Is Mould a Problem? Not Really.

I pulled four deep frames of honey from each of my hives this past summer to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound. I stored the frames in a cardboard nuc box and kept them in my house. Later in the fall I fed all but one of the frames back to the bees (see Feeding The Bees Honey Instead of Syrup). This morning I took a look at the remaining deep frame of honey stored in the nuc box and noticed it had mould growing on it.

Honey comb with mould (Oct. 31, 2011).

Damn.
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Feeding The Bees Honey Instead of Syrup

I harvested more than enough honey to last us until next year, so instead of topping up my hives up with sugar syrup to get them through the winter, I decided to give them back their honey. It saves the bees the trouble of evaporating the syrup down to the consistency of honey; it reduces the risk of condensation building up inside the hive (evaporation creates condensation, especially in cold weather); and it saves me the trouble of having to mix the syrup and mess around with messy feeders — and the honey is much better for the bees than sugar syrup. So if I’m in the position to feed them back their own honey, why not?

A deep frame of honey fed back to the bees. (Oct. 23, 2011.)

I began feeding the bees their own honey from partially capped medium frames that I didn’t harvest from the honey supers. Then I switched to deep frames full of honey that I pulled from the hives earlier in the summer to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound.
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4 Little Hives All in a Row

March 2019 Introduction: This is a boring post that probably won’t have much appeal to a general reader, but it does go into some fine details that might be interesting for people who want to compare notes with another beekeeper (me). It’s eight years later and today I’m intrigued by the results I had with my bees at the time. I didn’t just leave my bees alone and let them sort out their troubles. I was always messing with my bees, probably more than I should have, but I have to admit that I created an excellent classroom for myself.

Here’s a short uneventful video I took of the hives today where I mistakenly refer to Hive #2 as Hive #1. (I need to paint numbers on the damn things.)

And now here’s a quick review of the 4 hives in my backyard as they stand today:
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October Pollen: The Video

My four honey bee colonies exploded with life today and brought in loads of pollen from somewhere; I don’t know where. Here’s the video:

In other news, I’m feeding my bees back their own honey — capped and partially capped honey from the honey supers. I scraped off the cappings and installed the frames over the inner covers. The bees go mad for it. I’ve given them back about a dozen frames so far, probably close to 30 pounds of honey. I could have kept it for myself, but I’m happy with the 40 or so pounds they’ve already given me, which is more than I expected anyway.

October Pollen

Whenever the bees have a chance to do anything that contributes to the survival of the colony, they do it, even if it kills them. After a week of not doing much of anything in freezing cold weather, the bees came pouring out of hives this morning, many of them coming back loaded down with pollen.

Bees brining in pollen (Oct. 10, 2011).

I don’t know where they found the pollen, but I’m impressed. Here’s a cropped-in grainy shot:

Bees brining in pollen (Oct. 10, 2011).

It looked as if the bees were shutting down for winter, but give them some early morning sunshine and temperatures hovering a little over 10°C (50°F), and away they go, making the most of what little warm temperatures are left in this year. And where is all this pollen coming from? A late-blooming field of Goldenrod must be close by. I don’t know.
video.)
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Yellow Jackets Everywhere

I’ve had entrance reducers on all my hives for the past few weeks, and it doesn’t look like I can remove them any time soon because the wasps (a.k.a. yellow jackets) are everywhere. They’re constantly trying to get into the hives. Here’s a photo showing about six wasps blocking a ventilation hole (most of the screened holes in our ventilator rims are filled with wasps):

Wasps filling a screened ventilation hole. (Oct. 9, 2011.)

The next photo isn’t pretty. You’ve been warned.
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Mouse-Proofing Mesh Doesn’t Keep Shrews Out

It’s March 2019 and I’ve deleted and retitled the 2011 post that used to be here (though the comments are still intact). But here’s the gist of it:

No matter how it’s installed, half-inch (~12mm) mesh will not prevent shrews from getting into a hive. Shrews, or more accurately, the pygmy shrew, can even slip through standard 3/8-inch metal mouse guards. That’s why I use quarter-inch (6mm) mesh to keep both shrews and mice out of hives.

I know beekeepers in Newfoundland who only use half-inch mesh to keep mice out of their hives and have done so for years. I took most of my cues from them when I first started beekeeping. None of them ever told me about shrews. I wish they had.

Half-inch (12mm) mouse-proofing mesh that does nothing to keep shrews out of the hive. (Oct. 9, 2011.)


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My First Time Extracting Honey

I extracted eight medium frames of honey this weekend. It came to about 8 litres after bottling. That’s somewhere around 25 pounds or 11kg, or 2 litres per frame. I extracted the honey with another beekeeper who got into beekeeping last summer the same time I did. He went before of me. Some of the following photos are of his honey — starting with this one:

Another beekeeper’s frame of honey made from Goldenrod harvested in Clarenville. Much different than my pale yellow combs of honey from St. John’s. (October 1st, 2011.)

The honey on his frames probably came from Goldenrod nectar. The appearance of the Goldenrod honey comb was different than my comb. The flavour of the honey was more earthy too. My honey probably came from Japanese Knotweed and other floral sources that aren’t as distinctive as Goldenrod. It’s all good honey, though. At any rate, step one was to put all the frames in a rack on the decapping table.
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What’s Capped Honey?

Someone asked me, “What do you mean by ‘capped’ honey?” My answer: Capped honey is like anything that has a cap on it, like a jar of jam, for instance. If the jar of jam didn’t have a cap on it, it would dry up, go mouldy, turn rancid, start to ferment, etc. Bees are like that with their honey. First they build comb consisting of thousands of hexagonal shaped cells — those are the jars. Each cell in turn is filled with nectar. The bees evaporate the nectar until its reduced to a thick sweet liquid that we call honey. When it’s just right, they seal up the cell with a layer of wax often referred to as a cap, just like the lid on a jar of jam. Here’s a photo showing a frame of honey with cells that are capped and not yet capped. (Is “uncapped” the same as “not yet capped”? Let’s just say it is.)

A frame of capped and open honey from Hive #2. (September 3, 2011.)

The open cells are uncapped. Most of the cells in middle of the frame are capped. Hence, capped honey, sometimes referred to as fully cured honey.

There’s also dry cappings and wet cappings. The ones in the above photo are dry cappings. See Wet cappings vs dry cappings at Honey Bee Suite for more on that.
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