5,000,000 Views

Over 5 million people have now watched my Cutting & Bottling Honey video. Is it the most popular beekeeping video on YouTube that isn’t trying to sell you something? Sure, why not? Let’s go with that. I was tracking it closely today hoping I’d catch it when 4,999,999 turned over to 5,000,000, but I went out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, and when I came back, it was over.

Funny, I don’t feel any different.

Open Feeding

New beekeepers are usually told to never feed their bees using an open feeder because it can trigger robbing and fighting instincts in the bees, transforming them into bees that are not fun to be around. The bees act like they’re hepped up on caffeine. They behave frantically. As usual, I don’t believe anything until I try it myself and, indeed, through the wonderful world of experiential learning, I discovered that open feeding can have that effect on the bees. But not always.

In my experience, any sugar syrup close to the hive, whether in an open feeder or spilled on the ground, can trigger the robbing instinct, especially if the syrup is spiked with something like anise extract. However, if the open feeder it placed 30 metres or so from the hive (~65 feet), the bees might crowd in on the syrup, but don’t usually start fighting each other to the death to get at the syrup, and when they fly back to their hives, they don’t try robbing the neighbour hive of the all honey.

I prefer this method of feeding at certain times of the year — long before or long past harvesting any honey — because it’s so easy to do. I don’t have to load up each hive with a feeder. I just refill the open feeder once it gets empty. Open feeding usually doesn’t last more than week.
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Crushing Comb & Cleaning The Beeswax

I often make crushed & strained silky liquid honey and let the bees clean up the crushed comb afterwards. Digging through my archives, I found some footage that shows how I do it.

I talk about all kinds of things in this video, most of which would take up too much space to reiterate here. But here’s basic rundown of the whole thing:
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Waxing Foundation

Most plastic foundation is coated in beeswax to encourage the bees to build comb on it. It’s usually referred to as “wax-dipped” foundation. The really good stuff is double-dipped in wax. But sometimes the wax wears off if the foundation has been stored or banged around for a while. Some foundation, right out of the box, doesn’t have any wax at all. I had to deal with some of that stuff last summer and I was not happy. I would have been better off using foundationless frames. There are plenty of good reasons to use foundationless frames over frames with foundation. (I use a mix of foundation and foundationless frames in my hives.)

Having been stuck with 100 sheets of waxless foundation, and after managing to track down a 10-pound chunk of clean beeswax, I decided to wax the foundation. At first I tried to paint the melted wax on. Then I rubbed hard wax into the foundation. Finally I rubbed soft partially-melted wax into the foundation — the method I liked the most. Painting the foundation with an actual paintbrush may have produced the best results, but overall, I’m pleased with how my methods worked out. I’m sure there are better ways of doing this, but here’s a video of my first crack at it:

This is not a well edited video. I would normally try to cut something like this down to a few minutes instead of nine minutes, but I didn’t have time for that, so it is what it is. I’m also aware that this method of waxing foundation may not be the best method. But sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got.

Flexibility is the Beekeeper’s Game

A typical day from June 2019 on the east coast of Newfoundland.

I often set up Gmail reminders about things I’d like to remember a year later. Here’s a Gmail reminder that came in three days ago:

    A year ago today (July 7th, 2019), the temperature finally went above 20°C (68°F) and stayed there for a while. Until then, we were buried with cold rain and fog and the occasional mildly warm day that may have peaked at around 10°C (50°F). My honey bees in Flatrock virtually died from not being able to forage and not really having anything to forage on until July 7th.

It may not have been as bad in more inland areas of the island, but there were so little resources available, the nucs I ordered took forever to build up (a huge contrast to the nucs I had in the summer of 2016) . My bees barely drew out any new comb, too, though that may have had more to do with the waxless plastic foundation I used. In any case, it’s often helpful to look back at the previous year to see how things change dramatically from year to year. (That’s the main reason I maintain this blog. For those on a desktop, if you scroll way down on the right side menu until you see ARCHIVES, those monthly archives are the most valuable links for me. I click them all the time.)

This spring wasn’t the greatest (it seems rare to have a good spring on the east coast of Newfoundland), but June 2020, with it’s stifling heat and humidity, was the opposite of June 2019, or as we say, Junuary. It felt like winter for most of last June. This June I had to do everything to stay ahead of my colonies so they wouldn’t swarm.

It seems that beekeepers — and especially beekeepers in places like Newfoundland — should prepare themselves and their bees for entirely different conditions from season to season. That’s the moral of today’s story.