Thick Combs of Honey (Slight Return)

I posted some photos a couple days ago of what is probably the thickest combs of honey I’ve ever seen in any of my hives. Here’s the video:


(Thanks to Jonathan Adams for getting behind the camera.)

It’s not the most instructive video, but I’ve relaxed my criteria for posting photos and videos on Mud Songs. If I think it could spark the imagination of anyone curious about honey bees or beekeeping, that’s good enough for me. If I can instruct at the same time, well, that’s a bonus. The 1:50 mark in the video, for instance, shows how the bees begin to build comb by festooning. My explanation in the video isn’t the most articulate. I’m so used to beekeeping alone in silence, I felt awkward talking. Festooning is not a well-defined phenomena anyway, so my bumbling explanation kind of fits.

Now here are a few things this situation has me wondering about…
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Bees Hanging On Tight

A close-up of some bees hanging off the bottom of a frame last week:

Look at the bee just right of the middle doing the splits. Ouch. I suppose this behaviour is a variation of festooning.

PHOTO NOTE (SEPTEMBER 2015): The photo in this post may not display properly because it was uploaded through Google’s Picasa online photo album service, a service I no longer use because certain updates created more work for me instead of streamlining the process. I will eventually replace the photo with one hosted on the Mud Songs server. This note will disappear when (or if) that happens.

Why I Like Foundationless Frames: Reason #1

Drawn and partially-drawn comb look much prettier on foundationless frames. Here’s what some partially-drawn comb looks like on a frame with black plastic foundation:

Here’s a half-drawn comb on a foundationless frame:

Now don’t tell me that ain’t way prettier.

PHOTOS NOTE (SEPTEMBER 2015): The photos in this post may not display properly because they were uploaded through Google’s Picasa online photo album service, a service I no longer use because certain updates created more work for me instead of streamlining the process. I will eventually replace the photos with ones hosted on the Mud Songs server. This note will disappear when (or if) that happens.

Video of Natural Honeycomb

This is the first video we’ve posted that shows what it’s like to pull out frames full of bees — the real beekeeping deal for anyone who’s curious to see what it’s actually like. It’s a short video of our recent full inspection of Hive #1, showing off some natural foundationless honeycomb the bees built from scratch in 13 days.


THE 480p HIGHER DEFINITION SETTING MAY PROVIDE SMOOTHER PLAYBACK.

We included four foundationless frames in the hive when we added a second brood box. Two of the foundationless frames were fully-drawn and filled with honey and brood within 13 days. One frame was more than half-filled. The fourth frame, on the outer edge of the box, showed the beginning of some natural comb. Not bad.

Natural Foundationless Comb

The foundationless frames are working. YES! This is what it’s all about. This was the big moment of truth — and the bees did it. They had no problem building comb from foundationless frames. I’ll quote myself on this:

NATURAL COMB
“Foundationless frames have nothing but a little strip of plastic or wood near the top called a starter strip. The bees hang off the [beeswax-coated] starter strip and construct their comb like they would in nature, creating cells the size they want them to be, not the size that’s imposed on them by following the pattern on a plastic foundation.” It’s argued that a colony is generally healthier when the honey bees are allowed to build comb as they would in nature — and this is about as close as it gets in a Langstroth hive. It’s the Backwards Beekeeping approach and it’s what got me hooked on beekeeping long before I had any bees. I just wasn’t sure it was even possible in the cold climate of Newfoundland. But now that I see evidence it can work, I’m inspired. I love it. These honey bees are incredible. Here’s how it played out:
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