A Walkaway Split, 84 Days Later

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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.

Tagging Along With a Backyard Beekeeper

This is what it’s like to follow me while I’m beekeeping. My “workshops” (i.e., standing next to me while I do my thing in the beeyard) is exactly like this. I do what I have to do and explain in as much detail as I can off the top of my head everything I’m doing or planning to do. This is a 25-minute video, but my earlier posts from today contain shorter clips from the video for the social-media crowd.


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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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A Half-Baked Artificial Swarm

Almost everything to do with queens this year has been wonky. I’ll talk about that some other time. For now, check out this video where I explain why I had to create an artificial swarm — on August the bloody 25th. Give me a break. I’ll fill in the details tomorrow or the next day.

It wasn’t a perfect artificial swarm set up, but I was working alone and I had 20 minutes to get it done, and sometimes, especially backyard beekeepers who have day jobs, you just gotta get it done, even if it isn’t pretty.

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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Delirious Rambling in 33 Degree Heat (91°F)

I got a Gmail Reminder yesterday: CHECK FOR SWARMS CELLS. I must have written that reminder in past years for a reason. So I checked for swarm cells and I’m glad I did. Here’s a video of me talking about what I found in the first hive I checked and what I did. I talk about other things too that new beeks might be curious about.

I checked some of my other hives for swarms cells too, but not all of them. It was just too damn hot.

I did outside visual inspections and didn’t see anything too alarming in the rest. I’ve never been sold on outside hive observations for predicting swarm risk in a honey bee colony. Perhaps it takes a certain skill that I haven’t developed yet, but except for seeing a large number of bees pouring out of the bottom entrance and climbing up the outside of the hive for a few days before a swarm, I’ve never seen any clear sign from outside that a colony was about to swarm. I’ve spoken to large scale beekeeping operators who report the same thing. So I just don’t go by external observations.

But I did today because I was too hot and tired. I’m hoping for the best.