This is what it’s like, again, to tag along with me while I’m beekeeping for about 28 minutes.
Am I the only one in Newfoundland who thinks this has been an unusual and even slightly weird summer for beekeeping? Here are the hive inspections that got me thinking about this.
I got a Gmail Reminder yesterday: CHECK FOR SWARMS CELLS. I must have written that reminder in past years for a reason. So I checked for swarm cells and I’m glad I did. Here’s a video of me talking about what I found in the first hive I checked and what I did. I talk about other things too that new beeks might be curious about.
I checked some of my other hives for swarms cells too, but not all of them. It was just too damn hot.
I did outside visual inspections and didn’t see anything too alarming in the rest. I’ve never been sold on outside hive observations for predicting swarm risk in a honey bee colony. Perhaps it takes a certain skill that I haven’t developed yet, but except for seeing a large number of bees pouring out of the bottom entrance and climbing up the outside of the hive for a few days before a swarm, I’ve never seen any clear sign from outside that a colony was about to swarm. I’ve spoken to large scale beekeeping operators who report the same thing. So I just don’t go by external observations.
But I did today because I was too hot and tired. I’m hoping for the best.
One of my beehives, back in January 2019, had its top blown off in a windstorm. The top cover — along with the inner cover and hard insulation — might have been removed in other ways, but the point is, the colony of honey bees trying to stay alive inside the hive were completely exposed to the elements for about a week. The elements included high winds, rain, freezing rain, hail and snow. Hence, the title of this post: These Bees Should Be Dead.
When I approached the hive, I didn’t expect the bees to be alive. I found dark soggy clumps of dead bees on the back edges of the top bars. Some burr comb over the top bars had lost its colour from being exposed to the elements. The frames were soaking wet with a sheen of mould growing on the surface. Ice clogged up the bottom entrance. So yeah, I expected to find nothing but dead bees inside that hive.
But I didn’t.
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.
Here’s what happens in the video:
Here’s a 20-minute video where I walk you, gentle viewer, through a full hive inspection, the first hive inspection of this year for this particular hive where I reverse the hive while I’m at it.
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.
I dive deeper into all of this in the following summary of the video:
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.
I try to insert at least one foundationless frame into each of my hives in the spring so the queen doesn’t gunk up the space between the boxes with drone comb. Foundationless frames also allow me to harvest comb honey or make crushed & strained honey.
Bee jacket, no gloves, mist bottle instead of smoker. Here are the details:
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.
I use feeder rims on my hives to make room for emergency feeding of dry sugar and protein patties in the winter, but once the bees wake up from winter and have enough to start building new comb, the rims have to come off before the bees fill in the extra space created by the rims with messy comb. That’s what this video is about. And, yup, I find some burr comb.
I had to add some protein patties (artificial pollen) to my hives yesterday because my bees have been stuck inside their hives for a week, unable to forage for pollen just at a time when the year’s first pollen was beginning to come in. We’ve got at least another week of this lousy weather ahead of us. This is when I say enough is enough. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Here’s another edited low-fi live stream from my beeyard (26 minutes, not much edited down). This time I check on some bees with dry sugar, add a pollen patty and I mess around with my smoker.
There’s a lot of talking in this video (hence the new Talkin’ Blues category), which is sort of what I’m leaning towards these days. In any case, here are the highlights from the video:
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:
Checking on my two farm hives. 17 minutes long.
Here are the highlights:
Yesterday I visited two beehives that I have on a farm, before snow and rain came in to make that kind of thing not much fun. Here’s an 18-minute video of that visit, but I tacked on a 5-minute condensed version for the Readers’ Digest crowd.
Here’s an index of the big events in this video, though there’s a lot more than what’s listed here.
Here I am talking quietly for 15 minutes about my approach to winter beekeeping going into 2021:
Today’s beeyard visit is brought to you by the world’s most socially acceptable psychotropic drug: caffeine. Let’s go!
If you were hanging out with me and my bees, I’d probably start blabbing on like this: