November 21st, 2010

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON DECEMBER 13, 2013.

We wrapped both of our hives for winter today and did pretty much what David Burns does in his How To Wrap Your Hive for Winter video / beekeeping lesson. (I’ll post our own video in a day or two.)

Here’s the low down on exactly how we wrapped and prepared each of our four-month-old double-deep Langstroth hives for winter:

1) Built and installed the world’s simplest, cheapest mouse-proof entrance reducer and made sure to check the hive for mice beforehand.

2) Flipped the inner cover to the winter position (with the flat side facing up) and placed a piece of hard insulation over it. The insulation has a R-7.5 rating, whatever that is. Apparently, R-5 or above will keep the condensation from forming in the hive. It looks like this before the top cover is added:

Read on . . . »

November 21st, 2010

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED. (I GOT MY ANSWER.)

I noticed two of these little grubs cocooned and burrowed in the insulation of one of my hives today. This photo shows a close up the grub after I cleared away the web-like cocoon. It’s about 2cm long.

Can anyone tell me if this is wax moth? I’m guessing it is. Second question: What can I do about it at this time of year? I just wrapped the hives for winter. I don’t plan on messing with them again until mid-February at the earliest.

I scraped away the grubs along with some earwigs. I’ve seen one or two of these grubs in the cracks of the outer cover a few times over the summer, though not in any kind of cocoon. I scraped them away immediately. I’ve never seen them inside the hive, though I haven’t done a full hive inspection since September.

As far as I can tell, the colony has been healthy and active with a strong population and plenty of winter stores. My feeling is the bees can handle it. I’d rather leave them alone. I welcome anyone’s advice. Thanks.

UPDATE (Nov. 22/10): I’ve had time to dig a little deeper and I got my answers. Yes, it’s a wax moth larva. And no, I shouldn’t have to worry about it at this time of year. From page 119 of The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum: “Once the outside temperature goes below 40°F (5°C), the temperature essentially halts all moth activity (but does not eliminate them), and your supers are safe for the winter, no matter where or how you store them, as long as it stays that cold.” That’s good enough for me. The colony is otherwise healthy and strong and will probably deal with any remaining moth larvae on its own in the spring. Had I noticed large number of wax moth cocoons and larvae in the hives during warmer weather, I would have had to freeze the effected frames for 48 hours to kill all remnants of the moth. We’ll cross that bridge if we ever get to it. Back to winter relaxing now.

November 18th, 2010

DEAD DRONE Resistance is futile.

Drone bees are kicked out of the hive before winter because they’re not essential to the winter survival of the colony. I was told not to be alarmed to find piles of dead drones outside the hive any time during the fall season. Plenty of drone pupae were discarded from the hive in September, but no large numbers of dead drones until today.

DEAD DRONE I take this to mean the bees are getting serious about winter now — and I better hurry up and wrap the hives before winter sets in. We have nothing but rain, wind and snow in the forecast for the next few days.

But I’ll get the wraps on as soon as we get a break in the weather.

(Yeah, I know, it’s not the most earth shaking news, but how exciting can beekeeping get this time of year?)

November 17th, 2010

I ordered some beekeeping books based on recommendations from various beekeeping forums — and I’m looking for other recommendations if anyone has any. Here’s a photo of the first batch of books that just arrived:

I’ll do a separate write-up for each of these books after I’ve read them. From left to right, the books are:

The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, by A.I. Root and E.R. Root — Originally published in 1877, followed by several revised editions, this is basically a 700-page beekeeping encyclopaedia. I have the 1947 edition. Other books with exactly the same title made shopping for it a bit frustrating. I chose this edition because it was the most affordable ($35 Canadian). I guess it’s good to have around.

The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden (Revised and Updated), by Kim Flottum — Detailed instructive photographs make all the difference when it comes to beekeeping guide books (and websites), and this book is packed with them. I’ve only skimmed and read bits and pieces of it, but it seems to cover all the bases. I can tell already it’s a good buy. I plan to read it before any of the others. ($20 Canadian.)

Fifty Years Among the Bees, by C. C. Miller — Originally published in 1915, everyone says I should read it because it’s still informative (most beekeeping knowledge doesn’t get old) and it just a good read. ($15 Canadian.)

First Lessons in Beekeeping, by C. P. Dadant — Originally published in 1934, it’s another classic everyone says I have to read, so I’m going to read it sometime over this winter with the rest of these books. ($10 Canadian.)

Has anyone read any books I should add to my list?

UPDATE (Dec. 21/10): I added “Bee Behaviour” to the related topics of this of this post because of some informative comments (and responses) about the behaviour of certain breeds of honey bees, which helped explain some of the behaviour of our bees.

November 3rd, 2010

Here’s what I see at this moment.

WINTER HIVE It’s time to wrap the hives.

NOTE (Nov. 15/10): I’ve been busy with work, life and house renovations (the latter being the worst of the bunch). I still haven’t wrapped my hives, but when I do, I’ll probably follow this lesson from Long Lang Honey Bee Farms.

By the way, I highly recommend their online beekeeping lessons to anyone who wants to get into beekeeping.

By the way #2: The Mud Songs sidebar links to other online beekeeping resources that have helped me along the way. They’re all worth checking out.

More later when I have a chance to come up for air.

November 1st, 2010

This may be the last video I post of our hives this year before we wrap them in tar paper for the winter. It’s not much, about a minute long, just a few quick clips from the last time the bees were active. The first few clips show Hive #2 with a small inverted jar of syrup over the inner cover hole, the inner cover having already been flipped to the winter position. The last couple clips show Hive #1 with a larger-than-normal number of drones pouring out the mouse-proof winter entrance reducer. I thought all the drones would have been booted out of the hive long before now, but I guess not.

October 26th, 2010

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON DEC. 19, 2010.

It’s cold all the time now. It rarely gets above 10° C (or 50° F). Hive #1 has been slow-moving since September and Hive #2 went into a low gear this past week. Neither hive is taking much syrup from the hive top feeders, so I decided to remove them and replace them with inverted jar feeders, which the bees can feed from without breaking cluster or losing too much heat. One 500ml jar will probably do them for another week, maybe two, before I finally wrap up the hives for winter. Here’s a silly video showing the whole procedure.


Read on . . . »

October 24th, 2010

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

I added a hive top feeder to Hive #2 ten days ago. Many bees lost their lives to the siren song of the sugar syrup. But a few hundred dead bees won’t kill the hive.

I’ll remove the top hive feeders from both hives in a few days and replace them with inverted jar feeders for another week before I wrap up the hives for winter. As Robo says, “The bees can cluster right up to the bottom of the [inverted jar] feeder and continue to feed without breaking cluster.” Not having to break cluster at this time of the year doesn’t hurt (it rarely gets above 10° C these days). The next time I use the hive top feeders (late winter, early spring), I’ll add some straw or cork for the bees to float on so not as many drown. I’ll probably add screens to the reservoirs to keep wasps out too. Anyway, here’s a short video of the drowned bees:
Read on . . . »

October 23rd, 2010

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE IT WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED.

I picked a drone honey bee off the top a hive this morning. It rained last night and the drone was stuck upside-down in a blob of water. So I brought him inside to dry off. Then I took him back out to hive where he’ll probably die before the end of the day. It’s not the best time of the year to be a drone.

So, kids, can you tell me what makes the drone bee different from other bees in the hive?

UPDATE (Dec. 22/10): I recently learned through a comment that our bees are a hybrid of Italians, Russians and Carniolans. Carniolans produce large drones with all-black abdomens, which is apparent in our drones.

PREFACE (Nov. 01/14): I should delete this post because I don’t use these mouse-proof entrance reducers anymore. I switched to mesh during my second winter and have never looked backed.

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE IT WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED.

Here’s the short version: Take a piece of wood the size of a regular entrance reducer (15 inches / 38.1 cm long). Cut a notch in it that’s at least 1 cm high and 6 cm long (1 cm = approx. 3/8 inch). Drive thin nails in a row inside the notch so there’s 1 cm of space between them. The nails should look like prison bars. The holes in a regular mouse-proof entrance are slightly less than a centimetre wide, so as long as the space between the nails is no wider than a centimetre, this should do the trick. Just make sure to brace it in place with something heavy or nail it down. It doesn’t get any cheaper or simpler. I haven’t tested the design yet, but I’ll update this post in the spring of 2011 and let you know if any mice got in the hives. I think it’ll work just fine. (See also Winter Mouse-Proof Mesh.)

It went up to 14° Celsius in the backyard today (that’s 57° F in Non-Metricland). I have a wireless thermometer set up under one of the hives. 15° during the summer was the magic number that got all the foragers and young bees out of the hive. But the magic number has been 10° since mid-September. The bees in both hives were out in full force. The backyard sounded like one big buzz. Check out how crowded the bees were before I opened their entrances all the way (I’ll post a quick video of it later on in the comments).

While I was out there enjoying the brief blast of warm of air, I decided to build my mouse-proof winter entrance reducers for both hives. That’s one piece of beekeeping equipment that falls well within my limited carpentry abilities.
Read on . . . »

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