September 20th, 2010

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED MORE THAN ONCE SINCE IT WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED.

This is pretty much what both of my hives look like at this moment (5:00pm, Sept. 20):

Think I should go out and add a concrete block to each of those outer covers? (UPDATE: Bad shelter design. Not a good idea to block the normal flight path to the entrance.)

When I started up my hives 64 days ago, I made sure the bottom boards were raised a little so any rain that got inside would pour out the entrance. But I’ve noticed with some crazy wind and rain we’ve had recently that the rain has been pooling a bit too thick near the entrances. And now we’ve got a hurricane coming that’s being described like this:

“If the worst case scenario pans out [UPDATE: it's happening], and the storm tracks just east of the Avalon, winds could gust to near 150 km/h across the Bonavista and Avalon Peninsulas [where I live]. This would do significant damage and would cause widespread power outages… Rainfall amounts between 50 and 150 millimetres are expected by Tuesday evening [24 hours from now] with the highest amounts expected over the Burin and Avalon peninsulas [that's me!]. This is a warning that significant rainfall is expected in these regions.”

I can’t angle the bottom boards any more than they already are without pulling the hives apart, so as a temporary measure, I’ve placed boards over the entrances to keep the wind and rain out. You can’t tell from the photos, but the rain is already pouring down fast. The bees are hunkered down. I plan to keep the boards over the entrances until the hurricane has passed.

The next 24 hours are going to be fun.
Read on . . . »

This is a response to a comment about foundationless and natural beekeeping left by Sam a few days ago.

The natural habitat for honey bees is a tropical climate inside a hollow log, so there’s only so much we can do to emulate those conditions. Still, if we’re going to keep bees, the foundationless methods seem to interfere the least with their natural behaviour. (Nov. 20/10 update: See the Backwards is The New Forwards video for more info on the benefits of foundationless frames.) It’s a backwards approach compared to conventional beekeeping, but it seems better for the bees and I like it. (Basically, it’s the kind of beekeeping Michael Bush does.)

A 2-week-old Newfoundland foundationless honeycomb (August 28, 2010).

At this point in the game, though, I’m not sure how well backwards beekeeping will play out in Newfoundland’s cold, wet, east coast climate.
Read on . . . »

September 16th, 2010

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON JAN. 24, 2011.

I’m not so worried about all the dead drone larvae pupae I found outside one of our hives for the past two days. It was spooky and gross and unnerving, but it’s much less alarming now that I know what’s most likely going on.

We introduced some foundationless frames to our hives when we added the second brood box. The results were fantastic. Fully-drawn comb full of honey. Beautiful. What we didn’t know is that bees that haven’t drawn natural comb before, will start off building drone comb, as shown in the above photo taken earlier today during a full hive inspection. We found two foundationless frames with large clusters of drone cells, and on at least one frame, most of the drone cells appeared to be recently emptied.
Read on . . . »

September 15th, 2010

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON FEB. 12, 2011.

DRONE BEEIt’s normal for a colony of honey bees to discard all the male drone bees before winter kicks in. Quoting myself: “Drones are male bees whose only purpose is to mate once with a queen. If they don’t mate, they just hang around the hive and get fed. All the drones are kicked out of the hive to freeze to death as winter kicks in because they’re useless over the winter.”

I knew I would eventually see a large number of dead drones outside the hive once the weather began to cool off. But I didn’t expect to see anything like this…

WARNING: The rest of the photos in this post are not pretty. They’re kind of gross.
Read on . . . »

September 4th, 2010

UPDATE: DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME. IT’S NOT THE GREATEST DESIGN FOR A FEEDER.

We installed 7-litre frame feeders in our hives over the past few weeks. The feeders take up the space of two frames inside the brood box and the bees go to town on the syrup faster than they ever did with the Boardman feeders, probably because about ten times more bees can get at the syrup. We like the frame feeders for that reason and because they only require re-filling every ten days or so, and they don’t seem to attract as many wasps as Boardman feeders. (Ants are another story.) The only downside to a frame feeder this large is that is doesn’t leave any wiggle room for the remaining eight frames. I had to use the frame gripper for the first time today because I couldn’t slide the frames to loosen them.

We decided to remove the feeder from Hive #1 today because the bees have filled all the frames and they need the extra two frames of space the feeder was taking up.
Read on . . . »

September 2nd, 2010

A close-up of some bees hanging off the bottom of a frame last week:

Look at the bee just right of the middle doing the splits. Ouch. I suppose this behaviour is a variation of festooning.

Drawn and partially-drawn comb look much prettier on foundationless frames. Here’s what some partially-drawn comb looks like on a frame with black plastic foundation:

Here’s a half-drawn comb on a foundationless frame:

Now don’t tell me that ain’t way prettier.

UPDATE (Nov. 20/10): See the Backwards is The New Forwards video for more info on the benefits of foundationless frames.

September 2nd, 2010

I saw some of the bees feeding or cleaning each other in front of the hive today. I don’t know. But they were out in large numbers again, so I’m happy.

The bees haven’t been too active for the past week. I thought maybe I squished the queen during my last inspection. I usual, I don’t know. But the temperature went up and they were back to normal today. If we get a warm, dry September, I think both of my hives will have strong populations and plenty of honey stores for the winter.

UPDATE (Dec. 23/10): Most likely this is a forager coming back with nectar and transferring it to nursing bees who will feed it to the baby bees. Every bee has a specific duty at a certain time in its life cycle. Foragers only forage. Other bees take pollen and nectar from the foragers and store it or feed it to other bees.

UPDATE (Jan. 24/11): What we’re seeing in the video is called trophyllaxis.

August 29th, 2010

This is the first video we’ve posted that shows what it’s like to pull out frames full of bees — the real beekeeping deal for anyone who’s curious to see what it’s actually like. It’s a short video of our recent full inspection of Hive #1, showing off some natural foundationless honeycomb the bees built from scratch in 13 days.


THE 480p HIGHER DEFINITION SETTING MAY PROVIDE SMOOTHER PLAYBACK.

We included four foundationless frames in the hive when we added a second brood box. Two of the foundationless frames were fully-drawn and filled with honey and brood within 13 days. One frame was more than half-filled. The fourth frame, on the outer edge of the box, showed the beginning of some natural comb. Not bad.

Thirteen days ago, we added a second brood box to one of our young honey bee hives and included four foundationless frames as an experiment in backwards beekeeping. Six days later, we took a quick peek at one of those foundationless frames and found this:

Today, we took another look at that same foundationless frame — and look at it now:

But that’s nothing. Check this out:
Read on . . . »

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