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Moving hives into the home yard for loading

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Tuesday 1 April 2003
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Today is foggy.  We were going to get out and feed today, but we had a downpour last night and the ground is soggy everywhere, so we worked around the place doing things that need doing.  Although we have commitments for all the hives, several buyers are still lining up the rest of their money and we have some responsibility for the hives in the meantime.  We will also take until mid-June or longer to wind down.  Cleaning up the yard will take longer yet.

Dennis changed the glow plugs in D5.  Some time back, D5 had become impossible to start, and the glow plug controller had started to cycle in a way that suggested it was shot.  We tested the glow plugs and four were bad, so we took a chance and changed them, but not the controller.  The results are amazing; the controller was fine and truck starts in a jiffy now.  It should -- the engine and the injector system is totally rebuilt and has only about 5 -10,000 kilometers on it.

This is the first month that most of the site traffic has come to this server, rather than Internode.  I hope everyone has updated bookmarks.  I notice capitalization of old URLs is still causing problems for some visitors, and search engines are still trying to figure out what I am doing. 

If you are getting 404s, and other unexpected results, click here.  Also -- if you care -- here is the daily traffic report in a graphic form, FWIW.

From Saskatchewan...

...and BTW, congratulations on selling out everything too... The price I knew was not going to be an issue for you. You had brought up a beekeeper, who was going to be beekeeping in southern Alberta... He has a pile of packages on order... why he did not buy from you was beyond me.

I figure that may hives will sell for some 350 bucks... price is still 245 or so with the thought that 2.90 to 3.10 cent honey this fall depending on the exchange rate and all...

(Canadian dollars, and double brood chamber hives with no supers)


From the Mid-US

> Going to be 85 degrees here today. Warmer here than in Florida.  Tilled our gardens & some of or neighbors last nite. So dry that any one of them that was tilled last fall was so soft & dry the tiller almost sank out of site. I knew it was dry but not this bad.

Rained here and the snow is also still soaking in.

> Called to try & find a few queens for late next week with no luck.


> This may  be only the 2nd time in 24 years I have made splits up before April 10th. If I recall correctly that was a darn good year in some spots. Selling out may be a wise bet if it don't rain in your country.

Well, selling into a rising market can't hurt.  My old stock broker used to say, "You never go broke taking a profit", and "Always leave something in it for the other guy".  Good advice.  I sold at reasonable prices for all concerned.  Greed always comes back and bites.

Human nature being what it is, you know that a fair deal has been struck when both parties go away thinking, "I wonder if I could have done just a little bit better..".


 of the Day

The CIA World Factbook

Today :   Morning fog otherwise mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of afternoon showers. Risk of a thunderstorm. Wind east 20 km/h. High 6. Tonight :   Showers changing to periods of snow this evening. Wind east 20. Low minus 8. Normals for the period :   Low minus 5. High plus 8.

Wednesday 2 April 2003
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Weather does not look too promising for feeding today, or the rest of the week, for that matter.  10cm of snow tonight?  That's four inches!  Package bee weather for sure; it never fails.  Meijers install tomorrow and Saturday.

Meijers came to borrow a syrup pump and stayed for lunch.  I ran out to Elliott's Home and picked up the yard.  Dennis went East to pick up a few hives and Paulo went West to gather deadouts.  We're short of brood chambers to fill an order.

Today :   Snow and patchy freezing drizzle. Wind east 20 km/h. High minus 5./ Tonight :   Periods of snow. Total accumulation near 10 cm. Wind east 20. Low minus 12. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 4. High plus 8.

Thursday 3 April 2003
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Ellen & I went to Calgary to meet with an estate planner to get our affairs straightened out and did some shopping.  The guys had the day off.

Today :   Snow tapering off to flurries this morning. Wind east 20 km/h. High minus 7. / Tonight :   Mainly cloudy. 60 percent chance of evening flurries. Wind east 20. Low minus 12./ Normals for the period :   Low minus 4. High plus 8.

Friday 4 April 2003
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We have more snow on the ground again and the pond is frozen over.  The guys went out again -- separately in two trucks -- to pick up drums and deadouts.  The snow is making things difficult in some yards, still.

From one of our buyers...

Did you have a chance to feed some bees before the weather changed?

No, we were getting ready, but we looked at the weather and decided that drum feeding would not work. We are quite a bit north of you and, many years, syrup just sits in the drums in a spring like this. Things may be different in (your area). I know it is much warmer there. We'll just hope the bees are okay for a few more days. From what I've seen, I think they are.

I did send the guys out to count dead and to get deadouts, since we need as many as we can get for an order of empty brood boxes due to ship next week, and we also want to check for disease (we marked them all as to the yards they come from).

It seems we still cannot get in to a few yards. The snow is still knee-deep, and hard in some, and the roads to others are impassable. The guys managed to count and to carry boxes out of some of those yards by hand. Other yards are totally inaccessible...


From the Mid-US again...

Looked at a bunch of bees yesterday.    Went to a yard that is used for apple pollination & to raise comb honey 35 miles south of here.  I was afraid to make the drive as the bees had no real special care last fall. I & #1 son thought it would probably a 50% winter loss at least.  What a surprise, less than a 10% loss & the hives the skunks didn't beat up to bad all need to be split.

The skunks are getting to be a real major problem again. I think they become prone to an easy meal once they learn the tricks of the trade so to speak.  Problem is that some of the hive they have picked on are already damn crabby to start with.  Seems skunks only make them worse. 

Snow & ice for the next 4 days or so. Seems all the hives have picked up plenty of weight in the last week or so.


I called the Mid-US honey price hotline tonight.  (763-658-4193).  It was updated April 1st. 

Here's a summary:

  • Not much news. 
  • Argentine crop is not huge and mostly headed for Europe.
  • It's dry in the Dakotas. 
  • Short of bees in Texas. 
  • FLA  orange flow was short, 
  • Rumours of $2/lb paid for orange blossom. 
  • Some willow (white) at $1.50. 
  • Price should hold the rest of this season.

I'd encourage readers to phone and to leave info on sales and prices.  It helps us all to keep from selling too cheap.  Non-US sellers particularly need to know the market.  I keep hearing from places like the Ukraine and Brazil with unrealistically low prices.  I think that some sellers don't know a kilo is 2.2 times bigger than a pound and that US prices are in pounds, not kilos.  Kilos are the standard in much of the world. 

Honey at $2.00 per pound should be $4.40 per kilo, folks!

The guys got back late and unloaded until dark.  Not sure what they accomplished, but I think quite a bit.  Tomorrow we would have worked, but the weather is predicted to be cloudy and Paulo needs to inspect brood comb.  That job is much easier with the sun over your shoulder, although I have done thousands of supers standing in a honey house in winter, using a light bulb.

As it stands we have sold all our hives, plus some, and both the swingers when we are ready to let them go.  1,000 of the hives are still here, but the buyers assure me they have the  cash lined up and are just signing papers.  We sold a truck the other day and now have three diesels and two gas units to sell.  I guess it is time to be more enthused about and say, "Yes", to offers.

From a buyer in B.C...

The Provincial Bee Inspector for our area went through ten of the hives you sent me and found no visible signs of brood disease or of varroa mites. Everything appears to be very good.


From another B.C. buyer...

Next day after bees arrived we checked all hives. Most of them are good with at least 2 frames of brood and 4 to over 10 frames of bees except 3 colonies. One hive has only about 2 frames of bees ( bees were seen on the top bars of 4 frames in the warm afternoon when we opened it), with sealed emergency 2 queen cells and some dead sealed brood, a lot of dead bees were accumulated on the top bars of bottom box. I suspect that a queen was lost and the colony was not requeened successfully naturally last fall , and emergency queen cells were produced. I found 3-4 colonies with the same situation in my own hives too. Another colony was similar except more bees (3-4 frames of bees) and more queen cells. In the other colony, about 4 frames of bees, no brood with 2 queen cups but a few drones were found in this colony. I think this hive may be queenless, or the queen may be bad queen, or old virgin queen. I could not go through frames to search for queen due to cold weather (about 12C). I overwintered some queens in my home yard, will try to introduce a queen tomorrow if weather is not too cold.

We also fed pollen patty and 50% sugar syrups to all colonies and treat bees with oxytet in powered sugar when we checked bees. (The inspector) will come to check bees for mites and AFB next week.

I ordered some apistan strip and have sticky board on hand. I will monitor the mite infestation after your bee overwintering and will let you know once we found out mite drop. I also order some check mite to test for resistance mite. What was the mite infestation rate of your bees last fall?

Less than 1 mite per day on 10% of hives checked (random selection) in each yard.  Tracheal was nil, except for some low levels in several yards.

We have been very busy with landscaping our home yard and preparing for farm opening.

ps. some pictures of bees and our home yard were attached.

See also www.honeylandcanada.com


Another buyer (220 hives) said he somehow loaded 2 completely dead hives the other day -- and he or his man had looked in all the hives while loading!

That's the thing about beekeeping in commercial numbers and which separates the men from the boys.  If you get hung up on the few duds (neither of these guys worry about the small stuff) you lose sight of the big picture and cannot take care of the productive part of the business.  Such problems amount to tiny percentages of the whole, and in any agricultural pursuit, you always have losses.  The winners in this business -- and almost any business --  are those who keep focused firmly on the portion of their enterprise that makes the money and who ignore niggling little things that could distract them from thinking about where their income comes from.

I remember hearing something that brought this into focus for me:

"You cannot save your way into a fortune, you must earn the fortune before you have anything to save". 

Having said that, those of us who are retiring need to watch our pennies, because our earning power drops when we sell our business.

I was at Costco the other day and the cheapest brand of decent toilet paper was 25% off.  I did some quick figuring and bought a year's supply.  A 25% saving is equivalent to a return of 33% (before taxes) on money paid out, and there is no tax on money not spent. 

Where else can I find a safe investment returning 50% before taxes?  That is what it would take to do as well.  Now if it just made sense to invest my entire retirement nest egg in TP, investing would be easy.  As it is, good returns on safe passive investments are scarce these days.

 of the Day

Today :   A mix of sun and cloud. 60 percent chance of flurries. Wind light. High minus 4. / Tonight :   Cloudy. 30 percent chance of overnight flurries. Wind southeast 20 km/h. Low minus 10. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 4. High plus 9.

Saturday 5 April 2003
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Today :   Cloudy with morning fog patches and freezing drizzle. A few flurries at times heavy this afternoon. Wind light. High minus 1. / Tonight :   Cloudy with a 30 percent chance of flurries at times heavy this evening. Clearing overnight. Wind light. Low minus 8. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 4. High plus 9.

Ellen & I drove south to look at a motorhome we had heard about and planned to spend the night in Lethbridge.  Along the way, we saw a beautiful machine for sale beside the road, and stopped to take a look.   It was a 6 year old class A with only 17,000 km on it, and a good layout.  The price on it was half the new price, but still pretty rich for us.  I suppose we can afford it, but, since we are retiring, we are more careful with money.  We were on our way to look at an older machine with a much smaller price tag, so we reserved judgment. 

When we arrived in Nobleford and saw the unit we had planned to buy, it turned out to be pretty used up, and burning oil.  We passed on it, and drove on to Lethbridge, where we looked around at motorhome dealers to see what is available, and for what price.  There are some nice new ones for $100,000 or so (+ tax), but, golly, that would buy an awful lot of first class travel, and, in some ways, traveling by motorhome -- no matter how fancy -- is tougher and rougher than traveling by plane and/or car.

In the first year, the value of a motorhome drops by 25% from the sticker price, and each year thereafter by another 10%.   I wonder how two people could manage to get $25,000 worth of value out of such a machine in one year. 

Buying secondhand makes sense, since the depreciation is much less, but there is still license and insurance, and that can add another $1,000 minimum.  Then there is fuel, amounting to $0.30/mile, at  current prices and counting on 12 MPG, which could be optimistic for a 29 foot machine.  Traveling locally, this would add $900 for 3,000 miles (ten trips to Keho) or assuming a major trip to the east coast and a trip into Mexico, $3,600 for 12,000 miles.  Adding contingencies, and camping fees, the cost could easily be well over $30,000 for the first year in a new unit.  To me that is ridiculous.  Going with a 6-year old unit, the cost is still close to $10,000.

We went for supper at Cotes' and stayed the night.  They have cut down to 50 hives from the hundreds they once had and are now very much into tree moving as a business.

Sunday 6 April 2003
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In the morning, we had a late breakfast and went to see Rick's parents after lunch.  It turned out that his dad has a very nice machine that might just suit us.  We were in love until we drove it and then I remembered how unlike a car these machines are,  They sway quite a bit and this one was a bit noisy in the cab.  I think I've become too soft and fussy.  I compare driving vehicles to the ease of driving a car.  At any rate here were a few problems needing work and we drove it over to Rick's to get them looked after, since Rick is a mechanic.  We've reserved final judgment, but I think we're going to buy it.

On the way home we stopped again and looked at the unit that first caught our eye and managed to lock our keys in the car.  AMA came and saved us, but I think I've used up my rescues for the year.

From a B.C. beekeeper...

...We raised the prices on our grocery store contracts again yesterday but they still seem to buy as much, if not more, than they did when honey was at $1.50 lb bulk (CAD price is currently $2.50 bulk -- ad).  Never ceases to amaze me...

Sunday :   Sunny. Wind light. High plus 4. / Tonight :   30 percent chance of evening flurries otherwise mainly clear. Wind light. Low minus 7. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 4. High plus 9.

Monday 7 April 2003
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Today is nice and Dennis is getting the feed system ready to go. Paulo is going through brood chambers.  It's a job he hates.  I don't know why, but many people seem to.  I suspect that someone, sometime back, said it was a crappy job and since then everyone has thought so.  I think it is pleasant enough, but they drag their feet on that job it and, so they prove to themselves that they can't do it...

I got a call from one of our buyers and he still is not ready to roll.  I had to tell him that, by the time he gets his act together, he will be looking at reduced numbers, if he does not show up with a cheque.  He is losing his place in line.  I warned him last week, and he still does not get it.   Anyone who shows up with cash goes to the head of the line from now on.  The bees need a new owner and they can't wait. 

Right after that, I got a call from a buyer in B.C. who heard good things about the hives we sent out previously and I think that they might take as many as 100.  I took back 40 from a friend who is having unexpected personal problems, so this should work.

Beekeeping is very unforgiving towards those who are even one day late for some operations, and I have no patience for a customer who wants to get cute and drag things out.  There are plenty of good beekeepers who are happy to take these bees.

Dennis finished all his various jobs and went feeding.  He did two yards: Apistan®, protein and extender, plus syrup.  This was a shake-out trip and it went well.

Paulo did 36 brood chambers all day, if we counted right.  Ellen went out and did 12 in 45 minutes while she was demonstrating.  Of course she did not do any clean-up or set-up, or have a coffee break, or have to work all day, but, I think you get the idea.  Would 72 a day have been too much to ask?

Today :   Sunny. Wind increasing to southwest 30 gusting 50 km/h. High 9. / Tonight :   Partly cloudy. Wind diminishing to light. Low zero. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 3. High plus 9.

Tuesday 8 April 2003
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Paulo was inspecting and sorting brood chambers this morning, when I realized that I had not received the cheque for the brood chambers and we had promised to ship by the weekend.  I had phoned previously and received no answer, but tried again and got the buyers' mother who told me that he had been about to send the cheque when she had dissuaded him by telling him that he did not know me.  She was fairly certain that he had not sent it.  Moreover, he was away working on his bees somewhere for the week.  I pointed out that we had set aside other pressing work just to meet his schedule, and that if he was backing out, we'd like to know.  Later I got this email:

In regards to our phone conversation at noon today I wanted to let you know as soon as possible that I managed to get a hold of (name) in the town where they do beekeeping and as he does not have access to E Mail there I am sending this for him. I'm sorry to tell you that he has changed his mind about buying from you only as of yesterday when he came across some chambers here in (place) that he can get for a less expensive price.

Very sorry for the inconvenience it has caused you. I am sure you will have no trouble getting rid of them though

Can you believe that?  Really!  I can get rid of them, sometime, somewhere, so it's okay that we wasted time making special trips through snow and mud for nothing?  We spent several days and waded through knee-deep snow, just to get the boxes he told me he was desperate to get before his packages arrived, and we worked through the boxes, only to find out -- after chasing him -- that he was not only not buying, but also he was not letting us know.  We could have worked another day or two for nothing if I had not realized that something was wrong.  If not for him, we would have just routinely picked up the few dead in each yard when we were there feeding, with no extra cost to us.  As it was, I think we spent $5 per box just on this special effort.

People wonder why when they call to buy bees and equipment that I tell them I expect cash before I believe a word they say.  Here I made an exception.  The guy sounded honest and I tried to help him out.  Should I bill this jerk for time wasted?  Write me and tell me what you think.

El & I spent the afternoon on invoices and other projects, then went to Meijers' for supper.  It is Oene's 50th birthday and after supper, their brother and family, and some neighbours came by for a visit as well.

From Sweden...

I have to ask you a question: reading your diary, I saw that you're treating with Apistan now. I assume spring in the same phase here in Sweden as in Alberta (dandelions about three weeks away).

Over here, spring Apistan treatment is a definite no-no. I have asked our national bee disease expert about this and he claims it's strictly forbidden. Also, the instructions on Apistan packages here say treat 6-8 weeks in the fall AFTER honey harvest.

Is spring Apistan treatment considered (or proved) safe or are your regulations less strict than ours?

Apistan® instructions vary from one country to another.  Our packaging specifies use " in the spring before the first honey flow and in the fall after the last honey flow".  Also, "For best chemical distribution, use APISTAN STRIPS when daytime high temperatures are at least 10 degrees C."  We understand that by "flow', the package means flows that are large enough to require supers.  Otherwise, we would never be able to put strips in, because, around here, there is always a risk of a light flow during any 42 day period during seasons when it is not too cold to use them.

We are having a very slow, cold, spring.  We are still barely able to get to some hives.  Daytime temperatures were in the minus teens last week.  We would have liked to put on apistan several weeks ago, but the weather has been against us.  For us, the dandelion flow is 5 weeks away.  Silver willow 7.  Nonetheless, we never make enough to store in supers or extract until mid-June or July, at the earliest .  Spring flows in our area are used for build-up and splitting only.

Alternative treatments (acids, drone brood removal and the small cells) are pushed hard around here, but winter losses to varroa have been huge this winter and more people are moving toward Apistan. I'm sure many would like to use it this spring to save whatever colonies they have left.

I, frankly, have little use for such methods when a small Apistan treatment works so well. 

  • Drone removal seems, to me, unnatural, invasive, and labour intensive. 
  • Small cells, I do not understand, even though I had several articles published in Bee Culture about my visit to Lusbys'.  Besides, all my comb is 5.2 and larger. 
  • Acids (see here) are messy, slightly dangerous, slower, more labour intensive -- and more variable in their efficacy.  Moreover, a recent post to sci.agriculture.beekeeping , by a regular contributor, complains about an almost total loss after oxalic fumigation.

Apistan works well for us.  Our fall mite drops (natural - 24 hour) were all less than one varroa per day, and our only treatment had been one strip in spring.  We did have an extremely dry spring and summer, though and that may have the effect of reducing varroa.  Nonetheless, I learned this spring 1-strip technique from a beekeeper with 12,000 hives who claims to never get over 300 mites with his fall 24 hour Apistan-assisted drop samples.

As always, YMMV.  Each region and each beekeeper is unique, and what works for one, may not work for another.  Whatever method is chosen, the prudent beekeeper will follow up with careful observation, and tests to verify success.  A smart beekeeper listens to everything, but reserves judgment until he or she has proven it in his or her own bee yard(s).

His reply...

The conclusion many are making over here this spring, the hard way, is that oxalic acid treatment comes to late in the fall if the infestation is already large. Colonies are weak and the winter bees are too few and virus infections have already started when it's time to do the dripping in October. Parts of the Stockholm area are practically clean from bee colonies.

I got lucky and lost only one colony and learned from other people's hard lesson.

I'm very surprised how different the instructions for Apistan are.

 of the Day

Today :   A mix of sun and cloud. Wind southwest 20 km/h. High 12. / Tonight :   Partly cloudy. Wind south 20. Low 3. /  Normals for the period :   Low minus 3. High plus 10.

Wednesday 9 April 2003
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There is still a little snow on the ground here and there, but most is gone.  The snow was slow in melting and it soaked in well, so I think our ground moisture should be pretty good for a good start to spring.  Once again this year, our weather has been cooler than normal and we are running late.

Dennis and Paulo were keen to get out and get feeding, and they were ready and gone fifteen minutes after 8. 

 Dialogue from sci.agriculture.beekeeping regarding oxalic acid...

>> I have 19 hives and lost not even one, they all in best condition. How did I make it? Go to the following website and forget about Apistan, the Varroa is resistant.  http://www.mellifera.de/engl2.htm http://www.members.shaw.ca/orioleln

> I treated my home apiary of 30 hives with only oxalix acid vaporized in the hive. I have two left alive. I have lots of heavy hives full of honey with no bees. My outyards were treated with checkmite and they faired much better. Losses there were from starvation not varroa.
> beekeep

Next round...

>> I inspected the sticky paper after 4 days and counted the mites. I began treating my hives with oxalic acid vapour early last Fall (end of Sept) as I was worried about the high infection rate. The treatments were given 7 days apart over a 6 week period and I was encouraged when fewer and fewer mites appeared on the paper. It's not possible to reach the mites in closed cells during the breeding season , that's why I vaporised so often .Otherwise I'm sure I would have lost them all.

>> It's extremely important to monitor the sticky paper and do your best to control the mites during the year. During the brood-free time I believe 2 treatments should be enough to get them under control. Success of course, depends on knowing when this will be. In some areas , the bees breed throughout the year and you have to treat for at least one or better, 2 brood cycles.

>>Oxalic acid treatment does not hard the bees or queen, therefore you can treat as often as necessary.


> A couple of things come to mind with using sticky boards with a mite treatment.

> 1. They only show knockdown power not killing power of the treatment. The actual death of the mite may come from the mite sticking to the board and dehydrating. Thus the treatment may not have done the job but rather the combination of the two did.

> 2. If every hive has to have a sticky board used then the treatment looses it's cost effectiveness. There are treatments available that are cheaper than the sticky board alone. Also in a commercial situation the labor has to be added as well.

> I personally monitored some of the treated hives with the ether roll method. I saw the mite counts drop some only to rise again. Three oxalic treatments were used two weeks apart in early winter while the bees were clustered with very little to no brood. The lowest mite count that I saw was about 2 mites perr 100 bees.

> While I understand that this was a bad winter due to the previous drout that we had, my other apiaries faired much better in comparison. A fall treatment of checkmite was used on those hives.

> beekeep

That last comment perhaps explains why spring apistan treatments work so much better than fall treatment.  In the fall, the bees are on the floor of the hive and the mites that are weakened can climb back on.  In the spring, the bees are in the top box and any mites that fall off are gone forever.

Today :   A mix of sun and cloud. Wind west 30 km/h. High 12. / Tonight :   Clear. Wind light. Low minus 2. / Normals for the period :   Low minus 3. High plus 10.

 of the Day


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