Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Asters (or Daisies)

Many of the honey bee friendly flowers I’ve photographed this year grow in or around my new beeyard, including this daisy-like flower:

Honey bee on some blue flower in Flatrock, Newfoundland (Aug. 24, 2015.)

Honey bee on some Aster flowers in Flatrock, Newfoundland (Aug. 24, 2015.)
Click the images to see more detail.

It’s a member of the Aster genus of plants.

Honey bee on blue flower in Flatrock, NL (Aug. 24, 2015.)

Honey bee on Aster flowers in Flatrock, NL (Aug. 24, 2015.)

I’m not sure exactly what species grows in my beeyard, so we’ll just go with Aster for now.
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A Kill-Free Hive Top Feeder

July 2019 Introduction: I’ve removed the video that I originally uploaded with this post because I don’t think it’s a good idea anymore. Screen stapled over the middle of the hive top feeder, for me, is the way to go now. I also staple screen inside the reservoirs on the bottom to prevent the bees from getting into the reservoirs when they’re empty. See Screened Hive Top Feeder for more details.

Hive top feeder screen in the middle so the bees are contained inside the hive. (Oct. 10, 2016.)

Hive top feeder with screen in the middle so the bees are contained inside the hive. (Oct. 10, 2016.)

I have no love for hive top feeders. They can be heavy and messy and a farcical tragedy when things go wrong. But this simple and cheap modification virtually transforms them into kill-free feeders and, at least in my experience, makes them easier to use. It also allows me to put various rims over the feeder, or anything I want over the feeder, without risk of drowning any bees. Obsessive-compulsive mad scientist beekeepers (a significant portion of the beekeeping demographic) could easily build on this design so that the feeder virtually refills itself. I can already imagine how that could work, but I digress.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Knapweed

I saw this honey bee on some Knapweed close to the water (i.e., the Atlantic Ocean) in Flatrock today, right at the entrance to the East Coast Trail.

Cell phone shot of honey bee on Knapweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 17, 20150)

Cell phone shot of honey bee on Knapweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 17, 2015)


I’ve heard that honey bees will go for Knapweed, but today is the first time I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Honey bee on Knapweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (August 17, 2015.)

Honey bee on Knapweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (August 17, 2015.)


Alright, then. So let’s add Knapweed to my list of honey bee friendly flowers in and around the area of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Cell phone shot of honey bee on Thistle (Aug. 17, 2015.)

Cell phone shot of honey bee on Knapweed (Aug. 17, 2015.)

P.S.: At first I thought the plant was Thistle, but it doesn’t have thorns like Thistle. So I asked around and it was identified as the invasive weed, Knapweed. It’s not the only invasive plant honey bees are able to take advantage of. Honey bees are attracted to Thistle, but I won’t add it to my list until I — correctly — see it with my own eyes.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Honey Clover

I noticed all kinds of bee-like creatures — bumblebees, honey bees, flies that look like honey bees — descending on some weedy looking plant in an overgrown flower box next to my driveway today. I sent this photo of the plant out into the ether and was informed almost immediately that it’s White Sweet Clover, or Melilotus Albus — also known as Honey Clover.

White seed clover blooming in Flatrock, Newfoundland, in overgrown flower box next to my driveway. (August 14, 2015.)

White Sweet Clover blooming in Flatrock, Newfoundland, in an overgrown flower box next to my driveway. (August 14, 2015.)


I had a hard time photographing the bees on the flowers. This is the best I could do:

Honey bee on White Sweet Clover in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 14, 2015.)

Honey bee on White Sweet Clover in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 14, 2015.)


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Touchy-Feely Honey Bees

Here’s a three-and-a-half-minute video that shows some honey bees in a touchy-feely kind of mood after having their pheromones thrown into confusion with smoke.

I had to smoke the bees to curb the looking-for-a-fight enthusiasm of some of the guard bees (the first minute of the video provides the details). The bees, as far as I can tell, respond to the stimuli of strange-smelling bees and smoke by tasting and touching (and possibly cleaning) each other all over. My guess is they’re getting to know each other again. They all smell like smoke instead of bees, so they have to re-taste and smell each other to re-register in their little bee brains the smell and taste of home, of all their sisters and brothers. A perfect opportunity for any queenless bees looking for a new place to live to slip in unnoticed.

My previous video shows how the Guard Bees reacted.

A few hours later: I’m not sure if the smoke was useful. I just checked on the hive again and saw a few battling bees tumbling and fumbling over each other near the bottom entrance. The smoke seems to have delayed the inevitable… Newspaper combines can be tricky. Bad things can happen if the bees get through the newspaper too soon. That’s why I usually don’t even cut a slit in the newspaper. If the slit is too big, or tears at some point, the new bees can pour into the hive and stir up a storm. I’ve seen it happen with other beekeepers with grim results. I’ve got a feeling that most beekeeping problems are caused by beekeepers.

Guard Bees

Here’s a short video of some guard bees patrolling the bottom entrance of a hive.

The bees were recovering from being smoked after I did a newspaper combine that let the new bees in too fast. Some bee battles started up. Instead of watching a few thousand bees go at it (and the queen possibly getting killed in the melee), I hit them with some smoke. In theory, when the smoke clears, all the bees’ pheromones are messed up, nobody knows who anyone is and they become all touchy-feely getting to know each other again, along with the new bees.

Continued in my Touchy-Feely Bees video.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Fireweed

Fireweed, or Chamerion angustifolium, is a honey bee friendly flower that blossoms usually by the first week of August on the island of Newfoundland. (Click images for a better view.)

Honey bee on Fireweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 11, 2015.)

Honey bee on Fireweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 11, 2015.)

Some parts of the island see Fireweed before others.

Cell phone snapshot of fireweed in Eastport, Newfoundland. (August 9, 2015.)

Cell phone snapshot of fireweed in Eastport, Newfoundland. (August 9, 2015.)


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What Does Fresh Brood Look Like?

Fresh brood looks like this (click the image for a closer view):

Fresh brood in the upper deep (or hive body). The queen expanding the brood nest up without any help from humans. (August 10, 2015.)

Fresh brood in the upper deep (or hive body). The queen expanding the brood nest up without any help from humans. (August 10, 2015.)

I was planning to pull up a frame or two of brood from the bottom box to make sure the queen expanded the brood nest up (a lazy edition of pyramiding), but I found fresh brood on the second or third frame that I inspected. The queen didn’t need any help from me. So I put everything back the way I found it and left the bees alone.

The Piping Queen Revisited

I forgot to post an update about the possible Piping Queen I heard in a queenless colony a while ago. (It’s a longer-than-usual but detailed post that might be interesting for beekeepers who’ve never encountered piping or even heard of it.) The update: I pulled a frame from the hive six days after I heard the piping and found a frame full of royal jelly.

Brood cells full of royal jelly. Signs of mated queen (I hope). (Aug. 10, 2015.)

Royal jelly found in a hive that’s been queenless for more than a month. (August 10, 2015.)


Royal jelly isn’t a guarantee that I have a well-mated queen. I could have a laying worker or a drone-laying queen. But I’m taking it as a good sign. For now on if I hear piping, I’ll assume that a good queen is present. A shot in the dark: The virgin queen mated the very day I heard the piping. (I’ll update this post if it turns out the queen is a dud.)
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