Chicken Waterer for Honey Bees

I set up a bowl full of marbles to provide water for my bees last year. It’s very pretty and it works, but I’ve recently switched to using a chicken waterer instead:

Honey bees drinking from a chicken waterer. (July 14, 2016.)

Honey bees drinking from a chicken waterer. (July 14, 2016.)

The bowl full of marbles isn’t difficult to maintain, but the I prefer the chicken waterer because, for me, it’s more practical.

Postscript (10 days later): Now that we’re at Newfoundland’s height of summer (I guess), the bees are on the chicken waterer all the time and seem to suck down about a litre of water every two days. At any rate, that’s how often I refill the Mason jar. A larger bucket-sized chicken waterer would probably work too.

Why I Have Pollen in My Honey Super

I found several frames of pollen in the honey super of one of my hives today.

One of several medium frames full of pollen in a honey super. (July 09, 2016.)

One of several medium frames full of pollen in a honey super. (July 09, 2016.) Click the image for a better view.

The last time I found pollen in the honey super was two summers ago and it happened with what I used to call my nasty hive, a hive packed with the most defensive, meanest bees in Newfoundland. Everything about that hive was a headache, so I just assumed pollen in the honey super was a symptom of mentally deranged bees. That colony eventually died and I was more than happy to see it go. So when I found the frames of pollen today, I thought, “What the hell?”

Medium frame in "honey super" full of pollen. (July 09, 2016.)

Medium frame in “honey super” full of pollen. (July 09, 2016.)

At first I thought, “Okay, I’ve got another crazy colony on my hands.” Which seems to fit because the bees in this colony are, unfortunately, related to Old Nasty. Their queen mated with drones from the nasty hive. But that’s just speculation, me making up some stuff that sounds like it could be true but probably isn’t when you get right down to it.

So I did a little more poking around the oracle we call the Internet and asked a few beekeeping friends of mine if they’ve seen this before. And they have. After shooting some emails back and forth and thinking it over, I’ve come to the following explanation:

The bees are filling the honey super with pollen because they don’t have enough brood to eat up all the pollen that’s coming in.
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Ants Around Beehives, a temporary pest?

I noticed ants all over my beehives starting around mid-May. I used a cinnamon barrier to keep them out of my hives, though I’m not sure how well it worked. I still see a few ants here and there, but overall they don’t seem to be as thick. In fact, I hardly ever see them anymore.

Close up of a formica ant, a red ant that bits and shoots formic acid from its. It's not the kind of ant that I have around my hives, but it's the only photo of an ant that I have on record, so there you go, an ant.

Close up of two formica ants, red ants that bite and shoot formic acid from their butts. They’re not the kind of ants I have around my hives, but this is the only photo of ants that I have on record, so there you go, some ants.

Perhaps the cold weather has them hiding underground (we’ve had frost warnings for the past few nights), but I think I noticed this last year too. The ants were bad for a while (black ants, not red ants) and then they more or less disappeared.

I’ll keep a note of this for next year and see if it holds true, that the ants show up sometime in May and are gone by July, and are never really a major pest.

AUGUST 04, 2016: My beeyard is surrounded by huge ant colonies (blank ants, not red ants), and they’re not an issue with my bees. Like I said, the ants seemed to cover most of my hives in May but were gone, for the most part, by July. I still see them walking around, picking up pieces of comb or pollen and other debris, but only a small handful here and there. Nothing epidemic. Other than putting out some cinnamon, which didn’t create an unbroken barrier, I didn’t do anything to get rid of the ants. No poison or traps or any of that. It’s probably fair to say I’ve never had a major ant problem. If I did, I’d probably build hive stands with oil motes or sticky tape around the legs. It would take a hell of an ant problem to motivate me to go that far, though.

B.O. Flavoured Honey from Queen Anne’s Lace

I see the weed commonly known as Queen Anne’s Lace growing abundantly along the sides of roads and in country fields where I live, and I’ve always wondered if honey bees are attracted to its nectar.

Queen Anne's Lace (July 04, 2016.)

Queen Anne’s Lace (July 04, 2016.)

A little bit of online research tells me nope, they’re not too keen on it. I also read on a couple of beekeeping forums that when the bees do get desperate enough to collect nectar from Queen Anne’s Lace (also known as wild carrot), the resulting honey takes on a distinct aroma of body odour.

I can’t confirm this from my own experience. Nevertheless, I’ll file this one under Stuff That’s Good To Know.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Lupins

Lupins (also called lupines), like many summer flowers in Newfoundland, show up suddenly after the first heatwave of the summer. (Anything over 20°C / 68°F qualifies as a heatwave in Newfoundland.)

Lupins. (July 04, 2016.)

Lupins. (July 04, 2016.) Click the image for a prettier enlarged view.

Lupins, which grow mostly on the sides of highways and country roads in large numbers, appeared about two weeks ago during our first (and probably last) heatwave of the summer. I’ve been sitting around in fields of lupins for the past week and haven’t seen a single honey bee go anywhere near them — or any kind of bee for that matter — so I’ve been hesitant to add lupins to my Honey Bee Forage list.

Lupins. (July 04, 2016.)

Lupins. (July 04, 2016.)

But a little Googly action shows loads of photos of honey bees on lupins. That’s good enough for me.

More pollination information on lupins from pollinator.ca: “In some species, honey bees may not be able to trip or open large early flowers, but can do so with smaller flowers later in the season. For large, early flowers, larger bees may be required.”

Also: “Honey bees will readily work lupine, and placing commercial honey bees on the fields produces a highly marketable honey.”

JULY 16, 2016: Found one!

Out of focus honey bee on Lupins. (July 16, 2016.)

Out of focus honey bee on Lupins in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (July 16, 2016.)

Infrared Recording of a Beehive (Testing 1-2-3)

Here’s a low-rez infrared video of one of my beehives recorded through my “Flir One for Android” device connected to my Samsung Galaxy s7 smartphone.

Like most electronic beekeeping gadgets, it’s not for beekeepers on a budget and it isn’t really necessary. This is only a test recording. I’ll post more about it probably sometime in the winter, if I find a practical use for it.

flir-2016-07-03 12.25.27

All the photos and videos from the Flir One are low resolution, but it doesn’t matter.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Colts Foot

Another yellow flower that seems to appear as the last of the dandelions are going to seed: Colts Foot, also known as Tussilgo.

Field of yellow flowers, possibly Colts Foot? (July 1st, 2016.)

Field of yellow flowers, possibly Colts Foot? (July 1st, 2016.)

Again, I don’t have a photo of a honey bees on them (yet), but I’ve seen honey bees on them enough times to know I can add them to my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage List.

By the way, I see Colts Foot well into the fall. It’s possible I’ve confused something else for Colts Foot.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Buttercups

Buttercups have been in bloom around these here parts for the past couple weeks (before that the weather was cold and miserable most of the time).

Buttercup in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland (June 28, 2016.)

Buttercup in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland (June 28, 2016.)

I’ve never seen a honey bee on a buttercup, but I know they go for buttercups, so I’ve added buttercups, or Ranunculus, to my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage list.

Buttercup in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland (June 28, 2016.)

Buttercup in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland (June 28, 2016.)

Lemongrass Oil as a Swarm Lure

I’ve heard for a long time that lemongrass oil is an excellent swarm lure. A few drops inside a swarm box full of old drone comb and the bees will be all over it.

Food grade lemongrass oil and other essential oils are used for mixing with pollen patties and syrup. NOTE: The lemongrass oil pictured here is not food grade, but the bees aren't eating it, so that's not a problem.

The lemongrass oil pictured here is not food grade quality, but that’s not a problem because the bees aren’t eating it.

So I went ahead and got myself some lemongrass oil ($5 at my local Bulk Barn), sprinkled five or six drops of it on some old comb (drone comb, comb with patches of honey, etc.) and set up a few swarm boxes. And within hours the bees were all over them.

Honey bees attracted by lemon grass oil. (June 15, 2016.)

Honey bees attracted by lemon grass oil. (June 15, 2016.)


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When I Add Honey Supers… sort of

Another one of my beekeeping Gmail reminders came in a few days ago and it goes a-something like this:

Add medium honey supers soon if they’re not already on and note that if the bees haven’t filled a super by the end of July like this…

IMG_0383-thick-comb

…then you might as well remove the honey supers before August and let the bees make winter honey stores for themselves.

That’s a general reminder for me in my local climate. It assumes the colony is in good shape and the weather hasn’t been total garbage.

Again, this reminder is based on my experience with keeping bees in and around St. John’s, Newfoundland, since 2010. My honey bee colonies usually live in 2 to 3 deep Langstroth hives and my honey supers contain fully drawn out comb on plastic foundation. I put a queen excluder beneath the honey super. I might insert blank frames for making comb honey once the nectar flow kicks into high gear. If I only had frames with bare foundation, I would leave the excluder off until the bees had drawn out the comb. But however it goes down, my honey supers are usually on by June 15th at the latest. The population inside the hive is usually rising fast by then and the first significant nectar flows have the bees working fast and furious at making honey.

This isn’t an exact how-to post about adding honey supers. It’s more a reminder for myself that it’s about time to put on the honey supers. I’ve had a honey super on one of my hives since the beginning of June. I added a honey super to another hive about a week ago. I rely mostly on experience, not an exact date (there are no exact dates for anything in beekeeping). I can usually tell when the hives are getting crowded, when a large amount of capped brood is about to emerge, when the bees need the extra space provided by honey supers, when a nectar flow is about to start up — any or all of those conditions and I add a honey super. I’d probably have greater success if I had an exact formula (this much capped brood + that many empty frames + this much honey, etc.), but my brain doesn’t like to do that kind of thing. I go with my gut most of the time. Though I usually don’t wait much longer than mid-June to add the honey supers where I live.