A Pretty Strip of Comb

I got into the whole foundationless “natural beekeeping” kick mostly for aesthetic reasons, not necessarily well thought out reasons. I’m fascinated by the behaviour of honey bees, especially how they build and organize their hives when they’re given free reign to do whatever they want on foundationless frames. But had I known that the large number of honey-hungry drones produced by foundationless colonies could result in little or no honey harvest during the first year, I would have passed on the whole thing.

It’s like spending a year and a half working and saving up to go on the fishing trip of a lifetime, and then not catching any fish once you get there. The season isn’t over yet and anything could happen (I’ll be overjoyed to get even a single medium super full of honey), but if I could go back and do it right the first time, I would follow the example of what works for beekeepers in Newfoundland (instead of trying to follow beekeepers out of California), and I would save the foundationless hives for another year after I’d already had some success with conventional hives.

A strip of natural honey comb less than a week old (July 24th, 2011).

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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Apple Blossoms

I was looking through some old photos and came across a photo of blossoms from a crab apple tree in my backyard when I lived in the city (in St. John’s, Newfoundland.) These blossoms are not fully opened, but they’re getting there. Although I don’t have a photo of a honey bee on the blossoms, I know the bees pollinate apple trees, so I’m adding it to my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage list.

Crab apple blossoms in St. John's, Newfoundland. (June 19, 2011).

Crab apple blossoms slowly opening in St. John’s, Newfoundland. (June 19, 2011).

Hey, I just found this photo, a slightly raggedly looking crab apple blossom:

Hard looking crab apple blossom. (June 19, 2011.)

Hard looking crab apple blossom. (June 19, 2011.)

This post was uploaded on March 5th, 2016, but is dated for June 19th, 2011, the day the photo was taken.

Jeff Dealing with a Swarm in Clarenville

Jeff from Clarenville, Newfoundland, dropped off some photos and video of one of his swarms from July 18th, 2011. I plan to do everything I can to avoid swarms where I live. Even though the bees are their most docile in this state, I got a feeling most people in my urban ‘hood would not react well to seeing my bees swarm like this. I’ll leave it to Jeff to tell us about it in the comments.

No Sandal Zone

Today’s tip for backyard beekeepers: Don’t wear sandals.

Inappropriate footware for the beeyard. (July 17, 2011.)

The bees in my backyard fly around my raised beds to drink water from lettuce leaves and soak up moisture from the black composted soil. They also wander around the grass here and there, grass I don’t bother to mow, and so it’s easy for the bees to inadvertently crawl onto my feet while I’m standing there digging the weeds in the garden. And if I’m wearing sandals, it’s easy for a bee to get stuck under a strap, freak out and sting me. The pain from a honey bee sting isn’t too bad compared to most stinging insects. But when they first get you, it hurts. One of them got me about five minutes ago.

Queen Bee in a Cage

Two more nucs and a queen in her cage arrived at my house last night. I can’t install the nucs or do anything with the bees today due to high winds in the area. The new queen is intended for one of my hives may be queenless. If it isn’t queenless, I plan to requeen it anyway (squish the old queen and replace it with the new queen). I have a general idea of how to do that. My only concern is finding the old queen first. I’ve never been able to spot the queens in either of my hives. Can I introduce a new queen to a hive that already has a queen without “dispatching” the old queen first? Probably not. I’m not sure what I’ll do if I can’t find the old queen. Hopefully I’ll have the assistance of a local experienced beekeeper (I should say the local experienced beekeeper) to guide me through the process. Whatever happens, I’ll tell you about in a day or two. In the meantime, here’s a short video of the queen in her cage.

Updates will appear in the comments.

Thick Bottom Bar Clustering?

It’s February 2019 as I delete everything from this post except the video. I’d barely been keeping bees for a year at the time I recorded this video. I was seeing things with my bees on a regular basis that did not come up in any of the beekeeping books I’d read. Bees hanging off the bottom bars and clogging the bottom entrance was one of those things. I didn’t know what was going on.

These days I like it when I see bees hanging off the bottom bars. It usually means the colony is in good shape.

Bees in Hive #1 clustering heavily off the bottom bars after a rain shower (July 5, 2011).

I could go on, but check out the comments below for Rusty Burlew’s response to this video (on her blog, Honey Bee Suite). She answers the question of what’s going on with bees hanging off the bottom bars and clogging the bottom entrance better than me.