I was surprised to find honey supers full of nectar today. In two of my colonies, every frame in the honey supers was a variation of this (click the photo for a better view of the glistening nectar):

The brutally cold winter and spring of 2014 killed off two of my colonies and came close to snuffing out the rest. When I added honey supers (that is, medium supers full of drawn comb) to my four surviving colonies a while back, I had no hope that they would begin to make honey any time soon. The last time I checked about a month ago, there were hardly any bees in the hives and not much capped brood either. The situation looked grim. But I guess a lot can happen in a month.
Read on . . . »

January 4th, 2014

Some quick shots of bees on leaves and things. It’s just left over footage from a camera-focusing test I did earlier last summer.

November 25th, 2013

THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

I used to add dry sugar to my hives in January or February following what some call The Mountain Camp Method, but this year I decided to add sugar around the same time I wrapped my hives, in late November. Why not? I have several reasons for adding the sugar early — the main reason is I don’t want to see another colony starve to death — but ultimately it doesn’t hurt to put the sugar on early and it saves me the trouble of having to do it in the middle of winter with snow all around. So yeah, why not? Here’s a video that shows how I did it.

This is probably the last time I’ll post a video about the Mountain Camp Method. There’s not much else to see.

I also mention in the video (at the 58sec mark) how one of my hives was full of exceptionally nasty bees until I moved the colony far away from my other colonies and just like that they settled down to become the nicest bunch of bees around. This is just speculation, but for now on whenever I come across an especially defensive colony, I’ll try moving it way off by itself, far from any other colonies, before I resort to requeening.

ADDENDUM (Jan. 16/14): It’s come to my attention that covering the entire top bars with sugar isn’t a good idea because then you can’t see down into the frames to see how the bees are doing. I knew that last year but forgot about it this year. So don’t do what I did. Cover only the back two-thirds or so of the top bars.

July 23rd, 2013

THE FOLLOWING WAS REWRITTEN AND UPDATED ON APRIL 05, 2014.

Ever pull out some frames to discover the bees have built comb perpendicular to the frames and every which way? I have. It’s called cross-comb and it’s a mess. Here’s my first look at it from late July:

Cross-comb is usually the result of a hive that isn’t level, specifically when it’s tilted, even a little bit, to the left or the right. Bees follow the pull of gravity to build comb straight down. That’s pretty much what they’re up to when you see them festooning:

The bees don’t care about the frames or foundation inside the frames. If the frames or foundation happen to be parallel to the Earth’s gravitational pull, then the bees will build straight comb that fits conveniently on the frame just that way we humans like it. If not, the frames only get in the bees’ way and you end up with cross-comb.

That’s why the ideal positioning of a Langstroth hive is level from left to right — to prevent cross-comb — and slightly tilted up on the back so that any moisture that happens to collect inside the hive will pour out the front entrance and not pool inside the hive.

Bubble Level (Android app)ADDENDUM (April 05/14): I used to carry a carpenter’s bubble level with me whenever I set up a new hive (the hives can shift over winter as well, as I learned today), but these days I use a Bubble level app on my cell phone. (I happen to have an Android phone, but I’m sure similar apps are available for other types of smart phones or devices.) There are many free apps to choose from and, for me, I’d rather have an easy-to-use app already on my phone if it means I don’t have to carry around another piece of equipment when I’m tending to the bees.

May 26th, 2013

Honey bees have a tonne of behaviours that are fun to discover. One of the first things I noticed was the way they clamp on tight to a spot outside the hive entrance and beat their wings with everything they’ve got, a behaviour that’s commonly known as fanning (not to be confused with scenting). The fanning creates an air current inside the hive that helps evaporate nectar into honey and regulates the temperature of the brood nest. I took a few more photos today.

See How to Attract Honey Bees with a Leaky Hose to view a video of honey bees fanning, or do a search for “fanning.”
Read on . . . »

Here’s a short video that documents some common honey bee behaviour: Drinking from a leaky garden hose and fanning around the hive entrance.

Forget about planting flowers to attract honey bees. If you want to see honey bees up close, take a leaky garden hose and let it leak over a hard surface like rocks or concrete, or a stinky surface like composted soil. The bees love it, especially in the spring.

For a little more info, see my Honey Bees Fanning post. It also seems this isn’t the first time I’ve documented the bees collecting water: Macro Photos of Bees Drinking; Stinkin’ Dirt Never Tasted So Good; Why Honey Bees Drink Dirty Water; Plastic Flavoured Water and, from Honey Bee Suite, Love That Dirty Water.

P.S.: Notice how fearless my cat is around the bees. He knows how to keep his distance.

May 5th, 2013

Here’s a short video of a moth or butterfly I found hanging around one of my hives for a few days:

Please let me know if you can identify it. I remember a documentary on honey bees that showed a moth or butterfly walk into a hive and chow down on honey and the bees ignored it because it gave off a pheromone that mimicked the queen. Or something like that. I don’t remember the exact details and I haven’t been able to find the documentary online. I’m not sure if this is that particular moth or butterfly, but I’m curious.

UPDATE: It took five minutes for someone on Facebook to solve the mystery. It’s a Mourning Cloak Butterfly and I don’t think it’s harmful to the bees. Thanks.

The following was copied and pasted from a response I gave to someone who was concerned about her neighbour’s plan to set up a beehive in a yard close to where her children play. I decided to turn my response into a post because I’ve received emails from other people with similar concerns. I also made this short video to help ease the irrational response many people have towards anything that looks like a bee.

POSTSCRIPT/PREFACE (Feb. 06/14): If you’re reading this post because you have a problem with your neighbour’s bees, whether real or perceived, and you don’t know what to do, please don’t ask me for advice (especially without even reading this post first — yeah, lady, I’m talking to you). Whatever advice I have to give is already written in this post, and it goes something like this: Most reasonable beekeepers don’t want to upset anyone and will do what they can to assuage even the most irrational fears. {Deep sigh.} If you’re concerned about your neighbour’s bees, then talk to them (your neighbour, that is, not the bees, though that probably wouldn’t hurt either). We now return to our regularly scheduled programming…
Read on . . . »

AN UPDATE WAS ADDED TO THE END OF THIS POST ON JUNE 24, 2013.

I caught a swarm out in the country last year and I loved it. But unfortunately I live a in relatively crowded urban neighbourhood with an easily enraged next door neighbour, so even though I only have one hive in the city now, I don’t have the luxury of a laid back attitude towards swarms. I need to keep my neighbour from calling the fire department on me again, which means I have to do everything I can to prevent my lonely little colony from swarming. So what should I do?

Upper half of the large water melon sized swarm I caught last summer.

Last year I reversed the brood chambers and checker-boarded my hives. But three of my four colonies swarmed anyway. Here’s a video that shows what one of the hives looked like shortly before its colony swarmed:
Read on . . . »

This is only a video test, but I’m posting it to Mud Songs anyway.

P.S.: It works. I may post another video test later this weekend. I found a new program that encodes video so that it plays better online (with less ghostly after-images). I can tell you’re fascinated. If anyone has an HD monitor and can play the video in full screen 720p HD, can you let me know smooth and sharp the playback is for you? Thanks.

UPDATE (March 20/13): Here’s the second video test. It’s not much to see, but it shows that I can encode slow motion video and make it look half decent in full screen mode.

As you were.

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