Lazy Beekeeper’s Swarm Box

I’ve have a couple of swarm boxes that I was given 10 years ago and I’ve never stopped using them. Mostly I use them for transporting bees, but I also load them up with old drone comb and other frames and use them to actually catch bees. Here’s a really short video that explains how I do it in a manner that I’m sure many hard line beekeepers would not agree with.


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A Half-Baked Artificial Swarm

Almost everything to do with queens this year has been wonky. I’ll talk about that some other time. For now, check out this video where I explain why I had to create an artificial swarm — on August the bloody 25th. Give me a break. I’ll fill in the details tomorrow or the next day.

It wasn’t a perfect artificial swarm set up, but I was working alone and I had 20 minutes to get it done, and sometimes, especially backyard beekeepers who have day jobs, you just gotta get it done, even if it isn’t pretty.

Calibrating a Refractometer

Nectar is pretty much like water when the bees bring it into the hive. They have to evaporate it down to at least 18% moisture before it becomes the magical thing we call honey — because that’s the point at which it won’t ferment. (Technically, honey be can 20% moisture, but 18% is in the safe zone.)

A refractometer is sort of a portable microscope we use to determine the moisture content of the honey after we’ve stolen it from the bees — essentially checking to see if all the nectar has dried up.

El cheapo refractometer ($24 Canadian) for testing moisture content of honey.

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The Difference Between a Virgin and a Mated Queen Bee

These screenshots are probably my favourite bits of the last post I wrote about making a walkaway split. The first photo shows the new queen about 4 days after she emerged from her cell. The second photo shows her about two weeks later, after she had mated and was laying well. What a difference.

A 4-day old virgin honey bee queen.

An approximately 17-day-old mated and successfully laying honey bee queen.

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How to Make a Walkaway Split

I created a walkaway split this summer and it worked. I got a second colony out of it.

I divided a well-populated, strong honey bee colony — one that was on the verge of swarming — into halves, each half with an identical assortment of frames: Frames of honey; pollen; capped brood; frames of open brood packed with nurse bees; empty drawn comb; and maybe a frame or two of bare foundation. Open brood between 1 and 4 days old was the crucial part.

Queen cells torn apart. Observed on DAY 20, though it probably happened around DAY 16.

One of the halves stayed in the original location of the hive. The other half was set up probably about 10 feet away from the hive, but the exact location in the beeyard didn’t make any difference. Continue reading

Backyard Beekeeping in Newfoundland

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As far as I know, I’m the only person on planet earth who thoroughly documents what it takes get into backyard beekeeping on the island of Newfoundland. My Guide to Beekeeping might be a good place to start for absolute beginners.

How To Get Over 70kg or 150 Pounds of Honey Per Hive (in Newfoundland)

This came up in a Google search today.*

https://gazette.mun.ca/campus-and-community/hidden-talents-3/

It’s an article where I mention that I get anywhere between 20-50 pounds of honey per hive in the beeyard next to my house in Flatrock. That’s about right for Flatrock.
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Ordering a New Ventilated Bee Jacket

I ordered a new ventilated bee jacket from Beemaid today because the mesh in the hood of my old one, which I’ve had for about 10 years, is cracking and the bees are getting in. The jacket looks filthy anyway and all the elastics in the cuffs and waistband have loosened. The bees can get through my sleeves easily if they want to, though they rarely do.

Here’s an image-link to the jacket:

I paid $155 for it. I looked into getting a different jacket from Amazon and other online stores to save money, but first I’ll mention why I went back to the Beemaid jacket.
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Why Honey Bees Swarm

A short quiet video where I explain how backfilling can signal that swarming, or splintering, could be on the way, a little tip I first picked up from Rusty Burlew. Then I insert a couple of frames of foundation into a super full of honey to relieve congestion so the queen’s pheromones can better circulate throughout the hive and all that jazz.


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Delirious Rambling in 33 Degree Heat (91°F)

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.