May 29th, The First Warm Day of the Year

Not much to see here. A 4-minute static shot of my bees (with a very slow 4K zoom in) on what is probably the first real warm day of the year. It’s 20°C (68°F) and going up to 25. It feels like my bees are now starting to shift into serious brood-rearing mode. No drones yet, but hopefully soon.

While many beekeepers in North America and across the pond are dealing with swarms or even harvesting honey in some places, most honey bee colonies on the east coast of Newfoundland are just starting to get going.

The Isle of Newfoundland doesn’t have Varroa yet, nor most of the diseases that cause trouble for beekeepers pretty much everywhere else on the planet. But we do have some of the most inhospitable weather for honey bees anywhere, especially where I live on the east coast of the island, in a place called Flatrock, within spitting distance of the cold North Atlantic Ocean.

Not offence, but I suspect most beekeepers, except maybe a few in Iceland and northern Alaska, have a much easier time at beekeeping than I do. It’s kind of a miracle that I can even get a honey harvest from my bees most summers.

Can someone tell me why I keep doing this?

Stillness Speaks

24 minutes of just sitting here listening to the snow fall and the wind blow and the birds doing birdy things and all that stillness. Why not?

The video was shot on my Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone, so the audio isn’t exactly Hi-Fi, but I’ve cranked it up so all the natural sounds jump out a little more. It’s quiet for the most part, though.

Stealing From The Rich to Give To The Poor

It could be interesting to come back to the video in this post in about two weeks, or more precisely to come back after checking on the hives in this video to see if they’ve more or less doubled in size, which is what I want to see.

Specifically, the weak colony in the video was given two frames of capped brood from the strong colony. Most of that brood will have emerged by the time I check on them again in two weeks. Two frames of brood should at least double the number of bees in the weak colony. Supposedly, one frame of brood equals three frames of bees, but the two frames weren’t jammed packed with capped brood, so I’m thinking five or six frames of new bees in total, maybe. Add it all up and what it means is that I want the weak colony that looks this…

A weak colony of maybe three frames of bees and hardly any brood (May 10th, 2020.)

…to have as many bees on the frames as the strong colony that looks like this:

As a strong colony with ten frames of bees (May 10th, 2020.)


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Peek and Speak Hive Inspection

A short and sweet hive inspection from earlier today:

00:05 — Spraying the bees with a mist instead of using a smoker.
00:50 — Pulling frames and talking about what I see and I’m looking for.
01:28 — Discovering fresh brood, open cells with eggs or larvae floating in white gooey royal jelly, or as they say in Paris, gelée royale (but no close up shots in the video, sorry).
01:48 — Spotting the queen.
03:28 — Describing and showing my 9-frames-per-box brood chamber set up.
04:00 — Final assessment of the colony: it’s looking okay.
04:25 — Some slow motions shots.

Converting To All-Medium Hives (Sort of)

Someday I’ll start posting instructional beekeeping videos again, but these days I enjoy down and dirty beekeeping work more, just hanging out with the bees and talking out loud, saying whatever comes to mind. I did this a couple days ago while inspecting all seven hives in my little shaded beeyard. Most of it was junk, what I said and what I got on video, but I still think there’s something to be had from watching these kinds of videos where not much happens, because real life, real beekeeping, is exactly that 95% of the time. It’s grimy tedious work. Let’s see what happens…


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Honey Bees on Snow Crocuses

More slow motion shots of honey bees on crocuses. For people stuck at home looking for a break, it’s not bad to watch this one in full-screen mode in the highest resolution. No audio required, though you might like that too.

Honey bees on crocus flower. (April 14th, 2020, Flatrock, Isle of Newfoundland.)

This time the bees are in better focus (though I’m still working out some of the kinks).

Don’t ask me what variety of crocuses these are because I have no idea. (Update: But apparently they’re commonly called Snow Crocuses. I’ve revised the title of this post to reflect this newfound knowledge.)

The video was shot on a pocket-sized camera called a Sony RX-100v.

What Are These Bees Doing?

Some of my bees got out for cleansing flights a couple days ago and a bunch of them landed on the side of my shed and began scenting, grooming each other, and I saw a little trophallaxis happening too. And it wasn’t a swarm. I’ve only been keeping bees since 2010 (not a long time) with a relatively small number of hives, and I rarely meet up with other beekeepers, so it’s not surprising that I’ve never seen or heard about this before.

My best guess is that the bees have been clustered deep down in their hives all winter, buried under snow for most of it, and they haven’t had a good day for cleansing flights until now. Honey bees communicate and get to know each other by touching (grooming, bumping up to each other) and feeding each other through the exchange of enzymatic fluids in their guts. It’s how the smell of each other and, more importantly, the queen is spread throughout the colony. It’s a big part of how they stay together and work together as a single super-organism. From what I’ve seen, they usually do this kind of getting-to-know-each-other-again-after-a-long-hard-winter socialising inside or near the entrance of the hive. But I guess they were just enjoying the fresh air and sunshine so much, some of them decided to stay outside and others joined in the party.

UPDATE: It’s obvious now what the bees are doing. They’re hanging out in a warm spot of sunshine just like cats do.