Secret Hives Update (February 2022)

I plan to place at least one more beehive in my secret location sometime in the spring because my colonies there are always in the best shape, better than any of my colonies anywhere else. Unlike most of my hives in other locations, including the hives in Flatrock next to my house, my secret hives don’t get much special treatment.


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Sheltering Bees In The Winter

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.


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A Beekeeping Hack (That Might Not Work)

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.
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Messy Dry Sugar Feeding

I dumped 4 kgs (8.8 lbs) of dry sugar in one of my farm hives on the way to work today. I was in a hurry, which is not a good thing to be in while beekeeping. I should have cut the newspaper precisely before I arrived instead of roughly tearing a piece of it there on the spot and quickly placing it over the top bars. I should have put something in the middle of the paper, like the roll of duct tape I had on me, to make it easier to create a hole for the bees crawl through too.

I wouldn’t call this the greatest example of the dry sugar method of feeding (a.k.a. the Mountain Camp Method), but I’ve seen (and done) worse. It could have been windy and the newspaper could have blown away. It could have been warmer and the bees could have been flying in my face. The bees could have poured out over the sides of the hive and I would have had to scoop them up with my hands and flick them back in the hive — if they weren’t flying in my face. So maybe it wasn’t pretty, but I got ‘er done.

Other topics touched on in the video: hive wrap, insulation, problems with tape and hive wrap, the importance of paint and wax-coated components, the possibility of mice in the hive, top entrances shelters and bottom entrance shelters.
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Comb Honey Instead of Sugar Bricks

I’ve enjoyed being able to check on my bees during my lunch breaks over the past while since Omicron shut down my normal office work schedule. What a lousy way to learn the Greek alphabet, eh? I’m burnt out from the pandemic like most of us, but being able to take a break from my office job and hang with my bees has provided a huge mental boost. Today, for instance, all I did was give some comb honey to a colony I suspected was hungry. It only took about five minutes, but it was so relaxing.

I did this so fast, it didn’t require smoke, a veil or gloves. The bees were too busy staying clustered to worry about me. The sun is beating down on the black hive now. What heat was lost will be regained quickly. I’m also planning to wrap the hive with silver bubble wrap to see if that helps.

Bottom Entrance Shelters For Beekeepers on a Budget

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.

And again for the truly dedicated, there’s an extended 18-minute cut at the end that dives into all of that and more in greater detail.
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More Winter Beekeeping Chores

In this 6-minute video, I add a feeder rim to a hive; some yogurt container shelters around the upper entrances; I check on some cotton hive pillows (that seem to be working well, possibly as good as moisture quilts or ventilated quilt boxes); I wrap another hive in silver bubble wrap; and I can’t remember what else, but it’s riveting stuff as usual.

Much of what I do is experimental, so don’t quote me on anything I say in this video (or any of the videos I’ve posted in the past 12 months).

Foil Bubble Wrap and Cotton Pillows – Part 2

I dropped in on the hive that I wrapped with foil bubble insulation to see if it survived a storm that brought in 140 kph (87 mph) winds. I also checked on the cotton hive pillows that I made last week to see if they were mouldy.

Bubble foil wrap holding on tight after six days and a snow storm with 140 kph winds. (Isle of Newfoundland, December 11th, 2021.)


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Reflective Bubble Foil Insulation (Hive Wrap)

My first time wrapping a hive in silver bubble wrap. I probably should have attached it with screws instead of heavy duty tacks that might pop off in high winds. But we’ll see. It was a lot cheaper than buying official hive wraps made from the same material. The hive wraps would have been about $20-40 for a full-size Langstroth hive, but this came in at around $10, maybe a little more.

Cotton Hive Pillows

Hold on to your hats.

An experiment. I’m making hive pillows using old cotton pillow cases. The pillow is full of wood chips and straw. I’ve been toying with these for the past couple of years because moisture quilts — or quilt boxes with upper ventilation — aren’t as convenient as I’d like them to be. They don’t hold in heat well either. My bees in Flatrock, where it’s unusually cold and damp compared to many places in Newfoundland, seem to need all the heat they can get, and moisture quilts, heat-wise, just don’t cut it.
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Hive Pillows to Replace Moisture Quilts

While ventilated quilt boxes and moisture quilts can do a great job at keeping beehives dry in the winter, they can be a pain to maintain… in the rain on the plains with stains on my cranes. You know what I mean. I’m looking to simplify what I do. So instead of dumping wood chips into a quilt box or moisture quilt, I’ve been dropping what I call a hive pillow over a slightly insulated inner cover, hoping for the same drying effect of a moisture quilt but without the loss of heat.

I know it looks like I’m working without a plan these days, but there is a method to my madness.
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Hive Pillow Update

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.


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The Dempster Hive Pillow

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:
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