Beehives in the Magic Forest

The hives in this location are in sunlight for most of the day and are sheltered on one side. They are generally twice as strong (at all times of the year) and produce twice as much honey as any of my colonies that are closer to the ocean in Flatrock. These bees don’t get any special treatment (e.g., no winter wrapping), yet in the spring, summer, fall or winter, they are the rock stars of my beekeeping efforts.

As beekeepers, we like to give ourselves most of the credit, but the more I see it with my own eyes, the more I’m coming to believe that most of our success in beekeeping is the result of good weather in a good location, “bee whispering” be damned.

When Bees Toss Out Sugar Feed

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.


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Beekeeping with Google Maps

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):
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Feeding Bees Again

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:
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A Beekeeping Hack (That Might Not Work)

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.
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Yogurt Shelters

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.)

It’s an experiment.
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Another Way to Pull That First Frame

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.


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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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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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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

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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The Weight of Honey (In Jars)

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.

3 kg of Honey From a Medium Frame

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.)

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