As far as I know, I’m the only person on planet earth who thoroughly documents what it takes get into backyard beekeeping on the island of Newfoundland. My Guide to Beekeeping might be a good place to start for absolute beginners.
I ordered a new ventilated bee jacket from Beemaid today because the mesh in the hood of my old one, which I’ve had for about 10 years, is cracking and the bees are getting in. The jacket looks filthy anyway and all the elastics in the cuffs and waistband have loosened. The bees can get through my sleeves easily if they want to, though they rarely do.
Here’s an image-link to the jacket:
I paid $155 for it. I looked into getting a different jacket from Amazon and other online stores to save money, but first I’ll mention why I went back to the Beemaid jacket. Continue reading →
A short quiet video where I explain how backfilling can signal that swarming, or splintering, could be on the way, a little tip I first picked up from Rusty Burlew. Then I insert a couple of frames of foundation into a super full of honey to relieve congestion so the queen’s pheromones can better circulate throughout the hive and all that jazz.
I got a Gmail Reminder yesterday: CHECK FOR SWARMS CELLS. I must have written that reminder in past years for a reason. So I checked for swarm cells and I’m glad I did. Here’s a video of me talking about what I found in the first hive I checked and what I did. I talk about other things too that new beeks might be curious about.
I checked some of my other hives for swarms cells too, but not all of them. It was just too damn hot.
I did outside visual inspections and didn’t see anything too alarming in the rest. I’ve never been sold on outside hive observations for predicting swarm risk in a honey bee colony. Perhaps it takes a certain skill that I haven’t developed yet, but except for seeing a large number of bees pouring out of the bottom entrance and climbing up the outside of the hive for a few days before a swarm, I’ve never seen any clear sign from outside that a colony was about to swarm. I’ve spoken to large scale beekeeping operators who report the same thing. So I just don’t go by external observations.
But I did today because I was too hot and tired. I’m hoping for the best.
Here’s a photo of me working on what is probably the largest hive I’ve ever had to deal with since I began beekeeping in 2010. (I’ve created a special tag just for this hive, Giant Hive 2021, so everything I’ve written about it can be viewed in sequence.)
A 500ml Mason jar of honey = 1 pound 8.5 oz / 24.5 oz / 695 grams. That’s 1.39 grams per millilitre of honey.
A 250ml Mason jar of honey = 11.45 oz / 325 grams. That’s 1.3 grams per millilitre of honey.
Both minus the weight of the jar. It looks like the 500ml jars (a pint of honey) provides a bigger bang for the buck with an extra 45 grams crammed in there. I don’t know which jar has the most accurate measurement, but an average of the two comes to 1.345 grams per millilitre of honey.
In any case, I’ve never understood why honey is sold by weight instead of volume — by the size of the jar it’s sold in. But whatever the reason, I decided to see how heavy honey in a jar comes in at so that I can calculate a price for selling it by weight. That’s it.
September 10th, 2021: According to this website, one millilitre of honey is exactly 1.437 grams. I’m assuming something than a kitchen scale was used to determine that number. The highest number I got was 1.39 grams.
In any case, it seems to me that the main reason honey would be sold by weight instead of volume is that the weight measurements result in a larger number. 250ml of honey doesn’t sound better at 359g. A 500ml jar (one pint) is nearly 720g. Smoke and mirrors. It’s the foundation of capitalism. Honey is also sold as “natural” and “pure,” two terms that mean nothing. And so on.
Here’s now I inadvertently (or I could say deliberately) managed to get over 6 pounds of honey from a single medium frame. 6 pounds is about 3 kg. (I’ve created a special tag just for this hive, Giant Hive 2021, so everything I’ve written about it can be viewed in sequence.)
Other than giving the bees space inside the hive to grow, I really didn’t do much. This is 95% the result of good weather and a healthy queen. No bee whispering of any kind was required. There never is.
Essentially, all I did was place 7 frames of drawn comb in a 10-frame honey super, creating extra space between the frames. If there’s a strong nectar flow, the bees will often fill in the extra space with honey, resulting in thick frames of honey — and sometimes more honey per super.
1 of 5 thick frames of honey, averaging 5.2 pounds / 2.4 kg of liquid honey per frame. (July 7th, 2021.)
I wrote this on Facebook, but I might as well copy it here:
Whenever I look at a full frame of capped brood (capped brood on both sides of the frame), I check to see if there are at least two frames worth of space in the hive for those bees when they hatch out. If there isn’t, it’s time to add another box.
Even if 1000 bees die every day during the foraging season1, once those babies hatch out, a hive can get crowded in no time.
This is 90% of beekeeping in the summer: Making sure the queen has room to lay.
Each full frame of capped brood will become approximately three frames of bees once they hatch out. It’s pretty basic math.2 Continue reading →
I talk about this all the time, but here we go again, a short video that shows how I get my bees to build straight comb off bare foundation (when I have drawn comb).
Keep in mind that this method is not necessary. Many beekeepers simply let the bees build comb out from the middle frames as they naturally expand the brood nest and build comb for honey. That works too. Inserting empty frames between drawn comb is only meant to speed up the process because of the bees’ compulsion to fill in empty space.
As I get used to reading the frames with this all-medium beekeeping I’ve taken on (it’s slightly different), I’m playing it safe in regards to swarm signs. We’ve also had an unusually warm summer so far. Most of my colonies are bursting at the seams. I’ve run out of frames and boxes to keep them contained. So any sign of backfilling and I’m giving the queen more room to lay.
Backfilling is when so much nectar is coming in that the bees run out of space to store it, so they end up storing it in the brood nest where the queen normally lays her eggs. When the queen runs out of space to lay like this, she becomes “honeybound.” And when that happens, the colony usually swarms.
That’s something I try to avoid as much as possible, especially since I live on a street packed with little kids, and one of those little kids is terrified of flying insects. I don’t want a swarm to land on her swing set and traumatise her for life. Continue reading →
Whenever I talk about foundationless frames, they always have a starter strip in them. A starter strip is where the bees begin (or “start”) to build comb in a foundationless frames.
Foundationless frames are used for all kind of reasons. And that little strip of plastic isn’t going to pollute the honey or the bees. The bees will encounter considerably worse things in their environment while foraging. That’s one of the reasons why there’s really no such thing as organic honey.
It’s probably a better idea to securely glue in the starter strip with wax or whatever than jamming it in like I do in the video. I shot this video on the spot only as a quick demo.
Quality plastic foundation is coated with beeswax to encourage the bees to build comb off it. But sometimes the foundation isn’t coated in wax for whatever reason and the bees won’t touch it, or if they do, they take much longer to build comb on it. So that’s when beekeepers are forced to coat the foundation with beeswax themselves. There are many ways of going about it. This is one of them.
This is the most convenient method I’ve found for waxing foundation. However, even more convenient might be to wax the foundation before inserting it into the frames.
Word around the campfire tells me that only the top inch or so of the foundation needs to be waxed — not the entire foundation. Apparently, once the bees start building comb on the top edge of the foundation, that gets them started and they have no trouble working down the rest of the frame. I’ve seen photos that seem to illustrate this. Continue reading →