Honey Bees Poop on Cars

Honey bees poop on cars and nobody ever talks about it. We’re all too busy idealising beekeepers to notice it. But they do. My bees poop all over my neighbours’ cars in the spring after holding it in all winter. Cars, clothes hanging on the line, living room windows — they all take a hit, and it’s not always easy to clean off. Furthermore, not everybody likes it, especially in suburban areas where people often demand that their tax dollars protect them from having to deal with things like bee poop. So look out.

Here’s a video that shows how I clean bee poop off my car. (If this video doesn’t change the course of Western Civilisation, I don’t know what will.) I get up to go to work and the cold dew on the car somehow seems to lift the poop right off the car, poop that is normally super-glued to anything it touches. I simply wipe it off. If I have to get up early from time to time to wipe the bee poop off my neighbours’ cars, well, that’s what good neighbours do.

Swarm Prevention by Not Overfeeding and Making Room for the Queen

In my experience, it’s important to constantly feed the bees during the first year (in Newfoundland), but it’s also important to stop feeding them at a certain point in the spring the following year so they don’t swarm. When I find drone comb gunking up the bottom of the frames in the spring, that’s my cue that the colony could potentially swarm. Queens can’t mate without drones. The first swarms usually coincide with the flight of the first drones.

Destroyed drone comb between the brood boxes after inspection. (May 05, 2012.)

Destroyed drone comb between the brood boxes after inspection. (May 05, 2012.)

If the bees have two or three solid frames of honey in every box — enough to prevent them from starving — and drone comb is present, then I stop feeding. I don’t feed my bees if they have enough honey on their own anyway, and unless it’s a weak colony, I don’t usually feed past May 31st either because there’s usually enough natural nectar sources available by then (in my local climate), especially in the city of St. John’s that is heavily populated by maple trees. I also check my hives at least every two weeks until the end of June to make sure the queen has room to lay. Most beekeeping (beyond feeding) can be summed up with that one sentence: Make sure the queen has room to lay.


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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Maple Blossoms

June 2019 Introduction: I have read several accounts of honey bees making an early spring honey from Red Maple blossoms, usually on the west coast of North America. I don’t see many of those trees where I live on the east coast of Newfoundland, but regular maple trees, whatever you want to call them, are abundant in urban areas of the island. This post was written on the assumption if honey bees collect Red Maple nectar, they must be able to collection nectar from regular maples trees too.

The city of St. John’s may be one of the best places to keep honey bees on the island of Newfoundland because it’s full of maple trees and a large variety of flowering plants that offer honey bees a bonanza of nectar and pollen from June well into October. Walk around the city today and you will see flowering maple trees everywhere with little flowers that look like this.

A maple tree flower in St. John's, NL (June 09, 2015.)

A maple tree flower in St. John’s, NL (June 09, 2015.)

I took that photo on my cell phone and I know it’s not the greatest, but if St. John’s had more beekeepers, honey bees would be all over those flowers — and honey made from maple nectar is spectacular.

The quantity, diversity and consistency of honey bee forage makes the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland, an excellent place to keep bees. (Just make sure your neighbours don’t mind.)

March 6th, 2016: I found this photo from 2011 that shows flowers on a maple tree, the kind of flowers that hang down in long bunch. The bees supposedly go for these too.

Maple blossoms in St. John's, Newfoundland. (June 19, 2011.)

Maple blossoms in St. John’s, Newfoundland. (June 19, 2011.)

Not the greatest photo but good enough.

May 27th, 2016: The maple tree flowers show up as early as May. Nice.

Maple blossoms in St. John's, Newfoundland (May 26, 2016.)

Maple blossoms in St. John’s, Newfoundland (May 26, 2016.)

Urban Beekeepers, Don’t Overfeed Your Bees

I caught a swarm out in the country last year and I loved it. But unfortunately I live in a relatively crowded urban neighbourhood with an easily enraged nextdoor neighbour, so even though I only have one hive in the city now, I don’t have the luxury of a laid back attitude towards swarms. I need to keep my neighbour from calling the fire department on me again, which means I have to do everything I can to prevent my lonely little colony from swarming. So what should I do?

Upper half of the large water melon sized swarm I caught last summer.

Last year I reversed the brood chambers and checker-boarded my hives. But three of my four colonies swarmed anyway. Here’s a video that shows what one of the hives looked like shortly before its colony swarmed:
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Yellow Jackets Everywhere

I’ve had entrance reducers on all my hives for the past few weeks, and it doesn’t look like I can remove them any time soon because the wasps (a.k.a. yellow jackets) are everywhere. They’re constantly trying to get into the hives. Here’s a photo showing about six wasps blocking a ventilation hole (most of the screened holes in our ventilator rims are filled with wasps):

Wasps filling a screened ventilation hole. (Oct. 9, 2011.)

The next photo isn’t pretty. You’ve been warned.
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Stealing Honey From Grumpy Bees

Note to self: Smoke the bees before stealing a few frames from the bottom honey super. The bees are protective of their honey this time of year (if not all the time).

The bees one of my hives are smoking hot these days, ploughing through their honey supers at an impressive rate. Instead of adding a third honey super to the hive (which the bees might not be able to fill), I decided to pull three frames of honey from the bottom honey super and replace them with empty frames.

Two of the frames are foundationless. I’ll crush and strain them like I did with my first frame of honey. The other one will have to be extracted. I’m not sure how I’ll managed that yet. At any rate, this is my last post for the next couple weeks. By the time I post anything new, I’ll have harvested and probably bottled all of my honey — possibly up to 30 frames of honey. I’ll record videos and take photos of it all. See you later.

September 6ht, 2011: The bees have become extremely defensive since I took the honey from the hive — without using smoke. Within minutes of going in the backyard, I’ve got two or three bees buzzing around my head. I’ve never seen them this bad before. I’m managing it for now, but my backyard may be too small this for four hives. When the bees get defensive, it’s not good at all. I think I may have seen my next door neighbour swatting at some bees in his backyard. I hope they weren’t bees, but it’s possible. This could be very bad. I have to remember for now on to use smoke when pulling honey so the the bees don’t associate my scent, or human scent, with danger. This isn’t a good day. See What makes bees aggressive? from Honey Bee Suite for more info.

March 2019 Postscript: Beekeeping can be a little tricky at times, but I’d say it’s trickier in an urban or suburban environment because of the lack of space. When the bees get grumpy, it’s hard to avoid them. If I kept bees in an urban environment again, I would take extra steps not to disturb the bees or my neighbours. If I had to do a major invasive hive inspection — for example, to check for swarm cells — I would plan to do it at a time when I know my neighbours aren’t in their backyards. Once bees get defensive, they can easily fly over a fence and start head-butting and chasing humans who happen to get in their line of fire. The bees need to be handled with more gentleness and with consideration of close neighbours in an urban environment. It doesn’t take much for things to get a little out of hand.

Jeff Dealing with a Swarm in Clarenville

Jeff from Clarenville, Newfoundland, dropped off some photos and video of one of his swarms from July 18th, 2011. I plan to do everything I can to avoid swarms where I live. Even though the bees are their most docile in this state, I got a feeling most people in my urban ‘hood would not react well to seeing my bees swarm like this. I’ll leave it to Jeff to tell us about it in the comments.

Hunting for Honey Bees

February 2019 Introduction: I look at this video and I sort of half wish I still lived in St. John’s because I actually had more land to keep my bees on in the city than I do where I live now in a rural-like location outside of the city. Just look at the video and check out the field I had behind my house. That was my property. Pretty sweet, eh?

Unfortunately, the field was also used as a local hangout for high school kids who lit the whole thing on fire at least once a year and regularly used it as a drinking spot. My hives would have been an easy target for vandalism like everything else back there. My next door neighbours were also extraordinarily unpleasant people with vicious tempers and a mean junkyard dog that barked and foamed at the mouth half the time I did anything in my backyard. I loved the house I lived in, and I loved that back field, but within months starting up my hives, I realized I was in the worst neighbourhood for keeping bees.

The moral of the story is: Urban beekeeping in a crowded neighbourhood and a tiny backyard is entirely doable, but it’s not much fun if you’re not surrounded by good neighbours. You gotta have good neighbours.

There’s not much to see here but I’ll show it to you anyway. It’s a raw video of me walking through the field behind my shed looking for honey bees on dandelions. The field fills with a variety of wild flowers during the summer and fall. I might explore it again later on in the season when there’s more to see. (Note: The video contains some brief G-rated profanity.)

The video demonstrates how difficult it is to get a precise focus on the bee. It’s been cold for the past week and the bees have been stuck in their hives. Sunnier skies and warmer temperatures are supposedly on the way. I hope so. We only have four months of the year that aren’t cold, wet and windy (that is, they’re not as cold, wet and windy as the other eight months). I’m ready to make the most of it. I think the bees are too. Come on summer, let’s get on with it!

2019 Postscript: Here’s the Google Street View of my old house at 43 Golf Ave in St. John’s. That’s my black Honda Fit in the driveway and my mean neighbour’s Jeep in the adjacent driveway. Flip the camera around and you can see the corner store directly across the street. (Personal advice: Don’t ever live anywhere near a corner store. Trust me, you won’t like what you see.) I like to think the neighbourhood has improved since I lived there, but I can’t say I miss it one bit. Once you move the country and love it as much as I do, you can never go back.