I dropped a sugar board over one of my weaker colonies today. Here’s a 3-minute video to prove it.
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.
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.
In this 4-minute video, I check in on my cotton hive pillows; I drop a big brick of sugar and some protein into a hive; I check in on my silver bubble wrapped hives; and I invent a cheap and easy bottom entrance shelter for beekeepers on a budget, just like I did with my yogurt container upper entrance shelters that seem to be all the rage now.
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.)
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.
I made a honey bucket with a honey gate, or a spigot. The honey gate makes it easier to fill my jars of extracted honey. I used a 28-litre brewing bucket that I never use for brewing (from the one time I made mead). Food-grade buckets that look like 18-litre paint buckets are also available at some hardware stores. It doesn’t hurt to use a bucket with an air-tight cover.
A short video that explains how metal frame rests work.
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.
A short video that explains why I don’t want anymore homemade supers.
If they fit perfectly with the components I already have, I’d be all over them. But they never do.
This video shows how I cut deep frames — with comb — down to medium frames. People who know their way around a workshop are going to jump all over this to tell me everything I’m doing wrong and what I should be doing to cut them properly. But this is for people like me who will likely never become a handy man in any way, shape or form.
I often forget to glue my frames together, but in this case, even though it’s not in the video, glue helps keep the bottom bars in place because they don’t clip in like the usually do.
I cut my deep supers down to medium supers too. If you watched the video, I’ll give you one guess at how I do that without measuring anything.
This two-minute videos shows how I try to nail my frames together when I’m not lazy. When I’m lazy, I just bang a nail in on the top and bottom and call it done.
I know glue is great, but I don’t use glue to keep my frames together because glued-together frames smash into a million pieces when they break apart inside an extractor. Without the glue, I can usually put them back together. The bees also tend to fill in most of the cracks with propolis, which is a pretty good glue.
This is not a practical method of assembling frames for most commercial beekeepers, but for backyard beekeepers who don’t have compressor nails guns or any expensive gear — just a hammer and some nails — this works well.
Update: It looks like I already wrote about this in excruciating detail but forgot about it: Wooden Frames That Won’t Fall Apart.
Here’s a playlist collection of videos I’ve posted over the years that somewhat falls into the category of Practical Beekeeping Tips. The playlist is sort of in the order that someone new beekeeping would experience, starting off with how to paint hives and how to mix sugar syrup, how to install a nuc — all that jazz.
While I’d like to update and modify some of the videos, that would take more time than I can spare (I have a full-time job that isn’t beekeeping). Much like my Beekeeping Guide, it’s not a comprehensive series of videos, but maybe it’ll help.
As much as I love moisture quilts (or anything that keeps my bees warm and dry over the winter), sometimes I think, “There’s got to be an easier way.” And when I say sometimes, I mean every single day. Instead of using moisture quilts, I’ve opted to try out these Dempster Hive Pillows. They’re 2 or 3 inch (~7cm) thick burlap pillows filled with wood chips that sit over the inner cover and inside a ventilation rim (or any kind of box with ventilation holes in it) to provide some insulation for the bees but also help absorb and wick away condensation from inside the hive.
Here’s a basic intro to the Dempster Hive Pillow:
It’s another experiment, but I think (I hope) it’ll work. I think it’ll be a lot easier to drop pillows into my hives instead dumping wood chips or some other absorbent material inside the hive. That’s the aforementioned easier way I was talking about. Considering that my bees have gone through the winter so far with zero insulation and zero moisture-absorbing material in place, my feeling is, yeah, what’s the worse thing that could happen?
Here’s the extended version of the above video that goes into a lot more detail about other things related my winter beekeeping:
Most plastic foundation is coated in beeswax to encourage the bees to build comb on it. It’s usually referred to as “wax-dipped” foundation. The really good stuff is double-dipped in wax. But sometimes the wax wears off if the foundation has been stored or banged around for a while. Some foundation, right out of the box, doesn’t have any wax at all. I had to deal with some of that stuff last summer and I was not happy. I would have been better off using foundationless frames. There are plenty of good reasons to use foundationless frames over frames with foundation. (I use a mix of foundation and foundationless frames in my hives.)
Having been stuck with 100 sheets of waxless foundation, and after managing to track down a 10-pound chunk of clean beeswax, I decided to wax the foundation. At first I tried to paint the melted wax on. Then I rubbed hard wax into the foundation. Finally I rubbed soft partially-melted wax into the foundation — the method I liked the most. Painting the foundation with an actual paintbrush may have produced the best results, but overall, I’m pleased with how my methods worked out. I’m sure there are better ways of doing this, but here’s a video of my first crack at it:
This is not a well edited video. I would normally try to cut something like this down to a few minutes instead of nine minutes, but I didn’t have time for that, so it is what it is. I’m also aware that this method of waxing foundation may not be the best method. But sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got.
June 24, 2021: More info at Waxing Foundation with a Heat Gun.
Some people have noticed that most of my hive boxes are painted black and have asked, “What are you, nuts?”
I would have asked the same thing a few years back. But then I moved to Flatrock, Isle of Newfoundland, where I can see the North Atlantic Ocean from my house, and it’s freezing here.
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.
The following was written while I was lying in bed with the flu for a few days last winter. It’s long for no reason other than I was sick and had nothing better to do than try to write the longest post in the world. You’ve been warned. I could condense the whole thing down to two or three sentences, but what’s the fun in that?
Subtitled: How I Sometimes Assemble Beehive Frames
Ever pull a big frame full of honey from a hive, only to have it fall apart on you? You know what I’m talking about: one of the sidebars disconnects from the frame and the heavy comb of honey pops out of the frame and just sort of hangs awkwardly from one side while you try to maneuverer it so you don’t crush any bees? Yeah, that. (Am I the only one who had a hard time reading that with this animated GIF distracting me the whole time?)
I’ve been experimenting with drilling holes in my foundation so my bees can move from one frame of honey to the next in the winter without breaking cluster.
The bees reduce the hole to the size of bee space. It some cases they seem to fill in the hole altogether. They seem to keep it open closer to the brood nest, though it’s difficult to judge that this early in the game. I suppose the bees can open and close the holes as needed. But whatever is going on, it doesn’t seem to bother the bees and I imagine it helps them move between frames in the winter.
It’s possible the holes could create an unwanted draft in the winter, which means this modification to the foundation would do more harm than good. But I’ve been doing it for four or five years now and so far so good. None of my colonies have starved to death over the winter by not being able to move between frames of honey.
Postscript: And yes, mice got into some of those frames and ate away a few patches off the comb. That’s the main reason some of them look kind of ragged.