This is what I saw when I opened my hives in February during my first winter of beekeeping.
Those are the headlines. Now the details…
This is what I saw when I opened my hives in February during my first winter of beekeeping.
I walked outside my house today and saw an unusual number of dead bees in the snow. So…
I went around the corner to look at my beehives and found this.
That’s a lot of dead bees. And a lot of poop.
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. Picking up those sick bees and returning them to the hive can effectively re-transmit any disease they might have.
Yesterday I visited two beehives that I have on a farm, before snow and rain came in to make that kind of thing not much fun. Here’s an 18-minute video of that visit, but I tacked on a 5-minute condensed version for the Readers’ Digest crowd.
Here’s an index of the big events in this video, though there’s a lot more than what’s listed here.
When I need to feed my bees in a hurry and I don’t have time to make sugar cakes or anything like that, I dump dry sugar in the hive and call it done. I don’t love this method as much as did when I first tried it years ago. Back then, I liked it because it was easy to do, but adding more sugar once the bees have eaten through the first hit can get a little messy. Slipping in sugar bricks, while taking some effort upfront, is so much faster and easier, there’s no contest for me anymore. But in a pinch, I’ll do the ole dry sugar method, and it goes a little something like this:
So it’s looks like the hive pillow is doing its job. Moisture is rising up through the inner cover hole, passing through the wood chips, condensing on the cold top cover, dripping down on the top of the pillow, where it then evaporates through the holes in the ventilation rim. Hence, the bees inside are kept dry.
Another experiment. And when I say experiment, it means I’m trying something that I hope makes my beekeeping simpler and easier and cheaper. In this video I’ve got a piece of hard insulation over the inner cover, with a hole cut in the insulation above the inner cover hole, and a ventilation rim covering the whole thing.
The pandemic has knocked my sleeping patterns out of whack. I’ve had to rely on coffee to keep me going at times, and every time I do it I seem to make one of these rambling beekeeping videos — or several of them. But I’m getting tired of listening to my caffeinated voice. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll keep it up. At any rate, here’s a hodgepodge of little bits that I deleted from other videos because the videos were already long enough, or I just forgot about them. Either way, this is the last video I post until my next blast of caffeine.
I wrapped two hives in bubble wrap about two weeks ago, as an experiment. Here’s the first follow-up to that experiment.
I didn’t have high hopes for the bubble wrap. I have my doubts that I’ll try it again. But one of the hives is still wrapped, so we’ll see what happens.
It can be a little unnerving opening a beehive in the middle of the winter. But I suppose it depends on what you mean by winter. I was able to open my hives today — the first time I’ve opened them this winter — because there wasn’t a breath of wind and it was cold but not freezing. A common cold damp day in Newfoundland that makes your bones ache in a bad way. And when I say opened, I mean I hadn’t removed the inner cover from a hive and exposed the bees to the cold winter air yet.
Subtitled: Checking on Bees That Were Buried in Snow For More Than a Month
I still haven’t posted a video of the big storm from January 17th, 2020, that buried most of my hives, but it’s coming. It’s a spectacle, not really a beekeeping video.
In the meantime, I’ve put together two videos of the same thing — a 7-minute video for people who just want to see the bees and not hear me babble on about stuff, and the 25-minute unabridged version of the first inspections I did with these hives since they got snowed in over a month ago. It’s longer than the typical killing-time-at-work video, but it may be worth a look for new beekeepers who want to get into the nitty-gritty of winter beekeeping. I cover a lot on ground in this one. (Watching it in segments and coming back to it throughout the day might be the best bet.) It’s interesting how snowshoes have become standard beekeeping gear for me since the storm. And by interesting I mean annoying.
Here’s the highlights reel:
February 23rd, 2020: Here’s a 6-minute video that shows what happened to one of my hives that was completely buried in snow for a week or two — and by completely I mean all the entrances were blocked too.
The bees couldn’t get out for cleansing flights and made a big stinking mess of the hive, or at least their hive entrance. The 6mm / quarter-inch mesh I use to keep shrews out probably made the mess even worse. Who knows, maybe the heat from the colony would have melted the snow around the top entrance and allowed the bees to get out just far enough to poop. Maybe. But for now, especially if my area ever gets hit with an insane snow storm again, I may have to put 12mm / half-inch mesh around the entrances and hope for the best.
I discovered today that one of my hives, not next to my house, has likely been buried in snow for at least a week, maybe two. I didn’t expect this.
When I cleared out the top entrance, the smell was like rotten caplin fertiliser. Pee you. It was ugly.
The bees needed some cleansing flights and they couldn’t get out. I didn’t open the hive to see the mess inside because I can’t do anything about it at this time. But I’m sure it’ll make an educational video some day (stay tuned).
The last time we saw this hive about a month ago, a rat had been gnawing on it.
The bees came pouring out once I cleaned all the poop-covered dead bees out of the way. I’ll clean it up next week by spraying it down with apple cider vinegar. And I could do with less snow.
Here’s another video from February 1st of me testing out my Flir One thingamuhbob that attaches to my cell phone to produce thermal images in low res video and pics.
As usual, the results are okay but is it worth the money for beekeepers on a budget? I don’t know.
This video was shot after the Snowmageddon event that occurred in Newfoundland on January 17th, 2020. I’ll post a detailed video of that as soon as I can find the time to slap something together.
Here’s an 8-minute behind the scenes video from February 2018 of me messing around with my bees.
Here’s the breakdown:
00:00 — Giving the bees a patty of crystallised honey.
04:25 — Giving the bees a pollen patty buttered with honey. I discuss the pros and cons of feeding pollen in the early winter.
07:50 — Running away from some defensive bees.
Check out my Month of February category for a sense of things that might happen for backyard beekeepers on the east coast of the island of Newfoundland in the month of February.
Here’s another instalment of the amazing Cell Phone Chronicles. This one is 33 minutes long. It was recorded in February 2017. Again, it’s just me standing around my beehives talking about bees. At one point I talk about making sugar cakes flavoured with honey and then I put them in some beehives. I talk about how Russian bees go through the winter with a smaller cluster compared to standard Italian honey bees. I also talk about how great snow is as an insulator. (Most of the hives in this video are buried in snow.) There are some shots of my cat, a squirrel and other amazing things.
I don’t expect this video to get over 4 million views. I’ll be impressed if four people can sit through the whole thing. There will be more to see in these cell phone chronicles once I get into the warmer months and actually do some beekeeping apart from standing around hoping my bees aren’t freezing to death.
To finalize The Sugar Bricks Quadrilogy, I present Episode IV: A New Hope:
Episode I: I mixed 12 parts sugar with 1 part water and let it harden in a deep dish tin pan.
Episode II: I came back about a day later and dumped out the dried sugar bricks.
Episode III: I slipped the sugar bricks into a few of my hives.
Episode IV: I demonstrate how the same process can be used to make easier-to-slip-in sugar cakes using small paper plates as a mold. Then I add some sugar cakes to a couple of hives. Conclusion: It works.
If I discovered starving bees crowded over the top bars in any of my hives, I would definitely choose this method instead of pouring dry sugar over the top bars. I’ll still dump dry sugar over the top bars in the early winter while the bees are down in the hives and out of my way, but these no-cook sugar bricks and sugar cakes seem ideal for adding sugar once the bees have risen up and are getting in my face.