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.
I’ve always heard about how honey bees won’t draw comb on plastic foundation, but I didn’t experience it in a big way until this summer. I had three nucs set up in deeps that I wanted to expand into medium supers because I want to try on the all-medium-super beekeeping game and see if I like it because I know I don’t like lifting 40kg deeps full of honey (about 100 pounds). If I was a seniorish citizen with back, hip or leg problems, or just a regular human being who wasn’t in the mood for any heavy lifting in their beekeeping, I’d consider switching to all shallow supers. For now, though, I’ll see how it goes with mediums.
Waxless plastic foundation and a foundationless section the bees had no problem building on.
This is a 6-minute Reader’s Digest version of the 20-minute video I posted yesterday that shows how I install a nuc.
In the video I spot the queen, show off some fresh brood, a frame of pollen, the frame feeder I use with most of my nucs, and the holes I drill into my deep foundation so the bees can move between honey frames easier in the winter.
Here’s a 20-minute video that documents what it’s like to get a nucleus colony (or a starter hive) on the island of Newfoundland. It’s not always easy. (I’ve also posted a 6-minute version for those who want to cut to the chase.)
Many backyard beekeepers seem to go into a panic about providing water for their bees. I don’t see how it’s even a problem in a wet place like Newfoundland. But I guess we have dry spells from time to time and it might be a good idea to keep water out for the bees so they don’t congregate around some neighbour’s swimming pool.
A bucket of water and peat moss. It might work after the peat has begun to rot, but I gave up on it.
In my experience, the magic ingredient is stinky dirt or pieces of half rotten wood that can float in the water — something that gives off an odour that’s attractive to the bees. That black earth boggy compost smell seems to be a winner with most of the honey bees I’ve known. Also, the more money and the more effort that’s put into creating a source of water for the bees, the less likely they are to use it.
I’ve written about this before, but for me, the chicken waterer works well because it can hold water that will last for days (much larger chicken waterers about the size a bucket probably work even better), though a large terracotta clay plate full of stick and rocks does a pretty good job too.
A bowl full of marbles and water is a pretty way to provide water for bees if you can fill it every day. I still think anything with stinky dirt works best.
It was 18°C / 64°F today and the bees in all of my hives — even with shrew-proofing 6mm / quarter-inch mesh covering all the entrances — were out in full force.
Quarter-inch mesh covering all the entrances. The mesh slows them down but doesn’t prevent them from getting out or inside the hive. (Nov. 17, 2016.)
I’ve heard arguments that the bees can’t get through quarter-inch mesh. But that’s not true. If it was, my bees would have been locked inside their hives behind the mesh all last winter. The bees in the above photograph wouldn’t be flying around today. Continue reading →
I may not wrap all of my hives this year, but I’ve decided to wrap at least the ones that don’t get much sunshine.
Hive wrapped with roofing felt, nice and tight. (Nov. 06, 2016.)
The black wrap will perhaps warm them up a degree or two on really cold (but sunny) days so they can move more easily onto honey frames.
Roofing felt attached with quiet-as-can-be thumb tacks. (Nov. 06, 2016.)
My feelings about wrapping my hives continues to evolve. I began in 2010 by wrapping my hives in roofing felt just like this, except now I use thumb tacks instead of staples because they’re easy to push into the hive and don’t disturb the bees like the bang of a staple gun. (Both this and using push pins to attach shrew-proofing mesh was recommended to me by one of the 6 regular readers of Mud Songs. You know who you are. Thanks.) Over the years, though, mostly due to laziness and the fact that my beehives were an inconvenient distance from where I lived, I got out of the habit of wrapping them and it didn’t seem to make any difference to my over-winter survival rates. Generally, colonies that went into winter in good shape, came out in good shape whether they were wrapped or not.
But last winter, not having wrapped any of my hives, I wasn’t too impressed with how they came out of the winter. None of them died, but neither where they strong. Having hives mostly full of old and stressed queens may explain some of it, but I also noticed in hindsight most of my hives get very little direct sunlight in the winter, much less sunlight than any of my hives in the past. So just to be safe, I’m wrapping the hives that get the least of amount of sunlight. We’ll see what happens. Continue reading →
The following was originally posted on December 7th, 2015, but was edited and updated on October 27th, 2016, to reflect my current practices, such as they are, and could be updated without noticed at any time in the future.
Something weird happened. I got several emails from people asking me what I do to prepare my hives for winter.
One of my bee hives after a snow storm in 2013. The bees survived.
I’m no expert, but here’s what I do, and what I do could change entirely by this time next week.
The typical winter configuration for a world renowned and stupendous Mud Songs bee hive. (November 4th, 2015.)
Here’s a quick video that demonstrates the installation and use of a moisture quilt for winter insulation and ventilation.
All of my moisture quilts are built differently because I’ve never put much planning into building them (I have zero woodworking skills). Some are converted ventilation rims that require a rim underneath, like the one in this video. Others have built in rims as part of the design. Some fit perfectly and create a tight seal on the bottom. Some don’t. And it doesn’t seem to matter either way because they all do a great job at wicking moisture out of the hives and keeping my bees dry all winter.
Moisture quilts, in my experience, aren’t necessary in local climates that aren’t particularly damp and foggy and wet. Smaller colonies that don’t produce much condensation from the bees’ respiration don’t always need extra ventilation or insulation either. A piece of hard insulation over the inner cover often does the trick. Moisture quilts can be a bit scary, too, when it seems like half the colony on warm days attaches itself to the bottom screen of the quilt. But for me the pros outweigh the cons. If dampness is a problem inside any of my hives, I know a moisture quilt will fix it.