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Campbell's Honey is a Canadian beekeeper blog and a great place to read expert tips, and stories and understand an apiarist and his love of honeybees. Today is Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Building Honey Supers


When  Campbell's Honey shifted focus from Hobby Beekeeping to Commercial, some 30 years ago, we began by purchasing the bees and equipment from several retiring honey producers. These bee-men were running profitable operations with good bees, but their equipment was old  and  beginning to show its age.

We were happy to get healthy bees, and the used equipment was of no concern at the time.

Since then we have expanded the operation, built a modern honeyhouse, and the time has come to replace those old weather beaten honey boxes, with equipment that is more suitable to our business.

The pine lumber for the honey boxes was purchased in skid lots, and the work was done in our heated shop at Campbells Honey.

The shop was a noisy place as we all worked together hammering and sawing, and turning the long pine boards into servicable honey equipment.

The lumber was first sawed to length, and mitered along the edges to make a close air-tight fit. Then the ends were mitered along the top, to make frame rests. They were  then securely nailed together using 2 and a 1/2  inch ardox nails.

Once the honey boxes were built, we moved them to the honeyhouse, and waited for a clear warm day to paint them outside on the dock.

The paint was  White Semi-gloss Exterior Latex, single coat finish. This paint sprayed on evenly, and covered well. These honey supers will do double duty, either as brood chambers or honeyboxes, and we hope they will last for at least, another 30 years.


Nature One Week Early in Eastern Ontario, Spring 2010


One of the many challenges of commercial beekeeping is finding the perfect place to situate a beeyard. Ideal locations have warn southern exposure and a wind break to the north. There is usually a water source nearby, and of course some 'honey country'.

Access is important. Although we look for a distant corner in a farmer's field, several hundred yards from a residence, we need an entrance from the road and a passable laneway to the beehives.

The picture above is the entrance to one of my beeyards, through a local farmer's busy barnyard where there is usually an assortment of many different farm animals. He has cows, pigs, chickens and a donkey. His horses are particularly special. Horses are always learning, and these horses are no exception. On one occasion as I was leaving with my truck, they waited until I was driving through the gate and then before I could shoo them back, cantered out onto the road. Luckily the farmer came along, and helped to get them safely into the barnyard again.


Because of the warm spring, the honey season began one week early this year, and at this time the honey bees are all unpacked, ready for the first honey flow. We are always surprised as we work in the yards to find the bees flying and returning to the hives loaded with bright yellow, and glossy orange pollen, even though the nights are still frosty.  They are finding this pollen on the tiny blossoms of the maples and birches. The microscopic pollen granules are mixed with nectar and transported in the hairy sacs on the back legs of the insect. These pollen grains will be fed to the developing bee brood.  We also found some nectar stored in the cells of the brood chamber. Honey bees are unbelievably industrious, and never miss a beat.

There once was a snake in my truck. One morning last summer as I was loading my truck to go to work, I reached into the cab, to move my beehat and gloves. You can imagine my surprise when I found a hitchiker already on the front seat. He had been sleeping under my hat. I have no idea how this young Gartersnake got into the truck, but needless to say I gently helped him out again. Perhaps he was feeding on the occasional bee that gets caught in the cab when I come back to the honeyhouse at night.


Springtime in the Beeyards 2010


Holidays in the sun are over,  its time to open the beehives, and get started on a new honey season. This spring, instead of walking through muddy farmer's fields, and wading in the mud, we're driving down grassy lanes, through dry barnyards, to unpack the hives, and liberate the honeybees. Last fall we packed each colony in a heavy commercial plastic bag that was pulled down over the hive, and a breathing hole punched in the top, just under the top cover, to vent the moisture from the colony.

Unpacking the hives: In the springtime each year the plastic bags are lifted off and recycled, and the colonies are hefted to estimate the feed honey remaining in the brood chambers. After that a spoonful of Terramycin is spread on the top bars to ward off the dreaded American Foul Brood

Last spring we suffered a 30% death rate in the beeyards, and we had to work extra hard manipulating the colonies to refill those dead hives in time to make bees strong enough to gather a honey crop. We succeeded in doing this, but the weather was too cool and wet, and at season's end we still had less than half a crop.

Things are looking better this year. After opening my first 93 colonies, I find only a normal 10% winter loss. These empty hives will be easy to refill. Hopefully the weather will co-operate this summer, and the wildflowers in the fields and meadows of Southern Ontaruio will yield a record-breaking bumper crop of delicious Canadian honey.


Winter Holidays in Texas


Its been a very busy Nov here in  Alamo Palms RV Park, where we take our winter holiday from Campbell's Honey. We are situated in South Texas just 20 minutes from the border with Mexico. Alamo is a suburb of McAllen Texas on Hwy 83. We spend 5 months each winter  resting up from our summer exertions with the honeybees,.

This season the mobile home was in need of paint and some touching up so we decided to get it covered with vinyl siding, (in lieu of paint) and new skirting around the bottom.

The pictures are before, during, and after the upgrade.

Its always warm here in Texas, and the natives are used to working in the heat. It was 85 F., sunny and hot on Thursday and Friday when the work was commenced and completed.

The  work was done by native  born Mexicans residing in TX.,  who spoke very little English.

When I asked the Foreman if the guys had papers to legally reside in the US., he assured me they did.

The job was done quickly, efficiently, reasonably, and we are happy with the work


Combining Beans


This was a cool sunny day in late October,just the perfect day for combining soy beans on Campbells Farm.

Peter was operating the machine and I took the opportunity to ride with him, and check out the automatic features on the combine.

The summer has been cool and wet; not the perfect weather for soy beans, but the crop was better than expected.

We watched the automatic dial fluctuate between 30, and 50 bushels per acre as we traveled across the field. The high sandy points were showing 50 bushels, while the lower damper areas were producing 30 bushels. The high areas of lighter soil dried, and warmed quickly, giving the bean plants a better chance.

The huge green machine has a 20 foot wide header, (cuts a 20' swath) and brags a GPS system which can steer the machine hands off. All the operator has to do is know how to work the dials, and stay awake.

Next season this field will be seeded down to a Clover crop, which will provide the honeybees with nectar for Clover Honey, and supply hay  for the Black Angus Cattle in the winter.


A Cattle drive on the Farm


There have always been cattle raised on Campbell's Farm, and today we moved some newly acquired animals to a different pasture on the other side of Percy Creek. It was all new to these Black Angus, because they were raised in Alberta Canada, and were sold from there, because of drought and a lack of winter feed in that Province. They are gentle creatures and went where they were supposed to go with very little problem.

We started the drive at 8.am Sunday morning, and  succeeded in moving them on the road without interfering with the normal traffic.  They were a bit hesitant about crossing the bridge over the water, but they all crowded together in the middle, and soon were safely across.

Once in the new pasture, they ran around checking out the electric fence to see just how much freedom they had. Cattle are like everyone else; no matter how much they are given, they will always be looking for more.

There was a touch of frost on the ground, but that didn't hinder the cattle from grazing. For them it's the dressing on the salad.

Questions or Comments welcome.


Packing up the Hives for Winter


The weather is chilly, the leaves are almost gone from the trees, and the bees have a winter's supply of honey in the brood-chambers. Mid October is the time we pack up the bees for the long cold winter, which usually means deep snow, and temperatures down to -25 C. The snow is beneficial, in that it acts as insulation which helps to moderate hive temperatures, but too much cold, especially with a wind, can freeze the bees, or chill them to the point of  starvation, in a brood-chamber filled with honey.

Winter packing at Campbell's Honey has evolved from a wrapping of Tar Paper and straw for insulation thirty years ago, to a heavy commercial black plastic bag which we pull down over the hive, and a piece of carpet cut to fit under the top cover of the colony.

The Black plastic attracts heat in the the sunshine, which warms the bees and enables them to move within the cluster to the next frame of honey which is their food. Although there is little or no insulation value in the plastic bag, it stops the wind, and traps the heat. The piece of carpet goes on top of the plastic bag and under the outer hive cover. A ventilation hole in the plastic bag at the top of the hive allows the moisture to escape. For every lb. of honey that the bees consume there is an equal amount of water given off. When this condensation is trapped in the hive it condenses on the hive top and drips down, thereby causing certain death to the bees.

Today  before we packed, we were pulling the  two mite strips which were inserted between the frames of the upper brood chamber 47 days ago for control of Varroa Mites.

This concludes the  honeybee manipulations, and medications, for this year.

Questions or Comments Welcomed.



A Centennial Farm !


The home of Campbell's Honey is a Centennial Farm, situated on Campbell Rd. in Northumberland County, Ontario Canada.

My Great Grandfather was born in Scotland in the mid 1800's, and as a young man was involved in a sexual misadventure which caused his embarrassed parents to place him on board ship with a one-way ticket to the new world. George Campbell arrived in Canada and worked for 2 years  to save enough money to send for his wife-to-be and young child. After their marriage they had several more children, one of which was my Grandfather, Adam Campbell.

For a time after Adam married he farmed just north of lake Ontario in the Oak Hills. In the spring of 1905 he purchased the farm where we live today, and his second son Percy, was born in the farm-house in October of that year. Twenty eight years later, to the month, I was born to Percy and Ora Campbell, in the same room of the same farmhouse. >>

My father had a mixed farm with horses, pigs chickens and dairy cows. After I married in 1955 I took over the farm and soon had a herd of pure-bred Aberdeen Angus cattle.

It was only after my brother and oldest son began to keep a few hives of honeybees for a hobby, that I became interested.  They had a few colonies and were having so much fun. So I bought some too, and then we were all in the honey business together. That was about thirty years ago, and although we miss my brother, who passed away a few years ago, we are still having fun keeping honeybees and making some of the best honey in the world.


Rendering Beeswax


Beeswax is a natural secretion of honeybees in the hive,  for the purpose of building honeycomb.

As with all things in life, there is a cost involved. One pound of beeswax as produced in the hive, takes eight pounds of honey to manufacture. Young bees make wax by eating large amounts of honey, and then extruding fresh beeswax from pores in their stomach. Without this construction material, the colony would have no place to store their honey.

Before we extract the honey from the comb,  the wooden frames must first go through the uncapping machine to cut off the wax cappings.

Wax cappings are to  honeycomb, as lids are to jars. As the wax cappings are cut from the honeycomb, they drop into an auger below the tray, and are pushed (along with  a small amount of honey) into  the wax spinner where the honey is separated from the wax by a large centrifuge. After several hours of operation the spinner is unloaded , and the dry wax is stored in metal drums until time to render the wax.

At rendering time we wheel the drums filled with dry wax cappings into the boiler-room where we have a large tank partially filled with steam-heated water. The drums of wax cappings are dumped, and shovelled into the hot water where they are melted into a liquid and boiled for about 2 hours. The wax is clarified by boiling, and the impurities, which are called "slumgum,"  settle to the bottom. The wax is then skimmed off and molded in plastic trays and small pails.

One barrel of dry wax cappings will make a hundred pounds of solid wax blocks. There's always a demand for clean bright blocks of molded beeswax. This year we have already sold our beeswax, even before it is entirely rendered.


CFIA Inspection at Campbell's Honey


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors arrived this week for an annual tour of our premises. Their inspection takes over an hour as they scrutinize all procedures, practises, and processes used in the pursuit of our honey business. All applications of chemicals used for medication purposes on the bees in the apiary are closely monitored with respect to their proper use and duration, as well as any chemicals that are used for the eradication of honey house pests such as rodents, wax moth, and other insects.

All  procedures associated with the keeping of bees must be documented on a daily basis as well as records relating to the cleaning and maintenance of  honey-house equipment, and floors.  Personal Cleanliness is a high piority, as well as insuring that no personal jewellery, or  hair, contaminant the product .

The finished product must be tracable right back to the beeyard in which it was produced, so that if a  problem arises it can be identified and remedied.

The Inspectors walk around the premise checking for  such hazards as fire,  improper storage of equipment which could lead to rodent  or wax moth infestations, and other unsightly spaces.

Once they have covered these areas they take samples of honey from the sales room which are tested to insure purity of the product.

Comments are welcomed.

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