July 21st, 2012

One of the mated queens we bought and installed two weeks ago is a dud. We didn’t see any sign that she was laying last week, and we didn’t see anything today. So we removed her from the hive and combined her colony with another colony that has a strong queen. We combined them by following the standard newspaper method. Here’s what it looks like:

P.S.: I’ve decided to take a break from Mud Songs because I have difficultly finding the time for it these days. I don’t plan to post anything again until sometime in the fall when most of the beekeeping is done for the year.

July 18th, 2012

We recently added three mated queens to some of our hives and splits. Here’s a quick video of us checking to see if a queen was released from her cage. The video ends with us looking at some foundationless frames in a honey super.

I didn’t post a video or photos of the actual requeening because we posted an instructive video of a requeening last year. You can watch it on YouTube if you like and then follow the link back to Mud Songs to read the original post for more detailed info. Here’s a semi-short story about requeening, Part 1: The candy plug in one of our queen cages was rock solid and the bees hadn’t eaten through it five days later when we checked on it, not even close. To prevent that from happening, we might spray the candy plug with some water before we install the next queen cage. I’m not sure if that’s recommended by the experts, but we rarely get consistent advice from the experts, anyway, so we’ll probably do it. Part 2: We’ve been told that the attendant bees should be removed from the queen cage before the cage is installed. Supposedly in the commotion of being introduced, the attendant bees can get over excited and inadvertently sting or harm the queen. We’ve also been told not to worry about the attendant bees and just leave them in the cage with the queen. So that’s what we did and everything turned out fine.

P.S. (July 19/12): We might not spray the candy plug after all. Read the comments for more details.

July 16th, 2012

Our favourite way to eat comb honey:

July 16th, 2012

Our honey bee hives now reside on an organic farm in St. Philip’s, Newfoundland, about a 25-minute drive from where we live in St. John’s. Here they are on the edge of a cornfield:

Here’s a closer less old timey view:
Read on . . . »

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED WITH NEW PHOTOS ON MAY 19, 2014.

We spotted three, maybe four queens during our hive inspections today, but we only managed to get two of them on video and in focus.

P.S. (July 15/12): Apparently a queen’s abdomen becomes more elongated once she begins laying well. The length of her abdomen can be gauged by the distance between the tips of her wings and the tip of her abdomen. If it’s at least a third of the queen’s length, she’s rocking. The first queen in the video is laying well. The second queen in the video, introduced fives days earlier, hasn’t hit her stride yet. Compared to the first queen, her abdomen is barely protruding out from her under her wings. Her abdomen hasn’t become elongated yet. We found only a few freshly laid eggs in the hive. So it makes sense. I constantly hear contradictory information from beekeepers about everything, but what I’ve been told about queens in this regard seems to be true so far.

UPDATE (Oct. 25/12): The second queen with the small abdomen (that cost us $35) never hit her stride. She was a dud. If she laid eggs, even after a month, it was only a dozen or so a day. Instead of watching the colony slowly dwindle away, we got rid of the queen, split the hive and combined it with two nucs we’d just started up.

MAY 19/14: Here’s a queen surrounded by her attendants:

And here she is again:

July 14th, 2012

We managed to get two almost-in-focus photos of a honey bee excreting wax today:

The bee will pull away the wax with its back legs and use its mouth to shape the wax into comb.

At least that’s what a little birdie told me.

July 10th, 2012

Here’s a photo of some of our hives at their new location on an organic farm about a half hour drive outside of St. John’s:

The photo was taken from inside the woods where we set up one of two new baby hives (splits) looking a bit like this:
Read on . . . »

July 3rd, 2012

I took a brief peek at one of our monster hives with honey supers on it yesterday and found several frames well on their way to being filled with honey. I know some experienced beekeepers discourage new beekeepers from going foundationless in their honey supers because the chances of success are less, but we can’t help ourselves. We love it when the bees build natural comb like this:

Our honey supers have a combination of foundationless frames, frames of drawn comb from last year (with and without foundation), and frames with untouched foundation.

Apparently the bees are attracted to the smell of drawn comb. That gets them to work in the honey supers. We put foundationless frames between the frames of drawn comb because the bees are generally compelled to fill in empty space. Our methods may not maximize honey production, but the maximizing approach can take the fun out of beekeeping. That’s not our game. And it’s hard to argue with results like this:

Read on . . . »

July 2nd, 2012

One of our hives swarmed about two weeks ago on June 17th. We caught it and hived it with no trouble (it’s nice when things go smoothly). We gave the new hive some syrup and then some frames of honey from another hive. I dropped by with some friends today just to take a quick peek and we spotted all kinds of fresh brood — and the queen. Here’s the video (the queen shows up at the 0:45 mark):


All our videos can be played back in 720p HD. I don’t know why 360p is the default setting.

The hive that swarmed two weeks ago should have swarmed with the old marked queen, but this queen isn’t marked. I’m not sure what to think of that. All I know is the hive has a mated queen that’s laying well. It’s hard to see in the video, but the queen is light coloured with distinctive rings on her abdomen similar to an Italian queen, but who knows. Whatever is going on, I’m happy to see it. Watching a young hive get on its feet and do well is more rewarding than trying to deal with our monster hives that have been swarming or on the verge of swarming for the past couple months.

P.S., I use the term “hive” and “colony” interchangeably. I shouldn’t because they’re two different things. Hive is another word for house — the boxes, the hollow logs, the sheltered enclosures where the bees live. Colony refers to the actual family of bees that live in the hive with the queen bee, the worker bees and the drones. They’re like The Borg Collective, all working together as one big happy colony. But in speaking to a general audience, most people know what I’m talking about when I say hive. So I just say hive.

UPDATE (July 17/12): See What Does a Honey Bee Queen Look Like for another good look at a queen.

July 1st, 2012

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

Our beekeeping experience in the past month or so has been a trying experience and I don’t want to talk about it (we still have some challenging days ahead). To maintain our sanity and derive some satisfaction from the all this bee business, we decided to pull a frame of honey yesterday from a monster hive that’s out of control.

The honey has a hint of maple and a distinct wild flower aroma compared to the more delicately balanced honey we harvested in the city last year. I’ve tasted some wild flower honeys that were almost pungent, not particularly pleasant or elegant. I’m glad that’s not the case here.

We hope to find a safe place in the city for a few hives next year. The huge diversity of flowering trees and plants in the city has got to produce to best tasting honey around. I’m almost sure of it. The honey we harvested yesterday isn’t bad at all. It’s good honey. But the honey we harvested last year in the city seems to have more subtle, complex flavours. It’s still early in the season, though. The bees may produce something altogether different by the time September rolls around.
Read on . . . »