rubber wheels.

I can lift my hives from the sides because I use ten-frame Hoffman-style frames that maintain frames in position and properly spaced, especially after they are gummed up a bit by the bees.  If I used nine-frame spacing or straight end bars, lifting from the side would cause the unrestrained bottoms of the frames to swing down, press together, and crush bees.

In this case, the supers (third boxes) actually have nine-frame spacers and they can swing, but there are not many bees up there and the combs are empty, so harm is minimal.  If the frames were full of honey and the supers full of bees, then the hives could only be tilted back, not to the side like this.

If you are observant -- and thoughtful -- you will also note that the hives are set facing across the deck on the trailer.  Acceleration and braking will cause loose frames to swing and can harm the bees.  Even if they are set facing forward and back, loose frames will swing.

Moving bees can be hard on them is a lot of thought is not taken to endure that swinging frames don't kill bees and potentially a queen.

From there I drove to the Super Store to buy gas and some groceries.

At the Super Store, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had plastic shopping bags available at the checkout.  In the past, if you did not bring bags, you were hooped.   You either paid $1 for their cloth bags, found boxes or carried groceries home loose.  (True!).

I have avoided the Loblaws stores when there is an easy alternative due to their no-bag policy, but I suppose they are beginning to realise that failing to supply basic needs for people who drop in unplanned was creating a good deal of consternation and ill-will towards their stores.  I notice more and more of the Loblaws chain of stores have bags available. 

Now, if they would just get rid of the locked up grocery carts... I carried a basket and only bought a few things that only the SS has and to use up some points accumulated from buying their cheap gas.  I can't be bothered to find a coin to unlock a cart. Who carries coins these days? 

From there, it was on to the Boat Mart to try on wetsuits.

By then the day had turned hot and sticky and the job was not a pleasant one.  Getting in and out of a wetsuits is a chore even when you are not hot and sticky.  They only had XXL suits and I knew from the charts that XXXL is recommended for me, but I thought it was worth a try.  The charts turned out to be right, so that did not work out.

Nobody, it seems has my size, and when I look around, I am not nearly as big as  a lot of people. Do only small people buy wetsuits?

On the way home, I stopped at Canadian Tire  and Peavy Mart, then drove back to The Old Schoolhouse, arriving in plenty of time to prepare, but it was raining, so I waited a while then did the transfer once it stopped.

My customers showed up around nine, but spent a while driving around the country before finally phoning, having gone right by.  I had supplied a Bing map that ends right at my driveway, but somehow, they kept going.

When finally they found the place, we loaded up the hives and they were on their way.

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What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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