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A nice looking emergency queen cell.  A cell like this can produce a good quality queen.

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Thursday June 10th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Good work on the headlight polishing. I did the same thing to the headlights on my wife's Escort... started with a nice coarse dry 200x, then 400x wet, 800x wet, and 1500x wet (might have been 1200x and 2000x... I'd have to check my sandpaper supply).

After all that... an 8" polishing wheel on a furnace blower motor, and plastic polishing compound. The headlights looked like new! Only problem is... they now lack proper UV protection... so they yellow faster than before. The clearcoat that the OEM uses has UV inhibiters in it.

What clearcoat did you spray? I tried the one-part spray can (dupli-colour acrylic lacquer)... fortunately I had a spare headlight, because the lacquer is too "hot" for the plastic headlight, and caused the plastic to fog up. When I looked into it, I would need a 2-part urethane clearcoat. So my headlights have started to yellow again.

And as you say... it's an insane improvement. Sort of scary that people are out there driving cars with headlights like that!


I used the cheaper clearcoat at Canadian Tire.  I said it was auto grade.  The dupli-colour was twice the price.

I slept well and awoke around five.  After breakfast and coffee, I went back to bed and slept another two hours.  The sleep was full of dreams, quite pleasant ones.  I think I am getting over whatever I had.

It is sunny here this morning. Hope it lasts although the country here in Sudbury is dry.  At home, the weather continues damp and cool, but some really good bee weather appears to be in the offing.

Bill is busy today, so I have some time to myself.  I have lots to do.  I have not touched my boat beyond looking under the cover.  It seems to have stayed clean and dry.   I have some books and organizing to do and maybe a little shopping. 

I've also been meaning to get my web design skills a bit more up to date.  I'm still using FrontPage, although I have the full Expression Web suite.  Some of the code is pretty obsolete, although browsers still seem to render it well.  I have noticed, though that some of the older pages have mixed fonts that need fixing.  I need to get with cascading style sheets.

When I look over and sometimes graphically reformat my older diary pages, I don't rewrite the text.  Sometimes I may eliminate dead web links, improve pictures, and make other such minor changes, but so far, I have avoided deleting or rewriting my history.  I took the whole site down for a while after I retired, but restored it later from a backup copy due to popular demand.

I notice that some other writers do rewrite or delete their earlier work, and to my mind, that makes it hard to follow the evolution of their experience and ideas.  What I find especially disturbing, is that when I mention that I have observed that happening, I am attacked with surprising vitriol by people I would have expected would be more objective.

 I just received a note about the upcoming
 Queen Rearing Workshops
 in Fort Macleod and Crop Centre North,
 June 15, 19 & 21st, featuring Larry Connor.

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.

Friday June 11th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

We have a sunny morning here in Northern Ontario.  In Alberta, the conditions continue cooler and rainy, but a few hot sunny days are coming.  These hot days are important because they allow the smaller hives to cover more comb and to get brood established.  Two days, though, is hardly enough, but at least the nighttime temperatures are expected to be well above freezing.

This has been a disappointing spring.  It started early, forcing beekeeper actions like feeding and encouraging early unwrapping and splitting, then it turned cool and rainy, punishing the splits.  Rain is a good thing.  It does not hurt the bees to be confined for a few days, as long as they are well-fed since the adults conserve their energy while the brood develops, but cool weather and frosty nights are hard on the bees.

Spring 2010 has been the sort of spring which favours hives in insulated boxes over hives in unwrapped wooden hives.  Northern beekeepers counter the effect of cold on wood hives somewhat by using the black bags (available from AHPC) shown at right.  Other beekeepers unwrap and re-wrap the hives as they work on them until mid-May or even June, but bees in BeeMax boxes can be manipulated as easily as unwrapped wood hives, and are also able to conserve heat much better.

Although it is true that bees do not heat their hive in winter, in spring, their activities are limited by how much comb they can keep warm enough for the cluster to cover it non-stop, without being forced to withdraw on cold nights.  Any comb they can keep inside the cluster can be used for food storage and brood rearing.  Comb outside the cluster is much less reliably accessible, and, of course, any brood on the fringes is vulnerable unless the hive temperatures can be controlled.

That is why beekeepers make small splits into small boxes like four to six-frame nucs.  In such boxes, heat which escapes the cluster remains confined in the box and keeps the outside combs warmer than they would be in a larger brood chamber.  The problem, of course, is that small colonies can become large colonies very suddenly -- almost overnight -- when a large patch of brood emerges, resulting in crowding, hanging out, plugging and/or swarming.

Saturday June 12th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

After steady rain all night, the morning dawned cloudy and muggy.   Meantime, in Alberta, the warm weather predicted has turned out to be cooler than originally expected, but the nights are warm.  Two weeks from today, I return to make splits, so I'm hoping we get some really warm weather soon.  I'd like to have lots of brood to distribute.

I'm lining up queens and cells for that time frame.  I expect to be able to make at least thirty splits off the 44 hives I have at present, and perhaps double that depending on how things look.  If I have to raise my own cells, I'd use the Case-Hopkins method, and that takes 11 days or so, so I'd have to start the day I get home.  On the other hand, I'm hoping my friends will have some extra and that Kettle Valley will be able to supply some special queens as planned. 

If I use my own stock, I'm concerned that it might not have the qualities I am seeking.  I could just pick the best-looking hive and go with it, but after the splitting I've done, that might just be picking the hive that did not get split as much.  If last year is any indication, though, there should be lots of swarm and supersedure cells that could be used if I am not fussy.  As it is, if I use cells, half the genetics will be from my existing hives and any stray drones in the neighbourhood.

I notice that Google has picked up the topics on this and previous pages and is serving ads for headlight cleaning kits, etc.  (up top on the right).   Cool!  That was a big topic here earlier this month.  At right is a screen shot thumbnail (click to enlarge), since the ads change constantly and what I describe may be gone tomorrow.

I'm not normally a big fan of ads, but the Google ads are subtle, don't get in the way, and are relevant to the topics -- usually.  sometimes the choices are pretty funny, though, since the decisions are made by a 'bot trying to understand human thought.  An obvious example that comes to mind is that when I wrote about bee diets, and weight loss on the scale hives, the 'bot immediately started running ads for weight loss formulas and proprietary methods for losing weight.

I actually get a bit of welcome cash now and then from people clicking on ads of interest to them on my site.  I resisted the idea of hosting ads for years, but one day I thought, "What the heck" and signed up.  I don't think the ads detract from the site, and obviously they are useful to readers or no one would click on them.   Some browsers have ad blockers built in and those people don't know what they are missing.  I run an ad blocker myself, but just to avoid those nasty distracting, squiring, flashing annoying ads.  Text ads placed politely to one side I appreciate sometimes.

If you are running an ad blocker, consider turning it off for a few minutes just for fun.  Don't go crazy clicking though, because Google knows all and it is against their rules to suggest that visitors click links gratuitously just for revenue, or to click them myself.  I don't know what they do if they suspect hanky-panky, but I don't want to find out.

*    *    *    *    *    *

According to Networx, I've used 620.88 MB since the morning of the 7th.  This the 12th, so at the current rate, I am using around 100 GB/day.  During the past few days, I received several major O/S and software updates and did some intensive work on on website I manage, southernalbertabeekeepers.com (currently offline).  I still have work to do on it, since this was a major version upgrade.

Sunday June 13th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Note from a reader...

"Caught a swarm today... ~30ft up in a tree.  Quite an experience for my first time.  Also tore into the hive I think they came from... nice looking swarm cells!  Nice long extension pole came in really handy... borrowed from the neighbour (even handier!)".

Swarm season is here.  I love it!  Last year when i got home in late June, there were scout bees in my equipment stacks and beautiful cells being drawn.  Splitting was a cinch. This is the best time of year to be a honey bee.

I used XOOPS, a CMS, to create the Southern Alberta beekeepers Association website with the idea that it would make things easier for me, not harder and easy for others to  write for the site without having to approach me.  So far designing and maintaining it, and using it has been a puzzle. 

Not only has it been a puzzle for me to get it tuned up, but almost no one posts on the site.  If people would post there, I'd feel inclined to put more work into it.  Is it too difficult?  It is not that hard.  I've done it a few times, myself, hoping others would get the idea.   I hope people give it a try.

Well, the site is working again and updated after hours of fiddling.  I hope people show some interest.  Maybe I'll add a classified ads section. 

Another 100 MB used today.  That is 1/5 of the entire capacity of my first hard drive back in the early eighties.

I packed to get ready for Muskoka tomorrow morning and added another can of gas to the air-conditioning. Here's hoping that it is not leaking.  The pressure was at the lower end of the range.  We'll see.

*    *    *    *    *    *

southernalbertabeekeepers.com is back in business.  I sent all the registered members a note asking them to visit and to contribute.  We'll see.

Monday June 14th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

I was awake at 5 and Mom and I were on the road around 8.  We got to Pine Hill around 11 and got to work.  The animals and bugs had been busy all winter and there was a lot of cleaning to do on this 110 year-old cottage.  The pines shed pollen and the veranda is always covered with yellow dust.

The Rocket Hub works fine here.  (We're only a short distance from where Ted Rogers used to cottage, so I guess that is to be expected).  That and Skype came in handy since the phone was not connected yet, and Mom's cell phone has bad reception.  (Bell?).  Today I only used 26 MB and that include quite a bit of Skyping.  I'd sure like to know exactly where all the bandwidth goes.

Tuesday June 15th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

I really don't know where the bandwidth goes.  I used 16.93 MB and it is now just after breakfast.  All i have done is read email and open a few web pages.  Today is Tuesday, so Microsoft may have updates, but I don't see any waiting to be instilled.  It worries me to see so much invisible traffic.  For one thing, I am paying for it, and for another, how do I know it is legitimate software doing this in the background and not a backdoor  trojan or worm?  I have discovered that some web pages devour bandwidth loading ads if left open, even if my ad blocker does not allow them to be displayed

More wet, cool weather in Alberta.  I wonder how everyone's bees are doing?

I mentioned Bell, and how I fired them for incompetence some time ago.  As much as i loved my cell phone, the billing screw-ups were wasting too much of my time.  Now, here I am at the cottage and, apparently, instead of suspending the phone for six months (seasonal disconnect), whoever spoke to Mom disconnected the phone and cancelled the account.

The first person I spoke with blamed Mom and said she might have lost the number, and that if she could reconnect, there would be a delay, a credit check and a $55 charge.  I told her I needed to speak to her supervisor.  After a delay and silence, the supervisor came on and explained that the first woman with whom I had spoken should be able to help me the same as she would be able to.  Apparently not.  The supervisor heard the story, got a few details, gave me her name and a confirmation number and said the line would be working in ten minutes.  In ten minutes she herself called me back to confirm the line was again connected.

So there you go.  As I have discovered, there are a few competent people at Bell.  (Very few.  And they are hard to reach).  The first woman was very polite and seemingly friendly, but IMO, passive aggressive.  According to her, everything was our fault and we would have to suffer, wait, and pay.  Then, and maybe, just maybe, she would give us what we expected and we should be grateful for her 'help'.

The second understood that Bell screwed up and fixed it quickly, and apologized to boot.

On the way to Toronto, Mom and I stopped at Port Severn to have coffee on the dock with John and Jill.  John mentioned he is buying BCE stock because the company cannot get worse and can only get better.  We'll see.

In Toronto, Mom had lunch with two friends at the Granite Club.  While Mom was visiting, I drove around a bit.  Toronto is a beautiful city at this time of year.

Later, we drove to Brampton and checked into our hotel.  At six, we had supper with Sarah at Moxie's and went up to see her apartment and her cat, Skye.

Wednesday June 16th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

It's another rainy day in Swalwell, and in Brampton, where we are staying over.   Today, Mom visits two more friends and then we head north to Pine Hill.

We drove to Guelph, where Mom met with her friend and they had lunch at The Boathouse.  I chose to take a walk and I'm glad I did.  I crosses a wooden bridge and hiked along the Eramosa River, a most idyllic spot.   The day was warm, sunny and breezy, perfect for strolling along the banks.  Bees were working the flowering trees.   I like to visit river parks in various cities.  Invariably, they are beautiful, unique, and interesting.

After lunch we returned to Pine Hill, a two-hour drive by back roads, then the 400, stopping at Bala for supper in the pub.

Thursday June 17th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Another rainy, cool day in Alberta.  At least the nights are warming up and the bees should be building.  I'll be home in ten days, so I hope that the BeeMax boxes will be there when I arrive.  I've made arrangements to have some cells ready for the splitting window.  I'm not sure how many splits will be possible, though, given the weather we've had.

Here in Muskoka, the forecast is for sunny and warm.

*    *    *    *    *    *

A reader asks, what are the current prices for pollination in Southern Alberta and BC, and what are good hives selling for.  Does anyone know? Write me

Here is one answer:

"Pollination is from $110- 125 bottom end and top end is $145- 165. The most I know about hives is $300-360 for double brood or around $200 for single.

That is pretty good!  When I sold, in April and May 2003, I got around $250 for a double, c/w wrap.  I wonder why the strong demand?  2009/2010 winter success was good in Alberta and many have excess bees -- at least they did a while back.  Maybe this slow spring has changed that?  Maybe the other provinces did not have as good wintering success?

It seems that Medhat's attack on the problem has turned things around for the better here in Alberta, but there are some who did not get the news or get on board his programme.  These are the "controls" that show what he diagnosed as the problem was indeed the problem.

Friday June 18th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Another rainy day in Alberta and another hit, sunny day here in Muskoka.  We have some more cleaning to do and I looked at the boat yesterday and decided it needs some bottom paint and a varnish.  I don't know when I will get that done, but we did buy four chain hoists and two slings, so we can raise and lower the boat at will.

My BeeMax boxes are now in Edmonton and I have a quote for delivery to Swalwell.  When I ordered them, they were supposed to be delivered around the end of May and cost me $15.45 each.  Now, I'm told the price is $17.65 each.  I ordered the boxes through AHPC because their price seemed comparable to ordering direct, which my friends have done.  Now the price has apparently changed.  I don't know what to think.

I went to the doctor today.  My ears have been bothering me.  I saw a doctor in Alberta and he prescribed some ear drops.  I used them as directed, but they did not accomplish anything.  I figured that time would clear up the blockage, but a few weeks has not solved the problem.  This doctor says that I have an internal ear infection and prescribed Amoxil.  I hope this works.

We finished the cottage clean-up and I managed to fix a leak in the toilet.  I've been doing some web jobs, too.  Several of my clients have written me with some changes they need done.

Saturday June 19th 2010
Junes past: 2009, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999

Finally some warm (above 20) weather is coming up in Alberta. 

From the Lower Mainland in British Columbia:

Blueberries (pollination) are renting at about $60-90. Doesn't depend on strength. Doesn't depend on placements, usually it's whatever a beekeeper can negotiate. Mostly hives go in small lots, 15-30 hives. Some are larger but not many farms take 100 hives. Some Alberta beekeepers have been undercutting, why I don't know. This season was very poor.

Cranberries are between $100-120, again whatever a beekeeper can negotiate. We don't get a lot of honey - usually a loss of weight, especially in this cool, wet season.

Some hives go to raspberries $40-50. Same situation for pricing, not that many hives are placed on raspberries.

Canola hives get anywhere from $120-160 and contrary to the BC situation there is a financial incentive to bring better hives. There are also inspectors that grade the colony strength which tends to weed out the rascals pretty quickly, not in BC.

I sold 5 frame nucs for $125.00, with a frame exchange. Doubles for $320 each.

I was reading back pages and found my first year BeeMax hive test results, here.  My recent results have been much better.

I expect that the reasons for the poor performance the first year were:

  • Late transfer into the new boxes in October 2002

  • I did not drill 1" auger holes in each box

  • I used the BeeMax floors and lids (lately, I don't)

This polystyrene hive idea is worth  considering for those who are getting hit with bad weather spring and fall and are either tired of wrapping and unwrapping or are unable to get around to it on time.  Considering the cost of wraps and the labour of transporting and storing them, and the bother of putting them on and off several times a year, this may the way of the future.

I am disappointed at the recent escalation in BeeMax price, but have written Swienty and they are calculating a delivered price by the container-load.  Interested?  Write me

*    *    *    *    *    *

I notice that John is trying to get something going with a provocative article over at The Southern Alberta site.  Will he get a response?

I thought of responding, but who can argue with those who use the word, "sustainable", to mean whatever they define it to mean, and who can argue with someone who does not apparently understand that Alberta is outside the natural range of honey bees and that all that the honey bees found here are either imports or descended from imports, and that to date bee populations are best sustained with augmentation by imports as required?  (This is slowly changing and some, but not all, Alberta beekeepers are able to be largely self-sufficient for years in succession).

Who can argue with someone who doesn't seem to understand that other jurisdictions with a less enlightened approach than Alberta have lost over half their colony count to the extent that the entire province of Quebec -- for example -- had, at one point, fewer hives in total than one individual friend of mine operates.  At the same time, Alberta managed to make the best of the same bad situation and is currently in its best state since border closure and regulation crippled and decimated the Canadian beekeeping industry with well-meaning, but misguided restrictions.

Sure there are problems, and yes, dealing with varroa, tracheal mites, AFB, EFB, chalkbrood, sacbrood, viruses and unknown diseases is a challenge, but we are doing it.  From a state where we depended entirely on imports and wintering was the exception, we are now in a position where beekeepers are complaining of having too many bees and trying to figure out what to do with the excess.

Some beekeepers just cannot seem to get ahead of the curve, but most of the surviving beekeepers these days have learned to work together, be proactive, monitor their hives, and to use the latest information and techniques available.

That said, I am sympathetic to those aspiring to develop strains of bees better suited to Alberta and better management methods to increase the success of bees in withstanding the climate and the various pests and diseases.  I just do not think that things are all that bad.  We have always faced challenges.  Some have been able to rise to the challenge and some have not.  It was ever thus.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Bob and Anne came over this morning for coffee and we had a good visit.  They have moved back to Toronto from England.  Bob was fascinated by the Rogers Rocket Hub.  He has the Portable Internet, as do I, but has noticed it has limitations lately.  That technology got off to a great start, but turned out to be a dead end, and Rogers is merely maintaining it, not augmenting it.

I tried out the chain hoists and slings I bought for raising and lowering Cloud 9 today, and the idea works as planned.  I now have to examine the stern drive and engine and launch.  I'll do that later, since tomorrow, I'm driving Mom home and bringing down my boat the next day.

Notes to self: I've been swimming twice now.  The water is cool, but pleasant after the initial shock.   The pines are still shedding the little husks, but the pollen all seems to be down.  I notice that last year at this time, I was not nearly as faithful in writing this diary as this year.  I wonder why.  I never did bring my boat to Muskoka in 2009, either.

I think the Amoxil is working.  My ears are not as badly blocked and I can hear better.

I finally got the shower mixer valve figured out and working.  Somehow, it had been mis-assembled at the factory.  Some people like to do Suduko or crosswords; me, I just take things apart and try to re-assemble them so that they work.  I have yet to finish the paneling in the bathroom, and then paint the walls, and I am done.

A week from today, I fly home from Sudbury.  A week seems like a short time -- hardly enough time to do anything -- but in my working years, a weeks was a long time to be away from work.  I've been East now for two weeks.  Time flies. 

When I get back, three weeks will have passed since I messed with the hives.  Even hives which were queenless and raised queens from larvae -- if there were any like that -- should have their queens mated , so I should be able to mess up the yard and move hives or make nucs without interfering with and confusing queens returning from flights.

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