Year 2 - 2008

Location-Prince Albert, Saskatchewan 

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03.13.08 - Well, it's been a long winter. I moved both my hives into the shop for the winter which I keep at 5°C (40°F) and both of them seem to have made it through in fine style. There was a difference however between the insulated hive and the uninsulated one. The uninsulated one reduced their numbers quite early but the insulated hive didn't reduce till they were moved inside. I suspect with the insulation they went from OK to way too cold in too short a time for them to do the reduction while still outside. This would match the fact that they ejected the drones much later than the uninsulated hive did too. Both hives suffer from ventilation problems as both were moldy inside. Will have to think how to retrofit more ventilation in them I think by using a couple of spacer strips laying between the top of the bars and the insulation in the top cover to create a gap and adding some ventilation by drilling a few holes to outside.

The weather was bitterly cold out all winter but interestingly when it finally broke, even though the hives were inside at a constant temperature there was a lot of bees suddenly flying around so they must have sensed it even through the walls.

It is still too cold and early I think to move them back outside so they sit for probably another month or until the snow is gone. Whichever comes first.

I have been nattering on about how I want an acreage to use as a summer place. Moving back into the city for the winter. A bud has gotten a contract to work away this season and asked if I would move out for the summer and he would look after after all the utilities etc. What a deal as sometimes what I want in my mind is not always what reality ends up being and so can have a trial run without risking $$$.

So next bee project is to build another insulated TBH for the new place like the insulated one I already have but with the modification that will use Dadent deep frames instead of the top bars. The rational being after talking to Dennis in Florida that he used no foundation on his Dadent frames and they came through the extractor in fine shape. This I think would give me the advantage of being able to employ best practices of Langstroth style bee keeping without losing the 'au natural' and low maintenance style of Top Bars. Especially now, along with labour expense is fuel. 

Also a electrical engineering student at the U of S who is also a hobby beekeep is designing a winter hive heater that will be a tiny thermostatic control embedded half way up inner hive and uses a pad type 120V heater similar to those for terrariums or heating dog house floors.

04.14.08 - Finally.....Put the two hives outside. The uninsulated hive #1 went to the acreage at Spiritwood. I haven't cracked it open to remove the follower board or see what was inside completely but did take the lid off for a sec and looked at the outboard combs and they still had honey so quickly put everything back together. The insulated hive will stay in the back yard here in the city. I did crack it open a little further and the one outboard frame had a small strip of honey on the top of the frame but the rest had mold on it so the styrofoam isn't the best insulation as it doesn't breathe. I removed the moldy frames and let it air dry for awhile while mixed up a gallon of 1:1 syrup. No dandelion's yet but hopefully soon. The few nice days they have been flying around but no pollen yet so no flowers.

So will switch to rigid fiberglass insulation instead of styrofoam and maybe do an outer skin of 1/4 inch plywood and then the insulation, then another layer of 1/4 in plywood for MKIII. It should still be pretty light weight and stay with the slightly modified Dadent deep foundationless frames. But weather is forecasting a week of barely freezing temperatures and rain/snow. Gee, is spring never to come to this country. Will build it out at the acreage and then do a split with the uninsulated hive there and a Carniolan queen from Corey in Kinistino, or maybe just buy another nuc. Then at end of season will leave the owner the uninsulated hive and girls.

Picked up and installed six guinea fowl and will have to remember to get a couple of milk crates to lift it out of their reach although will take six weeks or better to train them to come to the coop at night so lots of time for that. Pick up another 2 guinea's and ten year old laying hens today as supposed to be last nice day for a week or so and then just the 50 chicks next week and that will be the summer stock in place. Just hope the dogs are able to keep the coyote's away as no shortage of the out there.

05.03.08 - Nice weather at last. Last weekend saw five inches of snow on the ground. The bees are finding something, I'd suspect willow's as even the grass is barely sprouting yet. They have been piling in the yellow pollen and as was nice enough I cracked the hive and removed a couple of the misshapen combs and saw there was already nectar being stored in them. Quite a bit actually. Crushed and strained two not quite fully built combs and got a quart and a pint from them. Little girl from down the road helped with the procedure and was quite interested and not nervous around the hive at all. So we made up a pint for her to take home complete with a personalized label with her name on it. Maybe another beekeep in the offing. Asked what we do with the wax and so next visit if she has time I saved the wax and we'll make some candles. They haven't touched the syrup in the feeders and wouldn't have suspected willows were so productive for bees till spoke with my expert so obviously they have already hit their stride with the pussy willow they have found. Going back into Prince Albert tomorrow so will crack city hive and see how the progress is there.

05.20.08 - First evidence of any number of bees doing orientation flights which would mean the last of the over winter house bees being released for field duty as new workers must be emerging. I don't crack the hive very ofter this year and last partial inspection a week ago to make sure the queen was performing and whether the feeders needed refreshing saw lots of capped brood in very nice patterns and no usage of supplied syrup. So removed one of the two feeders and let 'er rip. Now is a carpet of dandelions, a few acres right at their doorstep and caragana's and lilac hedges look like they will be ready without any interruption. One thing about the late spring is seems there will be no gaps in the flowers out here in the country. Haven't been back to the city to check on that hive other than to see for ten seconds that there were bees coming and going. Seems the city starts a little later but goes much later too. Start building Top Bar Hive model #3 this week as might as well get another 'nuc' as split either of my second year hives. Will use Dadent deep frames in it, not sure how much of what kind of insulation to employ.

06.13.08 - Inspected hive #1 and they have built out to about 5 or 6 empty Top Bars on one side and maybe 3 empty Top Bars on the other. Nice brood patterns and almost ready for first harvest. Maybe a week as still a band of uncapped on the bottom of the full combs. Took out the feeders which they used very little of.

06.17.08 - Finished hive MKIII today. It is double skinned 1/4 inch plywood with 1/2 inch bubble insulation with foil on five sides. I think they may wrap ductwork with it. It was handy so I took it as a sign. Thirty four dadent deep frames with starter strips coated in beeswax inserted where the foundation is supposed to go on the top bar. They fit inside with about three eights of an inch spare.


The lid has 1-1/2 inch rigid styrofoam like the other two hives but has an air gap of 3/8 inch between insulation and top lip as well as cover has 1/4 inch loose fit all four sides for more ventilation. 

As you can see I left about an inch gap on bottom to accommodate future heater. Will have to see how that all goes or if they want to keep filling it up. I also painted the entire inside with propolis dissolved in ethanol as I noticed they seem to do it anyway and thought I would save them all that work and it is a nice finish for raw wood regardless. I might make another and also paint inside with propolis and put on top of chicken pen which is about 7 feet off the ground as a lure hive. Who knows eh??

06.20.08 - Marathon 6 hour drive to Kinistino and back to get a Carniolan 'nuc' from Corey Bacon  who had supplied nuc for hive #1 and queen for hive #2 the chimney capture hive. I did get a chance to look a little at the city hive and they have made good progress there and will harvest some from there too. The comb building is not as nice as Hive #1 here at Spiritwood and the difference being that hive #1 in Spiritwood has a mutt queen and I see a lot of orange bees mixed in with the gray Carnie's which I suspect are Italian genes. Little girl from down the road came and helped, bees went in like in the textbook tho I didn't dump in the crowd left in the box but left on the ground near the entrance. Went back almost at dark and had to open the hive and dump them in. Next day there was pollen going in but not a lot of flying.

06.23.08 - Cracked new hive and they are nicely building up comb on both adjacent empty frames and lots of pollen going in so I think they are good to go.


Spiritwood Hives

The two Spiritwood hives have found a nice placement that faces east yet is shady all day. Finished spare hive though for some reason there isn't the correct amount of bee space between the sides of the frame and the hive body but will use as a lure/spare so will see if it matters that much if any bees move in.

07.16.08 - It's been awhile but I opened both hives today. Very impressed since last time, hive MKI was almost three quarters built out and going strong. On one side the comb is mainly finished and seems like there might be the the most brood at that end.


Built Out Combs MKI

The other end has room yet and is mostly partially finished comb. I took some apart but is new comb, still soft and is attached to the sides. So after taking a few TB's out I quit and left it alone. Once it is done it seems to 'harden' and the bees quit attaching them. They still have room so will just monitor. The styrofoam in the lid became an ant's nest so I removed it and will decide what to do later. The hive is shaded so it shouldn't be a problem. Probably will just put another one in.


Ant Nest

The other hive out here in Spiritwood is this year's design designated MKIII and is going like gangbusters. I was very pleasantly surprised as it is the new 'nuc' hive started late this spring. 


Built Out Frames MKIII

I did make a mistake when designing MKIII as I left too much space above the frames so the bees just filled it with comb (middle four frames pic) gluing the tops of the frames to the styrofoam in the lid. So I corrected the design flaw by cutting two 3/8 inch shims to lay on top of the frames as spacers.


Comb Stuck to Lid Insulation


3/8 Inch Shims

and then trimmed the styrofoam insulation for the top to sit on the shims instead of a friction fit in the lid. 



After Trim

This fix should cure that problem. The work they've done is magnificent and the comb fills the frames perfectly and has good brood patterns and very large numbers of busy bees.


Nicely Built Comb MKIII

I scraped off all the comb off the top and just dropped it into the hive for them to clean up. Other than that there is no cross comb and looks 'textbook'. Very proud of the girls. Good enough for now and the flow is in full flower so they should be OK for awhile. I will have to check MKI again to make sure they have room so won't swarm, but sooner than last time, maybe on a week.

I also put the other copy of MKIII on top of the chicken pen today. I read somewhere where a 'keep' tried an experiment with identical lure hives set in different locations. The hives that were at least six feet off the ground did the best and the hives placed low had no success., and made sense to me. Time will tell.


Spare Lure Hive 

07.22.08 - I tried to see what was going on in hive MKI but there were just too many bees and they were kinda 'hot'. I was going to leave them alone but I knew they were getting it pretty full. So I tried lifting a TB and crushed a few while putting it back, they seem to have six or eight bars on one end still to do but got chased the worse I've ever been. Must have gotten 8 - 10 stings and they were not like usual that when you backed off the left. Took quite awhile to kill the ones inside my shirt and fend off the others buzzing me. So  called it a day. it looks like last year when they got ready to swarm, lots hanging and bearding outside. Nice to know getting less of a reaction as get stung not more.

Also just lifted the top of the new MKIII hive and that cutting 3/8 inch shims and placing the top insulation on them solved that attaching comb to it problem. Building quite quickly I think for a nuc hive started late. 

07.26.08 - They swarmed this afternoon. Saw them too high in a tree to go after and not an hour later they were all gone. Too bad, sorry to see them go. I did have a spare hive but no way to get them out of the tree and in it. That is two years in a row so will have to do a split next year so at least I have both sets. There is still tons of bees left in the hive so as long as the new queen comes back from her mating flight they should continue on without much interruption.



Today is Saturday, so Monday after everything is back to not so busy I will crack MKI and see what is left inside and maybe take out some honey if any is ready. Start to look for a bee suit as know the drill now, but they were too hot to work unprotected. With a suit I can pull enough frames and bees including the frame with the queen cell and move into another hive. Live and learn.

08.15.08 - The MKI hive went and swarmed again, looking at how many bees that has come out of there the last few weeks no wonder they keep swarming, there are so many they are on the outside of the hive at night. Still waiting for bee suits to arrive so can see what is going on inside. A little too hot and a little too crowded to do anything unprotected much as it galls be to say that. So this time they swarmed to a lower branch and even though was thinking had enough hives, and it is kinda late, thrifty gene took control and got buddy to lift me up to get them with the front end loader. Too bad I accidentally erased the darn pics. So dutifully shook them into an empty MKIII hive and thought all was well. But not five minutes later was another ball in pretty much the same place. So figured got them before they and the queen were all gathered and up again I go. Was feeling quite smug heading over to the hive and wouldn't you know it I dropped the branch two steps from the hive. Of course they all fell off the branch into a plle so went down on hands and knees and poked through them and sure enough there is HRH in the middle of them. So barehanded, grabbed her and attendants that were around her and getting stung over and over quickly dashed over and threw her into the hive. Or hope I did anyways. Just to make sure I grabbed a frame of brood and eggs from another hive just in case HRH didn't make it.

08.29.08 - Opened up new swarm hive to see if they had a queen or not and boy howdy do swarm hives ever build quickly. Seems a lot faster than even 'nucs'. They had a good start with construction on 4 foundationless deep Dadent frames. Pulled frames till saw a few capped brood in a corner of a comb that wasn't the one I inserted with brood. Good enough, (H)er (R)oyal (H)ighness is starting to lay so I did manage to get her in. Added two feeders that are suspended like a frame, spaced a couple of frames away from either end of construction. As they have a laying queen might as well feed them.

08.30.08 - Bee suits from Dadent arrived finally. Nice, good deal too. So as am leaving MKI hive behind for owner of acreage I've been babysitting here, and he wouldn't come anywhere near the hives without a suit, thought better wait till he's around to service his new hive. I guess he will get the crash course. One lesson and harvesting at the same time and you're good to go.     lol

09.05.08 - Ready to open MKI for the first time. Curious as opened up MKII hive that is still in backyard in Prince Albert and it was a horrible disappointment. Poor results so will harvest entire hive and let die off as not very many bees in it at all so was a poor queen. Hardly a lot more built than there was earlier during flow. Flow in the city is uninterrupted so they should have had it full to the brim too. So was having doubts about my management and hive style. Opened up MKI and got Jean to do everything as would be the one and only time he'd have anyone around to help or give advice.


Half Way Through Frames With Brood

The ladies did beautiful work. Opened up one end and was completely built and filled. Tried to get a bar out but the comb just stayed behind as it has some few attachments about half way from bottom. Got sort of a sinking feeling as on the other end they had built up to 3 TB's from that end and the first two bars with partial construction was somewhat misshapen. But after that they were beautiful, nice work, perfectly proportioned. Filled and capped from top to bottom, a real work of art.


Beautiful, Notice the Small Attachments On Side

Around the middle started to find a small amount of brood on a lower corner so started leaving those (T)op (B)ars. Ended up being 8 TB's with small amounts of brood but otherwise completely filled with honey and capped.Harvested three five gallon pails of honey and comb. When put hive back together put an empty bar between each set of three full Bars. The first full comb and the comb on the two misshapen Bars had partially filled cells so I just trimmed the partial cells off the full comb and cut off the misshapen partial combs and just dropped on bottom at one end of the hive.



So after straining I am leaving the still honey coated wax out for the bees to clean up. Waste not want not.


Harvest 2008

While I was at it opened up the MKIII 'nuc' hive and they almost had enough that I was thinking of harvesting from it too. But was quite a few frames with cross comb at the very top and seems like the last of the season construction is always poor although judging by MKI they correct it later or next season. But I trimmed all of the comb back to where I wanted it and just dropped the trimmings at one end of the hive on the bottom. But I was the most surprised at the MKIII swarm hive. They had built out ten frames and the queen is a laying machine as excellent capped brood patterns. They will for sure have enough honey to make it through winter barring any other misfortune (K.O.W).

So this year learned that a full hive has approximately 130lbs. of honey even though they swarmed this method of bee keeping produces very well and does not require any attention till end of season and harvest. This I think is very valuable as it seems as the price of fuel keeps increasing, this would be a savings over having to keep going out and checking hives and having to monitor to add supers. 35 deep Dadent frames in my hives would have to be the equivalent of six medium supers.

All in all very happy with results of this hive but still disappointed in city hive. It also seems like my bees are smaller so will have to remember to measure the comb and see if they have regressed to small cell. I hope so. Oh well, next year will have two MKIII's, the 'nuc' as well as the swarm hive in backyard where I can keep an eye on them. I will probably open them one more time after we get a hard killer frost and see if any more to pull and then wait till is freezing out all day and night then move them into the shop and keep at 5°C (40°F) till spring again.

09.30.08 - After a week or so of coolish fall weather is back to summer temps. Noticed that the hives were beginning to expel the drones so they know the season is over too. Though have had a couple of light frosts I see they are still bringing pollen in so some flowers out there. The alfalfa is still blooming and looks like golden rod and sow thistle too so maybe they can geta few more days of work in yet.