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:


THE 480p HIGHER DEFINITION SETTING MAY PROVIDE SMOOTHER PLAYBACK.

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

August 23rd, 2010

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON AUG. 27, 2011.

We plan to install these frame feeders as soon as possible. They arrived today from beemaidbeestore.com. 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:


THE 480p HIGHER DEFINITION SETTING MAY PROVIDE SMOOTHER PLAYBACK.
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 . . . »

August 18th, 2010

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

One of the first things I noticed about our honeybees is how they line up in front of the hive, hold their ground and beat their wings to cool the hive (detailed photos). (I assume that’s what they’re up to.) I usually see 3 or 4 bees in a row, but today I saw about 6 of them forming one long line from the edge of the bottom board going right into the hive. I suppose you have to hang around bees for while to get excited about this. At any rate, I grabbed the camera and managed to record about a minute of it. The line wasn’t as straight and unbroken by the time I hit the RECORD button, but still, bees are cool…


THE 480p SETTING MAY PROVIDE SMOOTHER PLAYBACK.

UPDATE (Jan. 24/11): They are ventilating the hive either to help regulate the temperature inside the hive so the developing brood don’t overheat, or they’re trying to create an air current to evaporate nectar into honey, or both. They’re also likely releasing the Nasonov pheromone which helps foraging bees orient themselves to the hive.

August 17th, 2010

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED, WITH A VIDEO, ON JUNE 05, 2014.

I got an email from someone who noticed our cats in a few photos. They asked, “How well do your cats get along with your honeybees?” The short answer is: it’s not a problem.

We have two cats, a young cat and an older cat. The older cat, Nigel, is so completely laid back, it’s absurd. He doesn’t even notice the bees, and so far the bees haven’t taken much notice of him either.

The younger cat, Winston (seen in the photo), will chase after anything that flies. He approached the bees cautiously when he first saw them. Then he got bolder and sat in front of a hive entrance one day and tried to catch a few bees — and got stung in the face. He didn’t make any noise when he got stung, but ran away and tried rubbing the sting off with his paws. A couple minutes later he was back to normal and hasn’t tried to catch a bee since. He will notice bees crawling on the ground once in a while, but even then he’ll just sit there and look. Cats learn fast.

UPDATE (Nov. 25/10): Nigel eventually got stung in the face and freaked out. He didn’t know what to do or where to go. He ran in circles, didn’t watch where he was going and banged into the fence, and eventually ran for the back door and we let him in the house. Now whenever he sees a bee, he runs away scared.

Our other cat, Winston, continues to keep a respective distance from the bees. As seen in this photo, he gets very close to the hives at times, but seems totally at ease around them.

June 06/14: A video of one of our other cats chillin’ with the bees.

August 16th, 2010

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE IT WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED.

I found some dead baby bees outside Hive #1 today, and now I’m thinking I may have made a mistake when I added the second brood chamber over the weekend.

Sad looking, isn’t it?

The forecast called for sunshine today, but the sun did not come out.

It was cold and wet all day, not a good day for bees, especially after I split up the brood nest the day before — and that’s probably what I should not have done.

Read on . . . »

August 16th, 2010

Here’s a video of Jenny and me inspecting Hive #1 two days ago, scraping some honey off the frames and adding a second brood chamber.


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The editing isn’t the greatest because I asked our friend, Vanessa, who was shooting the video, to take some photos during the video as well. I read in the manual that my camera can integrate photos while still rolling on video. But it didn’t work like I thought it would, so I had to cut out most of the integrated photos. It’s a choppy edit. Details on expanding the hive were posted yesterday in the Adding a Second Brood Chamber post.

UPDATE (Sept. 17/10): Just for my own records, we added the second brood box to Hive #2 around August 28, 2010, about two weeks after Hive #1.

Related posts: Dead Baby Bees and Foundationless Frames.

August 15th, 2010

THE FOLLOWING AS BEEN UPDATED SINCE IT WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED.

Another long post packed with photos…

We added a second brood chamber (or deep body or brood box) to Hive #1 yesterday. As far as I can tell, it went well. The bees were extremely calm being misted with sugar water, way less agitated than when we’ve used the smoker on them. All the frames had drawn out comb except one. We put about half the drawn frames in the new box on top with empty foundation frames between them. We installed 4 foundationless frames in the original box, placing them between drawn out frames. The honey and the brood seemed mixed together on the frames, so there were no all-brood frames or all-honey frames. There was brood in just about every frame we inspected. We saw some honeycomb hanging off the bottom of one frame, but no swarm cells. Hive #1 appears to be doing great. We’ll see how the colony adjusts to the new box and having all their drawn out frames spaced out. The big experiment is the foundationless frames in the bottom box.

Here’s a shot of the bees after we removed a few frames from the hive:

I’ll upload some video of the procedure soon. (UPDATE: The video is posted.) Until then, allow me to present a big load of photos and descriptions of what we did. (The full series of photos can be view on my Picasa page.)
Read on . . . »

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