May 29th, The First Warm Day of the Year

Not much to see here. A 4-minute static shot of my bees (with a very slow 4K zoom in) on what is probably the first real warm day of the year. It’s 20°C (68°F) and going up to 25. It feels like my bees are now starting to shift into serious brood-rearing mode. No drones yet, but hopefully soon.

While many beekeepers in North America and across the pond are dealing with swarms or even harvesting honey in some places, most honey bee colonies on the east coast of Newfoundland are just starting to get going.

The Isle of Newfoundland doesn’t have Varroa yet, nor most of the diseases that cause trouble for beekeepers pretty much everywhere else on the planet. But we do have some of the most inhospitable weather for honey bees anywhere, especially where I live on the east coast of the island, in a place called Flatrock, within spitting distance of the cold North Atlantic Ocean.

Not offence, but I suspect most beekeepers, except maybe a few in Iceland and northern Alaska, have a much easier time at beekeeping than I do. It’s kind of a miracle that I can even get a honey harvest from my bees most summers.

Can someone tell me why I keep doing this?

Converting to Medium Supers

I’ve been converting all my hives to medium supers since last year. I wish I’d done it from the start. It’s so much easier to lift a medium than a deep and (so far) it doesn’t seem to have any negative effect on my beekeeping.

Beekeeping is a big draw for retired people. If I was retired and thinking about getting into it, I would go with medium supers, but even better if I could get them, I’d consider going with shallow supers because they’re even lighter. Beekeeping doesn’t have to be an arduous affair.

8-frame supers are also a thing, though I’m not sure how common they are.

The photo included in this post shows a hive with two medium supers. It will eventually have three supers when it’s complete, maybe four.
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The Key Ingredient For Successful Beekeeping

The first swarm I ever experienced happened around this date in 2012. I haven’t had a colony come anywhere close to being this strong since. The extraordinarily robust colonies I was able to build up during my first few years of beekeeping may have been more the result of unusually warm and sunny weather than anything else. Beekeepers should give credit where credit is due, and let’s be honest: Most of the credit goes to the weather.

I attribute most of my success in beekeeping to good weather.

Stillness Speaks

24 minutes of just sitting here listening to the snow fall and the wind blow and the birds doing birdy things and all that stillness. Why not?

The video was shot on my Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone, so the audio isn’t exactly Hi-Fi, but I’ve cranked it up so all the natural sounds jump out a little more. It’s quiet for the most part, though.

Newfoundland Honey Bees Fly in Cold Weather

According to the University of Maine and many other reputable institutions of higher learning, honey bees will fly when temperatures are 12.8°C (55°F) and higher. Most beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland know that’s that a joke. My bees would virtually never go outside if they had to wait for the temperature to go up to 13°C. Here’s a short video I happened to record that shows my bees foraging and bringing in pollen when the thermometer was reading 4°C (39°F).

My thermometer isn’t always 100% accurate, so let’s say it was 6°C instead (43°F). That’s still well below the official foraging temperature. I guess the honey bees in Newfoundland didn’t get the memo that they weren’t supposed to fly when it’s this cold.

Stealing From The Rich to Give To The Poor

It could be interesting to come back to the video in this post in about two weeks, or more precisely to come back after checking on the hives in this video to see if they’ve more or less doubled in size, which is what I want to see.

Specifically, the weak colony in the video was given two frames of capped brood from the strong colony. Most of that brood will have emerged by the time I check on them again in two weeks. Two frames of brood should at least double the number of bees in the weak colony. Supposedly, one frame of brood equals three frames of bees, but the two frames weren’t jammed packed with capped brood, so I’m thinking five or six frames of new bees in total, maybe. Add it all up and what it means is that I want the weak colony that looks this…

A weak colony of maybe three frames of bees and hardly any brood (May 10th, 2020.)

…to have as many bees on the frames as the strong colony that looks like this:

As a strong colony with ten frames of bees (May 10th, 2020.)


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Peek and Speak Hive Inspection

A short and sweet hive inspection from earlier today:

00:05 — Spraying the bees with a mist instead of using a smoker.
00:50 — Pulling frames and talking about what I see and I’m looking for.
01:28 — Discovering fresh brood, open cells with eggs or larvae floating in white gooey royal jelly, or as they say in Paris, gelée royale (but no close up shots in the video, sorry).
01:48 — Spotting the queen.
03:28 — Describing and showing my 9-frames-per-box brood chamber set up.
04:00 — Final assessment of the colony: it’s looking okay.
04:25 — Some slow motions shots.

Converting To All-Medium Hives (Sort of)

Someday I’ll start posting instructional beekeeping videos again, but these days I enjoy down and dirty beekeeping work more, just hanging out with the bees and talking out loud, saying whatever comes to mind. I did this a couple days ago while inspecting all seven hives in my little shaded beeyard. Most of it was junk, what I said and what I got on video, but I still think there’s something to be had from watching these kinds of videos where not much happens, because real life, real beekeeping, is exactly that 95% of the time. It’s grimy tedious work. Let’s see what happens…


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