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Tuesday June 1st 2010
Junes past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

This morning I drove to Calgary to see my eye doctor, stopping to see Mike at Global on the way through.  I needed more patties.  Before I went away a few weeks back, I had put in a few patties on, but decided to reduce the amount so they would not be in the way of splitting, and the dandelion flow was starting.  As it turned out, the dandelion flow was a bust for the smaller colonies although the larger ones seemed to get something out of it, and when I checked, all, with few exceptions had eaten their patties completely and nothing was left.  Maybe fruit bloom an other blossoms will provide adequate feed now, but I don't want to take a chance.

Meijers came for supper and brought some cells for my splits and some syrup for the light colonies, and picked up their share of the thymol.  I'm still figuring out the thymol, but it seems it cost $100 for delivery and $80 for brokerage.  Not only that, but the weight seems a bit short from what I ordered.  I don't have an invoice, so when I get one, I'll see.

The weather warmed up today and the hives look better than they did yesterday.  I also looked more closely for mites and conclude that only a few of the hives are badly afflicted.  I have yet to decide about treating for varroa using Apivar.  I have been treating for AFB already and the treatments are working well.  I am concerned about the collateral effects of varroa, especially when I see some cells with multiple mites.

I have found that not treating for AFB still results in breakdowns and am seeing that splitting and oxalic drizzle may not be enough to manage varroa.  As for monitoring, alcohol washes are too destructive to do all the time, and mite drops are the best IMO.  Unfortunately, my floors provide too little clearance for easy use of drop boards.

Both washes and drops have their limitations, though, since the season and amount of drone brood have an influence on the interpretation of the raw counts.  I have been examining drone brood lately and am thinking that this may be a good measure of future infestation levels.  I have no algorithm to combine drone brood area, sample counts and other observations into a benchmark, but can imagine it working well.

Wednesday June 2nd 2010
Junes past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Now that I am committed to using thymol, this arrives.  I have some concerns about the perspective of the writer, but this seems legit.

From Bee-L:

Hi all,

Thymol treatments seem to have been embraced by the beekeeping community (larger producers, and even the organic and natural crowd...except for the "treatment free" camp) as a safe and effective mite treatment.

We attended a talk last week by Maryann and Jim Frazier at the Backyard Beekeepers in CT.

Apparently, they have some evidence at Penn State that thymol has an unfortunate side effect.   It increases the permeability of other pesticides (presumably both agricultural and beekeeper applied) through the bee cuticle.

They did not present what the evidence/data was that they had observed/collected, but it was clear that despite the fact that it was this years intended "pre installation treatment" for packages in their program, they decided not to use it at all, and although Maryann still recommended other "soft" treatments in her talk, she warned strongly against the use of thymol.

Now that the thymol and the syrup are here, I'm going to mix some up.  My previous calculations gave 0.25g / US gallon from the numbers given in the Turkish study, and beekeepers tell me a half to 3/4 g per gallon is good. All the hives have frame feeders, so the job of feeding should be fairly easy.

*    *    *    *    *

I dissolved 45g of thymol in a cup or so of isopropyl alcohol and added it to the 60 gallons that Meijers brought yesterday.  It seemed to mix in, but I am thinking that some form of mechanical agitation would have been better than the stick I used.  Some recommend using lecithin as an emulsifier.  I see a slight slick on the surface, and am careful to pour the top bit off each bucket I dip out and stir again often.

I fed most of the hives a (US) gallon and checked again for queens, adding cells where needed.  It is amazing how hives can go from looking crappy to filling two boxes in a few days.  I had to split another of the expanded polystyrene hives (BeeMax) again.  I added pollen patties (Global) and noted how quickly the bees have started on the ones I gave yesterday.

I looked more closely at the varroa situation and am less concerned.  It seems that one hive has quite a few mites in drone brood and I did see one on an adult bee (maybe one I liberated), but I am not seeing many in the others.  My main concern now is that the hives may get away from me and produce honey, limiting my treatment  options if the levels get up.  I am going to have to return home several times to continue splitting, it seems.

  • JH: >> There is little doubt in my mind that you can use drone pulling as a good tool to measure extremes.

    AD: > Good point. I've been starting to do that since reducing treatments to oxalic drizzle, which seems to have variable efficacy. The observations can be quite shocking.

    AD: > Let me add that I am surprised to find that the drone brood in on part of the hive can be loaded with multiple varroa and drone brood in another part can be quite free of varroa.

     AD: > Anyone else see this?

    KF: A similar observation...when using drone brood as a trap crop, often, not always, the mite load on the trap frame as a whole will be more or less evenly distributed across the frame (this is early in the season when the load is heavier), whereas, small clusters of drone brood on a damaged frame, as Allen says, in a different part of the colony will be...extremely heavily infested, or clean or nearly so. The consistency of this made me curious, and an anecdotal observation is that those clusters heavily infested were further from the center of the brood (cooler?) than those clusters closer...by at least a frame, often two. By the third round of this in a colony (after 60 some days) this went away, but if any varroa remained, they were in the clusters farthest from the center (which by now may be those locations that at one time were closer), which by now had moved...again, anecdotal on not many 8 frame colonies, in northeast Ohio.

  • My method of looking for varroa right now has been opening drone brood.  I am starting to understand that in most hives varroa reproduction is quite limited until drones are produced, but then the mites can be found in concentrations in some of the drone brood. (See Kim's comments on BEE-L below).

    *    *    *    *    *

    Varroa can only achieve on average, a small increase in worker brood, maybe something like 1.25-1.5X.  However, in drone brood, the longer capping time allows more varroa to complete development, giving an increase of more like 3X for each cycle.

    *    *    *    *    *

    If I were a commercial operator, I would do what all the smart larger operators have done, drop in some Apivar and be done with worrying for another six months.  I'd also do an alcohol wash, but I have to admit that looking at the splits the other day, I felt that taking 300 bees from some would be too big a sacrifice.  Today, most hives looked good enough to spare some.

    *    *    *    *    *

    Having the golden Italian packages in a yard of mostly black bees has been interesting.  I am finding some young blonde bees in hives quite a ways down the line from the packages and facing different directions.

    *    *    *    *    *

    I learned today that my BeeMax boxes will not be here for another two weeks.  Apparently, they are just leaving Quebec about now.  I'm already having to split into wood boxes.  I suppose that is OK, since I have so many, but this spring the bees look twice as good in the BeeMax hives.

    Once they arrive, I'll have to assemble and paint them before use.  That will take a little while.  I wonder what colour to use?

    On right are the twenty boxes I received in September of 2002. That year I transferred the bees over to the BeeMax in October.  The resulting wintering was poor.  I later learned that the bees do best if they have been in the BeeMax boxes for several months before winter and that transferring after July gets increasingly riskier.

    Thursday June 3rd 2010
    Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

    Today is cooler and overcast, with periods of rain.  I have the books to finish and deliver to the accountant and several hives to finish feeding and checking.  Tomorrow, I need to scrape and check enough brood chambers to add another to each of the forty ort so hives before I go.  Hopefully, that will be enough space to prevent swarming until I get back.  At that time, I'll split again.

    I finished the hive checks and feeding and used the last of the cells.  They had been lying on an excluder on top of a strong hive and under a pillow.  I noticed one had emerged, but the rest were still fine.  I could see the queens wiggling through the JayZee BeeZee cups.

    Friday June 4th 2010
    Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

    The day dawned bright and clear.  Finally, some nice weather again.  We need it for the virgin queens being mated these days.

    I have a list of odds and ends to deal with before I fly out tomorrow at 6AM.  I took care of the bees yesterday, but should have some more boxes ready to go on for when I return.

    I had planned to add thirds to most of the hives since when I got home last year there were swarms, but in the end I just used the dead-outs to put thirds on several hives with the most activity at the bottom drill hole and altered my plan to return earlier than I had originally thought.  I have the BeeMax boxes to assemble and paint if they ever come, and the timing should be good for another split. I was a little late last year.

    I count 44 hives right now.  I expect I'll lose four by the time I get back, leaving 40.  From those I should be able to get 100 if I work them well and feed.  If I winter all in three boxes and use BeeMax, them I really need 300 BeeMax boxes, not 121 -- the 100 I ordered plus the 21 on hand.  I notice that Medivet is the Swienty distributor in Canada.  I wonder if they have the boxes?  I prefer Swienty from what I have seen so far.

    Speaking of Medivet, I heard that while I was away sailing, Willy died and that there was a good funeral with many of his beekeeper friends attending.  I'm sorry to have missed it since Willy and Ursula have been very good friends.   We travelled together to Saskatchewan meetings and always went out for a smoke together at the bee meetings.

    Last winter we had ordered more coal than would fit into the bin and the trucker dumped it on the ground. he did a horrible job, spreading it over some distance. We covered it, but at some point, it had to be shoveled up and wheel-barrowed to the bin. I managed to get that done.

    Then, since our neighbour sold his place and we had some wraps and pillows stored in an old granary on his place, I pulled them out, since we have not met the new owner and I'm guessing one day soon that they will burn it down since the roof leaks and it is full of pigeons. By the time I had done all the odds and ends, I was too tired to pack and suffering allergies from the dust.

    Saturday June 5th 2010
    Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

    I got up at 2:45 and was packed and out the door by 4:01. When I arrived in Airdrie at 4:42, my cab was waiting and I made the airport exactly an hour before liftoff. I hate to cut things that close, but I also need my sleep.

    Three hours, half a bad movie and a good sleep later, later, I am sitting in the Exchange Cafe at Pearson writing this.

    By 3, I expect to be on the tarmac in Sudbury, greeted by my friend from high school years and cousin by marriage., Bill.

    This spring, I again had a chance to compare mated queens to ripe cells and natural cells. I have always like cells better, except for situations where the weather is settled and the hives are uniform. I have found otherwise that success is variable and that the supposed savings in time is largely illusory.

    As it worked out, with the cold weather and rain, ripe cells appear to have worked out as well or better than the mated queens. In fact, I'm not sure how many of the mated queens took and how many were lost. It is hard to tell, since I did not write on the hives. From the look of it, I'm guessing that I lost half the mated queens sometime shortly after introduction. Some are laying, but others just laid a few eggs and I added cells as insurance before leaving. I think that many who claim better success are just not checking back and are later seeing a queen the bees raised themselves more of the time than they suspect.

    Mated queens are the fastest way to bring in new genetics, since they add 100% new stock whereas cells only add half new. (The drones mating them are local), but mated queens have their downsides. If they cost $20 and half of them disappear or are replaced within weeks, that means a real cost of $40 each, plus. In addition, there is the risk that they carry nosema or some other ailment or have been damaged in storage, shipment or introduction. Cells on the other hand are cheap, quite reliable, and should be free of new disease if home-raised. Additionally, emerging and mating in the hive where they will live adds a degree of assurance that they will be treated well.

    As for the question of what we get with mated queens, well, it is just that: a good question. If we get queens from a breeder known for careful selection and nuc management, then we have some assurance of improvement, but if not, then maybe we are just as well off picking good, productive hives which are free of disease and bad habits, and making cells from them. In spring it is not hard to get bees to raise cells. In fact, just try and stop them! We cannot, so why not take advantage of that urge and guide them to do it in a way that yields us a supply of cells?

    I must confess that I did not raise any cells myself this spring, but depended on my good friends to supply some they raised from selected stock, including Saskatraz. I found that I had an AFB problem last year, so think that my genetics need bolstering from outside.

    I arrived on schedule in Sudbury and was met by Bill.  We went looking for an antenna for the Rocket Hub and learned that Rogers will soon serve the camp mat Whitefish Falls.  That has been a long-time dream.

    I got to Mom's and checked out my van.  It started just fine.

    Sunday June 6th 2010
    Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

    I visited Linda in the morning, then had lunch with Mom at Guylaine's.  From there, I went to Bill's and we took a good hike up the hill for some exercise.   I have been somewhat inactive lately and need to get moving more.  I was stiff, but the hike loosened me up a bit.  After that, we drove out to see Steve, a ham friend of Bill's.  They are getting ready for Field Day.

    I had supper at Mom's and we watched "The Family Man" on TV.  I generally enjoy Nicholas Cage and this movie was no exception.  I generally avoid TV, since the adds are annoying.  We mute them and chat.  I don't se ads often, so glanced to see what they ran, and noted that the set of ads run at each break seemed exactly the same.  Hmmm.  I suspect that TV and TV ads are at a crossroads.

    I have avoided using the Rocket Hub the past day or so and got my Portable Internet back from Harri until the end of the Rocket Hub month, since the Rogers web site seems to report usage inconsistently and I am trying to avoid running over 3 GB which would jump my bill up by $15.  That $15 would add another 2 GB, but what use is that if it is added on the last day of the billing month.

    Monday June 7th 2010
    Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

    Sanding off the old clear-coat and pitsI spent the afternoon at Bill's sanding and clear-coating my headlights.  They had turned milky and opaque and the beam from them was getting quite dim.  

    One of the tricks used  by used-car dealers and used-parts dealers is to clear-coat lenses to make them brighter.  Over time, the clear coat can darken and become opaque.  The headlight lens shown to the left was quite fogged and took a lot of wet sanding with 600 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper.   The sanding leaves it a bit scuffed, so another thin coat of clear coat restores the lens to like-new.  Using 1200 grit and buffing compound after coarse sanding can polish the plastic, but most just spray on some clear-coat to add shine and fill in the tiny scuffs from sanding.  It works like magic.

    The finished headlight lens after clear-coatingThis was the first time I have ever done this job and it just happened that the first lens I tied had to be one that was very heavily layered with varnish.  You can see the gobs of build-up in the first photo.  This one took an hour or more and is still very slightly milky, but the other had not been as heavily coated and came out like-new with only a half-hour of work.  After doing the second, I realize that the first one was more built-up than I thought and that I could have sanded more, but at the time, I did not know.  Maybe another time.  For now, this is a 1000% improvement.

    I also found the air conditioning had lost charge and got some supplies.  When I went to charge the system, I discovered that the gauges I bought at Canadian Tire had another damaged O-ring and lost a can of gas.  Cheap junk.

    Tuesday June 8th 2010
    Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

    I see Alberta is not getting ideal queen mating weather.  Temps over 20 degrees and clear skies are best, but I assume the job will get done regardless.  Hopefully the queens will be fully mated and we won't have duds or early supersedure.  We see what we are up against when we raise our own queens or use cells.  We don't get to see how good or bad the mating conditions were when we buy queens in a box.

    Linda comes over this morning, so I have some time at the keyboard.

    The Rocket Hub is working well.  I have gone through my aps and find I can live with under 50 MB a day if there are no major updates and I don't play with my Linux installs.  Yesterday, I used a little over 25 MB and I used Skype a bit. 

    "Skype automatically selects the best codec depending on the connection between yourself and the person you are calling. On average, Skype uses between 3-16 kilobytes/sec depending on bandwidth available for other party, network conditions in between, callers CPU performance, etc. Rounding that up to 20 Kb/sec, 20 KB/sec x 60 sec/min x 60 min/hr = 72,000 KB/Hr.  

    That is in the order of a MB per minute.

    Skype uses a max of 70 MB/hr, so a GB of bandwidth would last for at least 15 hours of two-person talking.  That is 900 minutes.

    One note, though, don't run Skype without a NAT router, since Skype is P2P and can use your bandwidth to enhance the users experience of others.  It's in your user agreement.  Behind a router, apparently it cannot.

    Rogers claims to provide usage info on the custom web page, but plain and simple, it misreports usage and is utterly useless.  I use Networx to keep track of my own usage.  I have no idea how Rogers can bill by usage when they cannot even report it accurately and in anything like real time.  I recommend Networx, which is a free ap.   Networx tells me that I have used 5MB so far this morning, and I did to M$ updates.  This is Tuesday, so I imagine more are coming...

    What do you know?  I just checked the Rogers site and they report my usage at 49.53 MB this billing month so far (that is just yesterday and today).  Networx says 30.04 MB.  What gives?

    Another useful utility where bandwidth costs money is Netlimiter.  I haven't tried it yet, but it looks like a dream come true.  I always worry about what might be using my bandwidth.  This ap seems to give the user tight control over aps like Skype and can lock it down tight.

    Windows Updates, bless their souls have 64.4 MB of updates for me this evening.  Plus the several MB that was showing there this morning, that takes my bandwidth use up to 80MB today.  What do people on dialup do?  Networx just flagged me and said I am over the quota I set myself by 148%.

    Wednesday June 9th 2010
    Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

    The morning dawned rainy.  Bill and I planned to go cycling.  I think that is off and that this will be a good day to do some catching up.

    Back at home (see the weather report above courtesy Environment Canada), I see that the cool, wet weather continues.  There is some good hot bee weather in sight, though. When the temps get up to 20C and above, the bees start to really pull ahead.

    Maybe I'll take a look at BeeSource forums today.  I've given up spending much time there, having decided that the site is largely a waste of time, although a periodic glance over is profitable.

    I see that it is still the same old same old. 

    In the afternoon, Bill and I drove out to Saint Charles to visit a ham friend of Bill's.  We reprogrammed his VHF/UHF rig and tinkered with his computer, then returned to the city.  John has quite an antenna farm, with wires strung everywhere.  We are admiring his crank-up tower at right.

    Mom and I went out to Mr. Prime Rib for supper, then I went to bed early, around eight.  I've been feeling under the weather for a few weeks and figured I need to get more sleep.

    Larry is one of my favourite speakers.  Too bad I won't be around to attend.  It seems I am also going to miss EAS this year, too, due to time conflicts.

    I've been moaning about bandwidth, and today OpenOffice.org and a few other updates ran me over 1/3 GB.  I really should not obsess so much about the cost, since an extra GB is only $5, and I can't even get a beer for that most places.  A GB usually lasts much longer (unless I start downloading operating systems or movies) and is not as fattening.

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