Page July 2010
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A frame of queen cells
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At seven this morning, the four fox kits were frolicking around the yard. They are almost full grown, now. I also hear the distinctive sound of a spray plane making passes over a crop, but thankfully, it is not in sight. Last night was cool, and I worry about the cells, so I'll get out shortly to make sure the bees covered them well.
It turns out the cells are well covered with bees.
I set up to make up brood chambers using the new boxes. That took a few hours, since I found lots of little things to do, some of which were totally unrelated. One was padgening hives. Actually, what I do is not strictly padgening, but along the same vein.
I had marked some hives as extra weak and others as extra strong. Today, I exchanged them in pairs, hoping that the populations will equalize, making splitting easier and forestalling swarming.
In the process, I disturbed the bees a bit. Having them fly out without orienting is part of the idea, so I did not use smoke. Poor Zippy decided to come around the corner at the wrong time and I had to go back to the house with her and pick the bees out of her fur. I think she may have learned something, but I am not sure she has put two and two together yet. We'll see.
...I guess she has. I went back over to the bees and she stayed near the house. I see the Internet is on again. Well, sorta. I had to switch to the hub again because Airenet barely works.
OK. Procrastination and all, I got 17 boxes done. Depending on how I look at things, that may be about 10% of what I have to do. I have not scraped boxes or frames for years, so this is a huge change, and a lot more work, especially catching up on years of not scraping.
My philosophy has been to not fight the bees, and leave burr and ladder comb that does not interfere with the few manipulations I was doing. Most of my manipulations involved moving entire boxes and only pulling occasional frames.
With the change to BeeMax boxes, I have to be more careful about how frames get stuck together, since these boxes cannot handle as much prying as the wooden ones.
I'm also splitting by removing and sorting frames this year and inspecting for disease more carefully, since I have proven to my own satisfaction that I cannot rely on genetics alone to manage AFB. Even if the bees do not break down with disease and show overt symptoms, the sub-clinical levels can kill enough larvae to be a significant economic cost.
The weather looks good for the next few days. The nights will not be cold, and that is important when new splits are being made up. We made splits one year and were hit by a frost immediately after. Many of the splits were damaged. We can get a frost any month of the year, here in Alberta. Even a slight frost that does not damage crops can stress splits. If there is wind, too, that will increase the damage.
I hear that bees are now moving to pollination in Southern Alberta, and canola is beginning to bloom around here. I'm hoping that the farmers will not be inspired to spray. Hearing that plane yesterday got me a bit worried. I'm not hearing anything today, though.
I counted the cells and put cell protectors on them. There are 52. Seeing as all the cells are in one nuc in a yard with other hives, there is the slight risk of a stray queen entering or one emerging earlier than expected and having them all torn down, so I like to use protectors. Protectors also allow placing cells into newly made nucs without waiting a few hours for the bees to realize they are queenless. They will have to be removed for candling the cells, so I am hoping the bees do not gum them up too much.
The bees had built a bit of comb on some of the cells, and in removing it, I accidentally dropped a pupa out of its cell. We can see that they are developing well and that they are only days from emergence. Although the body is well developed, there are no wings yet. This is day 11 from the laying of the eggs and day 7 after grafting (on day 4).
Here is my schedule again. I have four days to finish the brood chambers and split and do various other odd jobs. I have 37 brood chambers done as of this evening, but may have to give up on painting them unless I get a paint sprayer.
While I'm at it, here is the population projection again. It is important since I have to decide how much space the hives will be needing until August 8th. The chart assumes that the new queens lay 1,500 eggs a day, and they begin egg laying on the 15th of July, and also that a bee's life expectancy is six weeks (click to enlarge). See also the June 30th diary entries. Here is the spreadsheet I used.
This projection calculates August 8th populations at around 20,000 bees. At 2,200 per frame, that means they will cover 9 frames. A standard box has enough room for all the brood one queen can lay, but limited additional space for honey and pollen. I keep a feeder in each brood box, too, so that means that there is one less frame.
I've decided that I'm running out of time. I have to quit working on boxes and makes some splits today. First, I'll drive to town and see about getting a paint sprayer. This rolling and brushing is too slow.
I got the sprayer and finished painting all the boxes with one coat, and put a second coat on the 27 I had painted previously. started up the motor home for power and was able to paint them over at the quonset. Of course the wind came up as soon as I started, but I was able to create some shelter behind that large machine and get the job done. When I moved it to let the boxes dry in the sun, the wind knocked them all down, Fortunately none broke.
The sprayer I bought was the B&D Pro 5.5. It does and adequate job, although I found I did need to thin the latex a bit with water. The tank holds 1.1 litres, and does quite a few boxes between fills. I found it pretty heavy after a while, though. I suppose I could have used the lift tube which can go into a bucket, but it is pretty short. Just dragging the electric wire can get a bit tricky. I was disappointed to find that it came with only circular tips and not the fan tip I would have preferred. The sprayer paid for itself the first day, if my time is worth anything.
I started on the splits in late afternoon, just before we had to go for supper. I found I was confused somewhat by what I found, even though I had planned the job. Reality often fails to conform to expectations and the first two hives were very different. The first had an established queen and about seven good frames with good patches of brood in three boxes, the second was a previous split and had a new queen and only two significant frames with brood in its two boxes.
Adding to the difficulty was the hot, hot weather and time of day which had bees spread out and everything soft and gooey. Foundation is being drawn and frames are filling with honey. Honey makes the job harder. I am really trying to avoid producing any beyond what is needed by the bees for wintering.
I got several splits done before I had to go. Ellen showed up to call me to get ready just a the moment I was discovering that the cell protectors had all fallen off one of the frames of cells. The other had kept them on quite well. I really should have turned down the invitation, since I was just getting going on the main job, and my days are running out, but life is more than just work, so I closed up the hives and quit for the day.
We drove to Irricanna and had pleasant dinner and evening with John and Maves.
The above clip is from this website.
My Hive and the Honeybee arrived. today. It is a valuable reference and can answer most any question I am likely to think up. FWIW, it says that queen cells younger than 11 days from grafting are easily damaged. If grafting is day four, then handling before day 15 is risky. Of course, they hatch on day 16, so what is a person to do?
Today I have to check on the cells and replace the protectors since emergence is getting quite close and make up the splits, but first I need to finish painting. It is still cool out and I feel a breeze., That can make spray painting difficult and messy.
* * * * *
I re-did the protectors, placing the cells between top bars in the nuc. I then found that the lid would not close, so had to use a pillow.
I finished the second coat on all the boxes and walked out of the quonset. Glancing west, I saw a storm five miles southwest of us coming our way with the dust devils kicking up dust clouds ahead of the front. I was quite aware that I had just finished painting with a water based paint and that it was not yet dry. As I watched the storm veered north and looked as if it would pass, so I pulled the motor home closer to block the wind and went in for lunch
Fifteen minutes later, I noticed a disturbance on the pond and found that the storm had circled and was approaching from the northwest. I got to the quonset before the rain came and managed to move the boxes inside, however a stray gust must have come through before I got there because all the boxes were knocked over when I arrived.
As I picked them all up, I discovered that two boxes had broken! See the picture at right. They had been stacked six boxes high and empty, so the fall had not been particularly hard. These boxes are fragile! The joints are very weak.
At left is a shot of a hive with a BeeMax on top and a Swienty on the bottom. They are both same age, about eight years, now. Click to zoom in for a comparison. IMO, the Swienty appears to have stood the test of time much better. (Neither was ever painted). My hives got very badly glued together at one point and I had to pry to get them apart. I soon learned to pry the individual frames through the crack, but initially, I had simply tried to pry up the top box. So, if you look closely, you can see that normal use of a hive tool will leave dents, so special care is indicated. I'll have to test the two versions for density and weigh them.
I've been waiting for some rain to provide safe conditions for burning a pile of old pallets and plywood. This was my opportunity, so I took it and burned up some unsightly trash that has been in our way for a while.
The weather improved after supper, so I went out and transferred the frames from the old plastic boxes shown above to new ones and made two splits before the rain began again. Now I have one empty old BeeMax and one empty old Swienty box to compare. (the ones from the picture above).
I'll reassemble the BeeMax boxes with glue and paint them all when I have time. I have to find a better glue, and then I'll also glue the broken new boxes back together. I suspect that they will be stronger than new.
Speaking of gloves, I hardly do any manual task without wearing the blue nitrile gloves these days and my hands are in great shape. I have almost as good sense of touch with them as without when doing mechanical or bee work. In recent years, I had been avoiding mechanical work, which I enjoy, because the oils and solvents now dry my skin uncomfortably and because of minor cuts and abrasions which were sometimes slow to heal. These gloves seem to eliminate those problems. A box of 100 (50 pairs) costs about $10 and I am still on my first box.
Peter D must have been reading my diary reference to there being few black flies in Central Ontario this year, but the reports are that there are lots of blueberries. He sent this link. Here is the gist:
The little skunk is a regular visitor to the yard these days. I often encounter her during the day. She is quite unconcerned when i come, but retreats under a pallet. At first, she alternately faced and turned her back to me, but she is not o0ld enough to be able to spray. So far, she is just cleaning up the crawlers out front. I hope she restricts herself to that and also finds another source of food. Otherwise, I may face a tough decision. I have placed anti-skunk strips on some pallets, but as the number of pallets increases, I have not kept up. Keeping the bees well enough supered that they do not hang out and tempt skunks is important, too., to prevent problems
The weather is becoming of increasingly concern to me, since I have two days to finish the splits and because tomorrow the cells begin hatching. If I don't get them used up today, I'll have to make provisions to cage them individually.
Emerging virgins are hungry and only survive hours if not fed, and may kill one another if they get the chance, so they must be separated from one another and accessible to be fed by bees. From the forecast, I have this morning to get things done; rain is forecast for the afternoon according to the radio, but it is still quite cool now, at 6 AM. According to the thermometer, it is 10 degrees C, so the bees are not likely to be very hospitable yet.
Thanks for that! I think that EPS boxes will catch on over here, but can see that the North American version is simply not tough enough for commercial service.
I'm not sure we use the same hive tool -- the Maxant tool is asymmetric, the standard one less so -- but I did learn years ago to push down with the handle so that the tip lifts up against the full width of the lower bottom edge of the upper box, not down on the half-width front rabbet surface of the lower one. He is right about propolis; these boxes do not accumulate much propolis in the cracks.
Jens sent me a picture to illustrate his comments. (Right)
My experience is that North American hive tools are less beveled, The Maxant is an exception, having the described bevel. This is something to think about for those of us using EPS boxes.
I like the Maxant tool for other reasons, as well. The hook is great for hooking out centre frames without killing bees.
* * * * *
I've made up four nucs so far this morning and can see that I may not get as many as I had thought. Some hives have 9 or 10 frames with good brood patches, but others just have new queens getting started and only a few frames with brood.
The forklift also does not want to go into gear. That will be a problem when it comes time to move the nucs. It has been temperamental lately, sometimes working perfectly, and other times, like today, not wanting to go into any gear.
I come in every so often for a break and am headed back out.
* * * * *
I'm pretty tired now, exhausted, in fact. I worked out in the light rain and strong wind until 4 and came in for a rest. It was hard on me and hard on the bees. They seemed to handle it OK, though and most found their way home alright. In some ways a rainy day is good for splitting, since the bees do not drift back as badly.
I'm starting to think I'm not going to get everything done in time and maybe I should reschedule my trip East. I'm getting a lot done here and later what I'm doing will not be as easy.
I managed to get all the EPS hives organized so that they are all in identical new boxes and pulled the old ones out of service for repair and painting. I had not figured to paint them later, but am concerned that some hives may need them before long. My intention is to have as many as possible of the hives in three boxes going into winter. I see some signs of plugging already. I'm probably just worrying too much.
With the new mower, I am getting lots of yard cleanup done and enjoying myself. I could be rushing east to put the starter into the boat and wait around for Jean and Chris to get there, or spend a few more days here. Ideally, I'd put my trip off for three days, but Air Canada ramps the prices up impossibly for flights within 7 days, so my best deal is to add seven days to my stay here.
Running two kinds of boxes makes everything harder. I figured using the EPS boxes would spare me wrapping for winter, but I am finding that switching is a lot of work. A lot of it is work I should have done anyhow, but now I have to remember to keep the supplies for some hives separate. That was something that tripped me up in the past, too.
I find it ideal if all frames are either Hoffman (self-spacing) or straight end bar style using 9-frame spacers and if all boxes are either standard wood or EPS. Mixing types cause consternation. I am thinking I am in transition, but I do have thousands of wooden boxes lying around and only 122 EPS boxes.
Speaking of wintering, I'm wondering if my greater success in the EPS boxes was due to the fact that I wrapped late. I had planned to wrap before Christmas, but extreme cold weather caused me to put it off until more comfortable weather, and that turned out to be January as I recall.
I looked at several queens in cells as I installed them. they are still white. Somehow, I expected they would be gaining some colour by now.
(It is possible to "unscrew" a cell from a JayZee BeeZee cup to glance at the pupa and then "screw' it back together. It does not seem to injure the pupa if done gently).
I've pretty much decided to put off my trip east for a few more days.
I can't figure out why these queens are slow developing. I've seen this before, when we bought about a thousand cells and the various batches seemed to mature differently. People blame the grafting, the incubation, the weather, etc., but it seems to me that there is just a natural variability and that the tables we use are averages.
Well, I did it. I changed my flight to Monday morning. I decided I'd rather be here than there. That gives me five more days. At the rate I've been go
* * * * *
ing, I should be able to accomplish a lot. I've been on quite a tear.
I just heard from Liz. She mailed me 10 Minnesota Hygienic/Grand Forks cross queens today. The Canada Post tracking website suggests they should arrive tomorrow. (In your dreams).
Ruth showed up in time for dinner, then Jean and Chris returned from Vancouver and picked up Mckenzie. Mckenzie has been staying with us for the past three days and keeping Ellen entertained. together they went to several towns and museums.
I count 60 hives now, including 12 splits sitting above excluders waiting to be moved out to new stands, with another 16 (approx) splits to go. The remaining splits are in wooden hives. I am being careful not to mix the wood and EPS (Styrofoam) boxes on the same hive, since it makes wrapping in fall almost impossible.
I have plenty of time now to get things whipped into shape. I've let things slide for years, but seem to have found new enthusiasm for getting up to a 100 hive count.
First thing this morning, I placed four prepared brood chambers on pallets and lifted the splits (in singles) off the parent hives and onto their new stands, plugged the holes, and moved them to new locations. I didn't move them far, since it was rainy yesterday and because there are many young bees and the splits have lots of mature brood, and mostly because it was more convenient. I am expecting they will not drift back the way the would in better foraging weather. I'm assuming that the parent hives won't suddenly burst at the seams. I intentionally made them a little weak, knowing that some bees always drift back.
Seems my telescoping lids and and pillows work OK with the EPS boxes. They sit up top and pin down the edges of the pillow nicely. They are a little precarious, though. The brick holds them down and also can display a message by how I position it. You may also notice that I wrote on each lid with marker, indicating how much brood and the queen status and source, if known, and the date.
Below are more sad-looking broken boxes. I'm up to 4, now, if we just count the ones broken in normal handling and if we don't count the two or three I made up out of pieces broken in transit.
The first was a box I made using a broken piece with a missing tab, because otherwise I'd have had to throw the other three sides away. It could not hold up with one tab. The glue joint opened. I'm starting to see that these boxes are best used with nine-frame spacing and no crowding together of frames.
The middle box is one I dropped a short distance with some frames in it. They nicked the edge badly. I suspect that glue will fix that up.
The third shot shows how very little material holds the sides together. Those tabs are simply inadequate, and there is no way to glue the whole surface until they break off. Then it is possible to glue a normal (much stronger) butt joint, but then, clamps are required.
* * * * *
It's now 2 Pm and I have made up 15 splits with three or four good frames with brood in standard boxes since lunch. The conditions are perfect and the hives have enough brood to make the job easy. I make them up and then stack them over excluders, awaiting removal. I leave the queen and one frame of brood in the bottom. Most of the queens are new this year.
How I did today's splits:
This now brings my current count up to 75 hives, and I am thinking that I will have to make at least another twenty-five splits today. My goal is the opposite of most beekeepers right now. My intent is to make the hives as weak as possible without compromising their wintering and also to ensure that I do not make any surplus honey. I really do not want to have to extract again.
I went out after a break and found my truck has a flat. What a pain. It appears to be in the sidewall, so will require a tube. I use the truck to run around the yard and to carry my smoker, boxes, etc. i still have the forklift -- when it runs, but will have to take the tire to town soon.
I came in again at 5 for a rest and supper and had a total of 28 new splits at the time. One queen apparently has emerged from the cells in the nuc, but the others are still lacking colour.
At right is what happens almost overnight at this time of year. A new queen lays up a storm and three weeks later, the hive explodes. Because the weather is warm, and because nectar and pollen are coming in, the brood nest expands rapidly. The hive (in 2 broods) shown at right is now drawing foundation and filling its feeder with comb. It appeared to be a miserable runt, mostly in one box ten days ago.
I have another fourteen hives to work through in the next days. They will likely yield two splits each on average. I simply don't have time or energy to finish them today, and I figure that I will have queen cells left over and possibly hatching overnight, so Ellen went to find the JayZee BeeZee queen cages. I figure I'll put the cells I don't use today into the tubes of the cages and place them where the bees can take care of any virgins that may emerge through the cage until I can use them. Newly emerged virgins starve within hours if they cannot get food.
It's 6:44 and I am headed back out. More later.
I was very concerned about finding homes for all the cells by their expected hatch date, which is tonight and tomorrow. Ellen suggested just inserting dividers between each split in the stack and installing them tonight. Why not? They won't fly for a few days and by then I should have them moved out to their new homes. Simple!
Our system of having a 1" auger entrance hole in every brood box makes this sort of manipulation easy, and I just happened to have some sheets of plastic cut for that exact job, so I went out, slipped in the separator sheet and put a cell in each. When I had placed one in every split I had made before supper, there was one cell left and I placed that into the nuc for the night. I did not need to use the cages.
I'm glad I'm not flying out tomorrow. I still have seconds to make up for all of today's splits and the parent colonies. That will take a day at least by the time I get them on the hives. I have to put the singles down onto floors and move them out. I usually put the second under the split, but may put them on top of the stronger ones, especially if the weather looks good.
Current count is 83, with about fourteen hives left to split. I am out of cells unless I find some swam cells. I have ten mated queens coming and the rest will have to be done "walk-away" style. If the fourteen remaining hives yield two splits each, then that will bring the total count to 101. Figure on 10% failure, at least, and the net will be somewhere between 80 and 90, I'm thinking. That will use up all my frames and wraps. I have tons of boxes. I'm thinking I should buy 100 boxes worth of waxed Pierco and put them on. Otherwise, what will I do next year?
If we have a short or wet August, as we often do, that matter will be moot, but if we have a year like last year, then they could all be drawn and filled.
I awoke to the sound of a spray plane, and sure enough, it was making passes over a canola field in full bloom one and a half miles away. I drove out and took some pictures. The dew is heavy and there is a breeze.
Only a few bees were flying when I got home, but not foraging, so I don't know what to think. If the plane is spraying a contact pesticide, I wonder how effective the spray will be with the dew. If it is residual, then it would appear to be illegal. With a lot of forage closer by, I doubt that many of my bees are likely to be out there. Should I only be concerned about my own bees?
Today looks good for finishing the splits. I could be moving hives right now, but would like to have the truck to carry some of them, since the forklift only goes about 10 MPH safely and can carry only 12 hives. I have two choices: a yard 3/4 mile away and a yard 2 miles away. I suspect I'll use both.
Yesterday I put in a long day and got lots done. Today, I got off to a good start, and got lots done in the morning and early afternoon, but the heat got to me and I quit around 5. I was in the middle of splitting a beautiful, four-storey hive and just got so tired that I closed things up and left everything lying where it was in the yard. Normally, I tidy everything up at the end of the working day, but today, I was just beat and walked away.
From years of commercial beekeeping in distant yards with a crew, though, I am in the habit of tidying constantly as I go, so that I can usually end what I am doing and leave with only a few minutes of finishing up. There are many good reasons for cultivating and enforcing that habit.
We also always tried to leave a yard so that it would not need another visit immediately, We learned over time that when someone left some small task undone in a yard, planning to return again soon, it did not happen. Here is why:
According to environment Canada, yesterday's max was 23.8°C and min was 10.3°C. That was hot enough for me, but today is expected to hit 30. I have a lot to do, so I had better begin early so I can avoid the heat of the day. We haven't had real "bee weather", yet. I can tell because there are hardly any flies around. Whenever we see lots of flies, for some reason, the honeyflow is also on. This heat should bring on the flow and the flies. I see the lawn drying out already and it rained only a few days ago. We're having a barbeque tomorrow night, so I'm hoping the flies can hold off a few more days.
I have a few hives to split, some queens to introduce, lots of brood chambers to make up and supers to ready. I also have splits to lift down and move.
At first everything looked good, (Left) but then the tell-tale signs of rejection began (Upper Right). Note the bees doubled up in stinging position. If they got into contract with the queen, they would make short work of her.
The cages have candy in the tunnel and the queens will self release, but I think I will check again in a day to make sure that the bees have accepted them and that the candy is not disappearing too quickly.
Here (Lower Right) is a good-looking one day old virgin queen, from cells Meijers gave me. Is that a varroa on the thorax of one bee? Sure looks like one. I've been watching for varroa and not seeing much.
Looks as if this camera has about had it. There is a fuzzy spot on all the pictures now. I thought that getting a waterproof model would prevent that, but I guess not. A camera last me about a year.
* * * * *
It is 4 PM, now. I got a bit done in the way of splitting, queen introduction, and tidying up. I stacked up my eight-year-old EPS boxes to look at them. I pulled them all out of service to repair and paint them. I plan to use them for thirds. I wonder how well they will take paint, since the surface is powdery.
Based on the number of frames I have, including foundation, I can make up 117 hives, total, if I use them all. Of course, I have many more empty boxes. I think I should buy 100 supers full of frames of foundation. Placed on these hives, they could all be drawn out and foundation provides much more room than drawn comb.
I moved 12 more of the single splits down to the railroad yard. I'll be making seconds for them shortly and perhaps even thirds, but it will be a while before they really get going. The queens won't be laying for at least a week.
This is fun!
Isn't that great? We are having a big barbeque tonight and the forecast has changed to rain. Here is hoping they are wrong.
I'm off to a slow start today and have some bees to move before they get flying too much.
* * * * *
I went out at 9 and lifted down the singles which were still stacked on plastic sheets above the parent hives, checked for queen emergence and placed them on pallets. Emergence was better than I had feared, although there are a few queens still not out, but some appearing to be still developing. It was already unbearably hot by then, but I persevered.
I ran them out to Elliotts' Home yard on the forklift and Ellen and Zippy came along for support in Bigfoot, since I was running out the last of the tank of propane on the forklift and also needed a convenient way to carry bricks and entrance reducers.
There are still two splits sitting on parent hives in the home yard. If I counted correctly, I now have exactly 90 hives and there are several left to split yet. (Actually I didn't. As it turns out, I have 94).
I went down and checked the hives with the thermometer to make sure they are cooling OK. The temps are right on 94 +/-1 degree F. The Kettle Valley queens are being accepted better today and I poked a hole in the candy for several which seemed to need help. Others still showed a little touchiness, with bees running around on the queen cages, not doubled up in sting position, but also not exactly relaxed, so I left the full centimeter of candy in those tunnels.
* * * * *
Well, there has been no thunderstorm yet, and it is 9:30 PM. We had the barbeque and everyone has gone home. The weather was perfect. There are storms circling nearby, though, so I expect we'll have some showers tonight. That will be welcome. After the heat of the past days, the grass is starting to turn brown.
Joe and I wandered over top look at the hives during the BBQ and I noticed that three of the singles that were parent colonies were hanging out a bit, so I dropped boxes onto them. I don't like to have them hanging out since that teaches the skunks bad habits. Also, they could decide to swarm. I'm a little concerened, too because these bees must have come from splits. I'm wondering which splits? The ones at home? Or the ones 3/4 mile away at Elliotts'?
They are hives from which I removed splits this morning, so they must have come the 3/4 mile. These hives obviously were ones with more older bees than the others, since only the three have beards. My hives were quite a mix, since some have been split previously and therefore some have older queens and some have younger queens. Some had a break in the brood cycle and some raised brood straight through.
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