Discovering a Leaky Winter Hive

It went up to 2°C today and a few bees were flying around, so I quickly opened each hive and gave them what I have decided is absolutely their last feeding for the winter. I got it all on video but was by myself and didn’t have time to take any careful photos. All I got was this — Hive #1 after adding another candy cake and another pound of pollen patties:

Hive #1 was crowded with bees on top (both of them were). It seemed to have plenty of sugar left, though not much pollen. Hive #2 wasn’t a pretty sight when I opened it up. I’ll talk about that after the video.
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Ah… Spring is in the Air

It’s springtime in Newfoundland. Can’t you tell?

Some browsers seem to flatten the aspect ratio on this video and I don’t know why and I don’t have the patience to try and fix it. View it on the YouTube page for accurate playback.

The last time I took a look at the bees through the top entrances, they were nowhere in sight. Normally I can see them inside walking around doing their thing, but this cold wind and snow seems to have driven them deep into the hive, probably protecting the brood from becoming chilled. I don’t know how they manage to stay alive. It’s possible both colonies could be dead by the time the weather warms up enough for them to forage and feed on their own.

Today is the third day of spring, but I call that false advertising.
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Hive #1 Coming Back to Life

The honey bee colony in Hive #1 came to life in the morning sun like gang busters today. It was 13­°C by 10 o’clock. I noticed activity near the bottom entrance — for the first time this year. I removed the entrance reducer to see if the extra air circulation would bring out more bees through the bottom. It did. The temperature reached nearly 15°C by 10:30 and the bees in Hive #2 began to fly around too, though not nearly as much as Hive #1. None of this may seem like a big deal, but for a first-year beekeeper, this is huge. The bees have survived the winter (so far). How do they do it?

Some browsers seem to flatten the aspect ratio on this video and I don’t know why and I don’t have the patience to try and fix it. View it on the YouTube page for accurate playback.

The temperature continued to rise, but the sun disappeared and the bees went back inside after about 90 minutes. I then put the entrance reducer back on. It was warmer than usual, but not warm enough to stay out all day and start any kind of major clean up. (I didn’t see them pulling out any of the thousands of dead winter bees piled up inside the hive.) They haven’t survived the winter yet, but any kind of activity like this — I take it as a good sign.

It’s interesting that the colony in Hive #1, the same colony that shut down dramatically in the fall, is the first colony to show signs of life as soon as the weather warms up. Their behaviour seems to make sense for bees that may have some Carniolans bred into them. As usual, I don’t really know.

Hand Crawling Bees Video

Here’s a quiet video of me picking up a couple bees in the snow and letting them crawl on my hands:

Some browsers seem to flatten the aspect ratio on this video and I don’t know why and I don’t have the patience to try and fix it. View it on the YouTube page for accurate playback.

I flicked the first bee away after it stuck its butt in the air. That’s not usually the sign of a relaxed bee. I put the second bee back in the hive. The last shot shows the field behind our shed that we would load up with hives if it wasn’t for neighbourhood vandals. Urban beekeeping has its challenges.

Book Review: “The Backyard Beekeeper”


I discovered beekeeping through the internet and it’s from the internet that I still get most of my practical information on beekeeping. The online beekeeping lessons from David Burns, for instance, are a staple for me. I devoured those lessons when I first discovered the Long Lane Honey Bee Farms website in early 2010. Mr. Burns could use an editor from time to time, but his lessons are so generous, it seems unfair to find any kind of fault with them. He adds new and relevant lessons on a regular basis and I do my best to keep up with them.

I also recently benefited from reading the Honey Bee Suite. I’ve read every post on the site. Illustrative photos are somewhat scarce (Update: Though not as scarce as they used to be), but the information is either based on solid science or practical experience or both. And that’s a hard combo to beat.

Next up is Michael Bush’s website, Beekeeping Naturally. Although the website isn’t well designed — and I don’t read it anymore because I don’t think he adds new content to it — the information and advice he provides is a great starting point for new beekeepers who aren’t attracted to conventional beekeeping methods and are aiming for something more sustainable, natural, organic — whatever you want to call foundationless beekeeping. He regularly chimes in on the Beesource Forums too. I like his down to earth attitude.

I can think of a few more excellent websites that are helpful to novice beekeepers (some are listed under “Beekeeping Info” in the side bar), but I think I managed to glean more practical advice from these three in the past 12 months than any others. They’ve been good to me.

But what about books?
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Piled Up Dead Winter Bees

It was 8°C in the backyard today. I thought it was time to remove the mouse-proof winter entrance reducers to see how many dead bees have been piling up inside the hives over the winter. Here’s the answer:

I took that photo 10 minutes ago, and it’s only a small taste. Here’s a slideshow that displays the whole gruesome mess:
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More Candy and Pollen

We put about 4 pounds of candy cakes in each hive on January 28th. Then a half-pound pollen patty on February 18th (with an extra candy cake in Hive #2). It went up to 5°C in the backyard today, blinding sun, no wind — the usual ripe conditions for adding candy cakes and pollen patties. So that’s what I did.

Exhibit A: Hive #1 after I smoked it and pried open the insulated inner cover. You can see they’ve been chowing down well on the 2-week-old pollen patty (half a pound) and the 1-month-old candy cakes (about a pound each).
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