Backfilling?

As I get used to reading the frames with this all-medium beekeeping I’ve taken on (it’s slightly different), I’m playing it safe in regards to swarm signs. We’ve also had an unusually warm summer so far. Most of my colonies are bursting at the seams. I’ve run out of frames and boxes to keep them contained. So any sign of backfilling and I’m giving the queen more room to lay.

Backfilling is when so much nectar is coming in that the bees run out of space to store it, so they end up storing it in the brood nest where the queen normally lays her eggs. When the queen runs out of space to lay like this, she becomes “honeybound.” And when that happens, the colony usually swarms.

That’s something I try to avoid as much as possible, especially since I live on a street packed with little kids, and one of those little kids is terrified of flying insects. I don’t want a swarm to land on her swing set and traumatise her for life.
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Starter Strips for Foundationless Frames

Whenever I talk about foundationless frames, they always have a starter strip in them. A starter strip is where the bees begin (or “start”) to build comb in a foundationless frames.

Foundationless frames are used for all kind of reasons. And that little strip of plastic isn’t going to pollute the honey or the bees. The bees will encounter considerably worse things in their environment while foraging. That’s one of the reasons why there’s really no such thing as organic honey.

It’s probably a better idea to securely glue in the starter strip with wax or whatever than jamming it in like I do in the video. I shot this video on the spot only as a quick demo.

Waxing Foundation with a Heat Gun

Quality plastic foundation is coated with beeswax to encourage the bees to build comb off it. But sometimes the foundation isn’t coated in wax for whatever reason and the bees won’t touch it, or if they do, they take much longer to build comb on it. So that’s when beekeepers are forced to coat the foundation with beeswax themselves. There are many ways of going about it. This is one of them.

Doubled waxed plastic foundation could make this issue moot, as might wax foundation or even foundationless frames.

This is the most convenient method I’ve found for waxing foundation. However, even more convenient might be to wax the foundation before inserting it into the frames.

Word around the campfire tells me that only the top inch or so of the foundation needs to be waxed — not the entire foundation. Apparently, once the bees start building comb on the top edge of the foundation, that gets them started and they have no trouble working down the rest of the frame. I’ve seen photos that seem to illustrate this.
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Narrow Frame Beekeeping

Something I didn’t know about when when I bought most of my beehive components is what not all commercial Langstroth frames are made the same. Some frames are slightly narrower than others — those are the good ones. Some are thicker — those can be a pain.

The thicker or wider frames fill a 10-frame brood box right to the edge. Sometimes it’s so tight that removing the first frame during an inspection be can difficult, especially if it’s packed with bees. Narrower frames provide more space on the sides of the box, which gives us sad ole beekeepers a little extra room to wiggle the frame away from all the other frames before we pull it out. For new beekeepers who have never experienced that and always find the first frame hard to pull out, you’re going to love narrow frames. This video shows how to identify them.

Cutting Down Deep Frames to Mediums

This video shows how I cut deep frames — with comb — down to medium frames. People who know their way around a workshop are going to jump all over this to tell me everything I’m doing wrong and what I should be doing to cut them properly. But this is for people like me who will likely never become a handy man in any way, shape or form.

I often forget to glue my frames together, but in this case, even though it’s not in the video, glue helps keep the bottom bars in place because they don’t clip in like the usually do.

I cut my deep supers down to medium supers too. If you watched the video, I’ll give you one guess at how I do that without measuring anything.

Assembling Langstroth Frames: Where Do The Nails Go?

This two-minute videos shows how I try to nail my frames together when I’m not lazy. When I’m lazy, I just bang a nail in on the top and bottom and call it done.

I know glue is great, but I don’t use glue to keep my frames together because glued-together frames smash into a million pieces when they break apart inside an extractor. Without the glue, I can usually put them back together. The bees also tend to fill in most of the cracks with propolis, which is a pretty good glue.

This is not a practical method of assembling frames for most commercial beekeepers, but for backyard beekeepers who don’t have compressor nails guns or any expensive gear — just a hammer and some nails — this works well.

Update: It looks like I already wrote about this in excruciating detail but forgot about it: Wooden Frames That Won’t Fall Apart.

Junuary Beekeeping on the Isle of Newfoundland

June 8th, 2021:

11:00am. It’s already 24°C in the shade and rising fast, supposedly peaking at 28°C this afternoon, feeling like 33°C (or 91°F).

24°C, 11:00am, June 8th, 2021, Flatrock, Newfoundland.

That’s about as hot as it ever gets for my bees, especially in Flatrock which is usually colder than most Newfoundland beeyards I’ve seen. So…
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Unusual Honey

This might not look like much, but it’s delicious. It’s honey that I scraped from a frame about 10 minutes ago. I’m straining it in my kitchen as I write this.

Super sweet citrus-flavours with a slight hit of spice.

I’ve never tasted honey like this before. It definitely has a citrus tang to it, somewhere between lemon and orange, very sweet with a weird spicy aftertaste. My first thought was that I found a single frame of fireweed honey. But this big hit of citrus is unlike any fireweed honey I’ve tasted which had a more subtle fruity flavour and wasn’t overly sweet. The fireweed honey I tasted before was also so translucent that it was nearly the colour of water.
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These Bees Should Be Dead

One of my beehives, back in January 2019, had its top blown off in a windstorm. The top cover — along with the inner cover and hard insulation — might have been removed in other ways, but the point is, the colony of honey bees trying to stay alive inside the hive were completely exposed to the elements for about a week. The elements included high winds, rain, freezing rain, hail and snow. Hence, the title of this post: These Bees Should Be Dead.

Not exactly what you like to find when visiting a beeyard in the winter. (January 2019.)

When I approached the hive, I didn’t expect the bees to be alive. I found dark soggy clumps of dead bees on the back edges of the top bars. Some burr comb over the top bars had lost its colour from being exposed to the elements. The frames were soaking wet with a sheen of mould growing on the surface. Ice clogged up the bottom entrance. So yeah, I expected to find nothing but dead bees inside that hive.

But I didn’t.


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What’s The Ideal Beehive Setup for a Place Like Newfoundland?

I built my first ventilation rim 10 years ago. The final product looked like this:

My first ventilation rim from 2011.

And I’m still using exactly the same rim today. I’ve never stopped using it. (I have several now.)


Now let’s talk about ventilation and the hive setups I’ve tried in Newfoundland since 2010…
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Penny Moat to Keep Slugs Out of Beehives

I’m using old pennies in an attempt to keep slugs and snails out of my hives, because apparently they don’t like the taste of copper.

I could spend $25 at my local hardware store for 15 feet of something called “Copper Mesh Fence Barrier” (at $1.67 per foot) to keep the slimy guys out of my hives. Or I can use up 24 cents in pennies per hive to do the same thing. Will it work? I don’t know. It seems the snails can still slink right up the sides of the hives, but I’m guessing most of them get in through the bottom entrance. I’ll update this post as soon as I find clear evidence that does or doesn’t work.

UPDATE: It works. And copper tape doesn’t.