Don’t Feed Your Bees Grocery Store Honey

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.

Homemade Bottom Board

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.

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.

JAN. 20/15: Don’t lay this flat-bottom bottom board on a pallet or anything kind of flat surface support, if that makes sense. The wood can easily become moist, and you don’t want moisture if the hive. You want the hive off the ground, but preferably with something that makes minimal contact with the bottom board.

Improving Langstroth Honey Bee Hive Ventilation with The Mud Songs Ventilator Rim™

UPDATE: I’ve since converted all of my fabulously patented ventilation rims into moisture quilts. See the updates at the end for more details.

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 (I hope) 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:

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Installing Nuc Boxes (Full of Honey Bees)

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON DEC. 2, 2010.

We installed our honey bees four days ago on July 18th, 2010. We picked up our nuc boxes from the a Newfoundland Bee Company on the west coast of Newfoundland the day before at $200 a pop. (Check out my Honey Bees Are On The Way post for a definition of a nuc box and an explanation of the installation process.) I installed the first box of bees and Jenny video taped it. Jenny installed the second box of bees later and I took pictures. I can’t upload the video due to some technical difficulties which I’m working to fix. Until then, here are some of the pictures:

This is the first hive after we installed the bees.

The emptied nuc box on the ground still had a few bees in it that eventually flew back into the hive.

The upside-down Mason jar is full of a honey-sugar mixture. (Nov. 15/10 update: Don’t use honey unless it’s from your own bees. Grocery store honey often contains spores for various Foul Brood diseases which you definitely do not want in your hives.) The bees will feed on it for a couple weeks while they get oriented to their new surroundings. It also helps them build comb quicker. (Dec. 02/10 update: The bees are actually fed all summer long.)
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Honey Bees Are On The Way

Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster the wait is over. I just got a call confirming that I can pick up my honeybees in 2 weeks. It will cost $400 for two nuc packages and I’ll have to drive eight hours to get them, but at least I know I’m going to have honey bees for two hives this year. Nuff said.

Okay, so what’s a nuc package and how does it work?

HONEYBEE NUC BOX This is a nuc package. To reduce confusion, let’s call it a nuc box, because that’s what it is: a small box that contains the nucleus of a honey bee colony. A nuc box typically holds 4 deep frames (photo), several thousands bees and a mated queen. Three frames will contain a combination of honey, pollen and eggs, everything a colony needs to stay alive. One frame is usually left empty so the worker bees have something to work on while they’re stuck in the box during shipment to their new hive.

The installation of the honey bees from a nuc box to their new hive is a relatively straightforward procedure. Basically, the 4 frames from the nuc box, along with all the bees and the queen, are placed inside a hive body and left alone.
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