On Not Reversing Spring Hives Again

May 31st, 2021.

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 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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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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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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Beekeeping on Facebook

I often post items to my beekeeping Facebook page that I don’t post here on my blog, which is generally reserved for content I create myself. For the stuff I had nothing to do with but still piques my beekeeping interests, the Mud Songs Beekeeping Facebook page is the place.  For instance, here’s my latest Facebook post that talks about how pollen patties can help maintain the brood nest when the weather turns to junk:

 

I didn’t create that video, but I would if I could. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:  Ian Steppler’s beekeeping videos out of Manitoba are exactly the kind of videos I would post if I was a commercial beekeeper. I’ll likely never have the money or the land to keep bees on a commercial level, but if I ever thought about hitting the big time, I’d be all over his videos. Even as a backyard beekeeper, I’ve learned quite a lot from him.
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Live Stream Edit #2: Stingless Bees

This is an edit of the second live YouTube stream I recently did from the small beeyard on the side of my house. The video is recorded through a WiFi signal that I pick up on my cell phone from from outside my house, so the video quality isn’t exactly high definition. That’s always been my main reason for not doing this before. But I realise quality isn’t really an issue for videos viewed on tiny cell phone screens, so let’s give it a shot:

Here’s a basic breakdown of what happens in the video:
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Is Comb Honey the Same as Honeycomb?

Sort of, but I’m going to say no.

So what’s the difference between honeycomb and comb honey? Why do beekeepers call it “comb honey” when everyone else calls it honeycomb?

Well, for one thing, honeycomb refers to a type of comb, whereas comb honey refers to a type of honey.

A frame of empty comb, what most beekeepers call “drawn comb.” The bees can fill this comb with pollen, nectar (which becomes honey) or the queen might eggs in the comb.

Comb full of pollen.

At first glance, this frame might look like “honeycomb,” but closer examination shows some brood in the middle of all that honey. Click the images for a better view.

Comb honey. Nothing but honey and beeswax.

Honey bees produce wax. From that wax they build a variety of comb. Think of comb as rows and rows of Mason jars, but made of beeswax instead of glass, and lids or caps not made of metal but from beeswax too. What the bees decide to put in those jars — those honeycomb-shaped jars — determines what we call them. Sort of.
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To Feed or Not To Feed

These thermal images show the difference between a hive with the bees clustering low (with plenty of honey above them) and bees clustering high (possibly running low on honey).

I can’t imagine the bees in any of my tall hives are running low on honey. Most of my hives were packed with honey going into the winter. But you never know. The first time I lost a colony to starvation was around this of the year. So…
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Zapping Beehives With an Infrared Laser Gun Thermometer

A thermal imaging video I posted yesterday shows where my bees are clustering inside their hives, more or less. The video was created by combining high-resolution footage from my cheap cell phone camera with low-resolution footage from my expensive Flir One For Android thermal imaging device. But I also have one of these nice and cheap devices advertised as: “Infrared Thermometer Laser Industrial Temperature Gun Non-Contact with Backlight -50-380°C(NOT for Humans).”

Laser Gun Thermometer.

I wanted to see if the laser gun — which is about 25 times cheaper than the cheapest Flir One device — might work just as well as a thermal imaging device. Yeah, I know it won’t work as well, per se, but is it good enough for my backyard beekeeping brethren on a budget? I’ll tell you right now, the answer is maybe. Maybe even probably.
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Adding Escape Boards

According to my previous post, When is It Time to Harvest Honey?, it’s about time to harvest some honey now. Which means it’s about time to add some escape boards so my bees can “escape” from their honey boxes, which then makes it easier for me to steal their honey. You know, I think I might have a video of me from earlier today that shows how this works:

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Checking on Mating Nucs

I checked on the two queens I marked from the other day, both of them set up in my version of a mating nuc. I have one colony that’s had a poorly-laying queen all year. I should have replaced her way back in June, but mated queens on the Isle of Newfoundland aren’t usually available until mid-to-late July, and I couldn’t get any of those. I’ll skip the sad details of my previous failures with mating nucs this summer (I’m sure I’ll post a video about it eventually anyway). What’s important is that my efforts have paid off. I’ve got two young mated queens filling up comb with little baby bees. Here’s the video that captures my satisfaction:

I’ll add more details to this post when I have more time.

Addition: I mention in the video how some brood are about three days old. I was confused. I was thinking about about a different bee. The grubs in the video are big and fat and the cells are ready to be capped. They’re about 5 or 6 days old.