January 27th, 2011

Both of our honey bee colonies are clustering at the top of their hives, which can indicated they’re running low on honey. So, just to be safe, we’ve decided to cook up some candy to get them through the rest of the winter. Welcome to part 2 of The Candy Cake Trilogy: Making Candy Cakes. In part 1, The Recipe, we introduced the recipe that goes something like this: Boil 3 cups of water, gradually dissolve in 15 pounds of granulated, add some apple cider vinegar and pure vanilla extract (or spearmint or anise oil or another essential oil), let it get really hot, then let it cool and pour it into paper plates (or a candy board). Here’s a video of exactly how that worked out for us.

Here are the photos:
Read on . . . »

January 26th, 2011


The bees are clustering at the top of hives now, so it’s time to give them some candy cakes. Welcome to the The Candy Cake Trilogy, Part 1: The Recipe.

The honey bees in our two Langstroth hives were wrapped for winter about two months ago. It hasn’t been much of a winter so far, wet and soggy with temperatures hovering around freezing (0°C). Only in the past week or two have we had any kind snow accumulation, as can be seen in this photo I took earlier today (yeah, I know, my little backyard looks like a junk yard; it gets that way this time of year). Anyhoo, it’s still a relatively light sprinkling of snow and it doesn’t get much colder than -5°C (41°F). Both hives seemed heavy the last time I lifted them about two weeks ago, so they should have plenty of honey to get them through the rest of the winter. I wasn’t planning on feeding the bees again until near the end of February — pollen patties and then sugar syrup a few weeks later. But the colonies in both hives are clustering at the top now (as far as I can tell from watching this video from last week). Clustering at the top of the hive can indicate they’re running low on honey. So, as usual, I’m not sure what’s going on. I checked them again earlier today, shining a flash light in the upper entrance again, and this is what I found:
Read on . . . »

January 23rd, 2011

I’ve decided to pull the plug on the gardening portion of this website. Mud Songs used to be a simple gardening blog — until I got into beekeeping. I don’t have any interest in documenting our gardening adventures anymore. We dig up the soil, sprinkle in some lime and fertilizer, put seeds and seedlings in the ground, water them all summer long, and then we eat it all up. And it’s usually delicious. We still enjoy growing veggies and things in our tiny backyard and may still post a photo or two of all the green things and flowers blooming everywhere. I’m thankful for it, especially since it led me to discover beekeeping. But it’s just not on my mind anymore.

Read on . . . »

January 18th, 2011

UPDATE (March 02/11): See Adding Pollen Patties for a better view of a winter cluster.

Winter HiveThe weather has been mild and dank in St. John’s, Newfoundland, since November, but winter is shifting into a higher gear now. The winds are picking up and the temperatures are taking a dip. It was only about -5°C today, though the wind chill factor made it feel like -20°C. (American readers can convert that to the antiquated, nonsensical Fahrenheit scale by typing “-20 C in F” in Google. Get with the 21st century USA!) It was the first relative cold spell the bees have had to deal with this winter and I was curious how they would react. I’ve read contradictory stories about the behaviour of clustering bees over the winter. Some clusters start at the bottom of the hive and move up as winter progresses. Others move to the top only on really cold days when they can use the extra bit of heat that may rise to the top of the hive. And some clusters are all over the place. So I wanted to see what my bees were doing. And what I saw when I shone my flash light into the upper entrance was pretty darn cool, at least for a first-timer like me. It doesn’t matter how boring it is, if I haven’t seen it before, I’m thrilled. So here’s a boring video of something that thrilled me:
Read on . . . »

January 17th, 2011

I’m too busy with work and life to post much these days. I hope to post a review of an excellent book on honey bees soon, and I want to update several posts from this past year (I know significantly more now than I did then). I also need to order some pollen for late-winter / early spring feeding. Both of my colonies are still alive, but I’m not sure if they’ll need any feeding to get through the winter, which really hasn’t kicked in for us yet. It’s just now starting to get cold. Anyway, I took a few photos of some frozen bees in the ice and snow today. Check it out:

Read on . . . »

January 14th, 2011


Our two hives have been wrapped since November 21st, 2010. That’s about 50 days. We had a little snow near the end of November, but it’s been mild and damp ever since with temperatures averaging between -5° and 5°C (23 to 41°F). Then we got hit with about 40cm (or 16 inches) of wet snow last night. I doubt the bees have consumed much of their honey stores with those mild average temperatures, but I’ve been concerned about the moisture inside the hives. It’s been an exceptionally soggy winter so far.

It’s still too cold to inspect the hives, but blowing into the top entrances provides a simple way to see if the bees are still alive, and it doesn’t bother the whole colony. If all is well, only a few guard bees will buzz up to the top entrance to scare away my bad breath. Here’s the video:

A few guard bees don’t guarantee the whole colony is alive and well, but I’m going to take it as a good sign. All the snow is likely to melt within a week. After that, I’ll lift the hives to check their weight. If they’re light, I might have to give them some candy boards or paddies. If they’re still heavy with honey stores, I’ll leave them alone until mid-February. I’ll probably feed them some pollen paddies by March no matter what. We’ll see.

UPDATE (Jan. 18/11): It’s probably better to simply shine a flash light in the top entrance instead of blowing in it. Unless of course the cluster is in the bottom brood chamber. Then I guess blowing is more affective.

December 22nd, 2010

We began keeping bees in our small backyard in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on July 18th, 2010, with two small nuc boxes. We watched with wonder as each honey bee colony grew from about 10,000 bees on 3 deep frames to about 50,000 bees on 20 frames. Man, I can’t tell you how much I love it. I plan to keep honey bees for the rest of my life. We wrapped our hives for the winter on November 21st, and we will leave them untouched until late winter or early spring 2011. That’s all we can do for 2010. Our first 125 days of beekeeping looked something like this:

December 19th, 2010


I was looking at the video I made on October 25th of me removing the top hive feeders and installing some small inverted jar feeders as one last feeding for the bees before I wrapped them up for winter — and judging from the number of bees covering the bars of the top frames, I think Hive #1 (on the left) is considerably weaker than Hive #2 (on the right). Ideally, what we want to see before wrapping the hives for winter, is a carpet of bees like this (taken on August 14th of this year):
Read on . . . »

November 29th, 2010

I won’t have much to say about our adventures in beekeeping for the next couples months. What’s there to talk about? The bees are hunkered down in their hives at least until the new year. I may add a few photos to the Hives in Snow post to document the Newfoundland weather our hives have to contend with over the winter (though we usually don’t get any heavy snow until after the new year). I might write a review of a few beekeeping books if I have the time. Other than that, I don’t anticipate a great deal of beekeeping posts showing up on Mud Songs until February 2011.

On the left: July 18th, 2010. Our first hive started from a nuc box. On the right: November 23rd, 2010. Our second hive, with two deeps full of honey, wrapped for the winter.

I’ll probably feed the bees some pollen paddies near the end of February — if the bees aren’t dead. I will very likely feed both colonies some sugar syrup sometime in March to get the queen laying for spring. I’ll stop feeding them in April. We plan to start up another two hives from nucs next year, so when the weather warms up, I’ll start pounding together the frames and the supers for those hives.

November 22nd, 2010


Here’s a video of what we did yesterday. We didn’t record the entire hive wrapping process (stapling the felt to the hives) because it would have made for an even longer and boring video. However, this Long Lane Honey Bee Farms video demonstrates what’s involved in the actual wrapping. (He uses a spacer to cut down on condensation. We use upper insulation instead.) In our video you’ll see me pointing out everything we’ve done to prepare the hives for winter. It’s not the most exciting video, but actually seeing how something works or doesn’t work is usually more instructive than photos or descriptions. So here it is:


NOV. 11/14: I removed the video because I didn’t realize it showed me talking to the camera. I don’t post photos or videos that show my face anymore. It’s a privacy thing.

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