July 12, 2000
The rest of us were ready to drive at 4:30. Gareth as a little late, but it did not matter, since we did not all want to arrive at once anyhow, and Steve and Ken were able to go ahead.
The boat and the divider boards were loaded on the hive loader truck, and we rode together in that fourth unit until Rockyford, where I picked up a truck and trailer that the guys had left there the previous night. It made sense to leave it there, rather than drive it home and 35 miles back down the same road again.
Gareth and I drove together in a convoy and arrived soon after the others. I left the four of them (Ryan D had come too) to unload and went to drop off the boat at the Lake. (See Map). I got it unloaded and the outboard motor set up, but could not find the gas can and the hose.
I then went to McCallums to see if the guys were done unloading and had showed up at the camper. They weren't there yet, so I decided to walk among the hives and see how they looked. I was dressed in shorts and a tee shirt.
For the first few moments, the bees were fine and I walked the whole row and back, but I noticed that I was attracting attention. I went for a veil and returned. I soon went for my suit. Then I returned to the vehicle for my gloves (I seldom wear gloves, but I carry them when trucking).
I had so far done nothing but walk slowly through the yard, yet in moments, the bees were stinging me through my suit. I can't recall when I have seen anything like it since i was a bee inspector twenty years ago and some bees at a greenhouse drove me and my helpers down the street running. I decided to try a few other sites in case the problem was lacal and was caused by robbing at this location. I had looked closely, but had seen no evidence of robbing. Nonetheless, robbing can be sometimes less than obvious.
I stopped halfway down the crop to observe the bee activity and was pleased to see that there were bees spaced out about every yard throughout the area I observed. Among them were equal numbers of leafcutters bees. I also saw a lot of darning needles and damsel flies and several ladybugs. The bees did not show any interest in me.
I got to the next site and the bees were equally vicious, if not more so. I noticed some flax growing nearby and half remembered reading something about bees being nasty on flax, but that would have been due to the nectar secretion pattern, I would have expected, and the canola should have placated them. Buckwheat has a reputation for making bees cross in the mornings as well
I went to several more of our yards and saw the same behaviour and began to worry. I worried about farmers or other workers getting too close and being attacked by masses of bees. I worried that the new canola variety we are pollinating this year does not give much nectar. I worried that maybe there are pesticide sprays being used that might have affected the bees and driven them mad. Come to think of it, I seem to recall that Gaucho or Helix may have been used on the seed and in our area, the systemic persistence is unknown.
I ran across Rob, and I am sorry i did not have the presence of mind to take a picture. I first saw his truck beside the crop. i then saw what looked like the heads of two people dancing away out in the crop. I waited and watched the bees working. The distribution here was a little sparser, and I saw no leafcutters, although I did see two big beetles pollinating, and a ladybug doing whatever ladybugs do.
Rob drew closer and I could see he was sweeping. Sweeping is the process of taking a conical net that resembles a butterfly net and swishing it through the crop 10 times, then examining and counting the contents. The second head that danced around his was the net. He was wearing hip waders and the crop was up to his chest. He was wet and covered with pollen and flowers.
We talked and looked at the sweep results. The early sprays had eliminated all the bad bugs apparently. That's good news. we don't like anyone even thinking of spraying near our bees. We chatted about the bee behaviour and agreed that the pollination was going well. We tried calling their bee specialist, but could not reach him. I asked Rob to warn the farmers to be careful near the bees. He said he would.
I met the boys at the trailer and we agreed to take a two hour lunch break and go to the Lake. We took the spare truck and the camper trailer there too to leave the trailer there. They had the gas can and line, so I got the boat going and went around the Lake. It sounded pretty bad, and I tried tuning it, but decided it needs new plugs and some gear oil. The others never did go out. I went swimming. They didn't.
After two, we headed back to work. When we arrived, the bees were working hard and quite calm. we worked through them with no problems and I did not need gloves. We lifted off the supers, removed the bottom brood box and placed it above a divider board on top. If any showed no brood or poor brood, we marked them as needing a queen, and left them.
In the first forty we encountered four weak hives with only four or so frames of bees and one completely dead hive. I can only assume that the weak ones were ones that had been given frames of brood after refusing queens earlier and were on the upswing now. Nonetheless, they will get a cell when we go back.
The rest of the yard was very strong (20 frames or so) and made up for the poor ones, but I was a bit disappointed apprehensive about the next forty. I was also glad we were here. I checked for diseases and saw only chalkbrood. I always say that I estimate that 10% of hives are queenless or effectively queenless. Sometimes it is less, sometimes it is more, but the estimate is generally not too far off.
Here are some pictures of nice Pierco frames of brood.
The bees seem to like these frames quite well, and I like them too. They are quite easy to handle and there is a lot of room on one of these frames, since the cells are a bit smaller than other makes, and the bars use less space.
This frame is from a strong hive which had a queen burn out. It is hives like this that make this trip worthwhile. We are hoping to reduce our summer loss from its normal 11% to 2% and to cut our winter loss from around 25% to 10 or 15%. as well as improve the quality of the surviving bees and to make our other operations easier.
Some of the hives were very strong, and when we left, we saw bees hanging
from the brood boxes.
We pretty well took this day off, and I went shopping in Calgary. The students worked around the yard and at Elliotts'. All the others are off for the day.
Today we went to some local yards and did some splitting. Meijers gave us about 100 cells, so I ran over in the morning to get them. I visited a bit and went to one of their yards, returning home by lunch. All in all, it was a pretty easy day. Being Friday, and with the Calgary Stampede plus Three Hills' John McAlpine Days on this weekend, everyone was looking forward to some leisure, so we quit at four.
We will start Monday at noon and head for Lomond again. We're expecting 675 cells from Kirk and will be putting them into hives there the way we have been for the last few days.
We keep 40 hives per yard and the crew divides into two. On pair works each side and I run around checking and adding cells. The cells were quite nice, and three of the virgins had hatched by the time we finished.
The grey bush seen here is silver willow, which is a good spring nectar and and pollen source. In the foreground are the splits. They were the bottom box of the double brood chamber hives shown in the distance. More splits are further back. We simply smoke the queens up, remove the bottom box, then add a cell to each brood chamber. The box on its end is a super of honey that was too heavy to put back on and which we are letting the bees abandon before we take it home.
The splits are placed away from the parent hives in hopes that most of the older bees will go back home and continue to make a crop. Enough young bees remain with the splits to keep the cells warm and hatch the brood as well as forage for essentials.
A good overwintered double hive is worth $160 in April (including the two boxes) here in Canada and much more productive than two 2 lb packages costing $60 each, so we figure the splits are actually more valuable than a honey crop. Our crop around here seldom exceeds 120 lbs average and is worth maybe $100 at current prices. Maybe less. (All figures in Canadian dollars). If these splits have 66% survival as of May next year -- which they should -- they are worth almost as much each as the expected honey crop off the parent hives.
And we will not likely see a huge decrease in the crop, since the bees we remove (brood and young bees) may be too late for the flow. Our flow usually ends here by August 8th. sometimes it continues into September, but that is only one year in five or ten on average over the last 30 or so I can recall.
is a top view of one of the splits. Typically there are from four to
seven frames with brood in all stages. The introduced queen cell can be
seen in this shot and the others below. We always use the bright red cell
protectors, since we can later return to see if the cell emerged or not.
Without protectors, the bees tear down the cell, and who can tell?
As you can see, we don't scrape ladder comb much. The bees put it there because they want it and we just use a little smoke to avoid crushing bees. (The bees are smoked down in these two last shots). The newly introduced queen cells are clearly obvious between the frames in all three photos.
During the night, we heard some very loud lightening close by and heavy rain accompanied by wind. It was still raining quite heavily when I awoke at dawn. I think we got at least a half inch. the timing is impeccable. we were just remarking that the lawn was looking just a bit dry.
Andy from Huxley Colony called me at 9AM and said that a tornado hit Green Acres campground at Pine Lake last night. Apparently quite a few people were killed and injured. We have had bees in that area, so he was wondering if we were affected. We moved out of that area a while back, so were not affected, but our neighbours had been talking of going up there for the weekend, so we called them. They had not gotten around to going.
Tornados happen frequently around here in July, but this country is sparsely settled, so most go unmentioned. This one hit a campground with 2600 people registered and although it only touched down completely for a half mile, it wreaked considerable havoc.
Here's another BEE-L post I made on the efficacy of formic acid: 032343 Formic and SHB?
Meijers came for supper last night and brought us another fifty cells. These had turned out to be surplus, so they generously donated them to our cause.
We had split a yard last Thursday and I thought that it should be easy to spot the queenless halves by now. Nonetheless, I was not too inspired to get going on a Sunday morning and did not get to the yard until eleven or so. Oene had been installing the cells the previous day and I knew that they should be hatching by now, but I just could not get myself moving.
About twenty queens were out, I would guess. Most were running around, but
six or so were lying on the bottom not looking too good. In fact one or
two were dead. I only saw two fighting, but wondered if this could be the cause
of the dead and dying queens. I don't know, because I have seen good
looking queens emerge, then just walk a ways, and fall over, never to get going
At any rate, I first chased a few of the good virgins into some of the parent hives that had been split just for the sake of doing it, I guess. I placed each on a different doorstep and in they went. The guards looked some of them over, but there were no hassles and they were not thrown back out.
Then I opened the divides. There were twenty-two in singles. They had been the bottom brood boxes on the big hives and we just smoked a bit and removed them across the yard and left them. The first two were pretty pathetic and I started to wonder if I really knew much.
I judged them large enough to mate a queen and grow, but they were not what I had been expecting. I direct introduced a virgin to each and watched a bit. No problems. Because the divides had been moved across the yard when they were made, all the cranky old bees were gone and the young bees were happy to see a queen of any sort.
The rest of the divides were much better and most were 6 frames or better, some with 6 frames containing brood. I introduced the rest of the queens and cells and was pleased to note that our technique had only left the original queen in the divide 2 or 3 times in 22 splits. I would prefer zero, and maybe we can work on that.
At the end, I had a cell or two with queens and one was ready to emerge, so I let her out. She was still a bit wet, but looking okay, so I decided to chase her into a hive. I selected one of the parent hives and dropped her onto the doorstep. Instantly she was balled, and my hand was stung several times to boot. There was no rescuing her.