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.

AUGUST 13/14: I just uploaded these photos of the extractor for anyone who wants to try to figure out how I built it, though I don’t recommend it.

May 19th, 2012

I picked up two shots of Epinephrine today in case I, or someone near our honey bees, has an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. I don’t want anyone dying on my watch.

It’s called an EpiPen. Basically it’s a shot of adrenalin. Remember Uma Thurman’s shot to the heart in Pulp Fiction? Not exactly the same thing, but close enough. It’s for emergencies.

I had to get a prescription for the EpiPen from my family doctor. I explained that I keep bees in my backyard and I’d like to have Epinephrine on hand just to be safe. My doctor asked me if I had any known allergies. I said no. She checked my medical file and wrote me the prescription.
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 1st, 2011

This video has been viewed on YouTube over 300,000 times since I uploaded it in 2011. Perhaps I should start monetizing my videos. Google makes money from them while I can only afford a server that runs slower than honey. Anyway, for a limited time at the top of the page, here’s the most popular video I’ve posted to Mud Songs.

Here’s a narrated video of us harvesting the last five foundationless frames from our hives this year. We cut out 28 small squares of honey comb from a little over 1 and a half frames. We crushed and strained the rest of it and bottled it the next day.

We meant to strain the crushed comb using the 3-bucket system that requires a paint strainer, but we put the paint strainer on the wrong bucket (the paint strainer goes on the bottom bucket), so we had to improvise a bit. That mistake cost us some honey, but it wasn’t too drastic.

P.S.: The Eating Raw Honey Comb video isn’t a bad following-up to this video.
Read on . . . »

September 18th, 2011

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

I bought a wasp trap because wasps (or yellow jackets) have been showing up in larger numbers around our hives for the past week. The young hives could be at risk if we didn’t have entrance reducers on them. We partially reduced the entrances on the full hives. They should be okay. I bought the “Green Earth” Yellow Jacket Wasp Trap and Lure as extra production, though.

The plastic trap costs about $10, but it isn’t much good without the bait that cost another $6. (Not including the bait with the trap seems a bit deceiving to me.) I followed the directions and added apple juice and some meat (cat food) into the base of the trap. Then I added the $6 packet of wasp lure. Then I hung it up about twenty feet from the hives and hoped for the best. That was last weekend.
Read on . . . »

September 2nd, 2011

A new local beekeeper told me he was planning to feed his bees honey that he bought in the grocery store. Don’t. Grocery store honey sometimes contains spores for various foulbrood diseases — and in Newfoundland, if you have foulbrood, you have to destroy your bees and burn your hive. No joke. If you feed your bees honey, use only honey from your own hives. I believe that’s the general rule of thumb for most beekeepers. Another way to prevent the spread of disease is never to share tools or hive equipment with other beekeepers, just in case.

What’s the deal with those big bags of sugar? The deal is that it’s the only type of sugar you should feed your bees. Not brown sugar. Not molasses. Just you good old fashioned white granulated sugar. In the spring, the sugar syrup mixture is a light 1:1 mixture (1 part sugar, 1 part sugar). For feeding nucs and topping off the hives before winter, it’s 2:1 (2 parts sugar, 1 part water). The big 20kg bags of sugar cost between $21 and $24 at wholesale stores like Costo and — in St. John’s — that place by the Avalon Mall that used to be called Atlantic Wholesalers but is now called something like President’s Choice Wholesalers. You don’t need a membership and it’s the cheapest place for sugar I’ve found.

August 12th, 2011

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

I made this bottom board from scrap wood I found in my shed today:

I cut the thick plywood 16.5 inches wide (about 42cm) and 2 feet long (70cm). The brace wood, if you want to call it that, was the same dimensions as a super, 20 inches by about 15 inches, something like that. The hive entrance (once a hive is placed on top) is about 1 and a quarter inches high, which is fine. It’s not pretty but the bees don’t care about pretty. I think it’ll work. I’ll post a photo of it in a day or two when I put a hive on top of it. I should have been making these all along. It’s way cheaper than ordering them from a supplier and having them shipped here. If you had to pay for the raw material, though, I’m guessing it would be less than $5.

UPDATE (Feb. 09/13): This bottom board has worked out fine. It’s ugly and half rotted now, but the bees don’t seem to care. Today I would use thick plywood instead of chipboard, and I’d paint it, but there’s nothing wrong with getting by with one made from cheap scrap wood.

THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON APRIL 08, 2014.

I made some improvements to the design of my ventilator rim (a.k.a. a ventilation eke). It’s still cheap and easy to make and should do a fine job at improving the ventilation of any Langstroth hive. First, I cut four pieces of wood for the front, back and sides of the rim. Here’s a shot of the side pieces:

Read on . . . »

November 21st, 2010

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON DECEMBER 13, 2013.

We wrapped both of our hives for winter today and did pretty much what David Burns does in his How To Wrap Your Hive for Winter video / beekeeping lesson. (I’ll post our own video in a day or two.)

Here’s the low down on exactly how we wrapped and prepared each of our four-month-old double-deep Langstroth hives for winter:

1) Built and installed the world’s simplest, cheapest mouse-proof entrance reducer and made sure to check the hive for mice beforehand.

2) Flipped the inner cover to the winter position (with the flat side facing up) and placed a piece of hard insulation over it. The insulation has a R-7.5 rating, whatever that is. Apparently, R-5 or above will keep the condensation from forming in the hive. It looks like this before the top cover is added:

Read on . . . »

November 17th, 2010

I ordered some beekeeping books based on recommendations from various beekeeping forums — and I’m looking for other recommendations if anyone has any. Here’s a photo of the first batch of books that just arrived:

I’ll do a separate write-up for each of these books after I’ve read them. From left to right, the books are:

The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, by A.I. Root and E.R. Root — Originally published in 1877, followed by several revised editions, this is basically a 700-page beekeeping encyclopaedia. I have the 1947 edition. Other books with exactly the same title made shopping for it a bit frustrating. I chose this edition because it was the most affordable ($35 Canadian). I guess it’s good to have around.

The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden (Revised and Updated), by Kim Flottum — Detailed instructive photographs make all the difference when it comes to beekeeping guide books (and websites), and this book is packed with them. I’ve only skimmed and read bits and pieces of it, but it seems to cover all the bases. I can tell already it’s a good buy. I plan to read it before any of the others. ($20 Canadian.)

Fifty Years Among the Bees, by C. C. Miller — Originally published in 1915, everyone says I should read it because it’s still informative (most beekeeping knowledge doesn’t get old) and it just a good read. ($15 Canadian.)

First Lessons in Beekeeping, by C. P. Dadant — Originally published in 1934, it’s another classic everyone says I have to read, so I’m going to read it sometime over this winter with the rest of these books. ($10 Canadian.)

Has anyone read any books I should add to my list?

UPDATE (Dec. 21/10): I added “Bee Behaviour” to the related topics of this of this post because of some informative comments (and responses) about the behaviour of certain breeds of honey bees, which helped explain some of the behaviour of our bees.

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