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Brown text indicates personal ramblings that have little to do with bees and beekeeping.

Monday September 20th 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

> Bee feeding. My hives are light. (Central Indiana) Too dry for anything to nectar. Question: If I want each hive to be 20 pounds heavier....how many pound of sugar does it take. I feed from an water tank. Or for each pound of sugar feed in the fall, how much makes it in for winter storage?

Generally, if made into thick syrup, there is very little conversion loss. A pound of sugar gives something close to a pound of stores.

However, at the same time fall feeding is going on, the hives are losing weight rapidly, independent of the feeding, because brood is emerging and not being replaced and old bees are leaving to die. Moisture is decreasing in the last of the honey being capped.

As a result, if you want to put on 20 pounds, then you will have to feed 20 pounds of actual sugar plus whatever the hive would lose in the weeks during which you are feeding. That could be a much as an additional 10 pounds of sugar.

This chart shows a weekly hive weight loss of about 3 pounds a week. The weight loss records are followed throughout the fall at this diary page and on.

We have been discussing varroa again on BEE-L. In considering the questions, I again visited the Apinovar site. I continue to consider Jean-Pierre's ideas to be some of the best and his site to be a 'must read'. More...

I'm looking at the weather today and think I may be able to get my work done today and tomorrow.  After that, there are good opportunities to get the inspections done if the forecasts prove out.

For those who are still feeding, Sunday looks promising and feed should be on the hives or in the drums by then.

I have been open feeding this year and the rain is a problem.  Water floats on top of syrup and hides the syrup from the bees.  It also leeches the colour out of the grass and straw we use for floats and sinks the floats as well.  When drum feeding is working right, the syrup stays clean and is taken down with few dead bees in the drums.  When it does not, the syrup gets dirty and many bees are unable to return home due to being coated with syrup.

I went out at 11 and it was chilly.  Behind the quonset in my bee yard, it was nicer.  I moved some hives from the front yard to the winter yard., then I added thymol to the new feed and re-circulated it.  I drained the grass floats off the drums through an excluder and used a sieve to remove the dead bees, then added more thymol and some syrup and new grass.  I also got smart and moved the open drums under the quonset roof so the rain will not be falling into them diluting the syrup and sinking the floats, and drowning bees.  Surface tension keeps bees on the surface of thick syrup, but thin syrup wets them and drowns them.

I notice the crack in the poly tank did not stay fixed.  I had put tape on the inside, assuming that pressure from the syrup would press it tight and seal the crack, but there is some seepage.  No big deal.  I'll just lift that corner and block it up when not feeding.  I'll have to figure out how to weld it.

I had filled frame feeders in the hives and was worried that the syrup might be ignored.  I also wrapped to conserve warmth in hopes that this would help the bees get to the feeders.  Today I checked and some had emptied the feeder and all except one had taken their feeder down at least an inch or three.  They are nibbling on the patties, too.  These patties are 4% pollen.

I hooked up the power feeder and topped up the ones which were down and noticed this syrup is thicker.  The pump is slower and starts and stops then starts again due the pressure it takes to move the syrup.  I have a lot of hose on the pump -- maybe 90 feet in two sections and may have to take out a length if the syrup get s thicker from the cold.  I really prefer to feed warm syrup, but don't have a way to warm it.

I use Camlock fittings (right) on all the feeder and syrup handling hoses and that allows for quick, secure connecting and disconnecting.  It is essential to plug the ends when the hoses are not in use or they fill with bees.  The plugs work well.  The cost of the various fittings and plugs adds up, but the convenience is worth the cost.

I am guessing that my friends did not dilute the HFCS, but just blended it with the sucrose syrup.  I think they said it is 60/40.  The lower moisture is a good thing for feeding, but any left in tanks may set up.

5 PM.  I came in after working on the hives all afternoon.  I now have 38 completely done.  When I went out, there were 27 hives wrapped, fed and ready, so I managed to do just 11 in the five hours or so I spent today.  I can't figure that out.  I did take a break mid-afternoon, but I had expected to get more done.

The temperature never got above 5 degrees Celsius all day, but I had no problems working in the brood chambers, since I was out of the wind.  The job consisted of pulling off boxes of foundation, removing undrawn comb and replacing it with good feed combs, filling feeders, putting on two pollen patties, pulling the wrap down over the wood hives and adding two extra pillows on top.  Some needed entrance reducers, too.

I did spend some of that time adding thymol to the syrup, removing the old floats and straining the syrup, pumping syrup, fetching wraps and pillows, and opening and feeding the hives which had already been done, and eating lunch, but I just don't know where the time went.

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Tuesday September 21st 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

4 AM.  No sign of snow yet and it is still 3 degrees.

The weather looks promising for inspecting starting tomorrow.  Today I have to line up some appointments, and hopefully get more of my own hives ready for winter.  I have about another 38 to go through.  It took me three days to get the first 38 done.  I'm going to have to speed up.  Yesterday I only netted two per hour.  If I double that, which I should be able to do and do four hives an hour, that is still 10 hours of steady work.  I may be able to do half the balance today.  We'll see.

I worked through the scale hives yesterday and found one was pretty well dead.  I replaced it with a fairly good hive, also in EPS boxes.   The more I work with these BeeMax boxes, the more I realize that they are really flimsy and do not hold a candle to the Swienty ones.  I have been communicating with Swienty and if we decide to buy more EPS boxes, it will be from them.  For now, I have far more than enough equipment. 

I am now aware that I should have been feeding all summer.  I have frame feeders in every hive and the equipment to fill them easily, but In guess I was waiting for an analysis of the old HFCS in my tank.  That report never came until the summer was over and I was afraid to use any of it in the fall since it is suitable for summer feed, but having aged five or six years is not good winter feed.

I won't have to buy any frames or boxes for a while.  As I work through the hives, I am accumulating quite a bit of surplus equipment.  I have enough extra EPS boxes to transfer some hives, but wonder about moving the bees over this late in the season.  Some reports and my own experience indicate that the bees need a few months to get used to them before wintering in the insulated plastic boxes.  There is so much I do not know.

Between running these hives and working at inspection, I'm losing a lot of 'retirement' time.  I have only been on my boat three days or so, and have actually spent more time getting it ready to use and, by the time I am done in October, putting it away than actually using it.  Granted, I took three weeks which were earmarked for boating and for time at Pine Hill when I decided to go to California to spend time with my grandkids and and New York to visit Aaron, but I'm finding I am spread pretty thin.

Inspecting is fine when the weather is good and the job can be done efficiently, but when the weather is bad, as it was this spring and is now, there is a lot of waiting and rescheduling.  It is becoming just a job.  Hopefully when I get out into the field again, it will be fun again.

4:58 PM. Today I went out at noon and worked until 4:30 with just a short break.  At 4:30, I had done the last hive in the home yard -- if you don't count the pallet at the far end that I moved in the other day and which is beyond feeder hose reach -- and it began to rain lightly.  Perfect timing.

I counted, and now I have done 57 hives.  There are 24 left to do.  That means I did 19 today in 4-1/2 hours or an average of around a hive every fifteen minutes.  That sounds terribly slow except it includes set up, feeding, wrapping and cleanup and a break, and I have to tell you. I am beat.  I still have this virus/infection.  But, I am happy.  Happy, but worried.  I have plunged back into this beekeeping insanity and am finding it a challenge.  Where I had been a commercial manager, spending maybe 15% of my time in the yards, beekeeping, and much of my time taking care of people and equipment, now I am the beekeeper again.   I don't have to do this.

Looking back to yesterday, I had thought I was smart moving the feed drums under cover to avoid the rain.  Apparently not.  On cooler days than this, bees were in the drums every day, but today, when it is warmer, there was hardly a bee there.  The bees were also more difficult to work and I actually had to put on my veil at one point!  Something changed, and maybe that was it.

I guess foragers work in cold weather, but scouts need warmer weather since their work is risky.  Foragers are doing a job that almost always brings in more energ , from a known reliable source, than it uses, but scouting uses up energy and may result in failure.  Interesting!

Today, I found myself wrapping one wooden hive in four boxes!  I have never done that before.  Three has been the tallest so far.  Four works out, though.  I just used two wraps designed for doubles and pulled them down over the hives.  I'd show a picture except my camera battery was entirely flat.  I realize that all this text is boring.  Sorry.

Today, I also saw the worst case of EFB I have seen -- ever.  Interesting: I first noticed the slight smell when I opened the hive and was looking for AFB.  The hive is fairly strong, though.  I gave them a shot of OTC.

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Wednesday September 22nd 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

Posted to BEE-L just after midnight:

> When I was feeding with drums, I cut horizontal slits in the sides and hammered the metal above the slit outward. With the lid on, rain and cows could not get in but the bees could get in through the slits.

Yes, I still have some of those, but, for whatever reason, did not use them - yet - this year. It seems we have had so many hot, dry falls that I guess I had figured they were unnecessary. Wrong.

I also have not drum fed for many years. In fact, I did not feed at all for years until Deanno reminded me how important it is to kill all those gut bacteria so the bees winter better.

All kidding aside, I have been expanding like mad. I only had three hives three years ago and I am wrapping at least 75 this year. Further, although I did not extract this year, I want to ensure heavy hives for winter and lots of feed frames for splitting (I hope) next spring (assuming we have a spring).

I winter in as many boxes as the hives occupy and that ranges from two to four boxes. Any which have bees in only one box and are still viable (3 out of 75 so far) still get a good brood chamber placed underneath and winter in two boxes since I have had bad luck wintering one box high. That also allows for the fact that such colonies often get up to size in spring and need the space.

> I am now using just hive top feeders. They are sucking down about a half gallon a day.

I'm using frame feeders and finding they are emptying quickly, too, even in the cool weather. My hives are already heavy and I am just feeding to fill in any gaps and make up for the disturbance I am causing when I pull out some undrawn foundation, replacing it with dark brood comb. The scale hives have been neither losing or gaining weight at recently since they were taking open feed at a rate that equated, it seems, to their ongoing weight loss. Last year that loss was about three pounds a week. Adding the inside feeders in the past few days confounds the records currently, though.

> I am nearly ready to wrap.

I've been wrapping as I go through the hives. This is the earliest I ever wrapped, other than the year I left the bottom two boxes on some yards wrapped all summer (worked OK)

My experience with the EPS boxes made me think that early wrapping might be a good idea and also the memory that I wrapped later than ideal last year -- January, due the frigid December -- has been an incentive. I have always liked to wrap in November or December and I kept waiting for a warm spell so my hands wouldn't freeze and did not get one. I think the bees in wood boxes suffered a bit as a result and this past year the EPS boxes did noticeably better than wood.

The cold, wet weather the past weeks has been a prompt to wrap as well. Of course, now that I have only 24 hives to go, we see some 25+ degree (Celsius) weather coming up. This should be interesting. The bees were hanging out a bit today and it was 5 degrees C.

For that matter, people always ask at what temp can one work on brood chambers. I have been working on my own brood chambers the past few days since the local beekeepers consider the weather too cold for inspection and I have some time available, which I will not later.

My yard is sheltered, though, and I had no trouble working my strong hives intensively without a veil, sometimes taking down all boxes and even taking out the occasional frames of brood and occasionally leaving them out for a few minutes.

The weather has been overcast and above freezing while I work, but never above 6 degrees Celsius. I only work in the afternoon from noon to five. The ground has been dry enough that most of the dropped bees have made it in just fine. Bees were flying to the open drums all the while. That was my cue.

Today was different, though. It was a bit warmer and I did hit one hive that made me put on a veil for a few minutes. I had also moved the drums under a roof to keep water out and the bees were not finding them. That seemed to make the bees a little groggier than they were at even cooler temps. There were noticeably more bees with no fuel in them which could not warm up enough to return to the hives if they fell outside -- in spite of the warmer day. Seems the foraging in drums was raising their activity level a bit previously, and perhaps making them friendlier.

(I was feeding as I go, so these hives I mention above had no feed yet except drum feed on previous days. The hives with feed from previous days and which were wrapped were active, with bees patrolling outside the entrances).

> Since this is my first year wintering with auger holes, I am curious about your treatment of bottom entrances.

I don't know if it matters on triples, and maybe doubles, except for mice. I am reducing them all to about 1-1/2 x 3/8", though, but I have a 1" auger hole open in each box. Any holes in the back are plugged.  On the wood hives, my wraps also cover all but one (the uppermost) of the front holes.

Many of my hives are the BeeMax boxes this year since I had very good results with them once I drilled holes in them. There is no other top entrance, and I stack three pillows on top under the lid, the same as my wood hives. All front holes are open.

Speaking of the BeeMax boxes, I am extremely disappointed in them from the point of view of strength. They are flimsy substitute for the Swienty version which is far stronger. Although the EPS is strong, the design is flawed and the corner joints, even when glued have only a two small cross-sections holding them together.

The BeeMax boxes are hardly strong enough to stand up to being handled when the frames are full, and break if an empty stack being painted is blown over by the wind. Prying frames sideways or pushing in tight-fitting gummed-up frames pop the sides apart a bit, causing gaps. On the other hand, the Swienty ones are one-piece and relatively tough. I think the Swienty EPS is a little denser, too.

For those with far too much time on their hands, and/or an insomnia problem, I document all this and more, often with pictures in my diary at www.honeybeeworld.com/diary.

It was foggy and cold this morning, so I went out and moved the rest of the hives into the home yard.  The sun came out and the day may measure up to the forecast of 14 degrees, so I'll be heading out to inspect.

As I was driving the forklift, I suddenly became aware of what looked like a black fly about 20 degrees off the centre of my vision.  I realized that it was moving as I moved my eyes and that I have  a new "floater". 

Floaters are normal in eyes and we are so used to them we are seldom aware of them.  I notice that it is fading a bit after an hour, but wondered if I should be seeing an optometrist for an appraisal.  After an hour, I notice it is changing shape and fading a bit.  I Googled "floater" and decided to call the optometrist.  I have an appointment for 1:30 today.

Our Internet is awful these dull , damp days.  Wet foliage apparently absorbs the radio waves.  I decided that I need a boost, so researched the issue and then ordered antennas for the Rocket Hubs from www.citywireless.ca.  They have good pricing and are in Toronto.  I expected they would ship as soon as I made the payment.  I paid Sunday, but they had not shipped Monday night.  I wrote them asking for a tracking number this morning.  So far, no reply.

I saw the optometrist and he says all is well.  I had planned to continue on to do some inspections, but I could hardly see due to the drops and was feeling a bit disoriented , so went home.  Although I could not see well enough to inspect, I was able to work on my bees and got to work on them again.  I got another 9 done between 3 and 6 PM and eliminated a dud or two.  I find I am now down to 8 hives remaining to prepare for winter.

The hives I did today were all splits from the late group and I found that they are not doing at all well.  The ones in wood are almost all small and light.  I don't really know why.  I guess the conditions after the split were not all that good and I really should have fed them.  I did give them three and four frames with good brood and lots of honey, I thought, and an reduced entrance, so I wonder what happened.  Could it be that the field force drifted home?  I have had that happen before.  Maybe I should have moved them a full two miles or "slept" them with ammonium nitrate.  The ones in EPS boxes, though were doing just fine.

When I came back from the doctor, Ellen reported that the bees were drifting back to the yard where I had picked them up this morning.  Although there has not been much flight the past few days and I figured that after three such days they would re-orient on leaving the hive, they do remember the old location and go back to look.  They circle, but do not cluster there as they will if moved on a day of a strong flow.  I checked several times and by 6, there were only a few around the old site.

In the winter yard though the bees were very active.  There as activity in the drums, but they were not really taking a lot of syrup from the drums yet.  I think the syrup is too cold.

In the tank, I noticed that some of the thymol had risen to the surface.  I did not see that before and think that it must be because I added the thymol to syrup that was near zero degrees.  This syrup is also thicker, though and contains HFCS, so maybe that is a factor, too.

I sent this query to BEE-L this morning:

Has anyone any experience with drawing foundation below brood chambers?

I have a lot to draw and have been placing it above. The problem comes in fall, when some is undrawn or partially drawn and cannot be left above the brood chambers because the bees will follow the heat up and cluster there and starve. Don't ask how I know.

Removing undrawn boxes and frames is a nuisance to the beekeeper and a disruption to the bees.

On the other hand, if boxes of the new foundation were placed below the brood chamber, then it would not interfere with wintering and need not be removed in fall.

It is natural for bees to start building at the top of a cavity and extend downwards, so this seems to me to be more natural than placing the new boxes above, especially in a situation such as mine where no honey is to be harvested anyhow. It would sure save me a lot of work and I could leave the foundation on the hives until the bees finish it, even over winter. The extra space below the occupied boxes enhances wintering -- exactly opposite of what happens when extra empty space is located above.

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Thursday September 23rd 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

It's a cool morning with fog so thick I can't see across the tracks and a nasty breeze for the SE.  I have an inspection appointment for 11:30 and few hours on my hands, but this morning it is so cool and draughty that I would not want to bother my hives.  It is odd; people go by the forecast and think because the forecast is great that the beekeeping should be good.  For the last week, the forecast has been so lousy that people did not want to open their hives, and I was finding the conditions good.  Today, when I would not open my hives, people are thinking it will be a good day.  Maybe later, it will turn nice, but it is not right now.

I drove south through fog and met a beekeeper in his yards.  It was still 6 degrees C., but the beekeeper was pulling honey and feeding.  Bt the time we finished sampling three yards, it had warmed up and was quite pleasant.  I ran north and did another three yards.  The last was around 7 PM, and I knew the bees would be getting testy.  The yard also was in the shade of a hill, making sunset earlier than on the flat.  Nonetheless all went well, but the last hive was pretty grouchy.  To me it is better to work in the middle of a cool day than at sunset any day.  Bees just get hard to work around dusk.

At left is a shot of a hive with formic applied.  These are the Dri-loc 50 pads with around 40 ml of 65% formic discussed elsewhere on this site (see Selected topics) and the method currently recommend for tracheal mites in Alberta.  These pads were applied not long before I got to the yard and are still heavy and wet.  As we can see, the bees are not repelled much by them and I would say that the temperature was around 20 degrees Celsius. There is very little brood in these hives and the queens in many are almost shut down for the season.

These bees were also very busy in the feeders (right).  I think the level went down visibly in the half-hour I was in the yard.

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Friday September 24th 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

This report was received today by email...


"We corresponded a bit in early summer about adding thymol to syrup and I thought I would tell you my observations.

"I split most of my hives so I fed 5-6 times this summer using 2 gallon internal division board feeders. I added thymol dissolved in alcohol to each load of feed.

"I just had Nosema samples run and only had one yard over threshold out of 7 yards. I am trying to get our state lab to give me hard numbers but so far they just told me which yard had high spore counts. I had high counts last year in every yard, fed Fumidil, and had 40% winter losses.

"While this is not an objective trial I can say thymol is much cheaper per hive to apply than Fumidil and this year’s results look good. No syrup molding or fermentation either.

"I did alcohol washes as well on each hive and had approximately 50% over threshold (6 mites per 300 bees). I have very few high counts – a few in the 15-20 range – so perhaps the thymol helped with mites too?

"I think I will continue to use thymol in my feeding program.


Thanks for the report.

I'm just getting going with feeding thymol, but I like what I see so far.  I guess rigorous proof that it helps with mites and nosema is hard to get, but we'll see what the next few years bring.

The weather forecasters just cannot seem to get it right.  Now the promised hot days in the coming week are being reconsidered.  Hot weather is great for feeding and for allowing the bees to rearrange their stores.   At any rate 24 degrees looks good.

I remembered to check the HoneyBeeWorld Forum moderation queue this morning an there were some messages there.  Several were spam, but there was a bona fide post.  Check it out.  I don't have the time to reply to it right now.  I see it was posted in August (oops!).  I have gotten out of the habit of checking since there was little activity.  Sorry!  I also noticed that some topics were locked.  I unlocked them.  Please Write me if you have problems with the forum.

I'm going to be very busy inspecting for the next few days, but I'll try to keep things up here.  If I work every day, I'll finish in eight.  We'll see...

I went out at sunrise and fed the two pallets of bees which I have not yet worked.  There are some good hives, but some very poor ones.  I thought I'd better feed, though.  I see the skunk was out and got into my pollen substitute box.

Then I went out and inspected.  I saw an awful lot of good looking doubles in my travels and got home at 9:30.

Speaking of pollen substitute, I did not put any on in August when I came home due to a foul-up with my order.  I could have gone back, but did not.  Big Mistake. 

Also, I did not feed syrup due to waiting for a report on the HFCS I have had sitting around.  The report came too late and I should have just gotten other syrup.  Big Mistake.

Feeding pollen sub and syrup would in all likelihood have made the difference between some losses and some weak colonies among the good ones and a much higher success rate and better looking splits.  I knew that!

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Saturday September 25th 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

Only three months until Christmas!

Received just now from a friend...

I have quite a bit of experience with foundation below the brood nest that does not get drawn and some experience with it being drawn there. Generally, and especially at this time of year, it takes intense feeding to get it drawn. My mental model is that everything above the foundation needs to be about plugged. Also, remember that wax foundation left on over winter will tend to get chewed by the bees. The only foundation I leave in the hive over winter is Pierco and that may need to be re-waxed in the spring.

If I am short of brood comb for wintering, I ration it in the hive by forming an inverted pyramid: 6-8 in the top box, 4-6 in the next lower box, and the sides filled with non-brood comb or foundation. Foundation to the side will get drawn before foundation below. If I'm using a BeeMax insulated box, I often place the drawn brood comb to one side so I only have one boundary between drawn comb and foundation (thereby reducing my exposure to the bees making a mess of the comb at the transition).

Foundation lower in the hive is more likely to be poorly drawn, as though having all those old field bees hanging out on it promotes bad behavior..

I'm off to do inspections again today.

Ooops!  Maybe I am not.  There is a surprising amount of organization to do sometimes and by the time I shook some samples that I took late one day, phoned a number of people to set up the coming week, and transcribed some co-ordinates so I can find yards, I find it is mid-afternoon, and I have not been slacking!

I also discovered I have an eye appointment for Tuesday when I planed to be in Lethbridge.  I'll have to see if I can move that to a better time, and I also have a truck to unload for a neighbour with a greenhouse some day next week -- I do it every year because I have the only forklift in town.

I did put off my trip East to allow some extra time.  I'm thinking I have to rest sometime and maybe the rest of today would be best.  It is very windy and that is tiring.

I "rested" in my own beeyard this afternoon and found it most relaxing.  I had been worried about the last few hives not being adjusted and wrapped yet.  I was worried because some hives were light to my tastes.  I was worried because I had not fed supplement.  I was worried about my bees.

I'm not worried now.  I wrapped the rest of the hives and fed and put supplement on everything.  I'm done.  If I do nothing more than blow oxalic vapour in, they should be OK.  Ooops.  I forgot that I have some formic pads I made up about ten years ago that still look OK.

Something is puzzling me.  I found a number of splits which had lost all their adult bees to the point where some fully developed bees failed to completely emerge.  I'm assuming they were chilled and maybe underfed as larvae.  Could be the hive has a virus.  I just don't know.  the brood pattern was fairly large at one time, but these splits were made with three and four frames of brood and may have lost their field force.  Dunno.

I left the yard just after sundown, 7:32.  The bees were still active in the drums and nice enough I could walk though the yard without a veil.  I was DONE. 

I had no idea how much work 76 hives (the end number) can be.  A little while back I was bragging about how little work I did for the hives I Had at the time.  No more.

The bees took the drums down by a total of at least a foot and a half today.  I checked the scale and it had gone from 26 to 0 pounds since last reading.  I added some feed to one and it now reads. "10".

I had put patties on all the hives last time I looked into them while wrapping.  Some had eaten 2 patties completely and most had eaten at least one.  I'm realizing now that they have been starved for protein.  I made sure every hive has at least the equivalent of two patties and a full feeder of syrup.  The syrup ran freely through the hose today.

I am now booked as a guest speaker at the ESHPA meeting in Syracuse, NY on November 19th and 20th.  This is one of my favourite groups.  I'm looking forward to seeing everyone.

Sunday September 26th 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

7:27AM. Wow!  It is already 11 degrees out!  This is a change.  Fortunately, I already have the day's work laid out and can get right out there.

I expect the bees will empty the drums in the next day or two since the syrup has warmed up.  The temperature of syrup has a huge effect on how quickly it is taken.  If the syrup is is cold, the bees have to warm it up enough that they can carry it.

I'm thinking now about varroa treatment this fall.  I'll use oxalic again.  Here is a good reference.

I left early and got home around 7PM.  It was a good day for working with bees.  I checked the home yard and met a skunk, which ambled off.  The drums are down quite a ways.

In spite of that, the scale lost 5 pounds since yesterday and now reads, "5".  I suppose some of that loss is from the conversion of the feed in the frame feeders as the bees move it into combs and dry it.

I remembered to check the forum and there is now some activity.  I have moderate it because otherwise, it gets spammed, so messages are held up until I do.  I'll have to remember to check it often.

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Monday September 27th 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

More bee inspecting today.  The weather continues perfect for feeding the bees up to weight.

I spent the day inspecting and am staying overnight in Lethbridge.

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Tuesday September 28th 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

Another day of inspecting in the south.  Looks as if the weather will be cooler again.  I'm in Lethbridge and winds gusting to 70 km are predicted here.

I visited three beekeepers today and am happy to see that the bees are looking good.  Beekeepers who used Apivar last fall or this spring a\re getting good control and typical mite counts on a 300 bee sample (sometimes 200 due to conditions) of six random hives range from all zeros with occasional hives with up to ten to all six running around ten, depending on when the treatment was made.  Those with the higher levels already are planning to treat with two Apivar, on in the top, and one in the bottom or have just put strips in.  Many are also applying two formic pads several times this fall.  Although this helps with varroa, it is also excellent for any tracheal mite that might be around.

I did encounter one operation which has consistent readings hovering around 30 and ranging to 50.  This is in spite of the fact that they have used Apivar.  I was concerned that we might be seeing resistance, but the same levels were seen in this year's packages from New Zealand, so unless the packages were also loaded with mites, and they came with Apistan strips, so they should have been clean, it seems that the pollination location is the reason.

Formic would never deal with such an infestation, but Apivar can be expected to reduce the levels to near zero if applied correctly.  Careful monitoring is called for, though and possibly oxalic as well.

These hives showed very low levels this spring, so the lesson here is that we must remain constantly vigilant and realise that things can change in a short period.  We just cannot predict these mites with certainty and must monitor constantly.  Most beekeepers are doing an excellent job.

I'm in Lethbridge again, tonight.

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Wednesday September 29th 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

I have been setting up the game camera from time to time to try to see what is bothering the hives besides skunks.  I got around to unloading the card tonight.  At left is a contact sheet of what it saw (click on image to enlarge).  Apparently bees flying by can trigger it.  Over and over.  Hmmm.  Back to the drawing board?

Today has been another day of bee inspections.  I've been rushing to get caught up to the point where I was not enjoying myself at all and now am finally over halfway through.

I'm in Lethbridge again tonight at the Heidelberg Inn.  Nice little hotel.

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Thursday September 30th 2010
Septembers past: 2009,
2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 1999

I spent another day inspecting, then spent the evening with a long-time friend and business partner who now lives in Southern Alberta.

I'm finally getting caught up on the inspecting.  I have been quite worried about running late, but the timing is actually quite ideal in many ways.  We are not early enough to provide early  advice as to treatments in fall, but are able to monitor the results of spring treatment and to identify hot spots.  We are early enough, though to recommend changes or a decision to begin a treatment that had been thought unnecessary.  For certain one beekeeper who was not planning to treat for AFB is going to reconsider.

Beekeepers have already made the fall decisions and in many cases are already treating or not, based of the spring results and their own spot checks.  I have, however been able to see instances where AFB was beginning to get a foothold and where mite treatments might need some adjustment.

In my travels this morning, I passed the sugar beet plant at Taber and stopped to take some shots.  Sugar has been hard to get this past month since the plant could not get beets.  The wet weather and muddy fields kept the farmers from digging beets and beekeepers have been waiting and waiting.  I heard today that there is no longer a problem and that one beekeeper I spoke to is getting five loads.

I visited two more beekeepers today and made an interesting discovery.  I have been simply following instructions as best I can and assuming I understand the reasons for what I am instructed to do.  I have been instructed to look for brood in the top box and to sample from a frame containing brood.  The age and the amount of brood does not matter, but there must be brood.  If there is no brood in the top box, I am to close the hive and move on the the next.  In some occasional yards, that means many of the hives are not suitable to sample under these instructions.  Unfortunately they are few.

At any rate, I was out with an old friend, checking his bees and he is a great beekeeper.  His family has been in bees for 90 years this year

Compared to most of the commercial guys, he is very gentle and always pulls an outside frame or feeder and takes his time to examine things.  His frames are free enough of burr comb and gunk that they come out  cleanly without a lot of prying.  In some outfits, it takes some doing to get a brood frame out of the box, particularly if the beekeeper habitually supers late or is slow pulling honey.

We went through three yards and near the end of the last one, where we had been getting some high numbers (as high as 72 mites, but mostly considerably lower ) we found a hive which had had brood up top and some empty cells waiting for the queen to lay (she would not since they are shutting down for the year) and said, let's say this is a brood comb and be done.  It was the end of the day and I had been on the road four days. 

We took a sample from that frame from which brood recently emerged, shook it and got two mites, then thought better and went into the bottom brood box, where we found a frame of brood.  We sampled bees from that comb, shook them and got seventeen varroa!

I knew there is a difference in mite loads between the bees and the nurse and winter bees, but would never have imagined it to be so huge.  I had thought that the difference might be a factor of two, not eight!

We imagine that the bees mix throughout the hive, but it seems they do not under many normal conditions.  We know that the young bees hang around pretty close to the brood most of the time since they are the ones which eat the pollen patties and, except in honeyflows during summer when patties can be placed elsewhere with success, the pollen patties need to be within two inches of brood to be eaten reliably.  This observation confirms that.

This observation also shows how very important it is to get the treatment into contact with the bees which have the heavy mite load.  Simply placing the strips into hives is not likely to have maximum effect.  Medhat has been recommending a strip in the top box and one in the bottom.  This single observation confirms the wisdom of that advice.

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