Ain’t nothing quite like the 10th day of spring in my little island beeyard.
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.
And the honey bees rejoiced, for it was the first full day of spring in Newfoundland.
Here’s a 7-minute video of me taking a peek inside some stinky beehives.
These bees should be stronger by now. I plan to combine this weak colony with a strong colony in the spring as soon as I’m able.
Honey bees can’t fly when their tiny wing muscles are too cold to move. When the sun shines on them in the winter, sometimes they warm up enough to fly. But the cold air can get to them while they’re flying and suddenly they drop out of the sky. I often find dead-looking bees like this in the snow throughout the winter. Sometimes, just for fun, I pick up the frozen bees and warm them up inside my house where they come back to life.
It’s not necessary to save bees in this way. Most bees will come back to life once the sun shines on them again. But even the ones that die often die for a reason.
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 just got back from scraping out dead bees and debris from the bottom of some of my beehives and it looked a little something like this:
Lots of talkin’, but here are the highlights:
It might not look like much, but with the melting snow exposing my dead lawn comes the crocuses, the first hit of pollen my bees will get to taste this year — as long as the plants don’t get covered with snow before they bloom.
Not quite spring yet, but we’re getting there.
Today may be the first official day of spring, but that doesn’t count until my bees are bringing in natural pollen, which is likely another month from now.
It’s always good to keep in mind that seasons in Newfoundland are usually at least a month behind everyone else.
A couple days later:
Checking on my two farm hives. 17 minutes long.
Here are the highlights:
This is an edit of the second live YouTube stream I recently did from the small beeyard on the side of my house. The video is recorded through a WiFi signal that I pick up on my cell phone from from outside my house, so the video quality isn’t exactly high definition. That’s always been my main reason for not doing this before. But I realise quality isn’t really an issue for videos viewed on tiny cell phone screens, so let’s give it a shot:
Here’s a basic breakdown of what happens in the video:
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.
I did a quick peek at three hives today. The weather stinks, but the colonies seem to be in pretty good shape.
I had to reassure my neighbour’s kids today that all the dead bees they’re finding in the snow around their house is normal for this time of year, especially on windless sunny days like today.
It wasn’t exactly warm today, closer to 0Â°C than anything else (32Â°F), but many bees were flying and pooping all over the snow close to their hives. (I’ll skip those pictures, but here’s a sample from yesteryear.)
I’m usually reassured when I see the bees flying about in the winter, even if hundreds of them end up dead in the snow. It can signal bad news on occasion, but most of the time the message I hear from the colony is, “We’re not dead,” so I’m happy.
It can be heart-breaking for some, but the fact is, hundreds of bees die in a healthy colony every day. That’s the way it is. It’s not as bad in the wintertime. It just looks bad because it’s often more noticeable with the dark bees lying dead against a white background of snow. But it’s normal (most of the time).
Subtitled: Checking on Bees That Were Buried in Snow For More Than a Month
I still haven’t posted a video of the big storm from January 17th, 2020, that buried most of my hives, but it’s coming. It’s a spectacle, not really a beekeeping video.
In the meantime, I’ve put together two videos of the same thing — a 7-minute video for people who just want to see the bees and not hear me babble on about stuff, and the 25-minute unabridged version of the first inspections I did with these hives since they got snowed in over a month ago. It’s longer than the typical killing-time-at-work video, but it may be worth a look for new beekeepers who want to get into the nitty-gritty of winter beekeeping. I cover a lot on ground in this one. (Watching it in segments and coming back to it throughout the day might be the best bet.) It’s interesting how snowshoes have become standard beekeeping gear for me since the storm. And by interesting I mean annoying.
Here’s the highlights reel:
These Amazing Cell Phone Chronicles from March 2017 are only 6 minutes long. The big event in this video, I suppose, is the storm that blew 180 kph (112 mph) winds through my beeyard. Spoiler: My bees got through it without a scratch.
I have to say, I love my sheltered little beeyard. Big old storms roll in and I never worry about it. I don’t need to secure my bees down with ratchet straps. I don’t even need to weigh them down with bricks (though I usually do just to be safe). The only downside to my beeyard, other than being too close to a freezing ocean, is that my bees aren’t in full sun all day long. I’ve never kept my bees in full sun and it’s never been a problem, but I kinda get the feeling that being so close to the ocean — well, that’s the tipping point. It’s still too early in the game to make that call, but without the heat of full-day sunshine, in my particular area, I get the feeling my bees just don’t build up as strongly as they used to when I kept them farther inland. I can’t say for sure, but that’s where my suspicions are going. It’s one of the reasons I’ve begun to paint my hives black, which under normal circumstances seems like a bad idea, but I’m not sure keeping bees a kilometre (0.62 miles) from the Labrador Current (I can see it from my house) is a normal beekeeping circumstance.
October 2019 Postscript: I look at this video and, again, see a few things I’d do differently today — things I’m still experimenting with. I think I prefer a different kind of wrap, namely corrugated plastic, to fend off all the melting snow and provide a little more insulation. I know roofing felt acts as a windbreak and provides some heat in the sun, but it also gets soaked and stays cold and wet for days or weeks. That never sits well with me. Some of the rims and moisture quilts seem a bit too loose; too much cold air getting in. I think generally I need to do more to keep my bees warm, mainly because the air where I live coming off the North Atlantic Ocean is so damp and bone-creaking cold, I can easily imagine the bees turning into Popsicles, unable to move across their honey frames, and then starving to death.
Check out my Month of March category for a sense of things that might happen for backyard beekeepers on the east coast of the island of Newfoundland in the month of March.
It was unseasonably warm at 6Â°C in my beeyard today (43Â°F), warm enough for the bees in most of my hives to get out for some cleansing flights, possibly for the first time in months.
The bees were flying all around me and landing on me and I swear I could smell… bee farts.