I stumbled upon this video yesterday and it’s so awesome that I decided it was blog-worthy. This is a high-speed view inside a top bar hive. Three months compressed into 2 minutes, this video runs from May 26, 2010 until August 23 of that same year. Amazing, isn’t it?

 

Illustration provided by Kyle Steed and used under Creative Commons license.

Today — May 29 — has been declared the official “Day of the Honeybee” across much of Canada and the rest of the world. The province of British Columbia has declared this publicly, and other organizations and regions are also following suit.

Honeybees play a major role in pollination that we all rely on for a large portion of the food that we eat. As much as 40% of the food we put in our mouth is here because of the honeybee.

Even if you’re not a beekeeper, there are ways that you can celebrate the Day of the Honeybee and do your part for these tiny insects:

  • Plant some wild flowers in your garden. Bees need lots of wild flowers for nectar and pollen.
  • Buy honey and wax from a local beekeeper. Support the beekeepers that are working hard to help bees every day.
  • Go organic. Purchase foods that haven’t been treated with pesticides which can harm or kill honeybees.

How are you going to celebrate the Day of the Honeybee today?

A swarm of bees in a treeIt’s that time of year when bees are swarming. This past weekend I received two emails from people who had swarms of bees near their homes and were trying to find a beekeeper in Kitchener or Waterloo to come take them away.

If you have stumbled upon my blog because you have a swarm of honeybees near you, here’s a bit of information that you should hopefully find helpful.

First and foremost: Contrary to what the word ‘swarm’ usually implies, swarms of honeybees are very docile and not dangerous. These bees have left their old home in search of a new one. They are storing their energy so that they can survive away from their hive. They have no food or young to protect so it’s unlikely they will sting. In fact, many people have been known to stroke swarms or stick their bare hands right into the the middle of them.

Bees typically swarm as a means of macro-reproduction. This is the way the entire colony splits and forms a new hive. Most swarms happen because a new queen is born and the colony splits in half. There are approximately 25,000 bees in an average swarm.

When a swarm is preparing to leave their home, they stock up on honey in their tiny bellies and typically fly up into an elevated area, not too far from their original home. This is usually a tree. They’ll camp out in a watermelon-sized ball for a day or two, but it could be as long as a week. During this time, scout bees are sent out to try and find a new home for the colony, and if a suitable home is found, the entire swarm will leave and begin to set up their new digs.

The probability that a swarm of honeybees will be able to survive on their own is quite small and it’s usually best for everyone if a beekeeper comes and rescues them. This is usually done by shaking them off the tree or cutting a branch to lower the bees into a box. The box is then left until nightfall to ensure all bees go inside. They will follow their queen’s scent, so as long as the queen makes it into the box, the rest will follow.

Contact me

If you know of any honeybee swarms or if you have one near your house, please feel free to contact me. If I cannot retrieve the swarm myself, I will try and refer you to another beekeeper in your area that can.

Your Name (required)

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Your phone number (very helpful)

Photo of swarm (optional):

Location of swarm and description:

 

A hand gardening flowers

If you’re the type of person who wants to do your part to help honeybees, but you’re not ready to keep bees yourself, then you can always plant a bee-friendly garden in your yard.

WikiHow has posted a good article with a list of different ways that you can attract honeybees.

My first day on the job as a beekeeper, and my first minor emergency. I got an email this morning from Callum who is working on-site where my bees are located. He sent me an email to say everything looks fine from afar except that the entrance reducer to the hive seemed to be pushed into the hive a few inches. Hmmm….

The reason an entrance reducer is used is to limit access to the hive and protect the weak colony from robbing. It is easy for a few bees to guard a small entrance, but much more difficult for them to guard a large entrance. If my entrance reducer was not in place, then the hive was at risk of robbing. Once the hive is running full fledge, it’s OK to have a completely open entrance, but not right now.

So at lunch, my wife and I jumped into the car and drove out to do an external inspection on the hive. When we got there, it was worse than I’d expected. The entrance reducer had somehow gotten pushed about 5 inches into the hive; well past the first frame or two. Not good. I don’t think that there’s any way that the bees could have pushed it in, nor was the wind strong enough. My best guess is that my hive had a late-night visit from a raccoon or skunk who pushed their tiny hands into the entrance.

Lucky for me, I came prepared with a plan and a quick-fix to rectify the problem. I didn’t want to create any added stress on the hive, seeing as they were just installed yesterday, so I didn’t want to open up the top cover or remove any frames. I reviewed my plan with my loving wife, Heather, and we suited up. Here’s how we fixed the problem:

Securing your entrance reducer in 5 easy steps

Step 1: Because the entrance reducer was so far in the hive, I couldn’t retrieve it and slide it out in place. Instead, I took a pen, and marked a line on the bottom board so I knew where the entrance reducer should sit.

Step 2: Heather — who was interacting with bees for the first time, by the way — lifted the entire box, complete with inner cover and telescoping cover upwards about 3 or 4 inches.

Step 3: I reached in, grabbed the entrance reducer, and set it in place where it should have stayed the first time, lining it up with the pen mark from Step 1.

Step 4: I then took two push pins (I told you I came prepared) and placed one on either end of the entrance reducer just inside the hive. They will now make it nearly impossible for the entrance reducer to be pushed into the hive.

Step 5: Heather set the box back down and aligned the edges. We high-fived and admired a job well done.

The whole process took about 30 seconds, and that includes time to take a couple photos to document the process. We were lucky that the hive was still quite light and that there was only one box to deal with.

So now that the entrance reducer isn’t going anywhere, I will leave them alone until next weekend when I check and make sure everything looks OK. I’m glad that the problem was reported to me so promptly and that I could get out there and come up with a solution right away. Hopefully my bees weren’t too bothered and are now more comfortable in their new home.