What a headache.
Maybe I’m wrong, but that looks like crystallised syrup to me.
What a headache.
Maybe I’m wrong, but that looks like crystallised syrup to me.
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.
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.
But I didn’t.
“Don’t use open feeders for your bees… unless you know what you’re doing.” That’s the common wisdom flying around the backyard beekeeper’s world these days, and it’s a smart rule to follow. So, naturally, I had to try open feeding to find out for myself.
This isn’t the most informative video. I’ve written in detail about opening feeding in other online forums. While I understand why it’s generally discouraged, one doesn’t have to look far to see commercial beekeepers using open feeders in the spring to get their bees off on the right track.
I often post items to my beekeeping Facebook page that I don’t post here on my blog, which is generally reserved for content I create myself. For the stuff I had nothing to do with but still piques my beekeeping interests, the Mud Songs Beekeeping Facebook page is the place. For instance, here’s my latest Facebook post that talks about how pollen patties can help maintain the brood nest when the weather turns to junk:
I had to add some protein patties (artificial pollen) to my hives yesterday because my bees have been stuck inside their hives for a week, unable to forage for pollen just at a time when the year’s first pollen was beginning to come in. We’ve got at least another week of this lousy weather ahead of us. This is when I say enough is enough. Here’s what I’m talking about:
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.
Here’s another edited low-fi live stream from my beeyard (26 minutes, not much edited down). This time I check on some bees with dry sugar, add a pollen patty and I mess around with my smoker.
There’s a lot of talking in this video (hence the new Talkin’ Blues category), which is sort of what I’m leaning towards these days. In any case, here are the highlights from the video:
I just got back from scraping out dead bees and debris from the bottom of some of my beehives and it looked a little something like this:
Lots of talkin’, but here are the highlights:
Checking on my two farm hives. 17 minutes long.
Here are the highlights:
The following video is an edited version of the first live stream I did through my YouTube channel. (This post and this video replace the full unedited version which was just too long and boring to keep online.) I’ve done a few similar tests through my Instagram account, but I don’t like social media that defaults to portrait mode videos. YouTube wins.
This is what I saw when I opened my hives in February during my first winter of beekeeping.
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:
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.
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.
These thermal images show the difference between a hive with the bees clustering low (with plenty of honey above them) and bees clustering high (possibly running low on honey).
I can’t imagine the bees in any of my tall hives are running low on honey. Most of my hives were packed with honey going into the winter. But you never know. The first time I lost a colony to starvation was around this of the year. So…
I got a question yesterday from someone who entered an invalid email address into my Contact form. I responded but the message bounced back to me. So in case you’re reading this, Bob, this one’s for you.
I added sugar syrup feeders to my hives today. Have I waited too long? Would it be better to put sugar over the top bars instead? I plan to start winterizing my hives this week. Thank you. Your site has been a great help to me as new beekeeper.
I checked on the two queens I marked from the other day, both of them set up in my version of a mating nuc. I have one colony that’s had a poorly-laying queen all year. I should have replaced her way back in June, but mated queens on the Isle of Newfoundland aren’t usually available until mid-to-late July, and I couldn’t get any of those. I’ll skip the sad details of my previous failures with mating nucs this summer (I’m sure I’ll post a video about it eventually anyway). What’s important is that my efforts have paid off. I’ve got two young mated queens filling up comb with little baby bees. Here’s the video that captures my satisfaction:
I’ll add more details to this post when I have more time.
Addition: I mention in the video how some brood are about three days old. I was confused. I was thinking about about a different bee. The grubs in the video are big and fat and the cells are ready to be capped. They’re about 5 or 6 days old.
An unedited visit to my beeyard that happened 30 minutes ago after a big rain storm we had last night, just me yakking and explaining a few things as well as I can explain them:
My last words in the video are a reference to the 1979 film Alien that probably no one will get, as is usually the case for references I make. I’m cool with that.
New beekeepers are usually told to never feed their bees using an open feeder because it can trigger robbing and fighting instincts in the bees, transforming them into bees that are not fun to be around. The bees act like they’re hepped up on caffeine. They behave frantically. As usual, I don’t believe anything until I try it myself and, indeed, through the wonderful world of experiential learning, I discovered that open feeding can have that effect on the bees. But not always.
In my experience, any sugar syrup close to the hive, whether in an open feeder or spilled on the ground, can trigger the robbing instinct, especially if the syrup is spiked with something like anise extract. However, if the open feeder it placed 30 metres or so from the hive (~65 feet), the bees might crowd in on the syrup, but don’t usually start fighting each other to the death to get at the syrup, and when they fly back to their hives, they don’t try robbing the neighbouring hive of all its honey.
I prefer this method of feeding at certain times of the year — long before or long past harvesting any honey — because it’s so easy to do. I don’t have to load up each hive with a feeder. I just refill the open feeder once it gets empty. Open feeding usually doesn’t last more than week.