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.

May 26th, 2021: I have eight colonies and I’ve only inspected three so far. I’m usually able to complete all my hive inspections before June, but it looks like that’s not going to happen this year. The weather has not been ideal. I mean, seriously, check out the forecast going into June:

Weather forecast for Flatrock, Isle of Newfoundland, going into June 2021.

Dandelions came out a while ago, but only in the past week have they begun to show up in large numbers. Willow blossoms are beginning to peak too. But most days my bees can barely forage on any of it because it’s so cold and wet outside. True, my bees can forage in cold temperatures that textbooks tell me they’re not supposed to do, but still, how much harder do we need to make it for them?

Some highlights from the video along with some commentary that comes to me as I rewatch the video:

00:00 — Introduction to beekeeping next to the Labrador Current.

It seems that the greater the distance from the cold Labrador Current, especially in places like Clarenville, Port Blandford, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Deer Lake and Corner Brook, the easier the beekeeping. Warmer and sunnier inland areas of the island of Newfoundland provide a more ideal environment for honey bees compared to places like Flatrock where cold ocean wind blows over my bees most days of the year. (Each place name is linked to their weather forecast. Take a look. Those locations usually have twice as much sun and significantly higher temperatures than coastal areas of the province such as Flatrock.)

01:12 — A shot of my first hive inspection of the year in my strongest colony.

01:45 — A shot of a foundationless frame that I inserted a week ago. Looking good.

02:10 — A review, including winter shots, of what I did to get my bees through the winter.

But really, it’s a review of what I didn’t do. No wrapping. No insulation. Basically nothing other than painting my hives black. Living in such a cold environment, you might think it’s obvious why my bees aren’t busting loose at this time of year. I should at least wrap them over the winter, right? Maybe. But I’ve yet to see any huge benefit from wrapping my hives.

I’m also not interested in coddling my bees to get them through the winter. I want winter-hardy bees that can live through the worst that a Flatrock winter can throw at them. And if you look at the strong colony that’s the focus of this video, you’ll see that I’ve found those bees in that hive (and probably a few others I haven’t checked on yet). Those are the bees I’ll be breeding from. Those are the genetics I want for surviving my local climate.

02:45 — A shot of a well-mated queen. Comparing the queen in one colony that’s doing well with a queen in another colony that’s failing, both naturally mated at the same time from the same beeyard. Not all naturally-mated queens are created equal.

04:40 — Discussing the possibility of stealing brood from a strong colony to prop up a weak colony, but only if the queen in the weak colony shows that she’s not a dud. There’s no point in giving brood to a colony with a failing queen.

As always, there’s plenty of other talk in the video, but I can’t go through every second of it here. The video does have automatic captions, though, for those who like to read.

P.S.: I don’t mean to dismiss the skill of beekeepers in other warmer parts of the island. I’m just saying that beekeeping seems much easier in my experience with warmer weather and sunnier skies than I have in Flatrock. I’ve seen the difference up close and personal by beekeeping in Logy Bay, St. John’s, Portugal Cove and Flatrock (and another inland area that I keep private), and I can see without a doubt that warmer weather makes all the difference.