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.
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 noticed ants all over my beehives starting around mid-May. I used a cinnamon barrier to keep them out of my hives, though I’m not sure how well it worked. I still see a few ants here and there, but overall they don’t seem to be as thick. In fact, I hardly ever see them anymore.
Close up of two formica ants, red ants that bite and shoot formic acid from their butts. They’re not the kind of ants I have around my hives, but this is the only photo of ants that I have on record, so there you go, some ants.
Perhaps the cold weather has them hiding underground (we’ve had frost warnings for the past few nights), but I think I noticed this last year too. The ants were bad for a while (black ants, not red ants) and then they more or less disappeared.
I’ll keep a note of this for next year and see if it holds true, that the ants show up sometime in May and are gone by July, and are never really a major pest.
AUGUST 04, 2016: My beeyard is surrounded by huge ant colonies (blank ants, not red ants), and they’re not an issue with my bees. Like I said, the ants seemed to cover most of my hives in May but were gone, for the most part, by July. I still see them walking around, picking up pieces of comb or pollen and other debris, but only a small handful here and there. Nothing epidemic. Other than putting out some cinnamon, which didn’t create an unbroken barrier, I didn’t do anything to get rid of the ants. No poison or traps or any of that. It’s probably fair to say I’ve never had a major ant problem. If I did, I’d probably build hive stands with oil motes or sticky tape around the legs. It would take a hell of an ant problem to motivate me to go that far, though.
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.
Honey bees in Newfoundland, or at least where I live on the eastern part of the island, aren’t likely to see any pollen until April when crocuses begin to poke through the soil.
Honey bee on crocus (April, 13, 2011).
And crocuses aren’t even a natural source of pollen. They’re popular in some suburban neighbourhoods, but most honey bees elsewhere won’t find natural pollen until May when the dandelions come into bloom.
Honey bee on dandelion (May 26, 2011).
I say this because I’ve casually documented every honey bee on a flower I’ve seen in Newfoundland since I started beekeeping in 2010. So far I’ve documented over 20 flowers that qualify in my mind as Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage. My list is by no means comprehensive, but it provides me with a general idea of what to expect throughout the year. Continue reading →
SHORT VERSION: I heard what I believe is the sound of a new queen piping, but I was unable to spot the queen because, most likely, she hasn’t been inseminated by drones yet, and thus probably looks like every other bee in the hive (she doesn’t get big until she mates and begins laying). If a queen bee doesn’t mate within about 20 days, then it’s game over. Tomorrow is Day 20 for this queen. Bloody great.
LONG VERSION: Well, here comes another learning experience.
Are these bees acting like they have a queen? I hope so. (August 03, 2015.)
I checked on a hive yesterday that was queenless and in the process of capping a supersedure queen cell a month ago. I didn’t touch the hive until today when I discovered no signs of brood and no queen that I could see — but I did hear a high pitched piping squeak from one frame that sounded similar to something I recorded back in 2011 (see Piping From Inside The Hive):
I followed the sound of the piping on the frame for five minutes but couldn’t spot the queen. It was maddening. So I carefully put the frame and everything else back the way I found it so I could ponder over what might be happening in that hive. So let us ponder… Continue reading →
JULY 31/15 UPDATE: The average high temperature for July 2015 was 15.8°C. It’s a new record. The coldest average high temperature previously was in 1962 with 16.1°C. July 2014 with an average high of 25.2°C was the warmest July on record. July 2015 is the coldest.
Typical July day in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and outlining areas for 2015.
It seems that at least one month between May and October in Newfoundland is a complete write-off, weather so lousy that honey bees have little to do except hang out inside their hives and try not to go crazy. August was a bust last summer. I think June was a waste of time the summer before that. This year it seems that July is the junk month. The bees in all of my tiny nuc-sized hives are probably doing everything they can not to freeze to death today. 4 bloody degrees! What the hell, man? (That’s 40 degrees in Fahrenheit world.) It’s been like this for most of July, temperatures maxing out at around 15°C (59°F). This weather stinks. The forecast for August is looking better though. We might even reach 20 degrees. If it wasn’t for the fact that we keep them in wooden boxes and feed them when it’s cold to keep them alive, I doubt honey bees in the natural world could ever live in a place like this. On their own, they’d be dead in a year. Another reason why I don’t buy into the natural adjective used for beekeeping. Naturally, honey bees wouldn’t even be here.
Anyway, I’m sorry. This weather is making me grumpy.
Although it’s been in bloom for a while, I’ll now add White Clover, or Trifolium repens, to my list of honey bee friendly flowers in Newfoundland because I actually saw a honey bee on some today near the university.
White Clover in St. John’s, Newfoundland (July 23, 2015.)
I snapped these photos with my mobile phone today. Nothing special, but it does the job.
White clover with out-of-focus honey bee in St. John’s, NL. (July 23, 2015.)
JUNE 30, 2016: I’ve seen White Clover in bloom this year as early and June 15th.