I will update this post continually (instead of writing multiple posts that could easily take over this blog) as I explore the capabilities of the Flir One infrared camera device. The updates will appear in descending order. The latest update was posted on December 19th, 2016.
DECEMBER 19, 2016: I know people who are getting much better results with their Flir One than I am. I realize my long rambling post here probably isn’t providing the best information because I’ve more or less taken the point-and-shoot approach. I want to turn this thing on, take a thermal image and immediately see something that’s useful — without having to modify the image later on using another application or program, because I don’t have time for anything else. Easily 95% of the images I get following that approach don’t show me anything that helps me. For people like me who may have day jobs, family responsibilities or other activities that don’t allow them much time to fiddle with something like this, I’m not sure I can recommend the Flir One. It’s too expensive and time-consuming. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but in my experience so far, it’s definitely not something that produces great results just by plugging it in. It takes time and perhaps some knowledge of thermal imaging to get the most out of it.
DECEMBER 07, 2016: I took the following thermal images with my Flir One today. The automatic settings didn’t give me much to work with, so, again, I tried to adjust the settings on the fly and got various results. Using the Flir Tools app or the software on my computer would probably produce better images, but I don’t have time for that. If I can’t get a half-decent image by using the Flir One as I would my cell phone camera, then it could easily become yet another beekeeping chore that takes up more of my time. I’d rather instant results, not something that requires additional processing afterwards. So I’m aiming for simplicity at the moment even if it means I’m not utilizing the Flir One to its full potential. So… It was about -10°C when I took these pics, and no wind. It felt icy cold. Everything was frozen.
The wrap on this hive is loose on the bottom left. I can’t get a useful thermal reading off it. (Dec. 07, 2016, 10:16am, -10°C.)
I was looking over some of the posts that I’ve made during the month of December as a reminder to myself of what to expect for the next month. I came across a post from last December where I describe noticing dead bees on the bottom boards of some of my hives.
Scraping out a fairly large clump of dead bees around this time last year. (Dec. 12, 2015.)
Then I went outside today in the rain to take a quick look at my beehives and could hardly see any dead bees on the bottom boards. So… what’s up with that? November 2016, this year, was much warmer than last November. Does that have anything to do with it?
The bees in most of my hives at this time last year, when it was colder, were clustered well below the top bars and there were a fair number of dead bees on the bottom boards.
This year, with warmer temperatures, the bees in most of the hives are clustered close to or above the top bars, not down below where they usually go, and there are hardly any dead bees on the bottom boards.
Perhaps the warmer weather has the bees staying near the top of the hive and eating more honey, staying warmer and not dying off as quickly in the cold. Perhaps just as many bees are dying off this year, but because they’re up top, they’re getting clogged between the frames in the bottom deeps.
I don’t know. But I’m noting it now for my records… and I’ll gladly entertain any theories. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m overlooking something obvious.
The following was updated on December 1st, 2016, and will likely be updated again within a week.
I usually add just-in-case sugar above the top bars in my hives around early November. By that time — in my local climate — it’s usually so cold that the bees move to the bottom of the hive beneath their honey stores (and then gradually eat their way towards the top of the hive throughout the winter), which makes it easy for me to put the sugar in without bothering them. But that didn’t happen so much this year because November has been unusually warm. Only in the past few days have I noticed the bees, at least in some of the hives, clustering below the top bars. So I decided to add some sugar bricks today…
About 1.3 kg (or 3 pounds) of a sugar cake added to this hive today. (Nov. 30, 2016.) I’ll probably add more later when I find the time. These bees were breaking through the top bars were so cold, it was easy to slide the sugar in without bothering too much.
It was 18°C / 64°F today and the bees in all of my hives — even with shrew-proofing 6mm / quarter-inch mesh covering all the entrances — were out in full force.
Quarter-inch mesh covering all the entrances. The mesh slows them down but doesn’t prevent them from getting out or inside the hive. (Nov. 17, 2016.)
I’ve heard arguments that the bees can’t get through quarter-inch mesh. But that’s not true. If it was, my bees would have been locked inside their hives behind the mesh all last winter. The bees in the above photograph wouldn’t be flying around today. Continue reading →
I made this quick video as a response to several emails I got from new beekeepers asking me if there were more affordable ways to wrap their hives for winter other than to plonk down $20 to $60 per hive for commercially available hive wraps. There are always cheaper alternatives. A roll of roofing felt is one of them.
I’m not saying roofing felt is better (though I have heard some convincing arguments), but it’s cheap and it’s worked well for me for the past six winters. Keep in mind that the bees don’t need to be warm and toasty during the winter. They just need to be warm enough to break cluster once in a while so they can migrate across the honey frames and not starve to death. (I might expand on this in the comments.)
Slight correction: In the video I mention #15 roofing felt. It’s actually referred to as a “type 15 asphalt felt.” Continue reading →
Despite following the Mountain Camp method of dry sugar feeding in the winter more or less since I started beekeeping, I don’t do it anymore. I’ve switched to easy-to-make and easy-to-add sugar cakes.
Bottom side of a sugar cake eaten away by the bees. (April 17, 2016.)
I don’t use dry sugar anymore because the bees tend to remove it from the hive if they’re not hungry enough to eat it. Spraying the sugar down with water so it hardens helps to prevent this, but if the weather is still warm enough so that the bees are flying around, they’ll do what active bees like to do: clean house. Whatever grains of sugar are not hardened together will often get tossed out of the hive. I used to add dry sugar sometime in November after the temperatures took a serious dip — when the bees were clustered below the top bars, not actively flying around in house-cleaning mode. Overall, the discarded sugar wasn’t a huge problem. If the bees were hungry, they ate the sugar regardless of the weather. But still, sometimes it seemed like a waste of sugar. Continue reading →
I tried to save a tiny dying colony last winter by installing it in a swarm box with a red light bulb. It died. I now have another tiny dying colony that’s in the same proverbial boat (see my Stubby Ragged Queen post for more on that). Here’s the amazing set-up:
Swarm trap box with a 60-watt red light bulb installed behind a cage. (Nov. 11, 2016.)
I expected to be part of a panel discussion at the recent NL Beekeepers AGM but instead found myself in the spot light listening to words come out of my mouth like I was having an out of body experience. I apparently spoke about moisture quilts and what was referred to afterwards as my “winter ventilation strategy.” Okay. I would describe myself as somnambulistic after a week of work that left my brain running on fumes by the time I showed up at eight-thirty in the bloody morning for the AGM. Then, to cap it off, what I thought was a panel discussion scheduled for the lunch hour got pushed to the end of the day, by which time I was fighting to keep my eyes open, going to the washroom every 20 minutes to splash cold water on my face. By the time I arrived at my moment shine, it was great. Just great. I wish I had it on tape. I had a good laugh talking about it afterwards when I got home. You gotta laugh.
At any rate, someone who was lucky enough to be graced by my presence at the AGM sent me an email this morning asking me if I really got 100 pounds of honey from one of my hives after I put an empty moisture quilt on it for ventilation. My answer was: “You better believe it!” I don’t even remember saying that during my presentation, but apparently I said it — and it’s true. I responded to his email to explain how it happened, how I lucked into it really, and then I copied and pasted my response to Facebook, and now I’m copying that Facebook post to ye ole Mud Songs blog because I’m reaching the end of another long day at work and I really don’t have the brain power to do anything other than copy and paste.
So here it is, the story of how I got 100 pounds of honey from a single honey bee colony, and in Logy Bay, Newfoundland, of all places:
By the way, I plan to write a post that covers all the topics that I expected to talk about during the panel discussion, in the form of a conversation between three beekeepers, just as I imagined the panel discussion would play out. It, too, will be great. Stay tuned.
I may not wrap all of my hives this year, but I’ve decided to wrap at least the ones that don’t get much sunshine.
Hive wrapped with roofing felt, nice and tight. (Nov. 06, 2016.)
The black wrap will perhaps warm them up a degree or two on really cold (but sunny) days so they can move more easily onto honey frames.
Roofing felt attached with quiet-as-can-be thumb tacks. (Nov. 06, 2016.)
My feelings about wrapping my hives continues to evolve. I began in 2010 by wrapping my hives in roofing felt just like this, except now I use thumb tacks instead of staples because they’re easy to push into the hive and don’t disturb the bees like the bang of a staple gun. (Both this and using push pins to attach shrew-proofing mesh was recommended to me by one of the 6 regular readers of Mud Songs. You know who you are. Thanks.) Over the years, though, mostly due to laziness and the fact that my beehives were an inconvenient distance from where I lived, I got out of the habit of wrapping them and it didn’t seem to make any difference to my over-winter survival rates. Generally, colonies that went into winter in good shape, came out in good shape whether they were wrapped or not.
But last winter, not having wrapped any of my hives, I wasn’t too impressed with how they came out of the winter. None of them died, but neither where they strong. Having hives mostly full of old and stressed queens may explain some of it, but I also noticed in hindsight most of my hives get very little direct sunlight in the winter, much less sunlight than any of my hives in the past. So just to be safe, I’m wrapping the hives that get the least of amount of sunlight. We’ll see what happens. Continue reading →