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Friday December 8th, 2000

Winter weather is now here.  We're in for a week or so of below normal temperatures according the the weather guessers.   Ellen and I are driving today to Lethbridge, a town  known for wind, and returning tomorrow.  The forecast is not the best.

EnlargeBefore we left in the morning, we got the guys started on stapling riser strips (shown left) into the lids for the individual wraps and tested the improved lids on the 12 hives at home.  They seem pretty good, but the new pillows with double Kodel (shown left) are thicker than we anticipated and we'll have to see how they look after they are in use for a few days.

Detail of taping and lid sealWe discovered that some of the wraps were starting to separate a bit at the back where they are taped.  The tape we were sold apparently does not do what Lowry's in Calgary promised.  They have not been getting back to us about it either.  Fortunately, we realised we had an adhesion problem half way through the manufacturing and started using a steam iron and pressing rag to set the tape better.  We also did tests in our home freezer and proved tape that was not ironed on just fell off at minus twenty when flexed, but the tape that had been ironed on stayed well attached.  After that we had ironed all the subsequent wraps.  The tape is holding properly on the wrap shown at the right

We assure ourselves that, in service, wraps are not flexed at minus twenty and should stay on until spring without problem, even if they do open up slightly.  We must be careful not to disturb them in the cold and hope that the tape adheres better over time or iron all the wraps in the spring.

This is an excellent example of why beekeepers should not just go whole-hog with a new idea.  We have proven repeatedly over the years that there are wild cards in every deck and at least half the time, they play against success.  We deliberately resisted temptation, did a limited trial, and did not keep the assembly line rolling after we had enough wraps for our test, even though we have extra labour now.  Until more results are in, we will just have to be patient.

We have pollinated hybrid canola for what is currently the crop science arm of Aventis in Southern Alberta since1998. They are excellent people to work with, and each year, after the season ends, they have a growers' meeting to discuss what has been accomplished in the year and what has been learned. After the business meeting, there is a dinner and entertainment. It is always fun. This year was as upbeat as always, even though sales are not good due to depressed canola prices, high inventories, and the GMO scare that is currently underway.  The take- home message of the meeting was that cutbacks in growing acres are forecast for the coming spring.

After the meeting, I noticed that it was the beekeepers and bee scientists who showed up in the bar to talk, while the growers went home.  Maybe it is because beekeepers are scattered and don't see each other every day, but maybe it is just the nature of beekeepers everywhere.  Aventis had kindly arranged hotel rooms for those of us who had travelled at all far, so we did not have to worry about driving in blowing snow.

By bedtime, there was an inch of soft white snow.  Castle mountain opens Wednesday.

Today: Sunny with increasing afternoon cloud. Snow developing towards evening. High minus 1.
Tonight: Snow and blowing snow. Wind becoming northeast 30 gusting 50 km/h in the evening. Low minus 15. High windchill near 1700 developing. Risk of frostbite.

Saturday December 9th, 2000

In the morning we awoke and had a leisurely breakfast. When we went down,  Neil and Jan and Les were the only beekeepers in the cafeteria.  Adony had driven Lynn to the airport early and the rest of us were either sleeping or gone.  We said our farewells again and kidded that we'd likely meet around town somewhere, but of course, we did not make any plans to do so since we were all headed home at that point. 

Lethbridge is a city of about 50,000 and has pretty good shopping.  El & I headed to Costco just to poke around a bit.  Later she decided she wanted to go to Chapters which is on the far corner of the town.  We arrived there and had just begun to browse when Neil walked up and said, "Hi".  They were sitting at a table in Starbucks having coffee.

We did a little more shopping at the Park Place Mall (which is pretty darn nice these days). and then left town. On the way home, we stopped to see Richard & Bonnie Cote and family, beekeepers we have known for years.  We enjoyed a tour of their new house built with a fabulous river view in Diamond City, then headed home.

Tonight: Mainly cloudy with occasional light snow. Wind easterly 20 km/h. Low minus 25. High windchill near 1800. Risk of frostbite.

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

Sunday December 10th, 2000

The Moon is Waxing Gibbous (100% of Full)
Sunrise: 8:35 am  Sunset: 4:34 pm

Here are some great online statistical resources:

On-line text book

Many, many stat links

Adony sent me this note the other day and I thought I would pass it on since stats is the science that allows researchers to draw conclusions from murky-looking data.  There are very definite rules as to where various analyses can be used. 

My pet peeve with  bee -- and other -- researchers is that  when I read a study, I often suspect that these very definite prerequisites for statistical analysis have not been met and that statistics have therefore been misapplied.  If that is so, then conclusions presented are not proven, even though they appear to be. 

The confusing thing for many people is that conclusions reached by bad science are not necessarily out of line with the truth or what people already 'know' to be true.  That is not the point.  The point is simply that if the prerequisites for statistical analysis are not met, then the conclusions -- right or wrong --  are not scientifically proven and moreover, the use of stats in such situations amounts is totally invalid and lends a deceptive aura of science to what is really just mucking around

If nothing is proven and all we have is still opinion and improperly controlled observation, then what was the point of spending the time and money?  Such studies only muddy the water and confuse people into thinking that the issue was scientifically studied -- when it actually was not.

On the topic of research, some bee research was presented at the Aventis meeting, since they are trying to get a clear understanding of the  pollination process and the factors that determine how and how well bees work in the crops.  There was some work on how far the bees penetrate into the crop and some work on the effects of colony size. 

My personal impression of what was presented  (and that of my wife and some others to whom I spoke) is that some of the research presented had enough obvious flaws to render it meaningless.  We saw the same problem with the work last year.

Unless an experiment is well planned, and unless the controls used in an experiment are carefully evaluated, comparisons are invalid.  Very often assumptions must be made going in, and very often, it becomes obvious in the middle of the project that the comparisons are not meaningful.  What then?

We have a bit of snow now, and the snowmobile is out and waiting, but we don't have enough snowpack to snowmobile or ski-jore yet. The picture is from last winter.  Although the days start to get longer soon, the coldest and snowiest part of winter starts in January.

Suddenly I feel free.  I can only assume it is because the wrapping is done -- right on time.  There is nothing pressing anymore.  We have some loose ends to finish up, but nothing pressing.  We're talking about going south for a while if we can find a suitable house-sitter.

I spent the day tidying around the house and playing around with the computer.

Today: Occasional light snow. High minus 21.
Tonight: 40 percent chance of light snow in the evening then partly cloudy. Low minus 26.

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

Monday December 11th, 2000

It's cold out there -- Minus 29.5 C as I write this at 5 AM Monday.  We had to shift our coal stoker into second gear Saturday night.

It looks as if it will be a cold week -- too cool to go skiing, I think.  Minus ten is okay, but anything around minus twenty gets uncomfortable.  I remember patrolling years ago at minus forty, but there were mighty few skiers on the hill on such a day and we got to spend quite a bit of time in the Ski Patrol shack.

Adony has said he will drop by today to discuss several projects.

This morning I spent a few hours doing a family newsletter to accompany outgoing Christmas cards.

We are thinking the new pillows are too thick and will have to fine-tune that design a bit before we go too far with production.

Today: Mainly sunny. Morning ice fog patches. High minus 19.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Low minus 23.

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

Tuesday December 12th, 2000

It's warmed up to minus 21 here at 6 AM. I'm off to the dentists and hope he gets  the tooth capped with no hassles.  It's been acting up a bit with the temporary cap and aching sometimes.  I think the cap does not seal out food and that sugar gets in there and ferments a bit.  The permanent cap should not have that problem.

Adony is heading back north.  He arrived after supper last might and we had a good visit.  Meijers were here as well, so we discussed the pros and cons of a number proposed research projects and potential involvement in them.  

In our part of the country, at least, researcher/beekeeper partnership in research is a fairly new idea.  Instead of the researchers just proceeding with their work using their own ideas and resources, beekeepers and researchers are meeting, designing projects, then working together on them.  The beekeepers supply the hives and much of the labour, vehicles, supplies, etc..  The researchers supply the expertise in the scientific area plus the trained observers and the analysis.  The beekeepers donate their resources and the projects are able to attract matching funds from government and private foundations for this 'sweat equity'.

The major bonus of this approach is the buy-in from all parties, since everyone has a say in how resources are allocated.  Many remember back to huge wastes of government funds under the top-down approach that held sway in the past and are determined that such abuses should never occur again.  With everyone involved in the decision making, and everyone sharing the expense, there is much less moral hazard in this approach. 

I spent the day paying bills and such work.  It is amazing how fast the paper piles up.

Today: Mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of flurries this morning. A mix of sun and cloud this afternoon. Wind becoming north 20 km/h. Temperature minus 15 falling this afternoon. Windchill near 1600.
Tonight: Mainly clear. Low minus 27.

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

Wednesday December 13th, 2000

The guys are still repairing lids and stapling in the risers.  we decided that our double pillows are too thick and will stick with single ones for now.  I'm getting deskwork caught up and working on the files.

It looks as if I'll be co-moderating BEE-L for a while longer.  We still have some differences in opinion about what is appropriate to the list, but the job must be done.  We've decided it needs a firm hand and plan to cut off some of the abuses a bit faster.

I'll continue to do most of my writing here on these pages though.  When I write to BEE-L, as a moderator, I have to rely on another to approve my posts and that means that days can pass sometimes before another moderator logs on.  By then the hand, having written, has long passed on and my comments have been made by someone else or they are out-of-date.

EnlargeI learned something interesting from my neighbour Paul H. recently.  He was talking about making splits in the spring:

It is necessary sometimes to be able to screen bees in the nucs if you are planning to move them.  It is also sometimes necessary to keep the bees confined for a while after arriving  at a new yard, especially if there is a discrepancy in the amount of brood or in the case where cells have been used instead of mated queens.  He uses the type of self-adhesive drywall mesh tape shown here.  Apparently the bees are able to chew their way out through the screen or remove it if you don't get back as soon as planned.

I got word this afternoon that there will almost definitely be pollination cutbacks beyond the 90% level and that perhaps more beekeepers will be bought out of their contracts.

Here's a fun link to Nick's Bee Beard page.

Today: Occasional light snow this morning then becoming mainly sunny. High minus 20. High windchill near 1600. Risk of frostbite.
Tonight: Partly cloudy this evening otherwise mainly clear. Low minus 30. High windchill near 1600.

Normals for the period:  Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Thursday December 14th, 2000

We're off to Calgary again this morning.  We spent the day shopping, not that we need much, but that we enjoy a mall in the way some enjoy a museum.  We got back around six, had supper and that was about it.

Today: Cloudy with light snow. Wind becoming southeast 20 km/h in the afternoon. High minus 18. High windchill near 1700. Risk of frostbite.
Tonight: Light snow. Wind shifting to northeast 20 overnight. Low minus 22. Windchill near 1700.

Friday December 15th, 2000

I was up at 3 AM and wrote to sci.agricuture.beekeeping on the subject of making tapers (see below).  The wind is definitely strong as forecasted, and although we are getting a few inches of soft snow, it will all be in drifts or in gullies.  So far it is not too promising for snowmobiling.

From: "Allen Dick
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture.beekeeping
Subject: Re: Taper molds

Tapers are not made in a mold, but rather by dipping.

Wicks can be had from a hobby shop, or you can use butcher's string or the cotton string used in carpenters' chalk lines (available as refills at a hardware store).

The wick purchased as such is theoretically superior, but I made a very nice living in the 60s using string.

As for the dipping, you need a tall can like a tomato juice can to melt your wax and dip in.

...CAREFUL! -- beeswax is quite flammable.

Dip the wick once while the wax is still not showing any sign of setting up and straighten it with your fingers.

Usually the string is then folded in half and hung over something (your finger?) so that two candles form -- one on each half.

As the wax cools in the can, dip and re-dip the string -- letting the wax set between dips -- and the candle will grow nicely around it.

Quit when you have what you want.


From: "Allen Dick"
Newsgroups: sci.agriculture.beekeeping
Subject: Re: Taper molds

Can candles made in molds really be tapers -- or just thin molded candles that resemble tapers? Maybe I'm just splitting hairs, or maybe the meaning of the word has changed since I studied candle-making many years back. Or, maybe the difference is technical and only interest candle makers or chandlers. Whatever the word 'taper' really means, you are correct, tall thin wax candles can be made using molds and quite a variety of special shapes are available, but, anyone choosing that route will have to 1.) obtain the molds and 2.) learn to use them. That is not always as simple as it sounds.

Basic traditional dipped taper-making is almost idiot-proof (other than the possibility of fire if the wax is heated carelessly), and is often possible for a beekeeper with a spare hour or two without leaving the house -- or spending a cent. This sounded custom-made for the person who enquired. Who knows, maybe he has already made a few. It can be that quick and simple if you don't have to obtain molds and other supplies.

As a point of technical interest: there is a huge difference between a properly made dipped taper and a molded candle. The dipping process naturally results in a perfect tapered, clean-burning shape due to the layering of the wax from subsequent dips, assuming that the correct wick is chosen. The process has the advantage that it makes a superior candle without requiring a mold. Likely this was a big consideration in times when people were poor, there was no mall nearby and everyone was using candles daily. Moreover, in fancy tapers, a harder and/or decorative wax can be used for the final dip -- or several dips to -- give special effects and to prevent guttering. That is not to say that a molded candle cannot be dipped after molding. Many are, but dipping provides a type of layering and tempering of the wax that gives a very different burning characteristic from a molded candle made of the same wax.

FWIW, my curiosity was piqued by the word 'taper', and I checked several dictionaries. The definition I found is: "A small, slender candle, a wax covered wick used for lighting candles, etc.", and the definition goes on to discuss the idea of tapering to a point. The method of manufacture of the candles is not explicitly mentioned.

While we are talking about tall thin candles -- even though the original writer does not plan to buy wax -- maybe I should mention that coloured or natural wax sheet, either flat or embossed by foundation rollers and usually in standard foundation sizes, are available at hobby shops such as Lewiscraft and bee supply stores. These sheets can easily be hand-rolled into tubular candles (or tapering candles by cutting the sheet to a triangular shape) and, for that matter, I have heard of them referred to as tapers as well. No heat (or talent) is required for making these candles and they can be made in a matter of minutes -- once the materials are obtained.


> Not strictly true. We do a very nice range of taper moulds
>  complete with a  twisted spiral. Try that with dipping.

> > Tapers are not made in a mold, but rather by dipping.
> > Wicks can be had from a hobby shop, or you can use
> > butcher's string...

My neighbour's flag is flying straight out in the wind at minus 22 degrees... and look at the drifts!I notice that these diary pages are getting quite a few hits lately and suspect that the improved navigation aids and absence of the popup index window has helped a lot.  No one is saying though.  I'm curious if the type I use is large enough for the important stuff (I know the weather text is small) and shows well on all browsers, so I'm open to Write me.

I D/Led a new newsreader -- XNews -- after reading a recommendation on sci.agricuture.beekeeping and am now trying it out.  So far it seems pretty  very good.  It's only 500K and free with no ads. It's made and distributed in the original spirit of the net.  I'm glad there are are still a few of us that think the net is something other than a get-rich-quick scheme.

I also got a freeware program to replace Winzip which ahs been annoying me.  It was originally freeware, but became overpriced shareware.  Of course I only found that out after loading an 'upgrade' which turned out mostly to be an 'upgrade' to pesterware from a its former incarnation as a useful, quiet ap. 

FWIW,  I find that shareware is typically overpriced compared to really intensive and complex software like operating systems, and often priced at about 200% of what I would gladly pay.  So I don't pay for them.  I look for alternatives.  There are some really good utilities out there at http://www.webattack.com/freeware/

I wonder on a day like this about people who believe that bees can survive without shelter in extreme cold conditions.  My neighbour's flag is flying straight out in the wind at minus 22 degrees.   "Cold doesn't kill bees, moisture does', is what they say.   They may be right about moisture killing bees, but exposed human flesh freezes in minutes (seconds?) with winds like I am observing right now.  How can a bee survive on the outside of a cluster in a direct wind?  I know they cannot for long.

I'm doing payroll and bonuses today and will use any excuse to procrastinate. I've got a new 20 gig drive to install sometime soon so I can backup properly and also installs of  FreeBSD and Linux to play with.  I am also putting off the next round of work on the imidacloprid problem, but had better get with it soon.  Some people pooh-pooh the new paradigm, but it is here:  Dinosaurs can learn.  Beekeepers can work together.

Sitting at a desk gets to me after a while, so I went out snowmobiling a bit this afternoon.   The drifts are deep, but there is not much snow on the level.  I got stuck in a drift for a while.  It felt good to heave that heavy old machine around.

We have been planning to go south for a few weeks (months?) , but after hearing that the pollination business is falling apart, we are thinking that we might have to stick around.   Bummer.   This is the first year in a while that we are ready to go.   So, we'll be home for Christmas. 

Not really.  We'll be at Fortress again -- shredding.  My favourite way to spend Christmas is at a ski hill.  It is so peaceful.  All the neurotics are at home trying to please everyone else and everyone is mellow on the hill.  I skied with six Santas at Sunshine Village one year, and almost no one else.  Gosh, maybe I need a Santa suit.

Today: Snow and blowing snow. Snowfall accumulations 3 to 6 cm. Wind increasing to north 40 gusting to 60. Wind diminishing to north 30 late this afternoon. High minus 20 then falling this afternoon. Very high windchill near 1900. Frostbite likely in minutes.
Tonight: Mainly cloudy. 40 percent chance of snow. Clearing overnight. Low minus 32. Windchill near 1700.

Normals for the period: Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Saturday December 16th, 2000

It's minus 22 again this morning.  This is the day I have promised to get the imidacloprid site done, so here goes...

Well, I spent the whole day on it and have it pretty well finished.  The only thing I gave not accomplished so far is to present a clear case against the chemical.  The necessary information is spread around the web and mostly in French.  I will have to do this soon, I guess.  For the meantime, there is an interesting discussion in French with English translation available and lots of references and references to the demonstrations with pictures.  Over 1,000 French beekeepers showed up for at least some of the demonstrations, so I suppose that indicates some serious concern.

Today: Periods of snow developing by this afternoon. Wind increasing to southeast 30 gusting 50 km/h. High minus 14. Very high windchill near 2000 this morning diminishing to 1700 in the afternoon. Frostbite likely in minutes.
Tonight: Periods of snow ending then clearing. Total accumulations near 5 cm. Wind becoming southwest 30 gusting to 50. Temperature rising overnight to minus 6.

Normals for the period: Low minus 15. High minus 3.

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