A problem with the Mountain Camp method of dry sugar feeding is that sometimes the bees toss out the granules of sugar like they’re garbage. Maybe the bees are less likely to do that if they’re starving. All I can say for certain is that I use the Mountain Camp method — pouring dry sugar on newspaper over the top bars and sometimes spraying it with a bit of water — only when I can’t do anything else. Only when I don’t have sugar bricks available.
Here’s a quick video I made over my lunch break yesterday that shows how I use Google Maps to figure out where my bees might be flying.
Honey bees have been known to forage as far as 13km (about 8 miles), but the usual number that’s thrown around is the 5km maximum (about 3 miles). As with almost everything in beekeeping, there is no one precise answer because there are about 10 billion factors to consider first, most of them having to do with the local climate. Honey bees won’t fly 5km if they can find everything they need close to their hives. A 1km forage radius or less is not uncommon in areas with plentiful forage. However, 1-3km seems to be the average, or so most of the big textbooks tell me.
So here’s how I use Google Maps to calculate the approximate forage area of my bees (if you didn’t watch the video): Continue reading →
Honestly, I’m not out to publicly shame natural beekeepers who believe that sugar is bad for honey bees. I just happen to be dumping sugar into some of my hives because some of my colonies might run out of honey before spring. Here’s a 3-minute video that demonstrates how I dump sugar into my hives when I’m too lazy to do anything else. (I also posted a 20-minute version of this video too.)
I could have sprayed the sugar with water to harden it up, but I didn’t. Some other thoughts off the top of my head: Continue reading →
A 2-minute video that demonstrates and explains my idea for covering the inner cover hole with canvas. It’s followed by a 20-minute version for those interested in a deeper dive into all kinds of other things.
As always with these longer videos, I explain every little thing I do while I’m doing it so that new beekeepers unfamiliar with all this stuff might be able to pick up some helpful titbits of information. I know this format isn’t quick and slick and eye-catching, and my viewership has gone down the toilet since I started doing this, but when I look back on all the videos I’ve watched over the years, it’s usually been this kind of long-form walk-along video that I’ve learned the most from — the ones where I’m just hanging out with the beekeeper while they’re beekeeping. So I’m sticking to it. Continue reading →
Beekeepers on a budget with minimal carpentry skills might like these little shelters I made from old yogurt containers to keep wind, rain and snow from blowing through the upper entrances of my beehives. Here’s a three and a half minute video that shows what I’m talking about. (It ends with a 15-minute extended cut for those who like to dig a little deeper.)
Most beekeepers first learn to inspect their hives by removing a frame from the edge of the hive box and then moving closer to the middle one frame at a time. That’s the safest way to do it because it opens up space so the bees don’t get “rolled” between the tightly-fitted frames. But with experience, I think it’s okay to skip to the chase and pull out the middle frame first.
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.
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 thatâ€™s the point at which it wonâ€™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 weâ€™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.
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 →
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.
A 500ml Mason jar of honey = 1 pound 8.5 oz / 24.5 oz / 695 grams. That’s 1.39 grams per millilitre of honey.
A 250ml Mason jar of honey = 11.45 oz / 325 grams. That’s 1.3 grams per millilitre of honey.
Both minus the weight of the jar. It looks like the 500ml jars (a pint of honey) provides a bigger bang for the buck with an extra 45 grams crammed in there. I don’t know which jar has the most accurate measurement, but an average of the two comes to 1.345 grams per millilitre of honey.
In any case, I’ve never understood why honey is sold by weight instead of volume — by the size of the jar it’s sold in. But whatever the reason, I decided to see how heavy honey in a jar comes in at so that I can calculate a price for selling it by weight. That’s it.
September 10th, 2021: According to this website, one millilitre of honey is exactly 1.437 grams. I’m assuming something other than a kitchen scale was used to determine that number. The highest number I got was 1.39 grams.
In any case, it seems to me that the main reason honey would be sold by weight instead of volume is that the weight measurements result in a larger number. 250ml of honey sounds better at 359g. A 500ml jar (one pint) is nearly 720g. That’s if we go with the 1.437 grams per ML math. It makes sense now.
Here’s how I inadvertently (or I could say deliberately) managed to get over 6 pounds of honey from a single medium frame. 6 pounds is about 3 kg. (I’ve created a special tag just for this hive, Giant Hive 2021, so everything I’ve written about it can be viewed in sequence.)
Other than giving the bees space inside the hive to grow, I really didn’t do much. This is 95% the result of good weather and a healthy queen. No bee whispering of any kind was required. There never is.
Essentially, all I did was place 7 frames of drawn comb in a 10-frame honey super, creating extra space between the frames. If there’s a strong nectar flow, the bees will often fill in the extra space with honey, resulting in thick frames of honey — and sometimes more honey per super.
1 of 5 thick frames of honey, averaging 5.2 pounds / 2.4 kg of liquid honey per frame. (July 7th, 2021.)
I wrote this on Facebook, but I might as well copy it here:
Whenever I look at a full frame of capped brood (capped brood on both sides of the frame), I check to see if there are at least two frames worth of space in the hive for those bees when they hatch out. If there isn’t, it’s time to add another box.
Even if 1000 bees die every day during the foraging season1, once those babies hatch out, a hive can get crowded in no time.
This is 90% of beekeeping in the summer: Making sure the queen has room to lay.
Each full frame of capped brood will become approximately three frames of bees once they hatch out. It’s pretty basic math.2 Continue reading →
I talk about this all the time, but here we go again, a short video that shows how I get my bees to build straight comb off bare foundation (when I have drawn comb).
Keep in mind that this method is not necessary. Many beekeepers simply let the bees build comb out from the middle frames as they naturally expand the brood nest and build comb for honey. That works too. Inserting empty frames between drawn comb is only meant to speed up the process because of the bees’ compulsion to fill in empty space.
Whenever I talk about foundationless frames, they always have a starter strip in them. A starter strip is where the bees begin (or “start”) to build comb in a foundationless frames.
Foundationless frames are used for all kind of reasons. And that little strip of plastic isn’t going to pollute the honey or the bees. The bees will encounter considerably worse things in their environment while foraging. That’s one of the reasons why there’s really no such thing as organic honey.
It’s probably a better idea to securely glue in the starter strip with wax or whatever than jamming it in like I do in the video. I shot this video on the spot only as a quick demo.
Quality plastic foundation is coated with beeswax to encourage the bees to build comb off it. But sometimes the foundation isn’t coated in wax for whatever reason and the bees won’t touch it, or if they do, they take much longer to build comb on it. So that’s when beekeepers are forced to coat the foundation with beeswax themselves. There are many ways of going about it. This is one of them.
This is the most convenient method I’ve found for waxing foundation. However, even more convenient might be to wax the foundation before inserting it into the frames.
Word around the campfire tells me that only the top inch or so of the foundation needs to be waxed — not the entire foundation. Apparently, once the bees start building comb on the top edge of the foundation, that gets them started and they have no trouble working down the rest of the frame. I’ve seen photos that seem to illustrate this. Continue reading →
Something I didn’t know about when when I bought most of my beehive components is what not all commercial Langstroth frames are made the same. Some frames are slightly narrower than others — those are the good ones. Some are thicker — those can be a pain.
The thicker or wider frames fill a 10-frame brood box right to the edge. Sometimes it’s so tight that removing the first frame during an inspection be can difficult, especially if it’s packed with bees. Narrower frames provide more space on the sides of the box, which gives us sad ole beekeepers a little extra room to wiggle the frame away from all the other frames before we pull it out. For new beekeepers who have never experienced that and always find the first frame hard to pull out, you’re going to love narrow frames. This video shows how to identify them.
This video shows how I cut deep frames — with comb — down to medium frames. People who know their way around a workshop are going to jump all over this to tell me everything I’m doing wrong and what I should be doing to cut them properly. But this is for people like me who will likely never become a handy man in any way, shape or form.
I often forget to glue my frames together, but in this case, even though it’s not in the video, glue helps keep the bottom bars in place because they don’t clip in like the usually do.
I cut my deep supers down to medium supers too. If you watched the video, I’ll give you one guess at how I do that without measuring anything.
This two-minute videos shows how I try to nail my frames together when I’m not lazy. When I’m lazy, I just bang a nail in on the top and bottom and call it done.
I know glue is great, but I don’t use glue to keep my frames together because glued-together frames smash into a million pieces when they break apart inside an extractor. Without the glue, I can usually put them back together. The bees also tend to fill in most of the cracks with propolis, which is a pretty good glue.
This is not a practical method of assembling frames for most commercial beekeepers, but for backyard beekeepers who don’t have compressor nails guns or any expensive gear — just a hammer and some nails — this works well.
Here’s a playlist collection of videos I’ve posted over the years that somewhat falls into the category of Practical Beekeeping Tips. The playlist is sort of in the order that someone new beekeeping would experience, starting off with how to paint hives and how to mix sugar syrup, how to install a nuc — all that jazz.
While I’d like to update and modify some of the videos, that would take more time than I can spare (I have a full-time job that isn’t beekeeping). Much like my Beekeeping Guide, it’s not a comprehensive series of videos, but maybe it’ll help.