A Beekeeper's Diary

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When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.
-- George Bernard Shaw --

Well, so much for bees, eh?  Now it's beef

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Sunday 1 February 2004
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Minus twenty-one this morning and we are off to Calgary.  I'm going to the boat show and Ellen is going to see the Bog People at the Glenbow.  We'll meet the P-Ss there.

Leave it to a girl to take the fun out of sex discrimination.
Bill Watterson,
Calvin in "Calvin and Hobbes"

We met outside the Glenbow (picture), then Bill and I went to the boat show, and the others went to see the Bog People exhibit.  After we went for supper and drove home.

Today : Cloudy with sunny periods. 60 percent chance of flurries this morning and early this afternoon. Wind becoming north 20 km/h this morning. High minus 18. Wind chill minus 34. / Tonight : A few clouds. Low minus 25. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Monday 2 February 2004
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Minus twenty-two again this AM, but we are promised minus eleven, later today.  We are having one of the coldest winters I can recall.

I overhauled the topics list for the diary page and added some items on my site which were not indexed, and were thus hard to find.

Ellen & I went to Airdrie to shop, then Robinsons came over for hamburgers in the evening.

Already this year, we've seen Britney's 55-hour marriage, Michael Jackson (news) dancing at his child molestation arraignment and Steve Irwin frolicking with his newborn and a crocodile ... and it's only February.
Tom Poleman, senior vice president of programming at New York City radio station Z100.

I visited the CHC site to catch up on the latest, since their meeting is just over.

Honey price: Honey sales remain in the range of $1.85 - $2.00 cents per pound for Canada grade number 1 white honey. Some quantities of golden honey were recently sold for $1.50 - $1.65 per pound.  ...

That sounds good to me.  I tend to be a bit more pessimistic, so let's hope Heather is correct and I am wrong.

I also noticed the new board of directors for BeeMaid and the co-ops:

BeeMaid Announces New Board:  Manitoba Cooperative Honey Producers Ltd. and Alberta Honey Producers Co-operative Ltd. announces the election and reorganization of their boards.  ...

... and feel an impending sense of doom.  In my opinion, people who are willing to serve without pay running a multi-million dollar corporation are usually those with the least business sense.   Not that I am all so smart, huh?  I just bought cattle.

Here's some good news.  If we can police the adulteration of honey, one of the major forces driving down honey prices will be licked.  Beekeeper fined $6,000 for selling honey containing foreign sugar

Here's an email I got a few minutes ago...

The meeting in Winnipeg was GREAT! It was the best CHC symposium I had ever attended and that includes the very excellent meeting in Niagara Falls. I learned a lot! There is a heap of good extension and research going on in Canada right now. Sue Cobey's workshop on Saturday was very informative and I am so much looking forward to rearing and breeding queens come May.

Heather runs a good show.  She's tops IMO.  Sorry I missed it, and getting sorrier...

Are you going to the IPM workshop? I will be going. Maybe I will see you there? ...

I'll try.  How can I resist, when the alternative is Mazatlan? Or San Diego?  Or...

of the Day

Economic Injury Level for Varroa on the Canadian Prairies

Gallery of bee hive and queen pictures (Don't miss this one)

Today : Sunny. High minus 11. / Tonight : Clear. Low minus 22. / Normals for the period : Low minus 14. High minus 2.

Tuesday 3 February 2004
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Our cattle arrived this morning.  It was minus 21, but still, so the weather was not too bad.  Later we got up to minus 7 or so.

I heard today that the import of queens will be going ahead.  CFIA has the process in the queue, but apparently no one knows how soon the matter will be gazetted and passed.  It is anyone's guess whether we will see U.S. queens before April.  I sure hope that the queen suppliers in the US get enough warning in advance to increase supply so that there will be enough to go around, both here and in the States.

The question of traceability is proceeding independently.  As far as many of us are concerned, traceability is a waste of time, but some want it, and if they are willing to pay the cost and suffer the inconvenience in their own jurisdictions, they are free to go on with plans for tracking imports.  As I understand it, provinces that do not wish to have US mainland queens distributed in their region are free to put any restrictions they want on their own beekeepers, as they do now with other matters, like disease and locations.

Let's hope that the restrictions on queen imports are ended soon for the provinces and districts that need imports, and let's hope it happens soon.  Don't count on it, though.

Let's also hope that this breakthrough spells the end to the toxic culture in Canadian beekeeping circles that has caused beekeepers in some areas try to impose their will on those in distant regions or in other parts of the industry with different needs.  If we all are free to pursue our goals without unreasonable interference, we will all be happier and all do better.  I am sure that nobody in Alberta cares if Saskatchewan or Ontario or Quebec beekeepers wish to limit their options by regulating their own imports, but, in the case of obtaining Hawaiian imports, history has shown that beekeepers from the very provinces that attempted to block those imports were quick to line up to buy them after Alberta spent the money and effort to get approval.  I predict that, when the other provinces see the benefits of importation, they will drop their 'principles' and rush to compete for imported supplies, just as they have before.

Hi Allen,

I've just returned from Winnipeg.  I was at the convention last week.  From what I gathered about the honey market, it appears that Chinese honey -- up to 40 million pounds maybe more -- have entered the US.  Some of it is ultrafiltered some not, despite testing, duties, or other obstacles, this stuff is getting on the shelves of supermarkets.

That all men are equal is a proposition which, at ordinary times, no sane individual has ever given his assent.
Aldous Huxley

I was told about a major honey packer that had their honey sampled off the shelf and was found to have chloramphenicol.  I wonder where all that Chinese honey which was bought, prior to the discovery of chloramphenicol, is ending up.  It wouldn't be very difficult to store it off-site and transport or rather sneak in a few lots to blend in and, WOW, what a profit!

Not very much honey has sold since September when packers backed off buying. Lately, I've heard of some honey moving at $1.65 (Canadian dollars) and apparently Billy Bee paying $1.55, much less than what CHC is suggesting.  I guess I should have sold last September.

A representative of BeeMaid gave a presentation of the current honey market trends in Canada.  It was a real eye opener for me to see how much foreign honey is on the supermarket shelves.  Unfortunately, labeling laws allow the packers to deceive the unsuspecting consumer that this honey is pure Canadian product.  There now is a lot of golden honey now on the shelf, does the consumer care or does price dictate.  We need to rethink how honey is marketed in North America.

Yes, the whole quality issue is a huge one.  The industry is waking up to the fact that the only hope for maintaining good prices and not have the shelves flooded with junk is to set up high standards.  At this point there are many domestic producers who will not be able to make the grade, but they will simply have to get with the program, or lose their place in the market.

Unfortunately, in the US, it looks as if the honey board is being handed over to the packers.  That is like having the foxes watch the henhouse.   Packers just want volume and margins, and really do not care is there is a drop of domestic honey in their pack.  For that matter, many do not really care if there is any actual honey in the product.  IMO, there is no doubt that the NHB has been a major force in maintaining honey's good name, and I'm afraid what will happen when the packers call the shots.

And, yes, I have noticed that honey is getting a lot darker.  BeeMaid supplied some bears for our convention and the beekeepers I talked to were shocked at the colour.  It was white honey apparently, but appeared golden.  I've observed that on the shelves of stores, too.  When AHPC upgraded to a new building on a new location a few years back, they kept the same old packing equipment, AFAIK.  Maybe they have upgraded since, but if they have, I have not heard.  Several years ago, the manager told me that the honey colour number doubled on average from the time it came in the door until it went out.  I.e. a 15mm honey average at intake would leave in packs at 30mm!

I'm afraid that BeeMaid has simply not shown leadership in the industry, and has lost market share and relevancy as a result.  BeeMaid should have been at the lead in getting supplies of bees from the continental US, but have not acted.  They would benefit greatly, since, if good package bees were available, drug and chemical use in hives would probably drop to half the current levels.  They would also be helping lower cost of production.

Cost of production is going to be much more an issue now that honey prices are dropping.  While the prices were high, beekeepers could afford to pay inflated prices for inferior stock from down under, but now, with greater debt and the need to upgrade honey houses to new standards, there will be a pinch.  Usually the drop in prices takes about a year to have its full effect on hive numbers and production, since, except for pollinators, there is a lag from the time of deciding how many hives to run, and whether to emphasize honey production, or cut costs.  This is much more apparent now that beekeepers cannot buy replacement or increase bees on demand, than it was when a person could decide to double in the spring, buy packages, and increase immediately.

With the need to overwinter to be sure of having any bees at all, with the uncertain supply, quality and price of Australian and New Zealand supplies, (shipments could be cut off at any time by air carriers, and currency fluctuates), and with the higher costs associated with wintering, beekeepers are much more vulnerable to the markets, both when buying inputs and when selling honey.

of the Day

Today : Sunny. Wind becoming south 20 km/h this afternoon. High minus 7. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Low minus 10. / Normals for the period : Low minus 13. High minus 2.

Wednesday 4 February 2004
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A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.
G. Gordon Liddy

Finally the weather has warmed up.  It is minus fourteen this morning and we are promised thawing temperatures today and for the rest of the week.

We are now into a new fiscal year -- our year ended January 31st -- and I am willing to sell some more of the remaining equipment.  I've been refusing to sell remaining items due to the potential tax hit, but now we are free to sell some more of the few remaining items on our sale pages.  Excluders are going quickly, and I think both trailers will soon be gone.  I'd like to sell the rest of the supers while they are still fresh, so I've dropped the price of the supers a little (for sales of more than a hundred at a time).

Ellen & I went to see our planner and a lawyer to get our wills, powers of attorney, etc. completed and came a way a bit lighter.  We then shopped a bit and came home.

of the Day

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Clearing near noon. Wind west 20 km/h. High 4. / Tonight : Clear. Low minus 16. / Normals for the period : Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Thursday 5 February 2004
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I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him.
Galileo Galilei

Although the weather is moderating, it was still minus nineteen when I awoke at 7.  The days are warm, however, and yesterday the roads were slushy.  The Days are getting much longer, too, especially in the evening.

I'm expecting Medhat around 8:30 and we are off to a meeting in Scandia to discuss bee research projects.  The SABA has raised some money and are contemplating what priorities to pursue.  At this point, nutrition looks like number one.  I agree, and we are hoping to evaluate our current diets, as well as amounts and methods of application.  We also hope to improve our formulae to optimize results and cost.  As well as SABA, the seed companies that hire bee pollination and Global Patties are supportive.

Speaking of Global, Frank reports that orders for patties are away up this year and that Global is working night and day to turn the orders out in time for the spring application.  Beekeepers thinking of getting patties next month should call Frank right away to get a place in line.  If Frank knows what his orders will. be, he can schedule meet them, and add more people to his staff, but if beekeepers put it off and order late, he'll still try to meet their deadline, but could run out of supplies and time.  The ingredients come from all over North America.  Frank orders several months ahead, since the supplies may not always be available in the spur of a moment.

Medhat arrived, and we drove to the meeting, which was very constructive and resulted in a decision to conduct the project in Alberta, under Medhat's supervision.  While some of the long term goals are somewhat abstract, the immediate focus is to analyze the effects of the current patties in use and seek improvements in nutrition and cost-effectiveness. 

Beekeepers are already accepting delivery of patties, and planning to put them onto hives within weeks, so Medhat has his work cut out for him planning how they should set aside some yards and allocate hives for applications to test several existing formulae head to head.  beekeepers will

It was agreed that there is no time to hire help before beginning but rather that the beekeepers should evaluate the hives and put on the patties, while marking the hives.  Records must be kept, and, with digital cameras, the beekeepers should be able to record their benchmarks in a way that they can be compared later, if necessary.

Today : Clearing this morning. High minus 3. / Tonight : Clear. Low minus 8. / Normals for the period : Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Friday 6 February 2004
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The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
Dorothy Nevill

It is definitely warming up.  I'm off to Vancouver this morning to see several beekeepers, attend the boat show and to look into the oxalic treatment offered by a fellow on Vancouver Island, if I get out that far.  I plan to stay as long as  a week, but we'll see.

I'll be writing more about the upcoming nutrition work when I have time, but right now, I have a plane to catch.

I arrived in Vancouver, picked up my car, and drove to the Boat Show.  As expected it far surpassed the Calgary show, with hundreds of booths.  I stayed until late, then went to my brother's place for the night.

Today : Sunny with cloudy periods. Wind west 20 km/h. High 4. / Tonight : Clearing this evening. Wind west 20 km/h. Low minus 5. / Normals for the period : Low minus 13. High minus 1.

Sat 7 & Sun 8 February 2004
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You can pretend to be serious; you can't pretend to be witty.
Sacha Guitry

I spent these two days at the show and visiting with my brother, Ron and family.  At the show, I made some contacts to follow up later.  I had originally planned to buy a boat, but, after sober reflection, have decided that taking training cruises and chartering is more advantageous, at least until I have more experience.  Boats cost a lot and depreciate quickly.  The price of training cruises can be a very good bargain.  Unless I decide to live aboard for a while, which I might some time, chartering or signing on as crew is a more rational plan.  At present, I have plenty of people to visit and places to stay all over North America to be tied down to another home.

Saturday : Sunny. Wind west 20 km/h. High plus 3. / Sunday : Flurries. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High minus 1. /Tonight : Periods of snow. Amount 2 to 5 cm. Wind northwest 20 km/h. Low minus 3.

Monday 8 February 2004
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Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.
Henry Kissinger

This morning, I posted a message on BEE-L and, as an afterthought, added the tag line, "In Vancouver".  Shortly after, I got an email from Wayne, a local beekeeper suggesting that I meet him for lunch.

We met at Granville Island, and decided on Bridges.  During lunch I mentioned that I intended to call Ron Lin, another local beekeeper, who had bought bees and a forklift from me, but had later been involved in a an accident which destroyed the Swinger and some of the hives.  We called his cell, and, as it turned out, Ron was eating lunch at that same moment, only a few hundred yards away across the bay.  He and his wife and son came over to Bridges, and we had tea, then all headed out to look at Ron's wrecked forklift and visit his honey farm.

Swinger forklifts are very tough.  People have dropped them off trucks driving down highways and been able to right them, then use them immediately, and most were later made like new after a little straightening.  Ron's case is a bit different, though.  He was hit from behind by a fast moving truck.  The truck hit the back of his trailer and drove the forklift into the back of his truck.  The impact jerked Ron's head back, breaking the back window and leaving him with multiple injuries which plague him, even today. 

The accident was in November, and Ron is just now getting around well enough to start pressuring ICBC, the government insurance company which has offered him very low compensation, to pay full value for the items he lost.  Even though he has recent bills demonstrating the true value, they are low-balling him and he is being forced to sue.  In fact, he was at a lawyer's, this very morning, and that was what brought him downtown.  Our call was most serendipitous, since he wanted our opinion on the damage.

We all drove east on Highway One to the yard where the Swinger was being stored, and quickly agreed that the machine was a total write-off.  Although a good welder with mechanical abilities could make something of it, the shop time involved would exceed the value of the restored unit, and, at this point it is unclear whether the engine and transmission are any good.  An impact like the one that injured Ron and wrecked his outfit could have done expensive internal damage to the engine and transmission that might not show up until the unit was restored and run a while.  Some heavy steel parts were badly bent and. although they can be straightened, the unit may never line up properly again.  Moreover, the front drive axle is toast -- it is broken and bent-- and a lot of other small stuff is bent up too.  The Swinger might make a good project for someone, but won't be moving hives this spring, and the time for moving is coming fast.

We then all drove over to Honeyland Canada, Ron's bee farm.  He and his wife have built a well planned and spotless setup for showing off beekeeping to tours that drop in.  They have a screen room for working bees and a glassed off extracting shop designed so visitors can view the goings-on.  He hopes to run a beekeeping school there in the future, as well.  Of course we had to look into some hives as well.  Here's Ron with a good-looking wintering hive.

Monday : A mix of sun and cloud. 60 percent chance of flurries in the morning and of rain showers late in the morning. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming southwest 20 in the afternoon. High plus 5.

Tuesday 9 February 2004
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An incompetent attorney can delay a trial for months or years. A competent attorney can delay one even longer.
Evelle J. Younger

Today, I agreed to meet Ron and look at the truck and the trailer, so we met at on United Avenue and drove out to the yards where they were in storage.  Although the truck looks only slightly damaged, the impulse was sufficient to knock the engine off its mounts. The trailer is badly bent up and the forklift is broken and twisted badly enough that it is a write-off, although a farmer with a welder could make it useable again.

We then drove out to see Neil at Golden Eagle.  When we arrived, we were delighted to see that Jean-Marc was also there and so we all went on a tour to see Jean-Marc's hives, then get a bite in Maple Ridge.

Jean-Marc's hives are looking good and we saw the odd pollen load coming in.  The pallets shown are the style he uses, with clips to hold the hives in place.  This is his truck and Swinger.  It looks like a great and economical set-up.

We then went to Bobby Sox in town for a bite, then J-M left us and we returned to Golden Eagle Berries via a yard of Neil's and the Bordertown TV set.  Neil's hives were not looking as good; they had not been lucky enough to have been on a good flow last summer.  Although they had gone to Alberta, the area where they went was dry and had serious grasshopper problems.  One of the basic truths in beekeeping is that the best medicine for bees is a good honey/pollen flow.  Nothing builds bees up like a good flow, and nothing runs them down like going without.

We all discussed the idea of going to Edmonton for the meeting and going via Osoyoos to see the Alberta guys who are wintering there, along the way.

Tuesday : Sunny. Low minus 4. High minus 1.

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