A problem with the Mountain Camp method of dry sugar feeding is that sometimes the bees toss out the granules of sugar like they’re garbage. Maybe the bees are less likely to do that if they’re starving. All I can say for certain is that I use the Mountain Camp method — pouring dry sugar on newspaper over the top bars and sometimes spraying it with a bit of water — only when I can’t do anything else. Only when I don’t have sugar bricks available.
I know better than to remove the 6mm / quarter-inch mouse and shrew proofing mesh from the bottom entrances of my hives while temperatures are still cold (like they are now), but hope springs eternal whenever the sun comes out like it did a couple weeks ago, and silly me, I removed the mesh from about half of my hives. Then it got cold again — like it always does in April — and now it looks like I’ve got critters trying to find a warm place to cuddle into. Nice move, Phillip. Way to go. I have to keep reminding myself not to remove the mesh until the first full hive inspection of the year — when it’s warm and stays warm… At least I think it’s a mouse making a mess of my bees.
The video taps into other topics, but the mesh is the main one.
So I have a teenie tiny colony that’s pretty much toast. I knew going into the winter it wasn’t in great shape. It was result of a late season queen that was mated sometime in September, which is not good for all kinds of reasons I won’t go into now. But essentially it was (is) a small colony with a poorly mated queen that I should have combined with a strong colony before winter set in.
In any case, Marc Bloom, another beekeeper here on the Isle of Newfoundland going all-in like me, because, come on, there’s no turning back now, dropped off a 5-frame medium nuc box for me the other day and I thought now would be a good time to dig into this dying colony, transfer it to a smaller, probably dryer hive box, and maybe give it a fighting chance. So that’s what I did. Here’s the video, including a sort of post-mortem looking through the dying colony’s old frames.
Honey bees can’t fly when their tiny wing muscles are too cold to move. When the sun shines on them in the winter, sometimes they warm up enough to fly. But the cold air can get to them while they’re flying and suddenly they drop out of the sky. I often find dead-looking bees like this in the snow throughout the winter. Sometimes, just for fun, I pick up the frozen bees and warm them up inside my house where they come back to life.
It’s not necessary to save bees in this way. Most bees will come back to life once the sun shines on them again. But even the ones that die often die for a reason. Continue reading →
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.
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.
I’m not an expert on dealing with a robbing frenzy because I hardly ever see it. I think I’ve only had it happen once, a few years ago when I spilled some sugar syrup spiked with anise extract in my beeyard. And… I did it again.
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.
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.
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.
This is an edit of the second live YouTube stream I recently did from the small beeyard on the side of my house. The video is recorded through a WiFi signal that I pick up on my cell phone from from outside my house, so the video quality isn’t exactly high definition. That’s always been my main reason for not doing this before. But I realise quality isn’t really an issue for videos viewed on tiny cell phone screens, so let’s give it a shot:
Generally I don’t think it’s a good idea to return dying bees back to the hive. The bees in this video probably came outside to poop. Took a rest on the warm concrete block. Enjoyed the warmth so much that they lost track of time and got stuck out in the cold. Too cold to fly back inside the hive. But honey bees, when they’re sick, often leave the confines of their hive so they don’t share their germs with all the other bees inside the crowded hive. They maintain their social distance. They create a circuit breaker to cut off the transmission of disease by leaving the hive. Can picking up those sick bees and returning them to the hive can effectively re-transmit any disease they might have?
When I first learned about torpor at Honey Bee Suite, I thought, man, this is the coolest thing (no pun intended). It allowed me to relax about any winter beekeeping I’ve had to do over the years. Continue reading →
Do frames of dark comb always produce dark honey? I’ll give you one guess.
This isn’t the first time I’ve made crushed & strained honey in my kitchen. But it’s the first time I’ve crushed combs that were this different from one another — so dark and so light. I’ve harvested honey by the individual frame before because sometimes each frame of honey in a single hive can come from such a different nectar source that the final liquid honey in each frame has a completely different colour and flavour. (That sentence seems longer than it needed to be.) I was expecting something like that this time around. But that’s not what happened. Continue reading →
The Wailing Wailers recorded a cover version of “I Made a Mistake,” by The Impressions, sometime in the ’60s, and if it wasn’t for copyright laws, it would be the soundtrack to the following video:
Something I’ve learned from beekeeping over the years is that’s okay to make mistakes, even big ones. It might be better than living in a fantasy world. If we’re not open to making mistakes, we never really learn or get good at anything.
A video about queen bees. I’m completely off screens for at least the next 10 days. I’ll add more details when I get back. See ya.
00:00 — Thirty seconds of silence because we could all use 30 seconds of quiet contemplation once in a while. It’s a black and white slow motion shot of Comfrey.
00:28 — Torn open queen cells, destroyed by the first queen to emerge.
01:05 — The virgin queen.
01:59 — Photos of the open queen cells.
02:05 — Introducing a queen into a new hive. If the queenless colony is ready for a new queen, they will cover her cage and try to feed her lick her so they can bathe in her pheromones and be happy.
02:29 — Watching what the bees do. Are they trying to attack the queen or accept the queen? Â Watch the rest of the video to find out.