Monday, 28 September 2015

To Please My Bees

Each year I like to try something a little different to please my honey bees. My current effort towards this end is with a new piece of equipment called a "slatted bottom rack". I've made four of them, one for each of my hives.

This woodenware fits on top of the bottom board and just under the brood chamber. Many beekeepers claim this item allows extra room for bees to hang out in during hot weather instead of 'bearding' on the outside of the hive. It also helps darken the lower section of the brood chamber and allows the queen to build the brood lower in the frames, now away from the drafty entrance. Additionally, the extra space under the slats provides an air buffer zone so the bees can better regulate the temperature inside the hive. It should help the hive stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Perhaps the bees will be less inclined to swarm with the luxury of this added 'vestibule' space.

Personally, I prefer my living quarters to have a little buffer from the outside world. And a porch/hallway/lobby makes sense. Only time will tell if my honey bees agree.

Left to Right: July, August and September honey harvests.
Colour and flavour changes with the flowers in season.

Honey bees lap up honey from their broken ladder comb.

This "V" design will not be repeated in next year's foundationless frames.

One of the slatted bottom racks I installed in my bee hives this week.

Honey bees on licorice mint blooms. I think they look pleased.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

September Notations

The Fall Equinox has almost arrived and many of my backyard friends have departed. Robins and hummingbirds have 'up sticks' and winged southward. Bluejays are looting my feeders and hauling off the goods to secret pantries. The baby red squirrels are hyperactively playing and exploring through the trees. Much too lively to pose for a family photo, I can only guess how many babies there are -- perhaps four or five. This winter they will entertain me with their furry, gravity defying version of 'Cirque du Soleil'. I'll be well rewarded for providing peanuts and sunflower seeds!

One of several baby red squirrels who enliven my yard.

My perennial turtlehead flowers. Their native cousins in our bush lot are white.

A bumblebee enjoys a cosmos. Goldfinches and myself will harvest the seeds.

This flamboyant hibiscus is an attention grabber.

Brown-headed owlet moth (Cucullia convexipennis) caterpillars decorate an aster plant.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Hangers On

For years, I've been keeping records on migration dates of one of my favourite birds, the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Among the last to arrive and the first to leave, they should have departed weeks ago for their winter vacations in the West Indies, Mexico or South America. Yet, they are still here! And so is the very hot and humid summer weather! My calendar tells me it's September and this morning the school bus picked up my neighbour's children for their first day back to school. But still, those grosbeaks are hanging around my feeders and the berries of my mountain ash tree. Not that I'm complaining, I love their company, but it does leave me a little puzzled. Is it simply too hot for them to leave my shady yard and wing southward? Anyway, I'm glad to have these hangers-on still hanging around and hope they stay a bit longer.

A female rose-breasted grosbeak feasting on mountain ash berries.

A male (left) Rose-breasted grosbeak and the female (right) using my feeders.

This summer I've enjoyed a larger than usual hummingbird population.

From a branch over my hives, this eastern phoebe flies down to nab my honey bees.

A chipmunk foraging for seeds under my new feeder.

A locust beetle adding a dash of style to a goldenrod flower.

An ambush bug (phymata) hangs on to the tongue of an unfortunate fly.

Thursday, 3 September 2015


Some of my honey frames start out with purchased wax foundation. But since it isn't always on hand, I've been experimenting with foundationless frames. I figure that if the bees go to the trouble of drawing out the majority of their own comb, they will think they've invested just too much work in the hive to swarm off. Also, I'm only a hobby beekeeper and not concerned with maximum honey production.

This year I've used tongue depressors as starter strips. Here is the design using seven sticks. They seem to like this arrangement best, so I'll be using it from now on.

The design using seven tongue depressor sticks seems to work best.

Here is the six-stick method. They liked it but not as much as the seven-stick frames. Also, I think seven sticks will hold the comb better when full of honey and undergoing a spin in the extractor basket.

The design using six tongue depressors seems to work okay.

My two-stick method was a bit of a failure. I had overlooked the fact that bees make a droopy chain to form comb in space and the "V" design seems to get in their way.

The two stick design. The verdict on it's success is still out.

Goldenrod flowers are now in abundance and are a big attraction for the honey bees. It produces my favourite honey -- sort of a caramel flavour.

A young worker honey bee harvesting goldenrod blooms.

I no longer buy salad dressing but make my own using honey. As well as a delicious salad topping, it is wonderful drizzled on cooked potato wedges or over roast chicken. Here is the recipe:

     Honey Dressing

     3/4 cup olive oil
     1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
     1 heaping tablespoon honey
     dash pepper

     (optional teaspoon dijon mustard)

Combine the ingredients in a mixing bowl and then transfer it to an empty olive oil bottle. For a day or two it will need to be shaken before use but then the honey will emulsify the mixture and little or no shaking will be needed. I hope you give this a try.

My sister gave me this cute gum drop confection. She knows me so well!