Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Nuc Winter Insulation

Winter is coming (it had to be said), and I'm trying a little test on overwintering a couple 5-frame nucs. I don't normally insulate my hives because I don't think it's necessary in my area. Bees can maintain their heat within a cluster just fine. However, things might be different in these small nucs. The cluster is much closer to the walls of the hive. My hypothesis is that the cluster loses more heat due to the proximity to the cold walls in a nuc than they would in a 10-frame hive. (Think: standing against an uninsulated window on a cold day vs standing a few feet away.) So the test here is to decrease heat loss through the side walls (the ones they are most likely in contact with) and see how it improves things.

The features here are, double-thick foam insulation on the roof (like last year). 1-inch thick foam insulation on the sides. A corrugated plastic rain roof with a drip edge on the front. The hive is tilted forward to promote water runoff on the inside ceiling, so it doesn't drip on the bees. Ventilation holes in the bottom and top box. Everything is taped together with white duct tape (not very pretty, but that's not the point).

Of course there are many factors that go into hive winter survival, so if these 2 hives die it may be hard to know if the insulation helped or not. But I'll let you know how things turn out next spring.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Honey Extraction - Bee Vlog - Aug 20, 2015

One of the criticisms and downsides of not using foundation is the difficulty in extracting the honey without destroying the comb. I decided to see how well my comb holds up in a radial extractor. Will it explode?

I was also interviewed on the Kiwimana Buzz show. I had a great time talking about beekeeping in Portland and how I create my videos. You can listen to the show here.

More on crush & strain harvesting.

The t-shirt: "We are all batpeople"

Video Link

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Disneyland Edition - Bee Vlog - July 25, 2015

We went to VidCon in Anaheim, CA and had a fun time. We also visited Disneyland, because I'm a Disney Freak, and I tried to find as many bee references as I could.

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The YouTube creators shown in this video:
Michael Aranda - SciShow
Chris & Jessica Ballinger
Felicia Day -  Geek & Sundry
Matt, Leila, Coco & Shephard - Convos With My 2-Year-Old
Michael Stevens - VSauce
Kevin Lieber - VSauce2
Jake Roper - VSauce3

All of the YouTube creators were really great, and it was a pleasure to meet them.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Washboarding - Bee Vlog - July 18, 2015

This is a very fascinating behavior called "washboarding." Nobody really knows why bees do it. I've mostly seen it during warmer seasons. Are they cleaning? Cooling off? Marking the hive? Or just bored? All we can do is guess.

Video Link

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Swarm Data - April 2015

My local bee club, Portland Urban Beekeepers, recently partnered up with Honey Bee Allies to provide a swarm hotline and easier-to-use swarm list for Portland, Oregon. We've had the hotline in place for a month now and having great success with it. One of the great things about it is being able to collect swarm call data.

Time to get geeky with numbers. Below is a little something I threw together to show swarm activity vs weather.

SwarmDate# swarmspressure (inHg)pressure (amp)rain (mm)max temp (C)

I wasn't sure which variable would correlate best to swarming behavior, so I included barometric pressure, precipitation, and maximum temperature in the data set. To get the pressure to show up on the chart as anything other than a nearly straight line I applied an amplifier to it (inHG-29)*8. This makes the changes in pressure show up much better as a nice wiggle on the chart below.

It looks like there's a strong correlation between warm, dry weather and swarming. (Is that a big surprise to anyone?) Not much of a correlation with barometric pressure. Swarming is happening whether the pressure is rising or falling.

But there is something interesting happening with the rain.

A huge spike in swarms at the beginning of a long dry spell. Are the bees sensitive enough to weather patterns to know when there will be a long period of time to set out and find a new home? Or is this explained simply by the much higher temperatures?

Of course, experienced beekeepers around here are well aware of this pattern. It's just interesting to see it in chart form.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Honey Bee Dissection - Bee Vlog - Apr 4, 2015

As part of the Journey program offered by the Oregon State University Master Beekeeping course, I got to spend some time with their instructors dissecting bees under a microscope. This was an excellent opportunity to see, first hand, some of the organs and anatomy of the honey bee.

Video Link

Honey Bee
Front Leg
Back Leg
Mouth Parts
Hypopharyngeal Gland
Drone Penis

Friday, April 10, 2015

Swarm #1 for 2015 - Apr 9, 2015

Got my first swarm of the season. We're having a very early spring and swarm season is well underway. Lots of swarming. This is my 3rd call this week, but the first one I could actually take. These were some good looking bees. Very eager to work. And in the 4 hours they were in the box they already started to put wax on the underside of the lid.

It felt like about 4 pounds of bees
That bush they were on was very thorny and it took a bite out of my hand. The neighbor that called the swarm hotline told me someone else was planning to light a fire and douse the bees with a hose. Ugh! Fortunately smarter heads prevailed and they called in a beekeeper.

Labeled appropriately of course
Unfortunately, these bees were collected near a very agricultural area. Which means they probably came from a farmer's hive. I could also tell that they weren't a "wild" swarm since I found no drones among them. Why would this be a bad thing? Because there's a good chance they may be dependent on chemical treatments for survival. And I don't do that. So it should be interesting to see if they can survive the winter. I'll take mite counts on them this summer and see how they look.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Balance - Bee Vlog - Mar 14, 2015

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“The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.” 
~Gordon B. Hinckley

“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” 

“Even nectar is poison if taken to excess.” 
~Hindu Proverb

“My God, give me neither poverty nor riches; but whatsoever it may be Thy will to give, give me with it a heart which knows humbly to acquiesce in what is Thy will.” 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hive Placement - Bee Vlog - Mar 7, 2015

Where are you going to put your hives? Do you need sunlight or shade? What about access? Water?

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Foundationless Frames - Bee Vlog - Feb 28, 2015

In this video I show 2 methods I use to create a comb guide to help the bees build straight comb. I also give the reasons I choose not to use foundation and show what is meant by "bee space."

Video Link

Monday, February 23, 2015

Checking on winter survivors - Bee Vlog - Feb 14, 2015

Is spring here already? Not quite, but the bees are doing great and bringing in lots of pollen. I had a good winter, with a 64% survivor rate. In this video I take a look at the survivors and deadouts and report on the results.

Video Link

Friday, February 20, 2015

Honey On Tap? - Bee Vlog Review

Have you been seeing this advertisement for the Flow Hive all over the internet like I have? I'll give you my thoughts on the product in this video.

Check it out for yourself:

Here's the patent.

Video Link

Monday, February 16, 2015

What type of bees? - Q&A #2 - Bee Vlog - Feb 16, 2015

Beginner beekeepers can often feel overwhelmed with choices when it comes to buying bees. In this Q&A I attempt to answer the question about the differences between the variety of bees on the market in the US and which ones a beginner should buy.

Video Link

Related video: Winterizing Beehives with quilt boxes.
I also suggest watching Deborah Delaney's presentation. More information about the different bee races and hybrids can be found at Michael Bush's website.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bee Thinking - Top Bar & Warre Hives

I visited my friends at Bee Thinking in SE Portland to show you their show room and introduce you to their top bar and Warre hives. Quality craftsmanship and materials make their hives a top product.

Visit them at

Video Link

Monday, February 2, 2015

Visiting Ruhl Bee Supply

I needed to pick up some beekeeping supplies at Ruhl Bee. While I was there I shot a short video tour. You can visit them in Gladstone, Oregon, or online.

In this video I also do a short introduction to a "long hive" and show how robbing screens are used.

Video Link

Monday, January 26, 2015

Portable Bench - Bee Vlog - Jan 24, 2015

A few years ago, very early in the history of this vlog, I showed my portable bench made from the plans found in the Jan 2012 issue of Bee Culture magazine. I've been using the bench consistently since then, I just never really talked about it again. To make up for that, here's a video showing more about the bench designed by Katharina Davitt.

Video Link

You can download the plans here.
Additional photos are available here.

I recommend making the following dimensional changes.
Recommended dimensional changes