August 2nd, 2011

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON SEPT. 14, 2011.

I finally got around to making two dummy boards today — also known as follower boards. Rusty over at Honey Bee Suite says:

    “…the bees can collect on the follower boards without sitting on the brood. In hot weather, the bees have a hard time keeping the brood cool enough, and sitting on it makes it worse. So both follower boards and slatted racks give the bees a place to “hang out.” This also reduces the feeling of congestion in the hive and congestion is a major factor in swarming.”

The dummy boards also reduce the risk of rolling the queen during inspections. All of which means nothing if you don’t know what dummy boards / follower boards are or why I’d want to make some, so read the following posts from Honey Bee Suite for an explanation of what it’s all about: Follower boards in a Langstroth hive and How to make follower boards for a Langstroth hive.

Kinda cool, ah? (I assume you just got back from reading those posts.) I made the two dummy boards by following Rusty’s instructions, though I did it all without measuring anything, and then I got creative and added a little extra something to the design at the end of it. I’m an incompetent carpenter, so by necessity I have to keep it simple.

I began by using a hand-held jig saw to cut the top bar down the middle:

People with fancy schmancy table saws can cut in a straight line. I’m not one of those people. It wasn’t exactly a smooth cut but close enough.
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Someone emailed me a couple questions like I’m some kind of beekeeper who knows stuff. I got lucky, though, because the questions were easy. Question #1: What does drone comb look like? Answer #1: It looks like this:

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August 2nd, 2011

Here’s a snapshot of a honey bee cleaning out some comb I had to pull from one of our hives last week. I might update this post later with a video. It was fun watching this single bee poke its head down every cell on the comb to clean them out.

Now I didn’t have to pull the comb, but I did because I’m kind of stupid that way. It’s my preferred method of learning. I don’t have a beekeeping mentor to follow, so inserting medium frames into deep boxes, filtering drones from the hive, pulling combs that should be left alone — that’s the only way I can truly learn that, “Yup. Bad idea.” At least I got a cool photo out of it, and the bee is in focus. Not always an easy feat on those macro shots.

August 2nd, 2011

Here’s a purdy picture of a bee bringing some pollen home to one of our nucs last week.

August 1st, 2011

I inspected Hive #1 today and was glad to see that the honey super is starting to fill up with honey. Nine frames spread out in a ten frame super, alternating plastic with foundationless frames. I didn’t take any photos or videos. Snapping off photos during an inspection, especially when I’m alone, only complicates things (but I’ll do what I can for more instructive posts). My main concern was to make sure the queen wasn’t honey bound. I found three frames in the middle of the top box that looked like this…

…worker brood in the middle surrounded by pollen and honey, only this time everything looked dirtier and darker because the comb isn’t fresh like it was when the photo was taken last year. Still, it’s more or less what I wanted to see. Honey and pollen, new worker brood and enough space for the queen to continue laying.

The foundationless frames in the top box of Hive #1 were migrated to Hive #2 a while back, so it’s a mostly conventional hive now with perhaps three or four foundationless frames left over in the bottom brood box. The minimized number of foundationless frames — which perhaps knocks back drone production — might have something to do with the honey super filling with honey now. (Pure speculation.) The bees in Hive #2, a hive that is about 80% foundationless, show no signs of building in their honey super yet. So go figure. Okay then, let’s move on to even more boringer details.
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July 25th, 2011

I had an unexpected day off today and had time to sit around in the heat and watch the bees in our backyard. I took some photos of the bees scenting.


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July 25th, 2011

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.


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July 18th, 2011

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.

July 17th, 2011

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.

July 11th, 2011

UPDATE (July 12/11): FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO KNOW EXACTLY WHY AND HOW TO REQUEEN, I OFFER LESSON 19 FROM MY PERSONAL HERO, DAVID BURNS, AND QUEEN INTRODUCTION FROM STRACHAN APIARIES.

We installed a new queen today (in Hive #1). Here’s the video:


SELECT 720p FOR HIGH DEFINITION AND OPTIMAL FULL SCREEN VIDEO PLAYBACK.
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