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any meanness or sensuality to imbrute them.

-- Henry David Thoreau --

Visiting Lusbys' Outyards

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Monday 10 January 2005
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Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn't have to experience it -- Max Frisch

I'm back.  Hope to fill in some of the missed days when I have a moment.  On my trip, I was amazed at the number of people who read these pages regularly and came over to mention them.  I had observed that I get only about six thousand visits a month (at least that show on the log) and assumed that only a few read this diary regularly.  Seems that is not the case. so maybe I'll be inspired to stick to it a bit more than I have lately.  We're also discovering that BEE-L has many more readers than just those on the mailing list.  Many read via the web interface

I've been working on the curriculum for the Green Certificate program for Lakeland College and Alberta Agriculture, and I'm afraid that has drawn away a lot of my writing effort from this site.  That job should be done soon, so I'll be writing here more when that is done.

Joe, Oene, and I visited Biosphere II today.  The experiments are done, and Columbia University is no longer affiliated, so it looks as if not much is happening.  Nonetheless, the place is pretty impressive.

To my mind, one of the most interesting bits of info I gleaned at the AHPA meeting is that the Carl Hayden lab has been testing 2-Heptanone as a potential bee repellent.

It seems that 2-Heptanone kills varroa without affecting the bees noticeably. 2-Heptanone is a food additive (blue cheese flavour/smell ingredient) and so should be acceptable in beehives. The problem is that it is very volatile and would be "gone in 60 seconds". Therefore the ARS is working on a micro-encapsulation process to form time-release strips that can be laid on a top bar. The strips are being designed to last the duration of treatment period, but be fully consumed by the bees by the end of that time, thus eliminating the need to go back to remove anything. Several herbal products are being tested and formulated for use against AFB as well.

They were testing 2-Heptanone as a bee repellent to mix with insecticides to keep bees from visiting freshly sprayed areas, when they discovered 2-Heptanone was killing varroa.

The liquid protein diet is still under development at the Carl Hayden lab. It required a reformulation after the first tests, but is now stable and able to stay fresh for long periods. Hopefully this product will reach market in volume before too long. It will be marketed under the name, "MegaBee".  We're hoping to see a patty formulation, too.

Patties are more flexible, but beekeepers can see the potential for drum feeding bees on pollination before taking them home.  Pollination runs the bees down badly, and this may help.  I am told by the researcher that this feed, unlike protein feeds currently on the market, will raise the nitrogen levels in the haemolymph of bees in a manner comparable to pollen.  Current commercial feeds tested have a beneficial, but temporary effect in comparison.

Today : Sunny. High minus 17. / Tonight : Clear. Low minus 28.

Tuesday 11 January 2005
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I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying that I approved of it -- Mark Twain

Joe, Oene and I drove to the bee lab to see Gordy in the morning, then I drove to Phoenix and caught my plane to Reno.  I was there, and at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort Hotel in Sparks by 8 PM.  Meijers decided to forgo the drive, due to the snow reports, and plan to stay longer in Tucson, then drive up to Vancouver.

When I arrived at Reno, I saw little snow.  I had expected to see a lot, but the runway was bare and the streets had only small swaths here and there along the route.  At the casino, beekeepers were straggling in, but many of the hotel restaurants were closed, and the place seemed half-closed.  Apparently, the snow storms had discouraged travellers, and the place was nearly empty.  I took a room and found the place quite comfortable, but also noticed that there was no coffee in the room.  Strike one.

Tuesday : Sunny. Increasing cloudiness late in the day. High minus 16.

Wednesday 12 January 2005
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A satirist is a man who discovers unpleasant things about himself and then says them about other people -- Peter McArthur

In the morning, I wasted a lot of time trying to get an Internet connection.  The high speed did not work, and the phone line -- in spite of the information in the book on my desk -- was not Internet compatible.  I phoned and enquired and was told that nobody in the hotel had any responsibility or knowledge about this and was passed off onto a toll-free number that connected me to Toledo, Ohio.  They were no help, either.  Strike two!

The meeting began, and, although much of the program duplicated the AHPA material, there was a  different, and larger crowd, and additional presentations as well.

I skipped most of the general session in the morning and spent time in the trade show and hallways, then took in a few of the topics in the commercial and queen breeders' SIGs in the afternoon.

I skipped the evening reception and spent time with friends instead.

Wednesday : Periods of snow. Windy. Low minus 26. High minus 24.

Thursday 13 January 2005
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The cat could very well be man's best friend but would never stoop to admitting it -- Doug Larson

Breeding Bees Resistant to Varroa - Real World - Success outside the SMR/Russian Box” — John Keefus, France
Invitation to Apimondia in Ireland – August 2005” - Philip McCabe, President
Thursday Afternoon - Research Reports from the American Bee Research Conference for the ABF Audience

Thursday : Sunny. Low minus 32. High minus 20.

Friday 14 January 2005
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No wise man ever wished to be younger -- Jonathan Swift

Friday : Sunny. Low minus 28. High minus 22.
Normals for the period : Low minus 17. High minus 6.

Saturday 15 January 2005
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Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip -- Will Rogers

Word is, in a nutshell, that SMR bees are actually hygienic bees, but with an important difference.

SMR bees perform right up there with the HYG strains in standard HYG tests, however, hygienic abilities observed in bees selected for SMR extend beyond simply detecting and removing dead brood. In addition to doing equally well as HYG in detecting and removing dead brood, SMR bees are able to detect, uncap, and remove foundress varroa mites that are laying eggs and reproducing in cells.

This uncapping and removal liberates the foundress, interrupts her reproductive work, and prematurely exposes the undeveloped offspring, resulting in the death of the daughters. The foundress may then enter another cell, but, if she tries to reproduce there, the cycle repeats. Thus SMR greatly reduces mite reproduction, and mites die of old age or accidents without replacing themselves.

The wrinkle is that these bees seem to be much less inclined to uncap and remove foundress mites in sealed brood that are -- for whatever reason -- not laying eggs, and in any hive with varroa, there will be a considerable percentage of mites that non-reproductive, but which are just sitting out the dance in sealed in cells with the pupae.

These non-reproductive mites enter the cell, stay the duration of the capping period, then emerge with the bee.

This subtle fact -- that SMR bees quickly and efficiently remove reproducing mites in brood, but ignore non-reproductive mites in sealed brood --initially escaped researchers, and obscured the strong similarity between SMR and HYG.

Researchers finding and observing the varroa in the sealed brood of such colonies concluded (understandably) that the bees were causing mite non-reproduction, rather than realising that the bees had already located, uncapped and pulled out most of the reproducing foundresses, leaving only the non-reproducing mites. After all, they would pull a frame of brood, brush off the bees, then go to the lab and look at the brood and mites in cells under magnification. Sure there were a few empty cells, but there always are.

They observed that a high percentage of foundress mites discovered in sealed brood were non-reproducing, and that there were fewer mites -- as a percentage of total mite load --in brood than expected. They bred for this characteristic, and actually wound up with an hygienic bee, but one with special abilities -- the ability to sniff out and eject reproducing varroa mites in sealed brood.

Current work -- if I understand correctly -- seems to indicate that SMR and existing HYG cross well, and that the SMR characteristic can be transmitted relatively easily to current HYG stock, so we may see some interesting things in the near future. A name change for SMR may be in the offing as well.

FWIW, preliminary DNA work _seems_ to indicate that just two genes are associated with SMR, but when asked if they are the same genes that are associated with HYG, the answer from those working hard on this problem, seems to be that no one knows yet, and that there is likely more to the whole picture it than just two genes.

I might mention that Dee has been saying for a long time that Lusbys' bees remove varroa foundresses, and that this is a major mechanism in the Lusby success. I think -- correct me if I am wrong -- that she also believes that using small cells (4.9) encourages that trait. I have heard others, here and there, some with small cell and some with ordinary cells, observing varroa removal, too.

This new(?) information is especially interesting for those of us who think we can breed bees by looking at natural drop boards and rejecting hives with big drops. It is not that simple. We could be rejecting the best varroa fighters, using that criterion, if they are, at that moment, combating an infestation originating outside the hive. Observations over a longer period are necessary to get an understanding. (Again, credit to Dee for that).


Sunday 16 January 2005
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I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally -- W. C. Fields

Here I am sitting in SLC, waiting for my flight to YYC and home.  Twelve days on the road, and I'm heading home.  The weather there has been chilly -- down to minus 37, I heard, and I'm not sorry I missed it.  Tucson was nice, and I got outside a lot, but Reno was cool and I only left the hotel/casino to cross to the next one for several meals.

I had good and free-high speed Internet connections in both hotels in Tucson, but none in Reno.  The hotel claims to have wireless high speed throughout, but the signal was low in my room.  I wasted an hour or two trying to use it, then discovered that it was very high priced.  I tried the phone line, but it was digital and any connections I managed were very slow and error rates were almost 100%.  Oh, well.  That and the lack of a coffee maker in room made the place rate pretty low fore me.  And that is not considering that the airport shuttle does not start service until 4:30 AM and my plane was scheduled for 5:20.  I had to take a cab.

Hello Allen,

Could you give me some information about what is going on with honey prices?  Seems to be that nobody is buying honey. Why are prices going down? I heard it will go down to $0.85 Canadian and for the next two years will be that low.

Packer commentary...  Please send us some information

Your fellow beekeeper

At the AHPC meeting a speaker covered the markets and pointed out that North America had a short crop in white honey, and that Argentina has a dark crop and, although there is a good supply there, exporting is now controlled, slowing the flow.  Prices should be holding, or rising if that were the only factor at play here.

Nonetheless, the anti-dumping is failing, and Chinese honey is getting in, and the contamination scare is winding down, for now.  Also, although not strictly legal, many figure that ultra-filtered honey is somehow getting into the store packs, and driving down the white honey prices. Other adulteration may be happening too, at levels just below detection.

Argentina is coming back, slowly, onto the market as well, and Brazil is moving a lot of honey into export now.  24,000 Tons, if I got it right.

Previously -- in recent years -- there were some unexpected contractions in supply due to contamination and due to the anti-dumping that that caught packers short, and forced them to bid up the price to avoid being left out as prices escalated.

The panic buying has now ended, and the sellers' market is over for the time being.  Is it now a buyers' market?  It is hard to tell -- yet, anyhow.  After years of worrying about a short supply and competing for honey, packers are sitting back and buying as little as they can to get by, expecting lower prices next week, next month, and maybe next year.  In a declining market, they have no strong incentive to buy ahead, and, indeed are afraid that they will be caught with high priced product if prices decline farther.  That could change suddenly.  Or not.

Without trying to predict this market, I will say that usually prices run a bit too far in any direction once they get going.  The price was bid too high for a while, and now, if the normal pattern can be expected, we will see it drop a bit too far, then come back.  The fear now is that, just as packers panicked and paid too much in the rising market, beekeepers will panic or be squeezed, and sell too cheap in the falling market.  The market turned fast, and I know of several brokers who have been caught 'way off-side with high-priced stock and no immediate sale for it.

At the AHPA, it seems to me that I heard talk of prices in the 85c to 90c US range, and that is about a dollar Canadian.  Some beekeepers are doing considerably better, though.  I'm sure some sales will come in below that range, since some beekeepers will become desperate to sell at any price.  Packers are calling around looking for low hanging fruit, but so far, most beekeepers are well-financed and well-informed and are holding out, or just selling a little.

I called the  Mid US Honey Price Line just now (763-658-4193), and the message was from Dec 22. Basically the story was this:  White loads, including some from Canada, were reported at $US1.05, $US1.30, and $US1.10.

Hold out?  Sell?  I cannot advise, but I know this market has fluctuated over the years and those who could hold out usually did well -- eventually.  The world market has changed lately, though, and my crystal ball is cloudy.


Monday 17 January 2005
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Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff -- Frank Zappa

Going through my mail, I see that I have a ballot for the Alberta Beekeepers' Commission vote.  The deadline is the end of the month, and eligibility is based on date of receipt by the returning officer, not mailing date.  I marked my 'X' and sent it out.  Wondering how I voted?  Click here.

I'm digging out from under a pile of email and paper today.  It may be the end of the week before I get caught up.

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h this morning. High 4. / Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind southwest 20 km/h increasing to 30 gusting to 50 this evening. Low minus 9. / Normals for the period : Low minus 16. High minus 5.

Tuesday 18 January 2005
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Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.-- Oscar Wilde

Although th4e weather here has been bitterly cold while I was away - down to almost minus forty -- it has warmed now and is just above freezing.  That is a huge relief for us, since such extremely cold weather makes going for a walk very unpleasant, and consumes a lot of coal.

Today, I'll be working, flat out, on the curriculum. I'm past the deadline and have a few days to get it done.  When I've had a few minutes in the past few days, I've been working through the past several weeks of diary entries.  I still have a ways to go, but that will have to take a back seat for now and happen when I have a few personal moments.

Suffering diary deprivation?  Don't forget to look back to previous years  -  2004  2003  2002  2001  2000  1999 -  or read the Selected Topics.

I spent the day writing, and mostly wresting with MS Word.  I keep thinking that I can get it to do what i want, but syles and tables keep acting up.  I suppose that, after a time, these things become more obvious, but simply placing an object somewhere on a page an keeping it there can be very frustrating.

Meijers are back from Arizona and they came for supper.

Today : A mix of sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers or freezing rain this morning. High 3. / Tonight : Cloudy. Low minus 3. / Normals for the period : Low minus 16. High minus 5.

Wednesday 19 January 2005
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Any sufficiently advanced bureaucracy is indistinguishable from molasses -- Unknown

Another day of curriculum editing.

> Which was a better show?

I'd have a hard time choosing; that is why I went to both :)

Each meeting has its unique pluses. AHPA members visited the Carl Hayden bee lab. ABF members visited a casino.

If cost is a concern, I figure that the ABF always costs me about twice than what the AHPA does, since the ABF tends to pick pricey and toney places, while the AHPA tends to pick places where you can park a semi or motorhome for a few days (for free) if you need to, breakfast is free, and a person can grab a hamburger or taco nearby for a couple of dollars, instead of having to pay big bucks for a snack or basic meal, as I have found I wind up doing at the ABF meetings.

This year, AHPA was at a Holiday Inn on the edge of Tucson. The AHPA attendance is a bit smaller and the sessions are focused more towards honey production and pollination, but there is a great deal of overlap in content.

The same research was presented at both, however, the ABF had several other groups meeting concurrently, the AIA and the AAPA (and some from CAPA). Since beekeepers registered at the AFB meeting were welcome to attend the scientists' session, that added content that otherwise would have been absent. For example, Medhat and Rob Currie were at the AAPA meeting discussing formic and oxalic, but not Tucson. ABF also had presentations from grad student contestants which were worthwhile.

All in all, probably the ABF has more, but, then what is better than visiting the Tucson lab and the Baton Rouge lab, as we did during AHPA meetings? ABF also has special content for rank beginners and hobbyists, which AHPA does not.

From all this, one might conclude that ABF wins hands-down, but I would not jump to conclusions. If I were a small or mid-size beekeeper and had to choose, is uncomfortable in big, glitzy places, likes to have convenient free truck parking nearby, and had to watch my convention budget, I'd just go to whichever is closest, and, because AHPA costs much less, give them the edge -- unless the added content was important to me.

There is a group of people who attend both. That is costly and a bit gruelling, but allows a person to skip sessions that are duplicates and to meet more people. Will I keep doing it? Don't know.


Today : Fog dissipating near noon then cloudy. High 9. / Tonight : Cloudy. 30 percent chance of showers overnight. Low zero. / Normals for the period : Low minus 16. High minus 5

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