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The Bessborough Hotel where the Saskatchewan Beekeepers met in Early February

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Thursday February 14th, 2002
Last year on this date

A few days ago, after returning from Saskatoon, I noticed the bathroom scale said that I was up to 242 lbs.  That was a sobering observation, but today it says 237, and that is a bit better.  I'm up about 5 lbs from my summer low, and 8 lbs from my lowest ever in recent years. That's not too bad, but doing the convention circuit led to big meals and very little exercise.  This is also the time of year that I always put on weight. The Bessborough had a very good exercise room, but I had packed in a hurry and forgotten my swim suit and sweats.  That's my excuse.  I also had a very busy schedule at each convention, and when I had a few moments I wanted to be alone in my room -- especially since I paid over $100 for each room and was almost never there -- except to sleep.

Kenn and Joan Tuckey sent me these photos of a sampler designed to pick up bees from hives and dunk them into alcohol, ready for analysis.  Thanks.  Kenn is retiring a Alberta Provincial Apiarist this month, and we are really going to miss him.

I went to Calgary and did some shopping in the evening.  Ellen has a cold and a sore throat. I bought two hand-held battery-operated vacuums to try to build the type of bee catcher that is shown above and some groceries.

Allen's Links of the day: 

Today..Sunny. Wind west 20 km/h. High plus 4.
Tonight..Clear. Wind west 20. Low minus 1.
Normals for the period..Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Wednesday February 13th, 2002
Last year on this date

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In mid-afternoon yesterday, I ran down to look at the nearby hives and the pictures on the right are the result.  For some reason, I only shot three of the four hives in the four-pack I opened.  All were strong. The weaker-looking one is actually low down in the hive and flying from the lower entrance when disturbed.  The pallets on top keep the lids on in winter.   The railway, nearby, has kept a line of tanker cars on the siding for the past few months.  The cars serve nicely as a wind fence.

Paulo took two microscopes and several bee disease books home last night.  He caught some bees in a jar with some windshield washer fluid to kill and preserve them before he left, and he and his wife examined the bees for tracheal mites and also nosema.  Apparently they were unable to find anything, but the first try can be a little iffy.  I expect that they did a good job though, since Ana was a biologist in Brazil.

We're planning to take 300 bee samples of all our yards over the next month or so and test each sample for

  • varroa
  • tracheal mites
  • nosema

We wonder about AFB spores or other possible tests.  Write me?

We will have both Paulo and Ana checked out with a local expert and then -- after we have done our own samples -- take in outside samples and analyze them for other beekeepers for a reasonable fee.  I'm thinking that this will be a very important service, since tracheal may well start killing untreated bees over the next few months and beekeepers had better identify and treat them soon.

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind increasing to west 30 km/h. High plus 3.
Tonight..60 percent chance of evening flurries clearing overnight. Wind becoming north 30. Low minus 11.
Normals for the period..Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Tuesday February 12th, 2002
Last year on this date

We're washing out the extractors and getting everything shipshape for next summer now, so we will be able to get going without a panic in July.

Oene came by for supper and dropped off some supplies for the pollen patties that will be made next week. We are making them for ourselves and Meijers and can make some for others as well if desired.

Discussion on BEE-L has revealed new information on FGMO fogging that seems to indicate reasonable success and suggests that FGMO may join the other control measures we consider for controlling both mites.  An Interesting reference to thymol also came up on sci.agriculture.beekeeping.

>Can you tell us more about effective thymol methods?

I've been using 1 ounce thymol placed inside a paper bag "beer bag better known
at the stop n robs" You can also take a lunch bag and cut in half and staple.
We found are best hives this year are the ones we treated only with thymol.
I'm now experimenting with the mineral oil fogging on some hives I recently
bought this december from  someone going out. They are in horrendous shape and
infested. Its still too cold for the thymol so I thought what the heck and got
a fogger. I'm also planning next time I fog to dissolve some thymol in the
mineral oil. You can purchase thymol from www.thornes.co.uk they also have a
thymol gel pack available. We are looking into US suppliers but are having a
hard time since 9-11. Apparently most of the supply comes from the
pakistan-area.  They just keep telling us two more weeks.

Robert Williamson
Southeast Texas Honey Co.
P.O. Box 176
Vidor, Tx. 77670
" A simple and independent mind does not toil at the bidding of any prince"

Today..Sunny. Wind west 30 km/h. High plus 7.
Tonight..Clear. Wind west 30 km/h diminishing. Low minus 4.

Normals for the period..Low minus 14. High minus 3.

Monday February 11th, 2002
Last year on this date

Frank and Mike dropped by to deliver the extender patties they made for us and Mike and Atty (Mike's son) did a little snowmobiling.  We still have snow cover, but it has gotten thinner due to the warm weather

Matt K has been here fixing things.  The Beamer, the yellow diesel Swinger and the Blue truck are now running again, and the car is in the basement awaiting engine work due to the slipped timing chain.

Allen's Links of the day:  
In response to some discussion on sci.agriculture.beekeeping,  I discovered an excellent site for understanding and treating for varroa.  Of particular interest is the very clear and illustrated PDF on  The reproductive behaviour of Varroa in the capped brood of the honey bee.

Today..30 percent chance of snow this morning otherwise a mix of sun and cloud. Wind northwest 40 gusting to 60 km/h. High plus 2.
Tonight..Clear. Wind west 30 km/h. Low minus 6.
Normals for the period..Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Sunday February 10th, 2002
Last year on this date

I'm amazed at how many people read or have read this page.  For everyone who writes me or walks up to me at conventions and meetings, I am sure there must be many I never meet or who say nothing.  I used to have several hit counters on various pages, and some went over 100,000 a few times, but they were always getting reset, so I finally gave up.  I think that was a Good Thing.  Hit counters are an ego stroker for the most part, and I am doing this page for myself.  If others get a bang out of it -- and many apparently do -- that is a bonus. 

I haven't been keeping up with this diary lately the way I usually do, and I apologize to any diary addicts out there.   There are several reasons for this lapse.  One is that I have been traveling, and often on the road have had trouble getting good internet hook-ups.  Another is that I have been very busy.  Writing takes time and effort to do well, and what time I have had for writing has gone into an article for Bee Culture.  

I am trying to semi-retire and thought that writing for hire would be a cinch.  I toss off 2,000 words before breakfast many days, but when I actually got a commission, I found that I was suddenly uncertain how to write.  Writing for hire is hard work, not like the writing I do here or on the lists like BEE-L, sci.agriculture.beekeeping, or BiologicalBeekeeping.  When I'm writing here or on the lists, I don't care what people think for the most part -- although I try to be considerate of my employees and friends, and to avoid telling their secrets.  When writing for publication, the feeling is very different.  A writer must then consider the reader, the editor, and the magazine and try to guess what will satisfy all of them.  

I finished the article, and I have considered posting the article here, but am not sure my customer would appreciate me scooping myself here, so I may post it, but we'll see.

Another avenue I am considering to keep me busy -- and fed -- when we cut back further in our commercial outfit is practical beekeeping research.  I've been asking around to see how I can fund such work.  Apparently there are some possibilities.

Today.. A mix of sun and cloud. Wind south 20 km/h. High plus 5.
Tonight.. Partly cloudy. Wind increasing to west 40 km/h with gusts to 60. Low minus 6.
Normals for the period..Low minus 15. High minus 3.

Saturday February 9th, 2002
Last year on this date

Willie and Ursula and I left Saskatoon at about ten AM and arrived home at about four.  I was glad to be home.

Saturday: Mainly cloudy. Low minus 13. High 3.
Saturday night:  Risk of freezing rain Low -4C POP 30% 

Thursday & Friday 
February 7th & 8th, 2002

Last year on this date

The Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association convention had some of the same speakers that I had heard in Banff, but also covered some topics that had not been mentioned. The take-home message is that tracheal mites are proving to be a serious problem and that they are again causing winter losses.

At several meetings I have attended recently, the problem of tracheal mites has been come up.

Apparently, especially with the current varroa problems, tracheal is often being ignored, but is once again a very big problem that is causing a lot of winter loss.

Because tracheal is not a simple thing to see -- detection requires lab work -- tracheal is going undetected and tracheal losses are being blamed on other factors. Moreover, the effects of tracheal are additive to those of varroa, and levels that were previously thought harmless can now cause colony death. 10% used to be considered the threshold for worry. Now 5% can be a cause for alarm.

There is a lot of variability in a yard and if a yard sample comes in at 10%, that can mean that some hives are at zero, and others at 50% or more. 10% in an individual hive puts it at risk, especially if there are other pressures to consider like varroa, and the effects of varroa treatments on the bees..

I would advise all readers to get samples to a lab for tracheal tests ASAP if they have not been treating, and to begin to consider immediate treatment options. Although TM losses often occur in winter, they can continue into spring and one or two simple early treatments can save hives that otherwise may suddenly die unexpectedly.

For details on treatment options, search the BEE-L archives at http://www.honeybeeworld.com//bee-l/ for keys such as menthol and formic and tracheal. The blue shop towel is apparently one of the best, as is the grease and menthol cardboard insert method.

For formic acid, (another link) three 30 ml Dri-loc pad 65% treatments, applied a week or so apart, are required (unless a long term pad is used). If varroa is also a target, the treatment needs to go to six pads about seven days apart.

For menthol, two treatments of 20 ml spaced about ten days apart are necessary for good tracheal control (I know of no effect on varroa from menthol). The grease formulations work best because they ensure evaporation. Grease should be 20% to 50% of the mix. Ambient temperatures should be reaching 20 degrees C (70 degrees F) daily for good evaporation and assured success. Under cooler conditions, wrapped hives may be able to generate enough internal heat for successful treatment. Warning: menthol applied in mesh bags doesn't work well, and wastes expensive menthol. Don't use that method unless you know it works for you.

In cool weather, either formic or menthol treatment should be on the top bars. In hot regions (over 25 degrees C), bottom treatments may be preferable. Ask around locally.

After treatment, dead mites will be seen in trachea for the life of the individual bees, so re-testing will not be able to easily prove success. After the old bees have died (hopefully of natural causes), testing will show low levels -- if the treatment was successful.

Thursday: A mix of sun and cloud. Wind increasing to west 40 km/h gusting to 60. High plus 5.Low minus 9.
Friday: A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of flurries in the morning. Sunny in the afternoon. Wind increasing to north 30. High minus 3.

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

Wednesday February 6th, 2002
Last year on this date

Today I'm off to Saskatoon for the SBA meeting.  Since my car is out of commission -- the timing chain slipped in Canmore last week --  I'll be riding with Willie and Ursula.

The materials are being delivered to the shop for making extender patties today and I expect the supplies for the pollen patties will soon follow.

A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 30 km/h diminishing to south 20 this afternoon. High plus 4.
Partly cloudy. Wind south 20. Low minus 7.

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

Tuesday February 5th, 2002
Last year on this date

I finished writing a magazine article today and Matt K got the second Swinger repaired.  A service depot had apparently set up the injection pump out of time and Matt set it straight and also welded up a few cracks on the body.

A mix of sun and cloud. Wind southwest 20 km/h increasing to 30 gusting 50 this afternoon. High 9.
Partly cloudy. Wind west 30 with gusts to 60. Low minus 3.

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

Monday February 4th, 2002
Last year on this date

Extender1.png (16943 bytes)The days are warming up.  The sun rises higher in the sky and stays with us longer each day;  the shadows are less blue.

We reached thawing temperatures today.  I spent most of the day doing deskwork, like T4s and writing a article.

I also spent a few hours working on the extender patty formula sheet since we are about to begin production.  We have had such good success that we have decided to to reduce the size and dosage a bit so they are on a shorter time.

Mainly sunny. Wind diminishing to west 20 km/h. High plus 4.
Clear. Wind west 20. Low minus 2.

Normals for the period: Low minus 15. High minus 4.

Sunday February 3rd, 2002
Last year on this date

I've just returned from the Canadian honey Council Meeting in Banff. and am off for an afternoon of snowboarding at Canyon with Jean and Chris.

Lately, I have let the diary slide a bit, and will try to catch it up a bit when I have time.  For now, though, I'm busy writing an article that has been consuming my writing moments -- and living.

That is a Good Thing.


I went to Canyon and met Jean and Chris and also ran into my old friend Helmut, then returned home for supper.

Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to southwest 20 km/h. High plus 4.
Clear. Wind west 20. Low minus 7.

Normals for the period: Low minus 16. High minus 4.

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