Weighing Down Beehives vs Tying Down Beehives

I never got into tying my beehives down with ratchet straps because I was too stunned to know how to use a ratchet strap. I still prefer what some call “lashing” or “sport” straps. They’re less complicated to use, they seem to hold on just as tight to the hives as the ratchet straps, and if you’ve ever used them, you’ll know they don’t create any clack-clack ratcheting vibrations as they’re tightened (the kind of vibrations that don’t make honey bees happy). So if I had to go with any kind of strap to secure my beehives to the ground, I’d go with the so-called sport or lashing strap instead of a ratchet strap.

A lashing strap, usually cheaper and easier to use than a ratchet strap.

I should make a video on how to use the various straps. People as useless as me (people who can relate) might find the videos helpful. People with giant pick-up trucks who know their way around ratchet straps and heavy metal objects would probably get a good laugh out of it too.
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Review of The Maxant 3100p Extractor

Here’s a video of me extracting some honey outdoors, something I wouldn’t recommend to anyone new at this beekeeping foolishness. (Cut down from a 15-minute video.) The video works as a review of the Maxant 3100p extractor which cost me $1400 (Canadian) after taxes and shipping a few years ago. Spoiler alert: The 9-frame extractor does the job, but the legs that come with were no my friends. The base of the extractor had to be bolted down to something unmovable and secured to operate properly and safely — at least for me.

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Beekeeping Basics: Installing a Nuc

Most new beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland (and many other places on the planet) will start up their first colonies with what is often referred to as a nuc, or a nucleus colony, or a starter hive that contains a laying queen, at least one frame of brood, a frame or two of pollen and honey, and usually a blank or empty frame to give the worker bees something to work on while they’re stuck in a 4-frame nuc box for up to a week. The frames from the nuc are usually placed inside a single hive body (in Newfoundland, it’s usually a deep) with empty frames to fill in the rest of the box. A feeder of some sort is installed. And that’s it. The following 24-minute video demonstrates the entire process.

I’ll post a condensed version of this video at a later date if I can, but for now it’s probably more helpful to show how it plays out in real time (more or less) so that anyone new to all this, or anyone thinking about starting up a few honey bee colonies next year, will have a realistic idea of what to expect when it comes time to install their first nuc. I plan to post follow-up videos to track the progress of this colony right into next spring, again so that anyone hoping to start up their own hives in the future will have a non-idealized take on what to expect.

It was well over 30°C (86°F) by the time I finished installing all of my nucs. The sweat was pouring off my face and stinging my eyes. Expect that too.
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Beekeeping Start-Up Costs (on the island of Newfoundland)

When I first wrote this post (in 2012 and revised in 2014), I had to order all my beekeeping supplies from Beemaid in Manitoba. I never had a problem with anything I purchased from Beemaid. The hive components, smokers, bee jackets, pollen patties — everything was top quality at a good price. But shipping from Manitoba was expensive, usually clocking in at around 40% of the total cost before taxes.

G & M Family Farm in Freshwater used to sell all the beekeeping supplies most new beekeepers would ever need to start beekeeping in Newfoundland — and that made it much more affordable than it was when I got into beekeeping in 2010. But it looks like G&M has gotten out of that particular part of its beekeeping business and I honestly don’t take much track of it anymore. Some people on the NL Backyard Farming & Homesteading Facebook page might know.

Many people in Newfoundland over the years have ordered from Country Fields out of Nova Scotia, but I always found I got a better deal from Beemaid even after the shipping costs. The best deal I ever had was from Lewis & Sons out of Manitoba. Had I discovered them years ago, I would have saved a fortune. Large bulk group orders from them (several hundred pounds) even today might cost less than ordering locally. I don’t need to buy gear these days like I used to, so I just don’t know.

Here’s what my first standard Langstroth hive looked like back when I started:

Removed frame after adding 2-frame feeder. (August 25, 2010.)
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Moisture Quilts vs Hard Insulation

I’m a true believer in moisture quilts as the best overall ventilation and moisture reduction aid for Langstroth hives in the winter. I’m a true believer because I’ve seen soaking wet hives become dry as a bone within a week of having moisture quilts installed.

An emergency moisture quilt that saved this colony. (January, 2014.)

An emergency moisture quilt that saved this colony. (January, 2014.)

Empty moisture quilts are excellent ventilation aids in the high heat of summer too, allowing the bees to regulate the temperature of the brood nest with less fanning and to cure honey sooner. Moisture quilts are also really cheap and easy to make. Everybody wins.
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Uncapping With a Heat Gun + DIY Extractor

I made a 4-frame extractor with a friend of mine. I’m not posting the plans for it because it’s a prototype and the design has some flaws that need to be corrected first. But it works and is easily worth the $120 I spent on it. Here’s a demo video of its maiden voyage:

By the way, the heating gun method of uncapping the honey works great. No fuss, no muss and way cheaper than an uncapping knife.

Epinephrine for Beekeepers

I picked up two shots of Epinephrine today in case I, or someone near my honey bees, has an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. I don’t want anyone dying on my watch.

It’s called an EpiPen.

Basically it’s a shot of adrenalin. Remember Uma Thurman’s shot to the heart in Pulp Fiction? Not exactly the same thing, but close enough. It’s for emergencies.

I had to get a prescription for the EpiPen from my family doctor. I explained that I keep bees in my backyard and I’d like to have Epinephrine on hand just to be safe. My doctor asked me if I had any known allergies. I said no. She checked my medical file and wrote me the prescription.
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Homemade Bottom Board

I made this bottom board from scrap wood I found in my shed today:

Bottom boards made from scrap lumber. I’m so proud of myself. (August 12, 2011.)

I cut the thick plywood 16.5 inches wide (about 42cm) and 2 feet long (70cm). The brace wood, if you want to call it that, was the same dimensions as a super, 20 inches by about 15 inches, something like that. The hive entrance (once a hive is placed on top) is about 1 and a quarter inches high, which is fine. It’s not pretty but the bees don’t care about pretty. I think it’ll work. I’ll post a photo of it in a day or two when I put a hive on top of it. I should have been making these all along. It’s way cheaper than ordering them from a supplier and having them shipped here. If you had to pay for the raw material, though, I’m guessing it would be less than $5.

February 9th, 2013: This bottom board has worked out fine. It’s ugly and half rotted now, but the bees don’t seem to care. Today I would use thick plywood instead of chipboard, and I’d paint it, but there’s nothing wrong with getting by with one made from cheap scrap wood.

January 20th, 2015: Don’t lay this flat-bottom bottom board on a pallet or any kind of flat surface (like a pallet), if that makes sense. The wood can easily become moist, and you don’t want moisture in the hive. You want the hive off the ground, but preferably with something that makes minimal contact with the bottom board. And by “you,” I mean me.

Improving Ventilation in a Langstroth Hive with the Patented World-Famous Mud Songs Ventilation Rim™

I’ve since converted all of my fabulously patented ventilation rims into moisture quilts. See the updates at the end for more details. And of course I’m joking about the trademark… and the patent. A fun update: It’s 2021 and I’m still using the same rim, the act one shown in this post, though I don’t use moisture quilts as much as I used to.

I made some improvements to the design of my ventilation rim (also known as a ventilation eke; also known as a vent box; also known as a whole bunch of other things because beekeepers are the worst for settling on a single name for one thing). It’s still cheap and easy to make and should do a fine job at improving the ventilation of any Langstroth-type hive. First, I cut four pieces of wood for the front, back and sides of the rim. Here’s a shot of the side pieces:

Side pieces for the ventilation rim.

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Installing Nuc Boxes (Full of Honey Bees)

It’s November 2018 as I review this old post from 2010. It’s an excellent example of what not to do and how easily new beekeepers are misled. By this time I had watched many video of beekeepers putting blank frames between brood frames, which is a thing I still do under specific circumstances. But it’s not something I’d even consider doing with the tiny brood nest of a nuc. Luckily my bees survived my bad beekeeping thanks to some unusually warm weather we had at the time.

I installed my honey bees four days ago on July 18th, 2010. I picked up our nuc boxes from the a Newfoundland Bee Company on the west coast of Newfoundland the day before at $200 a pop (and a 1300km, 16-hour road trip).

This is the first hive after I installed the bees. The emptied nuc box on the ground still had a few bees in it that eventually flew back into the hive. The upside-down Mason jar is full of a honey-sugar mixture that I made from safe local honey. (Grocery store honey often contains spores for various diseases that can do serious damage to a honey bee colony.) The bees will feed on a sugar syrup mixture until the fall.
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Honey Bees Are On The Way

It’s November 2018 as I rewrite this post from 2010. Again, I’m struck by how I talked like I knew what I was talking about even though I had no experience as a beekeeper. Luckily installing a nuc is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require a great deal of experience to grasp. Most of what I wrote, even with no experience, seems accurate.

Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster the wait is over. I just got a call confirming that I can pick up my honey bees in 2 weeks. It will cost $400 for two nuc packages and I’ll have to drive eight hours to get them, but at least I know I’m going to have honey bees for two hives this year. Nuff said.

Okay, so what’s a nuc package and how does it work?

This is a nuc package. To reduce confusion, let’s call it a nuc box, because that’s what it is: a small box that contains the nucleus of a honey bee colony. A nuc box typically holds 4 deep frames, several thousands bees and a mated queen. Three frames will contain a combination of honey, pollen and eggs, everything a colony needs to stay alive. One frame is usually left empty so the worker bees have something to work on while they’re stuck in the box during shipment to their new hive.
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