Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Malva Moschata

I recently found these flowers growing around the edges of my gravel driveway (click the images for a better view).

2016-07-25 11.47.29

According to my friendly neighbourhood person who knows these things, the flowers are called Malva Moschata, sometimes referred to as Musk Mallow.

Malva Moschata makes an appearance. (July 25, 2016.)

Malva Moschata makes an appearance. (July 25, 2016.)

They’ve shown up, not in large numbers, in the past week.

Malva Moschata (July 25, 2016.)

Malva Moschata in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (July 25, 2016.)

I have yet to notice any honey bees on them, but the Oracle tells me honey bees go for them. As usual, that’s good enough for me to add them to my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage list. I’ll update this post if I manage to take a photo of a honey bee on one of the flowers.

Hive Ventilation with an Empty Moisture Quilt

Here’s a quick video clip I posted on Twitter that shows how I make use of my empty moisture quilts during the peak of summer.

CORRECTION: In the video I said if it wasn’t so hot, I would put an inner cover above the moisture quilt. That’s wrong because it obviously wouldn’t do anything. The inner cover would go beneath the moisture quilt to reduce the amount of ventilation.

Most of my moisture quilts are converted ventilator rims, deep rims with screen stapled to the bottom, some of them, such as the one in the video, with spacers screwed underneath.

I know of commercial hive components that cost over $100 per hive that supposedly work ventilation magic on beehives. But for beekeepers on a budget (my kind of people), these $5 moisture quilts that I slap together with scrap wood and a piece of screen may be a better option.

More examples of how I use my moisture quilts year-round can be found under my Moisture Quilts posts.

Nucs: Day 6 – Removing Bare Foundation

I installed three nucs six days ago. Each nuc contained a frame of capped brood, a frame with bare foundation, and two frames with a mix of empty comb, pollen and honey (and maybe some small patches of brood). Each nuc was installed in a standard 10-frame Langstroth deep super with a frame feeder full of thin sugar syrup spiked with anise extract. The frames were placed in the deep in the same order and orientation as they were in the nuc box. I used frames of drawn comb to fill up two of the nuc hives and bare foundation in the other. I recorded a video of me installing the bare foundation nuc because most new Newfoundland beekeepers will probably begin their first nucs with bare foundation, not drawn comb. My intention was to provide an ongoing and honest record of what new beekeepers in Newfoundland are likely to experience during their first year of establishing a colony from a nuc. But what I found in that nuc hive today has compelled me to change my plans.

Nuc colony installed 6 days ago. (July 23, 2016.)

Nuc colony installed 6 days ago, and not much new brood. (July 23, 2016.)

I found some new comb with fresh brood on the original bare foundation frame that came with the nuc, but not much more new brood other than that. In my other two nucs that were full of drawn comb (not bare foundation), I found at least twice as much new brood — a full frame of capped brood and at least another frame of fresh brood. Bees were covering every single frame in the deep (compared to bees covering only four frames in the above photo). That’s a huge difference. The nuc colonies with drawn comb are expanding at least twice as fast. So…

As much I’d like to provide an honest guide for first-year beekeepers in Newfoundland, I’d rather have twice as much brood in my colonies. So…

I removed the top three frames of bare foundation from the nuc hive (as shown in the above photo) and replaced them with drawn comb. (The frame closest to the feeder was already full of new comb and syrup, so I left it alone.) Now the queen will have free reign to start laying immediately. She won’t need to wait for the worker bees to build comb over the bare foundation first.

Drawn comb is worth its weight in gold. I’ve never seen such a dramatic demonstration of that fact. (Sorry I don’t photos of the other nucs full of bees. Technical difficulties.) Okay then…
Continue reading

Nucs That Caused Bulging Honey

I noticed bulging honey (video link) in all three nucs I installed last week. And by bulging honey, I mean comb the bees built past the width of the frame. Here’s an extreme example from one of my honey supers two years ago:

IMG_0383-thick-comb

Bulging honey is great for a honey super where I want as much honey on each frame as the bees can manage. I deliberately space out the frames so the bees will draw thicker comb on it. But bulging comb of any kind is not what I want to see in the brood nest.

The brood frames can’t be spaced evenly against each when bulging honey gets in the way. (Have I just coined a phrase, bulging honey?) When I installed my nucs, the frames of bulging honey created uneven spacing — and extra space between the frames. The bees want to fill in that extra space and they often do so with bridge comb, which breaks apart and makes a mess in the brood nest whenever I need to inspect a frame.

Bridge comb caused by having too much space between the frames. (July 22, 2016.)

Bridge comb caused by having too much space between the frames. (July 22, 2016.)

I took a quick look at one of the nuc hives today and already noticed bridge comb. What a pain.
Continue reading

Location, Location, Location

This is just me wondering about something. It doesn’t have much to do with anything.

Two years ago today, I checked the honey super in one of my hives (in Logy Bay, Newfoundland) and found the thickest frames of honey I’ve ever seen.

Thick frames of honey coming in at about 3kg each --- about six pounds.  (July 22, 2014.)

Thick frames of honey coming in at about 3kg each — about six pounds. (July 22, 2014.)

The one hive I have this year that might make me some honey, as of last weekend, hasn’t collected a drop of nectar in its honey super. I know my colonies this year, still recovering from the attack of the shrews, were in hard shape to begin with, but I wonder if my new location (about a kilometre from the North Atlantic Ocean) is less suitable for honey bees.

A friend of mine, who got into beekeeping a few years ago (until one catastrophe after another put an end to it), kept his bees in an area that was surrounded by coniferous trees, a forest of spruce trees that don’t provide nectar for honey bees. Even if his bees hadn’t come to a sad end, I question if his bees would have had enough to forage on to stay alive. I’m wondering about mine now too. One third of my bees’ forage area is the North Atlantic Ocean. And it’s cold. I can often see a fog bank rising above the Labrador Current from my house. While I see considerably more forage for my bees than a endless forest of spruce trees, I can’t help but ask, is it enough?

I probably won’t know until next year when I have some fully established colonies again. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if my pessimistic suspicions are wrong.

Beekeeping Basics: Installing a Nuc

Most new beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland (and many other places on the planet) will start up their first colonies with what is often referred to as a nuc, or a nucleus colony, or a starter hive that contains a laying queen, at least one frame of brood, a frame or two of pollen and honey, and usually a blank or empty frame to give the worker bees something to work on while they’re stuck in a 4-frame nuc box for up to a week. The frames from the nuc are usually placed inside a single hive body (in Newfoundland, it’s usually a deep) with empty frames to fill in the rest of the box. A feeder of some sort is installed. And that’s it. The following 24-minute video demonstrates the entire process.

I’ll post a condensed version of this video at a later date, but for now it’s probably more helpful to show how it plays out in real time (more or less) so that anyone new to all this, or anyone thinking about starting up a few honey bee colonies next year, will have a realistic idea of what to expect when it comes time to install their first nuc. I plan to post follow-up videos to track the progress of this colony right into next spring, again so that anyone hoping to start up their own hives in the future will have a non-idealized take on what to expect.

It was well over 30°C (86°F) by the time I finished installing all of my nucs. The sweat was pouring off my face and stinging my eyes. Expect that too.
Continue reading

Nucs: An Excellent Opportunity to Spot the Queen

I just installed three new nucs and I’m completely soaked in sweat. Here’s one that doesn’t have a proper top cover yet, but the bees don’t care.

By the way, now is an excellent time to look for the queen, to learn how to spot her, how she moves and wiggles across the frame and all that jazz. There are hardly any bees in the hive and there are only a few frames to inspect. The chances of spotting her couldn’t be better.

I wish I’d taken the time to look for the queen when I installed my first nucs. It subsquently took me a year before I managed to spot any of my queens.

Chicken Waterer for Honey Bees

I set up a bowl full of marbles to provide water for my bees last year. It’s very pretty and it works, but I’ve recently switched to using a chicken waterer instead:

Honey bees drinking from a chicken waterer. (July 14, 2016.)

Honey bees drinking from a chicken waterer. (July 14, 2016.)

The bowl full of marbles isn’t difficult to maintain, but the I prefer the chicken waterer because, for me, it’s more practical.

Postscript (10 days later): Now that we’re at Newfoundland’s height of summer (I guess), the bees are on the chicken waterer all the time and seem to suck down about a litre of water every two days. At any rate, that’s how often I refill the Mason jar. A larger bucket-sized chicken waterer would probably work too.

For Better or For Worse, Newfoundland Now Imports Honey Bees

I don’t want to write a Masters thesis on this topic. I don’t have time to fill in all the details. I’ll assume anyone interested has already done their homework or is willing to check some basic resources including my original post about honey bees being imported into Newfoundland; all the articles and interviews I link to in my original post and in the comments section; the forum page on the NLBKA’s website (for members of the association); Aubrey Goulding’s endorsement of the importation policy; the NL Bee Company’s word of caution about the importation policy; plus this PDF file describing endemic honey bee diseases and pests in Western Australia. It should be noted that the Australian government provides a disease-free certificate with the honey bees they export.

A quick summary of the situation: The island of Newfoundland has the healthiest honey bees on the planet that have never been exposed to Varroa and most of the other nasty pests and diseases that are destroying honey bee colonies all over the world. It’s fair to say that most beekeepers on the island want to keep it that way by not importing potentially diseased honey bees. A high demand for honey bees from various business operators on the island has left some of them feeling frustrated because there aren’t enough local bees being produced to meet their demand. The low supply of bees on the island has always been a source of frustration for hobbyists and business operators alike. It takes four or fives years of learning the craft to carefully build up a beeyard of substantial size. While most beekeepers in Newfoundland accept this as the price that’s paid for maintaining a disease-free population of honey bees that is unique to the world, a very small minority don’t. That minority imported several dozen packages of honey bees from Western Australia onto the island in April 2016. While the government of Australia may certify that their bees carry no pathogens, a certificate is not a guarantee and their screening process is not infallible. Even more disconcerting is the quarantine procedure for the bees once they arrive in Newfoundland. It appears to be a quarantine in name only. So as a conclusion to my original post, here’s what I have to stay about the whole stinking mess…


Continue reading

Why I Have Pollen in My Honey Super

I found several frames of pollen in the honey super of one of my hives today.

One of several medium frames full of pollen in a honey super. (July 09, 2016.)

One of several medium frames full of pollen in a honey super. (July 09, 2016.) Click the image for a better view.

The last time I found pollen in the honey super was two summers ago and it happened with what I used to call my nasty hive, a hive packed with the most defensive, meanest bees in Newfoundland. Everything about that hive was a headache, so I just assumed pollen in the honey super was a symptom of mentally deranged bees. That colony eventually died and I was more than happy to see it go. So when I found the frames of pollen today, I thought, “What the hell?”

Medium frame in "honey super" full of pollen. (July 09, 2016.)

Medium frame in “honey super” full of pollen. (July 09, 2016.)

At first I thought, “Okay, I’ve got another crazy colony on my hands.” Which seems to fit because the bees in this colony are, unfortunately, related to Old Nasty. Their queen mated with drones from the nasty hive. But that’s just speculation, me making up some stuff that sounds like it could be true but probably isn’t when you get right down to it.

So I did a little more poking around the oracle we call the Internet and asked a few beekeeping friends of mine if they’ve seen this before. And they have. After shooting some emails back and forth and thinking it over, I’ve come to the following explanation:

The bees are filling the honey super with pollen because they don’t have enough brood to eat up all the pollen that’s coming in.
Continue reading