April 12th, 2022: I had the bees in this wet, damp, mouldy hive tested and they have Nosema. It’s stinky and dirty, but it’s not the end of the world. I’m on it. Just for the record, I went 11 years and 9 months without a serious case of Nosema in my bees. That’s not a bad record. I hope. The dirty hive will be treated safely and effectively with Acetic Acid. As much as I would like to document that process so that others might learn from my experience, I’ve decided to hold back on it due to the overzealous policing element that continues to be nuisance to so many beekeepers in Newfoundland. And I’m not referring to anyone who mentioned that Nosema needs to be reported to the provincial apiarist. I’m totally cool with that.
I have reason to believe that the hive I found full of poop recently might not have Nosema, but I’ve been dealing with it, just to careful, as if it does have Nosema. Here’s a long video of me digging into the mess and dealing with it by knocking the colony down to a single medium super. I may update this post with more information later. I’m kinda busy at the moment trying to become an expert on Nosema. (Update: In the video, I leave an open feeder full of thin sugar syrup so the bees could clear out their guts of possible Nosema spores, but I changed my mind and removed it the next day. The risk of spreading Nosema through the syrup seemed too great. Maybe the risk is low, but I don’t want to take any chances.)
The specks of poop in the sugar could be signs of nosema, a mild case of it. (April 4th, 2022.)
I think I may have discovered Nosema, possibly a fatal case of it, in at least one of my colonies — and I’m not posting a photo of that one just yet because it’ll make you barf. When everything inside the hive is covered with feces as if the bees were locked inside and couldn’t get out for cleansing flights, even though the front door is about two inches away from the cluster — that pretty much screams Nosema with a capital N. It could be dysentery, which is also gross and not as troublesome as Nosema. Still, everything points to Nosema at the moment. Continue reading →
So I have a teenie tiny colony that’s pretty much toast. I knew going into the winter it wasn’t in great shape. It was result of a late season queen that was mated sometime in September, which is not good for all kinds of reasons I won’t go into now. But essentially it was (is) a small colony with a poorly mated queen that I should have combined with a strong colony before winter set in.
In any case, Marc Bloom, another beekeeper here on the Isle of Newfoundland going all-in like me, because, come on, there’s no turning back now, dropped off a 5-frame medium nuc box for me the other day and I thought now would be a good time to dig into this dying colony, transfer it to a smaller, probably dryer hive box, and maybe give it a fighting chance. So that’s what I did. Here’s the video, including a sort of post-mortem looking through the dying colony’s old frames.
What can I say? It cost about $3.00 to make a brick of sugar that has the potiential to save my bees if they run low on honey when I’m not around to save them. So here we go again.
Two colonies got only sugar bricks. Another one got a protein patty and a sugar brick. I’ll say this, though, these three colonies seem to be in good shape. They’re full of bees and I can still see frames of capped honey up top.
Last year some of my colonies didn’t break above the top bars until April. This year, all of them except one (out of 10) have broken above the top bars. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re running low on honey, but, like I said, a few dollars worth of sugar ain’t no thing to make sure they’re okay.
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.
Here’s another quiet walkalong video that has me pulling off the last of my honey frames for the season. I suppose it’s a sequel to my Another Day in the Life of a Beekeeper video. It’s 21 minutes long and as usual goes into all kind of things as I basically explain everything I do while I’m doing it — the experience people get when they do a “workshop” with me. I’ll add more details at a later date as soon as I have the time.
This is likely to be the last we’ll see of my Giant Hive of 2021 in my secret location. The colony living in that hive produced almost 100 pounds of honey for me before the end of July, which came to about half of my total honey harvest for 2021. Judging from that hive, I expected great things from the rest of my colonies in other locations, but there was nothing special about this summer for the rest of my colonies. I plan to put as many hives as I can in the secret location for next year.
I created a walkaway split on June 20th and it worked out well. The last time I checked on it a couple of weeks ago, the queen was laying well and she looked healthy. I’m at the point now, pulling the last of the honey from my hives, where I don’t want to do anything else with my colonies other than check to see if they’ve got enough honey, and if they don’t, I’ll top them up with some syrup. Here’s a short video where I examine the honey frames of the 84-day-old walkaway split and make a few tweaks that should give it a better chance of getting through the winter.
Like I say in the video, the colony is looking good and is well on its way to having enough honey to get through winter (about two mediums worth of honey). I may need to top it up a little syrup, but right now it’s in pretty good shape. It’s not absolutely packed with bees, but it doesn’t need to be. My bees, possibly with Russian genetics, seem to go into winter will small clusters, consuming little honey. Which is great because it means I probably don’t need to feed them sugar over the winter or early spring.
Most beekeepers first learn to inspect their hives by removing a frame from the edge of the hive box and then moving closer to the middle one frame at a time. That’s the safest way to do it because it opens up space so the bees don’t get “rolled” between the tightly-fitted frames. But with experience, I think it’s okay to skip to the chase and pull out the middle frame first.
This is what it’s like to follow me while I’m beekeeping. My “workshops” (i.e., standing next to me while I do my thing in the beeyard) is exactly like this. I do what I have to do and explain in as much detail as I can off the top of my head everything I’m doing or planning to do.
Here’s how I inadvertently (or I could say deliberately) managed to get over 6 pounds of honey from a single medium frame. 6 pounds is about 3 kg. (I’ve created a special tag just for this hive, Giant Hive 2021, so everything I’ve written about it can be viewed in sequence.)
Other than giving the bees space inside the hive to grow, I really didn’t do much. This is 95% the result of good weather and a healthy queen. No bee whispering of any kind was required. There never is.
Essentially, all I did was place 7 frames of drawn comb in a 10-frame honey super, creating extra space between the frames. If there’s a strong nectar flow, the bees will often fill in the extra space with honey, resulting in thick frames of honey — and sometimes more honey per super.
1 of 5 thick frames of honey, averaging 5.2 pounds / 2.4 kg of liquid honey per frame. (July 7th, 2021.)
I wrote this on Facebook, but I might as well copy it here:
Whenever I look at a full frame of capped brood (capped brood on both sides of the frame), I check to see if there are at least two frames worth of space in the hive for those bees when they hatch out. If there isn’t, it’s time to add another box.
Even if 1000 bees die every day during the foraging season1, once those babies hatch out, a hive can get crowded in no time.
This is 90% of beekeeping in the summer: Making sure the queen has room to lay.
Each full frame of capped brood will become approximately three frames of bees once they hatch out. It’s pretty basic math.2 Continue reading →
As I get used to reading the frames with this all-medium beekeeping I’ve taken on (it’s slightly different), I’m playing it safe in regards to swarm signs. We’ve also had an unusually warm summer so far. Most of my colonies are bursting at the seams. I’ve run out of frames and boxes to keep them contained. So any sign of backfilling and I’m giving the queen more room to lay.
Backfilling is when so much nectar is coming in that the bees run out of space to store it, so they end up storing it in the brood nest where the queen normally lays her eggs. When the queen runs out of space to lay like this, she becomes “honeybound.” And when that happens, the colony usually swarms.
That’s something I try to avoid as much as possible, especially since I live on a street packed with little kids, and one of those little kids is terrified of flying insects. I don’t want a swarm to land on her swing set and traumatise her for life. Continue reading →
Something I didn’t know about when when I bought most of my beehive components is what not all commercial Langstroth frames are made the same. Some frames are slightly narrower than others — those are the good ones. Some are thicker — those can be a pain.
The thicker or wider frames fill a 10-frame brood box right to the edge. Sometimes it’s so tight that removing the first frame during an inspection be can difficult, especially if it’s packed with bees. Narrower frames provide more space on the sides of the box, which gives us sad ole beekeepers a little extra room to wiggle the frame away from all the other frames before we pull it out. For new beekeepers who have never experienced that and always find the first frame hard to pull out, you’re going to love narrow frames. This video shows how to identify them.
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.
Not exactly what you like to find when visiting a beeyard in the winter. (January 2019.)
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.
Along with the five hives next to my house, I have two hives on the edge of a farm (and another one in a secret location). The weather got warm enough for me to do full hive inspections on both of the farm hives. I only turned my camera on when I found something I thought could be educational for new beekeepers. Most of the video is me talking about what I found in the hives, what I did to each of them and why I did it. I know it’s a visually boring video, but it covers a lot of ground. This is exactly the kind of boring video I would been all over when I first started beekeeping.
Spoiler Alert: I miss keeping bees in the warmer parts of Newfoundland. That’s all I’m really saying.
It was finally warm enough (briefly) to do my first hive inspections of the year. I inspected three of my eight hives. If I were to give a grade of colony strength to each of them — for what I’ve come to expect in my local climate — I’d give a 10/10 for one hive, 7/10 for another and a 4/10 for one where the queen seems to be on the way out. In this video, I focus on the colony with the highest grade and give credit where credit is due: to warm weather and a well-mated queen. It seems to me those two factors are the main ingredients to successful backyard beekeeping.
Ten percent, maybe 20% of the credit, goes to the backyard beekeeper (me) who provides their bees with a dry hive to live in. That part of it can be more complicated than you might think, but really, most of the credit goes to good weather and healthy queens. I’ve come to these conclusions based on my experience keeping bees in four location on the island of Newfoundland and from talking to beekeepers in other parts of the island. (The video explains it too.) But I could be wrong. What I really should say is these are contemplations, not conclusions. Continue reading →
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.
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.) Iâ€™ve done a few similar tests through my Instagram account, but I donâ€™t like social media that defaults to portrait mode videos. YouTube wins.
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.
Opening a hive on a fairly mild winter day (5Â°C / 41Â°F) and adding a rim to make space for sugar bricks.
This is exactly what I like to see from one of my honey bee colonies as it’s about to go into winter. The top of the hive is a big solid block of honey with the bees clustered so far below that I can’t see them when I look down through the frames.
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: