Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

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The Queen Is Dead, Long Live the Queen!

   So this guy Greg I work with... I don't really mind that he's crotchety and sometimes speaks to me quite rudely and disrespectfully, I don't even mind terribly that he thinks he's my boss when he's not --I have a pretty thick skin-- but what is driving me absolutely insane is that he has many extremely erroneous ideas about proper beekeeping that he absolutely insists we adhere to (because he knows better because he's been beekeeping for "fifty years".

   During swarming season every hive should be checked at least once every sixteen days to look for and destroy any queen cells they are making in preparation to swarm ... he refuses to do this and when he's around (which fortunately isn't always -- I didn't see him at all last week, but he's been haunting me all day every day so far this week) he keeps us busy with dumb stuff so I can't get the real work (such as checking on swarm cells) done. He continued to insist its "not swarming season" even after we caught two swarms in one day!
   Two weeks ago he declared we were going to start pulling honey. "uh okay" I thought, I hadn't seen anything that was ready to be pulled out of the hives but surely he'd find that out himself right? NO! I was horrified to find he just merrily proceeded (with me unhappily in tow) to pull out half full and less than half full frames of honey out of hive after hive. I reminded him that honey is not complete, and the water content is too high, until it is capped, but he brushed that off ("that's only if there's moisture in the air lad!") and I noted that the honey isn't going anywhere, and if we waited until it was full we'd spend the same amount of time harvesting it for twice as much product, but that similarly had no effect on him. I even tried "Trevor said X" to which he'd respond "Well Trevor's wrong." And he's far far too headstrong to just tell him "no we're not doing that" (read on for tales of what ensues!)
   So I talked to Trevor, the farm owner and our boss, and Trevor talked to Greg (this is the next morning), and told him not to extract (technically, Trevor told me it was my call, but I don't know what he told Greg), so instead Greg insisted we spend the next two days throwing supers (additional hive boxes) on top of hives. I'm .... not sure why we did this. That's something you do if the honey is coming in faster than you have time to go take it off, or some hives are about full up but not others and you want to do them all at once ... AND in America we put the new box on top of the stack, so they finish the one they were working on but move up. In Australia they lift up the old box (which presumably is full or will be by the time they have time to take it off) and put the new box under it, and the bees start on the new box before finishing off the old box. Greg insisted that, of course, I was an idiot and did it wrong with the boxes I did the American way, and that all the boxes be done the Australian way. This I just chalked up to maybe being an Australian thing but later I was talking to Trevor (who does know a fair thing or two about bees) and Trevor was like "why'd you guys do that? now they're really not going to finish that half finished honey in the top box for a long time" ("yes!")...
   So anyway, basically, Trevor told him not to do any more extracting so Greg turned around and wasted several more days of my life on completely counterproductive supering. Then he disappeared for a week because he seems to hate inspecting hives and there was nothing else useless to do, so I was able to catch up somewhat on the inspections. There were still some more to do THIS week.... but come Monday morning I find out that Greg is rip roaring to go with more extractions.
   ALSO on the subject of extractions, the times I've worked in the extracting shed with Greg we've turned out a hive every ten minutes (and a dismal 7 liters per hive) -- the time I worked in the extracting shed myself I turned out a hive every 12 minutes (and neglected to note the volume but I reckon it was at least twice as much per hive since I only pulled frames that were actually full). Surely you don't need to be an MBA to see that if twice as many man hours are worked for only a 20% increase in productivity.... someone's time is being god damn wasted. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
   Greg insists that all extracting be done the same day it's pulled out of the hives (or else "it'll get cold" bloody bullshit DO YOU KNOW WHERE WE ARE???) so we were both in the extracting shed until 11pm yesterday and the day before (when, again, one of us could have not been there and productivity would have been very marginally reduced). AND, when the chain uncapper inevitably fails to uncap some of a frame, you use a "scratcher" to quickly scratch off the cappings -- but he insists it only be used to scoop under the caps to lift them off. He says "its like taking the lid off a jar!" but see the thing is, nicking the tops of the caps with the scratcher is like using a can opener to open a can whereas scooping under the caps with metal prongs that are a siginificant portion of the width of the entire cell is more akin to trying to open a can by hacking it in half with an axe. Siginificant damage is done to the combs, and it takes much much longer. He also insists on loading the extractor (a centrifuge) with the tops of the frames at the center. We agreed that cells are angled slightly upward, but where we disagreed when it came to an argument was that he insisted (as usual, quite rudely, calling me an idiot and saying I wouldn't understand because of something-no-doubt-very-derisive-I-couldn't-make-out) the centrifical force pulls things inward. Obviously I could have demonstrated how centrifical force works but at that point I just dropped it because it was getting far too unprofessional and stupid for me.

   So the other day he was merrily packing away half full frames of honey and I was kind of feeling irresponsible for not standing up to him -- after all Trevor has been quite clear that I have his permission to insist things be done right. So that day when we got to the extracting shed I tried to put my foot down on both the scratcher and extractor issues ... and on the scratcher issue it came down to him saying "just do it as I say, alright?" and me saying "well. No. Trevor has given me clear instructions to do as I see fit." To which he responded "Well I'm going to have to talk to Trevor then" (in a "I'm going to have you fired" kind of way. And on that subject I've talked to Trevor about having Greg fired but we can't because he's the trustee of some land Trevor wants to buy so we can't completely blow him off) ... and then he didn't let go of the scratcher for a long time.
   Now, who should walk in a few hours later but Trevor himself. And what should Trevor happen to say to me, as I'm painstakingly misusing the scratcher in the manner Greg thinks it should? Trevor says "Kris why don't you use the scratcher the right way??" to which I responded with a grin "I'd love to Trevor!" and what happens next but Greg about flies across the room and bellows at me "NO! I TOLD you not to do that! If I see you doing that again I'll have you replaced with a Vietnamese person who by the way would be much faster at that then you!" And there followed another argument in which Trevor and I together tried to get Greg to relent but he wouldn't. At least I feel a lot less bad about not being able to turn him around when I see that even Trevor can't. Trevor then engaged Greg in a more thorough debate about the nature of centrifical force, this time there WERE physical demonstrations (and Trevor saying "now Greg, I called up the manufacturer of this bloody thing, and HE said the tops go outward!). Greg was very obstinant even in the face of mounting demonstrative evidence but I was shocked to find he actually DID give in and start loading the extractor the correct way

   To save us all from more unnecessary extracting, Trevor has instructed me to inform Greg no new drum to put the honey in is coming tomorrow, though really it probably is. I was hoping Greg would disappear without extracting to do (which he seems to strangely love.) but looks like Greg is rip roaring to help me install new queen bees tomorrow (or as he'd probably think of it, have me help him install new queens).

   This afternoon Trevor called me to say the queens were in and I should pick them up (and that there was no honey drum), and Trevor and I agreed I'd proceed to the "Moorepark" farm to install them. I relay this to Greg, who's there with me at the extracting shed hoping for a honey drum, and Greg vetoes Moorepark and says we'll go to "606" (another property in the opposite direction) to install the queens. I forget what his reasoning was but as usual he was entirely unimpressed that his boss had just told us to go somewhere else.
   So I get the queens and catch up to Greg, who has already killed three queens to replace them and is working on a fourth. He thrusts a frame at me with a queen on it and instructs me to kill her so we can replace her. Now I'm really not entirely confident that replacing these queens will help anything, but there was nothing for it short of calling into question (or making it apparent that I call into question) the entirely of Greg's "beekeeping" skills, so I crushed her between my fingers and tossed her into the shrubs.
   "Uh, I killed the queen and tossed her away from the hive... what part of that do you object to"
   "NO!! You put her back in the hive so the bees know she's dead and accept the new one"
   "...uh, what. Greg, there's no 'dead queen bee pheromone,' a dead queen bee smells like any other bee and they still smell HER so they don't think she'd dead. It's not like bees see her dead and go tell eachother"
   "Well how do you explain swarming with your queen smell theory?" -Greg
   "uh, what??" I was seriously at a loss as to how to respond to that because it's not really related.
   But seriously, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. They... see and/or smell the dead queen and therefore look for a new queen? That's ass backwards.

   So here's the question of the moment. Tomorrow I'll apparently be hanging out with Greg again and this requeening situation is likely come up again. I am strongly inclined to once again make a stand and come hell or high water refuse to place any dead queen bees back in any hives. As a professional beekeeper I know with certainly that it is contrary to all accepted industry practices and will lead to the bees thinking they still have their old queen and thus not accepting the new queen.
   I anticipate Greg having an absolute kiniption if I refuse to do it his way, which may not be solved until one of us actually walks off the field, but on this matter Greg is very very wrong, and our boss has on a number of occasions made it clear he wants me to steer us in the direction of industry best management practices and call Greg on his bullshit -- though causing ole Greg to have a meltdown seems also not entirely desireable.

   Thoughts, advice?

And here's an unrelated picture of an upside-down jellyfish, which would probably be a more pleasant work companion.

Tags: beekeeping, employment, ole greg

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