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Western PA Beekeeping Meeting

Filed under: Beekeeping — jet @ 16:04

Just home from the Western PA beek meeting and I learned a lot more this year than last.   Some of it good, some of it helpful in retrospect.

Feral Swarms

The best talk was a tutorial on catching feral swarms. I had no idea this was a “thing”, but the guy giving the talk lives in western Ohio and caught 64 swarms in two months. He constantly bought new hives and ended up with three different yards with 15-20 hives in each, all feral swarms. Primary cost: hives and 2700 miles on his truck.

Feral swarms aalso, it turns out, have amazing genetics relative to package bees from the south (duh). One swarm built 17 frames in a double deep in two weeks, he put on two mediums, those were built in two weeks, then by the end of the flow he had 2 mediums and a deep full of capped honey.

One yard of feral swarms produced 550 pounds of honey from eight hives. That’s 70 pounds her hive, I’m happy if I get over 40 from a hive.

So, hey look, we own two acres of wooded land a mile from here, and that land is within a couple miles of forests and wooded parks. I wonder how many traps I can put up, and more importantly, where I’d put all the bees.  I also have friends who live within a mile or two of the two main wooded parks in Pittsburgh (The City of) and will ask them if I can put swarm traps on their property.

Traps are easy to make out of 1/2″ plywood, two sheets and some 1x2s will make 5 swarm traps.  Just make it the size of a deep, removable lid, 1 1/2″ entry hole, and ratchet strap it to a tree as high as possible.

Dying Hives


It hit the upper 40s today so we cleaned out the three hives that deaded out during winter. It will be 70F in Tuesday and we don’t want any bees rotting/decomposing in the hives. (10 years ago we had 2′ of snow on the ground around this time.) We recovered maybe 10 or 15# of honey and fed the surviving hive a pound of protein patty. It’s going to be warm enough for them to do cleansing flights starting tomorrow but there’s no food out in the wild.

One thing I overheard at the meeting was that it was so cold in Ohio that bee clusters couldn’t survive going and fetching honey from other parts of the hive.  The bee cluster generates warmth by the bees dislocating their wings(!) and vibrating their wing muscles.  It should be close to 90F in the top of the hive, so it’s normally safe for bees to leave the cluster for food then return.  It’s possible that it was so cold last month that our hives suffered the same fate — the cluster ran out of fuel and it was too cold to go for more fuel.


Another hive down

Filed under: Beekeeping — jet @ 15:56

Lost another hive, one with plenty of food remaining.  Not sure if it was mites, disease, or just too damn cold for small cluster of bees.


Two hives down

Filed under: Beekeeping — jet @ 22:10

Here we are, six days later, and we’ve lost two hives. The first hive was the knee-biter hive and started off with relatively few bees and a few days ago they were low on bee count. I suspect they just couldn’t form enough heat for our unusually cold winter. The other hive had 2-3x as many dead bees as the othe rhives when I cleaned them out, so
maybe they tripped over a number-of-bees-for-heat problem or got hit hard by mites.

I added 3-4k of fondant to each of the remaining hives. Next decent day we’ll move all the uneaten fondant to the surviving hive and prep the dead hives for nucs.

One plan is to do “walk-away splits”. Wait until the healthy hives have capped brood including capped drones, then split each hive in half. Don’t worry about where the queen is, just split the brood and nurse bees between the healthy hive and the empty hive. The hive without a queen will start raising virgin queens ASAP, and that hive should have brood within six weeks (if I’m doing the mental math correctly).

The hive with a queen will now have a half-empty hive and no real reason to swarm. The queen can lay lots more bees and the hive can build a lot more honey.


Winter Check of Bees in Pittsburgh

Filed under: Beekeeping,Pittsburgh — jet @ 23:53

Surprise 64F day today so we checked the hives. The nuc with the $$$ queen has bees, but I’m not sure enough to survive the rest of the winter. We rearranged all the fondant in the hives so they could continue to “eat up” in the fondant over the next few freezing days; we’ll check them again this Saturday.

Last year we got blindsided by the strange Winter and early Spring and the hives swarmed before we expected. We think our frames were honey bound, they had enough fondant that they didn’t eat the honey then the
queen had no place to lay. This year we’ll check weekly (if possible) and switch from fondant to syrup as soon as possible.

Another thing we’ll try is flipping the top and bottom deeps and frames. We can pull any honey leftover and extract it then replace those frames with built frames so the queen has plenty of room to lay. If they’re getting syrup until the first pollen hits we should have lots more eggs and fresh bees at the start then Spring honey.

Fingers crossed, thumbs held.


Blocking the mount of a UF2 Bootloader in OSX (and maybe Linux)

Filed under: Arduino,Hacking — jet @ 00:04

I’m really liking Adafruits “Metro Express” version of the Arduino Zero.

Except for one thing.

The UF2 boot loader.  Every time I compile and load a sketch I get a whine notification from OSX about how I’ve unmounted a volume without the proper Steve Jobs NeXT dance.

The fix is actually pretty simple — tell fstab to stop mounting the filesystem in the first place.  Apple has one solution but it needs a few tweaks for the UF2 boot system.

I'll use Adafruit's METRO as an example.  

First, use diskutil to find the UUID of the METRO:

$ diskutil info /Volumes/METROBOOT/
 Device Identifier: disk3
 Device Node: /dev/disk3
 Whole: Yes
 Part of Whole: disk3
 Device / Media Name: Metro M0 Media

Volume Name: METROBOOT

Mounted: Yes
 Mount Point: /Volumes/METROBOOT

File System Personality: MS-DOS FAT16
 Type (Bundle): msdos
 Name (User Visible): MS-DOS (FAT16)

Content (IOContent): None
 OS Can Be Installed: No
 Media Type: Generic
 Protocol: USB
 SMART Status: Not Supported
 Volume UUID: CA043DAF-C1C3-33CC-A5C4-A4B0D2BFDE85

Total Size: 4.1 MB (4096000 Bytes) (exactly 8000 512-Byte-Units)
 Volume Free Space: 3.5 MB (3530240 Bytes) (exactly 6895 512-Byte-Units)
 Device Block Size: 512 Bytes
 Allocation Block Size: 512 Bytes

Read-Only Media: No
 Read-Only Volume: No

Device Location: External
 Removable Media: Yes
 Media Removal: Software-Activated

Virtual: No
 OS 9 Drivers: No
 Low Level Format: Not supported

Now, use vifs to change the fstab file:

$ sudo vifs

and add this line to the end of the file using the “Volume UUID” field to replace [Volume UUID]

UUID=[Volume UUID] none msdos ro,noauto

save and quit, then run

$ sudo automount -vc

to update your mac with the new fstab file.

This should stop the device from automounting under OSX and make the METRO work like a “normal” Arduino.



E3D Silicone Socks Change PID Settings

Filed under: E3D Printers — jet @ 21:00

Getting ready to put E3D’s “Silicone Socks” on my E3D-V6 and thought, “hey, my kitchen oven mitts are silicone and I can handle 450F pots out of the oven, I wonder how much insulation the socks provide and does it change the PID?”

Two PID tunes later, one without the sock, one with, both starting from a room temp 22C V6 and using the g-code “M303 E0 S240 C8”

Without sock:
p 26.95 i 2.45 d 74.19

With sock:
p 32.75 i 3.54 d 75.8

Which makes sense — p’s change means there is more error (heat loss is lower than bare metal), i’s change is the accumulation of previous errors.  The derivative, d, stays roughly the same because p and i have similar changes in value.  (I did poorly in calculus and am trying to explain this to people who wasted a semester and failed Calc I trying to understand how derivatives work.)

What this implies is that the V6 extruders will heat more quickly thanks to the insulation and will cool more slowly after a print finishes.  I can’t think of any prints where I changed the temperature of the print head during a print so this should “just work” after I update the PID values in Marlin.


Qt5 patch: make qmake look in pwd for .prf file

Filed under: Hacking,OS X and Linux — jet @ 12:30

Only tested on OS X

git diff -p --no-ext-diff
diff --git a/qmake/library/qmakeevaluator.cpp b/qmake/library/qmakeevaluator.cpp
index e9da45c..dbe8f41 100644
--- a/qmake/library/qmakeevaluator.cpp
+++ b/qmake/library/qmakeevaluator.cpp
@@ -1475,7 +1475,11 @@ void QMakeEvaluator::updateFeaturePaths()

QStringList feature_roots;

- foreach (const QString &f, m_option->getPathListEnv(QLatin1String("QMAKEFEATURES")))
+ // JET 20160519 this makes it look in the pwd for a .pro file
+ // "works for me!"
+ feature_roots += QDir::currentPath();
+ foreach (const QString &f, m_option->getPathListEnv(QLatin1String("QMAKEFEATURES")))
feature_roots += f;

feature_roots += m_qmakefeatures;


made a thing: rotating “Lazy Susan” tool rack

(Susan wasn’t lazy, she was efficient. There’s a difference.)

After seeing Adam Savage’s take on mobile tool racks I started designing some for my Big Things studio.

Then I realized, no, I need one like ten years ago for my Small Things studio. Cue the cycle of “design, test, improve” and finally I had a version for me. I like it so much I decided to put copies up for sale at Etsy. If you want a custom version for your own special set of You No Touch These Tools we can work something out.

Having a Lasersaur in the Big Things studio is more useful than I expected.

(p.s. Boxing up S/N #1 for Adam tomorrow afternoon.)


In other beehive news,

Filed under: Beekeeping — jet @ 23:25

Well, it was a happy/sad weekend for our bees. We’re having a brief warm spell, 50F instead of 25F, so I re-checked the hives for fondant. The weaker hive is a dead out, but I had time to clean up the mess before pests come in. Most of the dead bees were in the bottom and a small cluster, maybe the size of a grapefruit died at the top of the hive near plenty of fondant. They just couldn’t keep up the temperature in the 0F weather a couple of weeks ago. Some of them were face-down in comb looking for warmth/food, but the rest were just in a ball.

Cleaned all that out then went to look at the hive that was performing good hygiene and kicking out dead bees. They were strong, just starting on the fondant I put out a few weeks ago, and pissed off. Which means they’re pretty healthy if they’re in the mood to defend the hive.

Today we went to the Western PA meeting of the state beekeeping association and saw some good talks on splitting and feeding. We’re going to remake our most recent batch of fondant mixing in bee pollen and aminos. One of our local beeks, “only 48 years in the business”, has about 80 hives and has been experimenting with foods for the past 10 years in controlled a/b tests.

His results are almost unbelievable. He has so many strong hives now that he’s starting to pre-order queens so he can split as many as 40 hives. “Overfeeding” bees seems to be the right thing to do, not the wrong thing. Give them enough carbs, vitamins, and aminos that the younger bees can mature and the older bees are ready to go as soon as it gets warm.

Another speaker talked about splitting and winter hives and planning in Summer what you want in the Spring. If you want 10 hives next year, assume a significant portion will die out and plan on having 13 strong hives by the end of summer.

Tomorrow we’ll redo the fondant for the one strong hive and start getting ready for the two nucs that show up in March. We’ve also got a new location for two hives (if we can split/buy more) and a potential third location next year for as many as 16 or 20 if we have the time/investment dollars.


DIY Lasersaur Fume Extraction

Filed under: digifab,Lasersaurs and laser cutters — jet @ 11:36

After building my second Lasersaur, the current release candidate, I started doing a lot more cutting and realized I needed to find a good fume filter. I started designing my own and while doing research discovered that someone had already solved the problem and distributed plans on Instructables. It’s a self-contained laser cutter fume extractor and it does a great job filtering out smoke and acrylic. I sit next to it while running jobs and I can’t smell even a whiff of smoke.

While crawling around under the work bench routing the exhaust from the Lasersaur to the filter I was reminded that my studio (a converted garage) is pretty damn dusty. I’m making dust covers for my computer and CNC headend and putting filters over the cooling fans, and I started thinking about where my Lasersaur gets fresh air. The exhaust fan pulls ~400 CFM of air through a 6″ exhaust port but there’s no 6″ port for air to come in. A few test cuts later and it was pretty obvious I needed dedicated air input to balance the exhaust.

My fix is pretty simple: put an air filter on the opposite side of the cutting bed. The question is what size filter and where should it be located? I tried a few variations with cardboard mock-ups and it looks like having the filter planar level with the cutting bed was the best plan. The filter is some leftover HVAC stuff from the box store and it probably needs a better mount than leftover duct tape, but for now it works just fine.

There are some photos on flickr and here’s a short video of tests and the final result:

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