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Wednesday March 15th, 2000

Two more days until St. Pat's and no sign of runoff.  We still have six inches of snow on the ground.  The weatherman predicts some warming, but we're still at minus 11 in the mornings.  The sky is overcast.  Gareth has been off sick all week so far.  the new trailers are nearing completion.

Thursday March 16th, 2000

I'm still feeling poorly --  headache. 

Jamie from Drayden Insurance came by to discuss insurance and to take some pictures.  It turned out to be a good deal.  We about doubled our coverage for about the same premium.  Today has been very windy, but now the temperature is coming up to around freezing -- at last.

Friday March 17th, 2000

Today is St. Patrick's Day, and Jean's birthday.  We had planned to go to Lethbridge Saturday to see Jean & Chris, but we'll have to see how Ellen feels.  She has a touch of the flu I was experiencing for the past several days.  It's pretty mild.  I think the shots we got last fall helped a lot, but don't block the flu completely. 

The weather is milder now, and we are getting ready to make pollen and grease patties.  We must get the brood chambers ready for packages next week, since 300 packages come on the 4th of April.

Meijers came over for supper and we had a good time.  We decided to hire out the pollen patty making and also the frame assembly to some people they have working for them.  I'm hoping that -- with luck -- we can even hire out the box repair work and concentrate on the bee work.  We're just too slow at these jobs and it's a hassle to get the necessary efficiency.  I had the guys doing some of these things, but that was winter work, and now we must get back to the bees.

There are still two 7.3 diesels to reassemble, and a few other mechanical jobs.  The trailer construction is nearing completion.  We just need wheels and tires and break-away batteries.  We'll need to order tarps, and there is the small matter of designing the latches for the sides, but another week or two should wrap that up. 

Money is starting to flow out fast.  Over winter we were able to hang onto the purse strings fairly well, but with a new season, there are tens of thousands of dollars in monthly expenses.  The cash flow is nearly done, and I can see already that we will likely have to watch our pennies unless the price of honey improves and unless we get a much better crop than our 20 pound average last year. Pollination brings in steady cash, but the expenses are large compared to honey production.

There are still about six inches of snow on the ground and no sign of run-off.  The weather is supposed to get to plus 11 by Wednesday, with nights around minus 9; so I expect that we'll see water and mud soon.  I expect we'll be able to visit the bees by the end of next week.  It's still a bit early to unwrap, but we need to do some spot checks and feed where necessary.  At this point we have no idea how they wintered.

Saturday March 18th, 2000

Well, it turns out that El has a cold.  I guess that's what has had me feeling down since Monday.  It's gotten a bit further into my chest and my ears and I guess it's not the flu.  I'm glad: the flu sometimes hangs onto me for months, and since I've been getting shots, I've been lucky. 

We worked on the cash flows all day.  With both of us feeling down, it's not surprising that we predicted disaster, even though last year wasn't too bad and this one should be the same or better.  Anyhow, I think I used too gloomy a scenario and have been working on being more optimistic.  It's clear we are paying more and more for labour and getting less.  I think I've lost my edge and and am being too kind.  We're going to contract out as much as we can of the non-bee work and concentrate on the bees.

Sunday March 19th, 2000

Didn't sleep well; got some web work done in the night.  Went out and took some pictures of things we want to sell and put them on the web this morning. 

Fixed the cash flow scenarios up a bit.  Seems things look better today.  I had overstated spring losses by about twice.  I spent pretty well the whole day on it and went out for supper alone. El wasn't up to it.

We had sun and wind today and the snow is going fast.  I think we should have runoff by Wednesday or the weekend at the latest.  I gotta get this endless paper torture done soon and get outside. I think I'll go out Tuesday --assuming I feel up to it -- and look at bees.  Tomorrow, the Meijers and I have to arrange to get the patty making underway. That'll take most of the day, but will be worthwhile if I don't have to supervise the day-to-day work.  Maybe they will want to open some hives.  That's always fun. 

Monday March 20th, 2000

Well, it's taken all day to get organized to take the supplies to the people who will be making the patties -- and we're not nearly done yet.  It just gets more complicated.  We were working with our neighbours, the Meijers, but now another beekeeper wants to get in on the project.  I don't mind -- I like co-operating -- but keeping track of the expenses gets to be a problem.  If we make the patties for ourselves, then we only have to account for costs once, when we are purchasing, then go for it.  If we have a lot of people involved, then it means a lot of figuring and writing down of the inputs.   Otherwise, we might shortchange our neighbour, or ourselves.  It also turns out that we will be a bit short of supplies now that there are another 1200 hives to make patties for, but we should come close. 

Among other things, I spent the day reworking the patty calculators and instructions.  I had written them for my own use, but now they must be used by people forty miles away who know nothing about bees.  There is little room for error.  Everything must be correct from start to finish, or a lot of material and time will be wasted.

We are both feeling better, but still are not up to snuff.  Steve phoned in sick this morning and took the day off.  He has had the sore throat since Friday.  Ryan worked hard all day getting things together for the patty project.  He tells El he has lost 40 pounds since he started working here.  I don't know where all that weight went, but I know where he can find about 15 pounds of it...

I sent Jack the pictures I took of him and his family when I was down there last weekend.  They turned out well.  I love this digital camera.

It was warm today and the snow should be on its way out soon.  Still can't find time to get out to see the bees...

Tuesday March 21st, 2000

Is this the first day of spring?  Must be close if it's not.  The weather was warm today and I worked outside in the afternoon to finish loading the truck to take the supplies for patty making to the people who will be working on them.  The snow is melting fast, and the north drive is mushy.  It's not yet so muddy that we have to be really careful not to make a mess, but that time will come soon. 

Loading has gone on for two days now, and today I just had to get involved.  I spent a lot of time over the last two days refining the instructions for the patties, but got that job over with about noon.  I want to be sure that the job is a no-brainer, since the location where they will be made is forty miles from here and I can't keep an eye on things. There are many things that can go wrong, so I have tried to anticipate them all.  We'll see if I did.  The new instructions are available from my pollen patty page and my extender patty  page.  As always, comments are appreciated.

I opened a couple of hives today and they look excellent.  They were a couple of left-overs at the end that got wrapped in a Mickey Mouse fashion in the yard here.  We'll get to see more in the outyards soon, but if these are any indication, there is no rush to get out and feed.  Nonetheless, I would like to get an idea of what we can expect.

Two weeks today the 300 package hives come and we have nothing at all ready for them.  That is the next big project.

Wednesday March 22nd, 2000

Well, I was out of here first thing this morning and headed east on the Number 9. Meijers' Place The guys were pretty much on their own for the day, but they had lots to do.  There was a strong wind and with the load and trailer, it was slow going.  Number 9 is really rough, with the frost coming out, and there are a lot of small hills.  Anyhow, I finally got to Meijers and then went on over to the colony where the work was to take place. 

The people were very nice and enthusiastic and anxious to get right to work.  They have a beautiful shop and are well equipped, so I feel a whole lot better about this project than I have been for the past few days.

Mixing Patties Soon we were hard at work mixing up patties.  The cement mixer here is what we started with, but they had a meat mixer with a horizontal shaft and paddles that proved far quicker and more convenient.  Even though it makes only a half sized batch, it makes it in minutes with little labour compared to the hour or so and manual probing required for the cement mixer.  I left after after an hour or two for a stress test at the hospital in Drum.  The picture is of Jake Meijer and Frieda Stahl with another of the ladies filling the cement mixer.

Clips.jpg (106443 bytes)When I talked to Frieda tonight I learned that they had done over 4,000 patties and were out of waxed paper already.  Fortunately it came today and I will have to run it out in the morning.  It looks as if they will be finished the whole 20,000 patties by Friday night -- if we can keep them supplied!  The picture at the right is of some young ladies helping the Meijers assemble some beehive parts.

The stress test was right on time and the staff very efficient.  I passed, I guess,  with flying colours and am told that there seems to be no reason I can't get out and work as hard as I like.  I was a little worried because I am getting old (55) and this winter I felt really out of shape. With a family history of heart problems I thought I'd better be sure.  The doc recommends coming back every two years to be safe.

I noticed a little more water on the pond tonight, but the big runoff is still holding off, and with he projected snow tonight, I guess it will have to wait a few more days.

Bert phoned and invited us to supper in Linden at Country Cousins (famous for pie and good Mennonite food generally), so we went over for a meal.  It was good.

Thursday March 23rd, 2000

Was up early and ready to go, but couldn't find a truck that was ready to make the trip.  Flat battery, etc.   The guys arrived at eight and I griped a bit then we got to work.  Got syrup, etc. loaded and was gone about ten.  Good thing they are good humoured.

Got to Blue Sky at about eleven and got unloaded.  No one was at work because they were out of supplies.  Soon everyone showed up and they were back in full production.  Had a nice visit, then headed out.  I was going to go to Heavy Metal (my favourite auto wreckers) to get some rims for the new trailers, but it was snowing hard and I was afraid the patties I had loaded would get wet, so went home and got them under cover, then sent Ryan to Heavy Metal and the tire shop instead. 

He later phoned to say that the tire guys didn't have all the tires the computer had told them they did.  What a waste of time.  ...Just one of those days? 

Friday tomorrow.  Weekend or work?  I'm tempted both ways.  I'd love to got to Ontario see my mother and sister, but maybe we can open some hives if I stay and the weather improves.  I have some small  commitments here Monday and the weather is more promising here.   Or...  maybe Vancouver to see my brother and visit and the Gulf Islands?    Bad weather forecasts in both directions compared to right here at home.  Meijers are on their way out to BC to work their hives.  The weather should be better Friday, but the roads were reported bad west of Calgary today.

Anyway, I'm torn, and Ellen is going to Lethbridge to see Jean and go shopping Saturday, and I could go, but Chris is too wiped to go boarding at The Castle, and I don't think I could just shop and sit around.


Friday March 24th, 2000

Well, I was up at four and gone by six.  Picked up the lumber for the decks of the trailers we built.  The price has gone up by 25% in one year.

It was another warm day, but we still do not have runoff.  In spite of what appears -- from the numbers -- to be mild weather, the signs of the season are running a week late.  I was looking at last year's notes and we were 75% finished unwrapping and feeding by April 2nd.  This year we will just be beginning at that time.

As it turned out, we jumped the gun in 1999, because the spring proved to be late and cool.  1998 had been early and warm, so we were primed for a quick start.  In retrospect. I think we wasted a lot of resources trying to get an early start in '99.  One yard that we had problems getting into and did not visit until May to unwrap did about as well as the ones we pushed -- at much less cost.  But it was only one yard and maybe we did some good in the others.  Hard to tell.

I guess most of the patties are done.  Brian and Cheryl came by to drop off some sugar and to get their patties.  Turns out that the patties are all a bit underweight at 0.85 lb, rather than the 1 lb we requested.  No problem.

We had supper and a good visit, then watched "The Honey Bee - A Growers Guide" which I picked up at the San Diego convention, and which is distributed by by A. I. Root.   I wrote a bit about it in my January BEE-L Post.

It's an excellent film, up to the point where --after carefully  demonstrating methods of measuring brood area and converting the numbers to establish the equivalent full frames of brood,  -- the announcer says,

 "Historically, when determining how many colonies of honey bee to use per acre of crop, a two story colony has meant six to twelve frames of brood and fifteen to twenty frames of adult workers."  

I'm afraid that the film loses all credibility with me at that point.  I can't believe that -- after they carefully show how to measure brood -- they say pollination hives historically normally have 6 to 12 frames "of" brood. 

That they should have said is that there could be as much as 5 frames *of* brood, but that 3 or four is much more normal and that it is normally spread over from six to twelve frames.

I've taken apart tens of thousands of hives over the years and never seen anything like twelve full frames *of* brood in a single queen hive.  I've often seen six to twelve frames *with* brood, but never much more than about five or six frames *of* brood.

I decided to test my point, because I can't believe the number of beekeepers who think that six to twelve frames of brood is routinely possible.  It makes me wonder what they are looking at when they open hives . 

When I tested the facts, I was surprised when I found out how I, too, have been taken in by the talk.  In my above post to BEE-L, I gave the number of 3,000 eggs a day as being a credible number to use for contemplating this problem.  I was being VERY generous, and also only remembering the exceptional hives, not  the average ones. I also slightly understated the number of cells per comb.  I guess I was really trying to see things their way.

I was also conveniently forgetting that if there is a no- brood strip of only an inch  around the outside of a frame, that this makes what looks like a full frame only a 65% frame.

We looked up several references, including Harry Laidlaw, Norman Gary, and Eckert & Shaw, and the general consensus of these eminent experts was that a good queen should lay around 1,500 eggs a day at peak, and might occasionally reach 2,000.  This is far less than the 3,000 that I so blithely allowed when trying to justify the large numbers others use. 

We then measured a frame and counted the cells, and did some simple math:  A standard frame using ordinary US foundation (Permadent) has about 6,500 usable cells when both sides are counted.  Pierco has about 10% more.   (See Dee Lusby's articles for more than anyone never wanted to know about cell sizes).

In the movie, one full surface was explained  to be one/half a frame of brood only if the entire surface was covered with viable brood.  If the backside were also completely full of brood, that would make one full frame of brood.  This seldom happens, so each frame in real life must be discounted to the actual full frame equivalent.  Thus most frames we encounter are 75% -- or less -- of a frame,  for counting purposes.  Many near the edge of the cluster are are 20% -- or less.

Using these facts and the fact that 21 days after an egg is laid, a worker bee emerges, we calculated the theoretical maximum brood area for a normal queen under ideal circumstances:

1500 eggs X 21 days to emergence = 31,500 cells full of brood for a good queen laying full out every day.

31,500 divided by 6,500 usable cells per frame = 4.85 maximum possible full frames of brood per normal single queen hive

This calculation is for a good queen laying every day.  We who have worked daily with queens grafting larvae -- or searched for queens by looking for eggs -- know they all to often reduce laying drastically in rainy weather. 

We also know that some exceptional queens may exceed the above accepted daily rate by a bit, and that occasionally a hive will have two laying queens, so there is some room for variation, but not from around five frames maximum, to the 12 they so casually mention as the upper limit of traditional measures. 

In fact their lower limit is just above the normal theoretical possibilities .

Moreover, the movie shows a sample contract and the part we can read says:

The producers of the film have obviously once again confused twelve frames "with" brood and twelve frames "of" brood -- the very concept they were trying to explain.  This huge gaff makes the movie -- which is otherwise excellent -- worse than useless to me for grower education. 

This horrible error is particularly astonishing, since Nicholas Calderone wrote and directed it and long list of well-know US researchers is listed in the credits.   In my opinion it should be withdrawn and repaired before it does serious harm to beekeepers.

I rant and rave about this often because it is so fundamental to beekeeper/grower relations.  I already have problems with a customer who believes ten frames of brood is what he needs and gets no argument from anyone else.  I paid 25 US dollars for this movie to educate him, and now I don't dare use it. 

My trip to to the Ontario pollination meeting proved to me that they have just as many difficulties with standards as we are, but they are more realistic in their expectations.  At least they admit that a normal summer pollination unit is around nine or ten frames of bees -- about double what they specify for spring.  Dan Mayer at Simcoe

Dan Mayer from WSU (right) spoke at the Simcoe meeting and he seems to know his stuff.  In Washington, there is a legal minimum specification for pollination hives: six frames 2/3 covered with bees and a queen. This, when converted to the language used in Ontario, compared quite closely.   Peter Bevan and several others made good presentations and are working on quantifying things a bit better too.

Personally I doubt I will be comfortable until contracts specify square inches of brood and pounds or maybe litres of bees: something firm and non-subjective.

That does not mean that we have to measure the brood in every hive with a grid and dump out all the bees onto a scale or into a  pail calibrated in units of volume for measuring, but we already routinely heft hives to judge weight for winter and have found our judgement to be very close -- within one kg -- as long as we heft an empty hive we've weighed and brought along for comparison every so often to calibrate our sense of mass. 

I don't know why we can't do something similar and just measure the occasional pollination hive scientifically to get our perceptions into line with objective reality -- if there is any dispute -- and subsequently compare the others nearby visually.  Usually the close calls are not the problem.  The problem is when the people are far apart in their understanding.

I've spent a lot of time trying to get scientific measurement into what has been a rather vague business since I first got involved in pollination.  I encounter objections on both sides, and, surprisingly, from some government people too.  Although everyone says that measuring is too hard to do, or hard on the bees, I am convinced no one is too comfortable with knowing exactly what is being bought and sold.  I think everybody thinks he is getting away with something. 

To put things into perspective, I think no one would be happy to pull into a gas station and just pay what the attendant thinks he has dispensed -- without calibrated and inspected pumps, or to buy meat by the 'chunk' rather than by weight. 

I therefore think that the current off-the-cuff guesses are inappropriate in these days of well educated scientific farmers.  I think we can put much better numbers to things and give fair measure -- and leave not any shadow of doubt in anyone's mind.

I feel strongly for the growers who count on beekeepers and think we need to get more objective for their sakes -- even if it hurts us a bit now and then.

Anyhow, that was it for the visit and I guess I'm going to stay around home.  El is going to see Jean in Lethbridge tomorrow.

Saturday March 25th, 2000

Only nine more months until Christmas, three more months until we move bees to pollination, four more months until extracting, and six more until we start wrapping for winter.

I looked at a few more books this morning, because the whole matter of objectively measuring brood quantities has still been bothering me.  I finally found the 3,000 eggs per day number I had originally used.  It is Laidlaw and Page, in "Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding":

"A normal queen may lay an average of 1,200 to 1,500 eggs each 24 hours -- about 5 to 7 eggs per ovariole.  Some brood counts made by early workers indicated that some queens have laid as many as 3,000 eggs a day for a short period".

That doesn't sound as if Harry or Robert has often, if ever, noticed such behaviour, and you would think that they would have said if they did.  Moreover Steve Tabor in "Breeding Super Queens", says (pp24 & 25):

..."Colonies with average queens laying 1200 to 1500 eggs per day "...

So, it is clear now that I was being very optimistic in my original analysis in permitting the 3,000 estimate over a whole 21 days.  I'm moving back to the 1,500 number that all the writers use, and making allowances for maybe an occasional 2,000 -- as they do.

I also re-counted the cells on a Pierco frame again and got 47 up and down and 84 along for a total of 3948 per side and 7896 with both sides included.  Even allowing for corners, that gives us about 7800 cells or 7800/1500=5.2 days work for one of the better queens the writers discuss.  21/5.2 = 4. 

Wow!  That means there are 20%  more cells on a Pierco than a wooden frame with Permadent .  Theoretically four Permadent frames would hold the brood that 5 Permadent frames hold. The same does not apply for honey, though because the Pierco cells are actually a bit smaller.  I think the advantage for honey is more like the 10% I used earlier.  Their literature says 15%.

That means a good queen could be kept busy on four such frames if there were nothing but brood on them.  Of course, in practice, there is always a ring of honey and some pollen in a hive well enough fed that the queens would be performing at that level.

More ordinary frames such as wooden frames with Permadent  would count out at 41 x 79 cells or 3239 per side and a total of 6478.

I noticed in my reading that Gilles Fert recommends two drops of potassium sorbate per 100 litres of thin syrup used in queen rearing and spring stimulation to prevent fermentation.  Useful.

I'm enjoying some peace at home and will maybe do a little cleanup and finish some alterations today.  It's beautiful outside, and almost all the snow has gone.  It seems to have soaked into the ground this year.  Still no runoff.

Sunday March 26th, 2000

Filtered Mead Filtered some mead last night and am finishing up today.  It's bit of a job and messy, but it makes a much better product.  Without filtering, it's hard to get a clear mead without waiting a very long time. 

The mead I'm filtering was made November 13th '99 and is just now nicely finished, but there is still some yeast and haze in suspension.  Since I'm allergic to yeasts, I like to ensure they are all out. 

That requires an AF3 filter and AF3s clog up quickly.  I can seldom get more than about ten or fifteen gallons through before the pressure builds up or drives yeast right through. I usually make about forty gallons in a batch so that it can age .  I tend to give a lot away, so it does not last.

Mead Recipe
  • 2/3 Drum Chlorinated Water
  • 2 X 60 lbs honey -- liquefied and pasteurized
  • ~300 ml (~one cup) acid blend
  • ~400 ml dibasic Ammonium Phosphate yeast nutrient
    (consumed by the yeast during fermentation)
  • 3 tbsp sodium metabisulphite (kills competing wild yeasts)
  • 10 pkgs Lalvin EC-1118 Champagne Yeast

Add liquefied honey and metabisulphite to water, stir, leave until chlorine dissipates (several days) and temperature is stable at room temp. Add the rest of the ingredients, following the yeast instructions carefully (if you like).

Wait until the activity ends and the yeasts settle out. The mead should taste somewhat grapefruity and no longer sweet.  Siphon into sterile jugs or a secondary and leave loosely stoppered. When clear, filter.

For my purposes, melting the honey pasteurizes it well enough for brewing.  125 F for four hours or 145 F for 30 minutes is sufficient to pasteurize milk, and those conditions definitely assure melted honey. See  discussion of pasteurization

Monday March 27th, 2000

Another work week.  Beautiful weather has finally arrived and looks as if it will stay all week, albeit with a few cloudy days.  I've given up waiting for runoff.  It seems that all the snow melted and soaked in this year.   We still have the remains of a few drifts around, but not much is left. 

We got set up to start making brood chambers today, but so far we have not started the brood chambers themselves.  Gareth was to start painting the trailers today, but so far, I don't see any paint on them.

El and I went back out to Blue Sky this afternoon (third trip in a week) and dropped off some more supplies and also brought the trailer and some patties back.  We had supper with Sam and Frieda and then dropped back over to Meijers to pick up a tank.

They said they had checked 250 hives and so far today they are looking at about 10% loss which is very good.  This is quite a relief. Of course, losses tend to occur here and there.  Last year we had yards with no loss at all, and others with 80% loss, and this is only a 10% sample of their operation.

Tuesday March 28th, 2000

Although it was above freezing this morning, it was overcast, and  there was a nasty cold wind.  At one point in the morning, it took away a stack of Styrofoam insulation and spread it around the yard before the boys caught it. 

Ryan was not feeling well -- the sore throat had come back -- but he could not bring himself to stay home.  He came for a few hours, but then had to go.  We decided that the brood chambers could wait another day.  We like to make them outside because the fresh air ensures that any mold and dust is blown away and there is plenty of fresh air.

Jean emailed me that she has  a new web page about cats.  She is cat crazy,  So is El, and I think it might be catching...

Swinger Diesel Conversion- Click to enlargeThe diesel conversion on the gas Swinger is done (almost). We got the kit from Apiaries and Orchard Forklift.   It runs well, but looks pretty awful.  It needs paint badly.  We were going to keep it the original green, but I am having second thoughts about that.  Caterpillar yellow looks the best on any machine of this type.  The original mast is not of the see-through type, but I am impressed by how narrow the the mast is and how well one can see around it.

Wednesday March 29th, 2000

We finally got the brood chamber project started.  It was afternoon before we got going on it and with three guys only got 36 done in 2-1/2 hours.  We need 300 by Tuesday, and we also have other things to do, so I'm hoping we double our speed today. 

I ran up to Red Deer in the late afternoon to get the injector pumps for the diesels.  On the way, I decided to stop into one of the yards to get a new picture for the main page of this site, and guess what, I got stuck.  I was running across a stubble field which looked quite dry, and found a damp spot on an east-facing slope.  Nothing gets stuck quite like an unloaded dual-wheeled truck.

I got out and considered my options. None were very promising: Here I was, dressed for town at five in the afternoon, and a quarter mile from the nearest habitation -- one which did not appear to have a tractor around.  With no shovel, no chains, and only a cell phone, I had to get help or I could get myself out.   

I had no one nearby to call, and even if I did get someone from miles away, I would be hours and miss my appointment to get the pumps. There was only one thing to do.  I let the air out of the tires.  I still had clearance on the underbody and the differential -- I've learned to quit spinning before getting impossibly mired.  No final orgy of spinning and swearing for me. 

We always run our 10-ply tires at the maximum rated pressure, because we haul big loads.  At those pressures, the tires are like billiard balls.  They are hard.  It took me 2 minutes per tire for six tires to drop the pressure appreciably.  I don't know what the current pressure is -- we'll check tomorrow.  At any rate, they were not even looking soft, but I was able to drive right out and continue to town.  The ride was a bit softer, but the tires were not heating  -- I checked, so I went to town and the seventy miles home without incident.

Thursday March 30th, 2000

Forty pounds -- down from the eighty we normally run in those tires.

This is the moment for which I have waited four cold, dark months.  Matt and I went out and looked at some of our hives.   We only visited one yard, and it took 1-1/2 hours, but it was very satisfying.  Of the 40 hives put into winter, 33 came out looking good.  I mean really good. Of course, I'm only going to show the best ones here, and the poor and dead will RIP. 

We left the hives unwrapped.  It's a judgement call, I know -- it is still a little early -- but in an outfit this size, we always start out early, and end up running late. 

Many of our hives had extender patties through the winter and pollen patties too.  We were quite worried about these hives, since they took such abuse on the pollination and have been babying them with protein patties. 

Many of our hives were held on the pollination much beyond the expected period due to the canola crop being hailed and then re-growing.  During much of this period, there was little forage available for the bees that were stocked at 3 hives per acre.  Our bees only get one real chance at a main flow, and it happens during this time.  Bees that have a poor flow winter poorly.

The protein patties seem to have done some good, and what's cool is that we can tell immediately if they have a queen and brood.  If they are good, they have eaten their protein patty, if they are queenless, then the patty remains.

Spring happens fast around here.  I can suddenly hear the same birds cussing and swearing and arguing outside the window that I heard last fall.  They are still working on resolving the same differences as they were before they left for the south. I actually sweated today, and daylight now begins around five-thirty and extends well after supper.

It has been cold and dark for four months -- or more, and we have had to like it.  Winter snowboarding and snowmobiling are fun -- if you have to live in the cold and dark of Alberta winter -- but nothing compares to the mania that comes with spring in the North.  Spring skiing starts now: The snow is soft, the days are long, and the mood is mellow, but then, there are so many other things to do...

P3300021.jpg (139536 bytes)This picture shows how huge and bright it is in Big Sky Country and this is just the way it is at 3,000 feet with NO smog most of the year.  It also shows one of a number of almost identical trucks we drive, and a row of hives we have just unwrapped. 


Friday March 31st, 2000

Spring Checking, Feeding & Unwrapping: Click for CloseupToday Matt & I got out again for a few hours from noon until four to unwrap and feed.  Although it was a warm day (11 degrees C), the wind was chilling from the north, and we selected a yard that had good shelter, Freres'  I noticed that someone had been partying there and there were bottles, and trash there, but no vandalism..

A line of wrapped hives.  Click to enlargeWe unwrapped 112 hives in about four hours and fed two protein patties each as well as filling the frame feeders with 67% syrup.  There is no OTC in the syrup, because we up used all we had on the extender patties, and have not managed to get any more.  We found extender patties on most hives, since the boys put them on in the fall.  There were also the remains of the plastic from the Mite Wipes and in some cases a little of the protein patties fed in the fall.

Matt Feeding BeesMatt half filled several drums with syrup for the bees to come and get.  Grass or straw is used to keep the bees from drowning, and we throw any burr comb we scrape into the drums as an attractant to ensure the bees find the syrup.

We cleaned up the yard and also moved hives into spaces that were vacant from the 12 dead we found.  It was pretty warm and the bees were flying.  We worried a bit about losing bees from the hives, but  figured drifting was so general in the yard that things would even out.  Other than the 12 dead, most hives were quite strong and promising.  It is always hard to tell when unwrapping, though since the bees spread out so much in the warm hives.  We hoped the day would cool off soon and the bees would have a chance to settle down overnight. 

Unloading the tanker. Click to enlargeThe syrup we ordered arrived while Matt and I were gone and Gareth and the driver  handled the unloading of 29 tonnes of syrup using the 3" pump that comes with the truck.  Even with the truck pumping hard, it takes an hour or more to transfer into the four white poly water tanks we use to hold it until needed.

The Meijers came over and brought the rest of the patties and leftover supplies.  Now it only remains to measure and calculate everything out and settle up among ourselves.  The project went fast, but not without some kinks and we'll have to decide whether to do things this way again.

We have been making brood chambers as fast as we can in anticipation of the packages arriving on the 4th of April.  The guys worked long hours today and I could still see lights when we were having supper and as late as 8:30.    I gather that we are done?  It's nice not to have to worry about every detail.

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