Backyard beekeeping on the Isle of Newfoundland. 47°42'27.6"N 52°42'30.0"W
Category Archives: Month of May
A record of all the relevant beekeeping that I do (or have done) during the month of May. 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’m not upset about my dwindling winter colonies. This is how beekeeping plays out sometimes, whether through human error, environmental conditions or combination of both. Just look at the losses commercial beekeepers in Canada experienced this winter. Most of those losses are likely related to Varroa, which we don’t have in Newfoundland, but wintering losses are part of beekeeping no matter how you look it. I think it’s fair to say it happens to everyone eventually, even small-scale beekeepers. Continue reading →
The hives in this location are in sunlight for most of the day and are sheltered on one side. They are generally twice as strong (at all times of the year) and produce twice as much honey as any of my colonies that are closer to the ocean in Flatrock. These bees don’t get any special treatment (e.g., no winter wrapping), yet in the spring, summer, fall or winter, they are the rock stars of my beekeeping efforts.
As beekeepers, we like to give ourselves most of the credit, but the more I see it with my own eyes, the more I’m coming to believe that most of our success in beekeeping is the result of good weather in a good location, “bee whispering” be damned.
A problem with the Mountain Camp method of dry sugar feeding is that sometimes the bees toss out the granules of sugar like they’re garbage. Maybe the bees are less likely to do that if they’re starving. All I can say for certain is that I use the Mountain Camp method — pouring dry sugar on newspaper over the top bars and sometimes spraying it with a bit of water — only when I can’t do anything else. Only when I don’t have sugar bricks available.
A quick drop in on the only beehive I have that has a deep. My other seven hives are all-medium construction, which I hope plays out well for me (so far so good), because I’ve pretty much cut all my deeps down to mediums.
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.
This is a 9-minute video of me talking in my beeyard about some things I’ve noticed after my first hive inspections this year.
Some of those things are: Left over moisture from the winter, poorly-fitting hive components, reading the brood pattern on medium frames instead of my usual deep frames, and the possibility of harvesting honey in the spring instead of the fall.
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 →
Today is my three thousand, nine hundred and forty-sixth day of beekeeping on the island of Newfoundland. And in honour of this momentous occasion, I’m taking a break from the internet and any news with the word “Covid” in it. After this break, I might post something once a week on Wednesdays. We’ll see.
Colts Foot finally blooming in Flatrock. (May 1st, 2021.)
Not much to see here. A 4-minute static shot of my bees (with a very slow 4K zoom in) on what is probably the first real warm day of the year. It’s 20Â°C (68Â°F) and going up to 25. It feels like my bees are now starting to shift into serious brood-rearing mode. No drones yet, but hopefully soon.
While many beekeepers in North America and across the pond are dealing with swarms or even harvesting honey in some places, most honey bee colonies on the east coast of Newfoundland are just starting to get going.
The Isle of Newfoundland doesn’t have Varroa yet, nor most of the diseases that cause trouble for beekeepers pretty much everywhere else on the planet. But we do have some of the most inhospitable weather for honey bees anywhere, especially where I live on the east coast of the island, in a place called Flatrock, within spitting distance of the cold North Atlantic Ocean.
Not offence, but I suspect most beekeepers, except maybe a few in Iceland and northern Alaska, have a much easier time at beekeeping than I do. It’s kind of a miracle that I can even get a honey harvest from my bees most summers.
According to the University of Maine and many other reputable institutions of higher learning, honey bees will fly when temperatures are 12.8Â°C (55Â°F) and higher. Most beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland know that’s that a joke. My bees would virtually never go outside if they had to wait for the temperature to go up to 13Â°C. Here’s a short video I happened to record that shows my bees foraging and bringing in pollen when the thermometer was reading 4Â°C (39Â°F).
My thermometer isn’t always 100% accurate, so let’s say it was 6Â°C instead (43Â°F). That’s still well below the official foraging temperature. I guess the honey bees in Newfoundland didn’t get the memo that they weren’t supposed to fly when it’s this cold.
It could be interesting to come back to the video in this post in about two weeks, or more precisely to come back after checking on the hives in this video to see if they’ve more or less doubled in size, which is what I want to see.
Specifically, the weak colony in the video was given two frames of capped brood from the strong colony. Most of that brood will have emerged by the time I check on them again in two weeks. Two frames of brood should at least double the number of bees in the weak colony. Supposedly, one frame of brood equals three frames of bees, but the two frames weren’t jammed packed with capped brood, so I’m thinking five or six frames of new bees in total, maybe. Add it all up and what it means is that I want the weak colony that looks this…
A weak colony of maybe three frames of bees and hardly any brood (May 10th, 2020.)
…to have as many bees on the frames as the strong colony that looks like this:
As a strong colony with ten frames of bees (May 10th, 2020.)