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Bees on a Queen cage laid on the top bars to check for response.

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Monday May 10th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

We're scheduled to drive north today. I look out the window and can't see as far as the tracks.  Maybe by the time I am ready to go, the visibility will be better.

I have not marked any queens yet, but here is a link to a video.

At right is a hive with a Swienty box on top and (BeeMax) on bottom.  I did not glue the (BeeMax).  I think I should have.  Most of the boxes are not sprung like this on, and I can glue it if I take it out of service for a few minutes.  Neither was painted and I am not sure both have been outside for the same amount of time since my brood chambers were not all in use all the time.  I have another Swienty in the yard and I'll have to take a shot of it.  From this picture, the Swienty looks appreciably better.

Tonight, I'm in Falher at the Honey Comb Inn.  Nice enough motel.

I used the Rogers Rocket Hub on the way up, running it off a small inverter plugged into the cigarette lighter and making phone calls using Skype.  I also was able to surf the web and do email (I was not the driver for much of the trip).  There were a few drop-outs along the 300-mile drive, and at points the sound was less than perfect, but for the most part the test was a success.  With and external antenna, I am sure the performance would have been almost perfect.  I have yet to figure out the data cost, but should have an idea soon.

BTW, I have discontinued the scale hive charting for now, since I have split the hives and generally changed things.  I'll start up again soon.

Tuesday May 11th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

I slept well.

Finally, all over the province, after some trying weeks, the weather looks stellar and the bees should really get a lot of brood started this week.  I'd love to be home to do some lawn and bee work, but I am on the road.  By the time I get back on Friday night, things should look a lot different.  Dandelions are in bloom and the fruit trees should be starting any day.

I'll have to get more boxes under all the hives before I go west on Monday for ten days on Salus.

I'm hoping to get some more (BeeMax) boxes before I get too far into splitting because I will need them to winter.  Once before I made the mistake of mixing wood and plastic brood chambers in double hives and discovered that I could not wrap them in any easy fashion.

I should also check for varroa and consider using some formic.

Wednesday May 12th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

 I spent a twelve-hour day inspecting bees with another inspector, in the yards with the beekeepers.  The weather is great and the beekeepers we visited have great-looking bees.   With few exceptions the beekeeper works with us and pulls the frames and we sample and comment.   Occasionally the beekeeper cannot make it and we work alone, but I think in such cases, the beekeeper misses out on a good opportunity to get a second opinion.

These visits are a very useful opportunity for the beekeepers to get an idea where they stand and what we have learned by visiting around the region.   Most of the varroa levels we see are very low and in some surveys we see no mites at all.  We may, however, have saved one beekeeper from major losses by providing early warning and insight about his abnormal and alarming varroa populations.

Thursday May 13th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Another fine day, and two more good operations visited.  We have now spot checked about -- I'm guessing -- 15,000 or 20,000 hives.  These are pretty good commercial beekeepers and their bees all look good and wintering losses were in the 10 to 20% range, which this far north is excellent.

Tonight we stay in Grande Prairie, and tomorrow we do one small inspection out near the BC border in the morning, then drive the five hours back south to the Crop Centre North.  From there, I have a three-hour drive home.  I expect to arrive late.

It seems my plans for the upcoming San Juan Islands cruise have been altered and that I've moved up to skipper.  The member of our trio who was to be Number One has run into some wrinkles at work and will be unable to arrive as early as the rest of us.

Friday May 14th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

We did the last inspection out at Beaverlodge and returned to Edmonton.  From Edmonton, I returned home, arriving around 10 PM

I have been using the Rogers Rocket Hub connected to an inverter in the car and had Skype wherever there was coverage.  Coverage is spotty in the North, but for the most part it was OK.  I can get an antenna for it which would be a big help, I assume, since the unit is sitting down in the car and is partly shielded. 

I don't have a cell phone any more.  I fired Bell Mobility after all these years for cheating me just one time too often.

If there is one thing I have learned on this trip it is that the successful pros make sure they monitor and treat.  I've been puttering with my bees and not being very serious.  What I see in my yard and what I see in these yards tells me that I am slipping.  When I was commercial, I never lost one hive to varroa to my knowledge and had AFB 99.9% under control.  In combing through hundreds of hives this week we never found any AFB and very few cells of chalk, sack or EFB.  We often found whole yards where alcohol wash turned up no mites at all.

Medhat Nasr gets much of the credit for this.  He spends long hours working with beekeepers to gather consensus and cooperation and networks with the top scientists worldwide.  When I returned to the office last night on the way home, the Edmonton Journal was on the table and this article was on display.  image article

Saturday May 15th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

> Hello allen,

>We have had a problem with an underground hive in our yard for the last 3 years. The bees don't really bother us except the kids are scared of them and they fly into the garage, house, truck etc. I don't really want to kill the bees but they are starting to annoy the whole family. Any suggestions on how to chase them to a new home, or if need be kill them. Any help would be appreciated.

These are not likely honey bees. They could be bumblebees or wasps. Without being there and seeing what they are and exactly where they are, I'm afraid I cannot make any recommendations. Chances are they will die out by themselves at some point.

If they have not stung anyone to this point, they are not particularly likely to do so in the future. Bees and wasps are quite peaceable and we have had wasp nests in a doorway where opening the door exposed part of the comb, and no one got stung. They did come out to look when we opened that door, though. We had a big nest about 8 feet from our picnic table all summer at about waist height on the house wall in a window indentation. No one got stung.

Mass stinging attacks that people fear are extremely rare and usually related to something disturbing the nest. Bees and wasps are usually quite peaceable and good neighbours.

Besides, a sting or two is no big deal. There is pain, there are tears, there is swelling, then it passes. It is a life experience, that can be good for kids.

Studying bees can be educational. Perhaps you could take pictures and look for the bees on the net and in the library and learn their habits. If, then, after getting to know them you feel like killing them, you'll know how.

It's our wedding anniversary today.  Forty-two years.  1968 was the year we married and bought The Old Schoolhouse. 

I'm home again for a day or two, then it is off to Bellingham for ten days on Salus, seven of them in a flotilla organized by FACS.

The inspecting trip was great.  I had a lot of fun and think that we may have saved a beekeeper or two from big losses due to nosema or varroa getting out of control.  It makes me think I should take a better look at my own bees.

Time is short and I have a lot to do before I go, so I won't have time to write much here for a while.  We'll see.

On the left is a really good picture of something that amazed me in the last inspection of the trip.  (Click for a close-up).

This is what we saw in the burr comb under a lid in a hive we were inspecting.  This hive only showed three mites in an alcohol wash of 300 bees.  In addition to the mites in the small area shown in the picture, we had already pulled four varroa out of those cells to examine!  We did not look further, since we were out of time, but if there were 7 varroa in just that small region, how many more were hidden?

We also compared some foundation we came across.  The wax is a popular product made locally in the Peace.  The plastic is Permadent, I think.  I'll have to check. 

Count ten cells along the ruler and measure.  The result, divided by ten is the cell size in millimetres.  I get 5.5 for the wax and 5.3 for the black plastic.  There are 7-1/2% more cells on the plastic than the wax sheet shown.  That results in greater brood density -- 7-1/2% more cells in a brood chamber and can be a consideration when running single brood chambers as many are these days.

What is the 'proper' size for cells?  That is a matter of debate, but when bees swarm around here and build comb, it seems the cells always average around 5.2mm.  It has been demonstrated, too, that bees are adaptable and can manage just fine on cells 5% larger or smaller than that.  A 5% change in diameter (D) from 5.20 to 5.46 results in a 10% increase in cell area.  A=π(D/2)2)

That means about 10% fewer cells per frame when using the larger cells.  That is equivalent to one less frame in a brood chamber.  I don't know of any 5.2mm foundation on the market now, but Pierco one-piece standard depth frames are 5.25mm, and with the smaller top and bottom and end bars, there are about 20% more cells per frame.  I like them, especially in black.  So do the bees.

Our rented inspection van in a bee holding yard in the Peace River country.  Black plastic bags draped over the hives add warmth early in the season.

I checked with Derrick and he can get me 100 (BeeMax) boxes in about two weeks for about $15 each.  I think I should buy them, judging by how much better the styrofoam hives look compared to the others.

This morning I ran up to Heavy metal and picked up a transmission for the forklift.  Wouldn't you know it?  The forklift worked fine when I got home and I used it to unload the transmission.

In the afternoon, I went through all the hives and looked for mites, disease and queens.  Most of the queens were accepted and laying, but several were not there.  I used up the rest of the queens, made two more splits and a four-frame nuc.  I saw only a few cells of EFB, otherwise no problems were apparent.

We have some very warm weather coming up and I expect that by the time I get back, some will be thinking of swarming, or close.  I'll split again before I go east.  I now have 43 hives and a four-frame split. 

If I had queens or cells, I could split more now, but it would be stretching things.  In two weeks, the weather will be more settled and maybe I can get another 40 splits, if I have cells  queens.  I think I prefer cells.

The thymol is on its way and should arrive mid-week.  I ordered 25lbs to split with friends.

Where was I last year on this date? Out in the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf Stream, somewhere between Bermuda and Sandy Hook, New Jersey riding some big waves.  That is Frank at the wheel of his Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45.2, Compass Rose X Salus is a 40-foot model in the same design.

Sunday May 16th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

We have some hot weather coming.  Hot days and warm nights allow the bees to get ahead.  Even the weaker colonies can raise a lot of brood, since the dandelions are in bloom as well.

Here are some timely topics:

A lot of Alberta beekeepers are using Apivar™ these days.  What do we know about it?  Here is an abstract:

Abstract – An apiary trial was conducted in 1999 in Northern Sardinia (Italy) to evaluate the effectiveness and the persistence of amitraz impregnated in plastic strips against Varroa destructor Anderson and Trueman. Twelve colonies of bees derived from Apis mellifera ligustica Spin. in Dadant Blatt hives were used; six colonies were treated with 2 strips per hive and the other six were left untreated control. Two methods for the evaluation of treatment efficacy were compared: the per- cent effectiveness measured as the percent reduction of V. destructor infestation in treated hives, and the percent control which took into consideration natural mortality in the control hives. Percent effectiveness was greater than the percent control. Amitraz residues were determined in honey and the plastic strips. No amitraz residue higher than 0.01 mg.kg–1 was detected in honey. The amitraz con- tent was stable during the trial in plastic strips placed in the colonies, and in the control strips. A higher adult bee mortality in the treated hives was recorded only after the first week of the treatment.

And from Portugal:

Portuguese beekeepers depending on blind and repeated use of amitraz in fighting Varroa have meant a selection pressure towards amitraz‑tolerant Varroa populations. Some of these Varroa populations were recently pin pointed during a nationwide monitoring effort (by field and laboratory testing), allowing for investigating the practical meaning such increased levels of tolerance have to properly applied Apivar field treatments and how quickly those populations regress to normal levels of susceptibility to amitraz. Samples of amitraz‑tolerant Varroa populations were collected in capped worker brood left to emerge in newly artificially built colonies. During the following 4 months, experimental colonies were treated twice (with Apivar and Apistan) and periodically assessed for (i) levels of apparent Varroa infestation in capped worker brood and adult bees, and (ii) daily rates of dead mature Varroa that had fallen to protected hive bottom boards. Finally, thymol (Apiguard) was applied to all experimental colonies and bees and brood samples were collected to account for Varroa that could eventually have survived previous acaricide applications.The main results we obtained mean that Varroa populations that stood out, in field and laboratory tests, as being highly tolerant to amitraz, quickly revert to a status of high susceptibility to a properly applied Apivar treatment (overall mean efficacy of 78 %) if removed, for a few months, from contexts where amitraz applications are excessively recurrent

> >No residue higher than 0.01 mg.kg-1 was detected in honey. >

And likely won't normally be. What will be detected is the degradation product, DMPF, which may actually be of more concern to human health. See a typical residue sample from a U.S. commercial operation (here)

Randy Oliver

Here is a method I favour, but have never personally tried:

From Frank C. Pellett's 1929 book, "Practical Queen Rearing" BIG BATCHES OF NATURAL CELLS BY THE HOPKINS OR CASE METHOD

Many extensive honey producers who desire to make short work of requeening an entire apiary, and who do not care to bother with mating boxes or other extra paraphernalia, make use of the Case method, which has been somewhat modified from its original form. This method is advocated by such well known beekeepers as Oscar Dines of New York and Henry Brenner of Texas. The plan was first used in Europe.

To begin with, a strong colony is made queenless to serve as a cell building colony. Then a frame of brood is removed from the center of the brood nest of the colony containing the breeding queen from whose progeny it is desired to rear the queens. In its place is given a tender new comb not previously used for brood rearing. At the end of four days this should be well filled with eggs and just hatching larvae. If the queen does not make use of this new comb at once, it should not be removed until four days from the time when she begins to lay in its cells. At that time nearly all the cells should be filled with eggs and some newly hatched larvae.

This new comb freshly filled is ideal for cell building purposes. The best side of the comb is used for the queen cells and is prepared by destroying two rows of worker cells and leaving one, beginning at the top of the frame. This is continued clear across the comb. We will now have rows of cells running lengthwise of the comb, but if used without further preparation the queen cells will be built in bunches that will be impossible to separate without injury to many of them. Accordingly, we begin at one end, and destroy two cells and leave one in each row, cutting them down to the midrib, but being careful not to cut through and spoil the opposite side. Some practice destroying three or four rows of cells, and leaving one to give more room between the finished queen cells.

This excerpt is lifted from this page at Michael Bush's excellent website.  The article continues there, plus much more.

(Note: I don't agree with quite a few of Michael's assumptions or  conclusions and I am not recommending following him blindly (don't follow me blindly either), but I do respect him as a beekeeper and for his web presence.

From BEE-L today, an interesting report on success using oxalic drizzle.  OA drizzle is the method I have been using, but only once in the fall -- so far:

My buddy Rick Drutchess brought one (two headed jars)down to our Florida farm this last spring and I was very impressed.

In my experience, the two headed shaker will reveal more than twice as many mites than the ether roll. I've read some posters claim that ether rolls are ineffectual to get an accurate count. I think they  are just a different measuring stick akin to inches vs. centimeters. I think a beek can get a good feel are where she/he stands either way.

That being said, I am going to order some more shakers and I do agree with the Dr. that 10 mites is perhaps a good threshold on the shaker system.

All things considered, I will say it again, keeping the mite count very low is number one in keeping bees healthy.

I have to update my oxalic trials from last winter/spring. Took a yard of 80 from a 16 mite ether roll to almost zero with 3 treatments with oxalic. Both deeps (doubles)were treated each time with 25 ml, more or less, for a total of 50 ml per hive. I would generally be able to treat 80 hives per gallon. This is a spring treatment with lots of new hatch.

On the last treatment, I gave each deep (doubles)50 ml of 3.5%. That is about 100 ml per hive. NO damage. That's 40 hives to one gallon on the last treatment. I must point out that there was a constant hatch of new bees coming in and also nectar coming in daily.

After hearing so many stories of beekeepers hurting their bees with too much formic, thymol, oxalic, fuji mite, etc., I would like to make a recommendation to all beeks. Trial every new treatment on a few hives before treating all your hives. Test each treatment according to conditions like temp, nectar flow, population, etc. Put a sticky board on the bottom on the trials. You may need more or less treatment. Conditions can vary greatly.

Then roll roll roll.
Or shake shake shake. ;-)

Kirk Jones

Sleeping Bear Farms beekeepers making honey...
Benzie Playboys cajun and zydeco band........
Beekeeping Journal Blog thoughts on beekeeping

I'm not normally a big fan of gloves in the bee yard, but as inspectors, we are required to wear disposable gloves.  I have not been impressed with any I saw until I gave these a try.  They are nitrile (chemical-proof). 

They cost $10 for 100 and can be re-used a time or two.  The fit is comfortable and the feel through them is excellent.  My hands feel great when I take them off and there is no need to wash up.  They protect from miticides as well as propolis, honey, wax and other goo as well as stings!  I think I am a convert.  I bought a box and now use them for mechanical work, too.

Monday May 17th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

This morning, I leave for the coast.  The bees are ready for two weeks on their own, but by the time I get back, I expect that some will be hanging out.

Yesterday I took a look at my (BeeMax) boxes and ordered another 100.  I had simply tapped them together in 2002 and used them thereafter.  They were not painted or glued.  Not all were outside the whole time, but I have a pretty good idea how they perform.

I tapped apart several which had sprung a bit.  I see some damage from wax moth or ants and from prying on them too hard with a hive tool.  (One time a hive got really gummed up and while I should just have laid the hive back and pried each frame through the crack, I tried forcing the boxes apart). One tab is broken, possibly from dropping.  The good news is that they are simple to fix.  A little Weld Bond applied to a break or joint and clamping for a few hours and the piece is restored.

I put a little bead of glue into the joints and tapped them together.  I glued the broken tab back on and glued the joint and the box is stronger than ever.

At right is a joint partly tapped open, showing some ant or wax moth damage.  It looks bad, but the box actually seals well and is OK.  I think a little paint and possibly Vaselining the contact surfaces once a year might mitigate the problem.  At any rate I am only showing the worst problems.

It also occurs to me that when the boxes get old, that I can run them across a saw and glue wood strips on the contact surfaces. to extend their life.  In the meantime, the message is that I should not let the hives get so glued up that extreme prying is necessary.

Dandelions are blooming at last.

Tuesday May 18th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

I'm in a motel in Kamloops this morning and expect to be in Bellingham after lunch.  After a Skippers' Meeting, we board Salus and spent the night.  In the morning, Rick and I are free to set sail into the San Juans once we provision a bit more and plot our course.  You can follow our progress on the web in real time.  The address is http://tinyurl.com/39o49h6 and the page auto-refreshes periodically to expose any new fixes (map pins).

Meantime, Ellen and the animals are holding down the fort at home.  The temperatures are expected to hit 30 today, with a low around 13, so I expect that the brood areas will be expanding rapidly.

I asked Ellen to check and pull entrance reducers if any hives start hanging out while I am gone.  Hanging out attracts the skunks and teaches them bad habits which they may pass on to their offspring.  The best policy with wildlife is to be careful  not to train  them to be pests.

We arrived at Bellingham around 2 PM and boarded Salus.  After a check-out of the inventory and settling in, we went out to a brew pub with the crew from "Just Fiddlin'", also members of FACS, and did a little grocery shopping.

Wednesday May 19th 2010
May past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Today we took Salus for a sail out on Bellingham Bay and returned by 3 PM since a gale was expected.

Soon after we got in, the storm began and continued all night.  Rick (pictured beside the boat) and I had an excellent supper at an Italian restaurant, bought a few more groceries and then called it a night.

The rain continued heavy, with strong, gusty winds all night and into the morning.

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