Monday July 17th, 2000
Today we started work at noon. We were expecting the cells to arrive at 2 PM and wanted to be sure to have energy left to head south to Lomond to install them, since we were told they should be emerging starting tomorrow around noon.
I've had experience with virgins emerging in coolers and don't want to have 100 or 200 running around killing each other, or dying in their little holes in the foam transport foam. Virgins are easy to install if there are only a few and they are only a few hours old, but after that things get tricky.
We were expecting about 700 cells this delivery so we were working against time. We wanted to get started this evening on the 80 divides we made last trip to get an idea of how we would be able to proceed. We didn't know for sure whether we managed to keep the old queens below by careful smoking while dividing, or would find a fifty/fifty mix of queens on top and queens on the bottom.
Steve and Ryan D. went ahead to check those eighty and report back. Their findings would determine whether we must put a cell in both top and bottom or only the top divide. If the queens were mostly in the bottom, we could take the chance that the few exceptions will requeen themselves, the assumption being that the gains outbalance the losses because we would make twice as many divides. The queen cells would go twice as far. Otherwise we would have to add a queen to each divide and get half the distance with each batch.
We received the delivery of cells in four coolers and headed south. Matt and I left at about 4 PM in the motorhome, since it was ideal to transport cells around from yard to yard and also provided extra beds. Gareth followed a half hour later in a truck. We all arrived at 7:30.
When we got to Lomond, Steve had determined that 10% of the sample had queens in top divide. We had no way to know for sure how many hives had had two queens when we split them, but we knew that the smoking had worked reasonably well. We decided that we could continue dividing and only add cells to the top divide -- and let the bottom take its own chances. We also added cells to any hives that we determined to be poor or queenless as we went along.
We started about 7:30 and worked until 9:30. We should have quit at 9. The bees got quite crawly near the end. I had suggested stopping at nine, knowing that would happen, but enthusiasm was too high. Our main concern for the day had been to decide what our plan of action would be the next day, since I was sure we were racing against time, dividing and inserting cells in advance of the impending emergence of 700 queens, and I was now sure we had our answer.
This forecast is for Calgary. Weather in Lomond is generally several degrees warmer, considerably drier, much sunnier, and often very windy. It was sunny and warm today. We got going about 9 AM and continued dividing and adding cells.
We used protectors because we wanted to be able to judge the success rate. If they are not used, the bees tear down the cells as soon as the queen emerges, or often even if she doesn't, so -- unless protectors are used -- there is a limited time to check for emergence. Moreover some hives may tear down good cells due to minor surface damage or the fact that the cell was not their idea. Sometimes they do not yet realize they are queenless, since we usually added the cells within minutes of the divides being made.
In this picture, the cells in the left group were unprotected and they are a bit ragged from being chewed. One may have been opened from the side by the bees, not an emerging queen, indicating failure, but it is hard to tell, even after one day. The ones at right were protected and are unmolested.
Adding protectors slowed the installation process quite a bit and it was all I could do to keep up with the six guys working in teams of two making divides. We made and celled 600 hives today
I had worried all along because the cells were due to start to emerge at noon. Come noon, there was no sign of emergence. I opened some cells to see what the state of development was and started to worry.
Some of the queens were still white and some had colour, but few, if any, had wings. They had arrived in coolers with water jugs to buffer the temperature and we had assumed that the cells were close enough to emergence that slight cooling would not matter, so had not heated the water up again, except in one case. Overnight the temperatures in one of the smaller coolers had dropped to 23 degrees C, although the larger ones stayed at about thirty. For mature (ripe) cells that small drop from the normal 35 degree hive temperature should not matter, but considering that these cells seemed younger than we expected, we wondered if damage was possible.
Now that we found the cells to be almost a day farther from emergence than expected, I began to sweat. We wondered if the supplier had made a mistake and we worried that if they were indeed a day younger than promised that they might not develop wings due to the transporting and cooler than hive temperatures. We phoned around a bit and got some reassurance, but still were not completely happy.
When we quit at about eight, we still had seventy cells left, but there seemed to be no hurry to get them into hives, since an examination showed they were still white, and the guys had put in a good day.
The guys wanted to go to town for supper. I said I'd buy and we all headed to Lomond in two trucks. It turned out the only restaurant was already closed by 8, even though the sign on the door indicated they should be open another hour. The guys decided to go to Brooks for takeout. I decided to head home to get some cells Meijers had phoned to offer me. They had about seventy surplus and I wanted them. We also need food and a few other things.
We split up and I went north, they went east. I got home and slept.
I went to Meijers on the way to Lomond and picked up the cells. We knew some would have emerged already, but I was simply unable to get there sooner. As feared, some had emerged and Joe and I caught and caged them. The rest went into foam and I headed south via highway 36.
I arrived around 10:30 and went to work installing the Meijers cells. The boys were still dividing, since we had more cells arriving tomorrow. I introduced the cells and the virgins and used up the last of the cells from the north. Still none of these cells had hatched.
We came up with a quick method of cell introduction over the several days we worked on this project. The picture shows the lids set to one side and ready for the pillow to be folded back and the cell plugged in.
Here is a shot of the foam and thermometer with a damp rag over top. Daytime temperatures ranged up to 32 degrees and the main concern during the day was to avoid overheating cells in the sun. It takes only a few moments of heat above 35 degrees C to destroy a cell. The sun was a constant threat, but the damp rag helps control the temperature.
Not all hives were splittable. Some were singles and others were previous splits and, although they were strong enough to pollinate, they were not busting out with bees. The bricks on the lids are necessary in the south where strong winds are frequent. They also serve to indicate the status of individual hives. The position and attitude of the brick can convey many messages from one visit to the next.
After moving the lid aside, we lift the pillow and look for a good spot to insert a cell. We choose a place where there is brood nearby and we thus know that there will be bees overnight, as well as a spot where there is no obstruction to prevent the queen's emergence. The cell need not be forced down into the gap between the frames since, with a soft pillow, any part protruding up will be accommodated.
Here is a cell in a protector fitting nicely between frames. you'll note we do not scrape a lot, since we have soft inner covers and the ladder and burr comb allow the bees to go over the top of the frames in winter. Bees have started a little comb in the feeder in this picture. They are often reluctant to go through excluders in doubles until they have used all the space below it. Singles do not have this problem. I believe that two doubles make too large a brood chamber for optimal summertime management. Two are necessary, though, in winter to contain the number of bees and amount of feed required in this part of the world.
Ellen has been working on an historical mural for Swalwell's curling rink and is very busy these days working on that and running things while I am away.
We continued to make divides in preparation for the second batch of cells. There was not much for me top do except check to se how successful he previous cells had been and I thought it to be a bit early, so after tidying things up, I decided to go to Brooks to buy some groceries. It takes a lot of food to keep six young guys plus one old guy going -- and a lot of water too. Everyone drinks specialty water these days, so I hoped to get some RO water for them in town.
I got there about noon and spent the afternoon buying food, searching for outboard motor parts (Steve had been complaining about the performance of the boat) and repairing the water system in the motorhome which had a pump problem and which I had been avoiding using.
I bought a new pump, but then discovered that two of the water lines had burst -- last winter, I assume. I then repaired them and filled up with water. The tanks hold 35 gallons and the water at Brooks is pretty good quality. El & I and the kids had lived a week on a beach in Mexico one winter with only about ten or fifteen gallons of fresh water, but this crew would not have lasted more than a few days on that amount, considering the water consumption required to work in the hot sun.
I returned and cooked pizza in the oven and made burgers. Jean and Chris came up from Lethbridge to visit a while and joined us for supper.
Matt fixed the outboard with the new parts I got in Brooks and Steve went fishing with Ryan -- even though it was time to load bees for the trip home. They came back a while later -- about dusk and went out to load.
We had to bring down the next batch of cells which were scheduled to arrive at home on Friday afternoon, so Steve and Matt got to go home with a two loads of bees from McCallums field which was by now now finishing off blooming. We are also receiving some Hawaiian queens and they were to bring them down too in case the cells were a disaster and we needed them.
We were able to divide 600 colonies today and 540 yesterday, using three crews of two men each. That is a count of the hives in the yards. Not all hives could be split, so the result was more like 420 divides from the 600 and 378 from the 540.
Matt & Steve pulled out around 4:30. I was up to see them off, then went back to bed for a while.
Around nine, I set out to check the divides we had made previously and the cells that we had installed. It was now late enough to see if the emergence was good or if we would have to use the new batch of cells coming later today to replace failed cells. We had some mated queens too, to ensure we did not run short.
At 10:30, I checked Mel's SW location and found that of the 16 Buckfast cells from Meijers installed Wednesday 2 had not emerged. At Mel's SW, I looked at the crop near the bee hives and saw 10 bees per square yard in the female flowers and 2 per yd^2 in the males. No cells had yet been installed there. No leafcutters were to be seen in the crop, even though I was near a tent.
At 11:15 AM, I checked the splits at Mel's SW and found that we had 100% emergence. This was a relief and I was getting hopeful. Now, the only question was whether the cooling had damaged the wings, but I was not too worried, since I knew of others who cooled cells to slow emergence and did not see any adverse effects. In mating nucs, I wonder how well controlled the temperatures are.
At 11:30 the second group of forty at Mel's SW showed one failure, for a total of one out of 51 being a dud in this area. I again looked for bees in the crop and found 4 to 5 bees per yard in both male and female rows near the hives. No leafcutters were apparent even though I was again close to a tent. The crop was finished blooming in some spots.
I went over to a tent and noticed something interesting: There seemed to be more honey bees about forty feet from the tents than elsewhere in the fields and deduced that perhaps the honey bees were orienting to the tents and using them as markers, just as the trailers are used in alfalfa pollination in California
At 11:45, I checked a site at Mark's NE and found one cell out of 35 to be still sealed. Near the hives, I saw from 3 to 8 bees per yard and several flies gathering nectar. No leafcutters were to be seen except they were flying and orienting inside their tents as shown in one of the pictures above.
I then returned to the motorhome and spent the afternoon windsurfing and reading The Biology of the Honey Bee by Mark Winston in hopes of understanding what was going on with the emergence of the cells
In spite of my hopes for an early arrival of the cells, Gareth showed up around eight PM. By then I had given up and gone for a long sail on the Lake, having figured that we would have to start early the next day. Hopefully these cells would not as early as the others had been late. Matt showed up later with the mated queens and we called it a day after we arranged to feed them and then chased escaped bees around the motorhome.
"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)
© allen dick2000. Permission granted to copy with attribution and in context