Well, it looks like I’m going to get some honey this year after all, at least from one of my hives. I was led to believe that foundationless hives in the cold wet climate of St. John’s, Newfoundland — with its short, sometimes non-existent summers — wouldn’t produce extra honey for humans during the first year because much of the bees’ resources are funnelled into raising drones and then back-filling the drone comb before they have a chance to make extra honey in a honey super. So far that’s turned out to be true. I migrated all the foundationless frames into a single hive, Hive #2, and that hive hasn’t done much with its honey super. However, Hive #1, the hive that I transferred all the conventional frames in to, has filled its first honey super. Check out the video and I’ll tell you more about it later:
The video isn’t proof that a conventional hive in St. John’s is likely to produce more honey than a foundationless hive. But I don’t think it hurt that the bees in Hive #1 didn’t have to spend more of their resources back-filling drone comb like the bees in Hive #2 are doing right now. They didn’t have to feed honey to thousands of extra drones either. There are so many possibilities, though, I can’t say anything for sure.
The bees in Hive #1 didn’t show much interest in their honey super for most of the summer. I saw some bees on one or two frames in the middle of the honey super, but that was about it. Then exactly a week ago today, I added a screened inner cover to the hive, and within three days, all nine frames were covered with bees working their little butts off to build comb on the alternating foundationless and conventional frames. I didn’t know until today if they were filling the comb with nectar and actually making honey. I’m extremely pleased to discover honey on every single frame in the honey super. Beautiful. That’s a honey super filled one week after adding a screened inner cover.
I think the screened inner cover in combination with the ventilator rim has reduced the humidity inside the hive so much that the honey curing process has been greatly accelerated. The bees don’t have to work nearly as hard to evaporate the nectar into honey now. If I can get a screened bottom board built for Hive #1, and provided the warm sunny days don’t leave us any time soon, I think the bees might be able to fill up the second honey super too.
And that introduces another possibility. We’ve had an usually cold and damp summer. The bees haven’t been able to do much with it. But we’ve had fantastic weather in the past couple weeks, and the bees seem to be making up for lost time. So the conventional frames and the extra ventilation might not have much to do with the bees filling the honey super. It might just be the great weather we’re having. Or maybe it’s all of the above combined. Either way, it looks like I’m getting at least one honey super full of honey this year. YES!
August 26th, 2011: I hope to add a screened bottom board to Hive #1 before the end of the month. Even with the added ventilation from the screened inner cover and the ventilator rim, I can still feel the humidity pumping out the bottom entrance of the hive. Many of the bees still hang out on the bottom board beating their wings to create more air flow inside the hive. A screened bottom board would relieve them of those duties and improve ventilation and thus expedite the honey curing process even more. Hive #2, the foundationless hive, will get the same treatment. Right now it only has a ventilator rim and a screened bottom board, but no screened inner cover, which, if my understanding of physics makes any sense, is essential for letting the humidity rise out of the hive. Even with a ventilator rim, a solid inner cover, which only has a single hole in the middle of it, would still hold in a fair bit of humidity. I think the screened inner cover is gold.
March 2019 Postscript: I don’t use screened inner covers anymore, but I do occasionally remove the solid inner cover during heat spells and replace it with an empty moisture quilt.