Honey Bee Research Centre

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Frequently Askd Questions About Our Videos

1. Why do we use canvas for the hive inner cover?

We use canvas inner covers for a few reasons. They make it easy to take a quick peek in the hive, and are cheap and easy to make. They are light, the lids sit down well, there is less excess wax on the frame top bars, and we rarely need to scrape the inner cover. We use 18 oz (#8) canvas - otherwise known as cotton duck. It is available in the USA online at: http://www.bigduckcanvas.com/number-8-18oz-cotton-duck-canvas.html

In Canada at http://www.jtsoutdoorfabrics.com/18oz-Cotton-Duck-Canvas-Untreated--Natural-60_p_15038.html or in Hamilton Ontario at https://europeantextiles.ca/product/canvas-21oz-natural/. Bees chew through thin canvas so a heavier weight is better. We flip it over periodically when new so the bees thoroughly coat it with propolis. An alternative is a feedbag folded in half.

2. Why do we use single brood chambers?

Our preference is to keep hives in single brood chambers. We use queen excluders above the brood chamber and then add honey supers. We produce more honey managing our hives in singles vs doubles and we find the hive management much easier. It's become quite common in Ontario, especially over the last twenty years.

3. Are our queens for sale?

We sell a limited number of queens but do not ship outside of Canada. To contact us about queens, please email infohbrc@uoguelph.ca

There are two other Buckfast breeders in Ontario:
Munro Honey http://www.munrohoney.com/
and Ferguson Apiaries http://fergusonapiaries.on.ca/

4. What breed of honeybee do we use?

We work with Buckfast bees. Check out our website if you would like to learn more about them: http://www.uoguelph.ca/honeybee/breeding.shtml

5. How do you overwinter double nucleus colonies?

At the University of Guelph, we winter our double nucleus colonies indoors. You can also winter them outdoors by wrapping two double nucs together with insulation on the sides and top.

6. Are double nucleus colonies prone to swarming?

With a young queen in the nucs and honey supers above we don't have any problem with these nucs swarming in the first year. We do have to transfer them into a full size box early enough the following spring to prevent swarming.

7. Do we add a frame of pollen or honey into a new split?

Ideally you add both pollen and honey to a new split. Of the two, honey is the most important.

8. Where to purchase some of the products that we use:


We really like Dickies 100% cotton coveralls. http://www.dickies.com/coveralls-overalls/deluxe-cotton-coverall/48700.html?dwvar_48700_color=GY#start=3. We use velcro to straps at the wrist and usually tuck pants into our socks.

Plastic Queen Cages:

Mann Lake (USA) and their Canadian distributors sell these. They are made by the French company Nicot. https://www.mannlakeltd.com/hair-roller-cages. I use a wooden plug on the bottom and screw it in place with a #4 screw after pre-drilling.

Queen Grafting Microscope:


Mini/mating nucleus boxes:

Mann Lake (USA) and their Canadian distributors sell these. They are originally from Europe but are widely available. https://www.mannlakeltd.com/shop-all-categories/hive-colony-maintenance/queen-rearing/nuc-boxes

Queen Pheromone:

The pheromone strips were developed in Canada. They are called Tempqueen and are made by Intko Supply Ltd. Suite 604, 3345 Kingsway VANCOUVER, BC, V5R 0A7 Canada (604) 356-7393. pheromonesupply@gmail.com. Mann Lake in the US and several Canadian bee supply companies carry them.

Bee belt and bulk bee box:

Our apiary manager Paul Kelly manufactures the Bee Belts and bulk bee box. If you are interested in more information, please email him at: pgkelly48@gmail.com.

10. Should you remove any queen cells in a colony before introducing a new queen in a cage?

Yes, you should remove the queen cells. Look very carefully to make sure you don't miss one. Shake the bees off each frame to make sure you can see the entire frame. Accepted queens are sometimes killed by virgins that later emerge from queen cells.

11. Can you make a split without adding a mated queen/can a split raise their own queen?

A split can raise their own queen (if they have eggs), but it is better to purchase a mated queen or queen cell from a local bee breeder. Queens raised by a split are reared under the worst possible conditions, are physiologically inferior, and you aren't taking the opportunity to improve your hive genetics. For a number of reasons, colonies get more aggressive if splits raise their own queens. We always use queen cells that we have reared from breeder colonies so we can maintain and improve our genetics. Cells found in hives can be poorly reared if conditions aren't good or if you use swarm cells you, are unintentionally breeding for swarming behaviour.

12. How often do we check for swarm cells?

We check for queen cells only in colonies that are stronger based on our ratings as described in our “Swarm Control” video. We only do this at the time of year bees are prone to swarming (ie just before the main summer nectar flow). In some colonies, we check twice, a week apart, if we have the time and we've found cells in them previously. We stop looking once the nectar flow gets going and the time for swarm preparation has passed.

13. How old is a queen when we replace her?

We re-queen if a queen isn't doing well or when she is in her third year.

14. How often should you be stung to lessen the chances of developing anaphylactic reactions?

Please speak with an allergist if you have any concerns regarding bee sting reactions. You don’t need that many stings to build immunity and reduce your chance of developing an allergy. However, reactions can be very different from one individual to the next. For about three years after starting beekeeping you swell more in the spring when the bee season starts. After that most people don't swell up much at all. Some beekeepers apply stings through the winter to keep building immunity.

15. What do we use as candy for the queen cages?

You can make the candy using honey and icing sugar but the candy you see in the tubes in our videos are purchased with the cages from Mann Lake beekeeping supplies and their Canadian distributors. In Ontario, it's not legal to use honey in queen candy if you are distributing queens. Honey can contain American Foulbrood spores. A specialized, non-drying, sugar syrup (Nulomoline invert sugar) can be used instead of honey. In any case the candy must be made dry enough that it's crumbly.

16. How do we make pollen patties?

The patty is made from pollen we collect using pollen traps. We mix the pollen pellets with sugar syrup to a dough-like consistency, form the patties between layers of wax paper and then keep them frozen until needed. They will keep for several months in the freezer.

17. How do we make our grafting bars?

We cut the wood pieces and attach them to the graft bar with liquid beeswax. We then attach the cups with liquid wax. In both cases the liquid wax is applied with a large syringe. In the past, we made the wax cups but now buy them from https://www.kelleybees.com/.

18. Do we move full honey supers to the top of the stack so the bees can fill the lower ones?

Some beekeepers shuffle the supers around and do what's called bottom-supering. We place supers back on in the original order and only add new supers on top (top-supering). That way it's easier to see when the bees need more space. The bees also ripen the honey before moving up to the next box. We sometimes harvest full lower supers and put the top ones that aren't full back on in the original order.

19. Do we ever add brood frames to the cell builder colonies to keep their populations high?

We do add other frames of sealed brood and sometimes we shake in more young bees from brood frames to boost the hives. About once every three weeks we'll boost the hives in one way or another.

20. How do you level hive stands?

We level the hive stands periodically with pressure treated wood shims. If the hives are already on the stands, we use a hardwood pry bar and a brick fulcrum to lift each end for shimming...