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Monday July 31st, 2000
I've lost 7 pounds this last two weeks, and I'm not trying. I realise that weighing 250+ gives my doctor the fits, but then, he's a skinny little guy and I kinda like myself the way I am -- or was. I hear that worrying is not healthy either, so I won't worry what he thinks, and I'll take it as it comes.
Ryan D phoned in and said he was fit for work. Since he missed some last week, I brought him in to do a bit of cleanup, since I was here anyhow. We got a bit done.
Jean brought back the truck and we drove her Micra up to Jim's for a check over.
In the evening, I got a call from Steve who was on the way to pick up bees in Lomond . He had lost his travelling companion. They had been travelling together; then suddenly the second truck was not behind him anymore. After a half hour of searching and calling on the phone and CB, Steve called us. The other truck could not be raised by phone or by CB. Finally we reached him when the driver had the presence of mind to turn his phone on, but the he had driven off into the country looking for Steve and did not know where he was. An hour was lost and everyone was concerned.
Apparently, the CB antenna had fallen off his roof, and he had not kept his phone turned on. Instead of waiting in the spot where he had last seen Steve and phoning, he drove on and on hoping somehow to find the other truck. Naturally as soon as he noticed the loss of contact, Steve returned immediately to the point of last contact, but by then the other truck was gone.
We have procedures and equipment for preventing this kind of tomfoolery and they were all ignored in this case.
Time to tighten up.
We unloaded the bees at a new yard, AD&D, at Elliott's' East, and both Hectors' yards.
We then spent the day getting the extracting room ready. Another day should do the trick.
Purves-Smiths and Flo came over for supper and a bonfire.
Two loads of bees were again waiting to be set down in yards this morning. Matt, Dustin & I headed north to unload. We went to the Elnora area which is about a 40 mile drive.
That part of the country is looking really good this year; there is alsike and dutch and yellow clover everywhere -- and still lots of uncut alfalfa. The alfalfa which has been cut is coming back nicely in most of the region, to the point of almost being in bloom again. The Elnora area is not always good; many years are too dry, but this year is obviously an exception.
What we found most striking, though, is that there is an area right in the middle of the district which seems really dry. We had serious doubts about setting hives in one of our yards which is normally a good one because we wondered if there was enough moisture to get a second growth. We decided to take a chance, since the four hives that had been left on the site yielded about ten decent boxes of honey.
By ten-thirty we were pretty well done unloading, and I had located two new yards as well. Dustin headed home and Matt & I set out to install queens into splits between Elnora and Delburne.
I recently bought four hundred queens on the price special that Gus announced after a large US outfit cancelled an order for 10,000 queens since I was not sure how well the cells would work out for me. About now -- with several hundred left and many other jobs pressing -- I am starting to regret that decision. This is particularly true when I find that all the divides seem to be coming up with their own queens without my help by the time I get there to install a queen -- even when I arrive back only four or five days after the split was made.
At this time of year, the bees make queens really well and about half our hives seem to have a cell or two somewhere in the hive -- just for fun -- it seems.; there are very few swarms. It is frustrating to open a divide when you have a pocket full of purchased queens and find that it has several lovely cells with queens fully formed and about to develop colour. I can't help but wonder if the cells have better queens than the ones I am trying to introduce. Some splits do not seem to make queens, but they are few and far between.
Often when checking the divides, I find queen cells with the end cut out perfectly and know that -- possibly at at the very instant -- a virgin is likely out mating. I can search, and I will not find her. Any queen I introduce will be wasted. Frustrating!
All this is not to say that these queens from Hawaii are not first class. They are plump, feisty and ready to go to work, and as nice looking as any I have ever seen. In divides which have been moved (thus losing the older bees) direct queen introduction is possible on a nice day, but I gave up using that method after the second queen took wing. I returned to punching out the candy and setting the cage in the hive under the pillow. The queen usually comes back right away and lands in the brood box, but I often do not see her do so in the confusion and therefore I worry about the money lost, and then worry about the hive.
Often the divides are full of honey and will need supers soon. We had supers along, but somehow did not have excluders, so we left the splits without supers for now. I don't need the mess of hives with queens in all boxes when we have to prepare them for feeding in the fall.
We did not think to take foundation with us today either. That's a shame, since splits are great for pulling foundation out into good brood comb and we had to remove a frame or two to inspect them anyhow. It would be a good time to slip in some foundation to replace poor combs or just to get it into use.
In about three hours, Matt and I managed to put in only about 35 queens, since the divides were scattered through 7 yards spread over 30 miles or so . In my opinion, this is a waste of precious time in honey season. There has to be a better way, and I think that using cells is it. Each method has its drawbacks, since queens are not as time sensitive, but with cells, the job does not require any pulling of frames and can go very fast.
We did not get the extracting line set up again today, but are closer, since Dustin returned early and got the tanks out of storage and made other preparations. Maybe tomorrow.
Gareth has been out pulling honey and I think he got another 200 boxes or so today. There are about 650 supers in the honey house waiting for processing.
Steve & Ken are on the road right now, heading back with another 160 hives, if all went well. Ryan R phoned and said he thinks he is well enough to drive tomorrow night, so that means we'll have 240 per trip for the next two or three days.
Three more loads came back last night and that brings the total returned to 1440 (See chart below). We delivered them to local yards as shown in the table.
We have now taken possession of the piece of land mentioned earlier. It has a 20 tonne truck scale on it, so we decided to use the scale as an information gathering tool for running the operation. Since all the trucks come home and wait for a second crew to drive them out in the morning, it is a five minute job to run them across the scale and determine the weights of the trucks and trailers.
This is most interesting, since we can determine the average hive weight for each yard that we deliver to locations and know how soon we must visit them to pull honey -- or feed. The chart at below left is an Excel sheet that takes the scale ticket info and derives an average hive weight for each truck or trailer of 40 hives (normally one yard of bees).
Since the hives are four standards high coming and going to and from pollination, we know that empty they would be: 15+(4*20)+8+5+10=118 pounds each on average. This is considering that the pallet is 60 pounds and holds four hives, the supers and brood boxes average 20 lbs each empty , the brick weighs eight pounds, the lid, etc is five, and the bees are 10 pounds.
The yards in the chart showing around twenty pounds average are in danger of starving soon, if the flow is cut off. The ones that show up as having forty or more pounds merit a visit, since we must remember that this is an average. Normally in any yard there is a variation of at least 100% between the best and worst hives.
This is only one example of how some beekeeping can be done from home or at least scheduled intelligently. To determine this info would normally require two men driving 150 miles and working for close to two days. It was obtained in five minutes as a by-product of moving the hives. Of course some desk work was also required, and of course actually working the hives would produce other benefits. We will have to visit all these hives in the next weeks, but this chart can prevent sending a honey pulling crew prematurely to at least one half of these hives.
We continued to work on the extracting line. Gareth pulled another 200 or so boxes and picked them up. Where there was insufficient honey to justify pulling, he re-arranged the existing supers between hives. This is very important, since when we first super, we give each hive the supers we think it will need. Moreover, on pollination we give all hives the same number of supers to facilitate trucking. After a few weeks, some of the hives that were strong early prove not to need all the supers and some of the weaker ones are filling with honey and need more room. A few minutes redistributing the supers buys us time and ensures that all our supers are in good use.
More unloading, more working on the extractor line, more pulling honey. We now have 1,000 supers waiting for extraction. We are still installing the new deboxer.
Everyone is off tonight for a long weekend. Although there are some hives getting close to plugged, most are still okay and we will have Steve out pulling next week, since most of the bee moving is done and we will leave it for Ryan, who cannot do any heavy work and Ken who was hired just to drive.
Matt, Gareth & I took bees out to their yards again this morning and finished before noon. I got one new yard just north of Acme.
Today I was extremely tired -- and bored, so I mostly slept and watched some TV.
Normals for the period: Low 9. High 24.
As we recall, looking back through the diary, on the 26th of June, sunrise was 5:22 and sunset 9:55. We can see the days shortening by 47 minutes in the morning and by 42 minutes at night over the past six weeks or so. .
Over the past two weeks since the 24th of July when sunrise was 5:52 and sunset at 9:32, days have shortened by 17 minutes in the morning and by 19 minutes at night
The daily average maximum temps are still at 24, but the night-time average low is now 9 degrees C, not 10 degrees as it was for the past few weeks.
Today we went to Red Deer to do a little shopping and to visit Jean and Chris. We got to see their new apartment. It is in a nice location and quite spacious. Chris and the cats and all the furniture are settled in. Jean still has a week to spend in Lethbridge to finish her job there before she is permanently moved.
Landymores came by for a barbeque in the evening.
Another day off. Actually, it is an official holiday as well. We slept in and Ellen is presently gardening. I'm tidying up and feeling bored. There is far too much to do.