Now that the scorching dry dearth-inducing summer in my little corner of Newfoundland with record-breaking high temperatures has come to a close, beekeeping videos might show up on my beekeeping YouTube channel again, but this is the last time I’ll post anything to Mud Songs, the most aptly-named beekeeping blog that ever was. I’ve got other irons in the fire that will likely sneak up and say hello at the mudsongs.org URL in time, and my latest videos will always show up in the following playlist, but maintaining this blog doesn’t cut it for me anymore.
It’s been a good blog, one that began in 2007 or so as a gardening blog to share veggie tales with my family and friends, which then switched to an all-beekeeping blog in 2010, which then became popular enough to garner 5 million views for one of my videos, and then it dropped down to about 200 daily visitors after I had to step away from beekeeping for about a year. I’ve pecked away at it since then whenever I had time to kill at work, and I’ll continue to post pics and video clips on my social media feeds — Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. But things have peacefully run their course here and it seems like it’s time to pull the plug on this old blog, at least in its current form.
This photo shows me tending to my bees in my tiny backyard near downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland, where I first kept bees.
My first couple years of beekeeping in that small space with only two hives, and then another two the next year, may have been the best years of my beekeeping when I had the most fun, when every little thing was a discovery.
In 2022, I went back down to 4 hives (up to 6 now because, you know, it happens) and I love it. I’m getting more from less. I lost sight of the wisdom of simplicity. So that’s it.
I have plans this summer that don’t involve posting edited beekeeping videos. A full-time job and other interests take precedence this time. Things repeat themselves anyway. Making splits, installing queens, extracting honey, etc. — just look at what I posted last summer or the summer before, back to 2010. Not much really changes. I will, however, continue to post pics and video clips on my social media feeds — Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I hope you have a calm summer. Don’t take anything too seriously. Adios.
I’m not upset about my dwindling winter colonies. This is how beekeeping plays out sometimes, whether through human error, environmental conditions or combination of both. Just look at the losses commercial beekeepers in Canada experienced this winter. Most of those losses are likely related to Varroa, which we don’t have in Newfoundland, but wintering losses are part of beekeeping no matter how you look it. I think it’s fair to say it happens to everyone eventually, even small-scale beekeepers. Continue reading →
The hives in this location are in sunlight for most of the day and are sheltered on one side. They are generally twice as strong (at all times of the year) and produce twice as much honey as any of my colonies that are closer to the ocean in Flatrock. These bees don’t get any special treatment (e.g., no winter wrapping), yet in the spring, summer, fall or winter, they are the rock stars of my beekeeping efforts.
As beekeepers, we like to give ourselves most of the credit, but the more I see it with my own eyes, the more I’m coming to believe that most of our success in beekeeping is the result of good weather in a good location, “bee whispering” be damned.
A problem with the Mountain Camp method of dry sugar feeding is that sometimes the bees toss out the granules of sugar like they’re garbage. Maybe the bees are less likely to do that if they’re starving. All I can say for certain is that I use the Mountain Camp method — pouring dry sugar on newspaper over the top bars and sometimes spraying it with a bit of water — only when I can’t do anything else. Only when I don’t have sugar bricks available.
Here’s a 2-minute clip that shows off the waterlogged bottom board I found a few weeks ago in one of my winter hives that got soaked to the bone and was full of mould that made my bees sick.
I have waxed-dipped bottom boards from 10 years ago that are still going strong. I plan to paint all of my inner covers and bottom boards with beeswax for now on. I don’t know if that’s the scientific thing to do, but I’m doing it.
I know better than to remove the 6mm / quarter-inch mouse and shrew proofing mesh from the bottom entrances of my hives while temperatures are still cold (like they are now), but hope springs eternal whenever the sun comes out like it did a couple weeks ago, and silly me, I removed the mesh from about half of my hives. Then it got cold again — like it always does in April — and now it looks like I’ve got critters trying to find a warm place to cuddle into. Nice move, Phillip. Way to go. I have to keep reminding myself not to remove the mesh until the first full hive inspection of the year — when it’s warm and stays warm… At least I think it’s a mouse making a mess of my bees.
The video taps into other topics, but the mesh is the main one.
Is this a Pickwick Crocus? Maybe. (April 16th, 2022.)
I don’t know what crocuses to plant for honey bees, but, at least in my cold, damp climate of Flatrock, the big ones seem to be the better ones. They hold up better in the weather. I believe they’re called Giant Crocuses. The delicate ones wilt away quicker. From what I can tell (and I don’t know anything about crocuses), the Pickwick Crocus is the big winner in my front yard. The Jeanne d’Arc Crocus seems to hold up well too. But yup, bigger seems to be better.
A wet mouldy frame of uncapped syrup and/or honey. (April 16th, 2022.)
I’ve had to deal with a few hives in a wet condition this spring and I think I know why.
The furnace tape I used to seal in the cracks between supers was a mistake. I’ve used duct tape for years with no issues, but I’ve found more moisture beneath this tape than anything I’ve seen before. It was so wet under some of the taped up supers that the wood was beginning rot. So I’m thinking tape made of cold-conducting metal wasn’t a good idea? Continue reading →
Honey bee in a crocus flower (April 15th, 2022, Flatrock, Newfoundland).
Here’s yesterday’s video played back at 57% normal speed because someone mentioned that the bees — at normal speed — move like they’re hepped up on caffeine. Hang around with the bees long enough and all that looks normal and calm. But I can understand how their movements might seem a bit jittery. So here’s the main shot of the video again, but played back at a more relaxed pace.
I watched this video last night on a big TV in my basement. It was relaxing. I think it works just as well with the volume down too.
Burr comb beneath inner cover with feeder rim. (April 2012, St. John’s, Newfoundland.)
Feeding rims — rims or shims that are used to make room for sugar bricks in the winter — will eventually get filled with burr comb as the spring population expands and the weather warms up. So it’s good to remove the rims before that happens. Here’s a 5-minute video that shows how I did that with one hive this year. It’s followed by a 15-minute deeper dive for anyone with a longer attention span.
Here’s a short video of a homemade sugar board that was gifted to me. I normally don’t use sugar boards or candy boards because I’m not sure they provide enough upper ventilation for my bees in the winter, but this one seems to have worked out well. What I like about it is that there’s enough sugar in it to keep the bees fed for a long time — when or if they run out of honey. I love anything in beekeepng that let’s me set it and forget it.
April 12th, 2022: I had the bees in this wet, damp, mouldy hive tested and they have Nosema. It’s stinky and dirty, but it’s not the end of the world. I’m on it. Just for the record, I went 11 years and 9 months without a serious case of Nosema in my bees. That’s not a bad record. I hope. The dirty hive will be treated safely and effectively with Acetic Acid. As much as I would like to document that process so that others might learn from my experience, I’ve decided to hold back on it due to the overzealous policing element that continues to be nuisance to so many beekeepers in Newfoundland. And I’m not referring to anyone who mentioned that Nosema needs to be reported to the provincial apiarist. I’m totally cool with that.
I have reason to believe that the hive I found full of poop recently might not have Nosema, but I’ve been dealing with it, just to careful, as if it does have Nosema. Here’s a long video of me digging into the mess and dealing with it by knocking the colony down to a single medium super. I may update this post with more information later. I’m kinda busy at the moment trying to become an expert on Nosema. (Update: In the video, I leave an open feeder full of thin sugar syrup so the bees could clear out their guts of possible Nosema spores, but I changed my mind and removed it the next day. The risk of spreading Nosema through the syrup seemed too great. Maybe the risk is low, but I don’t want to take any chances.)
The specks of poop in the sugar could be signs of nosema, a mild case of it. (April 4th, 2022.)
I think I may have discovered Nosema, possibly a fatal case of it, in at least one of my colonies — and I’m not posting a photo of that one just yet because it’ll make you barf. When everything inside the hive is covered with feces as if the bees were locked inside and couldn’t get out for cleansing flights, even though the front door is about two inches away from the cluster — that pretty much screams Nosema with a capital N. It could be dysentery, which is also gross and not as troublesome as Nosema. Still, everything points to Nosema at the moment. Continue reading →
Weird typos are also showing up all over this blog now thanks to some coding glitch that converted certain characters such at the degree sign (°) to things like ð and œ and and other symbols from outer space — and you can’t pay me enough to fix them all. I have zero interest in the technical shenanigans of maintaining a blog anymore.
So I have a teenie tiny colony that’s pretty much toast. I knew going into the winter it wasn’t in great shape. It was result of a late season queen that was mated sometime in September, which is not good for all kinds of reasons I won’t go into now. But essentially it was (is) a small colony with a poorly mated queen that I should have combined with a strong colony before winter set in.
In any case, Marc Bloom, another beekeeper here on the Isle of Newfoundland going all-in like me, because, come on, there’s no turning back now, dropped off a 5-frame medium nuc box for me the other day and I thought now would be a good time to dig into this dying colony, transfer it to a smaller, probably dryer hive box, and maybe give it a fighting chance. So that’s what I did. Here’s the video, including a sort of post-mortem looking through the dying colony’s old frames.
Here’s a quick video I made over my lunch break yesterday that shows how I use Google Maps to figure out where my bees might be flying.
Honey bees have been known to forage as far as 13km (about 8 miles), but the usual number that’s thrown around is the 5km maximum (about 3 miles). As with almost everything in beekeeping, there is no one precise answer because there are about 10 billion factors to consider first, most of them having to do with the local climate. Honey bees won’t fly 5km if they can find everything they need close to their hives. A 1km forage radius or less is not uncommon in areas with plentiful forage. However, 1-3km seems to be the average, or so most of the big textbooks tell me.
So here’s how I use Google Maps to calculate the approximate forage area of my bees (if you didn’t watch the video): Continue reading →
Honey bees can’t fly when their tiny wing muscles are too cold to move. When the sun shines on them in the winter, sometimes they warm up enough to fly. But the cold air can get to them while they’re flying and suddenly they drop out of the sky. I often find dead-looking bees like this in the snow throughout the winter. Sometimes, just for fun, I pick up the frozen bees and warm them up inside my house where they come back to life.
It’s not necessary to save bees in this way. Most bees will come back to life once the sun shines on them again. But even the ones that die often die for a reason. Continue reading →