Moisture Quilts vs Hard Insulation

I’m a true believer in moisture quilts as the best overall ventilation and moisture reduction aid for Langstroth hives in the winter. I’m a true believer because I’ve seen soaking wet hives become dry as a bone within a week of having moisture quilts installed.

An emergency moisture quilt that saved this colony. (January, 2014.)

An emergency moisture quilt that saved this colony. (January, 2014.)

Empty moisture quilts are excellent ventilation aids in the high heat of summer too, allowing the bees to regulate the temperature of the brood nest with less fanning and to cure honey sooner. Moisture quilts are also really cheap and easy to make. Everybody wins.
Continue reading

Quick & Dirty Winter Preparations

I’m a huge fan of the moisture quilts introduced to me by Rusty Burlew because they keep my bees warm and dry all winter long better than anything I’ve used before. But for my first two winters when I kept my hives in the city in a relatively dry climate, hard insulation over the inner cover worked fine. For people who don’t have much time, money or carpentry skills, the winter preparations I demonstrate in this video are better than nothing.

I’m not saying this is the best winter set up for a hive, but I have a good sense of my local climate and I think this minimal set up will work out okay.

Pyramiding The Brood Nest

June 2019 Introduction: The original post from 2015 was incredibly long and detailed and I obviously had too much time on my hands. Thanks to social media platforms such as Facebook, Murray, my goldfish, has a greater attention span than most people flicking through their phones these days. It’s not in our bones to slow down and read anything carefully anymore. To hell with poetry! Give me a meme! In that spirit of progress, I present to you a lovely digestible little ditty called, “What is this pyramiding business, anyway?”

This is a hive packed with bees…

Bees crowding all 10 frames. Perfect candidate for pyramiding. (August 2, 2015.)

Bees crowding all 10 frames. Perfect candidate for pyramiding. (August 2, 2015.)

…so many bees that they’ve run out of space in the hive and it’s time to add another box (i.e., a deep super or a hive body) so the colony has room to grow. But sometimes the queen won’t expand the brood nest into the new box because the workers fill it with honey instead, which can cause the queen to become honey bound (trapped in by honey with nowhere to lay), which can then trigger a swarm, not something most beekeepers want.

A little trick called pyramiding is the solution to that possible problem.
Continue reading

Making Room for the Queen

Here’s a 6-minute video from an inspection I did yesterday that shows me spotting the queen, adding a frame of drawn comb to give the queen more space to lay, and there’s a shot of the bees cleaning up a mouldy frame of pollen taken from one of my dead colonies — and you’ll hear me talking about my plans for inspecting all my hives and how I’m going to manage them. That part sounds boring, but it might give new beekeepers a sense of how to go about inspecting their hives, that is, having a plan and knowing that most plans are a joke. The bees tell me what they need, not the other way around.

1:46 — The first look at the bees inside the hive, before removing frames.
2:05 — A frame of moldy pollen.
2:18 — A close-up shot of the queen laying an egg.
3:53 — Inserting a frame of empty drawn comb to make room for the queen to lay.

I mention in the video that I plan to add another deep to the hive, which is what I did, though it’s not in the video. It’s in this 1-minute time-lapse behind-the-scenes video where I explain why the hive has a moisture quilt and a few other things.

Part 2 of the hive inspection video: Combs of Pollen and Nectar.

Honey Bees Fanning (Video)

I’ve posted several photos and some videos of honey bees fanning over the years. Let’s add this cell phone video from yesterday to the list:

The bees clamp on tight to a spot outside the hive entrance and beat their wings with everything they’ve got to create an air current inside the hive that helps evaporate nectar into honey and regulates the temperature of the brood nest.

Honey Bees Fanning

Honey bees have a tonne of behaviours that are fun to discover. One of the first things I noticed was the way they clamp on tight to a spot outside the hive entrance and beat their wings with everything they’ve got, a behaviour that’s commonly known as fanning (not to be confused with scenting). The fanning creates an air current inside the hive that helps evaporate nectar into honey and regulates the temperature of the brood nest. I took a few more photos today.

Honey bees fanning. (May 26, 2013.)

Honey bees fanning. (May 26, 2013.)

See How to Attract Honey Bees with a Leaky Hose to view a video of honey bees fanning, or do a search for “fanning.”
Continue reading

Video of a Hived Swarm

One of my honey bee colonies swarmed into a tree last week. I caught it and put it in a new hive with a small frame feeder and three frames of empty drawn comb so the queen could start laying right away. I checked on it yesterday and here’s a video that shows what I found (it’s doing well):

It’s not the greatest video, but it shows how things are working out for me since I moved the hives from my backyard to a place in the country. I won’t say exactly where I moved the hives, but anyone familiar with farms around St. John’s probably won’t have a hard time guessing correctly.

A couple notes about the video: 1) I got lazy with making my improvised ventilated inner covers. I came up with an equally effective but much easier to make version of the same thing at the 3:19 mark in the video. I haven’t tested it much yet, but I’ll write up a more detailed post for it later if it works. 2) The hived swarm probably doesn’t need two deeps just yet (and probably doesn’t need the extra ventilation), but swarms are known for building up fast. I gave them the extra hive box in case I can’t make it out next week. I’ll keep feeding the hive now just like I would with a nuc.

Continued on with Queen in a Hived Swarm.

Dry Sugar Check Up and Pollen Patties

April 2019 Introduction: I would add moisture quilts to these hives today because they’re too damp. In the videos below, I can see condensation dripping off the inner covers and mould developing on the inside rim and top bars. I also no longer fold the hive wrap under the inner cover because it keeps in too much moisture (not that I always wrap my hives).

It was warm enough today (1°C / 34°F) to take a peek inside my four hives and add some pollen patties. I didn’t have to top up the dry sugar that was added 46 days ago. The bees in the foundationless hive are low on honey, as I suspected, and have eaten through the most sugar, but they have enough to keep them going for a while. The bees in the conventional hives have eaten some of their sugar, but I still think they would have been fine without it. I could see several frames full of honey in each of the hives. The bees in the conventional hives were clustering above the top bars by the end of December, but a lack of honey doesn’t seem to be the reason. Okay, then, here’s how it played out in video form. First, a short version that cuts to the chase.


Continue reading

Winter Preparations – Hive Wrap

I finally got around to wrapping my hives for the winter. Here’s another how-to video narrated by me with a sore throat.

November 2018 Comment: That’s not a wax moth in the video. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a wax moth. We don’t have those in Newfoundland (yet). I use 6mm (quarter-inch) mesh on the bottom entrances now to keep shrews out, and I don’t fold the wrap underneath the top cover because it holds moisture inside the hive.

I thought about using corrugated plastic as a type of winter wrap, but I didn’t have time to mess with that, so I stuck with following the traditional roofing felt wrap method. I don’t plan to touch the hives again until late January or early February when I might have to feed them candy cakes and pollen patties. See Wrapping Hives for Winter and Winter Preparations – Part 1 for more info.
Continue reading

Winter Preparations – Insulation and Stuff

March 2019 Introduction: This is another post where I go into some fine details of my beekeeping procedures that probably won’t do much to grab the interest of general readers. I’ll chime in at the end to comment on procedures that I don’t follow anymore, but this is really not the most exciting post I’ve ever posted. How I Prepare My Beehives For Winter is a more up to date version of this post, though even that is subject to change at any time.

It went up to a stifling 11°C yesterday (52°F), so I took the opportunity to insulate my hives for winter and staple on some mouse-proofing mesh. This is as simple as it gets.

Hives #2 and #1 with a piece of R-7.5 hard insulation over the inner covers (Nov. 3, 2011.)


Continue reading