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Normal spotting on hives
These Styrofoam hives are almost ten years old and were never glued, nailed or painted

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Wednesday February 10th, 2010
February past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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I'm at the workshop, sitting in the front row.

I had heard of the work out of Spain regarding nosema for some time now, and had, quite frankly been inclined to discount or dismiss the conclusions.  I guess that's my North American Chauvinism showing.  I had somehow supposed that Spain is a beekeeping backwater.  I should have known better.

Today, Raquel Martin-Hernandez gave three presentations and I learned that Spain has more beehives than the entire USA.  It also became clear that the Spanish group conducted well funded, rigorous surveys and studies and that their labs and monitoring are very up to date and thorough. Mariano Higes was suppose to come, too, but had broken a leg and is laid up.

In the afternoon, we had a presentation by Kevin Christensen on his use of six-frame nucs.  At the end, he was saying that he can see how he could wind up with too many bees and wanting to kill off some of the oldest hives.  He asked how to do it.  I pointed out that hobbyists seem to have no trouble killing hives when they try to move them and block the entrances to do so.  Bees suffocate very quickly.

Afterwards, I realized that the hive will be a mess after, with a lot of dead and dying brood.  The best solution IMO, is to stack two or three hives up on one another in fall and let them winter.  The brood will hatch, the old bees will leave and a large population of young bees will winter well.  Only minimal wrapping is necessary for such hives.  The number of hives will be reduced, and the overwintering will have close to 100% success.  The spring hives will be huge and healthy and easily splitable.

 Thursday February 11th, 2010
February past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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I spent the morning at Jean's then headed home.  I stopped for some shopping in Red Deer, then arrived home in mid-afternoon. She was off to work before I left, having taken on a job at a library.

The weather has warmed a bit, and the ice on the scale hives has melted.  I lifted a lid and pillow or two, and noted that the frost is gone.  There are some drops of water, but the interiors are dry.  That will be reflected in the scale hive weight chart.

Friday February 12th, 2010
February past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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Dancing bees’ ‘stop signal’ warns of peril, UCSD research says.

I'm riding herd on BEE-L while Aaron is away.  Things are slow lately.  I've gotten busy on BeeSource again.  BeeSource is good in some ways, since it has parallel channels for differing groups, but has a problem when a hog or troll gets going.  I have one person in particular on "ignore" and that helps, but does not stop people from trying to "educate" the idiot and destroying the flow.  Of course, the last thing he wants is to learn anything.

Saturday February 13th, 2010
February past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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I was under the weather a bit all day.  I think I picked up Mckenzie's cold when I stopped at Jean's.  The weather outside was dull and that does not help

We had a huge horned owl sitting down by the pond all day.

Sunday February 14th, 2010
February past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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I walked over and weighed the bees this afternoon. The sun was out and although there was a cool breeze, I enjoyed the walk.  I lifted a few lids briefly and the bees look good.  Six more weeks until April, and eight or nine until pollen starts.

I'll start feeding supplement in mid-March, I figure.

I am really missing the south and the warm weather.  I would love to be in Florida again.  I will go to California again soon, and I do like California. I suppose, but I fell in love with Florida with all its waterways and wild areas.  I dream of taking my boat there or buying one there.

Guess what?  I figured out what happened to the Honey Bee World Forum.  It turns out that I have moderation turned on due to the Spam that was a problem a while back and I was not getting email notices of messages waiting.  I guess I had not set up the alias.  Duh!  There weren't many messages, but there were some.  Please give the forum another try.  Thanks!

I had also screwed up my "write me" link on this page by putting the target into a private directory a little while back.  Ooops.  Kept the spam out, though.

I have been considering going to Arizona for the meeting there (See next).  Could be a lot of fun as long as I stay away from the Kool-Aid.  I like these people, but their interests and focus is towards subsistence beekeeping and I like my comforts.

The ad below was written by Dee Lusby.

Update: 3rd Annual Oracle, Arizona Chemical free Organic Beekeepers Conference 5-7 March 2010

This is to let you know that the Oracle, Arizona conference now coming up will focus on a whole range of topics that clean organic beekeepers like to talk about, from breeding, to TBHs, to Warre hives to langs for field management with Scott McPherson and Sam Comfort; and also being talked about will be Apitherapy with Matt getting stung, and Don Downs from the USA Apitherapy society being here with me, along with James Fearnley of Bee Vital over in England, at www.BeeVitalPropolis.com , for showing stinging points and how apitherapy helps human heath by stimulating the immune system, etc.

Also, here will be Dean and Ramona talking about breeding, field management, and beneficial microbes relative to food bees produce in a hive and why it is so important for not killing beneficial microbes that means life or death in a colony food wise for living.

Then Saturday night and perhaps interjecting other times in course of weekend, will be Arthur Harvey and Stan Hildebrand from the International Organic Inspectors Assoc that will be here, that I am sure will present interesting information we can exchange for learning/doing also as in past two years with Arthur Harvey here, for how our governments see things and we see/want things also for doing that can get very heated at times, but well worth the hearing.........

Price is $150 for two nights and 6 meals, free vendor space in main conference hall, (So far setting up are CC Pollen with Bruce Brown, and James Fearnley of Bee Vital from England), conference attendance, facility on site insurance, etc, no assoc dues

...........by the way for those asking/wanting private rooms not girl/boy scout style,..... the Triangle Y Ranch YMCA also does have a lodge that is similar to most hotels in town with private bath, etc, but it is not in this package......but for those that want more private facilities might call to see if private lodge rooms available so would not have to drive pack and forth, for gas gets expensive.....just a thought! and number for calling the ranch on this would be 520-884-0987 but be prepared for normal high hotel rates for private rooms, etc . But still for two nights like camping, with 6 meals and access to full conference, etc $150 is cheap for the three days there arriving and signing in from 12PM Friday on to leaving 2PM signing out with talks into afternoon..........as while packing out, talks will be going on too!

Following all this, those that can, then spend another 2-3-5 days at my place going to the field seeing bees in the remote hills (4x4 vehicles needed as these folks normally drive here or rent a 4x4 vehicle for the adventure) for then learning how to pick a location, and go into basics in conversation of working up and working down colonies, what they look like for work, and doing walk away splits/divides, etc......... some even have managed to work in seeing how foundation is made/processed with equipment depending upon needs at time.

But conversation throughout is 24/7 and nonstop..........and a real boost to enthusiasm for doing beekeeping from those that have attended the meetings now going into third year now here in Oracle, Arizona.

For registration Please send self addressed envelop with fees on a per person rate of $150 each. Sent back to you will be information with site map of buildings, basic guidelines to follow for stay on conduct, plus medical statement to fill out in case of emergency.

Organic Beekeepers %Dee A. Lusby HC 65 Box 7450 Amado, Arizona 85645

Ph: Eve late: 520-398-2474 or early morning prior to me leaving for ranch work.

Nah. but we'll see...

Monday February 15th, 2010
February past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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I posted this in another forum and it occurred to me that it should be posted here as well. ---

Some subs contain potassium sorbate and also sodium propionate, which are fungus and bacterial growth inhibitors respectively. These are very inexpensive (human) food preservatives available from Univar in bulk, and elsewhere in smaller amounts.

Since nosema is fungal, could the sorbate be a factor? I know Gilles Fert mentioned using sorbate in his thin syrup in his book about queen rearing to prevent fermentation, so the use of sorbate for bees has a history.

Nonetheless, I have asked many researchers if they have any knowledge about this and received blank stares. Mike Randall mentioned to me at the IPM Workshop in Edmonton that nosema has been reclassified -- as a fungus, if I got it right. This got me thinking again and I decided this is worth chasing. Being lazy, I am calling out the hounds (you folks) to join in the chase. Someone should make a test to see if these preservatives have any effect on the nosemas.

Of course, there are those who will find this revelation a further reason to condemn all subs, citing the tremendous importance of each and every microorganism in each and every hive on God's Green Earth, even though only some subs use these inhibitors. Those battling nosema, though, might want to consider making an exception.

Food for thought?


The current levels of potassium sorbate and also sodium propionate in one well-known proprietary diet is listed as 0.1% (1 part per 1,000)

There is a lot of good info in Allen Carson Cohen's "Insect Diets" as well. See http://www.amazon.com/Insect-Diets-Science-Technology-ebook/dp/B000PWQMWS

I've scanned just two pages and think I can share them here as "fair use", since anyone who looks at them is going to want to rush out and get the rest of the book.


Enjoy.  Just remember this stuff can be toxic to your bees if you miscalculate by a factor of ten.

Tuesday February 16th, 2010
February past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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Here's an interesting talk by Eric Mussen regarding bee nutrition and other things.

The following is worth reading
by Peter Borst.

I think are a lot of newbees here who have no idea of the history of beekeeping.

First a little about our great inventor Amos I. Root. According to his autobiography, he was interested in science from a very early age, first reading about electricity at the age of “nine or ten”. He claims to have published several articles in Scientific American before he was seventeen and at that young age, he took to the road as Prof. A. I. Root, giving scientific demonstrations in country schoolhouses. His handbill reads: “Flashes of Lightning! will be sent to different parts of the room. The Aurora Borealis will be exhibited on a small scale and the phenomena full explained.” Mr. Root soon got interested in bees, however, and perhaps if he had not, he would be remembered by the general public alongside Bell, Ford, and Edison as one of the great inventors of that era.

In 1875, he obtained some comb foundation and by 1876 he published instructions on how to press beeswax with copper plates. He found the process so tedious that he commissioned a mechanic to build him a set of rollers. With this device he could “roll out one continuous sheet a foot wide and a mile long if we wished.” He continued to experiment, attempting to reinforce the foundation with paper and cloth to prevent the inevitable sagging of the honey combs. He tried muslin and linen, and later metal and even very thin wood. It was another hundred years before Pierce perfected plastic foundation.

It appears that Mr. Root was also the first to experiment with much larger cells. He writes: “It evidently puzzled the bees.” But it was Monsieur Ursmar Baudoux of Belgium that took the experiment to great lengths in 1896. Roy Grout writes: “By means of stretching foundation, he experimented with various sizes of foundation having 750 cells to the square decimeter, 740, 730, 710, 700 and even 675 cells per square decimeter. This is in contrast to the U. S. standard size which is 857 cells per square decimeter.” Early experiments with very small cells were made in order to increase the number of bees raised on a comb, but these were given up in favor making larger bees. Grout states that in actuality, bees can’t really be enlarged more than about 2 per cent by this method.

Knowing that varroa do not reproduce in the smaller worker cells of its host Apis cerana, preferring the larger drone cells, speculation arose that varroa buildup could be reduced by forcing our bees onto foundation of a smaller size. Dr. Erickson experimented with this idea in the early 1990s but gave it up in favor of breeding bees for varroa resistance, as I mentioned in my previous article. Others continued the work and came up with some very interesting theories. Chief among these is the conjecture that European honey bees were smaller in the 1800s, prior to the widespread adoption of comb foundation.

They claim that the adopted sizes of foundation are unnaturally large and this accounts for the great success that varroa has had in devastating our bees.I suggest that this an entirely false premise. Early beekeeping books refer to the average size of worker brood cells as about 5 to the inch. Cell size varies considerably but a correct average is remarkably close to 5 per inch. Only later, were far more accurate measurements made. Denwood states that typical foundation of 850 cells per square decimeter would be the equivalent of cells measuring roughly 5.2 mm across. Badoux’s large cell foundation was 700 cells per dm2 or about 5.7 mm. Small cell advocates claim the correct size to be 4.9 mm, or about 950 per dm2. Comb foundation from South Africa runs about 1050 cells or about 4.7 mm, since the African honey bee is smaller than the European varieties.

There is little doubt in my mind that European bees were not smaller in the 1800s than they are now, and it seems unlikely that they were permanently enlarged by the use of foundation. It is more likely that the cells of our honey bees are naturally about 5.3 mm. Steve Taber studied natural comb building extensively and concluded that “foundation manufactured for the construction of new combs in hives does not have the correct dimensions. For example, Grout (1963) suggested 857 as a standard for worker comb. Our measurements, converted to square decimeters, were 813.8” which is about 5.3 mm. In other words, the natural size is actually a bit bigger than most foundation.

But some argue that he was using bees that had been raised on foundation and were already artificially enlarged. To see what the natural size of bee cells is, we would have to go somewhere where bees have never been raised on foundation. That place is Central America. As late as 1979, bees were still kept in hives without frames. The percentage of frame hives ranged from 44% in El Salvador, 15% in Costa Rica, to little or none used in Belize and Panama.

Marla Spivak spent much time in Costa Rica observing the onset of Africanization. She measured the cell size of the European bees before, during and after the arrival. She refers data collected by researchers as early as 1973 indicating European bees in the tropics built cells ranging from 5.0 to 5.4 mm. These bees, being kept in box hives for countless years, can hardly said to be affected by manufactured comb foundation. According to Marla Spivak, European bees in Costa Rica in 1984 built comb with cells averaging 5.3 mm.

Marla Spivak refers to one apiary that she studied in the mountains. There were 9 hives, which the owners filled with swarms. These hives were plain boxes filled with natural comb. The average cell size in each and every hive was 5.3 mm. The first arriving hybrid African swarms built comb around 5.0 mm and subsequent swarms (less hybridized) ranged from 4.7 to 5.0. This phenomenon was observed throughout South and Central America.

Finally, I offer this email from Ahlert Schmidt: “I would like to comment on bee cell size again. In Germany there has been beekeeping on natural combs for over five hundred years using skeps and there are still some apiaries using that technique. So there are bees that never have seen foundations for hundreds of generations. The cell size of combs constructed by these bees is still between 5.3 and 5.4 mm (805 cells per square decimeter) coming close to 5.37 mm which is the average of cell size for normal combs in Germany.”

Of course, the theory doesn’t matter that much, if the technique would work. But would it? A perfect test came when varroa arrived in South Africa. They already had small cells in all their hives! What happened next is highly instructive. According to Mike Allsopp, varroa mites were found in South Africa in 1997. Many people feared that honey bees, both in managed hives and in the wild, would be drastically reduced or wiped out altogether. At the onset, incredible numbers of mites were found in commercial hives. There were averages of 10,000 and maximum counts of 50,000 per colony. The much smaller cells of African bees were simply not a deterrent at all. Typical mite symptoms also appeared including spotty brood patterns, deformed wings, and eventual collapse. Thousands of colonies perished.

Yet by 2005, mite counts had plummeted to negligible numbers in regions that previously had the highest levels of infestation. Evidently, the Savanna honey bee (Apis mellifera scutellata) developed “varroa tolerance” in six to seven years. No effort had been made to breed resistant stock. Mike Allsopp states that the most likely explanation for the change is the ability of honey bee workers to remove reproducing mites. This trait became predominant due to natural selection in the wild and managed populations. He states emphatically: “Captive breeding programmes and especially gene selection programmes can never adequately keep up with the changing environment, certainly not to the extent that a ‘live-and-let-die’ approach can.”

Small cell advocates frequently state that the only thing they have changed is the cell size, so that would account for lowered mite levels in the colonies. However, they miss this key point: they have also stopped treating for mites, which means susceptible strains quickly die off and they are left with only bees that can deal with mites. This is corroborated by Mike Allsopp’s thesis.

It is certainly worthwhile to search for new methods of ridding ourselves of pests, but it isn't enough just to have a good idea.


Worried because your bees have messed on your hives?  Stop worrying.  This is normal.  It is a good sign.  It means your bees are alive.


Wednesday February 17th, 2010
February past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
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A day at the desk, suffering from this cold.  Some worthwhile discussion on BeeSource.  Not much on BEE-L.

I have been watching an episode of "Desperate Housewives" each of the past few nights on the DVD player.  We get movies and TV shows from www.zip.ca and that works really well for us.  I had never seen the series, seeing as I almost never watch TV -- I cannot stand commercials (or the content usually) -- but figured I should catch up.  I am finding the series most entertaining, but quite weird.  Things have a semblance of 'normalcy' but are very surreal and a bit twisted. The show is not the usual soap opera.  It is similar in design but far more subtle and more entertaining than addicting. One episode a night is about all I can take.

Thursday February 18th, 2010
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We drove to Drum in the afternoon.  I had to see the doctor, then we had supper with Meijers at Fred and Barney's.

I had noticed some rough spots on my bald head some time back and been to the doctor to have them removed.  He decide to do a biopsy and declared them precancerous, something I already thought I knew.  That was why I was there.

I expected to have them burned off more or less instantly with liquid nitrogen, but he prescribed a cream, Aldara.  The reason, he said was that the condition was not just a few local spots, but the general area.

I was skeptical, but applied it as recommended for the past ten days and it seems to be working!  Initially, it identified the turned the spots by turning them red and causing them to expand, but now they seem to be healing.

Apparently Aldara ramps up the immune cells and they get to work correcting things.

Anyhow, I had run out of the cream and had to get a prescription renewed.  He wanted to see for himself the progress before prescribing, thus the trip.  Two more weeks of treatment to go.  In the meantime, the top of my head looks like hell.

This is one aspect of our health care system that to me seems archaic.  I had to drive 60 miles -- 30 out and 30 back just so he could glance at my head and write on a piece of paper.  Now, fortunately, there was virtually no waiting, but to burn four gallons of fuel just for that seems to me to be a bit of a waste.  After all, we do have cameras and the Internet.

Friday February 19th, 2010
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I'm baby-sitting BEE-L for Aaron while he is in the Caribbean, hopefully having a good time at the Saint Croix bee meeting.  BEE-L has been slow lately.  Personally, I have been more active on BeeSource, but am finding that is a time-waster, too.  I have some homework to do on bee nutrition and should get down to it.  My second book, "Metabolic Aspects of Lipid Nutrition in Insects" just arrived.

I drove to Calgary in the afternoon to the FACS meeting.  The presentation was by a couple who bought Carlotta, a Bristol Channel pilot cutter.  It was well worth the drive, and makes me appreciate wooden boats more.  The 26-foot boat I use at Maple Bay is wood and that, to me has been a bit of a worry.  We did have it surveyed last year, though and some deficiencies rectified, so it is seaworthy.

The FACS meeting is held at the Mewata Armory in Calgary.  For some reason, all the yachting groups I attend in Calgary meet at military facilities.  It was the same with the Ultralight Flying Club.  It is sobering to come face to face with  young people dressed in military garb, preparing for or returning from deployment overseas in a shooting war in the same building we are planning or discussing adventures in pleasure boats in peaceful waters.

Also, when I go into military messes, where the meetings are usually held, I have been told off for wearing a hat several times: once at Mewata, once at the Legion in Port Carling, and once at Tecumseh. 

It is not that I wear a hat in a building that often, but I was wearing my Bluewater Cruising hat last night to hide my welts from Aldara treatment.  The medication has emphasized the affected areas and they are looking ugly.  Ooops.  Of course, I am not thinking 'military' when attending a civilian meeting, but when in Rome...  I wear a hat so seldom that I am afraid to put it down for fear of forgetting it.  I had a pair of bifocals once, but seldom wore them.  One day I put them down somewhere.  It was a month before I missed them and I still have no clue where I left them.

I still have not replaced the bifocals and it is now a decade later.  I do have some driving glasses and use them once in a while driving distances at night, but oftentimes, I can see no difference wearing them or not.

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