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The screw on the bottom weight shook off and gave a false result for a while

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Tuesday April 20th 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

At 8, I drove Mom to the doctor to have her eye checked.  It took fifteen minutes and then we were off to Linda's for coffee. 

Bill and I  had planned to go sailing in the North Channel or Lake Wanapetei.  Initially, we had planned for Wednesday, but the forecast proved unpromising, so we had hoped to go today.

On further consideration, I realized that by the time I got my boat ready it would be getting late, so I figured to clean it up and wrap it and got to work on the boat.  It took several hours of pressure washing and scrubbing to get it into decent shape.  Bill came over and we worked on wrapping it up to keep the leaves off until I get back here in June.  For whatever reason, by supper, I was dead tired, and after supper, I went to bed and slept two hours. I'd have slept longer, but  I had a conference call at ten.

Wednesday April 21st 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

The forecast was correct.  The day dawned cloudy and we had a light snowfall by coffee time, so it is not a good day for sailing.

I spent the day at my computer doing some research, getting ready to head back to Alberta and doing some shopping.

Thursday April 22nd 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Today was much nicer and I was in shorts and a tee shirt by afternoon,  I went through all my stuff and sorted it out, then finished tarping the boat.  The job isn't good enough for winter, but should shed rain and leaves, keeping the boat clean until I return in June.

After that was done, I ran over to Bill's to help him take down some trees which were threatening the neighbours' house, then went home, had supper, packed, and went to bed.  I slept soundly until 2 AM, and the alarm went off.  I had set it for 4:20, so I don't know what happened, but I have trouble trusting alarm clocks.  I usually set two if I really have to wake up.  Otherwise, I never use an alarm.


Friday April 23rd 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

I was up at 4 AM, and out the door by 4:40.  The shuttle dropped me at the airport and I was in Toronto an hour or two later.  From there, Aeroplan routed me through Saskatoon to Calgary and Mike picked me up at one.

After some grocery shopping, I was home at 3:30.  Ellen had gone shopping and the dog and cat were delirious to see me.  I went and checked the hives, and yes, the screw had indeed fallen off the lower weight, introducing an offset.  I calculated the error at 13lbs and should be able to adjust the data simply by adding that error.  I replaced the screw.

I opened the package hives and they are just as mean as the last time I looked.  I can lift the quilt on any of the overwintered hives without a veil or smoke and not get stung, but these two hives are aggressive.  I'm going to have to requeen the Australian one.  The Hawaiian one may turn out less vicious.  For that matter, the Australian queen's progeny may turn out to be different from the bees in the package as well.  We'll know in a month or so.


Saturday April 24th 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Looks like a decent day to take a closer look at the bees.  I lifted a few lids yesterday and it appears the three hives I thought were goners are virtually dead.  The others have eaten their patties, so it is time to load them up again.

Monday, I have a meeting in Edmonton, so I should take a look at my car.  It has a few minor issues.  Jean and Chris are in Banff and going skiing tomorrow.  I have not yet decided if I will join them.  It looks like the last chance this year.

Re: Small Cells Debunked by World Renowned Bee Researcher

There are more reasons for many of us not to use 5.4mm cells than just varroa, and that point gets trampled in the battle over cell size's effectiveness -- or not -- for varroa and what size is "perfect".

While 5.35, 5.4 and larger cells my be just fine for extracting or may actually even be a little small for some of the larger bees that apparently can be found some places in Europe, combs with a smaller number of cells in a given area -- higher density -- may have a number of positive effects, some of which are fairly obvious and some of which may not be.

Where foundation is indicated, and for the European bees I encounter, I tend to favour the 5.1 or 5.2mm that Root originally concluded was an average of what he saw around him in natural comb at the time. The closest as I have come in practice to employing that size, however, is the 5.25 Pierco standard frame (All Pierco cells are not the same -- the mediums depth are apparently larger! Of course mediums are intended normally for honey). I did try some 4.9 that Dee gave me a little, but not with much enthusiasm. I have seen her bees do well on 4.9, but I do not think the bees we have around here are closely related to what she has.

In our tests of various foundations and drawn comb for package bees, we noticed that the Pierco 5.25 cells did appreciably better than the standard 5.4 plastic foundations we used in comparison. Our test was only run once and needs to be replicated, but we were satisfied that it was useful.

It would be interesting to do comparisons over a year between similar packages hived on a range of foundation sizes, with each set of colonies having a different size cell, and one set having no foundation.

I could see a total of 25 hives used initially, with the sizes being 5.4, 5.25, whatever can be found in this range, 4.9, and nothing. Five hives could be used in each treatment and all the usual beekeeping parameters measured, including behaviour, swarming, production, temper, disease, etc. Double that number of hives would be better.

So, I'm thinking the subject line here may be a bit premature and has turned out to be provocative. Nothing was debunked as far as I can see. What did occur, though, was that one more researcher was unable to confirm an effect claimed for smaller cells by some, under the conditions of the experiment. After all proving a negative is difficult.

Lets get past the fighting over this person's pet idea and that person's pet idea and find out what the bees' ideas are.

April 24th Inspection

I went out and worked on the bees today and finished all except twelve.  It was a marginal day for inspection.  The temperature was OK, but there was a nasty SE wind. Around two, I was tired and went into the house for a break but decided on a nap and did not get back out to finish.  When I woke up, it was raining.  We were expecting company later in the day.

I've been tired lately.  Is this a remnant of the flu, a byproduct of the Aldara treatment, or just old age?  Given a choice I'd take number one with hope that it will pass.

How are the bees doing?  Well, some are great, and three hives which I figured were on the edge are goners. I see EFB in two hives. The contorted larvae are distinctive.  A touch of oxytet would clear that up, STAT.  I have some old oxytet grease patties around.  I suppose this would be a test as their viability after 7 years of sitting in a hot shed.

I hate early springs since the bees require more feeding and management, but end up little better than in a spring which comes late, but comes on strong.  Last year I left everything until April, but this year I was compelled to begin in March.

Part of that was my own doing, though.  Each mistake we make influences and limits future options.  I made two mistakes last year (that I know about). 

  1. One was letting AFB get away on me.  In hindsight I should have medicated or pulled frames and requeened.  I did not.  Of course, I was away most of the season.  The result was four hives lost in fall, winter and spring.  That amounts to ~10%!

  2. The other was putting foundation into the middle of supers in late summer.  What was I thinking?  To that point, my intent had been to simply winter the hives in their hives no matter how high, but I was forced to super late due to a flow continuing into October (I used spare brood chambers) and then to remove the boxes late in the season -- on Halloween -- when I realized then that some of the foundation was not drawn and they could not winter in those boxes as a result. 

    That manipulation disrupted the hives and disrupted the feed arrangement the bees had set up and positioned me to have to feed early this spring instead of just leaving the bees until mid-April lake last year.  It also made for poorer brood chambers than I would have had and consequently poorer build-up right now.

I combined two hives, since one had gone queenless, and moved one package onto a gap on a pallet, giving them a second box underneath.  One hive was attempting to raise brood on the only frame in the hive which has AFB scale (which I had left since the bees were on it).  This is unusual, since bees usually move over and away from any AFB scale frames, given a choice.  Anyhow, I terminated that experiment.

Another hive was raising brood, but not as much as I expected.  they also had quite a bit of pollen packed into cells (see picture) [I forgot to add the picture] . Since the other hives with lots of brood -- four or five frames with brood -- showed little or no stored pollen, I gather that the bees are barely going hand-to-mouth for pollen and that this one hive has some stored due to a slow queen.  Is this just a conservative queen which will catch up or a queen that is failing?  I will find out, but I have her marked for replacement when I get queens.

DAmp sugar from 

baggie experiment slowly eaten by the beesThe sugar bag experiments proved unsuccessful, since most of the sugar is still there. I removed the one remaining bag.  As for the other, I had dumped out of the bag the other day.  The bees are eating the sugar off the top bars, but it has hardened considerably.  (See picture).

Four patties gone.  

Some paper remainsMost hives had eaten their patties again and all that was left is paper and a few scraps.  I put on more patties.  I don't like this paper that Global is using recently.  The patties are great, but the paper is like leather and the bees don't remove it as well as they did the previous paper.  They'll remove it, but I find myself having to tear it out of the way when placing more patties and it looks messy.

I filled any empty feeders and pulled outside frames on the opposite side to replace them with new foundation frames.  I do this for several reasons: The foundation frames are easier to pull when working hives and they also provide expansion space if the hives get crowded suddenly, reducing pressure on the brood chamber. 

One sheet of foundation holds as many young bees -- or more -- when compared to four drawn frames.  A fresh frame of foundation on the outside is also handy when needed to replace a frame when splitting or working the hive, and already has the hive scent.

The ten-frame box is actually a bit wide compared to the ideal bee nest, so we try to manage the bees so that they are not forced to use the outer frames by supering early.  We know we have crowded them when we return and find the outside frames drawn and filled.

Drones on the 

wayI saw a few young drones in the hives and many more on the way.  I don't know if I want to raise queens from these bees, but if I do or if there is supercedure, drones are at the ready.

Meijers came by for supper and it seems they are having a good year, as are most.  We discussed thymol and are increasingly inclined to consider using it in syrup, as the evidence seems to be mounting in its favour.  Univar as a supplier is more expensive than the other options by a bit, but they are handy and there is no hazardous material shipping or border hassle. 

  • From Univar, in Calgary and other major cities, a 25 kilo bag is $1,125.00  CAD.  Order now, pick up in two weeks.

  • From Lebermuth (14000 McKinley Hwy., Mishawaka, IN 46545-7360 Tel. 574-259-7000 Toll Free 800-648-1123 Fax 574-258-7450) the same amount in flavor grade thymol is $715.00 US plus shipping, plus border costs, delays and hassles.  I made some enquiries, but forget the details.  As I recall, the cost and hassle amount to much less than $410.

  • From Wintersun Chemical (3100 East Cedar Street, Suite 15, Ontario, CA 91761 (800) 930-1688) the same amount is $770 plus all the above cost and hassles.  I calculated this, since they actually sell either 40lbs or 110 lbs and nothing in between it seems.

We also have an experiment with sorbates underway and look forward to learning the results.  We hired a researcher and he has been very slow getting underway.  This could be a dead end, but if it isn't, sorbates are cheap and widely used food preservatives, known to retard fungus and mold growth.  Gilles Fert in France has used sorbates in the thin syrup the feeds his queen raising hives, so it has a history of use in bees.  Meijers are paying the cost and expect nothing in the way of profit if it works.  They share my belief that beekeepers should make their money beekeeping, that we need to share information freely and that patents and other obstructions are hindrances to progress.

Sunday April 25th 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999
Eight more months until Christmas
Today Cloudy. 30 percent chance of flurries this morning. Clearing this afternoon. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 near noon. High 10. UV index 4 or moderate.
Tonight Clear. Wind northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light this evening. Low minus 7.
Working on I went out and finished the hives today, feeding syrup and patties and inserting foundation in place of the outside frames.  It was breezy and cool, but the bees were flying when I got there.  When I left, I worried about any left on the ground being chilled.  The job was hard on a few bees which got pinched, drowned or left outside but, nonetheless, the work must be done and the populations as a whole benefit vastly.

I moved the second package hive onto a bottom box and pallet and wrapped it, so now I have seven full pallets of bees of which three are marked as doubtful, two are packages and the rest are quite strong overwintered hives  How strong are they?  It is hard to tell.  The overwintered hives are all at least twice as large-looking as the packages.  I noticed yesterday that a patch in the first package had hatched, so they are coming along.

This is the 25th and I hope to split on May 10th, so that is a little over two weeks away.  The overwintered hives  should all be ready to make at least two hives each on average.  I understand I'll have queens later this week if I want them.  They are Konas, one of my longtime favourites.  I'll have to get at least twenty brood chambers and floors ready.  I can just use the current bottom boxes for the splits, but I like to make my splits up as doubles, with a good brood box under. Make that forty boxes, then -- or maybe this time I should split into two-ways?  I'll have to think this through, since I plan to split again on June the seventh.  Hmm.  I'm planning on going East about then.  How can that work?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

Well, maybe it can, seeing as I am now planning on using laying queens -- assuming they take and they lay soon after introduction.  Given one week to get going, their progeny should be emerging in three weeks, so that is one month from the splitting date or June 7th.  At a conservative 1,200 eggs a day surviving to emergence, there should be 1,200 x 21 = 25,200 bees on the way in each split, plus whatever they begin with, minus attrition on that date.  All this is assuming there are enough bees to feed and cover the brood.  There should be if I don't get greedy.

At this point, I am thinking I should make each split with about 4 sides of 5" x 14" or 280 square inches of brood and about two pounds of bees.

I could make them smaller, but I don't want to risk loss if we get frost, which is quite likely.  Of course, I could wrap or use nuc boxes.  We'll see.

The advantage of making more splits sooner is that there will be more queens laying earlier, so the possible total number of bees produced should be larger.  The risk is that a cold spell could wipe out that advantage and more.  Additionally, there is an optimal size for hive health below which the bees struggle and also there is a limit to how many brood cells an adult bee can cover and feed. Mark Winston says in his book that a nurse bee raises from 2 to 3 bees during its nursing career.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

I did not see any more AFB or EFB or other such problems, but I can see I need to work on my brood frames so they fit the boxes better.  I pulled  a few for repair or replacement.  I took it easy on the patties this time because I will be around to add more, and also because I will be pulling frames while splitting in several weeks.  Although patties can be moved, they do get in the way. The picture at left, BTW, shows how I put little spreader pieces of plywood into warped feeders. I'm now out of syrup.

To either side, here, is an example of a sheet of foundation I placed in last fall and which did not get removed.  It is only partially drawn, as is clear in the shot of one side.  The queen is laying up a storm on the other side, though.  I guess the bees will have to find some wax somewhere to finish those cells with eggs and larvae.  Seems they often can, but this foundation is slowing the hive down.

This came in written in Italian.  Translation is courtesy Google Translations

Hello Allen.

My name is Joseph Caboni. I write to give you my experiences with Nosema ceranae. In 2001 we had the first problems with the death of over 50% of hives.

2002 to 2006 we began to investigate with different products with different pharmaceutical companies, using different products, fumagillin, dhcp, fumidil b nozevit, apiherb, fed life, thymol (36 g in 600 kg of sugar, 1000 liters of syrup).

In 2003 we have over 2000 controls (samples?) the microscope to evaluate the infestation of the disease. We noted that in addition to Nosema ceranae were amoeba cysts, (and) we noted that where there were amoeba cysts there was the death of the hive in a short time.

We noticed that if environmental conditions allows a reduction of spores in the hives SAMPLE (where they were not given the various products fumagilin, thymol, nozevit, apiherb, vitafeed) in all the hives treated with the products had a variable effect by 60% more than 90% tella fumagillin.

We have also noted that if the environmental conditions to a better SPORE hives samples, all the hives treated with the various products had a minimal effect that does not exceed 60% of fumagillin, and also, after a while, even the hives treated with fumagillin had a further increase of the spores.

Personally from 2004 to 2007 I fed with sugar syrup with thymol.

I personally think that the most effective strategy for control of Nosema is the death of all the beehives susceptible to Nosema ceranae. I personally think that sterilization with gamma rays and the selection of less sensitive strains of bees is the solution to this problem. I think we should allow the bees to do what they did for millions of years, that fit with the death of the weakest, the salvation of bees and genetic diversity.

The queens that everyone raises are always the best because most suited to their territory.

Regards Joseph Caboni

ps sorry if I do the translation but my bad English

Here is the original.  Maybe someone can clean up my translation?

ciao Allen.

mi chiamo giuseppe caboni. ti scrivo per darti le mie esperienze con il nosema ceranae. nel 2001 abbiamo avuto i primi problemi con morte di oltre il 50% degli alveari. dal 2002 al 2006 abbiamo iniziato ad investigare con diversi prodotti e con diverse aziende farmaceutiche, utilizzando diversi prodotti, fumagillin dhc, fumidil b, nozevit, apiherb, vita fed, timolo (36 gr in 600kg di zucchero, 1000 lt di sciroppo). nel 2003 abbiamo effetuato oltre 2000 controlli con il microscopio per valutare l infestazione della malattia. abbiamo notato che oltre al nosema ceranae erano presenti cisti di ameba, abbiamo notato che dove erano presenti le cisti di ameba si aveva la morte dell alveare in breve tempo. abbiamo notato che SE LE CONDIZIONI AMBIENTALI PERMETTEVANO UNA DIMINUZIONE DELLE SPORE NEGLI ALVEARI CAMPIONE(dove NON venivano somministrati i vari prodotti, fumagilin , thymol,nozevit,apiherb, vitafeed ) in tutti gli alveari trattati con i prodotti si aveva una efficacia variabile dal 60% a oltre il 90% tella fumagillina. abbiamo però anche notato che SE LE CONDIZIONI AMBIENTALI PERMETTEVANO UN AUMENTO DELLE SPORE NEGLI ALVEARI CAMPIONE, in tutti gli alveari trattati con i diversi prodotti si aveva una minima efficacia che NON superava il 60% della fumagillina. e inoltre, dopo poco tempo anche gli alveari trattati con fumagillina avevano un nuovo aumento delle spore. personalmente ò alimentato dal 2004 al 2007 con sciroppo di zucchero con timolo. personalmente penso che la strategia più efficacie per il controllo del nosema sia la morte di tutti gli alveari sensibili al nosema ceranae. personalmente penso che la sterilizzazione con i raggi gamma e la selezione dei ceppi di api meno sensibili sia la soluzione di questo problema. credo che dobbiamo permettere alle api di fare quello che hanno fatto per milioni di anni, cioe adattarsi, con la morte delle piu deboli. la salvezza delle api e la diversità genetica. le api regine che ognuno si alleva sono sempre le migliori perche piu adatte al proprio territorio. saluti giuseppe caboni gcaboni@tiscali.it www.apimed.com p.s scusa se non faccio la traduzione ma il mio inglese e pessimo

I went out at five to weigh the hives and see the bees are flying everywhere and can be heard all over the yard.  The scale added a pound since morning and there are no bees in the feed drum.  We have a honeyflow.  I don't see any pollen coming in today, though.  Do you?

Here is the spring weight chart again.  I have not posted it for a while because I had some problems while I was away.  Ellen took the readings for me and in the bad weather, one weight slid and part fell off.

I have now spent a few hours reconstructing the data, and I think it is close to actual, but there are some wide whipsaws and they may be due to problems reading the scale, or due to moisture and wind affecting the individual readings.  No matter, the trend is accurately reflected here.  It is just the daily details which seem a bit variable.

Of interest is the total weight loss since October 17th.  It now stands close to 70 lbs, even with some outside feeding.  The internal feeding is not shown in the chart.

Monday April 26th 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

I was up early, and by seven I was off to Edmonton for a meeting.  The meeting took until around two and then I headed back home. 

I stopped in Red Deer to take a look at cell phones, lawn mowers and a few other items.  On returning to my car at Future Shop, I noticed a scuff on my car and a broken tail light. 

I've had the 1993 Mercury Grand Marquis  just under six years and 94,000 km now and it has not cost me much.  I paid $4,500, cash deal, and spent maybe $2,000 in repairs and maintenance, including a $400 trailer hitch, a $230 windshield, and $650 in tires in all that time.  It still looks good, but is now getting a little shabby, with a rust spot on one door and the broken tail light. My favourite wrecker thinks he has the light and maybe a matching door.  I could look for another car, but this one has served well, has a very smooth and quiet ride, gets good economy, and only needs a few things: a tie rod end, a passage cleared out so the check engine light will go off, some minor brake work...  No big deal.

I got home around seven.

Tuesday April 27th 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

What did I do today?  Not much.

Wednesday April 28th 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Today in Swalwell
Rain. Amount 20 mm. Wind north 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 8.
Rain changing to snow at times heavy overnight. Rainfall amount 10 to 15 mm. Snowfall amount 2 to 4 cm. Wind north 30 km/h gusting to 50. Low plus 1.
Snow at times heavy changing to rain late in the day. Snowfall amount 10 to 15 cm. Blowing snow at times late in the morning and in the afternoon. Wind north 40 km/h gusting to 60. High plus 5.

I have been meaning to get to town to get some blood tests done for more than a month now, and we had a few other town tasks to do, so El and I drove to Three Hills around 8:30. 

I had the lab work done, and had a doctor look at my ears.  they have been giving me trouble and I was unsure if the cause was just shampoo irritation or something more serious.  The condition has persisted several weeks and some days my hearing is poor.  I'd hate to lose my hearing, so I took the opportunity to see qa doctor, since I was already in the building. The doc gave me a prescription for some drops.

I relicensed my vehicles and picked up my prescription, then headed home.  The weather outside is windy and rainy and a storm is coming.

I don't see any good weather coming soon for inspecting.  Saturday looks like the earliest.

The scale hives seem to be holding steady in weight.  I emptied the feeder drum and filled in-hive feeders the other day, so that source is no longer influencing the scale.

I spent the afternoon calling beekeepers in the north.  Seems most are not home and many are away, hauling bees.  Some are wet and some are dry.

here, we had rain all afternoon and expect snow tonight.  I went o weigh the hives, but there is water in the weights and everything is wonky.

Thursday April 29th 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Today in Swalwell
Snow and local blowing snow except rain over eastern sections. Amount 5 to 10 cm. Wind northwest 60 km/h gusting to 90. Temperature steady near plus 1 except near plus 4 over eastern sections.
Cloudy. Clearing overnight. Wind northwest 60 km/h gusting to 90 diminishing to 40 gusting to 60 near midnight. Low minus 1.
A mix of sun and cloud. Clearing late in the day. Wind north 20 km/h becoming light in the evening. High 9.

We awoke to snow on the ground and visibility under a mile in blowing snow.  The wind was gusting strongly from the west and the temperature was right around zero C.

Our Internet was down again for the third consecutive day.

I caught up on some paperwork and did some computer cleanup.

These caught my eye:

Those who have followed the scale hives may be interested to note that the average total loss per hive since October 17th, 2009 stands at 73 lbs!  And that is after feeding a few pounds per hive in the open drum, the figure is more likely 80 lbs each.  For those wondering how much feed a good hive requires, this is a hint.

Friday April 30th 2010
April past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

The Internet was down again this morning and that held me up a bit, but it started working around ten and I was able to get weather forecasts and use Skype, etc.

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