Frustrations

My beekeeping ambitions are tamed mainly by the fact that I don’t have convenient access to land. If I had access to more land, even just a little bit of land, I’d be tempted to expand from four hives to twenty this year instead of eight, and then build them up even further the year after that. I’d study up more on honey bee behaviour, queen rearing, hive management and honey production and I’d construct other types of hives besides Langstroths. I’d invest considerably more time and money into beekeeping and understanding honey bees. I love hanging with the bees.

I even have a business plan worked out. But I can’t entertain anything like that at the moment because it would be an exercise in frustration. I don’t want to think about it until I know I can make it happen. It’s bad enough that we have a huge field on our property behind our shed…
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March 16th, 2012

Ummm, can’t you just smell the pollen in the air?

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March 9th, 2012

I keep hearing from beekeepers online about their bees bringing in pollen. None of those beekeepers live in Newfoundland. We didn’t see our bees bring in any pollen until April 13th last year, so we probably have a while to wait yet. The most exciting thing I can report is that our bees were flying around the yard today like gang busters. At 12°C (possibly the warmest day we’ve had this year), how could they resist?

At least we don’t have varroa mites in Newfoundland.

March 3rd, 2012

We gave our four hives some dry sugar 62 days ago. Here’s some riveting footage that shows how that’s working out for us (so far so good).

The only thing we’ll do differently next year is lay sugar over either the front or back half of the frames. That way the bees can access the sugar without any trouble and there’s still plenty of room to add a full-sized pollen patty. As seen in the video, adding pollen patties is tricky with all that sugar in the way. And we won’t spray the newspaper next time either.

Previous posts in this continuing saga: Dry Sugar Feeding, Dry Sugar Feeding Update and Dry Sugar Check Up and Pollen Patties.

February 25th, 2012

We have four Langstroth hives in our backyard. Each hive consists of two deep supers (or boxes). Our plan is to expand up to a maximum of eight hives this year by splitting the hives we already have. We’re hoping the population of all four hives will explode to fill three deeps per hive by sometime in June, and if that happens, I think we might be able to reach our goal of eight hives and still get a half decent honey harvest from at least two of the hives. We’d be happy with that.

It should go without saying that our plan is likely to have little resemblance to what actually happens. The bees will not always do what we want them to do, and we’ll just have to deal with it. But beyond the basic notion of expanding up to eight hives, we’re not planning to do anything too complicated because things will get complicated enough on their own.
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February 15th, 2012

It was warm enough today (1°C / 34°F) to take a peek inside our four hives and add some pollen patties. I didn’t have to top up the dry sugar that was added 46 days ago. The bees in the foundationless hive are low on honey, as I suspected, and have eaten through the most sugar, but they have enough to keep them going for a while. The bees in the conventional hives have eaten some of their sugar, but I still think they would have been fine without it. I could see several frames full of honey in each of the hives. The bees in the conventional hives were clustering above the top bars by the end of December, but a lack of honey doesn’t seem to be the reason. Okay, then, here’s how it played out in video form. First, a short version in HD that cuts to the chase.


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February 13th, 2012

File this one under “Another Slow News Day.”

What do rotting honey bee corpses look like in the middle of February after being buried in snow for a couple months? This:

We had a heavy rain storm over the weekend that melted and washed away most of the snow and revealed the bottom entrances of the hives that have been buried for much of the new year. I knew I’d see more dead bees. The old-timers seem to fly outside the hive and die. Several hundred of them are scattered around the yard, little black dots everywhere on the crusty snow. Sometimes the dead are removed from the hive, but I get the impression corpse-removal becomes a lower priority in the dead of winter when it’s hard enough just to stay alive. The bottom board of our one foundationless hive is nearly blocked with dead bees. Dead bees are accumulating in the other three hives, too, though not as bad.
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February 6th, 2012

Here are four and a half minutes of photos from our first 567 days of beekeeping. It’s not a “best of” collection, but it’s the best I could put together in 20 minutes (there are more photos of bees than beekeeping per se). It should look half-decent played back in full screen at the highest resolution. Recommended only for purists. There’s no music, but I originally had some Geoffrey Oryema on the soundtrack and it was good. You’ve probably never heard of Geoffrey Oryema, but he tends to make quiet night music with lots of echo. Or maybe Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass is more your thing. Whatever floats your boat.


480p, 720p AND 1080p PLAYBACK ARE AVAILABLE. FULL SCREEN MODE IS THE BEST.

January 31st, 2012

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON MARCH 08, 2012.

Yup. It’s still winter.

I hear that honey bees in the UK are starting to bring in pollen. Well, goody for them.
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January 27th, 2012

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 12, 2013.

We feed our bees pollen in the form of pollen patties for two reasons: 1) To get the queen laying in late winter, around mid-February, so that the colony’s population is at a healthy level when spring arrives. 2) To give a nuc colony the boost it needs throughout the summer so that it can go into winter, again, with a healthy population of bees. (We also feed our nucs sugar syrup throughout our cool, short summers.) We wouldn’t feed our bees pollen or sugar if Mother Nature could provide for them all year round. But Mother Nature is a cruel mistress in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Spring often doesn’t make an appearance until the end of June. So it’s a no-brainer: We feed them. (July 11/13 addendum: But don’t overfed them.)

Do an online search for “How to make pollen patties,” and you’ll find more than a few methods and recipes for pollen patties. The following is our method, not necessarily the best method, but probably one of the easiest, which is why I like it. We fed our bees with these pollen patties last year and everything was okay. (But feel free to let me know if I’m doing something I shouldn’t.) Here’s a video that shows exactly how it’s done:


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