Steve is sick, still. Matt & Gareth finished putting in the queens and have about 12 splits waiting. That's fine, since we have 25 cells arriving tomorrow morning and need another 13 homes for them by noon tomorrow.
So, Ryan is back out splitting with excluders and Matt and Gareth are working on maintenance today. It's cool and breezy so far. (Noon)
The weather warmed a bit this afternoon, but it still was a bit cool. Matt worked on vehicles and Gareth got the decking onto the last trailer. Marcus is working on the finals details of the truck and trailer accessories. Ryan made 30 more excluder splits.
Matt came for supper and we discussed strategies and tactics for loading and delivering bees to Lomond. We think 5 people may be enough and that we should be able to maintain our four day a week schedule, but that a couple of extra drivers would make things a bit easier.
I run to Drumheller tomorrow to get the cells at the bus at 7 AM for installation ASAP when I get back. They arrive at 4:30 AM, but the depot opens at 7. Then at 9, have to take Ellen in for her two-week eye check-up. I gave up on going to BC for the weekend, since I could not get a reasonable fare that involved less than four nights away. I want to be here for Tuesday. This is a beautiful time in our area, and our activities are pretty exciting.
We're very ready for the pollination move. We have 3,000 hives, five good men, four good trucks and trailers, four good Swingers, and only 2250 hives to deliver.
The next batch of Hawaiian queens arrive tomorrow, but this time, I have decided to let them ride to Three Hills which is only ten miles away. I think they will be okay, even though they have to change busses an extra time.
Next week is looking good for putting seconds on the packages. Matt and I looked at some in the home yard today, and one was drawing foundation in the outside position. It was exceptional, but they will all be ready soon, and I want some warm nights about when we add the supers to minimize shock. How about you other guys? Have you got your seconds on yet?
We've started picking up the weak hives. We have 147, according to the notes. Their places will be filled by splits, and the weaklings will go to a nearby nurse yard as singles and either be trashed into small nucs with new queens for increase, or else doubled up to see if they come along.
By June 20th, all yards should have 40 or more hives, all four high on good pallets, ready to load and transport. I can hardy wait. The first year was hell and the second only a bit better, but this pollination is addictive.
Normals for the period
Observation Location: 51.12 N,
By a little after 7, I was in Drum, picking up the cells. They had been travelling all night on the bus, and when I picked them up, the gel pack was stone cold.
There should have been the odd virgin emerging by the time I got them home, but I did not see any signs of that on the ten or so cells I examined. Anyhow, Matt and Gareth went out to put them into hives. We used cell protectors and should know in a day if they were any good or not. Cell protectors keep the bees from tearing down the cell, so a beekeeper can tell at a glance whether the queen emerged -- or not.
At 9, I drove Ellen to Calgary for another eye exam. This one took longer and I had a chance to explore Edworthy Park a bit more and to have a nice snooze on the hillside before heading back to meet her at the car. I noticed that there are many less geese along the Bow River now, and the goslings are over twice the size they were last time I was down there.
We went pretty well straight home, stopping only at a garden centre to drop off some dead plants on warranty and to have lunch and make a pick up in Airdrie; we stopped at Canadian Ranch and Farm to pick up parts for the air bags we are testing for the front ends of our one tons.
Matt installed a set of air bags and they do make the truck sit up better. The ride remains smooth. The cost is about $100 total and 2 hours labour installing them Moreover, the ride is adjustable; we're running 15lbs pressure, but they can go up to 60lbs. We have a set of Timbrens on another truck and they ride pretty hard.
Marcus continues to put the final touches on the trucks and Matt and Gareth spent the rest of the day around the yard, tidying and repairing equipment. Ryan made another 40 excluder splits. He finds it amazing that some yards are so much better than others. I attribute it to the good stock there, mostly Hawaiian or Brown's Australian.
Steve ran to Red Deer for steel, then unloaded and loaded a truck. He is coming in tomorrow to make up for some of his lost time this week. We are being very firm that everyone get his hours in because we are closely scheduled and any hours missed will result in something important not being done.
We received our list of growers from Aventis by fax today. Next Wednesday, I get to see the fields and meet the growers. We have mostly the same people, except that we also have the Lomond Hutterite Colony this year as well. We share most of our locations with leaf cutter bees, which is just fine by me.
Meijers came for supper and we had a good visit.
We had a good soaking rain during the night.
Two Hundred Hawaiian queens are waiting at the bus stop in Three Hills, and Steve is coming in at 9, so I am working today.
On the way to the bus, I checked the 25 cells we installed yesterday. Just as I feared, none have emerged. I looked at 7, and quit. I pulled one cell apart and found the queen not fully developed, and just a trace of colour in the eyes. She looked dead. I thought the queens should pretty well all be out by now, so I think this batch is shot. Unless we can get more reliable methods of transport from Northern Saskatchewan to here, I think this idea is dead too.
I looked in on the Hawaiian carniolans that were installed in the same yard on Tuesday. The candy is only half eaten out. Five days is plenty long for release, when you figure it cost 2,000 bees not raised for every day of delay. At this rate, she won't be out until 10 days. That's ludicrous. I guess it's my own fault for believing the fancy new label that Gus has on the shipping boxes, recommending adding extra candy to the candy end of each queen cage to slow release.
We did not do that, but we did decrease the size of nail hole we use, and that was stupid. I have been doing this for almost thirty years and know how to do it right. I never should have believed the label. When will I learn to trust myself?
Maybe the difference is that we always feed bees when installing queens. We know it ensures much better success, but it does limit the bees' interest in the queen cage candy and maybe slows the exit of the queen compared to the methods others use.
I also noticed that the splits I saw did not look quite as big as I had expected, so I think we need to raise the splitting size threshold a bit. We use six bottom bars covered with bees in the lower brood box as a criterion now, but should up that a bit, seeing as the time for the flow and also pollination is fast approaching.
Now we have to figure out what to do about queens. I don't think our cell plan will work.
I was prowling around and found this by Jack Griffes. It fits in with things I have been thinking about:
I came across the above while in search of a particular article on the effect of temperature on queen cells at various stages in their development written by Jack.
I find these comments of interest because I have run many many singles while producing comb honey and also believe the secret to success with queen excluders is to limit the volume beneath them to what the queen needs for brood. We have noticed a marked increase in honey production in singles over doubles that are otherwise identical. The problem is preparation for wintering.
Steve got about half the supering done on the package hives. When El & I went out to look around tonight, we noticed that where there were uneaten protein patties, the excluders were humped up and there were big gaps in the sides of the hives. I wonder what he is thinking. It's a good thing that we are having warm nights. I guess he'll have to go back and fix this as well as finish the supering before next week starts.
I also noticed when I went out that he had used the only one ton that has neither heavy tires nor heavy springs like the rest of the diesels and I estimate his load at over 10,000 pounds, which is heavy even for a built-up unit. If the highway patrol guys had caught him, he would have lost a month's paycheque in fines. That is not to mention the potential damage to the truck and tires. I am getting worried about him.
Another beautiful sunny day. Looks like 50 km winds all day in Lethbridge. I wonder if I can trust the motorhome to get me there and back. I don't like the way it is steering. It's a 1977 Winnebago that I built up from an insurance write-off. It had 75,000 miles then and I've added another 75,000 at least, and they were not easy miles. I shudder to think what I've hauled behind it, on it and in it.
I called Kirk to see if conditions were good and he said "Yes". I then looked at what I had to do to get ready and decided to reconsider. I called him again and he said it was a good decision, since the wind was dying.
We need to have serious small craft warnings out before wind surfing gets to be a whole lot of fun. It may seem bizarre, but we casually frolic in the kind of weather that can kill boaters.
That fact can make rescuing a windsurfer who is injured on a Big Day difficult, since the other windsurfers have only a small slab of foam less than 8 feet long with less buoyancy than a person's weight, and a small sail -- and most boats, if there are any around, are at risk if they try to go out. The rolling waves make rescue work difficult.
So, I stayed home and got a few things done. It was windy all afternoon here. I watched a movie his evening and then El & I went for a walk.
Contrary to the predictions, the day turned out to be mostly sunny. Theoretically it is a day off for El & me, but we wound up working pretty well all day. Starting in the morning, we had to brief Steve at 9, then Marcus was here for instructions.
Then we had phone calls and strategy discussions, and a round of accounting work. I spent an hour or so writing an instruction sheet for calculating legal truck weights seeing as the message has not been getting through.
Steve went out to put on the rest of the seconds on the packages. We are running them as singles with an excluder on top. We have quite a few supers with 3 combs of granulated honey in them from last year. Due to thee long stay at pollination and the small crop, there were quite a few hives with isolated combs of honey that made pulling and extracting honey difficult.
Of the packages only Adony's hives remain to be done, and they require special treatment..
We are picking up all the weak hives now. Since they are small, it is easy to lift off the box with bees, place it on the truck, and deliver to a nurse yard.
I've been thinking about excluder splits, the kind we do by just inserting an excluder between the two boxes of a two storey hive. (There is the other kind, done by shaking the bees off brood and feed frames and then placing them above an excluder and waiting for the bees to come back up).
In our case, we do not know where the queen is, above or below. We wait four days and then find out by examining the frames in each box for eggs. In the second case, the queen is known to be below. Thus, in the first case, we have to wait until the split is pretty well past being able to make its own cells should ours fail. In the second case, the split can be taken away soon enough that the bees could make a backup queen if ours fails.
This has two aspects. If a hive is hopelessly queenless, such as a new split will be in seven days after all eggs are hatched and past the stage where any queen could be raised, then some say the hive will accept a new queen better. However, in this case, if the introduced queen fails or is rejected, then they are hopeless. In the second case, if the split is removed soon after splitting, should the introduced queen or cell fail, then there is likely a backup queen on the way to at least ensure survival of the split.
Serendipitously, I received this email today commenting favourably on queens raised naturally by queenless bees:
A word of caution to readers: One must be sure that the bees are prospering any time that they are required to raise queens. The weather must be warm and settled. At least 100 mature drones should be on hand by the expected mating dates for each queen contemplated .
We have two shipping boxes of queens waiting for tomorrow, and I have to run to Drum to get 25 more cells from the bus. The first test appears to have been a dud, but the producer phoned today and said that he found he had only 30% success with that queen compared to about 85% with another used at the same time and wants to try again.
The shipping boxes have now consumed a pint each of 50% syrup, including what was consumed by the first two boxes that were used last week. Consumption seems to be about 1/2 pint per week per box. We are now keeping them on the counter in indirect light at house temperature. That seems to reduce the tendency to cluster and promotes some activity which may ensure queens get visited often.
The lilacs have been out a few days now. I somehow missed the exact beginning, but I notice that all the trees are now leafed out and the town looks pretty.
I walked around town tonight around 10 PM and enjoyed the gardens and the gathering dusk.
Today is an official work day -- the first of our work week.
We have cells to pick up again. I decided to give this one more try. The producer phoned the other day to say that they had discovered low emergence rates from the queen that was the source of that batch and he had found other queens were running around 85% average. He wanted to try another shipment, with more insulation and cells from a different queen.
I've decided to send Steve. After we get them, we will visit the yards we celled last week and check. Any that failed (I suspect all) will get a new cell.
Steve arrived back with the cells and I looked them over. The gel pack had been stone cold again on arrival in spite of improved insulation, but I gave a few cells to Matt and was encouraged when he phoned back and said that two of the seven cells in one yard had emerged from the last batch .
After warming the gel to give a ~90 degree F reading in our little foam picnic cooler, I went out and checked the cells in two more yards and carried the new ones along. Three out of twelve emerged in one yard and four out of six in another. Not very good. I replaced the cells that had been duds and hoped that the ones that emerged would be okay.
The picture shows a $5 Foam cooler with a gel pack under Kodel. A block of foam with cells made by the Jenter method can be seen as well as the bag of JayZee BeeZee cell protectors and the thermometer taped to the lid. The sensor is under the cells.
Matt and Gareth went separately with mated queens to put into our excluder splits. as they went along, they also picked up weak hives and filled in gaps in the yard with splits (singles) brought from the previous yard.
Purves-Smiths came over for hamburgers and a bonfire in the evening. Tomorrow, I go to Lomond to look at our sites for pollination, and tomorrow night we have a staff barbeque.
Here's a picture of the hive carrier we bought a while ago and are finding very handy for shuffling hives around yards. Click the picture for a close-up. With this, we do not need to drive our boom truck which has only a 16 foot deck. Our normal trucks have 18 feet of deck, and once you get used to 18, 16 is too short. Maybe I'll feature our trucks and trailers some day soon.
The device shown is designed to pick up a box or stack of boxes on a standard hive pallet. It has some shortcomings, such as not lifting off the second box. Apparently doubles tip forward or back a bit, but we think we can fix that by welding on a simple vertical support bar.
Here are some links to BEE-L discussion articles about various hive carriers:
It was icy cold and breezy in Lomond all day as Rob & I went around to meet the growers and settle on where we will soon be placing the hives for pollination. So far the farmers are complaining of drought, but I remember hearing the same complaints the past two years. As soon as we started moving bees, however, it seemed the rain would never stop and we were deep in mud.
The cool weather is causing some concern. Although most people are not aware of it, farmers and seed company agronomists carefully study the crops from the moment they are selected right through to the time it hits the bin. Even then they watch it to prevent heating due to enzymatic action. Visits are made almost daily to fields to monitor germination, growth, weeds, bugs, and maturity. Here Rob and Ric are examining the germination and depth of the seed in a canola field.
All the locations have reasonably good places for bees, and good access. It took all day, by the time we visited all the sites, and figured everything out.
I mentioned at the barbeque that I had heard the cabbage seed pod weevil was going to be a problem this spring in our pollination area and that this might cause us delays in getting to our sites unless we were willing to have the growers spray after the bees go in.
After considerable deliberation, we had permitted spraying with Decis® two years ago in the fall and I had not noticed any obvious effects. I was surprised to learn that Matt is of the opinion that it did weaken the bees. I had thought that the damage had been minimal.
I do personally know that we have several yards that did not perform at all this spring, but we moved before any spraying on our crops this past year, but I do know that our bees are not as good since they have been used for pollination. I had attributed that mostly to the effects of crowding and moving twice. So far my position is that we want no spraying while the bees are in site without permission from us. I'll have to consider more whether Decis® is as benign as I had thought.
The other wrinkle is that, due to black leg and sclerotinia last year, most growers will want to spray a fungicide. My agronomist is of the opinion that it is harmless to bees. I have heard bad things about fungicide damage. Until I learn more about the proposed chemical, I'll have to reserve judgement.
Here are links to some BEE-L posts about fungicides
Tonight: Mainly cloudy clearing later tonight. Low 1 with risk of frost.
© 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)