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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Making Queens Without Grafting

This is a temporary post.

Here’s a cheap and easy method of making queens that doesn’t require grafting. All you need is a foundationless frame full of open worker brood.

I’ve known about this method for years, but I’ve always found that buying mated queens was less of a headache to meet my unambitious approach to beekeeping. (I can’t afford to be ambitious. That requires money.)

Another cheap and easy method for making queens that I learned from this guy involves crowding a healthy colony into a small hive. The bees get crowded just like they do when they’re compelled to swarm. You just make sure to take all the swarm cells before the bees swarm. Swarm cells often produce the healthiest queens.

I write about it in more detail on this Facebook post.

The Fat Bee Man also provides a method for making your own queen cups from wax, just to show you that grafting isn’t an evil thing.

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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On Not Reversing Spring Hives Again

May 31st, 2021.

Along with the five hives next to my house, I have two hives on the edge of a farm (and another one in a secret location). The weather got warm enough for me to do full hive inspections on both of farm hives. I only turned my camera on when I found something I thought could be educational for new beekeepers. Most of the video is me talking about what I found in the hives, what I did to each of them and why I did it. I know it’s a visually boring video, but it covers a lot of ground. This is exactly the kind of boring video I would been all over when I first started beekeeping.

Here’s what happens in the video:
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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.

Damp Winter Hive = Slow Spring Build-Up

This is a 9-minute video of me talking in my beeyard about some things I’ve noticed after my first hive inspections this year.

Some of those things are: Left over moisture from the winter, poorly-fitting hive components, reading the brood pattern on medium frames instead of my usual deep frames, and the possibility of harvesting honey in the spring instead of the fall.

I dive deeper into all of this in the following summary of the video:
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All Beekeeping is Still Local Beekeeping

Spoiler Alert: I miss keeping bees in the warmer parts of Newfoundland. That’s all I’m really saying.

It was finally warm enough (briefly) to do my first hive inspections of the year. I inspected three of my eight hives. If I were to give a grade of colony strength to each of them — for what I’ve come to expect in my local climate — I’d give a 10/10 for one hive, 7/10 for another and a 4/10 for one where the queen seems to be on the way out. In this video, I focus on the colony with the highest grade and give credit where credit is due: to warm weather and a well-mated queen. It seems to me those two factors are the main ingredients to successful backyard beekeeping.

Ten percent, maybe 20% of the credit, goes to the backyard beekeeper (me) who provides their bees with a dry hive to live in. That part of it can be more complicated than you might think, but really, most of the credit goes to good weather and healthy queens. I’ve come to these conclusions based on my experience keeping bees in four location on the island of Newfoundland and from talking to beekeepers in other parts of the island. (The video explains it too.) But I could be wrong. What I really should say is these are contemplations, not conclusions.
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Inserting Foundationless Frames

I try to insert at least one foundationless frame into each of my hives in the spring so the queen doesn’t gunk up the space between the boxes with drone comb. Foundationless frames also allow me to harvest comb honey or make crushed & strained honey.

Bee jacket, no gloves, mist bottle instead of smoker. Here are the details:
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0.294 Seconds of a Honey Bee’s Life

This is my first attempt at taking a series of photos showing a honey bee in flight for 1 second. Honey bees move faster than you might think. 0.294 seconds is the best I could do. That’s 8 photos. (I was aiming for 24.) I’ll do better next time.

It’s more impressive on a desktop if you click the image to view it full-screen.

One more thing: This series of photos captures approximately 75 wing beats in those 0.294 seconds. A honey bee averages about 230 wing beats per second. Yup.

Calm Talk in the Beeyard

Today is my three thousand, nine hundred and forty-sixth day of beekeeping on the island of Newfoundland. And in honour of this momentous occasion, I’m taking a break from the internet and any news with the word “Covid” in it. After this break, I might post something once a week on Wednesdays. We’ll see.

Colts Foot finally blooming in Flatrock. (May 1st, 2021.)


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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Willow Blossoms (Catkins)

A variety of willow trees, wild and cultivated, provide an awesome hit of pollen and nectar for Newfoundland honey bees in the early spring.

Willow blossoms, or catkins, in Flatrock. (May 6th, 2021.)

I used to think Dandelions provided the first pollen for the bees in my climate, but it seems like Colts Foot might have the jump on the Dandelions, and Willow Catkins are a close second. When I see my bees bring in yellow pollen in the month of May (when it’s warm enough for the bees to forage), it could be from Dandelion, Colts Foots or Willow Catkins. It’s possible to see the difference between all these pollens as the bees bring them back to the hive, but that’s another story. Either way, willows are now on my list of honey bee friendly flowers in Newfoundland.