Old Queen or Virgin Queen?

June 2019 Introduction: I’m not going to touch this post. No deletions or rewriting. It’s interesting to see where I was during my fourth summer of beekeeping. The answer to the question, old queen or virgin, is answered in the comments that are well worth reading.

Here’s a video that shows what I think — what I hope — is a virgin queen that emerged from a swarm cell after a colony swarmed. If it’s not a virgin queen, it might be the colony’s original queen, which means the colony is on the verge of swarming. Please feel free to leave a comment if you can identify what kind of queen she is, old or virgin. I’ll explain more after the video.


(Thanks to Jonathan Adams for getting behind the camera.)

Continue reading

Thick Combs of Honey (Slight Return)

I posted some photos a couple days ago of what is probably the thickest combs of honey I’ve ever seen in any of my hives. Here’s the video:


(Thanks to Jonathan Adams for getting behind the camera.)

It’s not the most instructive video, but if it sparks the imagination of anyone curious about honey bees or beekeeping, that’s good enough for me. If I can instruct at the same time, well, that’s a bonus. The 1:50 mark in the video, for instance, shows how the bees begin to build comb by festooning. My explanation in the video isn’t the most articulate. I’m so used to beekeeping alone in silence, I felt awkward talking. Festooning is not a well-defined phenomena anyway, so my bumbling explanation kind of fits.

Now here are some things this situation has me wondering about…
Continue reading

Thick Combs of Honey From a Hive in The Shade

June 2019 Introduction and a few fun facts: I got more honey out of this hive than any single hive I’ve ever had. This hive was set up in a wooded area under a big ole spruce tree where it got maybe three hours of sunlight a day, about two hours in the morning and one hour in the late afternoon. The rest of the time it was in the shade. Many people believe that honey bee colonies do better when their hives are in full sunlight, and they probably do, but a colony with a healthy robust queen under any conditions can put up a pretty good fight. To anyone who has been discouraged from getting into beekeeping because they can’t keep their hives in full sunlight, don’t believe the hype.

The bees in one of my hives are making the thickest combs of honey I’ve ever seen.

IMG_0383-thick-comb

I usually put 10 frames in a honey super, but I had to knock that down to 8 frames just to make room for the ridiculously thick honey comb these bees are building.
Continue reading

A Gentle Ball of Bees

I just happened to drop in on my country hives today as a splinter colony was taking flight. (I’ve chosen to use the less alarmist terminology for that particular phenomena of honey bee behaviour.) I was alone, only had my cell phone and couldn’t film myself shaking the bees into a new hive body. So there’s not much to learn from this short video. But if you’ve never seen a sw — I mean a splinter colony up close before, take a look. (It’s not the highest-rez video. Sorry. Couldn’t help it.)

If it looks like a scary situation, it isn’t. Only bad neighbours make it a scary or stressful situation. It was more calming for me than anything. I had somewhere I had to be, so I couldn’t sit back enjoy it as much I would have liked to, but it was an amazing thing to witness.

September 22nd, 2014: I was dealing with two swarms and didn’t know it. It was tricky because both swarms landed on the same branch. Both were re-hived, though, and the new colonies are doing well.

December 17th, 2015: I just read an article at the Bee Culture web site about something called a swarm bucket that may have made my catching of this swarm (or swarms) a little less complicated. It’s basically a bucket with a cone made of screen built into the lid, so it acts much like a bee escape. So imagine a swarm hanging from a branch. The little old beekeeper shakes the swarm off the branch into the big bucket and then puts the coned lid on the bucket. If the queen is in the bucket, all the stranglers will eventually go through the cone to get to the queen but won’t be able to get out once they’re in. Then said beekeeper just picks up the bucket of bees and goes home. Of course nothing in beekeeping ever goes as planned, but in theory, it sounds wonderful. And plausible. I plan to build at least one of the swarm buckets for next year.

Rubber Bee Gloves

June 2019 Introduction: I use regular dishwashing gloves all the time now, though I use my bare hands when I can, when I know the bees are in a good mood. I wouldn’t mind having a pair of goat skin gloves for the rare occasion when I need to dig into a defensive colony, but I just haven’t gotten around to buying another pair.

The standard issue goat skin bee gloves designed for beekeepers can get sweaty. Here’s a photo of my hand after beekeeping in 20°C heat (68°F) for about half an hour — and it usually gets a lot sweatier than this:

IMG_0315

Long Cuff Neoprene GlovesI recently experimented with using heavy duty rubber gloves, slightly thicker than dish washing gloves. They don’t breathe at all but provide a better feel than goat coat skin. NOTE: Gloves that don’t have long cuffs and therefore don’t provide wrist protection aren’t so great. Blue medical examination gloves, the kind dentists use, are even thinner than dish washing gloves. The bees can easily sting through them and they offer no wrist protection. I’ve gone barehanded at times, too, but only when I’m not digging too deep into a hive.

August 2nd, 2014: I’ve been using heavy duty rubber gloves for about two months now and I haven’t had any problems with them other than the fact that my hands get instantly sweaty and the sweat accumulates in the fingers of the gloves after about an hour. For hygienic reasons, I try (but usually forget) to wash them in soapy water after every use and then hang up to dry. The bees, when determined, can sting through them. I got stung today for the first time. It wasn’t a deep sting but a surprising sting nonetheless. I wouldn’t use rubber gloves with defensive bees or during any kind of beekeeping that could rile up the bees. But for everyday maintenance and poking around, the heavy duty rubber gloves are the gloves for me. They’re more tactile, and even though they’re sweaty, I don’t get nearly as hot wearing them as I do with goat skin gloves. I’m not trying to advertise a specific brand of rubber gloves, but the ones I bought from a big box hardware store are described as “Long Cuff Neoprene Gloves.”

August 28th, 2015: I can’t remember the last time I used my goat skin gloves. I use a variety of rubber gloves instead. Regular dishwashing gloves are fine. They don’t have to be heavy duty (though that doesn’t hurt). The bees can still sting through them, but that’s rare and the stinger never gets in too deep, so it’s not a problem. The gloves are always wet with sweat on the inside, but they flip inside-out when I take them off and dry quickly when hung up. I blow them up like balloons to inflate the fingers if they’re crumpled up. There’s a good chance I’ll never buy goat skin or leather bee gloves again.

A curious note: I get more SPAM comments for this post than anything I’ve written on Mud Songs. The comments are clearly written by real people too — people trying to sell me their brand of rubber gloves. There’s probably a group of rubber glove manufacturers who think, “If we could break into the beekeeping market, we’d be rich!” That’s fine with me. Send me a box of rubber gloves with long cuffs (some large gloves for my big man hands and small gloves for my partner’s hands). I’ll use them in my beekeeping for a full year and write-up an honest review of them when I’m done. I have no problem promoting a product that has been helpful in my beekeeping.