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Tales from the beehouse in the far north of canada

Finally had a break in our severe cold winter…enough for them to complete a 3 day cleansing flight and bring in water. The last two days we have been going through each hive and adding feed…they were light.

We added a bit of sugar syrup from a homemade syrup spray bar…this works especially well in weaker colonies. Since willow bloom and dandelion bloom is still a few weeks way, we also fed them a mixture of their own honey and beebread (not recommended if your equipment has brood diseases).

Looking forward to getting the Flowhive supers on for the spring honeyflow.

To see the video, go to https://www.facebook.com/HahnyBeeHoney/


Hey @Doug1! Your bees sure are kickin’ up there!! I like your spray-in frame filler too - very cool :sunglasses:

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Thanks Eva…there’s so many ways of completing tasks in beekeeping. This springtime method of feeding eliminates the need for frame feeders which take up room in the brood box…get waxed in…and need to be cleaned on removal.

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hello there Doug, look forward to seeing how your next season progresses. Ours is just winding down- worst season in living memory here in South Australia. As you know I lost two hives when temps hit 47c here- now having spoken to more beekeepers I found out hundreds (at least) of hives died on that day right across our state. Commercial beekeepers report being down on production by at least 75% and colony losses around 50%… So suffice it to say: I am looking forward to next year and hoping it is good one…

I am curious about the first photo you posted: what’s going on there? I know you set supers on their side like that to clear them of bees (a tip I am keen to try)- but I am assuming this is something else? Why is there comb extending out of the bottom of those boxes?

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Hi Semaphore…gulp…that’s quite a hit. And reminds me of some of the early pioneers in our country describing this land…when it was first settled…as “tommorrow’s country”. I was raised on a farm and with that background look upon beekeeping as the most specialized form of animal (insect) husbandry…prone to so many unpredictable forces working against survival of your operation. When all is said and done, the longterm beekeeper has to be content with intermittent positive reinforcement…and the simple pleasure of just being in the company of bees. So I hope next year for the SA beekeeper is more gratifying.

Good eye and good question.

So when our brief honeyflow is over, we reduce our colonies to a single brood chamber for wintering. Most of the honey producer colonies are 6 or 7 FD boxes high when we remove the last honey pull…so where do the bees all go?

An empty shallow super (or equivalent) is placed on the bottom board under the single brood chamber used for wintering. This serves as a “overflow parking lot” for summer’s bulk bees and when the winter stores are topped up in late fall, the bulk bees simply build just enough comb to suspend themselves on mass on the underside of the queen occupied brood chamber above. This hive configuration gives us the correct ventilation requirements…so important in this climate as excessive moisture condensation creates molding of frames and stress diseases like nosema take down the colony down rapidly. We’ve found that in most cases, two brood chambers is too much room…one brood chamber crammed with bees can deal with moisture buildup more effectively.

And at this time of year…early spring…we individually remove the hives from the beehouse, tip them on end…gently smoke them off that sacrificial bottom comb (see photo)…remove that comb…and undersuper with a brood box with ample feed ( honey/beebread) and a bit of sugar syrup. The hives are placed back in the beehouse where their increased activity collectively creates enough heat to keep the beehouse temperature at 20C…remember the countryside still is covered in snow…but brood rearing is well underway and it’s too early for natural pollen…3 weeks away…a critical time of year to be giving the bees what is required.


wow- that’s fantastic- very interesting. It looks as if all that comb is empty at this stage too, no brood in it? Perfect for removal. This year I also plan to remove all supers and push my hives down to a single brood for wintering- I wonder if your idea would work here as well. Other years when I have done that I have been worried when suddenly removing a super and dumping all the bees into the brood box- that it would be overcrowded…

Our winters are completely different of course- we rarely ever drop below zero- no frost- and daytime temperatures around 14-20 C. The bees forage right through whenever the sun is out. But having that extra space at the bottom could be good- and we also have nosema and chalkbrood sometimes in the winter months, and moisture and mold can be seen. I am also planning to make some ventilated quilt boxes this winter to help with that.

Can’t wait to see how your colonies go over the next spring season- good luck- may the flow be with you!

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We can hit crazy high temps here in California as well. My dad puts dripping wet beachtowels draped over his hives on those days. Swamp cooler style helps. Shade awnings also.


So what a year in northern Alberta, Canada…and by that I don’t mean it was a “wonderful” year. The rain and cooler temps you in Australia expect in winter ended up on our northern hemisphere doorstep in midsummer. The over-used word “unprecedented” comes to mind…July & August (our big honeyflow months) were rain, rain, rain followed by cool days. I’ve emptied my rain guage out twice for a total of 10 inches…and an exceptional growing year might have 5 inches of rain. We are more of an arid, windy climate being on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Now it’s fall and reports are emerging of commercial guys getting 20/30/lbs/hive…maybe 100 lbs if they were lucky…this is in an area where 200lbs is the historical average. The honey has high moisture content…and one commercial guy said he had a hive swarm rate of 15%…swarming is usually not a problem here. So mother nature has educated us again as to the new parameters of a changing climate. All of this is so ironic because by the 3rd week in June, all conditions were in place for a bumper crop…optimism at our local beekeepers field day was at an all time high.