September 4th, 2010


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.


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 . . . »

August 24th, 2010

I checked out the bees while I was home for lunch today. The sun was shining and it was 19 degrees Celsius in the backyard. I’ve never seen so many bees outside Hive #1. I could smell the honey, or the pheromones from the bees, from a distance. I could hear them from a distance too. Here’s a quick video:


I assume they’re just really healthy bees and not bees getting ready to swarm.

August 23rd, 2010


We plan to install these frame feeders as soon as possible. They arrived today from The feeders have bee ladders (photo): tubes of plastic mesh the bees crawl down as a way of drinking the syrup without drowning in it. The feeders hold 7 litres of syrup and take up the space of two frames in the brood chamber. (2 litres = 1.85 gallons.)

Our Boardman feeders attract ants, wasps and even big ugly slugs. (The Boardman feeders also encourage robbing at times from other bees.) It’s not a problem for Hive #1 because their numbers are so high. But Hive #2 is weaker and having wasps around probably doesn’t help.

Not having to poke around the hives as much may be another advantage of switching to frame feeders. Hive #1 sucks up about a litre of syrup from the Boardman feeder every three days. If the bees continue at that pace, it could take them up to three weeks to empty 7 litres from the frame feeder, though we’ll likely refill it every two weeks after regular inspections regardless. (UPDATE: The bees drink much faster from the frame feeders.)
Read on . . . »

August 22nd, 2010

We have two honey bee colonies in our backyard, both started from nuc boxes 35 days ago and housed in Langstroth hives. Hive #1 has been fed a water-sugar mixture just about every day (with some honey mixed in for the first three weeks). We added a second brood box a week ago because 9 of the 10 frames in the hive were partially or fully drawn out — the colony was ready to expand.

Hive #2 wasn’t fed until the second week, but for the past week has had two Boardman feeders installed. It doesn’t get as much late-afternoon sun as Hive #1, and the last time we checked a couple days ago, only seven, maybe eight frames had partially or fully drawn out comb on them. (We also pulled a huge ugly slug from the bottom of the hive the same day.)

Those are the differences between Hive #1 and Hive #2. Here’s a quick video I shot today that illustrates the differences:

Read on . . . »

August 21st, 2010

The foundationless frames are working. YES! This is what it’s all about. This was the big moment of truth — and the bees did it. They had no problem building comb from foundationless frames. I’ll quote myself on this:

NATURAL COMB“Foundationless frames have nothing but a little strip of plastic or wood near the top called a starter strip. The bees hang off the [beeswax-coated] starter strip and construct their comb like they would in nature, creating cells the size they want them to be, not the size that’s imposed on them by following the pattern on a plastic foundation.” It’s argued that a colony is generally healthier when the honey bees are allowed to build comb as they would in nature — and this is about as close as it gets in a Langstroth hive. It’s the Backwards Beekeeping approach and it’s what got me hooked on beekeeping long before I had any bees. I just wasn’t sure it was even possible in the cold climate of Newfoundland. But now that I see evidence it can work, I’m inspired. I love it. These honey bees are incredible. Here’s how it played out:
Read on . . . »

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