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Tuesday May 9, 2000

Another work day.  Everyone showed up except Jody who was phoned in with the flu.  We began splitting.  Adony had stayed overnight and gone out at 6 to work his hives.  We met and chatted later during the day and supper.

Apparently I am going to eat crow.  The packages on foundation are doing well.  I console myself that the losses of both packages and queens are noticeably higher than on dark comb, but cannot deny that the chalkbrood levels on the foundation are much lower.  Adony will be publishing this, so I won't steal his thunder.

Wednesday May 10, 2000 

I'm still behind on my logs.  I will catch up shortly -- I hope.

Mites - No enlargement available. One of our people found these mites in one of our package hives that originated in Australia.  He was looking through some hives that had been installed on foundation and noticed the signs of mites having been raised in a cell. 

He then used a 24 hour Apistan test with a sticky board.  Tests of two other nearby hives showed nothing.  We do not know how they got there.  They seem a bit immature, lacking full leg development IMO (what do I know?) and are somewhat concave on the bottom when viewed under a microscope.  One has a bite out of it.  The third (small) item is just a piece of debris that happened to get transferred with the mites.

Did we somehow get bees from some of our local hives that have varroa in contact with these packages?  Or did the mites come in the packages?  The nearest of our other hives are over 2 miles away and the weather has been cool.

Check out Item #31705 (10 May 2000 16:13) - Is Anyplace Safe from Varroa? Amazingly, I have not received a single comment about it.

Stay tuned...

Thursday May 11, 2000                        

Thursday: Mainly cloudy. 70 percent chance of wet snow in the morning and showers in the afternoon. Wind becoming northerly 20. High 8.

We were up at four AM and I drove Ellen to Rockyview Hospital for eye surgery scheduled at 6:30 AM.  By 10 she was ready to go and we went home.

As the weather guessers had promised, this was a hell of a day.  We had snow and rain.  The guys went out and split anyhow.  It turned out that Jody had not come in  to work, but had phoned Steve and complained that he wasn't tough enough for the job.  That came a surprise.  He had worked the previous day with Matt and seemed happy enough in the evening when he returned. 

Steve, Ryan, and Gareth made a team and went out and split locally.  Matt had elected to work Saturday instead, since we have another engine ready to install and a lot of puttering to do.


Timing is critical when splitting.  One problem is that queens have to be ordered well ahead of time for the expected splitting dates.  Then the weather can throw a real monkey wrench into things.  If weather changes and the spits are not ready when the queens arrive, then the queens must be banked until needed.  This tends to result in some queen loss.   We currently have a few queens on hand and 250 more coming on Saturday, so we are working hard to get homes for them.

 Our preferred method at this time is this:  we tip our double brood chamber hives  forward and look to see if there are bees on six bottom bars in the bottom box.  If so, then we split that hive in half by taking one whole brood chamber away.  If they are not strong enough, we don't split that hive at all until later. 

Each half goes on top of another brood box from a deadout at time of splitting to make a double hive.  We like singles better in many ways, but are leery of them due to the management  problems that can come up.

Fortunately, with this method, we can carry on splitting in almost any weather.  In fact, in lousy weather, we do not have to worry about where we place the half we take away.  The bees will not drift back, and we are able to place the new hives into gaps on pallets left by dead-outs.  

If weather is nice and bees are foraging, on the other  hand, we must do side-by-side splitstake-away splits, or progressive splits

In the case of side-by-side splits or progressive splits, we have the extra work of taking the ones on the ground or on top of the hive away to another yard later, unless we get several consecutive rainy or cold days and are able to relocate them in the same yard. 

In the case of the take-away splits, we have boxes to load and unload onto the truck at time of splitting and that slows the actual splitting down.  We also have to track which half has the queen or go through all splits -- not just half of them --  when we introduce queens.

Any which way, we have more work to do in nice weather than foul, when it comes to the making the splits themselves.

Introducing Queens into Splits

Although splitting itself can be easier in cool weather, in bad weather, we may have problems and additional work when we try to install queens four days after splitting.  Normally, the job is easy:  we mark the top and bottom of each split when they are separated and then just check each half for eggs or queen cells when we come with queens four days later.   After four days, all eggs should be hatched out and it is really obvious which half has the queen.

When weather is miserable, queens stop laying in the queenright part, and the bees may not draw queen cells in the queenless half.  This makes the job of deciding which half needs the new queen tougher.

Often the queenless half will have a few queen cells started.  Sometimes we knock down the cells, often we do not.  I really don't know if it is important or not.  It does not seem to be.

More hive splitting info and pictures

Tonight: Occasional rain or light snow ending overnight. Wind north 30 km/h diminishing this evening. Low minus 1.

Friday May 12, 2000               

Friday: Mainly cloudy. 30 percent chance of late day thundershowers. High 9.

I had to drive Ellen to Calgary for an eye check-up.  Everything went well and we were able to drive home again in a half hour.  While I was waiting, I took the opportunity to hike along the river trail in Bowness and down to Edworthy Park.  Pairs of Canada Geese had staked out the riverside and I noticed that some have newly hatched goslings already.  They were drifting down the river together, and I can't imagine that they will ever return to their nest.

In the afternoon,  picked up the engine in Linden and on the way home,  pulled the remaining Apistan strip from the Australian package hives we had been testing.  I saw no more signs of varroa.  Nonetheless, I think the whole yard needs a 24 hour Apistan mite drop test, but that's up to Adony and to the provincial authorities. 

The weather is looking more promising, but still running below long term averages.  The guys made a lot of splits today and are up to 175 or so. That will use most of the queens, and leave some for Adony's experiments next week.

I feel I am slipping on this diary writing, but we'll see if I can keep it up during the busy season.

Saturday May 13, 2000             

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of afternoon showers or thundershowers. High 13.

Jean a Chris arrived here yesterday for a visit.  He had a job interview in Lacombe yesterday and they stayed over last night.  Bert came over for supper and we had a jolly time. Shirley came by for a while later on.

Riding in the Red Deer River ValleyToday Jean, Chris and I went riding at the TL Bar Ranch after lunch.  The weather was very changeable, but the riding was perfect.  Crocuses were still blooming, buffalo beans are starting, and the berries are blooming too.  The poplars are leafing out.  We saw ducks and Canada Geese along the way, but no ducklings or goslings.

Amazing TerrainOn the way back, we met up with Andy from Huxley Colony.  His wife had kindly picked up our 250 queens from the bus in Red Deer and saved us the drive.  He needed 6, so it worked out for everyone.  While we were waiting, we spent some time at the Arboretum.  It was closed until the season begins, but we were able to walk though anyhow.

The pictures are just some of many and I'm a bit sad that I can't use the full size images of the countryside, but they would be too large and slow the pages down, not to mention overloading i n t e r n o d e.

This afternoon, I received an excited call from a beekeeper friend.  He had just heard that some beekeepers in B.C. had reported to him that some of those pollinating for Aventis in southern Alberta had had their contracts bought out and would not be on the canola.

Poor canola prices combined with the GMO scare have caused farmers to reconsider planting canola this year.  Since prudent crop rotations only allow canola to be grown on the same land every so many years, many farmers have run low on land to allot to canola, and think this would be a good year to sit on the sidelines.  If they do this, then, once the prices rise again, they will have more land that can be used for this crop than if they plant this year on the chance that the prices will jump.  FWIW, I think there will be a good jump in beans and oil, and am thinking of getting a position in the futures.

News of pollination cutbacks is of some considerable concern to me, since we have already been cut back to 90% of our normal levels due to low demand for canola seed this year.  Some beekeepers don't make a lot of special investment to be ready for pollinating and just have hives trucked in by commercial truckers, but, being close to the pollination fields and being in a poor honey region,  we have made a lot of specialized investments and rearranged our entire operation around our contract.  Further cuts would hit us hard, even thought the word is that those staying home will still receive 50% payment.  We have a strong contract that extends for three years, but just the same...

Tonight: 40 percent chance of evening showers or thundershowers then clearing. Low zero.

Sunday May 14, 2000                    

Today: Morning fog patches otherwise increasing cloud. 40 percent chance of afternoon showers. Wind southeast 20 km/h. High 14.

This has been a quiet day for the most part.  I spent most of the afternoon attempting to reconstruct my Quickbooks Pro data.  QB Pro is a badly flawed piece of software.  When it works, it works quite well, but it has a number of rough edges and a tendency to corrupt its data.

The Meijers came over for supper.  On their way over, I met them at Adony's yard.  In spite of the success in getting started, we concluded that the foundation colonies are too small to make much honey this year compared to the ones on the drawn comb.  Some are strong, but on the whole, they are quite uneven -- to our eye -- at least.  Adony will be documenting the actual strengths. 

We noted that these foundation colonies have good comb and lots of pollen.  When this is added to the fact that -- in spite of covering fewer frames -- the patches of brood on the foundation cover a larger amount of each frame, they may be fooling us and do more than we expect.  We also have to remember that they have much less chalkbrood than some of the dark comb ones which are coming in at up to 20%, so this Adony will be documenting this and I am looking forward to his analysis.

We also noted that the fondant was not very popular with the bees and has not been touched since last visit.  Adony might as well remove it.  I have been told it is good winter feed to prevent starving, but that the bees treat it like sealed honey and don't touch it if liquid feed or nectar is available.  I think that is true, and the limit of its usefulness.

Tonight: Mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of evening showers. Low 1.

Normals for the period: Low 3. High 16.

All temperatures are in Celsius

Monday May 15, 2000 

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. High 19.

Today is our 32nd wedding anniversary.

Our guys are off for the day, since we are now on a four day week of 10 hour days.  This schedule is working well for us all.  This way, I get some time to work on my own projects, such as bookkeeping without interruption, and when we go out to the field, we get more done, since we stay there for more hours per hour of preparation and driving time.  The late hours of the day are also better for many of the beekeeping tasks.

An open box of queens with attendant beesI have been checking the queens that arrived Saturday.  We made sure they had water and put them into a dark area in the basement at room temperature.  They seemed a bit more active than I like, so I opened them to check this morning.  I didn't look at individual queens, but all seems to be well. The picture above is one of the travel boxes.  The top is on the left and the main part on the right.  This box has only 50 queens rather than the normal 100, since I ordered 250.

I notice that Tom Sanford had a bit of info on queen storage in his APIS newsletter this month:

An Egyptian study, reported by Dr. Mussen, on queen storage showed that those kept at 68 degrees F or cooler tended to die and survivors were not well accepted. At 104 degrees F, all queens died; they did best at room temperature (70 to 95 degrees F). Moderate relative humidity was important. Egg laying is delayed under dry conditions and when it's too muggy, which also reduced longevity. Exposure to light decreases acceptance rate, egg laying and longevity. I published other information on queen storage in the September 1997 APIS

Tom's newsletter is the oldest bee news on the net, and still probably the best.

10:45 AM:  Adony just phoned, and says he has decided  to take the job at Beaverlodge after all, so we will be without a consultant down here unless Don decides to send him down our way.  I gather he will be finishing the projects he has going here, but not starting the new ones he planned. 

It seems a real shame to have such a go-getter working for the old system.  Everyone down our way was pretty enthusiastic about putting up the resources to get some relevant projects done locally, but who knows, maybe Adony will still be able to do some work down here.  We'll see.  I'm not much impressed with most of what I've seen from Beaverlodge lately.  Maybe they are just not getting the word out to those of us who are busy moving bees 500 miles from there when they have their annual show and tell in June.  We were hoping to get some consumer-driven, consumer-scrutinized research work done -- and willing to pay for it too.

9 PM: I got the Quickbooks files straightened out -- at least the verify utility does not claim they are corrupt, but I KNOW, that somewhere in the file lurks a demon that will once  again raise its head...  Mark my words!

Anyhow, I entered all the bills and paid them -- one of my little pleasures in life.  Now, I just have to get all the notes up to date, so we know what we are doing tomorrow.

Tonight: Partly cloudy. Low 3.

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allen dick 2000.  Permission granted to copy with attribution and in context .

"If I make a living off it, that's great--but I come from a culture where you're valued not so much by what you acquire but by what you give away," -- Larry Wall (the inventor of Perl)