A record of all the relevant beekeeping that I do (or have done) during the month of July. For the record, I began with two nucleus colonies in Langstroth hives in 2010 that I kept in my small backyard near downtown St. John’s (Newfoundland). I bought two more nucs the next year. By 2012, using swarm cells and naturally mated queens, I had six colonies on a farm in Portugal Cove. By 2013, mostly by creating splits with swarm cells, I had eight colonies on the edge of a big field in Logy Bay. I lost most of my colonies in the winter of 2015 to shrews. That was the only year I wasn’t able to take honey from my hives. I moved what was left of my colonies to Flatrock in 2015 and slowly built my beeyard up to nine colonies by the summer of 2016. My goal is to maintain a relatively self-sustaining beeyard with no more than ten colonies.
A video about queen bees. I’m completely off screens for at least the next 10 days. I’ll add more details when I get back. See ya.
00:00 — Thirty seconds of silence because we could all use 30 seconds of quiet contemplation once in a while. It’s a black and white slow motion shot of Comfrey.
00:28 — Torn open queen cells, destroyed by the first queen to emerge.
01:05 — The virgin queen.
01:59 — Photos of the open queen cells.
02:05 — Introducing a queen into a new hive. If the queenless colony is ready for a new queen, they will cover her cage and try to feed her lick her so they can bathe in her pheromones and be happy.
02:29 — Watching what the bees do. Are they trying to attack the queen or accept the queen? Watch the rest of the video to find out.
Here’s a short narrated video that explains how I use a swarm box to catch swarms that would normally get away. (A transcript of the narration can found below the video. And that’s the last time I read from a script. It sounds like the stilted narration from an instructional video by Troy McClure)
This is a 6-minute Reader’s Digest version of the 20-minute video I posted yesterday that shows how I install a nuc.
In the video I spot the queen, show off some fresh brood, a frame of pollen, the frame feeder I use with most of my nucs, and the holes I drill into my deep foundation so the bees can move between honey frames easier in the winter.
Here’s a 20-minute video that documents what it’s like to get a nucleus colony (or a starter hive) on the island of Newfoundland. It’s not always easy. (I’ve also posted a 6-minute version for those who want to cut to the chase.)
April 2020 Introduction: This is an 18-minute video recorded on my cell phone (the quality isn’t always the greatest) in July 2018, the same month most of my hives that were in the care of another beekeeper were returned to me. But I’ve decided not to post videos about those returned hives because, man oh man, they were in sad shape, and I’m just not in the mood to revisit any of it. I’ll continue to post these behind the scenes videos that consist mostly of me talking about beekeeping things and doing some boring hive inspections, etc., which I know doesn’t interest most people, but I like these videos because they show better than well-edited videos what it’s really like to keep a small number of beehives on a budget. I’m all about dispelling the idealised myth of beekeeping.
2020 Introduction: This is one from my archives that I didn’t plan on posting, but what the hell. It’s a hive inspection from July 2018 while I still only had a single hive in my beeyard. My other seven or eight hives were still being cared for by another beekeeper while I was recovering from a concussion. The colony in this hive wasn’t strong.
This collection of cell phone clips from July 2017, when I had only one hive, is a little over 30 minutes long. It’s the latest instalment of the scintillating Cell Phone Chronicles. I’m not sure who the audience is for a video like this, but unboxing videos are a thing, so I guess there’s an audience for everything.
I recently found these flowers growing around the edges of my gravel driveway.
According to my friendly neighbourhood person who knows these things, the flowers are called Malva Moschata, sometimes referred to as Musk Mallow.
Malva Moschata makes an appearance. (July 25, 2016.)
They’ve shown up, not in large numbers, in the past week.
Malva Moschata in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (July 25, 2016.)
I have yet to notice any honey bees on them, but the Oracle tells me honey bees go for them. As usual, that’s good enough for me to add them to my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage list. I’ll update this post if I manage to take a photo of a honey bee on one of the flowers.
I noticed bulging honey(video link) in all three nucs I installed last week. And by bulging honey, I mean comb the bees built past the width of the frame. Here’s an extreme example from one of my honey supers two years ago:
Bulging honey is great for a honey super where I want as much honey on each frame as the bees can manage. I deliberately space out the frames so the bees will draw thicker comb on it. But bulging comb of any kind is not what I want to see in the brood nest.
The brood frames can’t be spaced evenly against each other when bulging honey gets in the way. (Have I just coined a phrase, bulging honey?) When I installed my nucs, the frames of bulging honey created uneven spacing — and extra space between the frames. The bees want to fill in that extra space and they often do so with bridge comb, which breaks apart and makes a mess in the brood nest whenever I need to inspect a frame.
Bridge comb caused by having too much space between the frames. (July 22, 2016.)
I took a quick look at one of the nuc hives today and already noticed bridge comb. What a pain. Continue reading →
Most new beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland (and many other places on the planet) will start up their first colonies with what is often referred to as a nuc, or a nucleus colony, or a starter hive that contains a laying queen, at least one frame of brood, a frame or two of pollen and honey, and usually a blank or empty frame to give the worker bees something to work on while they’re stuck in a 4-frame nuc box for up to a week. The frames from the nuc are usually placed inside a single hive body (in Newfoundland, it’s usually a deep) with empty frames to fill in the rest of the box. A feeder of some sort is installed. And that’s it. The following 24-minute video demonstrates the entire process.
I’ll post a condensed version of this video at a later date if I can, but for now it’s probably more helpful to show how it plays out in real time (more or less) so that anyone new to all this, or anyone thinking about starting up a few honey bee colonies next year, will have a realistic idea of what to expect when it comes time to install their first nuc. I plan to post follow-up videos to track the progress of this colony right into next spring, again so that anyone hoping to start up their own hives in the future will have a non-idealized take on what to expect.
It was well over 30°C (86°F) by the time I finished installing all of my nucs. The sweat was pouring off my face and stinging my eyes. Expect that too. Continue reading →
I just installed three new nucs and I’m completely soaked in sweat. Here’s one that doesn’t have a proper top cover yet, but the bees don’t care.
By the way, now is an excellent time to look for the queen, to learn how to spot her, how she moves and wiggles across the frame and all that jazz. There are hardly any bees in the hive and there are only a few frames to inspect. The chances of spotting her couldn’t be better.
I wish I’d taken the time to look for the queen when I installed my first nucs. It subsequently took me a year before I managed to spot any of my queens.
I set up a bowl full of marbles to provide water for my bees last year. It’s very pretty and it works, but I’ve recently switched to using a chicken waterer instead:
Honey bees drinking from a chicken waterer. (July 14, 2016.)
The bowl full of marbles isn’t difficult to maintain, but the I prefer the chicken waterer because, for me, it’s more practical.
Postscript (10 days later): Now that we’re at Newfoundland’s height of summer (I guess), the bees are on the chicken waterer all the time and seem to suck down about a litre of water every two days. At any rate, that’s how often I refill the Mason jar. A larger bucket-sized chicken waterer would probably work too.
I found several frames of pollen in the honey super of one of my hives today.
One of several medium frames full of pollen in a honey super. (July 09, 2016.) Click the image for a better view.
The last time I found pollen in the honey super was two summers ago and it happened with what I used to call my nasty hive, a hive packed with the most defensive, meanest bees in Newfoundland. Everything about that hive was a headache, so I just assumed pollen in the honey super was a symptom of mentally deranged bees. That colony eventually died and I was more than happy to see it go. So when I found the frames of pollen today, I thought, “What the hell?”
Medium frame in “honey super” full of pollen. (July 09, 2016.)
At first I thought, “Okay, I’ve got another crazy colony on my hands.” Which seems to fit because the bees in this colony are, unfortunately, related to Old Nasty. Their queen mated with drones from the nasty hive. But that’s just speculation, me making up some stuff that sounds like it could be true but probably isn’t when you get right down to it.
So I did a little more poking around the oracle we call the Internet and asked a few beekeeping friends of mine if they’ve seen this before. And they have. After shooting some emails back and forth and thinking it over, I’ve come to the following explanation:
The bees are filling the honey super with pollen because they don’t have enough brood to eat up all the pollen that’s coming in. Continue reading →
I see the weed commonly known as Queen Anne’s Lace growing abundantly along the sides of roads and in country fields where I live, and I’ve always wondered if honey bees are attracted to its nectar.
Queen Anne’s Lace (July 04, 2016.)
A little bit of online research tells me nope, they’re not too keen on it. I also read on a couple of beekeeping forums that when the bees do get desperate enough to collect nectar from Queen Anne’s Lace (also known as wild carrot), the resulting honey takes on a distinct aroma of body odour.
Lupins (also called lupines), like many summer flowers in Newfoundland, show up suddenly after the first heatwave of the summer. (Anything over 20°C / 68°F qualifies as a heatwave in Newfoundland.)
Lupins. (July 04, 2016.) Click the image for a prettier enlarged view.
Lupins, which grow mostly on the sides of highways and country roads in large numbers, appeared about two weeks ago during our first (and probably last) heatwave of the summer. I’ve been sitting around in fields of lupins for the past week and haven’t seen a single honey bee go anywhere near them — or any kind of bee for that matter — so I’ve been hesitant to add lupins to my Honey Bee Forage list.
Lupins. (July 04, 2016.)
But a little Googly action shows loads of photos of honey bees on lupins. That’s good enough for me.
More pollination information on lupins from pollinator.ca: “In some species, honey bees may not be able to trip or open large early flowers, but can do so with smaller flowers later in the season. For large, early flowers, larger bees may be required.”
Also: “Honey bees will readily work lupine, and placing commercial honey bees on the fields produces a highly marketable honey.”
JULY 16, 2016: Found one!
Out of focus honey bee on Lupins in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (July 16, 2016.)