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Checking and feeding wintered hives and replacing pollen patties

Sunday May 19th, 2002
Last year on this date       Last year on this date

Today..Increasing cloud. 60 percent chance of afternoon showers. Wind increasing to southeast 30 km/h. High 15.
Tonight..Cloudy with occasional showers. Wind southeast 30 diminishing. Low 5.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

We decided to take the whole long weekend to give the bees a chance to catch up and to get everyone rested up.  El & I drove to Calgary and back.  Meijers came for supper.

Saturday May 18th, 2002
Last year on this date       Last year on this date

img_010.jpg (42723 bytes)
Here's a picture of how we fill a frame feeder using a pressure nozzle. I just figured we need a picture here.

So much for taking a (long?) weekend.  A farmer phoned yesterday and needed some hives moved before his freshly seeded field comes up, so I decided to do it, and get it over with   I was up a five and out by 5:30.  It took me an hour and a half to get the truck and forklift ready, then and I drove to Delburne. 

I arrived at 8 and visited the farmer who needed bees moved then went to move the hives.  It was 8:20 when I got to the bees, and they were already foraging.  I smoked the hives several times and most stayed in after that, and the returning bees stayed in, so I was able to load with minimal loss.  I dropped the hives off at another location, then visited several farmers to deliver honey and some of our yards to look at the bees.  In every yard, there were young larvae in the thirds, but no sealed brood yet, so there is no rush to get out and separate the splits yet. 

I see the protein patties have mostly disappeared and we have had as many as four on a hive.  The grease patties are about half gone and the feeders are mostly empty.  The hives are quite heavy and I am wondering if we should be planning to put supers on as soon as the Apistan comes out.  That will be anytime from next week to four weeks from now, depending on the yard, since some locations were very late in getting treated.

As I visit yards, I'm looking at the empty places on pallets where the dead hives sat not long ago and wondering why they some hives are dead and the ones right beside them are prospering.  I wonder if the survivors are last year's splits, or the hives that produced well -- or the ones that did not.  I'm thinking a bar code machine and software would sure help.  I don't know any other way that we could gather data and analyze it to find these things out.

We notice that the strong hives tend to dwindle a bit in May unless they are split.  We used to just separate the two brood boxes and make two hives.  We found that the two halves did not dwindle in the same way.  It is something I've often noticed, but never understood.  This year we are trying adding thirds early to see if it is crowding that is the problem.  Another thing I cannot figure out is why bees do not flourish in some promising-looking areas of several square miles area, while they do well outside those areas.  Water?  I know in one yard, we did very well for years, but after they made a new dugout to water the cattle , the bees did miserably, and we had to move them out.

I spent an hour or more cleaning up an old site we had used several years back.  I had sent people out to clean it up several times in the past, but somehow it never happened.  Now it is done.

Today..Increasing cloud. 60 percent chance of afternoon showers. Wind increasing to southeast 30 km/h. High 15.
Tonight..Cloudy with occasional showers. Wind southeast 30 diminishing. Low 5.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

Friday May 17th, 2002
Last year on this date       Last year on this date

It's 3 degrees and breezy this morning.  I started the day at 6:30 by dumping the dip tank and refilling it with fresh water and getting the torch going.  If the boys are going to finished the job today, they need an early start. I think a tank which allows the excluders to stand vertical would be better, since the junk would slide off without having to tap them, but, other than a drum, can't think what to use.

We have a business meeting first thing this morning and then I have to see how the splits are coming.  Weather looks better  for the weekend, so by Tuesday, they should be ready.

In the morning Bill came down to do some business.  We settled up accounts and loaded a forklift for him. 

Dennis and Paulo tidied and organized trucks to be ready for next week.  Kenton and Tim continued to clean excluders.  As the morning passed, the wind grew stronger to the point where working outside became less and less pleasant, so around noon, I announced that we could quit for the weekend. 

Everyone has tomorrow and Sunday off, but everyone is on call for Monday.  We'll see what we decide.

We went to P-Ss for supper and along the way stopped at Cyril's yard.  We watched while bees flew freely to and from from all hives in the midst of a light drizzle.  They were using the top entrances and I wondered what they would be doing if they had to walk down and fly out the bottom. 

I lifted a few lids and although the bees are not fully occupying the thirds -- it is cool out --  they look great.  I would love to see a band of honey along the top, but that is not yet happening.  I checked for brood yesterday at home and found one hive in five that had two frames with sealed brood in the third.  A few more days and the rest should catch up. 

We stopped at Olhausers' on the way home around 8:30 and looked into the hives.  They are looking very nice and I'm very happy with the wraps we used this last winter, since they are still on the hives, but we have been able to feed and medicate without difficulty.  I noticed the feeders are dry, so another feeding round would not hurt in the least, although empty feeders are nicer to handle when lifting down splits.

Today..Increasing cloud. Wind increasing to southeast 30 km/h. High 12.
Tonight..Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Wind southeast 30 diminishing. Low zero.
Normals for the period..Low 4. High 18.

Thursday May 16th, 2002
Last year on this date       Last year on this date

We continue with below normal temperatures, but at least they are closer to normal and there is no snow on the ground this morning.  I guess we'll continue cleaning excluders, tidying up, and check to see if the splits are ready for us.  It's looking as if we may take a long weekend, since the splits are slow in getting ready.  The queens are slow coming up.  We may have to split manually.  That is a lot of work.

Today we repaired four more ribs in the quonset.  That leaves two more, but these had to be done without delay, since the strong winds of the past days had blown some plywood against the north wall.  That had knocked the ribs in towards the centre and the skin was loose as a result.  Loose skin can flap if the wind gets strong, and flapping can destroy a tarp in minutes.  We designed an ingenious welded brace piece that just taps on with a hammer, and had the building repaired in jig time.  I'll have to brace all the remaining ribs, since they are only held by tack welds and that is what failed on the ones that gave problems.

Kenton and Tim continued to clean excluders today.  It took all day and will likely take all tomorrow too.  This morning was slow.  The water was not even hot until eleven because no one took charge of making the torch work properly, or for shielding the setup from the wind.  However, they have taken over responsibility for the job now, and are looking for ways to get it done quickly.  I've promised a weekend if they complete it by Friday night.  We had been hedging on having a weekend since we are waiting on weather, but it is now looking as if we can take two days at least, assuming we get our chores done.

We also mixed up another tank of sugar syrup and did some tidying.  Dustin has been a big help and pleasant addition to our team, but he has to return to his regular job for a few weeks.

Ellen saw one tiny dandelion today.

Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind increasing to southeast 30 km/h. High 11.
Tonight..Mainly clear. Wind southeast 30 diminishing. Low minus 1.
Normals for the period..Low 3. High 17.

Wednesday May 15th, 2002
Our wedding Anniversary
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

The result of a strong north wind and wet snow.
Hives stacked and ready to load.

I awoke at 5 to see snow on the ground and find the wind still blowing, but at least it has backed off a bit.  I'm glad I checked and put those lids on last thing last night.  We are loading bees this morning.  The second picture shows the hives stacked waiting for the truck to drive into the centre for loading.

I was out at 7:30 stacking up the hives and by about 10, Arthurs were on their way with two of our trucks.  They'll be back tonight for another load and then that is all done.

We simply must find a better way to keep the hives covered.  We had two bricks on all winter, but went to one brick in spring, to reduce the handling. Maybe we should have stuck to two.  If  the guys would be more careful about putting the bricks dead centre on the lid, that might help too.  At any rate more lids were off again this morning.

Putting the excluders into boiling wter for cleaning
Removing the clean excluders.

We had thought of giving the crew the day off due to weather, but found more than enough jobs for everyone.  Dennis is at home, sick.  Paulo is doing jobs around the yard and loading the third truck  Tim is cleaning excluders and Kenton and Dustin each went separate ways to check for lids off in yards. 

I must say that these FRS radios are amazing.  We have probably saved the cost of them ($35 each) in reduced guessing and the resulting mistakes that happen, in better planning and feedback, and in time spent walking out and back to consult.  Also, the radios add a feeling of cohesion to the group, since everyone knows what the others are doing.  We've had them for only a week or so!

For the first time in many years, we decided to clean our excluders.  They are getting plugged with wax; and there is enough wax on them to reduce air and bee flow significantly.  I've always said that the bees will move any wax that is in their way, but we have not used much foundation in the brood chambers lately and they may have no place to put the surplus wax.  Another problem is that the wax build-up makes it hard to just slip an excluder into a hive.  The excluders need to be thin when we slip them in between splits and the main hive, otherwise, the burr catches on things or holds the super up, leaving a crack. 

We got out our pallet dipping tank and filled it with water and excluders (six stacks) and put the 300,000 BTU propane torch under it.  After about two hours, the whole thing started to boil and then Tim pulled out the excluders, gave them a tap to knock off cocoons and junk, and stacked them up.

Ellen & I slipped off to Three Hills for a few moments to go to the bank, get groceries, and pick up El's contact lenses.  When we got back at 5:30, the bees were starting to fly off the loaded truck and we moved it to where the hives had bee located in order to catch any stray bees.  There were only 100 or so, but the potential was there for more to fly if the sun kept warming things up.  We had decided to put the bees on the truck while our crew was still working (it was cool and overcast and predicted to stay that way) and before Arthurs got back for the next trip, so they could just turn a key and drive a way.  After all, they had a 3 hour drive ahead of them, and then unloading.

It never fails: whenever we assume that the weather will stay cold and that the bees won't fly, things change.  I remember installing hundreds of NZ packages during the day, years back.  The packages looked poor and we were anxious to get them onto comb ASAP.  The weather was forecast to be dismal and we counted on the bees staying in, so we proceeded to install.  After lunch that day, the sun came out and the temperature soared.  We had huge clumps of bees on one tree and massive drifting between hives, since the bees and queens had not had time to settle in.

After that, things got hectic.  A woman came to get a burning barrel, George showed up unexpected to get some queens and chat, some young fellows came to buy a holiday trailer, Arthurs came back with our truck to get the third load, which was sitting waiting for them, the phone rang and some friends needed to talk...  Anyhow, we got it all sorted out and that how our 34th wedding anniversary ended.

Today..Rain mixed with snow this morning then a 30 percent chance of showers. Snowfall amounts less than 2 cm. Wind northwest 40 gusting 60 km/h diminishing to north 20 this afternoon. High 6.
Tonight..Clearing this evening. Wind north 20 diminishing. Low minus 2.
Normals for the period..Low 3. High 17.

Tuesday May 14th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Another busy day.  For some reason, business gets put off and put off until we are in the middle of the spring bee season, then it competes for time.  Anyhow, we have three business sessions today, each with different parties.  Two are done, another happens this afternoon and evening.

Paulo is finishing the brood chambers and Kenton is finishing loading the supers.  Dustin came to work today.  He can come one week a month when he is off his regular job.  He is a student and has work in his field, but will help us when he can.

blue_006.jpg (41368 bytes)Blue

For Tracheal Mites in Honey Bees

blue_007.jpg (34569 bytes)

New rolls set into mixture

blue_008.jpg (33614 bytes)

Completely saturated

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A roll stacked for draining.

Finished rolls in bags on left.

We made up blue shop towels this morning, and here are some useful numbers.

  • We used 10 kg (10,000 g or 22 lbs) of  Crisco and 10 kg (10,000 g or 22 lbs) of menthol crystals in a batch. Menthol comes in a 25 kg cardboard drum, Crisco comes in a 20 kg box.

  • Everything fits into one standard washtub which we heated with a torch. to melt the Crisco (vegetable shortening). To avoid evaporating the menthol, we used little or no additional heat after melting the grease.

  • When we then added the menthol, we stirred until it was dissolved.

  • We made 29 one third sized rolls of treatment.  Each roll has 55 sheets. 

  • That means that we made 29 x 55 = 1,595 sheets using 10,000 grams of menthol

  • That calculates out to be 10,000 / 1,595 = 6.26 grams of menthol per treatment.

That is a lot less than some people think necessary, but it has worked well for us.

Here are some more numbers:

  • Each treatment roll is 1/3 of a towel roll.

  • Each 1/3 roll weighed 3.5 oz (99g) before soaking

  • Each 1/3 roll weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces (823g) after soaking.

Other blue shop towel pages (1)  (2)  (3)

Disclaimer: This method seems to work for us, but we can't guarantee that it works for anyone else.

dust 002.jpg (139059 bytes) We are experiencing an old-fashioned Dirty Thirties style dust storm.  The picture was shot at 4:30 PM.  Sunset is around 10

The people who are taking our 100 packages came at 6, and we waited to see if the wind would die.  It did not and they headed off to stay in Three Hills for the night.  We'll try again in the morning.  I hate to start and drive machines in a dust storm.  It wrecks filters and engines.

After they left, and just before bed, I drove around the yard and put lids back on several hives.  Even with a brick, some lids blew off in the gusts.  I could see my breath in the air.  It was cold, and still extremely windy to the point that opening the truck door was difficult.

Today..Increasing cloud with 60 percent chance of showers. Risk of an afternoon thunderstorm. Wind increasing to west 30. High 17.
Tonight..Cloudy with occasional showers. Wind northwest 40 with gusts to 60 diminishing. Low plus 2.
Normals for the period..Low 3. High 17.

Monday May 13th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Hooray!  We are going to beat the normal temperatures today for the first time in quite a while, and it looks as if we be around normal for a few days at least. 

It'll be a busy day today.  I have about ten times more to do than I can manage, so I'll have to be selective.

  • I was to see the accountant and, while in town, get some blood tests this morning.  I'll cancel

  • We have to start slipping in excluders so that we can start adding queens to splits on Wednesday or Thursday. 

  • We have to finished getting the packages ready to go, and make sure two trucks are ready

  • We have some brood chambers to go through.

  • We need to make up blue shop towel menthol (2) rolls

  • Round three is not quite complete, so someone has to do that. 

  • I have to order more queens. 

  • I have some bills to make up and bookkeeping to do

  • I have to go west to pick up some equipment this afternoon

  • My back is slightly sore and if I can fit it in before it gets worse, a chiropractor might be a good idea.

I doubt that we'll get a long weekend.  We'll be lucky to get a two-day weekend.  Once we get past this splitting and re-queening, though, we have some hive moving and supering to do, then we only have to get the extracting facility ready, and then we should be ready to extract.  Of course, there are a million other little jobs that need doing, but we should be able to relax our schedule a bit.

Kenton and I went out to separate the thirds with excluders (round number four), but found that, although there are lots of bees in the thirds, the queens have just started up there, so it is a several day wait until there is enough to take a split off.  That reduces the pressure, but we still have lots to do and lots of queens waiting to go in.

Dennis finished round number three today.  We now have 554 thirds on.  As soon as the queens get up there and there is a little sealed brood, we will take it off as a small split.  We had thought we could start today, but the weather has been cool and the queens have been more reluctant to go up than I anticipated.  We also use any weak colony as a third now, using an excluder under it. Sometimes the top queen survives, often she does not.

Some years we just split every strong hive in half, and I think we could have done that this year, but the hives are stronger than we expected and we were taken by surprise.  We really did not expect such strength.  As long as the hives don't stagnate (peak) or swarm, leaving them extra strong should pay off in more honey.  We want to make sure though that we make up our winter losses and then some early in the season. 

Winter losses: If I am reading my notes correctly, we put about 2,405 double hives into winter and have about 2,021 alive right now.  That means roughly 84% survival, although we had 157 of that number still shown as 'weak' a week ago.  Including that 157 in the losses, we would then get 78% survival and 1,864 good hives at this point.

To get back to 2,500, we need 636 splits.  That is 82 more than we have now.  Not all splits will succeed in accepting a queen, and we can expect a 10% attrition in total hive numbers by fall, so ideally, we need to add another 250 splits to that number, to total an ideal 886 splits.

I doubt we can do that, so we'll likely just do what we can, and if the numbers decline we'll make them up with packages next spring.  Besides, we only have another 500 brood chambers not in use currently, so we'd have to make some more or run some singles, and singles are a problem to winter for us.

Paulo worked on brood chambers and Kenton loaded a truck with supers.  I put the batteries back into D4, since we will need all our trucks this week.  Two are dedicated to feeding, two are going north with some bees, one has the water tank, and that leaves only one and the 4x4 for other tasks.

blue_002.jpg (41851 bytes)After I got the truck set up, I drove out to see an old friend who had a small extracting line for sale, and I picked it up for some of the beginning beekeepers we are helping get started.  It is nothing fancy, but it is cheap and it is a start.  He had some hive equipment too, but there was some AFB scale in it and I turned it down.  We have now gotten to where we seldom, if ever, see AFB.  We like it that way.  I suppose I could irradiate the boxes, but he has cleats on everything and I doubt that the supers would fit into the cardboard boxes used to hold them and contain debris on the irradiation line. That is the problem with AFB contaminated equipment: the supers look perfect, and so do the brood frames that are not full of scale, but they harbour a serious and deadly disease that takes careful management. 

I notice the farmers are in the middle of seeding.  Most years they are done by now. Still no dandelions, but tons of pollen are coming in.

I never did get to the chiropractor, but my back is better.  My weight was 233 this morning.  Activity burns off pounds.


Link of 

the Day

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h. High 24.
Tonight..Clear. Increasing cloud overnight. Wind becoming west 20. Low 8.
Normals for the period..Low 3. High 17.

Sunday May 12th, 2002
Mother's Day
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Ellen, Frank, Mike, and AttyI was up at 6 and making breakfast when Mike, Frank and Atty rang the bell.  We loaded 3 pallets of bees onto one of the trucks and they left to unload before the heat of the day.  They'll bring back the wraps, pallets and the truck later.

Finally we are expecting some hot weather.  24 degrees is 75 degrees F and if the warm spell actually arrives and holds a bit, we can expect to see lots of good brood in the hives before long. Night temps are still predicted on the low side, but here's hoping, and we hope for a week with no wind.

I got the notes up-to-date just now and found we have 501 splits made on top of the hives.  It's just a matter of inserting excluders and waiting several days so that finding where the queen is will be easy, then taking them away and adding queens where necessary.  We will likely get at least 100 more that we have to make to keep the hives from swarming.  The bees are flying from top and bottom holes in the triples today.  We are going to have all our brood chambers in service very soon, it appears.

I also got some accounting caught up this afternoon.

Still no dandelions, but the poplars are about over and the crocuses are in business.

Meijers came for supper and we worked on their computer.  Maybe now they can reach this page.

Today..Sunny. Wind light. High 18.
Tonight..Clear. Wind south 20 km/h. Low 3.
Normals for the period..Low 3. High 17.

Saturday May 11th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

Everyone is here this morning and we have two main jobs:

  • mix some syrup (we bought some bulk sugar and it is in the way) and

  • go through the package hives. 

We sold the package hives and need to ensure they are equalized, queenright and otherwise ship-shape.  I didn't really want to sell these hives, but we had talked to some people 'way back in February, and they came through with the cash, so we have to come through with the bees.  I don't know if we have to legally or morally, since they did not give us a deposit and we didn't hear back for a long time, but we try to be nice guys.  With current honey prices, we would likely make almost as much from these bees as we are getting paid for them and the hives combined.

We managed to mix a tank of syrup to use up some of the sugar we have plugging up the warehouse.  We used 600 gallons (Imperial) of water and 6000 pounds of sugar.  Halfway through mixing, the gasoline powered pump gave out.  It's a 3-1/2 HP Briggs & Stratton driving a 2" pump that we have used for many years.   I guess we should have changed the oil more often.  October was the last change.  It seems to be seized.  B&S are famous for that: seizing if the oil is not changed very frequently. 

I phoned around and wound up driving to Trochu to get a new 5HP Honda powered unit for $ 445.  It started first pull and is running as I write this.  It'll run until the gas tank is empty.  By then the syrup should be about mixed.

We now have four FRS radios and are learning how to use them.  They certainly do help keep in touch and to co-ordinate what we are doing.  It makes the work around the place more fun. 10-4!  Roger That.

We managed to check all the queens, but did not equalize much.   We used about ten queens.  About five were missing and about five were drone layers.  Out of 100 packages, that is pretty much par, but most of the packages are OK, considering the spring we have had and the fact that pollen is just beginning.  We also pulled out the frame feeders and replaced them with heavy frames, since the feeders have syrup in them and we were concerned that bees would drown while being moved next week.  What with the pump breakdown interruptions, we were all busy until 5:30.  I'd planned to have a short day, but the crew is willing and we all had a good time.

I just calculated the weights that Dennis radioed in and found that we had used only 500 Imperial gallons of water (5000 pounds) and 6000 pounds of sugar.  No wonder that the syrup seems a bit thicker than I expected.  I figure 55% by weight -- and we are mixing with cold water!  (6000/(5000+6000) X 100)

Mixing Syrup. Click to enlarge

Here's a picture to show that an elaborate mixer is not needed to make 900 gallons of 55% sugar syrup in a few hours.  We just put in the (cold) water, then lifted the sugar up with the forklift and stood on a drum to dump sugar into the tank as fast as we could while the pump ran steadily -- except for having to quit a while when the pump was broken down and being replaced.  We are sucking out of the top, several feet off the bottom while mixing, since dry granulated sugar would plug the pump otherwise. 

A $150 1/2 HP HD submersible sump pump hung off the bottom of the tank with a down-directed stub pipe on the outlet would have done the job just as well, but we needed a gas powered transfer pump anyhow, for use away from home.

El & I were to go to supper with P-Ss in Olds, but we were finished too late to go.  We're happy to sit home and putter.  Of course we have no satellite TV any more, but it doesn't seem to matter. (Nonetheless, we are going to reconnect some time).

We checked for nosema some time back and found none, but after this awful spring, I am wondering if we should look again or use some fumigillan.  Our bees actually look pretty good for the most part.  I don't know.

Our wraps are still on all the hives and I have no plan to take them off -- yet, anyhow.

Today..Mainly sunny. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High 15.
Tonight..Mainly clear. Wind northwest 30 diminishing. Low plus 1.
Normals for the period..Low 3. High 17.

Friday May 10th, 2002
Last year on this date       Year 2000 on this date

It's lovely today and finally feels like spring.  There are no dandelions, but the bees have been working the poplars for a week now.  The guys are off to the north to continue this round.  We are on schedule, but we will all work tomorrow to make sure we stay that way. 

We have over 300 thirds on now and the bees are using them.  Queens come today, so I have to drive to Red Deer to get them later today.

Frank and Mike came by this morning to look at their bees today -- I owe them 12 hives for some work they did for us.

We completed a sale that has been pending a year now today, and then I headed to Red Deer to get the queens.  We got 200 Kona carniolans.  They look very good -- at least the box seems fresh and the attendants very young.  We will look at the queens themselves tomorrow.. 

Along the way, I picked up a new syrup nozzle for Paulo and Kenton at the UFA and dropped it off on the way by.  The one they were using had a broken trigger pivot.

Today..Sunny. A mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. Wind becoming west 20 km/h. High 12.
Tonight..Clearing this evening. Wind west 20. Low minus 1.
Saturday..Sunny. Wind northwest 20. High 15.
Normals for the period..Low 2. High 16.

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