July 25th, 2012

For anyone who didn’t get the memo, I’m on vacation from the intertubes until sometime in the fall. I’m thinking about turning Mud Songs into an off-season website, anyway, something I poke around with during the winter when I have more time on my hands. About 95% of the daily visitors to Mud Songs read items I published more than six months ago. That means most of the useful content is not time-sensitive. So it can wait. I’ll swing by again sometime in September, October, maybe November, to report on my summer of beekeeping. I’ll still be around to read and respond to comments. I just won’t be posting anything new for a while. Have a good summer.

July 21st, 2012

One of the mated queens we bought and installed two weeks ago is a dud. We didn’t see any sign that she was laying last week, and we didn’t see anything today. So we removed her from the hive and combined her colony with another colony that has a strong queen. We combined them by following the standard newspaper method. Here’s what it looks like:

P.S.: I’ve decided to take a break from Mud Songs because I have difficultly finding the time for it these days. I don’t plan to post anything again until sometime in the fall when most of the beekeeping is done for the year.

July 18th, 2012

We recently added three mated queens to some of our hives and splits. Here’s a quick video of us checking to see if a queen was released from her cage. The video ends with us looking at some foundationless frames in a honey super.

I didn’t post a video or photos of the actual requeening because we posted an instructive video of a requeening last year. You can watch it on YouTube if you like and then follow the link back to Mud Songs to read the original post for more detailed info. Here’s a semi-short story about requeening, Part 1: The candy plug in one of our queen cages was rock solid and the bees hadn’t eaten through it five days later when we checked on it, not even close. To prevent that from happening, we might spray the candy plug with some water before we install the next queen cage. I’m not sure if that’s recommended by the experts, but we rarely get consistent advice from the experts, anyway, so we’ll probably do it. Part 2: We’ve been told that the attendant bees should be removed from the queen cage before the cage is installed. Supposedly in the commotion of being introduced, the attendant bees can get over excited and inadvertently sting or harm the queen. We’ve also been told not to worry about the attendant bees and just leave them in the cage with the queen. So that’s what we did and everything turned out fine.

P.S. (July 19/12): We might not spray the candy plug after all. Read the comments for more details.

July 16th, 2012

Our favourite way to eat comb honey:

July 16th, 2012

Our honey bee hives now reside on an organic farm in St. Philip’s, Newfoundland, about a 25-minute drive from where we live in St. John’s. Here they are on the edge of a cornfield:

Here’s a closer less old timey view:
Read on . . . »

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH A POSTSCRIPT SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

We spotted three, maybe four queens during our hive inspections today, but we only managed to get two of them on video and in focus.

P.S. (July 15/12): Apparently a queen’s abdomen becomes more elongated once she begins laying well. The length of her abdomen can be gauged by the distance between the tips of her wings and the tip of her abdomen. If it’s at least a third of the queen’s length, she’s rocking. The first queen in the video is laying well. The second queen in the video, introduced fives days earlier, hasn’t hit her stride yet. Compared to the first queen, her abdomen is barely protruding out from her under her wings. Her abdomen hasn’t become elongated yet. We found only a few freshly laid eggs in the hive. So it makes sense. I constantly hear contradictory information from beekeepers about everything, but what I’ve been told about queens in this regard seems to be true so far.

UPDATE (Oct. 25/12): The second queen with the small abdomen (that cost us $35) never hit her stride. She was a dud. If she laid eggs, even after a month, it was only a dozen or so a day. Instead of watching the colony slowly dwindle away, we got rid of the queen, split the hive and combined it with two nucs we’d just started up.

July 14th, 2012

We managed to get two almost-in-focus photos of a honey bee excreting wax today:

The bee will pull away the wax with its back legs and use its mouth to shape the wax into comb.

At least that’s what a little birdie told me.

July 10th, 2012

Here’s a photo of some of our hives at their new location on an organic farm about a half hour drive outside of St. John’s:

The photo was taken from inside the woods where we set up one of two new baby hives (splits) looking a bit like this:
Read on . . . »

July 10th, 2012

Uuuuuuuuh. I have a serious case of beekeeping burnout. One of our hives swarmed about seven weeks ago; one of our neighbours had a bad experience with our bees; we subsequently trucked our hives out to a farm thirty minutes outside the city; we’ve had to borrow a vehicle once a week to attend to the bees for the past four weekends; we caught a swarm out on the farm (okay, that wasn’t too bad); we’ve had to take swarm prevention measures with monster hives growing out of control every weekend for the past month (okay, that was pretty bad); and yesterday we had to requeen a hive and tear down some monster hives to make splits. Uuuuuuuh. This is my favourite photo from yesterday because it accurately captures my state of mind:

Yesterday wasn’t horrible, but it was a long, long day. I am so tired.

We have to check out the bees next weekend and they better damn well be great. We plan to load them up with more honey supers and leave them alone for two weeks after that while the honey flows are shifting into high gear, and then we’ll come back from our vacation from the bees and steal their honey. And don’t anyone try to tell me, “You shouldn’t leave the hives alone during a honey flow because the queens could get honeybound…” — blah, blah blah. I don’t want to hear it.

July 3rd, 2012

I took a brief peek at one of our monster hives with honey supers on it yesterday and found several frames well on their way to being filled with honey. I know some experienced beekeepers discourage new beekeepers from going foundationless in their honey supers because the chances of success are less, but we can’t help ourselves. We love it when the bees build natural comb like this:

Our honey supers have a combination of foundationless frames, frames of drawn comb from last year (with and without foundation), and frames with untouched foundation.

Apparently the bees are attracted to the smell of drawn comb. That gets them to work in the honey supers. We put foundationless frames between the frames of drawn comb because the bees are generally compelled to fill in empty space. Our methods may not maximize honey production, but the maximizing approach can take the fun out of beekeeping. That’s not our game. And it’s hard to argue with results like this:

Read on . . . »

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