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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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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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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Practical Beekeeping Tips (Videos)

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.

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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Insulation With a Hole In It

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.

Hard insulation over the inner cover with a mesh-covered hole in the middle. Genius or stupid? We’ll find out.


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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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Wrapping Beehives in Bubble Wrap (An Experiment)

In my ongoing series of videos designed to obliterate the Zen-like vision of beekeeping that everyone falls for (myself included), I present to all you good folk, “Wrapping Beehives in Bubble Wrap.”

The wind is blowing in the mic throughout this video, but it seems that my cheap cellphone camera does an excellent job at isolating the sound of my voice. Despite the wind, my voice can be heard clearly most of the time. Just one more thing: I don’t consume a lot of caffeinated drinks, but when I do, I sometimes get like hyped up. This video is fuelled by caffeine.
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Yakking About Snow Around My Beehives

There’s not much to see in this video. It’s just me talking.

I may post more of these videos in the future. Even though they’re not much to look at it, they kind of paint a picture of the kinds of things I think about as I continue on this beekeeping journey, the constant adjustments required to my beekeeping practices, the non-glamorous practical things I have to deal with, but it may provide insight for new beekeepers who might be wondering, “How do I actually do this?” As usual, I’m not saying what I do is the best thing to do, but if people are able to learn from my sharing of this experience, then hey, mission accomplished.

Uncapped Syrup Creates Moldy Comb

A beekeeper on the island of Newfoundland recent said:

    I fed my bees sugar syrup until it was too cold for them to take any more of it, which isn’t always the smartest thing to do because even though the bees are able to store the syrup, they may not have time to cure it (evaporate most of the water from it) and cap it like they would with honey during warmer weather. Subsequently, as in my case, the ole beekeeper discovers a top third deep filled mostly with uncapped syrup — or as we like to say in the real world, moisture. Not enough moisture to drip down on the bees and kill them, but enough to dampen the frames and allow some mold to grow.

I wholeheartedly agree with that beekeeper. He seems like a smart guy.

Uncapped sugar syrup → moisture → damp → moldy comb. (Nov. 7, 2015.)

Uncapped sugar syrup → moisture → damp → moldy comb. (Nov. 7, 2015.)


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Switching Out Hard Insulation for Moisture Quilts

In a previous post, Moisture Quilts vs Hard Insulation, I argued that hard insulation over the inner cover is a cheap and easy way to keep a hive relatively warm and dry over the winter. And it is. I used hard insulation in my hives for several winters with no problems. Even though I’ve since switched to moisture quilts, this year — as in a couple of weeks ago — I set up two of my five hives with hard insulation as a demonstration that I planned to report in on over the winter. But I pulled the plug on that experiment because I discovered moldy frames in the top boxes of those two hives yesterday.

Slightly moldy capped and uncapped honey. (Nov. 07, 2015.)

Slightly moldy capped and uncapped honey / syrup. (Nov. 07, 2015.)


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