On this Thanksgiving weekend (in Canada), I’m thankful I’m not a male honey bee.
Canadian Thanksgiving Day is the traditional time of year when drones are expelled from honey bee hives, pestered to leave until they die, though I’ve seen drones kicked out of the hive as early as August.
Honey bees poop on cars and nobody ever talks about it. We’re all too busy idealising beekeepers to notice it. But they do. My bees poop all over my neighbours’ cars in the spring after holding it in all winter. Cars, clothes hanging on the line, living room windows — they all take a hit, and it’s not always easy to clean off. Furthermore, not everybody likes it, especially in suburban areas where people often demand that their tax dollars protect them from having to deal with things like bee poop. So look out.
Here’s a video that shows how I clean bee poop off my car. (If this video doesn’t change the course of Western Civilisation, I don’t know what will.) I get up to go to work and the cold dew on the car somehow seems to lift the poop right off the car, poop that is normally super-glued to anything it touches. I simply wipe it off. If I have to get up early from time to time to wipe the bee poop off my neighbours’ cars, well, that’s what good neighbours do.
So I pulled out my honey extractor and used it to whip some honey out of about six or seven medium frames. The honey wasn’t completely cured. That is, it wasn’t completely capped and some of the nectar was still floating around fancy and loose and therefore, technically, it wasn’t honey. But it was (and is) technically delicious, so who cares? Not me. I don’t sell it for public consumption, but I eat it all the time and so do my friends. It’s probably not a bad honey for making mead.
I’ve always heard about how honey bees won’t draw comb on plastic foundation, but I didn’t experience it in a big way until this summer. I had three nucs set up in deeps that I wanted to expand into medium supers because I want to try on the all-medium-super beekeeping game and see if I like it because I know I don’t like lifting 40kg deeps full of honey (about 100 pounds). If I was a seniorish citizen with back, hip or leg problems, or just a regular human being who wasn’t in the mood for any heavy lifting in their beekeeping, I’d consider switching to all shallow supers. For now, though, I’ll see how it goes with mediums.
Waxless plastic foundation and a foundationless section the bees had no problem building on.
This is a 6-minute Reader’s Digest version of the 20-minute video I posted yesterday that shows how I install a nuc.
In the video I spot the queen, show off some fresh brood, a frame of pollen, the frame feeder I use with most of my nucs, and the holes I drill into my deep foundation so the bees can move between honey frames easier in the winter.
Here’s a 20-minute video that documents what it’s like to get a nucleus colony (or a starter hive) on the island of Newfoundland. It’s not always easy. (I’ve also posted a 6-minute version for those who want to cut to the chase.)
I’ve been experimenting with drilling holes in my foundation so my bees can move from one frame of honey to the next in the winter without breaking cluster.
The bees reduce the hole to the size of bee space. It some cases they seem to fill in the hole altogether. They seem to keep it open closer to the brood nest, though it’s difficult to judge that this early in the game. I suppose the bees can open and close the holes as needed. But whatever is going on, it doesn’t seem to bother the bees and I imagine it helps them move between frames in the winter.
It’s possible the holes could create an unwanted draft in the winter, which means this modification to the foundation would do more harm than good. But I’ve been doing it for four or five years now and so far so good. None of my colonies have starved to death over the winter by not being able to move between frames of honey.
I stole some comb honey from my bees for the first time in about three years.
The bees quickly drew out and filled the comb soon after local fireweed came into bloom, which makes me think it’s mostly fireweed honey. Pure fireweed honey is virtually colourless. It almost looks like it’s made from sugar syrup. I’ve only tasted it once in Newfoundland from hives set up in Logy Bay. I’ve tasted other honey in Newfoundland that claims to be fireweed, but the colour and taste of it makes me think it’s a mix. A pure varietal honey in Newfoundland, with wild flowers growing everywhere, seems unlikely.
Many backyard beekeepers seem to go into a panic about providing water for their bees. I don’t see how it’s even a problem in a wet place like Newfoundland. But I guess we have dry spells from time to time and it might be a good idea to keep water out for the bees so they don’t congregate around some neighbour’s swimming pool.
A bucket of water and peat moss. It might work after the peat has begun to rot, but I gave up on it.
In my experience, the magic ingredient is stinky dirt or pieces of half rotten wood that can float in the water — something that gives off an odour that’s attractive to the bees. That black earth boggy compost smell seems to be a winner with most of the honey bees I’ve known. Also, the more money and the more effort that’s put into creating a source of water for the bees, the less likely they are to use it.
I’ve written about this before, but for me, the chicken waterer works well because it can hold water that will last for days (much larger chicken waterers about the size a bucket probably work even better), though a large terracotta clay plate full of stick and rocks does a pretty good job too.
A bowl full of marbles and water is a pretty way to provide water for bees if you can fill it every day. I still think anything with stinky dirt works best.