Monday, December 15, 2014

Candle Give-away - Bee Vlog - Dec 14, 2014

Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their favorite Christmas/family tradition. I had a great time reading them. I hope you did too. Now it's time to draw names to see who gets a candle...

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Candle Shrinkage Trick - Bee Vlog - Dec 9, 2014

If you're making large candles you will experience shrinkage as the wax cools. There's an easy trick to fixing it without making a mess or a blobby bottom.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Beeswax Candles - Bee Vlog - Dec 6, 2014

Making 100% beeswax candles from the wax harvested this year.

As a thank you to all my viewers for their part in making this a very fun year and helping the channel grow I'm giving away candles to 3 lucky people. I've also got a few extra candles available for sale at a discount in my shop. See video for details.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Inside a Bee Tree - Bee Vlog - Nov 12, 2014

How do bees cope with freezing temperatures? What advantages do trees have over our man-made hive boxes? In this video we get to take a peek inside a bee tree and see if I can mimic the conditions of a tree.

Paper by Marla Spivak showing benefits of propolis to bees.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Vlogging in the Rain - Bee Vlog - Oct 25, 2014

I got a few questions asking why I would install rain protection for my hives. Well, it rains a lot here. We basically live in a perpetual state of wetness for about 6 months. So anything I can do to reduce water in and on the hives might help with overwintering.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Hive Entrance Follow-up - Bee Vlog - Oct 18, 2014

I'm really liking the alternative entrances I've been adding to the beehives this year, and it looks like the bees like them as well. The 1" holes seem to give plenty of room for bees to come and go, even in heavy traffic, but remain easy to guard. I'm going to be modifying more hives next year to use this same method.

But there's still more to be learned from this design. This year it's only been used on 1st year hives that are still relatively small. I don't know what to expect on larger hives and during a major nectar flow. I'm interested to see if holes in every box have an effect on how the bees organize the interior of the hive. So those are some of the observations to be made next year.

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If you want to re-watch or catch how this started, here's the start of the modified hive entrance experiment.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Rain Protection - Bee Vlog - Oct 11, 2014

In an effort to reduce the amount of water in and on the hives this winter, I'm installing a roof over all the hives. It's kind of a small roof. I wish it were a little bigger. But I think it will still be an important addition. Especially for the nucleus hives that don't get much rain protection from the lid.

Pipe performance by my son, David.
Musical selections are (in order):
Seonaidh's Tune
A Cup of Tea
All Tied Up

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Winterizing Beehives - Bee Vlog - Oct 4, 2014

In my area moisture is the big winter killer. So to prepare the hives and help reduce condensation I'm adding quilt boxes (aka quilts, moisture box, moisture quilt) and tipping the hives. The quilts will help to absorb water and keep the ceiling warm. Tipping the hives will allow any condensation to run down the inner walls instead of dripping on to the bees.

Building the quilt boxes
Queen Helen mite counts

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Music Treatment Test - Bee Vlog - Sep 13, 2014

This is only a test. Had this been an actual treatment, the music you heard would have been followed by loud proclamations from beekeepers that this could never work. This is only a test.

But won't it be really cool if there is a measurable effect?

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

To Treat or Not to Treat - Bee Vlog - Sep 6, 2014

I took mite samples of the remaining hives and they all look really good, except for Queen Helen who is showing a very high mite load. In this video I point out the things I'm doing as part of my treatment-free approach to beekeeping and why I don't use treatments to control mites.

Leave a comment and tell me what classical music song I should play for the beehives that I'll be "treating" in my placebo trials.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

More Mite Counts - Bee Vlog - Aug 23, 2014

Dr Dewey Caron is joining me today to demonstrate how to do 2 other methods for counting mites: an alcohol wash, and a sugar roll.

Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping by Dewey M Caron & Lawrence John Connor can be purchased at

Unlike the sticky boards, these other 2 methods give you a percent mite load. This is a more meaningful number, as hive population can affect mite drop counts. But a sugar roll or alcohol wash is independent from population size.

However, it is important to get the bees from inside the hive and off brood frames. Taking samples from outside bearding bees, or from bees in a honey super will not be an accurate indicator because the mites hang out in the brood nest and are more likely to be found on the nurse bees tending the brood.

You'll notice that we got 2 different results from 2 different frames within the same hive. Both frames were side-by-side in the brood nest, but the first was capped brood while the second had open brood and eggs. In the sugar roll we got 52 mites out of 304 bees (or 17%) but on the alcohol wash we got 26 out of 346 bees (or 8%). Could this be simply a difference of the brood frames, or is it due to differences in the 2 methods?

Personally, I think I prefer the sugar roll method. This doesn't kill bees, so it suits me better. It also looks much easier to do with more simple, and easy to make equipment.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Varroa Mite Counts - Bee Vlog - Aug 15, 2014

Getting some mite counts on 6 of my hives: 3 survivors from last year and 3 new swarms from this year. I'll be joining other beekeepers in my local community on a "citizen science experiment/survey" to try to better understand how to help the bees in our area. It's a long term study that will take the next 6-8 months to complete, since winter survival is the final judging criteria for success.

In this video I show the first stage of getting a baseline mite reading with a sticky board. I coated the corrugated plastic boards with petroleum jelly then let them sit under the screen for 24 hours.

Mite count results:
Elizabeth: 14
Helen: 69 (50 is considered to be the treatment threshold here)
Jezebel: 21
Karma: 7
Louise: 3
Natalia: 0

Queen Helen origin video
Finding Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus

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Varroa Destructor

Immature Varroa mite

Bee compound eye

Bee ocelli (simple eye)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Laying workers - Bee Vlog - Aug 2, 2014

When I was reviewing video footage I found a segment where we actually get to see a worker entering a cell to lay an egg.

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There are a few ways of dealing with laying workers. Due to the season it's too late to have them try to raise another queen. There just isn't enough time remaining where drones will be available to mate. So, it seems the only other option is to shake them out. Most of the bees will reintegrate into one or both of the other hives.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Small Honey Harvest - Bee Vlog - Aug 2, 2014

Queen Elizabeth swarmed during the peak of the nectar flow, so the harvest wasn't very great. I reduced the hive in preparation for winter. They were left with plenty of honey and the new queen looked like she was doing great.

Queen Elizabeth's Origin

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Checking on the new queens - Bee Vlog - Aug 2, 2014

The nucs should have had enough time now to raise a new queen and for that queen to mate and begin laying eggs. By now I should expect to see capped brood if all went well.

During the inspection I found that nucs #1 & #3 had been successful, but nuc #2 was queenless and the workers began to lay eggs. I'll provide another video soon showing what I did about the laying workers.

Previous videos -
Making the splits
Checking the queen cells

Follow up video -
Laying workers

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Feeding Queen Natalia - Bee Vlog - Jul 26, 2014

I normally prefer not to feed my bees, except in times of emergency. I think this is one of those times for Queen Natalia: a swarm I caught in late June, at the end of our big nectar flow. I'm a firm believer in following your instincts and "gut feelings" when it comes to managing bees. This is one of those times where my gut is telling me to feed them instead of following my typical methods. They don't have any honey stores saved up, so I gave them a quart of honey to see if it helps them get through the dearth and get better prepared for winter.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Checking Honey, Queen Karma - Bee Vlog - Jul 26, 2014

Inspection time for Queen Karma. The purpose of today's inspection is to see how honey storage is coming along. The main nectar flow is over and I'd like to make sure they have a good supply for the dearth and eventually winter.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Safety Cone Swarm - Bee Vlog - Jul 11, 2014

There was a swarm at my neighborhood park that looked like it decided to move into a safety cone. A very easy swarm catch. They were already in a "bucket" waiting for me to just dump them into the hive.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bearding on a hot day - Bee Vlog - Jul 8, 2014

Queen Louise had a really big beard today due to poor ventilation. So I gave them more expansion room and a better ventilated hive.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Queen Cells - Bee Vlog - Jul 5, 2014

Checking up on the 3 nucs that were split off of Queen Helen. It's been 7 days since the split and I need to see if the queen cells have at least been started. If the bees aren't raising any queens at this point then another frame of eggs would need to be given to them.

Fortunately, it looks like they wasted no time and immediately started raising new queens. I found a good quantity of capped queen cells in each nuc. Which means they chose from the very young larvae and began building out the cells within a day after the split.

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Trap Out with Wil - Bee Vlog - Jun 30, 2014

I mentioned in my last video that Wil was going to do a trap out with one of the nucs. In this video I show how the trap out is coming along.

Last year I tried a trap out and it didn't go so well. Here's the video of that.
Part 1 - Part 2

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Splitting Queen Helen - Bee Vlog - Jun 28, 2014

It's time to split Queen Helen. My friend Wil is going to be using one of the splits for a trap-out. When the trap-out is finished he'll be returning the nuc to me.

Queen Helen's Origin.
How I made the nuc boxes.

The strategy I have in splitting this time of year is:

1) Keeping the hive strong through the nectar flow to maximize honey yields. (Not necessarily for me, but to make sure the bees have enough honey for winter.) The main nectar flow is now drawing to a close and drones are still available to mate with the new queens.

2) I want to make more hives from queens that have proven to make strong hives and can survive the winters here.

3) I want to try overwintering nucs and see what I can learn through that process. Ultimately this is the type of strategy I would like to have going forward: raising queens in the summer + overwinter the nucs = strong hives for the spring.

4) Having a break in brood rearing may also help reduce the mite population. This is not my main purpose, but it's certainly a part of it. Especially since I've been suppressing their swarm instinct. This is an opportunity to still let them "swarm."

Next week I'll check on the splits to make sure they've created queen cells and are raising new queens.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Swarm Trap Success! - Bee Vlog - Jun 14, 2014

It worked! I get more excited about catching swarms in a trap than I do when I chase them and catch them manually. It takes a little more preparation, but it's so much easier. And when it works it's very validating. They actually chose to live in a box I built for them!

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Here's the video showing how I built the traps.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Transferring Bee Hives - Bee Vlog - Jun 5, 2014

A super fun day hanging out on the FreshP homestead. In this video I show the process of moving and transferring a hive. A typical process when installing a nuc (nucleus hive).

This swarm was caught 5 weeks ago and has been living in this 10-frame medium box and growing very nicely.

If moving the hive to a new location you can let the bees get to know the new place before making the transfer. That way, the move is less confusing for the bees. You can let them re-orient to the new home for a day or 2, or even 45 minutes if you can't wait that long.

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In this video, FreshP and I talk about prepping the hive bodies:

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And in this video FreshP shows how to make some really awesome lip balm:

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bee Tree - Bee Vlog - Jun 2, 2014

There's a bee tree located along my usual route to work that I can drop by and monitor. It's also only about 1/4 mile from where I had caught 2 swarms. I wonder if the swarms came from this colony.

Someone tried to seal up the entrance with spray foam insulation, but it looks like a squirrel or other animal reopened it making it livable for bees again.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Beehive Inspection, Queen Karma - Bee Vlog - May 30, 2014

Queen Karma is getting her first inspection. It's been a month since the swarm was installed in the hive and they're going to need more room very soon. To stay in front of what the bees need I'm adding a box.

These bees look really good. Every frame was full of brood. I also like the color variation I see among the workers. This is a good indication that the queen is well-mated and has a good mix of genetics.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hive Entrance Experiment - Bee Vlog - May 29, 2014

I'm trying out a modification to my hive entrances. Instead of using the full width, or even reduced entrance, of the standard Langstroth hive, I'm drilling holes in the boxes to be used as entrances or ventilation. I've seen other beekeepers do this too but never gave it much thought or credit. But last year when I gave a hive a box with a hole I noticed that the bees preferred to use the hole. I thought there might be something to it, so I'm trying it on all my hives.

There are several reasons I think this is a good idea:
1) It mimics the knot-hole-style entrance of a bee-tree.
2) It's small and easy to guard, but...
3) Even though it's small the bees seem to have no trouble using it. It doesn't seem to act like a choke point.
4) With a hole in each box they'll get better ventilation without making it too drafty.
5) I can close off holes as necessary to more easily "reduce the entrance" during the dearth.

I don't know why I was so hesitant to try this. I think I didn't like the idea of drilling a hole in my woodenware. But if I ever need to resize or patch a hole I can simply glue in a dowel plug. It's no big deal.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bee-friendly plants - Bee Vlog - May 26, 2014

Our backyard has been taken over by chickens who like to eat all the plants. I've been busy building a fence to confine the chickens to one area so that we can plant a better garden with more bee-friendly plants. We're trying to make the backyard more welcoming to pollinators.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Swarm #2 for 2014 - Bee Vlog - Apr 29, 2014

This swarm was in the same location as the one from yesterday, but was just easier to get to. I think there were actually 2 swarms in this tree, unfortunately I wasn't able to catch it on video. While gathering the cluster that was on the low branches I saw another cluster up on the top of the tree. At first I thought the queen had flown up there and they regrouped on the other branch. So I snipped it down and added it to the box. I saw the queen and promptly caged her.

Later when I got the box home I heard piping coming from the box - a sound queens make, usually before they do battle. When I put them in the hive all seemed just fine, and I kept the queen caged up. A couple hours later I went to go see how they were doing and I found a dead queen that had been ejected from the hive.

Later in the evening when I went into the hive to release the queen from the cage I found that she had already been released. I think I might have accidentally let it pop open when I was trying to push it into place in the comb.

So now I'm thinking there were 2 (or more queens). But I can't be sure until I get back into it and look for a queen in a few more days.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Swarm #1 for 2014 - Bee Vlog - Apr 28, 2014

My first swarm of the 2014 beekeeping season! It was in a tough location, but with the help of my friend Don we were able to get them into the box. The queen was flying around and didn't want to settle in. I wished that I packed my queen clip because I had many opportunities to catch her.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

CCD or Abscond? - Bee Vlog - Apr 10, 2014

I got a call that there was a swarm by one of my beehives today. When I got there the swarm had moved on, but I found that my bees had either absconded, or fell victim to the mysterious CCD. Was it my bees in the swarm? If so, why would they abscond and leave the queen behind? They seemed fine a month ago with pollen coming in. Very strange.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Swarm traps are done - Bee Vlog - Apr 5, 2014

I'm building my swarm traps out of medium 5-frame nuc boxes this year so that they can be more than just a single-use piece of equipment. Here's the video where I built the boxes.

Half of the swarm traps have been painted on the inside with a propolis wash. It was very easy to do. Just dissolve some propolis with grain alcohol, paint inside the box and let it dry. All of the traps are baited with 2-3 drops of lemongrass oil and have a frame with drawn brood comb. No honey, to avoid attracting ants.

Now it's time to get those traps out there! If you build it, they will come.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Homemade Deodorant - Bee Vlog - Mar 28, 2014

I've been using this deodorant for several months and I love it. No strange chemicals, easy to make, I can customize the scent, and it actually works.

Now available for sale in my store.

Recipe originally from:

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My recipe alterations and notes:
3 TBSP coconut oil (45g)
2 TBSP beeswax (15g)
2 TBSP baking soda
2 TBSP arrowroot
1/4 tsp 100% Vitamin E oil
1/4 tsp patchouli
1/8 - 1/4 tsp pine needle
5 drops cedarwood

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Melting Down Brood Comb - Bee Vlog - Mar 10, 2014

It takes a bit of time and some sacrificial equipment, but melting bees wax isn't difficult.

I just set up a Facebook page. I'm trying to get the minimum required 25 "Likes" to qualify for a custom URL. So if you use Facebook please visit and "Like" my page.

You can also follow me on Twitter or Google+.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

What makes the comb black? - Bee Vlog - Mar 1, 2014

Fresh wax is white or cream colored. As it ages it darkens due to other products the bees apply to it, such as propolis. But the thing that makes it appear almost black is the thin casings left behind after the adult bee emerges from the cell. Each generation leaves a thin layer behind that darkens over time and use.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Cleaning Up Deadouts - Bee Vlog - Feb 22, 2014

Getting the equipment from the deadouts cleaned up and ready to be put back into service. Boxes and frames get excess propolis scraped off. Comb I want to reuse gets cleaned up. Any comb not suitable for reuse gets cut out of the frames and melted down.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Inspecting Deadouts - Bee Vlog - Jan 25, 2014

4 out of 9 hives died this winter. In this video I autopsy 3 of them.

In the case of Queen Beatrice it looks like a combination of mites and yellow-jackets made life difficult on them in the fall and they went into winter without enough bees.

I suspect Queen Dulce & Guinevere are sister hives - swarmed from the same managed hive - and both had mite problems early in the summer and didn't really know how to deal with them.

One interesting observation I made in these tear-downs is that the hives with quilts had much less water condensation inside, and less mold. I conclude that the quilt boxes help prevent excessive condensation. It wasn't enough to prevent these small clusters from freezing to death, but it could help larger colonies experience fewer losses through the winter.

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