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

Wednesday October 20th 2010
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I got home at about 3 AM.  My Calgary flight arrived about 45 minutes late, even though we boarded pretty much on time.  I don't know how that happened.  I know we sat the gate refueling for a while, but it hadn't seemed to be an extra 45 minutes.

Actually both my flights were late.  The first one was announced as late, since the incoming flight was late and often is on that route, but the interesting thing was that on the second flight we were seriously late and they did not even mention it.   I only realized that we were behind schedule when at 1 AM, we were still over Regina.  We were supposed to be landing in Calgary about then, and I know Regina is 500 miles from Calgary.  I worried, but my prearranged cab was waiting for me the whole extra 45 minutes and the driver did not seem at all upset.

I'm catching up on things today and getting ready to drive out to Cranbrook tomorrow for the BCHPA meeting, where I will be a speaker on Saturday at the education session.

I went out to take a look at my hives today and I'm not impressed.  Quite a few hives appear to have less than a box of bees.  I don't know: maybe I've switched to more conservative bees and they have smaller clusters, but these clusters are smaller than I like to see.  Many clusters are vertically situated through several boxes, so judging the strength is difficult as well.  I notice some appear to have moved off their strips a bit.

They all looked strong a few weeks ago, so it looks to me as if I have some serious dwindling and will be lucky to have 50% wintering success.   What is the cause?  I'm not sure, but I did see high varroa levels in several when I checked, and that often causes an outbreak of virus problems.  I did not see DWV or nosema when I checked, but I'm thinking now that should take a closer look.  I may have to spend a day on them when I get home from BC.

Thursday October 21st 2010
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I'm off to British Columbia to attend the BCHPA AGM in Cranbrook.  I'm leaving around noon today for the five-hour trip.

I'll be speaking at the British Columbia Honey Producers Association (BCHPA) General Meeting & Conference, October 21-23, 2010 at the Cranbrook Heritage Inn and my topic is Thoughts for the Hobby Beekeeper.   Although the title is about hobby beekeeping, the good talk appeals to beekeepers at all levels I am told since it deals with problems of scale, expansion, time management, etc.. 

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Friday October 22nd 2010
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I'm in Cranbrook today at the BCHPA meeting.  I arrived last night in time for the social.  The drive took me 6 hours.  Somehow my GPS lied to me about the time.  It had predicted a little under 5 hours.  No matter, the drive through the mountains was most enjoyable. 

Attendance looks good and it is great to see everyone again.  Last time I spoke at this meeting was October 25th and 26th, 2002 and it was in Quesnel.

The business meeting went well.  Is it my imagination, or have beekeepers and beekeeping organizations matured in the last decade or two?  Maybe it is just me getting older and wiser, but I see a greater level of education and understanding in the meetings I attend.  People express their conflicting opinions well and with consideration for others and the chairs manage the meetings deftly, walking the thin line between chaos and authoritarianism.

I get a very good feeling attending bee conventions these days.  It was not always thus.  (I haven't been to Saskatchewan for a while).  Of course I have known beekeepers in each group for decades and these meetings are like a family reunion, but I get the feeling that even newcomers feel included.

The banquet went well, with the usual tomfoolery, but I left early to get some sleep and ponder my presentation tomorrow.

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Saturday October 23rd 2010
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Having gone to bed early, I awoke at 2:30 and decided to go over my presentation.  The last time I gave this one, it was in Iowa and that was a while ago.  Things have changed a lot, and this is Canada, too. How much have things changed?   I used to lecture on the subject of the Internet and now, I am sure many who attended could teach me some things about it.

At any rate, I looked it over.  The presentation was largely slides of talking points and I rearranged them, changed the words, "State" to "Province" and reduced the US emphasis and added a few pictures. 

There are guidelines that help ensure a good presentation and I try to remember a few.  I tend to think I drone on a bit and would love to be taped some time so I can see myself.  People seem to like my talks, though.  That's what they come over to tell me, and I get asked back.

Here are a few tips I've received over the years and also learned from watching good speakers (and some pretty bad ones, too).

  • Make sure the audience is comfortable.  If they are not, they won't be listening to you.

  • Get audience attention and participation.  One method: Ask for a show of hands on some question.

  • Reinforce your message
       - Tell them what you are a going to tell them,
       - Tell them your message,
       - Then tell them what you told them.

  • Don't just read your slides to the audience.  Show topics and some details on screen, but elaborate.

  • Divide large topics into multiple short slides and add a summary slide if necessary

  • Use large text -- and don't assume people can see the bottom of the screen.

  • Show interesting pictures and not just text.  People love pictures.

  • Avoid unnecessary animations and sound.

  • Add some humour now and then.

  • Look around the audience from time to time.  Smile.  Acknowledge individuals.

  • Vary sentence structure.  Use exclamations, questions and pauses.

  • Take short questions if hands go up, but don't get derailed or off-topic.

  • Finish on time.

  • And -- most important -- Leave them laughing

After I finished, word came that the last speaker was held up at the border and would be late.  Could I fill in?  I said, "sure", and got out another presentation and worked up a slide show, too.  I was just beginning when he showed up and was able to take over the podium. Click image to enlarge

The meeting wrapped up just after four and although many were going for supper across the road, I decided to high-tail it for home.  I haven't been there much lately and will be off again soon to Edmonton for the Alberta Beekeepers AGM.  (Agenda at right.  Click image to enlarge).

I got home at ten and was in bed shortly thereafter.

Sunday October 24th 2010
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I'm glad I drove last night.  At mid-morning, it is still foggy.  I don't know how general the fog is, but driving could be awful.

I bought a new Fujifilm FinePix XP10 camera the other day.  It is the same as my older one, but a newer model, with 5X zoom, instead of the 3X on the older one.  I mostly bought it because it was only $168 at Wal-Mart and because the screen on the old one had gotten scuffed to the point where it was hard to see in daylight.  I see it as low as $142 online in the US.

I immediately bought some LCD screen protectors package for $10/pkg, but found that the plastic fell off in my pocket pretty well immediately.  I gave up on the useless protector and replaced it with common transparent packing tape which seems to work better and has stayed on.  The price is right, too.  I'll return the useless protectors for a refund.

I showed the camera off at the meeting during my talk and mentioned how it is honey-proof and washable, and has a macro setting.  Quite a few people asked about it after the talk.

Monday October 25th 2010
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Two more months until Christmas!

We have a skiff of snow this morning and the days are getting short.  Winter starts in less than two months, now.

I've been busy on BEE-L.

> If virus is half the issue and nosema ceranae is perhaps the other half as Jerry's study suggests then I suggest wiping out nosema ceranae completely from our bees has a better success rate than trying to stop virus issues.

I could not agree with you more, Bob. Moreover, it seems to me that we really do not understand either type of nosema in honey bees and an understanding is increasingly crucial.

Additionally, we are only speculating what method is the most meaningful one to determine if nosema levels are problematic or not, and all our current methods are destructive and time consuming.

Even with current methods, optimal sample size, location and timing of sampling, both seasonal and diurnal is not clearly understood, nor is the best way to analyze samples to determine probable outcomes.

Out understanding, our methods and our our projections are extremely crude and slow. Nonetheless they are adequate to manage nosema if the resources are available to use them in a timely manner. Unfortunately, because they are some cumbersome and indeterminate, beekeepers are inclined to simply treat on schedule prophylactically. Is fumagillin resistance a possibility? Of course it is.

Additionally, the only widely accepted and effective treatment once problematic nosema levels are diagnosed by these crude methods is fumagillin, a drug which is banned in many jurisdictions and coming under increasing scrutiny for potential adverse effects on the bees, the beekeeper and the public.

Any such adverse effects are speculative at this point, but we desperately need alternate controls, be they biological, managerial, or chemical.

Cheap, common GRAS additives used for prevention or suppression of fungus of food would be ideal and tests of several are scheduled, but the progress thus far has been excruciatingly slow. The probability that we should be so lucky and find such cheap and common substances to be effective is low, but anything is worth a try.

Beaverlodge has tested some alternate chemicals and I tried to post the chart here yesterday using the attachment feature on the advanced post feature on the web interface at http://www.BEE-L.org, but my post was returned to me. I'll try a different way here. The image is here and is a slide presented at the BCHPA meeting in Cranbrook recently.

Note: A tall bar indicates less or no effect. No bar or a short bar indicates good efficacy against nosema. The three at right are most promising. Not surprisingly, fumagillin was the most effective of those tested at the concentration shown.

The coded test substances shown were made up by a group associated with the Beaverlodge station and the composition was unknown to the researcher who presented this slide.

>> Cheap, common GRAS additives used for prevention or suppression of fungus of food would be ideal and tests of several are scheduled, but the progress thus far has been excruciatingly slow.

> GRAS additives are frequently *not safe* in larger quantities. Examples in > the bee industry are thymol, menthol, phenol, etc.

You are right, Pete, but given the alternatives, these compounds are least likely to attract regulatory objections and most likely to be safe until proven otherwise. Of the examples you cited, some are obviously more likely to flunk out in that regard than others. (You forgot to mention sassafras).

Of course the dose is critical in assessing any substance. Even healthy foods can be harmful if consumed to excess. The initial problem is to find any of the many which work and then the focus shifts to potential collateral damage.

Adding complexity to the problem is that some individuals exhibit unusual sensitivity to some compounds. This was the case with sulpha drugs for AFB. The concern about antibiotic use was actually secondary to the sensitivity issue in the banning of sulfathiazole.

> The image here is a slide presented at the BCHPA meeting in Cranbrook recently....

Not surprisingly, fumagillin was the most effective of those tested at the arbitrary concentration chosen. There was no mention of consumption or mortality among the caged bees, so what you se is what you get and it is hard to draw conclusions, but some trends are apparent.

The concentration may not be not be optimal for many of the substances tested, and in some cases there may only be a window of efficacy, not a continuous progression from zero to max to toxicity.

For example, Nosevit recommends "A 500ml bottle is to be mixed into 44 gallons of "thin" or "light" syrup". These are not exact terms, so I'll guess that a gallon (US) of thin syrup weighs 3.78 l/gal x 1100 g/l = 4200 g.

If 500 ml of Nosevit weighs about he same as water (guessing again) then that recommended concentration is 500g in 184,800 g of syrup. (44 gal x 4200 g/gal = 184,800). That works out to ~0.003 or 3 parts per 1,000. The test shown on the slide uses 1mg/g or 1 part per 1,000, so it tests 1/3 of the recommended dose. (Why they did that is beyond me).

Beekeepers use thymol in syrup at anywhere from 1/4 to 1 g/US gallon. Using the same rough weight for thin syrup (beekeepers usually use thicker syrup) and 1/2g/gal, 0.5g/gal is 0.5g/4200g or 1000mg/8400g. That works out to 1mg/8.4g, not 1mg/g.

As for fumagillin, the recommendation from Medivet is 25mg (ai)/l i.e. 25mg/1200g (thick syrup) or 1mg/48g, not 1mg/g. That appears to me to be a 48x overdose, but under the 75x safety factor claimed by Medivet. (No wonder it worked!)

Please check my math. I often make mistakes.

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Tuesday October 26th 2010
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Not much happened today  the weather was dull. and breezy.  

In the morning I spent some time dreaming about boats and looking them up on the Internet and looking into gas heat for our building. 

In mid-afternoon, I decided to take Zippy for a walk, but made it as far as the hives and decided that I was not dressed for the weather. 

I took a few pictures.  At left is a drone chilled, but clinging to the hive and at left is bee activity in an auger hole entrance.  Some hives seem strong, but others don't look too good.  Not much I can do now.  They are fed and wrapped and Apivar is in, now it is up to nature.  I'll have to pull the Apivar in another three weeks -- November 17 -- but I think I may be moving some of the strips a bit, so that would add two weeks to that date, making it December 1st.  What are we to do if we move some and not others?

Wednesday October 27th 2010
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Today is Apivar Day 21
Apivar must be removed after 42 days unless the strips are moved to improve contact with the bees, in which case add fourteen days.
The treatment is half done.

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Thursday October 28th 2010
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At left is the full Apivar label.

"Do not handle more than 200 strips per person per day."  I wonder how a commercial outfit would ever put in 24,000 strips if one person can only handle 200 strips a day.  That is 100 hives or maybe 2-1/2 yards a day per person -- or 120 days for one person to complete the job.  It would be time to take them out before half were put in.  The label also does not specify if the 200 limit is for new or for used strips.  I would assume there would be less risk from used strips, anyhow

On what is that based?  Some regulations were made to be broken (*).  What is it about handling the strips which makes that so urgent and immutable that it is placed on the label?  Is it the fumes from opening the package?  If the user stands back when opening packages and is wearing nitrile gloves -- which everyone with half a brain does -- where is the risk?

Note: If you are one of those not wearing nitrile gloves on at least the hand inserting the strips, they are available at NAPA sores, Home Depot, drug stores and many other places.  Some stores have no selection, but others have a plenty of choice.  The gloves come in differing thicknesses and cost around a dime each.

The thinnest (blue) give best "feel", but tear easily.  The purple ones are nearly as thin and still give good "feel", but last at least a whole day if treated carefully, even in rough work.  The black ones are thicker and for auto mechanic use and have enough "feel" for that work..  They are tougher.

Then there are the full-length nitrile gloves that are really thick and loose-fitting.  They last forever, and are easy to put on and off, but they have no "feel". 

I like the purple ones and wear them anytime my hands are likely to get dirty since my skin cannot stand the detergents necessary to clean up after.

Here are some more links: wiseGEEK, Global Industrial, uline.  If you have any experience with any of these or follow up, please post in the Honey Bee World Forum or Write me.  Thanx.

Here are the ones I like best of what I have tried.  (I have huge hands).

Further the Apivar label states: "This pest control product is to be used only in accordance with the directions on the label. It is an offence under the Pest Control Products Act to use this product in a way that is inconsistent with the directions on the label. The user assumes the risk to persons or property that arises from any such use of this product."

Nowhere does the label advise the most obvious protection for the applicator: wearing nitrile gloves, not latex.  Who wrote this anyhow?

Wikipedia says, "On animals it (Amitraz) is used to control ticks, mites, lice and other animal pests. The United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies amitraz as Class III - slightly toxic. It cannot be used on horses, because it can cause irreversible gut stasis."  (Whatever gut stasis is...).  OK.  Apparently the digestion comes to a halt, just the way it sounds.  Hmmm.

From http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/20/11/3018.long: "Amitraz is an insecticide used to prevent tick and mite infestation (Hollingworth, 1976) and is in common use around the world. Amitraz is applied to cattle (McDougall and Lewis, 1984) and sheep in dip baths at concentrations of 0.025% (Eamens et al., 2001; Mekonnen, 2001), to dogs from collars impregnated with 0.025% amitraz, or by topical application in a bath of 0.05% amitraz (Paradis, 1999; Shaw and Foster, 2000; Elfassy et al., 2001), to pigs in sprays containing 12.5%, and to cotton and hops (Weichel and Nauen, 2003) by spraying 20% solutions of amitraz from aeroplanes and ground sprinklers. In addition, amitraz is used to control psylla infestations of pears (Gosselin et al., 1984; Schaub et al., 2002). Human exposure to amitraz occurs when diluting the concentrate obtained from the manufacturer, when applying the amitraz to crops or animals, and when working in amitraz-treated areas, for example pear orchards or cotton fields (US Environmental Protection Agency, 1996). To our knowledge, there are no controlled studies describing amitraz exposure in humans".  (Emphasis added).

OK.  Are we to believe these dogs take a bath by themselves and no human is getting just as wet???  Somebody never washed a dog, methinks. Not to mention kids petting and hugging and sleeping with dogs with flea collars on.


What planet are these folks on?  Where does that arbitrary number come from?   What conditions are assumed?   No wonder PMRA and CAPA can't get no respect. 

* In my presentation to BCHPA the other day, I found myself listing the many classes of rules and regulations which impact beekeepers and saying. "Know which ones you must mind and which ones you can safety ignore".

I got a gasp, then a giggle.  I don't know who was more shocked: me or the audience!  Did I say that?

Why does thought this come up when I mention PFRA?  Coincidence I expect.  (Who is that at the door?)

Friday October 29th 2010
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At the BCHPA meeting, an opportunity came up to do some extension work in Cambodia setting up bee operations with/for the local people.  I indicated some interest and also indicated that Ellen might be interested, too, so we are looking over the pros and cons.

Cambodia is a country only recently recovering from extreme turbulence.  It is also a country where antibiotic resistant malaria has emerged, and there are many other things to consider -- drinking water, language, customs, land mines, snakes, insects, diseases, and who knows what?  We have a lot of research to do.  There are, apparently, though, already facilities and people working on other projects.

Here at home, we would be leaving a large home with coal-fired heat in the coldest season.  The heating system requires daily attention in cold weather and there are only a few people who could service it if something went haywire.

So, Ellen and I drove to Calgary to look at gas heating options.   We have gas into the building, so it is just a question of suitability and cost.  We went to a number of gas fireplace stores and looked at options.  The problem is that our peak hear demand is around 250,000 BTU and these units only rate at 44,000 max and at maximum efficiency, the actual heat output is about 38,000 BTU each.  We could install gas furnaces, but that may take more time and money than we want to spend.

I'm now researching Cambodia and beekeeping.  Seems there is a lot of info out there.  For one thing, there are many types of bees.

( From http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNADP027.pdf )

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Saturday October 30th 2010
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I went out to look at my hives and see that they are even worse than I thought.  I looked at the worst, of course and see that some have dwindled right down.  I don't know if this is CCD or not, but they collapsed quickly.  Well, I guess it serves me right for wasting time on BeeSource and believing (or trying to) the BS there.  I also should have checked my own hives first when I was waiting to go inspecting.  I assumed -- and that was my mistake -- that my loads would be the same as last year and the year before or lower due to the bad season.  I also assumed that the supposedly superior stock I brought in would add protection.  Obviously it did not.  It is now clear that I should have checked mid-summer and/or spring, too.  I'm spending too much time on other people's bees and not enough on my own.

Some of the formerly large hives have dwindled down to what is shown here.  Not the three rider mites on one bee and only one other visible on another.  I wonder why the concentration on one bee.

My problem is that my outfit is small enough that my intention has to be to monitor and treat colony by colony, not yard by yard.  It worked OK until I expanded.  Sampling 100 hives, is impractical, so I have outgrown that practicality.

I prefer natural mite drop and it is practical for monitoring large numbers of hives individually, but that requires floors suited to the method.  Mine are not, although we did drops when my hives were in doubles spring and fall and could be tipped a bit. Now my hives are threes and fours and tipping back to place the board under can't work.

I did have building or adapting hive floors to be more conducive to monitoring by drop on my to do list, but I simply out-expanded my available time, a common problem for expanding bee operations.  It is easy to underestimate the additional work in the first year after adding new hives.  If it took me 10 minutes per floor, which is a low estimate, then 100 would take 1,000 minutes or 2 full work days.  Add to that the time to get materials, set up, and clean up and I can see the job taking a good week.

I just guessed wrong and had the wrong priorities.  Monitoring better should have been job one.  The shoemakers kids go barefoot, it seems.

The more I research Cambodia and the proposed bee project, the more I wonder.  I've compiled quite a few articles and it seems that, at least in some parts, there is a well-established honey trade exploiting native bees.  I wonder how promoting apis mellifera would go over with those folks.  Not only that apis cerana is native there and all the bee pests which afflict it, including tropilaelaps are found there.

From an article about neighbouring Viet Nam...

The number of Apis mellifera is comparatively low in the north for the following reasons:

  • introduced more recently

  • level of knowledge of the average beekeeper not as advanced

  • less abundant nectar flows (longer winter, no rubber plantations etc...)

  • attacked by Tropilaelaps

  • running costs too high compared with income of average rural family in the north

There are also warnings about border disputes with Thailand, albeit hundreds of miles form the proposed project.  Add to that the various warnings about visiting Cambodia from the Canadian Government and one has to think.  Of course a visit to The U.S. Government tourist advisory site about Canada makes one wonder if it is safe to go there, and we all know what Canadians think about the U.S., with its world-record incarceration rate and reportedly rampant crime.

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Sunday October 31st 2010
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I weighed a Swienty box and a BeeMax one and found that the Swienty weighs about an eighth pound more than the BeeMax.  The Swienty weighs four pounds and the BeeMax weighs about 3-7/8.  That suggests that the BeeMax density is a little less (~3%), but when I tapped each with a hammer to test impact resistance, the dents were similar.

You can see I am having some problems with getting my new camera to focus in low light on a macro and telephoto setting.  Otherwise I am very happy with it and the 5x zoom is far more handy that the 3x in my previous unit.

Perhaps my assumption about density is off, though.  When I measure wall thickness, I see that each has a slightly thicker end wall than side wall and that the BeeMax walls are very slightly thinner.   For all intents and purposes, though, they are the same dimensions and completely interchangeable.

The Swienty box is white and 8 years old.  The BeeMax is blue and brand new.  I painted the latest batch of BeeMaxes with two coats of high quality oil-based paint.  In retrospect, though, I am thinking that two coats of latex would have been as good and much cheaper.  I se the oil paint scratches off easily where they are rubbed and the skunks have taken the paint off around the auger holes in places.  I don't hear the same about latex, but if appearance is a big deal, then these may not be the best choice.  they do dent and scratch much more easily than wood.

The BeeMax boxes, though, creak when picked up and I am quite sure that one with 90 pounds of honey in it would have to be handled with real care for fear of breakage.  As it is, I have to handle heavy brood chambers with care.

Today, I am off to the Alberta Beekeepers AGM.  Joe is coming at noon for lunch, then we are driving up together. 

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