Keep That Mesh On

I know better than to remove the 6mm / quarter-inch mouse and shrew proofing mesh from the bottom entrances of my hives while temperatures are still cold (like they are now), but hope springs eternal whenever the sun comes out like it did a couple weeks ago, and silly me, I removed the mesh from about half of my hives. Then it got cold again — like it always does in April — and now it looks like I’ve got critters trying to find a warm place to cuddle into. Nice move, Phillip. Way to go. I have to keep reminding myself not to remove the mesh until the first full hive inspection of the year — when it’s warm and stays warm… At least I think it’s a mouse making a mess of my bees.

The video taps into other topics, but the mesh is the main one.

It’s Not the Cold That Kills the Bees, It’s the Moisture

A wet mouldy frame of uncapped syrup and/or honey. (April 16th, 2022.)

I’ve had to deal with a few hives in a wet condition this spring and I think I know why.

The furnace tape I used to seal in the cracks between supers was a mistake. I’ve used duct tape for years with no issues, but I’ve found more moisture beneath this tape than anything I’ve seen before. It was so wet under some of the taped up supers that the wood was beginning rot. So I’m thinking tape made of cold-conducting metal wasn’t a good idea?
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A Wet Hive is a Sick Hive

In this 5-minute video, I take a look at some wet winter hives. The use of cold-conducting silver furnace tape to seal the cracks between my supers seems to have been mistake.

I’ll add more details once I have time. A 19-minute deeper dive follows the opening 5 minutes.

April 12th, 2022: I had the bees in this wet, damp, mouldy hive tested and they have Nosema. It’s stinky and dirty, but it’s not the end of the world. I’m on it. Just for the record, I went 11 years and 9 months without a serious case of Nosema in my bees. That’s not a bad record. I hope. The dirty hive will be treated safely and effectively with Acetic Acid. As much as I would like to document that process so that others might learn from my experience, I’ve decided to hold back on it due to the overzealous policing element that continues to be nuisance to so many beekeepers in Newfoundland. And I’m not referring to anyone who mentioned that Nosema needs to be reported to the provincial apiarist. I’m totally cool with that.

Is This The Stink of Nosema?

I have reason to believe that the hive I found full of poop recently might not have Nosema, but I’ve been dealing with it, just to careful, as if it does have Nosema. Here’s a long video of me digging into the mess and dealing with it by knocking the colony down to a single medium super. I may update this post with more information later. I’m kinda busy at the moment trying to become an expert on Nosema. (Update: In the video, I leave an open feeder full of thin sugar syrup so the bees could clear out their guts of possible Nosema spores, but I changed my mind and removed it the next day. The risk of spreading Nosema through the syrup seemed too great. Maybe the risk is low, but I don’t want to take any chances.)


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Syrup as a Medicine?

So…

The specks of poop in the sugar could be signs of nosema, a mild case of it. (April 4th, 2022.)

I think I may have discovered Nosema, possibly a fatal case of it, in at least one of my colonies — and I’m not posting a photo of that one just yet because it’ll make you barf. When everything inside the hive is covered with feces as if the bees were locked inside and couldn’t get out for cleansing flights, even though the front door is about two inches away from the cluster — that pretty much screams Nosema with a capital N. It could be dysentery, which is also gross and not as troublesome as Nosema. Still, everything points to Nosema at the moment.
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These Bees Are Goners

So I have a teenie tiny colony that’s pretty much toast. I knew going into the winter it wasn’t in great shape. It was result of a late season queen that was mated sometime in September, which is not good for all kinds of reasons I won’t go into now. But essentially it was (is) a small colony with a poorly mated queen that I should have combined with a strong colony before winter set in.

In any case, Marc Bloom, another beekeeper here on the Isle of Newfoundland going all-in like me, because, come on, there’s no turning back now, dropped off a 5-frame medium nuc box for me the other day and I thought now would be a good time to dig into this dying colony, transfer it to a smaller, probably dryer hive box, and maybe give it a fighting chance. So that’s what I did. Here’s the video, including a sort of post-mortem looking through the dying colony’s old frames.


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The Sugar Express

What can I say? It cost about $3.00 to make a brick of sugar that has the potiential to save my bees if they run low on honey when I’m not around to save them. So here we go again.

Two colonies got only sugar bricks. Another one got a protein patty and a sugar brick. I’ll say this, though, these three colonies seem to be in good shape. They’re full of bees and I can still see frames of capped honey up top.

Last year some of my colonies didn’t break above the top bars until April. This year, all of them except one (out of 10) have broken above the top bars. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re running low on honey, but, like I said, a few dollars worth of sugar ain’t no thing to make sure they’re okay.

A Sugar Board

I dropped a sugar board over one of my weaker colonies today. Here’s a 3-minute video to prove it.

I gave the bees some protein patties too. Hopefully it’ll keep them going until spring. An 11-minute cut shows up after the short version for anyone with the time for a deeper dive.
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Why do honey bees hang off each other like that? (Festooning)

Honey bees festooning, hanging off each other in chains that eventually seem to fill with beeswax that becomes honey comb.

I narrated — not exactly the word for it, but let’s just go with it. I narrated a 5-minute video today where I provide my best off-the-cuff explanation of festooning, that thing bees do when they hang off each other in chains and won’t let go.

This explanation should have taken 60 seconds, not 5 minutes, but that’s how I roll sometimes.

Secret Hives Update (February 2022)

I plan to place at least one more beehive in my secret location sometime in the spring because my colonies there are always in the best shape, better than any of my colonies anywhere else. Unlike most of my hives in other locations, including the hives in Flatrock next to my house, my secret hives don’t get much special treatment.


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A Walkaway Split, 84 Days Later

I created a walkaway split on June 20th and it worked out well. The last time I checked on it a couple of weeks ago, the queen was laying well and she looked healthy. I’m at the point now, pulling the last of the honey from my hives, where I don’t want to do anything else with my colonies other than check to see if they’ve got enough honey, and if they don’t, I’ll top them up with some syrup. Here’s a short video where I examine the honey frames of the 84-day-old walkaway split and make a few tweaks that should give it a better chance of getting through the winter.

Like I say in the video, the colony is looking good and is well on its way to having enough honey to get through winter (about two mediums worth of honey). I may need to top it up a little syrup, but right now it’s in pretty good shape. It’s not absolutely packed with bees, but it doesn’t need to be. My bees, possibly with Russian genetics, seem to go into winter will small clusters, consuming little honey. Which is great because it means I probably don’t need to feed them sugar over the winter or early spring.


The video was taken from my longer video, Another Day in the Life of a Beekeeper.

Fireweed Seeds Adrift is Honey Harvesting Time

Around this time last year I wrote a little post called, When is It Time to Harvest Honey? In my local climate, any or all of the following signal that it’s time to harvest honey:

— cottony fireweed seeds start to fill the air
— temperatures significantly shift to cold, especially overnight temperatures
— drone pupae (or drones) are tossed from the hive
— goldenrod begins to dry up

All of those have turned out to be the most accurate signals for me to harvest honey in my particular beeyard, but the one I like the most are the fireweed seeds floating in the breeze. This series of slow motion clips is an excuse to show off the best slow motion shot of fireweed sides adrift that I’ve been able to manage so far.

It’s also a nice way to take a breather from Hurricane Larry that shook my house for a few hours last night.

Ordering a New Ventilated Bee Jacket

I ordered a new ventilated bee jacket from Beemaid today because the mesh in the hood of my old one, which I’ve had for about 10 years, is cracking and the bees are getting in. The jacket looks filthy anyway and all the elastics in the cuffs and waistband have loosened. The bees can get through my sleeves easily if they want to, though they rarely do.

Here’s an image-link to the jacket:

I paid $155 for it. I looked into getting a different jacket from Amazon and other online stores to save money, but first I’ll mention why I went back to the Beemaid jacket.
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Backfilling?

As I get used to reading the frames with this all-medium beekeeping I’ve taken on (it’s slightly different), I’m playing it safe in regards to swarm signs. We’ve also had an unusually warm summer so far. Most of my colonies are bursting at the seams. I’ve run out of frames and boxes to keep them contained. So any sign of backfilling and I’m giving the queen more room to lay.

Backfilling is when so much nectar is coming in that the bees run out of space to store it, so they end up storing it in the brood nest where the queen normally lays her eggs. When the queen runs out of space to lay like this, she becomes “honeybound.” And when that happens, the colony usually swarms.

That’s something I try to avoid as much as possible, especially since I live on a street packed with little kids, and one of those little kids is terrified of flying insects. I don’t want a swarm to land on her swing set and traumatise her for life.
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These Bees Should Be Dead

One of my beehives, back in January 2019, had its top blown off in a windstorm. The top cover — along with the inner cover and hard insulation — might have been removed in other ways, but the point is, the colony of honey bees trying to stay alive inside the hive were completely exposed to the elements for about a week. The elements included high winds, rain, freezing rain, hail and snow. Hence, the title of this post: These Bees Should Be Dead.

Not exactly what you like to find when visiting a beeyard in the winter. (January 2019.)

When I approached the hive, I didn’t expect the bees to be alive. I found dark soggy clumps of dead bees on the back edges of the top bars. Some burr comb over the top bars had lost its colour from being exposed to the elements. The frames were soaking wet with a sheen of mould growing on the surface. Ice clogged up the bottom entrance. So yeah, I expected to find nothing but dead bees inside that hive.

But I didn’t.


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On Not Reversing Spring Hives Again

Along with the five hives next to my house, I have two hives on the edge of a farm (and another one in a secret location). The weather got warm enough for me to do full hive inspections on both of the farm hives. I only turned my camera on when I found something I thought could be educational for new beekeepers. Most of the video is me talking about what I found in the hives, what I did to each of them and why I did it. I know it’s a visually boring video, but it covers a lot of ground. This is exactly the kind of boring video I would been all over when I first started beekeeping.

Here’s what happens in the video:
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Damp Winter Hive = Slow Spring Build-Up

This is a 9-minute video of me talking in my beeyard about some things I’ve noticed after my first hive inspections this year.

Some of those things are: Left over moisture from the winter, poorly-fitting hive components, reading the brood pattern on medium frames instead of my usual deep frames, and the possibility of harvesting honey in the spring instead of the fall.

I dive deeper into all of this in the following summary of the video:
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All Beekeeping is Still Local Beekeeping

Spoiler Alert: I miss keeping bees in the warmer parts of Newfoundland. That’s all I’m really saying.

It was finally warm enough (briefly) to do my first hive inspections of the year. I inspected three of my eight hives. If I were to give a grade of colony strength to each of them — for what I’ve come to expect in my local climate — I’d give a 10/10 for one hive, 7/10 for another and a 4/10 for one where the queen seems to be on the way out. In this video, I focus on the colony with the highest grade and give credit where credit is due: to warm weather and a well-mated queen. It seems to me those two factors are the main ingredients to successful backyard beekeeping.

Ten percent, maybe 20% of the credit, goes to the backyard beekeeper (me) who provides their bees with a dry hive to live in. That part of it can be more complicated than you might think, but really, most of the credit goes to good weather and healthy queens. I’ve come to these conclusions based on my experience keeping bees in four location on the island of Newfoundland and from talking to beekeepers in other parts of the island. (The video explains it too.) But I could be wrong. What I really should say is these are contemplations, not conclusions.
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Removing Burr Comb

I use feeder rims on my hives to make room for emergency feeding of dry sugar and protein patties in the winter, but once the bees wake up from winter and have enough to start building new comb, the rims have to come off before the bees fill in the extra space created by the rims with messy comb. That’s what this video is about. And, yup, I find some burr comb.


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