About Me

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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
I am a beekeeper in Vancouver, British Columbia. The bees forage all the way up Stoney Creek by Burnaby Mountain.I am committed to not exposing my bees to chemicals for pest control or a quick fix to their health. I am committed to keeping them without treatment and I am working very hard to make this a success. I prefer my bees to feel like their sister's in the wild and a little bit more comfortable with the care I provide. Enjoy the pictures and follow my beekeeping endeavours.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Split Molly Brown and Queen Piping.

On 3rd July, Sunday, I split Molly Brown. I took out the queen and five frames of brood, added 2 frames of brood and a pollen patty to create the new split. I noticed it was time to split MB when supersedure cells were being constructed.

On 7th July, I checked the queenless MB and the emerging queens were piping. It was the first time I heard the queens piping. Was really quite a moment to relish to hear such a sound and observe how the bees behave differently while queenless. " Piping is most common when there is more than one queen in a hive. It is postulated that the piping is a form of battle cry announcing to competing queens and the workers their willingness to fight. It may also be a signal to the worker bees which queen is the most worthwhile to support." Wikipidea. 

The bees were running around as if insecure and lacking identity. They were attacking my fingers and the hive tool. Was an unusual behavior and I had the hunch that I should slip on my gloves with queenless MB. Found at least 10-12 supersedure cells. Destroyed all but two cells. One cell was capped and piping, the other is a big cell and uncapped. Was in dilemma which should I keep. I placed a green thumbtack to identify the frame where the supersedure cells are to check when I go in this weekend to check on the development of the cells.

Ant Problem

Ants have discovered the sweet oasis from the hive and they have been mobilizing themselves to take over the colony. I opened up the hive last week and the ants have used the inner cover board to carry ant eggs about a thousand of them to be hatched above the hive. I check the hive every week otherwise, I'll be keeping ants. The ants has made the bees edgy and it has made beekeeping more challenging. The bees have shorter temper as they are more defensive throughout the day. I've been wearing gloves to not get stunk. They have also been propolizing cracks around the inner cover to stop ants from coming into the hive.

I have since placed the hive over a stand that is surrounded by a pool of cooking oil to prevent the ants from climbing into the hive. So far that has managed to reduce the amount of ants significantly.There are still ants but I think they are climbing in from the overhanging weeds. I used pasta bottle lids to hold the oil and some unused Ikea parts to create the stand. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Queen Rearing Calendar

I found a link that would help in planning out a schedule for queen rearing. I think it'll be useful when I am ready to start doing my own queen rearing. The calendar allows you to change the date when you want to start grafting and then plans out exactly what needs to be done from then on. Check it out:


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Update on Honey Bee Democracy

I learnt alot about how the honeybee decision making process from the HoneyBee Democracy by Thomas Seeley. They are nature's secret to the best politicians. When ten thousand bees want a new home, they form a house hunting "Senate" who are made up of older, experienced bees called Scout Bees. The Scout Bees come back and do a convincing dance to present the new home to the rest of the colony. The queen is not in charge of this decision making, no veto power for her at all. The decision is made collectively, bottom up and its done by voting. When the majority of the Scout Bees dance about the same new home , that is when the Scout Bees will wait for the 1st sunny day after the decided vote and then begin to rev up the engines of all the bees to lead them to their new home. They literally sound like an accelarating car engine when they roar out of the hive to swarm. I enjoyed reading the book but it was even better listening to Thomas Seeley talking about his research. Click the link to listen to the excellent animated radio podcast: HONEY BEE DEMOCRACY then if you are still interested watch the video below on how his research team translated the Bee Waggle Dance to communicate where the new home, the sweetest flower, a water source and more, in terms of distance, sun declination, smell and taste of the nectar and flight angle when leaving the hive.

Old bee hive.

The house-hunting bees.Bees with a vote.
Nonchalant bee

Elm sweet home.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Video on Installing Molly Brown

The video footage is pretty bad as I was taking the video with one hand. I should use a tripod in future to improve my video taking. I have added subtitles as my low pitched voice sounds quite muffled.

Installing Molly Brown.

New Project: Foundationless frames and small cell foundation in brood chambers

I have named the new hive, Molly Brown (MB). She takes over Matilda's equipments and since all the equipment are marked with a M for Matilda, it made sense to keep the 1st name starting with a M to organize the equipment and to avoid interchanging equipment to prevent diseases spreading from one hive to another.

Queen Molly Brown has been laying very well. She was released from her queen cage on May 14th. By May 20th, she has filled up five frames with eggs and the oldest larvae is 6 days old. She started laying almost one day (May 15th) after she was released. She is laying at a rate faster than the bees can build comb cells since most of the five frames are all foundationless.

I started off the package with one small cell 4.9mm foundation and 4 frames with starter strips. The 3rd day after the package was installed, I checked the hive and the frame with the full small cell foundation collapsed. It was a good thing I discovered the collapse, as the bees were already building their own comb that were not aligned with the frame. I replaced it quickly with a foundationless frame instead. The small cell foundation being made of pure beeswax is much softer and fragile than plastic foundation but the greatest advantage is the bees builds comb on it immediately. On 20th May, I added two more frames with small cell foundation, this time properly securing the foundation with popsicles and a touch of wood glue to prevent another collapse, by 22nd May, the bees already built comb on 30% of the foundation on one side of each frame. Its the fastest adaptation of foundation I've seen. There were so much stores on those frames that the foundation was starting to warp to one side coz of the weight imbalance. I rotated the frame to balance out the comb building.

The main goal of the small cell 4.9mm foundation is to have the egg to bee development stage of 21 days shortened to disrupt the varroa mite life cyle.  The 4.9mm cell creates a much tighter fit when the larvae grows, leaving less space for varroa mites plus the cell gets sealed earlier which tightens the opportunity for varroa to enter the cell to lay eggs during the pupae/development stage of the honey bee. The common honey bee is a perfect host as the varroa mite takes advantage of the 12 day pupae stage of the bee to lay its eggs (up to 21 eggs), the eggs to hatch, mature as mites and then mate while still in the capped cell. Only the matured and mated female mites leave the cell, the male mite and the immature mites dies. The female mites leaves the cell to latch itself on the nurse bees, the mites feed on the new host and then goes to another brood cell just before it gets sealed to lay more eggs. So the small cell foundation is to spoil this cycle. It is known that the AHBs have shorter development time and fewer mites can come to maturity.

Desired Result:
I've also heard that the bees emerging from 4.9mm cell have smaller bodies and a longer wing to body ratio. My guess is that the bees may have better energy efficiency when they get to their foraging stage. Maybe the smaller forager bees live for an extra 2-4 days which would mean a higher amount of nectar and pollen stored in the hive.

I don't think the gals in Molly Brown are following the 4.9mm cell size. They seem to be building over the prescribed cell size. But it is still to early to really say but I will be updating this in a few days time with proper measurements. Here you can see the 4.9mm starter strips that have not been built over on the left side and on the right side, the cell sizes are bigger.

For normal plastic foundation the cell size is 5.4mm. I have noticed that for natural comb built on foundationless frames the size varies from 5.1mm-7mm. The larger cells up to 7mm were noticed on the periphery of the frames where the bees store honey and pollen. The cell size decreases as it gets to the center where brood is nursed. I thought this was very a smart building plan. Larger cells for more food storage and smaller cells to nurture a small honey bee.

The picture below is comb built within 3 days on all five frames.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A new start to everything

All my original hive that started out in 2009 Summer have all perished this winter. I had a 100% overwintering rate in 2009/2010 winter and a 100% loss in 2010/2011 winter.

Today I am restarting beekeeping with a package of bees from New Zealand from Bartel Honey Bee farm brought into Canada by Urban Bee Supplies. Doug Hansen, the President of the Burquitlam Community Organic Gardens went with me for the pick up.

This is the package bees in Arataki tubes in the trunk of Doug's car going back to the community gardens.

Upright view of the package in the tool shed at the gardens. 

I am adapting to small cell and foundationless frames in the brood chamber. Lianne Shyry that runs Two Bees Apiary supplied the small cell foundations. We are both trying this new method out and will be comparing notes. Its an excellent feeling to be partnering with Lianne and Garrett in this new experiment. The small cell foundations were specially made out of beeswax. They were the most delicate foundation I have dealt with and I am sure the bees will love it. I am yet to see it work. Will report my observation in the weekend. I have noticed that the plastic foundation always seem to take a while to get the bees going with building comb especially when the frames are situated at the ends.

This is the package already installed. Placed them in a deep super with 5 frames with 1:1 sugar syrup and a pollen patty. On the left is crumpled paper to fill up the extra space to prevent the bees from building comb.