I added jar feeders full of honey to some of my hives about two weeks ago (the last time it was about 10°C / 50°F). The bees emptied the jars, so today I added some jars full of crystallized honey. And guess what? They like it!
Feeding the bees a jar full of crystallized honey. (June 04, 2016.)
The weather stinks. It’s so cold the bees can barely do anything. None of my colonies are in great shape and this weather doesn’t help. Stupid weather.
JUNE 15, 2016: Here’s a better example of it from 2013:
The honey in the video was rock solid crystallized honey. That’s the best way to do it.
I’d like to dispel the myth that beekeeping doesn’t take much time. Wrong. It takes a lot of time. For the first two years of my beekeeping, for every hour I spent working with my bees, I spent at least five hours reading and taking notes or watching instructional videos of some kind. And I was glad to do it.
This is my cautionary tale for people who probably shouldn’t bother with beekeeping. If It doesn’t take much time is the final selling point for you, do yourself a favour and walk away right now.
A swarm of bees hanging off a tree branch. (June 17, 2012.)
For anyone who isn’t glad to read up on everything they can about honey bees and beekeeping, and for anyone who isn’t glad to spend as much time as possible with their bees, I say don’t waste your time with it, because you probably won’t enjoy it. And your bees are likely to be dead after a few years from negligence anyway.
Forgive me if I sound like a jerk for saying that, but I’m feeling a little annoyed at the moment.
Someone recently asked me for some information on how to start beekeeping in Newfoundland. Among another things, I sent them a link to my How-To page, essentially my personal guide to beekeeping in Newfoundland, and they said, “I don’t have time to read all that.” To which I responded: “Then you probably don’t have time for beekeeping.” Continue reading →
As for the importation of honey bees into Newfoundland from Western Australia, if I’d had a vote on the matter, I would have voted against it. I would have encouraged the gradual build up of colonies through the use of the disease-free honey bees already present on the island. But I suspect the opinions of people motivated by large-scale commercial interests will speak louder than my view on the matter.
Beekeeping in Newfoundland now has the appeal of an untapped resource for people with the means to exploit it. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
Regardless of the supposed safeguards, now that importation is being allowed, it seems inevitable that some diseased bees will slip through and make it to Newfoundland. It only takes one egg-laying varroa destructor mite to destroy decades of beekeeping on the island. Safeguards are often overlooked when there’s quick money to be made.
ADDENDUM: Varroa mites haven’t been found in Western Australian honey bees yet, although that can’t be said about the Acarapis externus and Acarapis dorsalis mites which are somewhat harmless compared to Varroa. I nevertheless err on the side of caution and ask why not just leave all the mites in Australia?
I say don’t rush into it. Take it slow and build up Newfoundland honey bee colonies in a sustainable and guaranteed safe manner by using local honey bees that are free of disease. Continue reading →
In my experience, it’s important to constantly feed the bees during the first year (in Newfoundland), but it’s also important to stop feeding them at a certain point in the spring so they don’t swarm. When I find drone comb gunking up the bottom of the frames in the spring, that’s my cue that the colony could potentially swarm. Queens can’t mate without drones. That’s why the first swarms usually coincide with the flight of the first drones. I could be wrong about all of this, but from what I’ve seen with my bees, it’s true. A colony won’t swarm without drones.
Destroyed drone comb between the brood boxes after inspection. (May 05, 2012.)
If the bees have two or three solid frames of honey in every box — enough to prevent them from starving — and drone comb is present, then I stop feeding. I don’t feed my bees if they have enough honey on their own anyway, and unless it’s a weak colony, I don’t usually feed past May 31st either because there’s usually enough natural nectar sources available by then (in my local climate), especially in the city of St. John’s that is heavily populated by maple trees. I also check my hives at least every two weeks until the end of June to make sure the queen has room to lay. Most beekeeping (beyond feeding) can be summed up with that one sentence: Make sure the queen has room to lay.
Here’s a jar feeder full of recently extracted honey over the inner cover of a hive housing a weak colony. (I covered it with an empty deep afterwards.)
Raw honey from a jar feeder to help out a weak colony. (May 24, 2016.)
The bees have plenty of honey in the hive, but I wonder if liquid honey stimulates them more. I know most beekeepers say there’s no need to feed if the bees have enough honey in the hive, but I wonder if feeding — syrup or honey — stimulates the colony to build up quicker than just honey in the frames.
I noticed ants crawling all over and inside two of my hives today, so I surrounded the hives with cinnamon.
A sprinkle of cinnamon around a hive to keep the ants away. (May 22, 2016.)
I’ve read many times that cinnamon repels ants, though I’ve never seen it myself. I sprinkled some cinnamon around one of my hives a year or two ago, but then it rained, so I don’t know if it works. Whether it works or not, I’m not too concerned about the ants. I think it would take a biblical amount of ants to do significant damage to a hive full of bees. We’ll see.
The following is probably the most detailed video of a hive inspection that I’ve posted since the dawn of Mud Songs. For everyone who couldn’t attend the informal beekeeping workshop I was ready put on today, this video shows what you missed (or would have missed if I’d gone ahead with the workshop). It’s a 24-minute video, longer than my usual videos, because I left in the all the parts with me yammering on about what I’m doing — exactly the kind of yammering I’d do if I was giving a workshop.
Pretty much every beekeeper on the planet is telling me how much honey their bees are making and how many swarms they’ve managed to catch this year — while here in Newfoundland my bees are still waking up from winter. It’s an acute reminder that all beekeeping is local beekeeping.
Let’s compare the weather forecast where I live with the weather forecast in Iceland.
St. John’s, Newfoundland, weather forecast for May 16, 2016.
Considering the windchill factor, the average temperature in St. John’s for the next week is 7°C (45°F). The average amount of sunlight per day is 5.8 hours.
Reykjavik, Iceland weather forecast for May 16, 2016.
Considering the windchill factor, the average temperature in Reykjavik for the next week is 7°C (45°F), exactly the same as St. John’s. The average amount of sunlight per day is 6.8 hours, one hour more than St. John’s. Even Iceland, a place that’s named after ice, has more bee-friendly weather than St. John’s. Continue reading →