Ten Styrofoam hives and a 20 litre jug of n-butyric anhydride
I'm now have counted 39 messages from people who read the diary and it seems that over 80% say they read it every day. (Wow!). Many of the feedback emails contain nice, well written comments describing the readers themselves and their beekeeping. I might quote a few here, after removing any identifying information, of course.
That number is pretty amazing to me, especially considering that there are likely as many or more who have not, and never will, respond. Of course, I don't mind. I write the diary primarily for myself, and sharing it is just something that makes it more fun. The notes I get back from readers with suggestions and comments are a real bonus and often very helpful. One good example is the information on honey prices people have been sending me, and the comments on equipment and methods. Keep the info coming, folks, and thank you.
We'll be pulling honey and extracting today, and hopefully we've hit our stride now. The guys got two good loads from the field yesterday and the extracting crew is now doing a tank a day. There are a few yards that got missed on the first round -- there wasn't enough to make pulling worthwhile. Those hives had three and four supers each plus broods, and we are taking them down to 2 high -- just the brood chambers. As the picture shows, many stayed wrapped all summer.
The boxes from those yards are now coming in very heavy and fully packed. I wonder if the bees fill the supers better if the boxes are only pulled once. There was a Beaverlodge study some time back showing that the best quality and quantity comes with two pulls in as summer, not more. I wonder; there are those in Saskatchewan who swear by making a pull once a week and taking off the honey as nectar. They get 300 pound crops, apparently, but then again, many subscribing to that philosophy went broke a few years back. Go figure.
Today..Mainly sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h. High 25.
I have little time for writing this morning. I have to get an extractor working properly first thing.
I got a little background behind the honey prices: Apparently Argentine honey prices -- after the duty -- landed at US ports is setting the top of the market. I heard that Argentine white costs $US1.63 landed and duty paid at US ports currently and that most of the crop is sold, although the problems in that country have hampered sales.
If that is true, then $US1.63 is the benchmark. I am also hearing that the US clampdown on the Chinese honey leaking into the USA via Thailand and Vietnam caused the latest bump in price. No one can see where enough honey is going to come from to ease the supply shortage and many packers are afraid that they will not have enough to make it into spring.
Here's an added wrinkle: reportedly, Australian beekeepers have additional incentive now to produce honey and are gearing up to produce as much as they can. Selling package bees into export may not have a high priority next year, so there may be a package bee shortage again this coming spring in Canada.
The same happens here. We had to have a resolution at our co-op AGM a few years back to reinstate the membership of a former chairman of that same co-op for selling so much of his crop outside the co-op that he accidentally failed to ship the 5,000 pound minimum required to maintain membership! He was counting on the honey from some wax being melted at the co-op to make the minimum and it fell a few pounds short. It was the year before he retired, and he needed the cash price, and he just could not take a chance that the co-op would be able to manage to give as a good price as the open market.
1-763-658-4193 is a Midwestern US honey price hotline: I've been given this number from several sources, so I feel okay in giving it out here. I gather it is not a secret. I called it up a few minutes ago. The prices are a week old, but $1.40 (US$) seems to be in the range. If you know what current prices are, please share. If you send me anything that is confidential, say so clearly, and I'll keep it under my hat, but having a variety of background info helps me sort out the wheat from the chaff.
This evening, I took a look at my 'pet' hive, the toolbox hive that has had no treatments of any sort. I haven't wrapped it in winter, it got no menthol in spring, and no Apistan®. I also did not pull any honey from it -- I wouldn't know how, even if I wanted to. I have not treated it to prevent AFB or EFB, but it thrives. If any hive should have AFB, this is the one, since it gets to rob supers coming and going from the home yard. Anyhow, I could not see any signs of varroa on the bees and the bees have filled the box to the point where I can't open it any further than in the picture without ripping comb. I know it is exposed to varroa, since last year I saw a mite on a bee at the entrance.
Today, we hired two new guys: Clarence and Raymond. Raymond is Marvin's brother and can work part-time. Clarence is an aviation student in Three Hills and can work Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. They all went together to Willows, a huge yard and pulled it, then went to Cyril's and did that one too.
I had not intended to leave as many hives at Willows as I did, but when moving time came, conditions were so dry that I was afraid that I would kill, or seriously damage, hives by moving them to locations where they might not find water before the middle of their first day on the new sites. In retrospect, leaving them at Willows seemed to be a good decision, since Willows turned out to be a very good yard and the boxers were very heavy.
Meijers came for supper
Today..Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to southeast 20 km/h.
It's another nice day. Marvin and Paulo pulled Meglis, a another big yard, and came back early. El and I left in the afternoon to go to Calgary, just to get a way. The pressure is getting pretty high. It looks as if we will be extracting into October again.
We need a storage place where we can hold the supers waiting extraction so that the field guys are not held up if extracting slows, so we were looking at temporary structures.
Marvin took the day off. He has an eye swollen shut and also needs to rest a bit. Pulling honey is hard work for someone who is young and in good shape. It takes a few days to get used to it and it is a good idea to take some rest days to heal up in between sessions. Paulo and Clarence are off to pull some local yards. Today is cooler and there is wind predicted; I'm thinking that I should have built some wind boards for a day such as this. I didn't -- yet.
It's becoming very apparent that we need a large hot room to accumulate the supers that we can pull faster than we can extract. There are a number of pluses: the longer the supers are stored, the fewer bees stay on the combs. Another advantage of a large hot room is that supers held at 85 to 90 degrees F will not granulate, and over time, may actually liquefy, depending on the honey's sugars profile. Moreover, if humidity in the room is controlled properly, the honey in the very dry combs (<15.2% moisture) that are otherwise hard to extract, will pick up moisture so the honey will run out better, while the wetter honey in other combs will dry down to a more appropriate level.
We decided to buy another Dakota Gunness and I'll pick it up tomorrow. Whether or not we'll use it this year, I'm not sure, but the unit is fairly new and reasonably priced, so I'm assuming that it cannot be too big a mistake.
Dennis and I moved the rest of the drums out of the basement and into storage this afternoon. We're both tired, but have work tomorrow. Dennis pumping drums, and me driving to get the Gunness.
I went to Three Hills to meet Walt L. for turkey supper at the Coffee Break.
Today..Mainly cloudy. Sunny this afternoon. Wind increasing
to north 30 gusting 50 km/h. High 17.
We've extracted 61 pounds per hive now. The late season kicked in and there is quite a bit of honey out there still. I used to always leave a third on until September 20th, but have pulled about 366 hives to two high now to get a start on the fall work. There is still a flow on in some areas, including some that looked as if they would never come back from the drought. I was talking to a beekeeper near Edmonton and he was pulling down to two broods only, but stopped because there was so much honey coming in over the past few days.
I think we have been influenced by our neighbours to end the season a bit too early. We still have 4,200 supers in the field and by the looks of it most are at least half full. They are tired this year and impatient to finish up. Nonetheless, there is always the rush to finish later if we do not at least start now, so we have to start getting ready for winter some time.
We are not seeing much in the way of mites, since we treated in spring, but need to get out and look more. We did not finish the menthol in spring either, so we need to make sure we get that done.
I guess we are right on track compared to last year, but somehow it does not feel that way. The drought in July slowed us down a bit and lowered our expectations and I think we needed to make a faster first pulling round. There did not seem to be much there for a long time, then the flow hit in August. We always have a real problem with staff continuity at the end of August. I suppose we should be used to it by now, and maybe just shut down completely at Labour Day for a week before that date, students are pretty well all we can find, but after labour Day, the quality changes and we get adults who are serious. We need to start advertising widely on august 25th and assume we will be short-staffed until about the 7th of September.
This year, Ellen -- against her better judgment and against my adamant advice -- decided, in the dying days of August, to hire and train two youngsters who obviously would be borderline at the job at best and who could stay for ten days at most. She spend days trying to train them, and in the end one quit and the other had to be fired. They left quite a mess that others had to clean up, and they used up a lot of our scarce psychological resources. One whined all the time she was here and made trouble whenever Ellen turned her back.. Hiring them was a huge mistake and keeping them as long as we did was a much worse one.
Such experiences taint our enjoyment of our job and make us suspicious of people. There is nothing to make a person a more positive and beneficent employer than competent, willing, positive staff. Bad employees, kept on the payroll, and not discharged promptly, can make even the best boss cranky. Bad experiences, unless carefully analyzed and properly managed and understood can lead to inappropriate conclusions and apprehension in the future. This bad hire was a direct result of not understanding and accepting the seasonal nature of the job market and trying to 'push on a string'. A bit more advertising and a bit more patience were what was required.
We're hitting pockets of granulation again this year, only worse, and I guess we have to get the first crop of honey off faster. The problem is that to get a good crop, we have to super the hives early with at least 3 supers (plus 2 broods = 5 high) and the better hives need to be 7 high. If a good early crop does not materialize in July or early August, like this year, then it is spread through all those supers because the bees 'stovepipe' up the middle. They may even cap the partially filled combs. Pulling and extracting this is slow, and barely practical since so much equipment has to handled for so little honey in the drum. Then, when the second crop cuts in, the bees will finish the combs; but, if there was a pocket of rape in the first crop, granulation is a serious problem and combs may be hard to uncap and may blow up in the extractor.
In the afternoon, I headed up to Walter Dahmer's to get the Dakota. Dahmers run around six thousand hives, with about a third on pollination.
We had a pleasant supper, toured his facility (right) and chatted, then I headed home, arriving around 1 AM.
Saturday..Sunny. Wind light. High 24.
I slept in; staying up after midnight generally tires me out the next day. Then I played at my desk for most of the day.
I called the Midwest hotline (1-763-658-4193) and found it is now updated as of the 15th. $US1.50 seems to be the offer price these days, and apparently some Argentine has been going for over $US1.70 at the dock. (That is about $2.34 and $2.65, respectively, in Canadian funds). This hotline is a good service to all beekeepers. I hope that everyone checks the current market before selling, so as not to undercut the market -- or lose out.
Bert came for supper.
Today..Mainly sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h. High 26.
Clarence and Paulo pulled two yards. Our crew continued to extract. I set up the Dakota Gunness, outside on the lot, to look at it and check it out. The spring action drive pulley was seized, but after disassembly, cleaning and reassembly, was as good as new. I'm still not sure if the D-G was a wise purchase this late in the season, but it does look good.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud. Wind southwest 20 km/h. High
The day started off cool. While waiting for warmer conditions, Paulo and Marty straightened out the trucks they have been using, then sorted out some brood chambers. They then went to EE and put BCs under the singles and sorted the granulation and broken comb left there for robbing. Bonnie showed up to extract, but said that Marvin (her fiancé) finds the work too hard, and she guesses he has quit. No problem. Each year, we have found that about this time -- if we advertise well and widely -- we get lots of quality people. Another young fellow came by today and will start tomorrow on field work, so we will have four in the field. We actually have a few hands more than we absolutely need, but better too many than too few.
Paulo reported yesterday that the single hives that received new BCs on top of the single BC earlier, when we still had a third on, had plugged the new box with honey instead of putting it into the super, so it reinforces our belief that adding the new BC underneath singles is more likely to result in the honey going into supers. We prefer to winter on sugar syrup and we winter in two BCs, since we have never had any luck with singles in winter. The same hives with another box under, do just as well as hives that were doubles all season.
I worked on the Dakota Gunness again, figuring out how to best set it up. Tomorrow, with any luck, I'll get the trays fixed up a bit better and, if we empty the hot room area, we can install it. There is not much to installation. The extractors are already well paced and it is just a matter of dealing with the cappings. We timed the throughput, and it will do exactly 20 standard frames a minute if anyone can keep it fed with combs. (It will do 30 medium depth combs per minute, since they fit three across instead of two across, but we don't use mediums).
The boxes were a bit lighter today and extracting went more quickly. Dennis had to go to Calgary to take his son in for some tests and left around noon. Around six, I happened to go downstairs to check the furnace, and walked by the tank just in time to see a first drip of honey run down the side. Upstairs, Laura was just starting another extractor. Without my chance arrival, we would have -- within moments -- had a half drum of honey on the floor. I quickly pumped a drum and a half to make room, and the last load of the day was run.
Frank and Mike came by in the evening to visit. Matt came over to work on D4. He had done the clutch previously, and now changed the master cylinder. The rear brake job is all that remains before the truck is 100% again.
Every year I repeat mistakes that become obvious at this time of year, but get forgotten during the year. This diary is partially to remind me in advance of the potential pitfalls.
Today..Mainly cloudy with 60 percent chance of showers. Wind
northwest 20 km/ h. High 12.
Four men went to men went to the field today, Paulo, Clarence, Marty, and Dave. They did three big yards: Freres S, Loosemores' and Halsteads. Two were very heavy, and the last one a bit lighter. We had to send out a third truck late in the day to pick up the excess over what the two trucks could carry. There are 3,307 boxes on hives now according to our records. That's another three weeks of pulling at 200 per day and about the same amount of extracting. What we really need right now is a big hot room with space for all the boxes and we could extract until Christmas. For 4000 boxes stacked 4 high, we'd need a 50 foot by 50 foot room.
The extracting crew caught up and went home early, so things are moving along well.
Today..Mainly sunny. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h. High
It occurred to me that Bee Culture keeps some of my articles on their site. Click here to read the latest in the wintering series. Here is part of my article on the Lusbys. The web versions of these articles are incomplete, and the site does not contain much of the magazine's content, particularly the ads which are as useful as the articles. I recommend subscribing.
We're over 65 pounds to the hive now and still going.
Our co-op has now set the price at $2.00 ($1.28 US) and is promising more if the members ship enough honey for increased bulk sales.
Thursday..Mainly sunny. Wind increasing to west 40 with gusts to 60. High 19.