The Sugar Express

What can I say? It cost about $3.00 to make a brick of sugar that has the potiential to save my bees if they run low on honey when I’m not around to save them. So here we go again.

Two colonies got only sugar bricks. Another one got a protein patty and a sugar brick. I’ll say this, though, these three colonies seem to be in good shape. They’re full of bees and I can still see frames of capped honey up top.

Last year some of my colonies didn’t break above the top bars until April. This year, all of them except one (out of 10) have broken above the top bars. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re running low on honey, but, like I said, a few dollars worth of sugar ain’t no thing to make sure they’re okay.

Feeding Bees Again

Honestly, I’m not out to publicly shame natural beekeepers who believe that sugar is bad for honey bees. I just happen to be dumping sugar into some of my hives because some of my colonies might run out of honey before spring. Here’s a 3-minute video that demonstrates how I dump sugar into my hives when I’m too lazy to do anything else. (I also posted a 20-minute version of this video too.)


I could have sprayed the sugar with water to harden it up, but I didn’t. Some other thoughts off the top of my head:
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A Sugar Board

I dropped a sugar board over one of my weaker colonies today. Here’s a 3-minute video to prove it.

I gave the bees some protein patties too. Hopefully it’ll keep them going until spring. An 11-minute cut shows up after the short version for anyone with the time for a deeper dive.
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Why do honey bees hang off each other like that? (Festooning)

Honey bees festooning, hanging off each other in chains that eventually seem to fill with beeswax that becomes honey comb.

I narrated — not exactly the word for it, but let’s just go with it. I narrated a 5-minute video today where I provide my best off-the-cuff explanation of festooning, that thing bees do when they hang off each other in chains and won’t let go.

This explanation should have taken 60 seconds, not 5 minutes, but that’s how I roll sometimes.

Secret Hives Update (February 2022)

I plan to place at least one more beehive in my secret location sometime in the spring because my colonies there are always in the best shape, better than any of my colonies anywhere else. Unlike most of my hives in other locations, including the hives in Flatrock next to my house, my secret hives don’t get much special treatment.


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Beeyard Update, Feb. 09, 2022

A beeyard update I recorded on my cell phone on the way home from work.

It includes what I’ve been told is public domain music by Duke Ellington. In the past two years, I’ve become more of an aficionado of his 1950s and ’60s records, but only in the E.U. are those recordings in the public domain. I’d fill all my videos with that music if I could. I love it. But for now, I’ll test the copyright waters with these early recordings from the 1920s. Oh yeah, and I also check on how well the bees are consuming some sugar bricks I added a few weeks ago and a few other things.

Sheltering Bees In The Winter

It didn’t take long to change my mind about the canvas hole covers idea. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad idea. Thick but porous fabric over the inner cover hole of a hive with a ventilation rim might still work to let excess moisture out of the hive while keeping the heat in. But I like being able to peek down the hole and see what the bees are doing. I’ll probably just dump a hive pillow in instead.


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A Beekeeping Hack (That Might Not Work)

A 2-minute video that demonstrates and explains my idea for covering the inner cover hole with canvas. It’s followed by a 20-minute version for those interested in a deeper dive into all kinds of other things.

As always with these longer videos, I explain every little thing I do while I’m doing it so that new beekeepers unfamiliar with all this stuff might be able to pick up some helpful titbits of information. I know this format isn’t quick and slick and eye-catching, and my viewership has gone down the toilet since I started doing this, but when I look back on all the videos I’ve watched over the years, it’s usually been this kind of long-form walk-along video that I’ve learned the most from — the ones where I’m just hanging out with the beekeeper while they’re beekeeping. So I’m sticking to it.
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Messy Dry Sugar Feeding

I dumped 4 kgs (8.8 lbs) of dry sugar in one of my farm hives on the way to work today. I was in a hurry, which is not a good thing to be in while beekeeping. I should have cut the newspaper precisely before I arrived instead of roughly tearing a piece of it there on the spot and quickly placing it over the top bars. I should have put something in the middle of the paper, like the roll of duct tape I had on me, to make it easier to create a hole for the bees crawl through too.

I wouldn’t call this the greatest example of the dry sugar method of feeding (a.k.a. the Mountain Camp Method), but I’ve seen (and done) worse. It could have been windy and the newspaper could have blown away. It could have been warmer and the bees could have been flying in my face. The bees could have poured out over the sides of the hive and I would have had to scoop them up with my hands and flick them back in the hive — if they weren’t flying in my face. So maybe it wasn’t pretty, but I got ‘er done.

Other topics touched on in the video: hive wrap, insulation, problems with tape and hive wrap, the importance of paint and wax-coated components, the possibility of mice in the hive, top entrances shelters and bottom entrance shelters.
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Comb Honey Instead of Sugar Bricks

I’ve enjoyed being able to check on my bees during my lunch breaks over the past while since Omicron shut down my normal office work schedule. What a lousy way to learn the Greek alphabet, eh? I’m burnt out from the pandemic like most of us, but being able to take a break from my office job and hang with my bees has provided a huge mental boost. Today, for instance, all I did was give some comb honey to a colony I suspected was hungry. It only took about five minutes, but it was so relaxing.

I did this so fast, it didn’t require smoke, a veil or gloves. The bees were too busy staying clustered to worry about me. The sun is beating down on the black hive now. What heat was lost will be regained quickly. I’m also planning to wrap the hive with silver bubble wrap to see if that helps.

Winter Bees

Here’s a 5-minute single shot of what I hope are big and healthy winter bees. It took me about 4 years, something like that, to clue in about winter bees. They’re are not the same as regular summertime fun time worker bees, and I’m still not really an expert at it.


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More Winter Beekeeping Chores

In this 6-minute video, I add a feeder rim to a hive; some yogurt container shelters around the upper entrances; I check on some cotton hive pillows (that seem to be working well, possibly as good as moisture quilts or ventilated quilt boxes); I wrap another hive in silver bubble wrap; and I can’t remember what else, but it’s riveting stuff as usual.

Much of what I do is experimental, so don’t quote me on anything I say in this video (or any of the videos I’ve posted in the past 12 months).

Yogurt Shelters

Beekeepers on a budget with minimal carpentry skills might like these little shelters I made from old yogurt containers to keep wind, rain and snow from blowing through the upper entrances of my beehives. Here’s a three and a half minute video that shows what I’m talking about. (It ends with a 15-minute extended cut for those who like to dig a little deeper.)

It’s an experiment.
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See You Next Year

Dear Readers (all five of you — Hi Mom!):

I don’t see myself posting much of anything over the next few weeks. But here’s a playlist of personal favourite videos from my archives. Many of the videos are simply attractive shots that could appear anywhere, not just on a beekeeping blog. Slow and calm and pretty. Put it in full-screen mode and let ‘er rip.

I will still post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from time to time, but I also hope to unplug, so maybe not.

Take care and see you next year,

Phillip

Storing Comb Over Winter

I store frames of drawn comb over the winter by building a well ventilated hive in my unheated outdoor shed. Here’s a video that proves it:

The hive full of drawn comb (and some capped frames of honey) is well ventilated on the bottom and top using queen excluders so mice can’t get in. The hive can be built outside on its own too. No shed required.

Foil Bubble Wrap and Cotton Pillows – Part 2

I dropped in on the hive that I wrapped with foil bubble insulation to see if it survived a storm that brought in 140 kph (87 mph) winds. I also checked on the cotton hive pillows that I made last week to see if they were mouldy.

Bubble foil wrap holding on tight after six days and a snow storm with 140 kph winds. (Isle of Newfoundland, December 11th, 2021.)


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Cotton Hive Pillows

Hold on to your hats.

An experiment. I’m making hive pillows using old cotton pillow cases. The pillow is full of wood chips and straw. I’ve been toying with these for the past couple of years because moisture quilts — or quilt boxes with upper ventilation — aren’t as convenient as I’d like them to be. They don’t hold in heat well either. My bees in Flatrock, where it’s unusually cold and damp compared to many places in Newfoundland, seem to need all the heat they can get, and moisture quilts, heat-wise, just don’t cut it.
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