Black Hives

Some people have noticed that most of my hive boxes are painted black and have asked, “What are you, nuts?”

I would have asked the same thing a few years back. But then I moved to Flatrock, Isle of Newfoundland, where I can see the North Atlantic Ocean from my house, and it’s freezing here.

Redhead Cove, Flatrock, Newfoundland, not far from my house.


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Swarm Week – June 24th, 2020

The thermometer reads 30°C (86°F) in my backyard at this moment. This is not a typical Newfoundland summer day.

Apparently the humidex reading is the highest recorded on this date in nearly 30 years. Not a bad time to put on some empty moisture quilts to give my the bees some relief.

We might as well call this Swarm Week. I’ll be keeping a very, very close eye on my hives this week.

I guess this makes up for the lousy winter

…and the slow-moving spring we had this year. It took my colonies forever to build up. I hope they’re happy now.

When To Add Another Super

The population of a honey bee colony can explode in no time once the weather warms up and everything comes into bloom. (That’s right about now, by the way, at least in my little corner of the Isle of Newfoundland.) All that nectar, all the pollen, all the warm air, all that sunshine — the next thing you know, the bees are getting ready to swarm, or they’ve already swarmed. It seems to take only a few days for the bees to get that message when the conditions are right. As a general rule, when I open a hive and see bees over the top bars of every frame, I add another super, another hive box — I give the colony room to grow. They may not need the extra space today or tomorrow, but when they do need it and it’s not there, boom, off they go in a giant cloud of bees that will fill the sky, also known as a swarm. This video shows what it looks like when it’s time to add another super to the hive (at least for me it does):

00:00 — A deep super (and frames) cut down to a medium.
00:40 — Bees covering the top bars (time to add a super).
01:10 — Dispersing the bees with mist instead of smoke.
01:27 — Adding the super.
01:48 — Adding a foundationless frame (for comb honey).
02:38 — Putting the hive back together.
03:10 — Confused bees looking for the new entrance.
04:52 — The bees already reoriented to the new entrance.
05:10 — A problem with a 9-frame brood chamber.

And some bonus material for those who can hold out long enough.

P.S.: I mention in the video that’s it’s June 21st when it obviously isn’t. That’s my pandemic brain jumping up and saying hello. Everybody and their cousin Bob is losing track of the days.

Original music by Phillip Cairns © 2020.

Dandelion Don’t Tell No Lies

Here’s a honey bee colony that seems to have benefited from dandelions that weren’t mowed down.

00:15 — Burr comb beneath the inner cover.
00:47 — Fresh comb made from yellow from dandelions.
01:00 — A frame of capped brood.
01:34 — Beautiful brood pattern.
01:49 — Close up of capped brood.
02:10 — Open brood (little white grubs).
02:25 — A closer look at the queen.
02:53 — Yellow burr comb.
03:50 — Honey bees scenting.
03:55 — Close up on fresh eggs in burr comb.
04:18 — Summary of inspection.

Plus some bonus material for those who bother to watch the whole thing.
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May 29th, The First Warm Day of the Year

Not much to see here. A 4-minute static shot of my bees (with a very slow 4K zoom in) on what is probably the first real warm day of the year. It’s 20°C (68°F) and going up to 25. It feels like my bees are now starting to shift into serious brood-rearing mode. No drones yet, but hopefully soon.

While many beekeepers in North America and across the pond are dealing with swarms or even harvesting honey in some places, most honey bee colonies on the east coast of Newfoundland are just starting to get going.

The Isle of Newfoundland doesn’t have Varroa yet, nor most of the diseases that cause trouble for beekeepers pretty much everywhere else on the planet. But we do have some of the most inhospitable weather for honey bees anywhere, especially where I live on the east coast of the island, in a place called Flatrock, within spitting distance of the cold North Atlantic Ocean.

Not offence, but I suspect most beekeepers, except maybe a few in Iceland and northern Alaska, have a much easier time at beekeeping than I do. It’s kind of a miracle that I can even get a honey harvest from my bees most summers.

Can someone tell me why I keep doing this?

Converting to Medium Supers

I’ve been converting all my hives to medium supers since last year. I wish I’d done it from the start. It’s so much easier to lift a medium than a deep and (so far) it doesn’t seem to have any negative effect on my beekeeping.

Beekeeping is a big draw for retired people. If I was retired and thinking about getting into it, I would go with medium supers, but even better if I could get them, I’d consider going with shallow supers because they’re even lighter. Beekeeping doesn’t have to be an arduous affair.

8-frame supers are also a thing, though I’m not sure how common they are.

The photo included in this post shows a hive with two medium supers. It will eventually have three supers when it’s complete, maybe four.
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