Page June 2010
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This a perfect Muskoka morning -- calm, sunny, misty, with crows calling, but we are on the road to Sudbury.
Right about now, Southern Alberta is being hit with heavy rain and flooding and the Trans-Canada is closed. The railway is apparently washed out as well near Seven Persons. I wonder how many hives are floating around. I inspected hives in that area last fall.
Mom and I drove up to Sudbury this morning, visited Linda and had lunch. After lunch I had a rest, and slept three hours. I think the Amoxil is really working since my ears have cleared, but penicillin drugs can make one tired. Also, I had a headache yesterday, which continued into today and may have been an influence.
Headaches are unusual for me, but I have had several slight headaches in the past several months. I mentioned this to the doctor and she offered to send me for a cat scan. That was a surprise. Wow! I said I'd wait, since I have thought they may have to do with the ear infection. I'm hoping they will pass when that clears up. Who knows? A business partner of mine recently had a brain tumor which required extensive surgery in two passes. Last I heard, he is fine, but these things can happen.
After I woke up, and that took a while, too, I retuned a few items to stores, had supper and visited Harri, to drop off the cottage outboard, which is in sad shape and needs some TLC.
I'm planning to head south again tomorrow.
Summer Solstice - First Day of Summer
It took me until noon to get my boat hooked up and on the road behind the van. Six hours later, it was tied up at Pine Hill and I was back at the cottage, alone this time. The day was hot and sunny, but the van pulled the load without a problem.
Tonight is warm and silent here up here in the trees on the hill over the River. In the distance voices can be heard occasionally and the lights on the buoys marking the channel flash red and green. A few cottage and boathouse lights can be seen through the trees. I look for fireflies and don't see any.
In fact, there are few bugs this year. There were almost no blackflies earlier and I don't see many mosquitoes now. Usually they are thick at dusk, but no9t this year. The birds are strangely silent, too, except for crows. We have not seen any deer in the woods either.
Blackflies are widely thought to be the principal pollinators of wild blueberries hereabouts, but there are reports of bumper crops of wild blueberries on Tobin Island in spite of the lack of flies.
This was a time of year I enjoyed most when we were keeping bees on a large scale. Often I was out on these warm June nights with the wild skies lit from the north by a sun which set only for a few hours. Often we were moving bees and up at 2 Am to get the load delivered before sunrise and the heat of the day If we could get there by 8 or so, we lost very few bees from the open hives. We seldom netted the loads. Entrances were open.
That is all a decade in the past, now. You can read about it all here. It makes me weary just to think about it now, but, man was it fun at the time! What a life!
Today was a largely wasted day. For some reason, I did not feel like doing much. The fact that it was pouring rain outside may have been a factor. I did get some research done on various topics, including maintenance of our boat.
I also received a reply from Swienty and it seems they can ship a container-load to Calgary for a reasonable rate - € 3,52 each. In small numbers, the boxes are € 12.32, so we'll if they can offer a low enough price in a large volume to be competitive. With the Euro dropping against the C$, and currently around $1.28, this might just be practical, if there is no duty. I have some enquiries in about that. The BeeMax are now quoted at $17.65 + GST FOB Edmonton.
A 40-foot container holds 1,540 boxes. I don't need quite that many, but my friends may well want at least that many. I am still waiting on the total price, but it is looking comparable to BeeMax boxes delivered here, and the Swienty boxes come set-up and are of higher quality.
Anyone interested in sharing a load? Write me.
It looks like great weather for bees in Alberta today according to the forecast. Hot muggy weather suits honey bees just fine; they are tropical insects. Here in Muskoka, it is cool and overcast. Hardly inspiring.
I hear my BeeMax boxes have been picked up by Hi-Way 9 and are on their way. They should be there when I get home. How long will it take me to assemble the 100? I suppose it depends on how fancy I get. Last time, eight years back, I just slapped them together without glue or paint and it took almost no time.
I've decided glue is a good idea and, having read the recommendations, I see that a clamp of some sort is advised and should stay on for an hour or two until the glue dries. For 100 boxes, that would be problematic unless they can be stacked under a weight or something of the sort.
Here is what Betterbee says in their online catalog:
Rounded corners and a special finish make these hive bodies the newest and finest manufactured anywhere in the world. It accepts all wooden frames and plastic frames designed for deep hive bodies. These Hive Bodies are shipped knocked down. The four pieces are easily assembled by hand with no tools.
We suggest gluing with ProMax polystyrene glue for increased strength and longevity. Make sure the special frame rests are put in the slots correctly (like an L with the frame resting on top of the L) so that your bee space is correct. Paint sides and top edge with two coats of high quality exterior latex paint and get ready for a big increase in honey production.
The ultimate, contractor's grade adhesive from Elmer's. Waterproof, super strong, bonds virtually everything! This is the only adhesive we recommend for assembling our new BeeMax hives. Also a superior choice for making your wooden frames and hives super tight and long-lasting. 8 oz. squeeze container. (Ship Wt.: 1 lb.)
Hint: We have found the dovetails on the BeeMax® hives so tight that it was not mandatory to glue them. However, we do have some customers who have done so to increase the strength of the locked corner and gain some more peace of mind. If you do, only a very small amount is needed at each joint as the glue expands as it dries. One bottle will glue about 75 hive bodies. Surround the glued hive bodies or supers with large rubber bands to tighten the joints while the glue dries.
Uh-oh! I see that they list the frame rest separately at 45 cents each. I sure hope they are included when a box is ordered. Who would think they need to be ordered separately? The boxes are useless without them!
* * * * * *
The weather turned nice and I raised the mast on my boat. Then job takes about an hour with all the preparation involved after winter storage. It got so hot out that I had to change and go for a swim. The water is still cool, and it did the trick. I de-carboned the engine and went for a spin in the rain.
Clouds and rain here today. Sun, cloud and warm weather at home.
I spent the day working on Cloud 9. I set up the chain hoists and slings and lowered the boat, then filled the cooling system. Once everything was ready, I cranked the engine and found that it barely turned over. The battery is old, the starter has been showing signs of weakness in recent years, and perhaps the cylinders have oil in them from the winterizing process, raising compression. Between these things, the starter finally gave up, so I began removing it. The bolts are, of course in an impossible location, but I have two out so far.
Six months until Christmas!
Tomorrow, I return home, just in time for some really hot weather. This great for bees, but hard on people without air-conditioning.
After a half-hour upside down with my head in the bilge, my hands in water and breathing gas fumes, I managed to get the starter motor off Cloud 9. Maybe it was only ten or fifteen minutes, but it seemed like an hour.
I tidied up the boathouse and adjusted the slings so the boat will be fine for two weeks and closed up the boathouse. That left me a few hours to organize my stuff and go for a sail.
I sailed out past the shoal on the main and raised the jib. After an hour, I was back at the dock and tied up. I drove to Sudbury, dropped off the battery and starter at Harri's and went home to 1207.
I fly out of Sudbury at 3:30 this afternoon and should be in Calgary by 10 tonight. With luck, I'll be home around 11.
Mom drove me to the airport and I boarded the Dash 8 for the 48-minute flight to Toronto. In Toronto I had two and a half hours to kill. Time flies, and soon I was airborne again for Calgary. En Route, I watched "Edge of Darkness", and part of "Wall Street". Both are worth watching.
While waiting at the airport, I looked out on the tarmac and noticed a lineup of planes waiting while foreign dignitaries attended the G8 and the G20. The G8 met in Huntsville, a few miles from our cottage, and the G20 was meeting in Toronto as I sat in the airport. That is Air Force One at left, I believe.
I arrived in Calgary a bit late, but rested, had a visit with Mike, and was home at two minutes after midnight.
I'm home and have ten days to get my bees worked and the various tasks around home discharged. The coming days are expected to be hot and sunny.
I mowed the beeyard in preparation for my next task which is to reverse all hives and combine any which are queenless or have poor queens in preparation for splitting before I leave again in ten days. This hot weather is perfect for reversing, and there is a light flow on, too, so the bees should respond well to the manipulation. Bees expand best vertically, and placing empty comb above will result in additional brood. Since the weather is predicted to be hot for five days, there is little risk of chilling in those critical early days from egg to larva to pupa.
I cracked the first hive.
It was marked "Apparently queenless on last inspection.
I gave this hive a cell on June 3rd", or actually in
Worker development is ~21 days, so these pupae are about right on schedule. In five days or so, the hive should begin to quickly double in population. I reversed the hive and checked the feed. They had some pollen patty left, since they had few young bees to consume it. Old bees generally do not eat pollen, so the hive is packed with pollen, too, ready to explode when the bees start hatching.
As I worked along the row, I looked for queen cells on the bottom bars of the top boxes and saw none. there were cups, but no active cells.
I continued through half the hives and encountered some strong colonies. Some needed four boxes to contain the bees. Oddly, one of the biggest is queenless.
Meijers came for supper. Ruth showed up, too and Shirley came over for a while.
I mowed lawn in the morning, catching up from when the mower was not working due to the broken spring. There is a lot of grass to cut. With the mower, I have a lot more flexibility than when we hired out the job. With our own mower, I can cut, then move things onto the cut area and then cut areas which have not been cut for years.
Before lunch, Ellen and I drove to Three Hills to see the accountant and then on up to Heavy Metal Auto Wreckers where I returned some items for credit. After some grocery shopping, we retuned home and I split the remaining colonies.
The forecast has changed now to include chance of rain and thunderstorms as well as cooler weather in the 20s. This hot spell has been fantastic, though. When the ambient temperatures approach brood nest temperature, even the weaker colonies can catch up.
I went out early this morning to verify my estimates of colony strength. I opened all the hives which I have reversed in the past two days and looked at the number of frames covered with bees in the top box. I deliberately chose an early hour, 9 AM, because the bees are all home and the cluster has not spread out yet after the cooler night temperatures and reduced activity. Here is what I found:
Interestingly, my estimates made last night when the bees were flying were quite different.
I also gave all the colonies a dusting with antibiotic while they were open since I had some problems last year and want to make sure AFB is eliminated. I saw several suspicious cells in one hive the other day. After years of managing box by box and avoiding examining frames of brood, I am back to looking carefully at the brood for varroa and AFB.
All the colonies now have several Global pollen patties, too, since I can't count on the local flowers providing a balanced diet. Patties can be a bit of a bother when splitting, but these ones are quite easy to move around.
The neighbour cut his hay next to the hives, several days ago, making the bees a bit crabby, but look across the road! The canola is starting to bloom. (right)
Last year at this time, I was still in Ontario. I returned home on July 2nd, 2009, so I am almost a week ahead of schedule this year. Last year, there were swarm cells in the hives and scouts in the equipment stacks, but this year I am not seeing any swarm cells yet! Of course, a few days can make a big difference at this time of year; a large hatch can make a small colony into a large, crowded colony suddenly.
I'm assembling the BeeMax boxes today and found, to my surprise that the plastic frame rests which tap in and fit well are replaced by sheet metal rests which fall out. Hmmm. My friends say they have several hundred of the good ones, so I may go and get them.
They also started 50 to 60 Saskatraz cells for me on Friday and I could pick them up, too. They should be capped pretty soon and it is either move them now or wait until they are ripe, eleven or twelve days after the graft. The twelfth day would be the day I am scheduled to fly east again, so that won't work too well.
I called Derrick and he checked into the problem right away. Apparently the suppliers of the plastic frame rest material to the BeeMax manufacturers had discontinued it and they had made up some steel ones and shipped without testing them. New ones are being made up now and will be coming.
Right now, I am assembling boxes and it is a slow job. Of course, I make it slower by drilling 1" holes front and back before gluing. The gluing takes time, too.
I'll plug one of the holes with a caplug when it is at back, but I like two holes so I can rotate the boxes and sometimes, I happen to put the hole to the back if there is only one.
Here (at right) are the results of two hours of work assembling: 20 boxes, one of which is made of broken pieces. When I finished that batch, I see they may have shipped an extra side in anticipation of such breakage, but there are no instructions. If my time is worth $20/hr, then they cost me two dollars each to assemble them. Labour typically is worth quite a bit more, even if the pay rate is less because management time is required and other overhead should be calculated. This is a waste of a beekeeper's time. Maybe I'll get faster.
The next 20 boxes took me 45 minutes, working flat-out, so 20 an hour sounds like a real-world speed. That includes drilling the holes.
Did I say I have not seen any signs of swarming? I did, but today when I was moving some things around, I see bees coming and going from an equipment stack. Did a hive swarm, or are these scouts? I'll have to take a look. The only swarm signs I saw were back when I first split in May.
Well, I did get a lot faster. I now have 56 boxes put together as of 7:30 PM.
...Yes, it is a swarm, and it has taken up residence in a stack of old equipment. I went over an took a look. I'll take a better look in the daytime when I am working the hives.
I have a week left to get the bees done and everything else under control. I bit off a fair bit by expanding this year and buying new boxes. Just assembling and painting them will use up two days or so. Fortunately my friends took care of making me some cells. so that is one less worry. I ordered queens from Kettle Valley, and it looks as if thy will be coming late, so we'll see. I may give them to my friends.
Our hot spell ends today. Tomorrow, the temperatures drop to the low 20s. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since I need to do some splitting and that is more easily done when the bees are not too spread out in the hives. Working outside is more pleasant, too. Hopefully by now the hives will have taken advantage of the heat and expanded their brood area to the max.
The details of queen development are of interest when handling cells since rough handling can result in the larva or pupae dropping down in the cell or the pupa being damaged at a critical stage, for example, during wing development. Not only does this apply to queens, but we should think when we are handling frames of worker brood, too!
When ripe, though, the cells are pretty tough. Here s a video of Martin handling queen cells.
Our cells are currently at day 9, so the larvae should be spinning cocoons. I'm thinking that they should not be too vulnerable, but that careful handling is still in order.
Using the rough number, 2,200 bees per frame, we start with 4 x 2,200 (=8,800) bees and 3 frames of original brood with 4,000 cells each (=12,000) emerging at an average rate of 1/21 (575) per day for the first 21 days, plus 80% of 1,500 eggs a day beginning 21 days after the 23rd (assuming 80% viability).
Looking at the above chart, and assuming 1.) that the queens lay 1,500 eggs a day, which is a very good output according to Larry Connor, and 2.) egg laying begins on the 15th of July, and 3.) we assume a bee life to be six weeks, then here (left) is the theoretical curve of population. (click to enlarge).
The projection shows a pop of 20,000 bees on August 10th, which is he next day I plan to work them. If a frame holds 2,200 bees, then 10 frames would barely hold the expected population, and, after all, this is merely a projection and could be out by quite a bit in individual cases.
I went to town this afternoon, bought some paint and began painting. In a half-hour, I got the base coat on eight boxes, painting one at a time. I can see that I won't have time for this. I think I'll fill them with frames, stack them up and them roll them if I have time.
We came home to find baby skunks foraging near the beehives. The neighbours' boys shot the mother, we think, and now the babies are somewhat desperate. Unforeseen consequences.
The guys had some cells made for me on Friday, so we drove out to get them and placed them into a 5-frame styro nuc for transit and storage. They also, fortunately had some extra frame rests for the BeeMax boxes I am assembling, so I borrowed them, too, to replace the inadequate ones supplied.
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