Backyard beekeeping on the Isle of Newfoundland since 2010. 47°42'27.6"N 52°42'30.0"W
Category Archives: Month of September
A record of all the relevant beekeeping that I do (or have done) during the month of September. 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.
This video demonstrates how I catch wasps at this time of the year so they don’t get into my beehives. (I go into more detail in How To Kill Wasps.)
It’s just a standard wasp trap with a few glops of strawberry jam and a splash of water. No vinegar. No meat or cat food. Just strawberry jam and water. I’ll post a photo later today or tomorrow to show how many wasps got caught in the trap (and how many bees didn’t).
I’ve posted about this before (I’ve covered a lot of ground since 2010), but it’s always good to come back to say, “I told you it works.” Continue reading →
I made a honey bucket with a honey gate, or a spigot. The honey gate makes it easier to fill my jars of extracted honey. I used a 28-litre brewing bucket that I never use for brewing (from the one time I made mead). Food-grade buckets that look like 18-litre paint buckets are also available at some hardware stores. It doesn’t hurt to use a bucket with an air-tight cover. Continue reading →
Here’s another quiet walkalong video that has me pulling off the last of my honey frames for the season. I suppose it’s a sequel to my Another Day in the Life of a Beekeeper video. It’s 21 minutes long and as usual goes into all kind of things as I basically explain everything I do while I’m doing it — the experience people get when they do a “workshop” with me. I’ll add more details at a later date as soon as I have the time.
This is likely to be the last we’ll see of my Giant Hive of 2021 in my secret location. The colony living in that hive produced almost 100 pounds of honey for me before the end of July, which came to about half of my total honey harvest for 2021. Judging from that hive, I expected great things from the rest of my colonies in other locations, but there was nothing special about this summer for the rest of my colonies. I plan to put as many hives as I can in the secret location for next year.
I created a walkaway split on June 20th and it worked out well. The last time I checked on it a couple of weeks ago, the queen was laying well and she looked healthy. I’m at the point now, pulling the last of the honey from my hives, where I don’t want to do anything else with my colonies other than check to see if they’ve got enough honey, and if they don’t, I’ll top them up with some syrup. Here’s a short video where I examine the honey frames of the 84-day-old walkaway split and make a few tweaks that should give it a better chance of getting through the winter.
Like I say in the video, the colony is looking good and is well on its way to having enough honey to get through winter (about two mediums worth of honey). I may need to top it up a little syrup, but right now it’s in pretty good shape. It’s not absolutely packed with bees, but it doesn’t need to be. My bees, possibly with Russian genetics, seem to go into winter will small clusters, consuming little honey. Which is great because it means I probably don’t need to feed them sugar over the winter or early spring.
I’m not an expert on dealing with a robbing frenzy because I hardly ever see it. I think I’ve only had it happen once, a few years ago when I spilled some sugar syrup spiked with anise extract in my beeyard. And… I did it again.
Around this time last year I wrote a little post called, When is It Time to Harvest Honey? In my local climate, any or all of the following signal that it’s time to harvest honey:
— cottony fireweed seeds start to fill the air
— temperatures significantly shift to cold, especially overnight temperatures
— drone pupae (or drones) are tossed from the hive
— goldenrod begins to dry up
All of those have turned out to be the most accurate signals for me to harvest honey in my particular beeyard, but the one I like the most are the fireweed seeds floating in the breeze. This series of slow motion clips is an excuse to show off the best slow motion shot of fireweed sides adrift that I’ve been able to manage so far.
It’s also a nice way to take a breather from Hurricane Larry that shook my house for a few hours last night.
This is what it’s like to follow me while I’m beekeeping. My “workshops” (i.e., standing next to me while I do my thing in the beeyard) is exactly like this. I do what I have to do and explain in as much detail as I can off the top of my head everything I’m doing or planning to do.
I extracted some honey in my garage over the past couple of days. I’d like to say there’s a precise method to my extraction process, but like everything in beekeeping, there isn’t — and don’t let nobody tell ya no different (just like Sling Blade would say). Now let’s take a gander at how it all went down:
00:00 — Intro to the extractor. Everything is sanitized, from the extractor to the stainless steel honey filter to the honey bucket. The garage might look rough, but it’s well ventilated and there are no chemicals or gasoline or any toxic fumes floating around.
The Wailing Wailers recorded a cover version of “I Made a Mistake,” by The Impressions, sometime in the ’60s, and if it wasn’t for copyright laws, it would be the soundtrack to the following video:
Something I’ve learned from beekeeping over the years is that’s okay to make mistakes, even big ones. It might be better than living in a fantasy world. If we’re not open to making mistakes, we never really learn or get good at anything.
According to my previous post, When is It Time to Harvest Honey?, it’s about time to harvest some honey now. Which means it’s about time to add some escape boards so my bees can “escape” from their honey boxes, which then makes it easier for me to steal their honey. You know, I think I might have a video of me from earlier today that shows how this works:
Here’s a short video that demonstrates a newspaper combine:
A newspaper combine is when two honey bee colonies, one of them usually without a queen, are combined into a single hive as one big colony by using a piece of newspaper to keep them separated for a few days as they get used to the smell of each other. Those are the headlines. Now the details: Continue reading →
Here’s a video of me extracting some honey outdoors, something I wouldn’t recommend to anyone new at this beekeeping foolishness. (Cut down from a 15-minute video.) The video works as a review of the Maxant 3100p extractor which cost me $1400 (Canadian) after taxes and shipping a few years ago. Spoiler alert: The 9-frame extractor does the job, but the legs that come with were not my friends. The base of the extractor had to be bolted down to something unmovable and secured to operate properly and safely — at least for me.
So I pulled out my honey extractor and used it to whip some honey out of about six or seven medium frames. The honey wasn’t completely cured. That is, it wasn’t completely capped and some of the nectar was still floating around fancy and loose and therefore, technically, it wasn’t honey. But it was (and is) technically delicious, so who cares? Not me. I don’t sell it for public consumption, but I eat it all the time and so do my friends. It’s probably not a bad honey for making mead.
I bought three nucs from the Newfoundland Bee Company in mid-July and today, two and a half months later, each of the subsequent hives are overflowing with bees. Here’s a not-so-great photo I snapped during a marathon beekeeping session that shows what I found in one of them when I opened it today. I even found two frames of capped brood in the top deep of this hive. I’ve never had nuc-hives so full of bees at this time of year before.
A hive packed with bees after reducing it to 2 deeps four days ago. I found 2 frames of capped brood in the top box too. That queen is on fire. (Sept. 30, 2016.)
I have to applaud the Newfoundland Bee Company. The queens that came with their nucs are incredible. I probably could have gotten a honey harvest from these hives if I had thought to super them up. My only concern is that there are too many bees in the hive and they’ll eat through their winter honey stores too fast. I know the cluster will reduce in size by the time November rolls around, but at the moment it would be one seriously gigantic cluster. Continue reading →
The only honey I tasted before learning to become a beekeeper was the usual pasteurized junk sold in grocery stores. Now that I have access to raw honey made by honey bees that I know up close and personal, it’s a whole other world of appreciation. In my household of two, we consume about 4 litres of honey every year. Here’s what it looks like when I stick it in the freezer, with an extra jar thrown in because why not?
My personal stash of honey in the freezer. (Sept. 28, 2016.)
Considering that this was a rebuilding year for me and honey was not a priority, 13 kg is more than enough to make me happy. I’ll easily have enough to keep myself in honey until this time next year.
One more time, but in slow motion!
When I kept my bees in Logy Bay and Portugal Cove, I used to get light honey in the spring and dark honey in the fall. This honey is not dark. Judging from what I’ve seen in bloom in my area of Flatrock, I would guess it’s made mostly from Fireweed and Clover nectar, both of which produce a light honey. It doesn’t have the creamy opaque appearance of Goldenrod honey, nor any of the darkness of Japanese Knotweed honey. I look forward to next year when, hopefully, most of my colonies will come into spring at full strength instead of slowly building up over the summer like they had to do this year.
I plan (that is, I hope) to extract two medium supers full of honey this weekend. But first I need to remove the bees from the honey supers. I do that by placing an escape board beneath the honey supers. Some people call them bee escape boards, but it’s obvious that we’re talking about bees here, so I just call them escape boards. Here’s a video I recorded today that demonstrates how it works:
The bees pass down through a hole in the board (usually at night when they want to be closer to the warmth of the cluster), then through a maze covered by a mesh that leads to the brood chamber. The maze is so massively complicated that the bees are unable to find their way back through it. Within a few days most or all of the bees (in theory) will have “escaped” from the honey super so that humans can easily remove it without bothering anyone.
This is the best looking slow motion video I’ve shot with my cell phone.
I keep hearing about how honey bees love Autumn Joy flowers, but I rarely see a honey bee go anywhere near them. Bumble bees sure like them, though. Here’s some slow-motion footage I shot today, with some moody music to give it that extra umph.
I found a frame full of queen cells in one of my hives last week (on September 5th). Specifically, supersedure cells. I’ll skip the sad story of how they got there. Just for kicks and giggles, I moved the frame of supersedure cells, along with three other frames including a frame of brood, into a nuc box. Queen cells are usually capped eight days after an egg is laid inside, which means these ones were at least eight days old. Seeing how the queens usually emerge about eight days after the cells are capped, I figured there was a good chance I’d find open supersedure cells about a week later. And I did (yesterday).
Empty supersedure queen cells. (Sept. 11, 2016.)
It was only six days later, but that shows the cells had been capped for at least two days before I found them. I noticed the bees building the supersedure cells near the end of August, so I knew this was coming.
Assuming everything went according to plan, there should be a single virgin queen running around my nuc box now and once her wings and things have dried and hardened, she will, in theory, take off on a mating flight or two by next week. I’m not confident she’ll mate well this late in the year as the drones are already getting the boot in some of my hives. At any rate, it might take her another week after mating for her to start laying. So…
If it all works out well, she’ll be laying by October. So come back in October and we’ll see what happens!
UPDATE (Sept. 30/16): No signs of a mated queen. The bees are calm like they would be if they had a queen, so… I’ll give it more time and see what happens, though I don’t have high hopes.
Introduction: It’s impressive to see how many wild flowers will grow in exposed soil when the soil is simply left alone. I once moved into a house with a gravel driveway and one half of the driveway was never used. Everything seemed to grow in that gravel and dirt, every kind of clover, bush, vine — you name it, it grew there. And all I did was leave it alone. I saw more of my honey bees, bumble bees and other native pollinators over on those flowers than anywhere else. So maybe planting flowers to “save the bees” isn’t necessary. Maybe all we need to do is expose some soil to the wind and see what happens. In any case, here’s a list of flowers, both wild and cultivated, that my honey bees seem to be attracted to. This list was last updated in August 2019 when I added Cow Vetch.
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 30 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 →
The best method I’ve discovered for killing wasps is to go out and buy one of these wasp traps:
Add some sugar water and a teaspoon of raspberry jam and then watch all the wasps / yellow jackets get trapped and die. (Sept. 22, 2015.)
Add a dollop of some sweet jam, pour in some water sweetened with sugar and then hang or place the trap some place where wasps are known to congregate. I put the trap out this morning and when I came home from work, it was full of wasps — hundreds of them.
Wasp trap filled with hundreds of yellow jackets in less than a day. (Sept. 22, 2015.)
I’ll continue to monitor the trap over the next week or two. I’ll stop using it if too many honey bees get trapped in it. Judging only from the first day I had the trap out, I’d say there’s one honey bee for every 100 wasps that get trapped in it. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the latest results. Continue reading →
I’ve long heard that sedum plants attract honey bees and other pollinators in a big way, so when I noticed an Autumn Joy sedum, a variant of Hylotelephium telephium, growing beside my new house, I thought I’d witness something great and wonderful. But so far it’s been underwhelming. Bumblebees seem to love it, butterflies, wasps, but not many honey bees.
Honey bee on Autumn Joy in Flatrock, NL (Sept. 20, 2015.)
I’d classify Autumn Joy as a late-season nectar source for honey bees in my area, coming to bloom even later than Japanese Knotweed, which is possibly the very last source of nectar and pollen before the onslaught of winter.
Cell phone photo of Autumn Joy in Flatrock, Newfoundland (Sept. 20, 2015.)
Chewing out and discarding drone pupae in the fall is a disgusting no-turning-back move for the bees. They’re absolutely done with drones for the next six months. I found these drone pupae today after two days of cold wind and constant rain.
The appearance of discarded drone pupae after two days of cold wind and rain. (Sept. 16, 2015.)