Keeping Bees in Towns and Cities

Winter is a time for beekeepers to reflect on their previous beekeeping season, build and repair hive parts and read as much beekeeping material as possible. Reading books such as Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities is how I choose to spend the winter months.

This 180-page book, written by Luke Dixon is a very easy read and includes many full colour photographs covering a wide range of bees, hives, beekeepers and urban apiaries. These photos definitely make this book.

I enjoyed reading this book very much as it served as a refresher and inspiration for me as a beekeeper. The fact that the author is from London, England highlights some of the differences in hives, weather and practices between beekeeping in Ontario, Canada and other parts of the world.

I would not necessarily recommend this book for a beginner beekeeper requiring specific instructions on how to get up and running with his/her first hive, as many of the specific details of beekeeping are omitted from the text. Subjects such as dealing with queen cells, robbing and winterizing hives are covered only with broad strokes. However, for any novice to experienced beekeeper, this book is an excellent resource.

Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities is a great eye-opener for how easy it can be to start your own urban hive and one quote that stood out to me from the entire book was presented on page 1:

If you have room for a composter or water barrel, you have room for a beehive.

The last section of the book is dedicated to sharing the stories of 23 different beekeepers located all over the world. It’s amazing to see the different ways that people from countries like Hong Kong and South Africa compare to the UK, USA and Canada.

I would encourage just about any beekeeper to add this book to their beekeeping library.

Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities
By Luke Dixon
Timber Press 2012

The Healing Powers of HoneyI have had this book on the go for several months now and I’ve found it very useful and informative. It’s a great book to have lying around and pick up from time to time to read a few interesting facts about honey. The Healing Powers Of Honey is a book full of little tidbits of information about honey gathered from all over the world as well as recipes and cures for all sorts of ailments.

Author Cal Orey (get it?) has written other “healing power” books including The Healing Powers of Vinegar, The Healing Powers of Olive Oil and The Healing Powers of Chocolate so she definitely has a healthy background in… well… health.

For any beekeepers, aspiring beekeepers or simply general honey lovers, this book is a great resource to have on hand. Orey discusses many of the scientific benefits of honey and applies them to just about any ailment, injury or illness you can think of. When in doubt, turn to honey.

What gives honey its amazing healing powers? It comes down to antioxidants, acidity and hydrogen peroxide. Different styles of honey are derived from different plants and flowers and this book details many of them. I was particularly interested in reading about Manuka honey, a New Zealand honey which has extraordinary healing powers and even combats some antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

Most readers will find Orey’s narrative and anecdotal style of writing enjoyable and easy to read, however I must admit that I found the honeybee puns and analogies a bit over the top at times.

Overall, this is a great reference book and one that will get lots of use over the years. I’ve bookmarked many of the pages and will be sure to pick up this book for its recipes, home remedies and honey factoids in the future.

The Healing Powers Of Honey
By: Cal Orey
Published Oct 2011
Kensington Publishing Corporation

Friends of mine were recently on their honeymoon and staying at The Peninsula hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. They sent me this awesome picture of a frame of honeycomb set up at the breakfast buffet. Can’t get more fresh than that!

Frame of honey at breakfast buffet

What happens to bees in the winter?

During the winter months, honeybees cluster together to stay warm inside the hive. They do not hibernate like some animals. They still function (at a much slower pace) and move throughout the hive as a coordinated colony consuming the honey that they stored the previous summer.

Contrary to what you may think, cold is not the biggest threat to bees over the winter. In fact, it is moisture and condensation that can kill entire colonies of bees.

Bees are quite good at staying warm all winter long. Each honeybee can detach her flying muscles from her wings and use those same muscles to generate heat by vibrating. The bees then cluster tightly within the hive. It remains a balmy 35° Celcius at the centre of the cluster, all winter long.

Because of the warmth inside the hive, without adequate ventilation, condensation will form on the top of the hive and then drip down on top of the cluster. It’s this moisture that will kill bee colonies over the winter. Proper ventilation is crucial to the survival of honeybees when the weather is cold outside.

Adding ventilation

There are numerous ways to add ventilation to a hive. When adding ventilation to my hive, I wanted to add sufficient ventilation while still protecting my hive from robbing¹. After researching online and listening to others at my local beekeeping association, I came up with the idea of using a paint stir-stick on top of my inner cover in order to add a nice gap under the outer cover, sheltered from the elements and small enough to guard against robbing.

I simply cut up a paint stick into short lengths and then glued one small portion to the four corners of my inner cover. Since this portion of the inner cover is not considered “inside” the actual hive, it’s unlikely that the bees will fill the small gaps with propolis the way they would do if the gap was on the underside of the inner cover.

The whole process took only a few seconds to cut and glue the the paint stick and the cost was free, since you can pick up these sticks at just about any hardware store that sells paint.

Paint stick cut up
A honey bee on stir stick ventilation
Paint sticks glued to inner cover

¹ Robbing occurs when other wasps, honeybees or insects get into the hive through an unguarded entrance and steal valuable honey from within.

University of Waterloo original logoI was recently interviewed by a group of Systems Design Engineering students from the University of Waterloo regarding beekeeping. The students are working together on a project to improve beekeeping practices and reduce the time or effort involved in performing routine tasks as a beekeeper.

These students have assembled a survey that they would like many beekeepers to fill out to help with their project. If you have 5 minutes and would like to help out this group of students, please fill out their survey. Fill out only the questions that apply to you.

Here is the link to the survey: Beekeeping Engineering Survey