What Crocuses to Plant For Honey Bees

Is this a Pickwick Crocus? Maybe. (April 16th, 2022.)

I don’t know what crocuses to plant for honey bees, but, at least in my cold, damp climate of Flatrock, the big ones seem to be the better ones. They hold up better in the weather. I believe they’re called Giant Crocuses. The delicate ones wilt away quicker. From what I can tell (and I don’t know anything about crocuses), the Pickwick Crocus is the big winner in my front yard. The Jeanne d’Arc Crocus seems to hold up well too. But yup, bigger seems to be better.


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Honey Bees on Crocuses, This Time With Feelings

Honey bee in a crocus flower (April 15th, 2022, Flatrock, Newfoundland).

Here’s yesterday’s video played back at 57% normal speed because someone mentioned that the bees — at normal speed — move like they’re hepped up on caffeine. Hang around with the bees long enough and all that looks normal and calm. But I can understand how their movements might seem a bit jittery. So here’s the main shot of the video again, but played back at a more relaxed pace.

I watched this video last night on a big TV in my basement. It was relaxing. I think it works just as well with the volume down too.

Fireweed Seeds Adrift is Honey Harvesting Time

Around this time last year I wrote a little post called, When is It Time to Harvest Honey? In my local climate, any or all of the following signal that it’s time to harvest honey:

— cottony fireweed seeds start to fill the air
— temperatures significantly shift to cold, especially overnight temperatures
— drone pupae (or drones) are tossed from the hive
— goldenrod begins to dry up

All of those have turned out to be the most accurate signals for me to harvest honey in my particular beeyard, but the one I like the most are the fireweed seeds floating in the breeze. This series of slow motion clips is an excuse to show off the best slow motion shot of fireweed sides adrift that I’ve been able to manage so far.

It’s also a nice way to take a breather from Hurricane Larry that shook my house for a few hours last night.

Calm Talk in the Beeyard

Today is my three thousand, nine hundred and forty-sixth day of beekeeping on the island of Newfoundland. And in honour of this momentous occasion, I’m taking a break from the internet and any news with the word “Covid” in it. After this break, I might post something once a week on Wednesdays. We’ll see.

Colts Foot finally blooming in Flatrock. (May 1st, 2021.)


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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Willow Blossoms (Catkins)

A variety of willow trees, wild and cultivated, provide an awesome hit of pollen and nectar for Newfoundland honey bees in the early spring.

Willow blossoms, or catkins, in Flatrock. (May 6th, 2021.)

I used to think Dandelions provided the first pollen for the bees in my climate, but it seems like Colts Foot might have the jump on the Dandelions, and Willow Catkins are a close second. When I see my bees bring in yellow pollen in the month of May (when it’s warm enough for the bees to forage), it could be from Dandelion, Colts Foots or Willow Catkins. It’s possible to see the difference between all these pollens as the bees bring them back to the hive, but that’s another story. Either way, willows are now on my list of honey bee friendly flowers in Newfoundland.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Colts Foot

The first time I wrote about Colts Foot, I got it wrong. It was probably Meadow Hawkweed, which seems to bloom around July in my part of Newfoundland. Colts Foot (or Tussilago) shows up in May, even earlier in warmer inland areas of Newfoundland. In any case, the bees like it, so it’s going on my list of Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage.

Colts Foot finally blooming in Flatrock. (May 1st, 2021.)

I’m not a flower expert, so getting these things wrong from time to time is in the realm of possibility for me.

Open Feeding – Part 2

“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.
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First Pollen of 2021

This is probably the first natural pollen my bees have foraged on this year. The crocuses popped up through the snow around March 21st — a month ago — but the weather has been mostly rain, drizzle and fog since then. People saw the sun today for the first time in weeks and freaked out because it was such a weird thing to see.

Other beekeepers on the island reported seeing their bees bring in loads of pollen a couple weeks ago. But that didn’t happen where I live. A great reminder of a beekeeper’s #1 lesson: All beekeeping is local beekeeping.

Break on Through to The Other Side

It might not look like much, but with the melting snow exposing my dead lawn comes the crocuses, the first hit of pollen my bees will get to taste this year — as long as the plants don’t get covered with snow before they bloom.

Crocuses breaking on through. (March 21st, 2021.)

Not quite spring yet, but we’re getting there.

Crocuses on the first day of “spring.” (March 21st, 2021.)

Today may be the first official day of spring, but that doesn’t count until my bees are bringing in natural pollen, which is likely another month from now.

It’s always good to keep in mind that seasons in Newfoundland are usually at least a month behind everyone else.

A couple days later:

Adding Escape Boards

According to my previous post, When is It Time to Harvest Honey?, it’s about time to harvest some honey now. Which means it’s about time to add some escape boards so my bees can “escape” from their honey boxes, which then makes it easier for me to steal their honey. You know, I think I might have a video of me from earlier today that shows how this works:

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Beeyard Visit – August 27th, 2020

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.

A Silent Movie featuring Honey Bees

I took a break from screens over the past two weeks. Social media. The news. Who needs it? Here are some random slow motion shots I took of honey bees and other insects that were attracted to the Fireweed and Malva Moschata that’s been in bloom lately. I’d go into full screen mode for this video at the highest resolution setting to sit back and take in about three and a half minutes of silence.

One of the bees does something kind of gross near the end.

Dandelion Don’t Tell No Lies

Here’s a honey bee colony that seems to have benefited from dandelions that weren’t mowed down.

00:15 — Burr comb beneath the inner cover.
00:47 — Fresh comb made from yellow from dandelions.
01:00 — A frame of capped brood.
01:34 — Beautiful brood pattern.
01:49 — Close up of capped brood.
02:10 — Open brood (little white grubs).
02:25 — A closer look at the queen.
02:53 — Yellow burr comb.
03:50 — Honey bees scenting.
03:55 — Close up on fresh eggs in burr comb.
04:18 — Summary of inspection.

Plus some bonus material for those who bother to watch the whole thing.
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Honey Bees on Snow Crocuses

More slow motion shots of honey bees on crocuses. For people stuck at home looking for a break, it’s not bad to watch this one in full-screen mode in the highest resolution. No audio required, though you might like that too.

Honey bees on crocus flower. (April 14th, 2020, Flatrock, Isle of Newfoundland.)

This time the bees are in better focus (though I’m still working out some of the kinks).

Don’t ask me what variety of crocuses these are because I have no idea. (Update: But apparently they’re commonly called Snow Crocuses. I’ve revised the title of this post to reflect this newfound knowledge.)

The video was shot on a pocket-sized camera called a Sony RX-100v.

Honey Bee Friendly Flowers: Poppies

First of all, photographing honey bees and doing it well boils down to 90% bad luck and 10% good luck. The bees in some of these photos are out of focus. That’s how it goes.

Second of all, the colour red in these poppies doesn’t seem real to me. On film, it looks almost fake. But it’s real.

And I forgot my third point, but check out these poppies (click the images for a better view):
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Extracting Honey Outside in the Sun

So I pulled out my honey extractor and used it to whip some honey out of about six or seven medium frames. The honey wasn’t completely cured. That is, it wasn’t completely capped and some of the nectar was still floating around fancy and loose and therefore, technically, it wasn’t honey. But it was (and is) technically delicious, so who cares? Not me. I don’t sell it for public consumption, but I eat it all the time and so do my friends. It’s probably not a bad honey for making mead.

Here’s a 15-minute video that shows how the whole thing played out:
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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Elderberry

I’ve been told by people with a better eye for flowers than me that this is likely a variant of Elderberry, probably Sambucus canadensis.

Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis (August 20th, 2019, Portugal Cove, NL.)

My honey bees seem to like it, though I didn’t get a photo of a honey bee on it in this series of photos.
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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Orange Hawkweed

I noticed this flower growing in an area where I may have tossed an envelope of “wild flower” seeds.

Apparently it’s called Orange Hawkweed or Pilosella aurantiaca. It’s a small flower.

It looks similar to Colts Foot, but apparently it isn’t. Either way, I’ve seen honey bees on it, so it’s now on my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage list.