2011 wasn’t a good year for beekeepers on the east coast of Newfoundland. We had a late wet spring, a short cold summer, and we (i.e., the royal we, as in I’m talking about yours truly) made plenty of mistakes along the way. But we managed to harvest about 20kg of honey from our two established hives and it was all worth it.

Here are some photos from 2011 (about 100 photos, approximately 5 minutes):


iPad and other non-Flash devices can view slideshow photos here: Beekeeping 2011..

We doubled our number of Langstroth hives from two to four. Our small backyard is now filled to capacity. We plan to double up to possibly eight hives next year once we secure some land and build the new hives. We decided this year to pull the plug on foundationless beekeeping because we’re not convinced it’s the best way to raise bees in our local climate. The jury is still out on that one. We’ll see how our one foundationless colony does next year. We got our two new colonies going into winter much stronger than last year’s nucs. We’re extremely happy about that. It’s comforting to realize that, at least in some areas, we have a good idea of what we’re doing and how to do it. Then of course we got our first harvest of honey this year. Our foundationless hive didn’t make much honey, probably because it was full of honey-hungry drones. But the other hive did okay and cutting the honey-filled comb out of the foundationless frames and biting into it was a joyous occasion, a beautiful thing. Here’s my favourite video from the past year:

I hope 2012 is even better. See you next year.

11 Responses to “2011 Backyard Beekeeping in St. John’s, Newfoundland: A Retrospective Slideshow”

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  1. Greg says:

    Hi there
    Just watched your pollen patties video and must say you inner cover design is amazing. The best i have ever seen. Can you do a video on how to make the inner cover design. Your bees look extremely healthy. What is your winter survival rate like.
    Your western canadian counterpart

    • Phillip says:

      Hi Greg,

      Here’s the original post that shows how I made the insulated inner hive covers:

      http://mudsongs.org/making-ins.....ve-covers/

      I don’t have a video, but Eric at GardenFork.TV posted a video and some photos that demonstrate how he made an improved version of the same inner cover:

      http://www.gardenfork.tv/insul.....1-gf-video

      He basically made it higher to provide more space for adding pollen patties and candy cakes. If I make more, that’s more or less how I’ll make them. However, I might simply stick with putting a piece of insulation over the inner cover instead because it works just as well at keeping the bees dry, though I’d still have to put a rim under the inner cover to make a little extra room for inserting pollen patties, etc.

      I also have other idea for making an all-season ventilation rim / insulated inner cover. I’m still pondering over that one though.

      P.S., My winter survival rate is 100%. But that’s not saying much because last year was our first winter of beekeeping and we only had two hives.

  2. Greg says:

    Feel free to email me as well be happy to correspond with you.
    What impressess me is that you have only been beekeeping for 1 year. I have been beekeeping since I was 5 going on 26 yrs now. I have gone totally foundationless. I read you article on your mix results. I think it is worth another try but I think I could give you some pointers first. Bees alway draw 2 full combs of brood cells to a 10 frame super. It is important to leave these in place while the bees are drawing comb or they will draw more drone comb. Also once drones hatch place those combs in the honey areas either top box or outside frames. I also don’t treat my bees and they are surviving extremely well. I am going to incorporate your lid design and hopefully that will help our bees in the spring when weather can be unpredictable. Also it would be important for you to start breeding your own queens. With stock wintering as well as your you should really be preserving the genetics you have. I’m always looking for bees that winter well like yours. My bee of choice is the carniolan though as it uses a lot less winter stores and builds up fast in the spring which is great for spring splits.
    Here are some of my videos I will be placing more on next year. I use a two queen hive by using screen on an inner cover works great.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWExEigwmFE

    • Phillip says:

      Next year will be the test for the foundationless hive. It does seem to require more resources than the others, which is bad news when we have a bad summer like we did this past summer.

      I know a few beekeepers who plan to raise their own queens next year. My plan to is to learn from their experience before I get into it myself. We won’t really need our own supply of queens until 2013, but I’d like to preserve the Carniolan stock. With our short summers, we need bees that can kick it into high gear in the spring.

  3. Jeff says:

    Don’t worry Phil. Your drones will come in handy this year. I’ll help get that drone population down.

    • Phillip says:

      I’m curious to see how things work out with the foundationless colony. Basically, it’s a test hive. Except for requeening it as soon as I can, I have no intention to manipulate that hive at all. As long as it looks healthy, I’ll let the bees do whatever they want inside the hive. I’d like to completely leave it alone, not touch it at all, but I’m not ready for that level of experimenting yet.

  4. Greg says:

    I wouldnt recommend that with a foundationless hive. I have found that manipulation is necessary to ensure less drones and ensure comb building continues without burr comb. I alway change the combs so they are spaced drawn undrawn drawn and so on. Also make sure drone comb is rotated to honey ares so the queen doesnt lay too many.
    It would be neat to leave a hive alone but honestly ive found foundationless more work but i havent had any mite problems with thise hives either. They have turned out to be my strongest hives. Michael Bush of Bush Farms has had similar results with foundationless hives not having mite issues. He has a very good website as well.

  5. Greg says:

    I also place more drone comb in my really strong hives so that they flood the area with the drones i want to mate with my queens. Ive had good results with very well mated queens. I rotate the combs to honey areas once i reach a adaquate number of drones or the drones can get out of hand.

  6. Jeff says:

    Phil,

    I was thinking about making a swarm trap out of some plastic buckets. So I have been thinking over the last little while of hacking a insulated plywood top and installing a nuc/swarm into it. They allowing the bees to be bees. The bucket has a larger volume than two deep brood boxes so their should be enough volume when filled out.

    I would feed them the first year but after that they would be on their own. That way if they swarm in coming years the bees can go wild. That is why I am hoping for Carniolan stock to do my test. I’ll send you some pics when I get it build. I’ll steel the top frame with the comb attached from a nuc and see what develops. That way they can make their own drone stock to help populate the area. It is also mobile so I can easily move it elsewhere.

    • Phillip says:

      I think you’re in an ideal location for trying that kind of thing. Letting the bees go wild probably wouldn’t be appreciated by most residents in my urban environment. If you could get Carniolans to go wild, that’d be great. A fair share would probably die off, but if any ever managed to survive a few winters and reproduce, you’ll have the ultimate Newfoundland honey bee on your hands.

  7. Tonia Moxley says:

    I am a rank beginner awaiting my first packages to install in top bar hives, which are completely foundationless. I have been warned that it will take time for the bees to “regress,” and build natural sized comb. Commercial bees are apparently raised on bigger comb foundation, and one longtime beekeeper I know has told me that he steps them down using Mann Lake’s PF120 foundation, then introduces foundationless frames slowly — one or two at a time.

    I won’t have that luxury, but I’m going for it. I’m going to requeen mid-summer if all goes well, to a queen that’s been raised on natural sized comb. I’m also attending a conference on organic, natural, foundationless and top bar beekeeping. If I hear anything that seems useful to your situation, I’ll pass it along.

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