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Friday December 1st, 2000

Today: Fog reducing visibility at times to less than 1 km then becoming mainly sunny this afternoon. Wind increasing to southwest 20 gusting to 40 km/h this afternoon. High plus 2.
Tonight: Mainly clear. Wind west 20 gusting to 40 diminishing. Low minus 5.

Normals for the period: Low minus 13. High minus 1.

The guys finished wrapping today, however there is one yard that will have to be moved due to horses.  Many lids were off the hives and one knocked over.

Horses are almost always bad news for beehives.  They are curious and always knock hives over or lift the lids.  It doesn't take much wire to discourage horses, or take much work to move the hives to a better spot.  It is a simple matter to move the hives once they are wrapped in four packs, so we'll have to get up there next week and either fence or move. 

Matt wrapped 125 hives single-handed today using the individual wraps.  He left late and went north to yards 60 miles away.  As a consequence, he was a bit late getting back.  Steve and Brett did 150, but were back earlier.

The total hives wrapped came to 3,572.  That's almost 1,000 more than last year.   We expect to lose roughly 20%, so in the spring, we should have about 2850 in late April unless we have an especially harsh or long winter.  The increased numbers should reduce the need to split hives or buy packages.

We still need to go around sometime before spring brood rearing to add more top insulation to some hives that are short of pillows and to change the lids for modified ones that don't compact the pillows or rock in the wind.  We may also add some more bricks at some locations.

We Use a Variety of Winter Wraps

Over the years our wraps have evolved a lot.  Here is what we are currently using:

All our hives have our black poly and Kodel®  pillows on year round.  We are now using two 1" pillows in winter and changing to 2" pillows over time.  Some hives are wintered with telescoping lids inside the wraps.  Others have only the pillow under the wrap.

Original Belt Wrap with slot in inner cover for air ventOur original belt wraps: When wrapping, the telescoping lids are removed, the hives are crowded together on the pallet, and a 14 foot strip of double tarp with Kodel®  industrial quilt insulation (~R5) sewn inside goes around.  An R10 to R20 pillow goes on top and plywood protects the materials from water. 

Upper entrances are 3/8" by 2" slots in inner covers.  Holes through the wrap line up with the slot, and a plywood square with a small hole is nailed onto the front to hold things in place.

One can examine the wrapped hives from the top by removing the plywood and pillow, but it is slow and awkward.

Belt wraps with auger hole air ventThe belt wraps shown here are the same as above, but thicker (~R10), taller, and use the auger holes which are located 2-1/2" up from the bottom of every hive body for flight and air instead of the inner cover slots shown in the previous illustration.

In this method, the hives are not crowded together, but left spaced about 3" apart on their pallets.  The telescoping lids are left on all winter inside the wraps.

Square WrapsSquare wraps: these 7' x 7'  wraps are made of the same tarp material with one or two thicknesses the same Kodel®  insulation sewn inside. 

Holes in the tarps line up with the auger holes, as above, although we have altered some so that we leave the telescoping lids off and use grommets for air holes.  The 1/2" grommets line up with the front edge of the top box.

Examining the hives while wrapped is a bit easier with this method, but the tarp must be removed and replaced each time.  This may mean re-nailing the plywood chunks holding the wrap aligned with the flight holes.  This makes winter and spring inspections less fun and thus encourages unwrapping earlier than is good for the bees, simply to make the spring work possible.

20 Packs20-pack wraps:  These long wraps are the same as the square ones above, except that they cover five pallets moved together.  In these wraps, and the ones above, the hives are left with summer spacing on their pallets. 

1/2" Grommets through the tarps provide an upper entrance.  The pillows are left on the hives inside, but are pulled back about an inch at the front to allow air and bees to access the grommet hole.

New wrapsIndividual wraps: These are our latest design.  Each covers one hive.  The material is 21" poly tube with a single layer of Kodel® inside.  The ends are taped together to form a tube that slips down over each hive.  A single tacker staple is used to hold the warp tight against the hive next to the auger hole.  Normal telescoping lids are left on -- with the same plastic and Kodel®  pillows that we use all year under them.

The main advantages we anticipate are:

  1. In the fall, for all the other current methods, we have to have four hives on each pallet .  This means moving hives around and slows things down a lot.  Then in the spring we have deadouts and find ourselves once again moving hives.  With single wraps, we can easily wrap pallets that are missing hives and eliminate one shuffle
  2. If a hive dies in a four pack, then the live hive next to it is colder than necessary.  Individual wraps allow each hive to warm itself.
  3. These wraps are compact and easy for one person to handle alone. 
  4. They have no extra parts to confuse and complicate planning and loading of trucks.
  5. The hive lid can easily be removed at any time for inspection and feeding.  Other wrapping methods make inspections cumbersome and thus hamper and discourage necessary inspections and beneficial spring work.
  6. Hives need not be unwrapped at all during the spring.  Conceivably, wraps could be left on year round.
  7. These wraps are much cheaper to make.  They can be made in our own shop without special tools or skilled labour.

Rita decided that her feet swell too much on this job from standing so much, and resigned.

Bill & Fen came over for supper.

Saturday December 2nd, 2000

Today: Mainly cloudy in the morning. A mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. Wind west 20 km/h gusting to 40 km/h. High plus 5.
Tonight: Mainly clear. Wind northwest 20 gusting to 40. Low minus 7.

I spent the morning at the computer fine-tuning these pages.  Sometimes I think I spend too much time on these things, but writing clarifies my thoughts and, I am counting on reading this material next year to guide me through the season.

Actually when it comes right down to it, I wound up spending all day on this site, but I think it was worth it.  (I have to say that).

Do you like the new look?  Do you miss the popup index window?  I don't.  Is anyone using a browser that does not support frames?

Normals for the period: Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Sunday December 3rd, 2000

I spent today at home, tidying and working at my desk.  In the afternoon, Jean and Chris came to borrow a vehicle, since Jean's Micra had thrown a timing belt on here way to work Friday.  They took the GMC 3/4 ton, AKA Spot.

They stayed for supper.  Walt Landymore joined us too, since were having turkey, and he loves turkey. His wife does not eat turkey, so he has to get it elsewhere.

Today: A mix of sun and cloud with 30 percent chance of light snow. Wind becoming northwest 20 gusting 40 km/h. High plus 1.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Wind northwest 20. Low minus 12.

Normals for the period: Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Monday December 4th, 2000

I started off this AM, as I often do, writing to BEE-L, the premier internet bee discussion list.  (I remember when I joined in 1994 --  I would have joined earlier, but my sources printed it as BEE-1 -- and it took 6 months for me to finally find it in those days of UNIX).

Anyhow, here is my article, an article which will likely be refused.   Lately writing for BEE-L has been less enjoyable due to uneven moderation.  I promptly approve others' posts day in and day out, but do not get the same consideration from the other moderators.  (We have a gentleman's agreement not to approve our own posts).  

So, lately, I have been favouring sci.agriculture.beekeeping since it is un-moderated and I now have a good newsfeed.  I had problems for years getting a good fast, reliable link to the newsgroup, but I now have two.

Today: Light snow and fog ending. A mix of sun and cloud this afternoon. High near zero.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Low minus 9.

Normals for the period: Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Tuesday December 5th, 2000

Today: Mainly sunny. Wind west 20 km/h diminishing this afternoon. High plus 4.
Tonight: Increasing cloudiness. Wind becoming west 20. Low minus 4 this evening then temperature rising.

Normals for the period:  Low minus 13. High minus 1.

I reviewed the notes and we have 3,544 hives going into winter.  I had entered 40 hives into an unused yard and forgotten the 12 at home.  Enlarge SampleWe use MS Excel to manage the totals and assignments.  We cleaned up a few more details in the notes, then Steve went out to move the yard bothered by horses and to check a few more yards for minor details.  Apparently the horses had knocked the plywood covers off two four-packs -- twice.

Original Belt Wrap with slot in inner cover for air ventMeijers had been going by on the weekend and put them back on once, then the covers were off again when Steve got there today.  At another yard where we used 20 packs, the horses were not doing any apparent damage.  Some horses just like to nibble on plywood.

Here is another BEE-L-related response that did not make it past the censors.  Ooops! Did I say that? Of course, I meant to say moderators, although the baiting and whining that provoked it was happily okayed and published by a fellow moderator. Oh, and while we are at it, here is another reject.

Every so often we get some self-important manipulator that decides he is above the rest of us, needs to save the world, and wants to use BEE-L for promoting his propaganda.  There is usually some loose connection to bees, so he gets some leeway.  In the current example, I am not even sure the individual has any bees or works with them.  GMOs is the hobby horse.  Pasting in articles from other sources is a favourite trick.  We get one or two of these guys a year.  Some of the moderators aren't wise to this and let it happen again and again, then publish the inevitable whining when he gets told to smarten up and hamper my efforts to get things straight..

Wednesday December 6th, 2000

Sunrise is now at 8:24 AM  and sunset at 4:30 PM.  That is gives us only about 8 hours of daytime.  No wonder I don't much care for this time of year.  It's not even very good for skiing or boarding, since there is generally poor light and the rocks are not yet well covered with snow.   Spring is much better because the days then are long and the snow is deep.

We were up early this morning and off to Calgary for Ellen's 8:30 AM eye appointment.  We left instructions for the crew yesterday.  We had a lot of things to do in town, but decided to keep things simple and took the car, not a truck, and left the tasks at home.   While El spent time at the eye doctor, I wandered around the Chinook mall.

The Chinook is the oldest mall in Calgary; I knew the project manager when it was built in the '60s.  It has grown since then, but the expansion appeared unattractive and piecemeal.  Recently we have not enjoyed visiting that particular mall due to constant construction but we keep returning since that is where the eye doctor's office is located. 

During the changes, we had concluded that the 'improvements' we not going to work out.  Were we wrong!  It is now as nice or nicer than the West Edmonton Mall IMO.  As one who is married to an artist, worked at an art school, and is an admirer of sculpture and commercial art, I was really struck by the great job they did.  I'm no critic of architecture, but I must say the place Works.

I have lately been complaining about hating Christmas, and the commercialization and that I do often not enjoy the holidays anymore, mostly due to all the neurotic expectations and activity that often accompany them, but this morning, listening to carols and enjoying the decorations in the early hours before things got busy and people got tired and rushed, I had an epiphany.  It was amazing to see how all those people strive to serve one another and to create a pleasant and artistic environment for all to enjoy, and that underlying all this is a message of hope and love. 

I have been crabby for the past few days.  Short days get to me and El and I both had a virus that just wouldn't leave.   One of its effects is periodic bad temper and lack of patience.  Ellen is still very short with me.  I posted to BEE-L in 1996 on the topic of viruses and their effect on history:
Item #12502 (19 Dec 1996 09:54) - Re: The Future of Antibiotics

I'll quote a bit here.  We never know when BEE-L and its archives may disappear:

...(Discussing the effect of organisms on one another)

...When you meet a fellow human on the street, you are meeting a complex group of organisms, from the bacteria in the gut to the virus that may at that moment control, to some measure, his brain or hormonal system.

Bacteria and viruses have had an incalculable effect on the human
history of the world, from the smallpox that decimated populations in
the New World in advance of the white man to the diseases that
reportedly affected Hitler's judgement in the final years of the
second world war, to the flu that kept me from feeding my bees early this spring and at the same time made me extremely cranky.

And interestingly, there is evidence that viruses can carry DNA from
host organism to host organism and thus complicate the matter of
separating host and parasite. I have recently heard arguments that
it is viruses, not insects that are the most successful competitors
(co-operators?) with humans for domination of this planet...

Speaking of BEE-L, I offered my resignation as moderator today.  Maybe its the virus, but I'm sick and tired of the politics and undermined by my fellow moderators when I try to do what I consider to be my job.  Maybe because I'm a commercial beekeeper, I have different understanding, standards, needs and interests.  I've tried very hard to stimulate and maintain a high level of discussion on the list, but I think the idea is doomed.  

I've spent too much of my life on BEE-L and it's starting to look like a waste.   I've made some good friends, but the static is too high.  The list will go on fine without me and be whatever it wants to be.  Anyhow, as a result of my involvement with abeilles@fundp.ac.be , a French language list out of Belgium Enlargeand a visit this summer from a French beekeeper, I'm now working on a site to try to deal with the threat -- real or imagined -- of imidacloprid to beekeeping and natural pollinators.  It is coming well.  Here's a preview of the site.

Remember it is still quite embryonic. Stay tuned.

Today: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 30 gusting to 50 km/h. High 13.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Wind westerly 30 becoming light northwest overnight. Low minus 5.

Normals for the period:  Low minus 13. High minus 1

The Moon is Waxing Gibbous (74% of Full)

Thursday December 7th, 2000

The sticks for raising our lids are now ready and will be in Spruce Grove by 2 this afternoon, so one of the guys is going to run up to get them.  He'll take a load of honey too, since our trucker has been indefinite about what he wants to charge.  We have a standing rate for a semi load.  each time we send a load, they bill us for a higher amount.  We pay the quoted amount and note the quote on the stub, but then get a letter saying our rate has now changed prohibitively.  We call and ask what is going on and are assured that the original arranged rate still stands, then go through the whole thing again.  Who needs that?

This way we save the freight on the honey and on the wood, but spend a day's labour and the fuel.  We have 33 drums left, and we can only carry about 26 full drums of honey on one of our truck/trailer units, since they are one-tons, so we'll have to take the balance along later.

We have had Roger Parent up at Girouxville make things for us in the past and found him really good, reasonably priced and co-operative.  He is making these sticks for us and running them down to the honey co-op.

Matt returned about 7 from an uneventful trip to spruce Grove. We'll start stapling the strips in to adapt the lids tomorrow morning and the boys will go out to try a few lids and pillows on some nearby hives later in the day. We won't be here, since El & I plan to attend the Aventis Growers Meeting in Lethbridge,.

Now that we have made some new pillows using our new method, I am almost thinking that we need deeper strips than the ones I just bought. We are finding the pillows with double Kodel® are over 2 inches thick. We allowed 1" space with the new strips and the strips do sit on the pillows, so they may be adequate. We'll see.

We're still trying to design a simple system to keep our telescoping lids on the hives. We are using two bricks in the winter, since losing lids is such a serious matter, but would like to eliminate bricks come spring. We have some ideas, such as rubber flappers on the edges that toggle when the lid is pushed down, then have resistance initially when the lid is lifted.

A schematic illustration of our pillow systemHere is a cross-section view of how our lids and Pillows work.  The pillow sits directly on top of the frames.  We don't scrape the tops of the top bars much and actually encourage wax bumps to lift the plastic slightly so bees can go where they please and get into the frame feeders we keep in each box as well.  They usually do not place excess wax up there.  A main advantage of this system is that we can place patties on top of the frames and still have a good seal at the edges in spring. Click the thumbnail to enlarge.

The plastic and Kodel® make a really nice warm pillow.  The plastic has a low coefficient of heat and the bees do not find it cold.  They cuddle right up to it.

The drawing is actually was made to show an idea I have about how we could use rubber strips to hold the lids on and eliminate bricks. We plan to experiment with this right away.

Today: 40 percent chance of light snow this morning. A mix of sun and cloud this afternoon. Wind north 20 gusting 40 km/h. High minus 1.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Low minus 12.

Normals for the period: Low minus 14. High minus 2.

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