March 29th, 2013

One of my honey bee colonies died over the winter. (See A Winter Die-Off, A Winter Die-Off Post Portem: The Photos and Why My Honey Bees Died for more details.) It starved to death because: (1) I thought it had enough honey of its own and didn’t need to be fed extra honey or sugar syrup in the fall. I was wrong. I’ll feed my colonies in the fall for now if I have any doubts about their honey stores. (2) I wrapped all my hives for winter on December 1st and didn’t check on them for two months, not until February 3rd. I waited too long. I should have checked on them first thing in the new year and given any starving colonies some sugar.

Dead cluster on a frame near the brood nest. (March 10, 2013.)

But now I know and I’m not discouraged by it. I had to lose a colony sooner or later. I went into the 2011 winter with two colonies, 2012 with four and 2013 with seven. So now I have six instead of seven. That’s not a catastrophic loss and it’s a pretty good survival rate for three winters of beekeeping. I also now have an extra twenty frames of drawn comb to work with this year. That’s a luxury I’ve never had.
Read on . . . »

I discovered one of my honey bee colonies dead about a month ago. (See A Winter-Die Off and this video for the details.) My guess was the colony starved to death because it didn’t have enough honey. Judging from what I saw during the post mortem examination I did today, I was right.

Starved out / dead bees in honey cells. (March 10, 2013.)

P.S.: I would have had a more detailed post with photos and a video uploaded by now, but I just spent the last three hours trying to get my Picasa web albums to display photos like it always has for me. I had a simple, streamlined method of posting photos through Picasa that’s worked perfectly for years. But a recent effort by Google to integrate photos into Google Plus (their version of Facebook) has messed up the whole thing. I don’t like Facebook but I do like Google Plus, so it’s too bad they had to blow it. Anyway, I’ve managed to get to everything back to normal, but I don’t know how I did it and I don’t feel like wasting anymore time on it. I have little patience for constant upgrades that usually fix things that aren’t even broke. I might post a video next weekend when I’m in a better mood. In the meantime, here’s a slide show of what I found:
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February 6th, 2013

A BRIEF POSTSCRIPT WAS ADDED ON FEB. 08/13.

The fount of beekeeping wisdom that is Mud Songs will dry up someday. I give it another two years, tops. I’m already running out of original material. Exhibit A: Here’s a long video of my visit last weekend to the six hives we have on a farm about 30 minutes from our house in the city. It’s more or less a repeat of my Mountain Camp video.

Here’s a break-down of what the video has to offer:
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February 4th, 2013

It seems as if one of my honey bee colonies starved to death sometime over the past two months. At a glance it may look like a normal colony. But trust me, those bees are dead.

I didn’t have time for a close inspection, so I can’t confirm that starvation is the cause of death, but I’d say it’s a pretty good guess. I didn’t top up any of our hives with sugar syrup before winter. I let the bees take honey from their own honey supers instead. Unfortunately, these bees didn’t get enough. And so it goes.
Read on . . . »

August 22nd, 2012

I’m still on vacation from the internet, but here’s a quick video we shot last week showing some baby bees emerging, chewing their way out of their brood cells:


Read on . . . »

July 18th, 2012

We recently added three mated queens to some of our hives and splits. Here’s a quick video of us checking to see if a queen was released from her cage. The video ends with us looking at some foundationless frames in a honey super.

I didn’t post a video or photos of the actual requeening because we posted an instructive video of a requeening last year. You can watch it on YouTube if you like and then follow the link back to Mud Songs to read the original post for more detailed info. Here’s a semi-short story about requeening, Part 1: The candy plug in one of our queen cages was rock solid and the bees hadn’t eaten through it five days later when we checked on it, not even close. To prevent that from happening, we might spray the candy plug with some water before we install the next queen cage. I’m not sure if that’s recommended by the experts, but we rarely get consistent advice from the experts, anyway, so we’ll probably do it. Part 2: We’ve been told that the attendant bees should be removed from the queen cage before the cage is installed. Supposedly in the commotion of being introduced, the attendant bees can get over excited and inadvertently sting or harm the queen. We’ve also been told not to worry about the attendant bees and just leave them in the cage with the queen. So that’s what we did and everything turned out fine.

P.S. (July 19/12): We might not spray the candy plug after all. Read the comments for more details.

July 3rd, 2012

I took a brief peek at one of our monster hives with honey supers on it yesterday and found several frames well on their way to being filled with honey. I know some experienced beekeepers discourage new beekeepers from going foundationless in their honey supers because the chances of success are less, but we can’t help ourselves. We love it when the bees build natural comb like this:

Our honey supers have a combination of foundationless frames, frames of drawn comb from last year (with and without foundation), and frames with untouched foundation.

Apparently the bees are attracted to the smell of drawn comb. That gets them to work in the honey supers. We put foundationless frames between the frames of drawn comb because the bees are generally compelled to fill in empty space. Our methods may not maximize honey production, but the maximizing approach can take the fun out of beekeeping. That’s not our game. And it’s hard to argue with results like this:

Read on . . . »

July 2nd, 2012

One of our hives swarmed about two weeks ago on June 17th. We caught it and hived it with no trouble (it’s nice when things go smoothly). We gave the new hive some syrup and then some frames of honey from another hive. I dropped by with some friends today just to take a quick peek and we spotted all kinds of fresh brood — and the queen. Here’s the video (the queen shows up at the 0:45 mark):


All our videos can be played back in 720p HD. I don’t know why 360p is the default setting.

The hive that swarmed two weeks ago should have swarmed with the old marked queen, but this queen isn’t marked. I’m not sure what to think of that. All I know is the hive has a mated queen that’s laying well. It’s hard to see in the video, but the queen is light coloured with distinctive rings on her abdomen similar to an Italian queen, but who knows. Whatever is going on, I’m happy to see it. Watching a young hive get on its feet and do well is more rewarding than trying to deal with our monster hives that have been swarming or on the verge of swarming for the past couple months.

P.S., I use the term “hive” and “colony” interchangeably. I shouldn’t because they’re two different things. Hive is another word for house — the boxes, the hollow logs, the sheltered enclosures where the bees live. Colony refers to the actual family of bees that live in the hive with the queen bee, the worker bees and the drones. They’re like The Borg Collective, all working together as one big happy colony. But in speaking to a general audience, most people know what I’m talking about when I say hive. So I just say hive.

UPDATE (July 17/12): See What Does a Honey Bee Queen Look Like for another good look at a queen.

June 30th, 2012

Here’s a quick two-clip video that shows some of what we had to deal with today.

The first brief clip shows a monster hive after we did a full inspection of it and thoroughly riled up the bees. It’s a swarmed hive with a newly mated queen (which we spotted). It’s full of uncapped honey and very little brood. We pulled some honey frames to give the queen more room to lay, but I’m not sure what we’re going to do next. We found swarm cells in two other hives. The second clip shows one of the swarm cells. The other hive with swarm cells had about half a dozen capped cells. Lovely. We have a swarm trap out and we took other swarm prevention measures. But we’ll see how it goes next week. We have three mated queens coming in. I hope requeening calms the bees down. The past 40 days have been exhausting. We’ve done everything we can to keep the bees in check, but they’re on fire.

June 27th, 2012

I used a digital recorder to record notes during our last inspection. A very helpful way to take notes because I would have forgotten or confused most of it otherwise, and the notes wouldn’t have been as detailed.

For those who are curious, we have potentially 6 hives on the go now, each of them with their own specific history and a unique set of challenges for us. Here’s a brief summary:
Read on . . . »

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