July 23rd, 2013


Ever pull out some frames to discover the bees have built comb perpendicular to the frames and every which way? I have. It’s called cross-comb and it’s a mess. Here’s my first look at it from late July:

Cross-comb is usually the result of a hive that isn’t level, specifically when it’s tilted, even a little bit, to the left or the right. Bees follow the pull of gravity to build comb straight down. That’s pretty much what they’re up to when you see them festooning:

The bees don’t care about the frames or foundation inside the frames. If the frames or foundation happen to be parallel to the Earth’s gravitational pull, then the bees will build straight comb that fits conveniently on the frame just that way we humans like it. If not, the frames only get in the bees’ way and you end up with cross-comb.

That’s why the ideal positioning of a Langstroth hive is level from left to right — to prevent cross-comb — and slightly tilted up on the back so that any moisture that happens to collect inside the hive will pour out the front entrance and not pool inside the hive.

Bubble Level (Android app)ADDENDUM (April 05/14): I used to carry a carpenter’s bubble level with me whenever I set up a new hive (the hives can shift over winter as well, as I learned today), but these days I use a Bubble level app on my cell phone. (I happen to have an Android phone, but I’m sure similar apps are available for other types of smart phones or devices.) There are many free apps to choose from and, for me, I’d rather have an easy-to-use app already on my phone if it means I don’t have to carry around another piece of equipment when I’m tending to the bees.

May 26th, 2013

Honey bees have a tonne of behaviours that are fun to discover. One of the first things I noticed was the way they clamp on tight to a spot outside the hive entrance and beat their wings with everything they’ve got, a behaviour that’s commonly known as fanning (not to be confused with scenting). The fanning creates an air current inside the hive that helps evaporate nectar into honey and regulates the temperature of the brood nest. I took a few more photos today.

See How to Attract Honey Bees with a Leaky Hose to view a video of honey bees fanning, or do a search for “fanning.”
Read on . . . »

Here’s a short video that documents some common honey bee behaviour: Drinking from a leaky garden hose and fanning around the hive entrance.

Forget about planting flowers to attract honey bees. If you want to see honey bees up close, take a leaky garden hose and let it leak over a hard surface like rocks or concrete, or a stinky surface like composted soil. The bees love it, especially in the spring.

For a little more info, see my Honey Bees Fanning post. It also seems this isn’t the first time I’ve documented the bees collecting water: Macro Photos of Bees Drinking; Stinkin’ Dirt Never Tasted So Good; Why Honey Bees Drink Dirty Water; Plastic Flavoured Water and, from Honey Bee Suite, Love That Dirty Water.

P.S.: Notice how fearless my cat is around the bees. He knows how to keep his distance.

I had more jars of crystallized honey than I could eat or give away, so I gave it to the bees and they loved it.

They cleaned out every piece of honey from the jars. I eventually surrounded the inner cover hole with five or six jars of crystallized honey all at once and it worked perfectly as a spring feeding.

I have an idea to make patties from crystallized honey instead of using sugar. I’ll talk about that later.

May 5th, 2013

Here’s a short video of a moth or butterfly I found hanging around one of my hives for a few days:

Please let me know if you can identify it. I remember a documentary on honey bees that showed a moth or butterfly walk into a hive and chow down on honey and the bees ignored it because it gave off a pheromone that mimicked the queen. Or something like that. I don’t remember the exact details and I haven’t been able to find the documentary online. I’m not sure if this is that particular moth or butterfly, but I’m curious.

UPDATE: It took five minutes for someone on Facebook to solve the mystery. It’s a Mourning Cloak Butterfly and I don’t think it’s harmful to the bees. Thanks.

The following was copied and pasted from a response I gave to someone who was concerned about her neighbour’s plan to set up a beehive in a yard close to where her children play. I decided to turn my response into a post because I’ve received emails from other people with similar concerns. I also made this short video to help ease the irrational response many people have towards anything that looks like a bee.

POSTSCRIPT/PREFACE (Feb. 06/14): If you’re reading this post because you have a problem with your neighbour’s bees, whether real or perceived, and you don’t know what to do, please don’t ask me for advice (especially without even reading this post first). Whatever advice I have to give is already written in this post, and it goes something like this: Most reasonable beekeepers don’t want to upset anyone and will do what they can to calm even the most irrational fears. If you’re concerned about your neighbour’s bees, then talk to them — before you talk to me. It’s interesting how many people don’t bother doing that. (Sept. 27/14: I also recommend reading The Fear of Bees.) We now return to our regularly scheduled programming…
Read on . . . »


I’ve looked into keeping bees on some rooftops here in St. John’s, Newfoundland, because it seems like a great idea — in theory.

A cosy rooftop nook for some bee hives?

Hives on rooftops, for the most part, would be out of sight and out of mind of people with an irrational fear of honey bees. The hives would be safe from vandals too. Most importantly, the bees would have a significantly more diverse source of pollen and nectar available to them in the city. Most of my hives are on a rural farm surrounded by coniferous trees — a virtual desert for honey bees. But the city of St. John’s is full of deciduous and flowering trees everywhere I look. It’s honey bee heaven. Honey bees would do much better in the city than out in the country. I have little doubt about that. But…
Read on . . . »


I caught a swarm out in the country last year and I loved it. But unfortunately I live a in relatively crowded urban neighbourhood with an easily enraged next door neighbour, so even though I only have one hive in the city now, I don’t have the luxury of a laid back attitude towards swarms. I need to keep my neighbour from calling the fire department on me again, which means I have to do everything I can to prevent my lonely little colony from swarming. So what should I do?

Upper half of the large water melon sized swarm I caught last summer.

Last year I reversed the brood chambers and checker-boarded my hives. But three of my four colonies swarmed anyway. Here’s a video that shows what one of the hives looked like shortly before its colony swarmed:
Read on . . . »

This is only a video test, but I’m posting it to Mud Songs anyway.

P.S.: It works. I may post another video test later this weekend. I found a new program that encodes video so that it plays better online (with less ghostly after-images). I can tell you’re fascinated. If anyone has an HD monitor and can play the video in full screen 720p HD, can you let me know smooth and sharp the playback is for you? Thanks.

UPDATE (March 20/13): Here’s the second video test. It’s not much to see, but it shows that I can encode slow motion video and make it look half decent in full screen mode.

As you were.

March 29th, 2013

One of my honey bee colonies died over the winter. (See A Winter Die-Off, A Winter Die-Off Post Portem: The Photos and Why My Honey Bees Died for more details.) It starved to death because: (1) I thought it had enough honey of its own and didn’t need to be fed extra honey or sugar syrup in the fall. I was wrong. I’ll feed my colonies in the fall for now if I have any doubts about their honey stores. (2) I wrapped all my hives for winter on December 1st and didn’t check on them for two months, not until February 3rd. I waited too long. I should have checked on them first thing in the new year and given any starving colonies some sugar.

Dead cluster on a frame near the brood nest. (March 10, 2013.)

But now I know and I’m not discouraged by it. I had to lose a colony sooner or later. I went into the 2011 winter with two colonies, 2012 with four and 2013 with seven. So now I have six instead of seven. That’s not a catastrophic loss and it’s a pretty good survival rate for three winters of beekeeping. I also now have an extra twenty frames of drawn comb to work with this year. That’s a luxury I’ve never had.
Read on . . . »

Page 5 of 36« First...34567...102030...Last »