June 30th, 2014

I decided to shut down Mud Songs about six months ago because I only saw my bees for a couple hours every two weeks or so. Beekeeping for me is about being around the bees. I have nothing to talk about if that’s not happening. That’s why I smuggled in a small nuc, a tiny little colony, close to where I live in the city. And now I’m back to being around bees all the time. I see them everyday. It’s only a single colony but it’ll do, at least until I can find a way to keep bees on my own property again, hopefully by next year.

Until then, because of my single little colony close by, I’ll probably manage to post some kind of video or photos about once week, probably on the weekends. That’s as good as it gets for now. I also plan to update the Mud Songs theme because the current design has gotten buggy over the years, many of the pages are slow to load, some of the functions don’t work anymore, etc. Such is the nature of the internet. It’s all impermanence. Mud Songs is likely to implode some day and I won’t have the energy to do anything about it. So it goes.

I also plan to create a series of instructional videos. The first video will provide an overview of everything most new beekeepers will need during their first year — the tools, hive components, etc. The second video will identify what’s inside the hive: the difference between brood comb, honey comb, drones, workers — all that jazz. I see it as a visual guide through all the practical aspects of small scale beekeeping, for people interested in beekeeping but nothing too complicated or out of control, a pleasure cruise, not a business trip. I’m busy with work and trying to find a new place to live, so I’m not sure how quickly the videos will come, but they’re definitely on the drawing board.

Other house cleaning items: All my photos will be posted through my Mud Songs Flickr page. I used to use Picasa web albums, which was perfect for my needs, but then Google tried to integrate everything into Google Plus and now it’s all such a massive headache, I’m done with it. I’m gradually transferring all my beekeeping photos to Flickr and will eventually update all my previous posts so that they link to Flickr photos instead. Many the old Picasa photo links don’t work anymore (thank you Google), the original descriptions to the photos are gone, etc., but I’m working on it.

Note to Facebook users (and Google Plus users): Everything I post to Facebook will show up a week or two after I’ve posted it here on Mud Songs. I’m happy that social media gets the word out, but I’ll always prefer the ad-free view from here.

Thanks.

I was surprised to find honey supers full of nectar today. In two of my colonies, every frame in the honey supers was a variation of this (click the photo for a better view of the glistening nectar):

The brutally cold winter and spring of 2014 killed off two of my colonies and came close to snuffing out the rest. When I added honey supers (that is, medium supers full of drawn comb) to my four surviving colonies a while back, I had no hope that they would begin to make honey any time soon. The last time I checked about a month ago, there were hardly any bees in the hives and not much capped brood either. The situation looked grim. But I guess a lot can happen in a month.
Read on . . . »

June 15th, 2014

I tried using the video camera on my cell to inspect one of my hives — and it worked.


Read on . . . »

June 7th, 2014

I may bring Mud Songs back to life earlier than I anticipated. Even though I haven’t found my house in the country yet, I’ve managed to set up a single hive in the city close to where I live and I’ve been able to hang out with those bees pretty much all the time (when I’m not at work). It’s a calm, small colony that I’m building up from a nuc — and it’s pretty damn great. I like the taste of honey, but I enjoy watching the bees build up a colony more. That’s what I’m doing and I’m doing it every day. It’s only with a single colony, but I’m loving it.

All my other colonies are still out on a country property where I hardly ever see them except for when I need to check on them. They’re doing well, and I’m glad, but they’re more work than pleasure, because, like I said before, if I can’t be around the bees all the time, what’s the point? I’ll get honey from those bees, but that’s it.

Being around bees all the time, my fascination is beginning to boil up again. I sit and watch them fly around all day long. I poke my nose in the hive and mess about with them probably more than I should. But too bad. They’ll live.

It’s essential that these bees aren’t noticed by nosey neighbours. Thankfully, I have an abundance of drawn comb and frames of honey that will make it much easier for me to keep the population of the colony under control. Without getting into too long an explanation, I’ll pull out frames of brood (thousands of baby bees not yet born) and replace them with empty drawn comb on a regular basis, so the queen will always have room lay and the colony will never get crowded to the point of swarming (I hope). If the bees in any way bother any of the grumpy humans around here, the jig is up.

I can’t make any promises just yet. The Mud Songs server has become ultra-slow recently, so that’ll need to be fixed first. And if I do start posting videos, photos and so on again, it may not be as frequent as before. But yeah, I’m thinking about it…

See The End for more info.

April 25th, 2014

This is me reversing the brood chambers on an early spring honey bee hive to prevent swarming. But really it’s an excuse to do the first full hive inspection of the year and give the bees some honey.

P.S.: This video has been post-dated to April 25/14. It was originally recorded when Mud Songs was closed.

January 17th, 2014

I’ve decided to pull the plug on Mud Songs instead of letting it fizzle out and die. Here’s why: When I first began beekeeping in 2010, I kept my hives in my urban backyard and was engaged in a daily fascination with the bees because they were constantly present. I saw the bees every single day, even in the winter, and loved every minute of it. I was glad to share my experiences so others might learn from my stumbles and bumps and little successes along the way. In the summer of 2012, though, I had to move the hives to a rural location because my next door neighbour complained to the city about the bees buzzing around her yard too much. Pretty much overnight, the fuel that fired most of my interest in beekeeping — the constant presence of the bees — was gone. My time with the bees dropped from several hours a day to maybe a few hours a month and none of that time involved the leisurely observations — watching the bees all day — that I was accustomed to when the bees were in my backyard. So that’s it. Even though it’s more work than pleasure these days, I’ll continue to keep bees. But until I have them on my own property again and can reconnect with the fascination I experience from being around them all the time, I don’t see the point in maintaining this web site. The driving force behind most of what I’ve done with Mud Songs is gone. The bees are gone. Not completely gone, but gone enough. With any luck, though, I’ll be back in business within a year or two, chilling with the bees in a different backyard like I used to. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Take care.

— Phillip

January 17th, 2014
St. John’s, Newfoundland

January 4th, 2014

Some quick shots of bees on leaves and things. It’s just left over footage from a camera-focusing test I did earlier last summer.

THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON APRIL 05, 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 . . . »

December 12th, 2013

If you’re a colour blind beekeeper who keeps dropping your hive tools in the grass, here’s a little trick that should help you spot said hive tool in the grass: YELLOW DUCT TAPE.

DuctTape01

DuctTape02

I should have taken a photo of one of the hive tools in the grass so people who are colour blind can see how well the yellow stands out, but you get the idea. Blue isn’t bad either, but yellow creates an excellent contrast.

November 25th, 2013

THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

I used to add dry sugar to my hives in January or February following what some call The Mountain Camp Method, but this year I decided to add sugar around the same time I wrapped my hives, in late November. Why not? I have several reasons for adding the sugar early — the main reason is I don’t want to see another colony starve to death — but ultimately it doesn’t hurt to put the sugar on early and it saves me the trouble of having to do it in the middle of winter with snow all around. So yeah, why not? Here’s a video that shows how I did it.

This is probably the last time I’ll post a video about the Mountain Camp Method. There’s not much else to see.

I also mention in the video (at the 58sec mark) how one of my hives was full of exceptionally nasty bees until I moved the colony far away from my other colonies and just like that they settled down to become the nicest bunch of bees around. This is just speculation, but for now on whenever I come across an especially defensive colony, I’ll try moving it way off by itself, far from any other colonies, before I resort to requeening.

ADDENDUM (Jan. 16/14): It’s come to my attention that covering the entire top bars with sugar isn’t a good idea because then you can’t see down into the frames to see how the bees are doing. I knew that last year but forgot about it this year. So don’t do what I did. Cover only the back two-thirds or so of the top bars.

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