December 12th, 2013

If you’re a colour blind beekeeper who keeps dropping your hive tools in the grass, here’s a little trick that should help you spot said hive tool in the grass: YELLOW DUCT TAPE.

DuctTape01

DuctTape02

I should have taken a photo of one of the hive tools in the grass so people who are colour blind can see how well the yellow stands out, but you get the idea. Blue isn’t bad either, but yellow creates an excellent contrast.

September 14th, 2012

I’m more of a bee-visitor than a beekeeper these days. I only see the bees a couple hours every week or two. It’s just not the same as having them close by and being able to watch them every day. I have little interest in continuing as a bee-visitor. I’m not selling off the hives just yet, but I don’t plan to do anything other than maintain the seven hives I have now. To take on anything more than basic maintenance is beyond my means for the time being, and it’s not much fun if I can’t hang out with the bees. The most fun I had this past summer was when I made a 4-frame extractor with a friend of mine. I’m not posting the plans for it because it’s a prototype and the design has some minor flaws that need to be corrected first. But it works beautifully, easily well worth the $120 I spent on it. Here’s a demo video of its maiden voyage:

By the way, the heating gun method of uncapping the honey works great. No fuss, no muss and way cheaper than an uncapping knife.

May 7th, 2012

This is one way to paint hive boxes (or supers). Hang them between two saw horses (like Rusty does at Honey Bee Suite) and paint them:

We don’t have any saw horses, but we managed to improvise something like this:

Here’s the video:
Read on . . . »

April 20th, 2012

I wish we had a beekeeping supply store in Newfoundland so I could try on bee suits and jackets before I bought them. I have two beekeeping suits, one with an attached hood, one without. Both are supposedly exactly the same size, but one of them rides a little tight when I bend over or bend down. Very annoying. I keep that one around for guests who are shorter than me. I also have a hooded jacket that looks like this when I spread it out on our back deck at 5:30pm:

The jacket is my go-to suit now because the full bee suits are human-cooking machines when the sun is out. Here’s a tip for beginners: strip down to your underwear if you can before you put on a full suit. Because if you’re in it for more than 15 minutes on a hot a summer day, you’ll be sticky and stewed in your sweat by the time you get out of it.
Read on . . . »

March 20th, 2012

I recently read Beekeeping For All (8mb PDF), by Abbé Warré. He’s the guy who designed the “People’s Hive,” also known as the Warré hive. To condense what I said in a previous post, it’s a top bar and therefore foundationless hive with small, square shaped hive boxes, no top entrance and a quilt box on top to absorb moisture. Boxes are added to the bottom of the hive, not the top — the bees build comb downwards as they would in nature. Honey is harvested from back-filled brood comb at the top of the hive. Warré called it the People’s Hive because it’s cheap and easy to build and maintain. The beekeeper need only add boxes to the bottom to prevent swarming, which is done without opening the hive or disturbing the brood nest. The Warré hive, perhaps more than any other hive, emulates the conditions of a natural honey bee hive.

Photo by David Heaf from warre.biobees.com
(used with permission).

From what I can tell, the hive is designed to minimize interference from the beekeeper. The only time it’s opened is when honey boxes are removed from the top (at most, twice a year). That fact, along with the absence of a top entrance, helps concentrate the queen’s pheromones throughout the hive, which supposedly results in calmer bees. The regular rotating out of old comb from the top also means the brood are more likely to be healthy because they’re always raised in new, clean, natural sized comb.

Another key feature is the small square sided hive boxes. The height of each box is slightly less than a typical Langstroth, but the sides are each 30cm long (about 12 inches). The square shape allows for more even heat distribution and requires less work from the bees. Warré also claims that bees in a smaller, more natural sized brood chamber consume less honey over winter and are therefore less likely to starve before spring.

I’m not yet convinced that any kind of foundationless hive will do well in the exceptionally wet climate of St. John’s, Newfoundland. I’ve only been at this for, what, 611 days, so I still have more than a lot to learn. But some aspects of the Warré design, such as the small brood nest area, seem to make more sense than the conventional Langstroth design, and I’m tempted to integrate them into some of my own hives.

I don’t agree with all of Warré’s claims. In some cases that’s because I don’t have the experience to know what’s what either way. In other cases I can confidently disagree because I know his observations are based on his local climate in France that has no correlation to my local climate where the bees do different things at different times of the year. Nevertheless, I think he came up with a thoughtful design and method that might appeal to beekeepers who aren’t so intent on the consistent hive manipulation that’s synonymous with many beekeeping practices today.

Note: This is an unusually long post, probably not much interest to general readers. I promise I won’t do this kind of thing on a regular basis. But I’ve been out of commission with a weird, rotten flu and I don’t have anything better to do. So without further adieu, here are some notes I wrote while I read the book on my Kindle:
Read on . . . »

January 12th, 2012

THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON APRIL 08, 2014. NEW TOTALS FOR THOSE ABLE TO MAKE THEIR OWN HIVE PARTS WERE ALSO ADDED.

Bare minimum hive with no honey supers.

The following is a rough cost estimate and guide for setting up a bare minimum honey bee hive on the island of Newfoundland in 2012 2014. (It’ll cost somewhere between $570 and $720.) It’s better to start with more than one hive, but if you need to go cheap, this is the way to do it. We order all our beekeeping supplies from Beemaid in Manitoba. Their prices are so low that even with the expense of shipping half way across Canada, it’s still cheaper than ordering from any suppliers we’ve found in Atlantic Canada. The cost savings for beekeepers able to make their own wood components are even greater. (Check out our How-To page for information on building certain hive components.) But assuming you have to start from scratch and order all the necessary beekeeping equipment and hive pieces in one order, the cheapest and simplest option is to go with a single Langstroth hive with conventional frames and no honey supers.

Necessary items not listed below are nails, screws and tools needed for assembling the hives; Mason jars or large pickling jars for inverted jar feeding; 40-80kg of granulated sugar for mixing sugar syrup and candy; paint for the hives; and the R5 hard insulation and Type 15 or 30 asphalt felt used for wintering the hive. (Again, see our How-To page for more info on all that.) Those extra items will come to about $100.

Then add $200 for a nuc box (i.e., the bees) from the couple of suppliers of nucs on the island. (You can contact me for the email address.)

Okay then, here’s the one-shot hypothetical order for anyone interested in starting up a single Langstroth hive in Newfoundland in 2012 2014. It’s everything you’ll need for your first summer, fall and winter of beekeeping. (Note that the prices listed for each item are from 2012. The updated 2014 prices are slightly higher, but I don’t have time to update all those images. The updated 2014 totals are accurate, though.)
Read on . . . »

October 9th, 2011

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

My patented mouse-proof entrance reducers worked well enough for us last winter. They’re cheap and easy to build. But I decided to try something different this year. It’s not as cheap and easy, but neither is it complicated. I simply stapled some half-inch mesh over the entrances of the hives like this:

I got this tip from a Brushy Mountain video (I just can’t remember which one). I chose this method for mouse-proofing the hives this winter because it provides better ventilation. I just hope it doesn’t provide too much ventilation by allowing more cold wind to blow through the hives.
Read on . . . »

September 20th, 2011

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

That’s right. I made a screened entrance reducer and it looks like this:

The wasps or yellow jackets hanging around our hives have become intense in the past few days. They’re constantly trying to get into the hives. I’ve added entrance reducers, but the entrance reducers also reduce the air flow (the hives don’t have screened bottom boards). The humidity builds up fast inside the young 2-deep hives when the sun comes out. So I made this screened entrance reducer from scrap wood, a piece of mosquito mesh, some duct tape and a piece of corrugated plastic from an old campaign sign I stole from a local politician who didn’t get re-elected. It’s just a prototype, but as you can see in the photo, the entrance has been reduced to about one bee-length while the bottom entrance space is still fully ventilated. Theoretically, it seems like a good idea. We’ll see how it works out.

UPDATE (Sept. 26/11): The screened entrance reducer works fine. Some of the bees get confused by the screen and it takes them a little longer to find their way back into the hive, but I doubt it holds them up any more than a solid entrance redcuer would. The general concept works. Now I just need devise as easier way to make them.

September 13th, 2011

I got creative this summer and built a solid bottom board and a screened bottom board from scrap wood in my shed. I can’t continue to use either of them for long because the wood I used is old and half rotted and I’m afraid the boards will collapse under the weight of the hives during the winter, and around here that means damp and soggy, great conditions for softening up old plywood. So I went ahead and got more creative with my limited carpentry skills and woefully inadequate tools (or maybe it’s the other way around), and I built a new and improved sturdy bottom board that is both screened and solid. I won’t have a chance to put it into action this year, but I’ll show it off anyway. Here it is as a screened bottom board:

Read on . . . »

August 18th, 2011

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON MARCH 18, 2012.

I noticed the bees fanning the humidity from one of the hives today and thought, “I wish I had a screened inner cover for that hive.” So I built one. (They’re also known as ventilated inner covers.) I had already built a rim or eke, constructed exactly like a ventilator rim, but only about two inches high and no holes in the sides. I simply cut an entrance at one end and stapled on some screen. It looks like this:

Read on . . . »

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