Spring – 2018

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Spring is nearly upon us and our one surviving hive is active and starting a new cycle. The photo above shows some fresh pollen (dandelion) being added to stores. A sign that the queen will be increasing her egg laying. Possibly in two weeks, with the arrival of newly hatched bees, we will have more than the four covered panels at present. The aim of this hive is to increase numbers sufficiently to make a split and double the colony. This with our ordered nuc of new bees will give us our required three colonies.

The following photo shows the interior of our remaining hive with most of the bees huddled close to the near wall over four panels. The white is left over sugar from our lazy winter feeding and the brown is some pollen food given some weeks ago as a supplement. The newspaper? We like to supply our bees with winter reading material, hence the back issue of The News Line, a good mainstream daily newspaper put out by the British Trotskyist group, the Workers Revolutionary Party. Our girls will be fully up to date once swarming season starts!

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Mark your calendar – Apimondia 2019

This notice will be a little early for many folks but worth it anyway. In September 2019 Montreal hosts the 46th Apimondia International Apicultural Congress. If you are interested in beekeeping at all this may be something to attend while it is so close to home. Previous venues have been held in Turkey, Brussels, France, Switzerland, Romania, Brazil, China etc. However, the last time Apimondia was held in Quebec was in 1924 for the 7th Congress (1999 in Vancouver) The festival will be full of speakers where beekeepers, scientists, honey-traders, agents for development, technicians, and legislators meet to listen, discuss and learn from one another. The scientific program will start on Monday, 9 September 2019 at 09:00 and will conclude on Thursday, 12 September 2019. There are technical tours advertised on Friday 13th. The Apimondia closing ceremony will take place Thursday evening.  More information can be found here:

Apimondia 2019

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Spring brings a new hive.

Last year I managed to start building a new horizontal hive. It is nearly finished and all we are waiting for is some good weather to melt the snow and ice that seems to drag on. Like most months of March, winter hangs around, coming and going in the imposed daylight saving schedule that has us anticipating Spring more than ever. But to keep you interested, here are a few pics of the hive to date. It’s a little rough around the edges and full of character, just like an early Willie Nelson song or a bottle of cheap Merlot. More photos will follow once installed and filled with new bees.

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As you can see this hive is horizontal in shape. They are not as productive as others of a vertical design but we are not into big production here at Cuisses. It is partly to try something new as well as to ease the heavy lifting of brood/honey boxes as we age. Something our backs will hopefully appreciate. Our hive will be at waist level and has the advantage that you only open small sections of the top panels when working with the bees. This disturbs them less, meaning happy bees are productive bees. By all reports, these designs require less intervention, perhaps twice a year at most. This is something I am very skeptical about but looking forward to being proven.

The architects hive

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Many, many years ago I studied photography in New Zealand. During one semester we were given the assignment to photo document a building of our choice. The goal was to get a better understanding of perspective and visual control. A view camera to make the appropriate adjustments to correct these images is a necessity. Unfortunately, I arrived late at the equipment room to obtain a view camera so I had to contend with a smaller medium-format Mamiya RB7 monstrosity to do my project. Perspective control was now out of the question so I had to come up with something to make an impression. What would be better than the Parliament building, locally known as the Beehive because of its shape? Surely this central city edifice housing the country’s top intellectual thinkers would be appropriate. Some quick phone calls (they were obviously needing any PR they could get!) and I was given unlimited access to the building from top to bottom. Many of those photos are now lost and thankfully forgotten but three black and white images did manage to survive my garbage bag editing process.

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Built over a period of ten years, the official opening occurred in 1977. Designed by Scottish architect Basil Spence, the building resembles an old style straw “skep” beehive. At ten stories above ground and four below the building is over constructed, perhaps because it sits on an earthquake fault line, as most of the capital city Wellington does. Most circular buildings I have seen have an enormous amount of wasted space. The Beehive is no exception. All the rooms are curved or asymmetrical with irregular shapes and tunnels. Perfect for my photo assignment! It was assumed that a government building housed a legion of workers, busily making decisions and constructing a community of like-minded individuals, not unlike the beehives in real life. Sadly, back then and much like today around the world, this has never been fulfilled. But we hope and cross our fingers as we vote…

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This has not been the first time architects have been inspired by the hive design if such a thing exists. Antoni Gaudi was known to keep bees during his lifetime. We should be able to see his Sagrada Familia (pictured below) scheduled for completion in 2026.

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But the perhaps the most devout believer of the beehive principle, ethic and design must go to Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret). Not long after the end of WWII, he was commissioned to design “Unite d’habitation de grandeur conforme”or a housing unit of a standard size. This became the first of many in Marseille, France and other war-damaged cities throughout France. His buildings were pure in aesthetics and relied heavily on concrete, inside and out. From this point on his projects multiplied and success came to his career throughout the world.

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A brief description:

He gave the building the name of his pre-war theoretical project, the Cité Radieuse, and followed the principles that he had studied before the war, he proposed a giant reinforced concrete framework, into which modular apartments would be fit like bottles into a bottle rack. Like the Villa Savoye, the structure was poised on concrete pylons though, because of the shortage of steel to reinforce the concrete, the pylons were more massive than usual. The building contained 337 duplex apartment modules to house a total of 1,600 people. Each module was three stories high and contained two apartments, combined so each had two levels. The modules ran from one side of the building to the other, and each apartment had a small terrace at each end. They were ingeniously fitted together like pieces of a Chinese puzzle, with a corridor slotted through the space between the two apartments in each module. Residents had a choice of twenty-three different configurations for the units.(Credit: Wikipedia)

His life and career are too big for this little article but please check out his accomplishments further online. I am sure there are other designs from around the world that are based on the hive concept. If anyone wishes to contribute other architects to this posting, please do so by sending photos. We can display all photos, good and not so good here on the blog. 

Winter inspection

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For the last few weeks, we have had very cold temperatures in the area. Many of you are already aware of this. Outside the temperatures hover around -25C but inside the hive, they are +25C. The bees are busy generating enough heat to keep themselves and the queen alive. I did manage to check the hives by listening to their noise and observing the numbers of dead bees that were scattered about the snow.

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Before leaving I cleared the bottom entrance of bees corpses. This helps with air circulation and hygiene. Some snow was shovelled around each hive as extra insulation and then they were left until the next visit in late February.

 

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Final winter treatment

It is now the second week of December and we have treated for varroa mites for the last time this year. We have given each hive the dribble method of treatment with 50mls of Oxalic acid spread evenly in-between each panel. Both hives are doing well with one ahead of the other in removing their dead. A natural process as the bees age and a good sign of a hygienic colony.

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We may be a little late in the season for treatment. I had explored the different experts in the field and researched numerous articles to come to some consensus. Exhausted after five minutes, I decided to make a “shed” (shit hot executive decision). My reasoning was based on the phase of the moon, which would probably be as good as any other. The 3rd  December marked the full moon and we are now into waning gibbous with 70% illumination. I keep thinking the bees have some notion of the moon phases. Silly I know, but the old story about asking two beekeepers a question and getting twenty different answers justifies my ridiculous reasoning.

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The wonderful advantage of using oxalic acid for treatment is its extreme effectiveness. Reports show that this could be as high as 98%. The other feature is that it is a natural substance found in many life processes. It is present in many plants at a fine dilution with a higher amount in some, like rhubarb. The dribble treatment will have some mortality in the hive but from all reports, not to a great extent. Oxalic acid only destroys mites on the bees, not in the brood. For this reason, reports confirm treatment should be done when there are no capped brood cells in the hive since it will not penetrate the brood cappings. This limits treatment to two optimal occasions. After swarming, when a young queen has begun to lay eggs after the swarm has left. The other is during winter when the queen has stopped laying eggs and almost all of the brood laying is interrupted. It must be noted that I am explaining treatment for the dribble method and not with a vaporizer. Although this method of varroa treatment will not be the final answer, it will hopefully be one way in which we can help the colony strengthen and multiply so that they may take on the struggle on their own.

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