I’m Back After a 5 Year Hiatus!

Yard #1

As the title says…………I’m back after 5 very fast and busy years!

The bad news………The chickens are long gone and so is the dog. They all had wonderful lives filled with lots of pampering and care. Those 3 chickens and their most excellent protector made lasting memories which, to this day, come up often in conversation with family and friends. Those were good days indeed!

The good news……….I fell in love with honey bees back in 2015 and I haven’t looked back. I started out with two colonies that Spring and promised my wife that there would be no more. I broke that promise over FIFTY times and now keep my bees at 3 separate yards in Toronto.

Yard #2

I know to many, it may not seem like an ideal place to raise bees, but that notion is furthest from the truth. Cities, like Toronto, have banned pesticide use on lawns and there are enormous green spaces with lots and lots of wild flowers and tons and tons of bee friendly trees which all make for PLENTY of delicious honey and very healthy bees.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our rural landscapes where monocrop culture and pesticide use are still heavily employed but that’s a story for another day.

Yard #3

As many of you know, the honey bee has had a rough ride for the last few decades and many hives do not survive winter. Here, in Ontario, average winter losses in the last 5 years range from 27%-45%. Thankfully, I can’t say the same and my over-winter losses are near or at zero each year. I’m proud of this accomplishment and have been teaching and speaking about how I tend my bees for the last few years.

Prior to Covid, those engagements were always in person, but now they are all virtual. But, there’s always a silver lining in those storm clouds and Covid has provided an opportunity for me to teach sustainable beekeeping to many people who could not geographically attend a workshop face to face.

I’ll be launching some dates for some virtual workshops in the coming days and I encourage you to have a peak if you’ve ever thought about becoming a beekeeper. I promise you’ll have a blast!

Honey Street

 

034 - CopyWell…….as the picture shows…..the honey bees are here and I am stoked!  Stoked like the memories of my childhood on Christmas morning when we waited for our parents to finally say we could come down stairs to see what Santa brought.  It’s nice to feel that kind of excitement again.

I picked up my 2 colonies last weekend from a beekeeper I met a few years back.    With nuc boxes secured and thousands of passengers in tow, we all headed down a country road to begin a new chapter in life.  As we worked our way home, with windows down and a great “chill” cd on play; my mind drifted back to a favorite Van Morrison song titled  Pagan Streams “….and we could dream, and keep bees and live on Honey Street”.  I remember first hearing that song all the way back in 1991 and thinking that keeping honey bees would be really cool.  I’m glad that day has arrived.

One Big Brother and a whole lot of sisters.

One Big Brother and a whole lot of sisters.

 

Making A Water Source For Your Honeybees

020 - CopyOver the last few months, I’ve spent a fair bit of time reading about making a water source for my bees.  I’ve read about folks using bird baths, slow dripping faucets and garden ponds.  I’ve also learnt that bees have an uncanny ability to find water and once they “lock” onto a source, it’s pretty hard (if not impossible) to make them change their pattern.

Being a consciences urban homeowner, I do my best to respect the rights of my neighbors and fully understand that my bees will not be a welcomed addition to anyone’s backyard space.  For those beekeepers that have neighbors with pools, the  aforementioned is even more apparent, considering that bees really like chlorine and salt.

So…….I began to think about how to make a water source for my bees.  I had 5 criteria that had to be met:

1)  It had to look good.  I’ll be looking at my apiary most days and I want it to tie in with the appearance of my backyard.

2)  I don’t want to replenish the water source every day.  If I decide to go on  vacation, I don’t want to rely on a neighbor to “top up” my water source during my absence.

3)  I don’t want my chickens to be able to get into the water source while they are free ranging.

4)  I don’t want my bees to drown while they are using the source.

5)  I don’t want my water source to become a breeding ground for mosquitos.

So………I constructed a tall box that would not have a top or bottom.  Inside the box will be a 16″ cinderblock (standing on its end) and a 5 gallon (food grade) plastic pail resting on the block. Floating at the top of the water will be a landing pad for the bees to safely access the water.

The  front & back of the box are  3/4″ thick x 15″ wide x 30″ high.  The sides are 3/4″ thick x 13 1/2″ wide x 30″ high.  All material is pine and assembled with a simple butt joint and glued and screwed together.  If you  want to get a bit more fancy, you can:

A) Use a scroll saw to cut out a design in the front006 - Copy

B) Counter-sink the screw hole locations and (once assembled) fill the hole with a wood plug which will be trimmed off and sanded.003

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C)  Add some mitered trim to the top of the box.014 - Copy

 

In order to make the “landing pad”, I cut a circle out of some 1/2″ thick cedar and drilled lots of 1/4″ holes in the circle.  Because the bucket has a slight taper, I made the circumference of the landing pad to be the same as the bottom of the pail.  This will allow for the “landing pad”  to descend as the volume diminishes in the bucket.  I didn’t have a wide enough board to make the entire circle, so I screwed (not glued) two pieces together with a few  cleats.

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This landing pad will work well because  the cedar floats and the water wicks up from the holes making for safe and easy access for the bees.

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After a quick search, I discovered that a mosquito takes around 7-10 days to develop from egg to adult.  By replacing the water every week, I will not be “helping” mosquitos to further populate in this water.

So….there you have it……….my water source for my bees.  I just hope it works and my neighbor Vito doesn’t come traipsing over to my house in July dressed only in his 1978 Speedo bathing suite complaining about some bees in his pool!!!!!!!!!!!!!026 - Copy