November 28, 2010
Finished the door way into the winter shed. Now I can enter without any light making it into the shed. I did notice a big difference in the bee noise. I think it was the flash of light that shook them up a bit. They are still flying to the red lights though. I am going to change them with new lights, perhaps the bulb is scratched allowing white light through.
I am thinking of making a central vac system for the winter shed. Instead of sweeping the bees, Ill vac them out. They are alot of money, but ill look into it. Might find a good used one, or even use my shop vac, if it has enough pull. The canister will stay outside, while I dangle a hose from pipe fittings running over the beehive allyway. It will all be removable so not to get in the way of moving the bees in and out. The dust while sweeping is real dangerous, the mold especially. I like to sweep monthly just to see how they are managing. The year I left them all winter without any sweeping was a pain. I swept as I moved them out, causing alot of dust and extra work. A job I dont really want to do at that time of year.
I have a bunch of picutes I want to post of the Ezyloader. Ill try to get them up right away
Posted by Ian Steppler at 01:25 PM | Permalink
November 23, 2010
Ezyloader and Escape boards
I bought a F550, extended the chassis to fit a 16 foot deck and installed a model 300 Ezyloader behind the cab. This machine has a 16 foot self leveling articulating arm reach with a electric over hydraulic 300 kg lift capacity. The lift is with a hydraulic driven winch and a wireless remote controller. The machine folds down for transport allowing easy travel, and when fully opened, it provides more than enough lift space to work the hives and load the deck without running out of lift. The machine runs off a 12 volt battery. To extend the working life of the battery, I hitched up a battery isolator. This way I can work the yard with the truck off, and no worry of killing the battery of the truck. While in transport between yards the battery charges. It works very well. I find moving hives requires more battery draw than when Im pulling honey. I can run nearly a full day on one charge pulling honey, yet it will only load one truck load of bees on the same battery life. For loading hives I usually leave the truck running continuously to keep the battery charged. Loading hives requires 6 feet of continuous up and down work, as where pulling honey usually only requires 2 feet of up and down work.
I have built migratory 2 way pallets for hive transport. I like this system better than moving with 4 ways and a skid steer. Skid Steer and 4 ways is no doubt faster and probably easier, but moving with the esyloader is so much slicker. Zip zip zip, and Im done and away. For example, I finished dinner, left my yard after 1, loaded two yards of 40 each six miles apart and was back into my yard by 3:30. Thats pretty quick, and quick enough that I am changing it all over to 2 way migratory pallets.
The decision to buy the Ezyloader was made with pulling honey in mind with the use of escape board. They are an old invention, but a practical idea and efficient method of clearing bees. The only down side of the escape boards is lifting the honey boxes off and then back on, only to have to lift the honey back off again!! The Ezyloader eliminates that whole issue.
It has taken my a whole season to actually figure these boards out. Not only how to work them, but how to work them into my operation to keep pace with the other typical methods of pulling honey. I have to pull the honey as fast or faster than the typical method of pulling honey otherwise the boards become a hindrance and not an advantage. When I first started working the boards, my pace was slower but by the end of the season I was able to pull honey faster. In fact, I had a number of comments from my hired help about the over all easy of pulling honey!!! I have a guy that has been employed for 3 years and he has seen every way to pull honey. In the yard this year, he kept mentioning to me comments like these; “feels like we are cheating here”. ”No lifting, no sweating, no bees, no blowing, no fume boards, no bees”. “Hey Boss, we are pulling honey in the rain!! :)” “hey boss, I haven’t lifted a box yet! 🙂 ” “hey boss, the yard doesn’t stink, my girl friend doesn’t complain, my eyes aren’t stinging1 🙂 ” “Hey boss, we don’t have to talk over the blowers, kinda having conversations during our work now, Bee yard chatter!! 🙂
Being rookies to this whole escape board idea, I had made some mistakes.
First off I replaced the hives with two empty supers. I found out later I could trim that to one super. Our work quickened two times over because of not having to handle double the boxes and sort twice as many frames. That lead to one problem though, I had to get back to the yards within a few days to add boxes to the strong hives or they would bung right up.
Second I left the boards in for 2 nights. That worked fine, but I found there is no need to leave the boards on that long. I found if there were bees still in the boxes after one night, they were not going to exit the super during another night sit. Those bees cleared in the honey house easily anyway. Id say, 80-95% of the bees had been cleared which cleared in the hot room anyway. I Escape boards follow the same rules as setting boxes down on the ground. They will not clear if there is brood in the box and they take longer to clear with more honey comb broken. Also the bees will clear slowly if at all if there had been brood hatch in those frames anytime in the past. Brood hatched one year ago even slowed the clearing. I run excluders over doubles so I have little worry about that anyway. Just run away queens.
Third mistake I made, well maybe not a mistake, was using old worn equipment. I have cracks between my boxes and lids and holes everywhere. When the boards are in place, the bees clear the boxes and there are no longer guard bees to protect the honey from robbers. Those supers will be cleaned right out of honey before I would get a chance to gather them. I learnt the hard way. So I started taping my hives and used alot of tape. I found the red tuck tape worked the best of them all. Its a bit more expensive but stuck a hell of alot better. And for the cracks between the top box and lid, I started using garbage bags to seal the cracks. Worked well and cheap but annoying in the wind. So what I am going to do is build specialized inner covers sheets using bubble wrap to not only seal the cracks but also provide some insulation to the hives during the spring and fall months.
Our day looked like this. It started out as setting 3 yards, wait a day, pulling 3 yards , extract. As we became familiar to how the boards worked we were able to set a nice rhythm setting 5 yards, pulling 5 yards, extracting. I figure I was extracting 1.5-2 yards per day on average, getting though 24 yards on 12-14 days, extracting around 75000 lbs in first pull. I brought in another 40000 to end off the year. Not a box lifted, not a fume board primed and only blew a dozen hives out due to stray queens. Now that I have a feel for the unit we should have no trouble making time.
This is how we work the yards now. After arrival at the yard, I set up the machine while the yard is prepped with bee equipment equipment. After yard prep and machine set up, the hired man will swing the cradle into the hand holds of bottom super. I pry the boxes apart as the boxes are lifted so the machine lifts the stack off the hive and safely away to the side. Another yard worker will have a empty box ready and sets it on the hive, sorts the frames and places an escape board on top. Then we navigate the boxes back onto the hive onto the escape board. Thats the tricky part. Then move to the next hive. After one night passes, we come back and simply grab the boxes with the arm and lift them onto pallet on my truck deck. Supers are stacked on the pallets, slid tight together and strapped for transport. I have a electric forklift at the honey house to unload the truck. Thats how we do it. It works great.
Im building a crate to transport the boards more efficiently for next year. The self leveling is a bit of a pain, mostly only when we are to lazy to set out the riggers on the truck and the arm lifts off level. Pushing or pulling the load is kinda like pushing a trolly. But when its level, it maneuvers quite fine. This machine has made things work nicely.
Posted by Ian Steppler at 10:19 PM | Permalink
We have just slid into winter. Cold temperatures and lots of snow! Im not complaining though, all the work that had to be done is mostly completed. Lets see, land work done, hay almost in, cattle home, pre sold crop hauled, bees inside, Cattle off to Regina for show, and new baby delivered! Work around here gets crazy at times, we can accomplish alot in a days work.
Anyhow, I have the bees nicely tucked in the winter shed. Took me a good week of hauling and a couple of days stacking. They fit in the shed nicely. I have converted half of my operation over to a two hive pallet migratory hive arrangement to work in with my Ezyloader. Those hives stacked nicely as compared to my old pallets. I can pack in at least 1/3 more hives in the same area. Im going to change over the rest of my operation next year after a winters work. Also have a few other ideas im going to implement. While working the hives through out the year I came across some problems with my new method of pulling honey. Ill comment on that later in my escape board and Ezyloader post.
Im doing few things around the wintering shed to help keep more light out. I modified my intake vents, and I am building a 2 stage entrance to keep all light out during entry into the building. I notice the hives are worked up a bit when I check them occasionally during the day. Im not sure if its the brief shot of light coming in the door that stirs them up, or if its the CO2 expelling from my body that they sence that stirrs them up. Or it may be the red lights. They are not supposed to recognize red light, so Im told, but I wonder if the bees just dont react the same to red light as they do to white light. Im going to do some work and see if I cant get them to quiet down. I have a notion that maybe its not enough air exchange. I run my idle constantly, exchanging more that is suggested but the air in the shed still seems a bit heavy to me. I can smell the hives. A good smell, a smell of perspiring hives. Maybe my CO2 exchange isnt high enough. I am thinking of adding two air mixers down the sides of my shed, run off small forced air fans. right now I have 4 industrial ceiling fans blasting the shed downwards. To me thats seem to be more than enough air mixing, but who knows, perhaps the air is still layering.
Posted by Ian Steppler at 09:59 PM | Permalink