First Opening of Winter Hives

It can be a little unnerving opening a beehive in the middle of the winter. But I suppose it depends on what you mean by winter. I was able to open my hives today — the first time I’ve opened them this winter — because there wasn’t a breath of wind and it was cold but not freezing. A common cold damp day in Newfoundland that makes your bones ache in a bad way. And when I say opened, I mean I hadn’t removed the inner cover from a hive and exposed the bees to the cold winter air yet.

Opening a hive on a fairly mild winter day (5°C / 41°F) and adding a rim to make space for sugar bricks.


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The Dempster Hive Pillow

As much as I love moisture quilts (or anything that keeps my bees warm and dry over the winter), sometimes I think, “There’s got to be an easier way.” And when I say sometimes, I mean every single day. Instead of using moisture quilts, I’ve opted to try out these Dempster Hive Pillows. They’re 2 or 3 inch (~7cm) thick burlap pillows filled with wood chips that sit over the inner cover and inside a ventilation rim (or any kind of box with ventilation holes in it) to provide some insulation for the bees but also help absorb and wick away condensation from inside the hive.

Here’s a basic intro to the Dempster Hive Pillow:

It’s another experiment, but I think (I hope) it’ll work. I think it’ll be a lot easier to drop pillows into my hives instead dumping wood chips or some other absorbent material inside the hive. That’s the aforementioned easier way I was talking about. Considering that my bees have gone through the winter so far with zero insulation and zero moisture-absorbing material in place, my feeling is, yeah, what’s the worse thing that could happen?

Here’s the extended version of the above video that goes into a lot more detail about other things related my winter beekeeping:
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Beekeeping Spray Bottle (Instead of a Smoker)

In this longish video that I recorded over my lunch break at home today, I demonstrate and explain my use of a spray bottle that I use on my bees instead of a smoker. As I explain in the video, I don’t think a spray bottle is any worse of better than a smoker, but it’s a lot cheaper than a smoker and easier to use in most situations I’ve encountered.

A few things I may have overlooked in the video…
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Wrapping Beehives in Bubble Wrap (An Experiment)

In my ongoing series of videos designed to obliterate the Zen-like vision of beekeeping that everyone falls for (myself included), I present to all you good folk, “Wrapping Beehives in Bubble Wrap.”

The wind is blowing in the mic throughout this video, but it seems that my cheap cellphone camera does an excellent job at isolating the sound of my voice. Despite the wind, my voice can be heard clearly most of the time. Just one more thing: I don’t consume a lot of caffeinated drinks, but when I do, I sometimes get like hyped up. This video is fuelled by caffeine.
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To Feed or Not To Feed

These thermal images show the difference between a hive with the bees clustering low (with plenty of honey above them) and bees clustering high (possibly running low on honey).

I can’t imagine the bees in any of my tall hives are running low on honey. Most of my hives were packed with honey going into the winter. But you never know. The first time I lost a colony to starvation was around this of the year. So…
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Zapping Beehives With an Infrared Laser Gun Thermometer

A thermal imaging video I posted yesterday shows where my bees are clustering inside their hives, more or less. The video was created by combining high-resolution footage from my cheap cell phone camera with low-resolution footage from my expensive Flir One For Android thermal imaging device. But I also have one of these nice and cheap devices advertised as: “Infrared Thermometer Laser Industrial Temperature Gun Non-Contact with Backlight -50-380°C(NOT for Humans).”

Laser Gun Thermometer.

I wanted to see if the laser gun — which is about 25 times cheaper than the cheapest Flir One device — might work just as well as a thermal imaging device. Yeah, I know it won’t work as well, per se, but is it good enough for my backyard beekeeping brethren on a budget? I’ll tell you right now, the answer is maybe. Maybe even probably.
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Monitoring a Beehive With a Phone (or Not)

Someone on a social media site asked about a non-intrusive way to check on the bees in the winter other than blowing through the entrance or tapping on the hives to see if it riles up the bees. Someone else answered: “Put your phone in the entrance and record the sound. Then you can play it back and turn up the volume. I’ve tried it in the past and could hear their buzzing.” So I gave it a go. Does it work? Well… maybe, maybe not. But I did learn something today.


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A Question & Answer About Fall Feeding

I got a question yesterday from someone who entered an invalid email address into my Contact form. I responded but the message bounced back to me. So in case you’re reading this, Bob, this one’s for you.

Question:

I added sugar syrup feeders to my hives today. Have I waited too long? Would it be better to put sugar over the top bars instead? I plan to start winterizing my hives this week. Thank you. Your site has been a great help to me as new beekeeper.

— Bob
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The National Honey Show

UPDATE: Those those tuning in for Tom Seeley, after you’ve registered (for free), you can view his conversation here:

https://thenationalhoneyshow.co.uk/tnhs2020/info-page/c7f2ee44-ac00-4b86-899b-77ccc5792021

The vast majority of the people who read this blog or watch my beekeeping videos are overseas, but I nevertheless always recommend for new beekeepers in Newfoundland to get on the old Twitter box once in a while and type #beekeeping in the search field to find out what’s going on in the world of beekeeping today. You never know what you’ll find.

Today, for instance, I learned that Tom Seeley is giving a presentation at the National Honey Show in a few days.
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A Mystery of Dark & Light Honey Comb

Do frames of dark comb always produce dark honey? I’ll give you one guess.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made crushed & strained honey in my kitchen. But it’s the first time I’ve crushed combs that were this different from one another — so dark and so light. I’ve harvested honey by the individual frame before because sometimes each frame of honey in a single hive can come from such a different nectar source that the final liquid honey in each frame has a completely different colour and flavour. (That sentence seems longer than it needed to be.) I was expecting something like that this time around. But that’s not what happened.
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