June 27th, 2015

One of my cats killed a shrew near my hives today.

Dead shrew. (June 27, 2015.)

Dead shrew. (June 27, 2015.)

I lost 62% of my honey bee colonies to shrew predation last winter. No one ever warned me about them and I never noticed much written about them. You can expect me to write a Masters thesis on them by the end of the year, though.

I will be covering all of my hive entrances with quarter-inch mesh this winter.

May 28th, 2015

Well, I sold my old house and bought a new house outside the city where my bees shouldn’t bother anyone and today I packed up my first honey bee colony —

Moving a small colony in my car. (May 28, 2015.)

— and brought it home. It was a tiny two-frame colony that was nearly destroyed by pygmy shrews over the winter (more about that some other time). The queen has laid some fresh brood, but she’s slow moving and it doesn’t look good. I added two frames of solid brood with nurse bees from one of my other colonies, moved the whole works into a swarm trap, sealed it with duct tape, put it on the passenger seat of my car, drove it home and set it up with some frames of honey and pollen in a sheltered area next to my house.

My first hive in the new location. (May 28, 2015.)

I’ll gradually move my other two colonies, five or six frames at a time just like I moved this small colony today. I lost five out of eight colonies to shrews. This is the first time I’ve had less than four colonies since my first year of beekeeping and they’re all in hard shape. My goal for this summer is to bring them back to life. In other words, I’m starting all over again, just like a first-year beekeeper. Here we go…

Here’s a photo of a frame of honey that’s been partially eaten by a mouse:

Here’s the view from the other side of the frame:

I had some frames of honey stored in a swarm trap in my shed and a mouse found a way in and probably came back night after night and had a feast.
Read on . . . »

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON APRIL 28, 2014.

One of my six colonies either has a mouse in the hive that’s scaring all the bees to the very top of the hive, or the colony is completely starved for honey. Either way it seems like most of the bees (and they’re grumpy) are clustered above the top bars and living entirely off dry sugar I added about a month ago. The bees are so crowded above the top bars, they’re constantly walking in and out around the top entrance, as can be seen in this photo I took during my lunch break today:

13-12-23 Hungry Bees

I also noticed many dead bees in the snow in front of the hive:

13-12-23 Hungry Bees in Snow

Not that dead bees in the snow are unusual, but none of the other hives have many dead bees nearby, hardly any. This does not bode well.
Read on . . . »

November 20th, 2013

A mouse got inside my city hive because I waited too long to put on mouse-proofing mesh.

From what I can tell, the mouse (or mice) was in the hive for a long time and scared the bees, queen and all, into a honey super that I had placed above the inner cover during a late fall feeding.
Read on . . . »

January 11th, 2012

A word of caution to beekeepers who use hard insulation in their hives for any reason: some ants have an appetite for insulation. Check out this photo sent to me from a beekeeper in Indiana:

I doubt this kind of infestation would be an issue for beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland or in similar climates (though you might want to look around for ant nests). Ants are usually long gone and out of sight by the time we have to put on insulation in November, or take it off in April. I suppose that’s a benefit of living in one of the chilliest, wettest, windiest places on the planet.
Read on . . . »

It went up to a stifling 11°C yesterday (52°F), so I took the opportunity to insulate our hives for winter and staple on some mouse-proofing mesh. This is as simple as it gets.

Hard insulation installed over winter-positioned inner covers (minus the top covers.)

The inner covers are in the winter position (with the convex side up, a.k.a. the flat side, which is misleading because both sides are flat, but basically you know it’s the winter position because it gives the bees more head space than when the “flat” side is down; anyway…). A piece of hard insulation is installed flat against the top of the inner cover. It covers the hole in the inner cover and you don’t have to make a tunnel for the bees through the insulation or anything because the bees have no problem getting outside through the upper entrance notch in the inner cover. Some beekeepers put duct tape over the inner cover hole so the bees can’t eat away at the insulation, but I didn’t use duct tape last winter and the bees didn’t get hungry for the insulation once. And that’s all there is to it. (See Making Insulated Inner Hive Covers for more info.) Just put the top covers on once the bees get out of the way, and you’re done.

The only problem with this method of insulation is that it doesn’t leave much space under the inner cover for feeding the bees candy cakes or pollen patties in late winter. To make that extra space, all you have to do is install a two or three inch rim (or an eke) under the inner cover. That’s what I plan to do. There are more than a few ways to insulate the hives for winter (moisture quilts, etc.) — and more importantly, to prevent condensation from building up inside the hives. This is just one of them. Along with wrapping the hives, it worked perfectly for us last winter. There are also plenty ways to feed the bees over winter (candy boards, etc.), but I can only talk from my own experience. Okay, then, let’s take a closer look at what I did yesterday…
Read on . . . »

October 31st, 2011

We pulled four deep frames of honey from each of our hives this past summer to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound. We stored the frames in a cardboard nuc box and kept them in our house. Later in the fall we fed all but one of the frames back to the bees (see Feeding The Bees Honey Instead of Syrup). This morning I took a look at the remaining deep frame of honey stored in the nuc box and noticed it had mould growing on it.

Damn.
Read on . . . »

October 9th, 2011

We’ve had entrance reducers on all our hives for the past few weeks, and it doesn’t look like we can remove them any time soon because the wasps (a.k.a. yellow jackets) are everywhere. They’re constantly trying to get into the hives. Here’s a photo showing about six wasps blocking a ventilation hole (most of the screened holes in our ventilator rims are filled with wasps):

The next photo isn’t pretty. You’ve been warned.
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.

Page 1 of 3123