May 10th, 2012

This is a long boring post that most first-year beekeepers can skip. You can also skip it if you can interpret the diagram below. That tells you everything you need to know. If your hives are exploding with bees, though, well…

I checkerboarded a hive for the first time yesterday. It wasn’t planned and I didn’t have my camera with me, but I whipped up a nifty little diagram to illustrate what I did — and I’m not saying what I did is right. But anyhow… I reversed the brood boxes on one of our hives (Hive #1) last week and didn’t have time to scrape off the bridge comb / burr comb that had built up on the frames over the winter. Unlike the last brood box reversal, all I did was exchange the positions of the boxes. I didn’t touch the frames. So yesterday during a brief hot spell (17°C), I decided to pull the frames, clean them up and inspect the hive while I was at it. Well, in my 661 days of beekeeping, I’d never witnessed so many bees packed into one hive, and most of the foragers weren’t even home.

The frames in the bottom box were full of brood and pollen and some honey — and drone cells packed into every crevice. The frames in the top box had some brood in the middle, but most of the frames were being backed-filled with nectar on the way to becoming honey — thus reducing space for the queen to lay. So that was it: I decided to checkerboard the hive right then and there. Otherwise the queen could become honeybound and trigger a swarm — I mean a splinter colony — and that probably wouldn’t go over well with my neighbours. So here’s what I did if you can figure it out:

H = honey / nectar frames (mostly uncapped).

B = brood frames (and some pollen).

F = foundation (empty).

D = drawn comb (empty).
Note: Imagine the frames in the box below this one packed with brood.

See How to checkerboard a hive from Honey Bee Suite for an explanation of checkerboarding.
Read on . . . »

May 9th, 2012

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON APRIL 25/14.

I performed the first full hive inspection of the year yesterday. I also reversed the brood boxes while I was at it. Next year I plan to reverse the boxes shortly after the bees start hauling in pollen from the crocuses (instead of waiting until the dandelions bloom). Whether from dandelions or crocuses, if the bees bring in pollen at a steady pace for about a week, that’s my cue to reverse the brood boxes. Had I reversed them a few weeks ago, I might have been able to avoid the disgusting mess of scraping off drone comb between the frames of the top and bottom boxes. I could have avoided splitting up the brood nest too. Check out Honey Bee Suite for more info on reversing boxes.


Read on . . . »

Maybe they’ve been around for a while. Maybe not. But we saw our first dandelion of 2012 today:

Two seconds later:

So I mosey on over to the hives and lo and behold, bees bringing in yellow pollen:
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May 8th, 2012

THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2012.

I have no great love for hive top feeders of any kind. So today I placed an otherwise useless insert feeder a fair distance from the hives, filled it half way with syrup and wood chips and let the bees go to it.

I know there are many arguments against this kind of free for all feeding. Too bad.
Read on . . . »

May 8th, 2012

One of the few photos of me (with a bee on my hand).

May 7th, 2012

This is one way to paint hive boxes (or supers). Hang them between two saw horses (like Rusty does at Honey Bee Suite) and paint them:

We don’t have any saw horses, but we managed to improvise something like this:

Here’s the video:
Read on . . . »

May 5th, 2012

Click the Read On link if you want to see something semi-gross.

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Unless you’re reading this through the RSS feed. Then you have no choice.

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May 4th, 2012

Dry sugar feeding. Bees clustering extra high again. Possibly some dead drone pupae.

The bees were gathering pollen at a steady pace for a couple weeks in April. But then the weather turned into cold, wet snow and the forecast ain’t the greatest. Always the paranoid beekeeper, I decided to sprinkle some dry sugar around the inner cover holes today just in case the bees were running low on honey. (I’ll probably give them some pollen patties once the weather warms up a bit.) This is what I found under the hood of Hive #3:

They bees are clustering above the inner cover hole, attached to the top cover as if they’re trying to build comb upwards. It’s the same colony that built some big time burr comb under the insulated inner cover a few weeks ago. I don’t know it if it means they’re just trying to stay warm or if the queen wants to expand the brood nest upwards. Either way, I think the safest bet to reduce the chances of swarming is to reverse the brood boxes ASAP. That’s our plan the next time the sun comes out.
Read on . . . »

May 1st, 2012

Check out the tongues darting out as the bees in our foundationless hive suck up water from the corrugated plastic floor of our combo bottom board.

From what I can tell, morning dew forms naturally inside the corrugated plastic (which might not make it a great floor for the hive). The water doesn’t pool inside the plastic. The hive is slightly tilted downwards to the front entrance where the water drains out slowly — and the bees drink it up.
Read on . . . »

April 30th, 2012

8:35am. Here’s what I see when I look out the window.

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