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 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 doesn’t sound better at 359g. A 500ml jar (one pint) is nearly 720g. Smoke and mirrors. It’s the foundation of capitalism. Honey is also sold as “natural” and “pure,” two terms that mean nothing. And so on.

3 kg of Honey From a Medium Frame

Here’s now 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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A Beekeeping Cheat

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.

Capped brood. (July 31, 2010.)

Capped brood.

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
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How To Get the Bees To Draw Straight Comb

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.

Starter Strips for Foundationless Frames

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.

Waxing Foundation with a Heat Gun

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.

Doubled waxed plastic foundation could make this issue moot, as might wax foundation or even foundationless frames.

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.
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Narrow Frame Beekeeping

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.

Cutting Down Deep Frames to Mediums

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.