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Feeding Bees in Southern Alberta
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Brown text indicates personal ramblings that have little to do with bees and beekeeping.
Today I am at home. I have an appointment his morning to unload a truckload of peat moss for the neighbour's greenhouse. I have the only forklift in town. Hopefully, I can also get caught up on a few things around here.
At left is a shot of a beekeeper doing some serious fall feeding. On the truck is a tank of 67% sucrose syrup. A pump (right) powers the syrup through the hose into the five-gallon hive-top feeders. A valve allows the flow to be stopped and started. (This style of pump is not bothered by the flow being cut off and the pressure does not go sky-high). This sort of set-up is typical of the methods used in Southern Alberta to mass feed thousands of colonies large amounts of syrup in a short time.
A close-up shot of a feeder is at lower right. These feeders hold about five Imperial gallons and are made from a 6-5/8" super. It takes less than a minute to fill one with 67% sucrose syrup, the preferred winter feed. A canvas (here) or other cover like a plastic pillow or a wooden inner cover seals the feeder from robbing bees from other hives which would enter any cracks. (Thanks to Leroy for permission to use these pictures).
In late afternoon, I went out to see if the bees need feeding, judging by the amount of supplement consumed and the amount of syrup left in feeders. They have pretty well emptied the drums. A young skunk was out there scavenging crawlers and ambled off when I showed up. They are used to me by now and quite tame. I like them, but have to figure out some way to make them less of a nuisance to the hives and anything I leave around. (This picture was taken later by the game camera).
Anyhow I found that most of the hives had eaten most of the patties I gave them not too long ago. (See Sept 20) and either emptied the feeder or were very close. A few had eaten less and/or had syrup left. I went through the yard and filled feeders and replaced patties. I have one box of patties left and another ten hives to go. I ran out of syrup. I'll feed all the remaining patties this fall. I have little confidence in old product. Patties should be reasonably fresh. I suppose I could freeze them, but new patties are better.
I posted about my experience and thoughts to BEE-L:
Some weeks back, we discussed the interesting fact that varroa are not evenly distributed in drone brood and that often a patch can be found with multiple mites per pupa and other patches in the same hive with little or no varroa on the drone pupae of similar age.
Here is another observation. Apparently the varroa are not evenly distributed in the cluster. In fact they are very unevenly distributed -- if my observation yesterday is any indication.
I do a lot of varroa sampling for other beekeepers, and have been instructed when sampling 300 bees for varroa, to look for brood in the top brood chamber box and to sample bees from a frame containing brood. The age and the amount of brood does not matter, but there must be brood on the frame. If there is no brood in the top box, I am instructed to close the hive and move on the the next rather than go to the labour of disassembling the hive. In some occasional yards, that means many of the hives are not suitable to sample under these instructions, but this has been what I was doing.
At any rate, yesterday I was out with an old friend, checking his bees. We went through three yards, and near the end of the last yard, where we had been getting some fairly high numbers we found a hive which had recently had brood up top and had some empty cells waiting for the queen to lay. We knew she would not since they are shutting down for the year, but we took a sample, assuming that that this would not differ from a frame with actual brood. It was almost the last hive at the end of a long day.
We sampled 300 bees from this frame, shook the sample, and got two mites. We then thought better of cutting corners and 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 have always known that there is a difference in mite loads between older bees and the nurse and/or 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 bees mix and wander 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 that pollen patties need to be within two inches of brood to be eaten reliably. If the patties are placed elsewhere, they are pretty much ignored, except in a strong flow in summer when this rule seems less important and perhaps the young bees wander more.
If my experience yesterday is not a freak, and I doubt that it is, this observation also shows how very important it is to get mite treatment into contact with the bees which have the heavy mite load.
Simply placing the strips into hives is very unlikely likely to have maximum effect. This may also explain why formic treatments are variable in efficacy.
From a discussion on BEE-L
PD: I understood that it was recognised as standard practice to take the bee sample from the brood area. At least that should produce a base line. BUT - If there is a recognisable variation in that area, an up to date protocol should take that into account.
AD: Lots of food for thought...
The idea of an "up to date protocol" sounds easy, but what I am realising now is that a term like "brood area" may be too vague, and defining a procedure with precision may be quite difficult as it needs to encompass hive size, time of year, flow conditions, type of bee, and maybe more if real precision is desired for calibration and comparison purposes.
The locations occupied by young bees in a colony may be very limited at some times of year as we can observe by seeing the limited eaten out portion of pollen patties sitting on brood chamber top bars, even when clusters are large enough to include the patties. That "young bee domain" may or may not be clearly defined and determined by brood amount and stages, but possibly other factors enter into it. If brood stages define the domain of younger bees, then a broodless condition, either due to season and bee variety or to queenlessness also complicate the question when trying to compare apples to apples.
What is the difference in young bee preference and population density between an area with eggs, an area with young brood, an area with sealed brood, an area with mixed brood, an area with emerging brood, and and area where brood recently emerged in which cells are polished and awaiting the queen? What about when there is no brood? I am now suspecting there is some difference, and maybe that difference is greater than one might suspect, particularly at some times of year or under some pollen and honeyflow conditions.
At some times of year pollen patties are only consumed close to the brood and at others, I am told, they can be fed in the supers or entrance. (I have no direct personal observation to prove whether they are consumed or simply removed in these situations).
At some times of year, during a long, heavy flow, when any box of bees with no brood is removed from a hive and placed near the hive, all the bees in it without exception seem to fly back to the hive within minutes or hours.
I have always wondered about abandonment, since there must be some very young bees at times, and that asks another question: how soon after emergence can bees fly? I have used abandonment to remove bees from tens of thousands of supers and seen very few exceptions to the above abandoning phenomenon when conditions are right and must conclude that either I did not have the very youngest bees in those boxes, that those very young bees fly, or that they walk away. I have observed that all the bees leave and seem to fly away, but never looked closely enough to notice if any are walking (not usually unless the boxes are in contact with the parent hive), or the ages of the abandoning bees. We used excluders and that may have been a factor, too, although brood was often right up to the top bars next to those excluders.
It seems that each idea leads to another.
Of course the observation (if correct) that the youngest bees stay *very* close to where brood is being raised under non-flow conditions explains the whole argument that swarming is related to large hatches of new bees causing congested brood chambers and explains why strategic spreading of brood, reversing, and other techniques to "open up" the brood chamber work.
The observation that during a heavy flow, young bees seem to be oriented and able to fly and that hives consume pollen supplement at the entrance would suggest that during hot weather and a strong flow that those young bees venture further.
The difference between hives being fed outside or inside the hive and bees with no income on cool (5 degree Celsius) days is quite striking. I recently have had the opportunity to compare.
In the former case, where feed is available, bees fly and forage even in the cool air and the bees in the hive are loosely clustered if at all. Any dropped on the ground fly or walk back in.
In the latter case, no income, the bees are clustered and torpid. Any dropped on the ground may not be able to warm up and get back in.
This reminds me of a comment made a long time back by Dave Green about beekeepers putting out a little syrup to stimulate bees to get active on pollination where the crop to be pollinated is not all that generous or attractive.
I mentioned previously (Sept 21) that I saw a bad case of EFB in one of my hives while wrapping.
At the time I did not observe it closely -- I should have, but I was wrapping and just figured to hit it with OTC, and did so from the top shortly after seeing it -- but there was a black spot on many of the larvae which was curious. I really should have looked closer. I marked the hive, but have been run off my feet with inspecting and trying to bed down my bees. Maybe I'll take a look now.
(Later) How about that? I went out and opened that hive. Ten days ago or so I had marked it "EFB" and "MEAN" and it had a reasonable population -- sufficient to make me put on a veil after working the rest of the yard without one. Now it has a bare handful of bees and a queen -- and a frame full of eggs.
The affected cells I saw have been cleaned out for the most part, but there are some dead larvae. Starved, I assume. It sure looks like CCD. Medhat says it is nosema ceranae. I don't know if I can prove that one way or the other since all the older bees are gone and the young bees have just emerged and are not likely to be infected. Randy's suggestion makes sense to me.
During the party, I noticed four bumble bees working in a sunflower near our south steps.
Jean and Chris and Mckenzie are here today until after lunch, having stayed over after the party. I am resting up and visiting. Next, I suppose, I have to figure out how much more inspecting I will do in the coming few days before I leave for Ontario to put up my boat and close up Pine Hill for the season.
I ordered two external antennas and some coaxial cable from www.citywireless.ca a little over a week ago to boost the signal from Rocket Hubs. The Rocket Hubs work well, but on hazy or rainy days, the signal degrades so I figured to get a 24 dB 800/850/1900/1950 yagi and a magnet mount mobile whip. citywireless.ca had the best deal, so I took a chance. Seems they are a small seat of the pants outfit, but the parts arrived in eight days and were as described.
Today Chris and I tested them out and I swung the yagi 360° to see where the signals are coming from. I have been assuming that the towers on one of the the hills north of Three Hills would be the most likely, or perhaps the one at 9 and 21 might be a source. Before we got the yagi, had observed the strongest signal was found in our south windows and had figured the signal was coming from that latter tower, even though there is a rise of land between us
When we swung the beam, we found, surprisingly, that the best signal seemed to be coming from the south-southwest. I consulted the cell tower map and found a TELUS tower near Beiseker about 22 kilometers away, and visible from my rooftop. Could I be getting a signal from TELUS? My hub is a Rogers unit.
On closer examination, though, I noticed a Rogers tower a behind the TELUS tower near Irricana, another 10km away and I am guessing that probably is the source. If it is, then no wonder I need a 24 dB directional antenna, but surprisingly, the Rocket Hub itself, with no external antenna had been able to receive an acceptable signal much of the time. At times, though, without an antenna and especially in rain and fog, the signal was too weak for reliable performance.
I climbed again onto the roof, this time taking my binoculars and I see an amazing number of towers to the southwest in the same direction as that TELUS tower. Some must be power poles? I'll look again some day when it the horizon is not as hazy. No matter, I have five bars out of five and tests show throughput up to the seven megabits Rogers touts. That is a vast improvement over the 200 baud dialup modem I started with 20 years ago.
This will be a day at home to catch up on paperwork, assuming I don't get distracted. In the meantime here are some posts from BEE-L that are worth reading IMO.
Be sure to check out the reference above or click here.
I spent the morning and early afternoon sorting inspection records and repacking the van or whatever that Ford Flex is considered to be. I was thinking I'd run down to High River, but when I calculated the driving, I saw that I would be driving four hours for three or four hours inspecting and decided to make a whole day of it later since I would not finish by dusk and would have to go back anyhow.
Maybe that was a good thing. After all these hours at the desk, I was really chomping at the bit to get something done and that hive crash had been nagging in the back of my mind. I have been out inspecting others' bees and neglecting my own bees. As my hive numbers have gone up, I have been finding the bees demand more of my time. Three years ago, they took not time at all. Now they keep me busy for over a month a year in total.
Anyhow, not wanting to drive for hours just to do a little work, and being nagged by some things I have been seeing, I went to my own yard and picked two big hives and shook some bees in each. One was in EPS and one in wood. I recalled there seemed to be more varroa development in the EPS hives in the past, compared to wood. I opened the EPS hive and found a patch of drone brood. It was full of mites. That does not always mean anything, so I proceeded to do a shake.
Last year, splitting seemed to hold the varroa back, and I used oxalic acid drizzle, but not this year. Apivar, here I come! This is getting to be an expensive hobby. Last year I bought nothing to speak of, but this year, I've bought queens, syrup, new boxes and foundation, thymol, and now Apivar.
What do these results mean? Well, I sampled bees right on the brood frame, and right on the brood. The hives are down to one or two patches of brood, so more of the mites will be out on the bees instead of in the brood. The mite numbers typically balloon at this time of year. That being said, I only saw a few yards in the commercial operations I sampled with levels this high, and I did not see any sick brood like I have seen in several of my hives recently. I'm going to be lucky not to have big winter loss.
Well, I've proven quite conclusively that the ideas that dominate the BeeSource.com forums do not work for me. I stopped treating for AFB and got AFB. I used minimal mite treatments and am seeing colonies crash. As for nosema and tracheal mites, I have no idea, but I am starting to wonder.
Maybe I should take out the microscope and take a look for nosema. This afternoon, I am going inspecting bees, but I have some time this morning and the samples I took yesterday for varroa are right here. Young bees are not ideal for nosema tests, though, so maybe I need to get some fresh samples of older bees. There are bees in the feed drum that can't make it back home. If there is nosema anywhere, it should be obvious in those bees. I think I'll refresh my memory at Randy's site.
OK. I got a few bees off a feed drum in the bee yard. The drum now empty, but the bees still visit it. I used "The Gut Squash Method" Randy describes here. I smeared two guts so far, and saw a total of two spores in one, so these two bees were not infected with nosema.
I scoped another sample, five bees this time and found zero spores. That was my experience the last time I looked for nosema. I'll have to do a larger sample later.
Meijers and I went out and looked at some yards and did a quick and dirty nosema test on a yard which had some problems, but it was negative, so I'm guessing that spray or other poisoning was the issue. They dropped off some more syrup.
I realised today that I will not get all the inspection quite done. Along the way, I picked up a few extra beekeepers to do, and the time I set aside for the job, beginning the second week of September, began with some cold weather which held me back.
As it turned out, the beekeepers were not ready anyhow, since they were waiting to pull the last supers and I could not have done the job even if the weather had been better. I also have been fighting a recurrent ear infection which has made me tired.
Add to that the fact that I expanded my hive count ambitiously this year and what had been a few days work became weeks of work. Noticing a hive collapse and unexpected high varroa counts the other day meant that I spent hours, yesterday and today, putting in Apivar and doing a final feed instead of the inspections I had planned.
The papers piling up on my desk also got my attention and I realise that I can't put them off any longer. I have not even claimed my inspecting expenses and wages from last spring!
While installing the Apivar, I noticed that pollen patties make it easy to tell where the young bees are. The Apivar must be in contact with the young bees in the brood area to do the most good, since that is where the majority of the varroa will be found.
I am noticing that the populations are reducing somewhat, and in some cases alarmingly as the old bees die off. Many of the hives are looking good, but there are 5 about which I have grave doubts. I am noticing, too that the sucrose/HFCS mixture wets the bees in the frame feeders more than sucrose does and that there is more drowning than I expected.
I filled the feed drums, too, in the morning, When I looked in the afternoon, the bees were there, but the levels had hardly dropped. I think the bees are pretty well fed now. They have eaten he eight boxes of patties I had and some could use more, but I think it is time to quit. I'll be gone for the next two week and after that, things are shut right down. I've done about all I can.
I worked at the desk until midnight and was up at six this morning. I always do a little in the diary until I am sure I am awake, but will cut it short today. The weather in the coming week looks good for feeding., but I think my hives are now well fed and I'll just let them empty the feeders and clean up the patties they have. There is also some feed out in drums to give the hungry ones something to do and to let the4m fill in as the last of the brood hatches out. Many are still raising several frames though, catching up.
Today, I have pile of little jobs to do so I'll be ready to leave Saturday early. I have to line up some coal so Ellen and the dog and cat will not have to worry while I am gone. I have to finish up some paperwork and fill in some important forms and get ready to run up to Edmonton tomorrow. My ears and jaw are bothering me a bit and I really should run off to see a doctor, but that would take a few hours I cannot spare right now.
In the afternoon, I ran out to see how the Apivar is working. I figured I should see mites on the doorsteps and I did. The shot on left is of an EPS hive without an entrance reducer. The shot at right is the doorstep of a wood hive that had a reducer. I pulled it off for a moment to reveal the debris -- and mites. You can see the bits of paper from Global Patties as well as varroa mites among the debris.
I found the bees were quite crabby. Normally I can walk around the yard without a veil, but this time I got several stings.
I worked at various small jobs and paperwork all day, but in the afternoon was so tired that I lay down and took a nap -- for an hour and half. It was hot enough that I was in shorts with no shirt. I guess I've worn myself out. I hope that some rest will help me overcome this infection. Just when I think it is beat, it comes back. I used to take an afternoon nap in the past, but lately I've been too busy. A nap is a good idea because I typically only sleep six hours a night.
This morning I am up at 5:30. Once the sun comes up, I'm off to Edmonton, then back home again. I still have a lot to do before I go East. I'm also think about how to see a doctor without wasting a few hours sitting in a waiting room. My ears still are bothering me. I am starting to think there is no choice; this does not seem likely to clear up on its own.
Our Internet signal strength continues to be great with the Rocket Hub and the yagi from www.citywireless.ca. For the first time in years, after putting up with Airenet and its terrible customer service and repeated random outages, we finally have reliable Internet with Rogers Rocket Hub.
We'll see, though, how the signal holds up in heavy rain and snow since the tower is 32 km away (cell tower map). I see, so far, only a slight drop from five bars to four and some jitter. The Airenet tower is 11 miles (18 km) away and had problems with precipitation degrading the signal -- that in addition to their regular equipment failures and/or other unexplained sudden and prolonged outages. There is a tower closer to the north, but if I need to use it, I'll have to put up my own tower again to peek over the horizon to the north.
I drove the van to Edmonton and returned home. Now I'm done with inspecting. I did not get it quite all done, but it's a relief. I'm highly motivated and have found the delays and the recurring head infection stressful. Actually I got a lot done and a few extra tasks came up during the duration.
I stopped to see jean on the way up and she suggested a walk-in clinic with a short wait and I went by. She was right. the wait was short and the doctor concurred with the diagnosis and prescribed and anti-biotic This is my third try at getting this cleared up. He also booked an ECG, just to be sure the heart is not involved. I had that done on the way home and it came out normal.
Saturday October 9th 2010
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It's 1:15 in the afternoon, and I'm here in the Exchange Cafe here at YYC, waiting for my Sudbury flight. It leaves shortly and I should be in Sudbury by 3:05.
I watched Knight and Day on the plane and laughed out loud. It was a hilarious straight-faced send up of the guy/gal spy action movies.
Looking at the weather, Sudbury looks cool compared to Swalwell. At home the days should stay warm and sunny, while here the outlook is for cooler, cloudy days. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday look quite damp as well. I'm here to close the cottage and was hoping for better weather than this. I have ten days and would like to spend two or three at Pine Hill since I have the boats to do as well as the plumbing and all the other stuff.
On BEE-L, the discussion resulting from Jerry's paper continues. In short it confirms that a virus and nosema seem to cooperate to cause CCD. His work is peer reviewed and quite well done. Except for the identification of several new viruses, it confirms what many had already concluded: control nosema and varroa (a major virus vector) and CCD problems are likely to be much reduced.
I arrived in Sudbury and Mom was waiting at the airport. We drove home and I immediately went to the basement for some reason, and heard dripping. I followed the sound and discovered the sewer was blocked and water was leaking from the top of the backup valve on the exit line. The drip was not very fast, but I realized that with more water use, there would be a backup within hours and water would be rising in the lowest fixtures. The family is coming tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner and that would be a bad time to have it happen. We called the roto rooter guy and although it was a Saturday night on holiday weekend, a man showed up shortly and cleared the blockage. Tree roots were the cause. We paid a little extra due to the overtime, but it was worth every penny.
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