Insert Feeders Spell Disaster For Nucleus Colonies

In my experience, plastic insert feeders that fit inside medium or shallow supers are useless because they don’t provide the bees convenient access to the syrup. Using an insert feeder to build up a nuc could be disastrous, especially in a cold climate like Newfoundland.

Plastic insert feeder in a medium super (June 1, 2011).

Plastic insert feeder in a medium super (June 1, 2011).

I bought an insert feeder during my second spring of beekeeping in 2011 because it seemed like a cheaper alternative to a hive top feeder. But I could never get the bees to take syrup from the feeder. (I’ve heard the same from numerous beekeepers over the past four years.) My bees would have starved had I kept trying to feed them with the insert feeder.
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Dead Bees and High & Low Clusters

More dead bees are showing up on the bottom of the foundationless hive, enough to nearly clog the entire bottom entrance. (I first noticed the dead bees on December 22nd.) Most of the them appear to be drones.

Are drones fed like the queen, or can they access and eat honey on their own? I don’t remember. If they rely on the workers to be fed, then my guess is they’re deliberately being starved out of the hive. I’m surprised so many are still around.

I’ve also noticed that the bees in the foundationless hive are clustering heavily in the bottom box. This is what the edge of the cluster looked like a few days ago during the Dry Sugar Feeding (I fed them even though I don’t think they’re running low on honey):

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2011 Backyard Beekeeping in St. John’s, Newfoundland: A Retrospective Slideshow

2011 wasn’t a good year for beekeepers on the east coast of Newfoundland. We had a late wet spring, a short cold summer, and we (i.e., the royal we, as in I’m talking about yours truly) made plenty of mistakes along the way. But we managed to harvest about 20kg of honey from our two established hives and it was all worth it.

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Here are some photos from 2011 (about 100 photos, approximately 5 minutes)… UPDATE: I removed the slideshow because it didn’t display properly. Here’s a video slideshow that pretty much the same:


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mid-December Bees

(It’s a slow news day here at Mud Songs.) I know everyone has been on edge waiting for the results of the Cloudy Honey taste test. Does clarifying a jar of cloudy honey in a bowl of hot water destroy the floral flavours and aromas? Does it make the honey taste like grocery store goo? I don’t know. I haven’t done the taste test yet. But stay glued to your computer. We hope to have the results in this weekend. In the meantime, I’ll answer another question I’m sure has been on everyone’s mind: “Phillip, what are your bees up to these days?” I don’t know. But let’s find out… Okay, I just got back from taking a few pictures of the bees. Check it out:

Top entrance from a first-year hive (Dec. 16/11).

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Winter Preparations – Part 2: Hive Wrap

We finally got around to wrapping our hives for the winter. Here’s another how-to video narrated by me with a sore throat.

I thought about using corrugated plastic as a type of winter wrap, but I didn’t have time to mess with that, so I stuck with following the traditional roofing felt wrap method. We don’t plan to touch the hives again until late January or early February when we might have to feed them candy cakes and pollen patties. See Wrapping Hives for Winter and Winter Preparations – Part 1 for more info.
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Winter Preparations – Part 1: Insulation and Stuff

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…
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Mould on a Honey Frame

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.
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Feeding The Bees Honey Instead of Syrup

We harvested more than enough honey to last us until next year, so instead of topping up our hives up with sugar syrup to get them through the winter, we decided to give them back their honey. It saves the bees the trouble of evaporating the syrup down to the consistency of honey; it reduces the risk of condensation building up inside the hive (evaporation creates condensation, especially in cold weather); and it saves us the trouble of having to mix the syrup and mess around with messy feeders — and the honey is much better for the bees than sugar syrup. So if we’re in the position to feed them back their own honey, why not?

We began feeding the bees their own honey from partially capped medium frames that we didn’t harvest from the honey supers. Then we switched to deep frames full of honey that we pulled from the hives earlier in the summer to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound.
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