Video: An Active Spring Hive

I know this must be like new parents showing off photos of their baby that looks like… every other baby on the planet. It won’t be like this next year. But this year is our first spring with the bees, our first full summer with the bees, our first honey harvest — a lot of firsts — and we want a record of all of it so we know what to expect next year. Okay then. Let’s roll the video:

Some browsers seem to flatten the aspect ratio on this video and I don’t know why and I don’t have the patience to try to fix it. View it on the YouTube page for accurate playback.

That’s Hive #1. There are so many bees that they literally sound like a chain saw. Hive #2 is active, but doesn’t show much interest in the bottom entrance. I think that colony may be a different breed of bees. I came in very close to the hive to shoot this video. The bees were crawling all over my hands and around my face (I had my mouth closed the whole time). I’m extremely pleased that they’re so well behaved.

Video: Honey Bees Bringing in Spring Pollen

The sun came out today after some heavy wind and rain that washed away what I hope is the last of the snow. The temperature went up to 11°C. I scraped out some dead stinky bees and debris from the bottom boards of both hives. Hive #2 hasn’t been too active around its bottom entrance this year. Hive #1 is a different story.

I still don’t know where they’re getting the pollen, but I’m impressed.

First Spring Pollen

It was only about 7°C in the backyard today (45°F), but it was enough for the bees in Hive #2 to bring in some pollen for the first time this year.

I’ve embedded a slide show below, but to really get in and see the individual specs of pollen on the bees and their fuzzy little hairs, go to my Picasa page, click on the first photo in the series and click through them individually. The details in the close-up photos always show up better on the actual Picasa page.
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Thick Spring Bees (Video)

I know it isn’t always too exciting, but one of the purposes of this website is to document anything new we haven’t seen before and to take note of when certain things happen so that we, as novice beekeepers stumbling through all this mostly on our own, will have a reference for next year’s beekeeping. We don’t have access to any kind of beekeeping association that might allow us to compare notes with other beekeepers in Newfoundland — because there is no association, and there aren’t many beekeepers either. So just for our records, here’s a short video of the bees flying around our backyard today about an hour after I removed some useless top hive feeders and replaced them with inverted jar feeders sheltered (with insulation) inside some medium supers. This video constitutes part two of Spring Bees in Flight.

Leaking Hive Top Feeders

NOTE (March 16/14): The following has been updated more than once since it was originally posted. The updates appear near the bottom. The title of the post has been changed to reflect the reality of what he had to deal with. Both of the top hive feeders leaked all over the hives and the bees. We had to switch to inverted jar feeders instead. It was the messiest biggest headache of our beekeeping experience so far. We have no love for hive top feeders.

It was about 7°C in the backyard today. The weather forecast doesn’t call for much rain and the temperatures are supposed to be well above freezing all week. So we decided to add top hive feeders to both hives, filling up one side of each feeder with about 8 litres of syrup (a little over 2 US gallons). But first we modified the feeders by stapling screens to the reservoirs:

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Cold Climate Honey Bee Behaviour?

The honey bee colony in our Hive #1 chewed out and discarded most of its drone papae and then shut down so early and so fast last September (compared to Hive #2 that kept going strong for another few weeks), we thought maybe the queen was dead. Seeing how the same colony is now the first to come back to life this spring, I suspect its bees have mostly Carniolan genes — cold-climate honey bee genes. I’ve read that Carniolans are more sensitive to environmental changes and behave exactly in this manner. The bees in Hive #2, on the other hand, foraged and took up syrup well into October last fall, but are showing hardly any signs of life now, which coincides with what I’ve read about Italian honey bees. They go as long as they can in the fall, but supposedly have a harder time coping with long cold winters and mild wet springs (like we have in Newfoundland). None of this is necessarily correct. But seeing how our first year of beekeeping is often a guessing game for us, I’ve expressed my best guesses to explain the differences in the behaviour of our two honey bee colonies. They definitely do not behave the same.

Here’s a long boring video of the bees in Hive #1 from earlier today. It shows them coming and going through the bottom entrance. The entrance reducer was removed only while I sat and watched them for about 30 minutes. There’s not much to see in the video, no special behaviour, nothing much except for the last few seconds (the 4:22 mark) when a worker bees pulls out one of her comrades who didn’t make it through the winter. That’s it. Jenny and I are extremely pleased that they’re so alive.

Hives in the Snow

I officially declare April 9th, 2011, as The First Day of Spring in our backyard. March 20th was technically the first day of spring, but that’s a joke, especially in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where it’s been cold or snowing pretty much every day since then (we got more snow last night). Although our backyard is still wet and slippery with the white stuff, the honey bees in Hive #1 are back in business and flying all around like it’s the middle of summer again. So that’s good enough for me. I’m going with that as the first sign of spring instead of waiting around for the first dandelion blossoms (who knows how long that would be). (Update: It was May 17th.)

The following was originally posted on November 23rd, 2010, and updated regularly to document our wonderful winter so we’d have a guide for next year’s winter weather conditions. I may add one or two more photos once all the snow is completely melted. But this is the end of it. Winter is DONE.


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Cranking Out The Nasonov Pheromone

Here’s quick video of the honey bees in our backyard doing the Nasonov Boogie. Yesterday I said, “The sound of the bees scenting was intense, like the sound of tiny little chain saws.” Check it out:

The end of the video when it goes back to normal speed may not be 100% normal speed. I can tell by the way the sound began to flange. At any rate, during the slow-mo section, you can almost see the wings beating. I was able to slow it down even further on my computer, but the wings beating still only showed up as a blur. They crank it up a notch when they’re fanning like that.

Anyway, the pheromone is also used to orient the bees to food and water sources, but this early in the year when snow is still on the ground (it snowed again today) and 15°C is not a daily occurrence, I’d say it’s mostly for orientating the young foraging bees on their maiden flights.

I recommend The Biology of The Honey Bee, by Mark L. Winston for more info on the importance of pheromones in a honey bee colony (and a whole lot more).
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