I just happened to drop in on my country hives today as a splinter colony was taking flight. (I’ve chosen to use the less alarmist terminology for that particular phenomena of honey bee behaviour.) I was alone, only had my cell phone and couldn’t film myself shaking the bees into a new hive body. So there’s not much to learn from this short video. But if you’ve never seen a sw — I mean a splinter colony up close before, take a look. (It’s not the highest-rez video. Sorry. Couldn’t help it.)
If it looks like a scary situation, it isn’t. Only bad neighbours make it a scary or stressful situation. It was more calming for me than anything. I had somewhere I had to be, so I couldn’t sit back enjoy it as much I would have liked to, but it was an amazing thing to witness.
To be continued…
Most of my hives are set up in a rural location just outside St. John’s, Newfoundland, on the edge of a field that fills with a flowering plant called Comfrey in July.
I’m not around the bees much, so I never really see them in action, but apparently they were all over the Comfrey while it was in bloom.
Read on . . . »
Every piece of beekeeping gear is probably good to have around because you don’t know when it might come in handy. But if I had to vote for the one piece of equipment I never use, it would be the bee brush. Exhibit A:
Whenever I need to remove bees from a frame, I just shake ‘em off in front of the hive. A quick jolt downwards and the bees lose their grip and fall together in a clump near the bottom entrance. Neil Gaiman was gracious enough to provide a demo:
I tend to knock the bees off closer to the ground with less force, and sometimes I spray the bees with sugar mist first so they can’t fly around much when they hit the ground, but you get the picture.
THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.
The standard issue goat skin bee gloves can get sweaty. Here’s a photo of my hand after beekeeping in 20°C heat (68°F) for about half an hour — and it usually gets a lot sweatier than this:
I recently experimented with using heavy duty rubber gloves, slightly thicker than dish washing gloves. They don’t breathe at all but provide a better feel than goat coat skin. NOTE: Gloves that don’t have long cuffs and therefore don’t provide wrist protection aren’t so great. Blue medical examination gloves, the kind dentists use, are even thinner than dish washing gloves. The bees can easily sting through them and they offer no wrist protection. I’ve gone barehanded at times, too, but only when I’m not digging too deep into a hive.
ADDENDUM (August 02/14): I’ve been using heavy duty rubber gloves for about two months now and I haven’t had any problems with them other than the fact that my hands get instantly sweaty and the sweat accumulates in the fingers of the gloves after about an hour. For hygienic reasons, they should be soaked in soapy water after every use, then hung up to dry. I’d buy a few pairs. The bees, when determined, can sting through them. I got stung today for the first time. It wasn’t a deep sting but a surprising sting nonetheless. I wouldn’t use rubber gloves with defensive bees or during any kind of beekeeping that could rile up the bees. But for everyday maintenance and poking around, the heavy duty rubber gloves are the gloves for me. They’re more tactile, and even though they’re sweaty, I don’t get nearly as hot wearing them as I do with goat skin gloves. I’m not trying to advertise a specific brand of rubber gloves, but the ones I bought from a big box hardware store are described as “Long Cuff Neoprene Gloves.”
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.
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 . . . »
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.
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.
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.
January 17th, 2014
St. John’s, Newfoundland