I got into the whole foundationless kick mostly for aesthetic reasons, not necessarily well thought out reasons. I’m fascinated by the behaviour of honey bees, especially how they build and organize their hives when they’re given free reign to do whatever they want on foundationless frames. But had I known that the large number of honey-hungry drones produced by foundationless colonies could result in little or no honey harvest during the first year, I would have passed on the whole thing. It’s like spending a year and a half working and saving up to go on the fishing trip of a lifetime, and then not catching any fish once you get there. The season isn’t over yet and anything could happen (I’ll be overjoyed to get even a single medium super full of honey), but if I could go back and do it right the first time, I would follow the example of what works for beekeepers in Newfoundland (instead of California), and I would save the foundationless hives for another year after I’d already had some success with conventional hives.
Note: This video was originally posted in February 2012, but I moved it to July 18th, 2011, to coincide with the recording date of the video.
Jeff Harris, from Clarenville, Newfoundland, dropped off some photos and video of one of his swarms from July 18th, 2011. I plan to do everything I can to avoid swarms where I live. Even though the bees are their most docile in this state, I got a feeling most people in my urban ‘hood would not react well to seeing my bees swarm like this. I’ll leave it to Jeff to tell us about it in the comments.
Note to urban beekeepers: Don’t call them swarms. You want to keep your neighbours’ freak-out factor to a minimum. Call them splinter colonies instead.
Today’s tip for backyard beekeepers: Don’t wear sandals.
The bees in our backyard fly around our raised beds to drink water from lettuce leaves and soak up moisture from the black composted soil. They also wander around the grass here and there, grass we don’t bother to mow, and so it’s easy for the bees to inadvertently crawl onto our feet while we’re standing there digging the weeds in the garden. And if I’m wearing sandals, it’s easy for a bee to get stuck under a strap, freak out and sting me. The pain from a honey bee sting isn’t too bad compared to most stinging insects. But when they first get you, it hurts. One of them got me about five minutes ago.
We installed a new queen today (in Hive #1). Here’s the video:
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Read on . . . »
Two more nucs and a queen in her cage arrived at our house last night. I can’t install the nucs or do anything with the bees today due to high winds in our area. The new queen is intended for one of our hives that may be queenless (Hive #1). If it isn’t queenless, we plan to requeen it anyway (squish the old queen and replace it with the new queen). I have a general idea of how to do that. My only concern is finding the old queen first. We’ve never been able to spot the queens in either of our hives. Can we introduce a new queen to a hive that already has a queen without “dispatching” the old queen first? Probably not. I’m not sure what we’ll do if we can’t find the old queen. Hopefully we’ll have the assistance of a local experienced beekeeper (I should say the local experienced beekeeper) to guide us through the process. Whatever happens, I’ll tell you about in a day or two. In the meantime, here’s a short video of the queen in her cage.
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Updates will appear in the comments.
It’s probably nothing, but the bees in one of my hives, a mostly foundationless hive with a high drone population, are beginning to concern me. I’m thinking they might be ready to swarm. Or they might be queenless. Am I just a paranoid novice beekeeper throwing out theories that will never stick? Most likely. But stranger things have happened.
Can anyone tell me what’s happening in this photo and in the video below?
(Click the image to view the bottom entrance in closer detail on another page.)
I’ve seen the bees clustering off the bottom bars before, but never this thick. They’re clustering right down to the bottom board, leaving virtually no room to walk. What’s up with that? Here’s the video:
Read on . . . »
ADDENDUM (March 31/14): I’ve changed my tune. As much I love honey, it’s not my main reason for keeping honey bees. I like being around the bees and watching them all the time, getting my nose inside the hive whenever I can to see how they’re all getting along. And that’s a whole lot more fun with foundationless frames because you can watch the comb get bigger and bigger as the bees hang from the frames in chains and gradually build comb naturally with no help from plastic foundation. It’ll take the bees three or four times longer to build and then fill the comb, but if you’re into beekeeper to watch and learn and absorb calmness from the bees, foundationless beekeeping is the way to go.
Foundationless beekeeping is turning out to be less successful than I’d hoped. Foundationless hives require considerably more resources to thrive than conventional hives with foundation, and those resources are not consistently available in St. John’s, Newfoundland, given our cold wet springs and short summers. I was recently informed that the foundationless hives can survive in Newfoundland, but they will likely take two years to establish themselves in our cold climate before I can harvest any honey from them. I wouldn’t have bothered with foundationless hives had I known that from the start. As much as I like the idea of going all-natural, I want some honey too.
Read on . . . »
Here’s a video from a few days ago when the sun came out for about half an hour for the first time in about a week.
Check out some of my other videos to hear the difference between thousands of drones and regular worker bees. Drones en masse produce a deeper and meaner sounding rumble.