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John Gates, right, helps a student at his queen-rearing course to identify the right size of larvae to graft into a queen cell cup. Gates' annual queen-rearing course is a must for anyone wanting to learn how to successfully raise queen bees. Jeff Lee photo.

Learning how to rear honey bee queens, B.C. style

There is an art to raising good honey bee queens, it seems. So Amanda Goodman Lee and I are up in Tappen, B.C along with other beekeepers from around the province learning from two masters, John Gates and his protege, BillStagg. Gates is a former provincial apiculturist who helped develop a made-in-B.C. queen-rearing program. Until […]

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Bee season in British Columbia starts, for many of us, with sending our deadouts through Iotron Industries' electron beam sterilizer. It kills all of the pathogens left in the boxes. Of course, we don't do this with overwintered colonies! Jeff Lee Photo

Bee Season Upon Us With Early Iotron Run

Who would have thought that beekeeping could be so complicated? The honey bees aren’t really even flying right now, other than some exploratory flights looking for early pollen. But it seems that the work of getting these little perishers ready for the new season starts early. So early, in fact, that I took this week […]

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Mark L. Winston, reading from his bestseller Bee Time: Lessons From The Hive, at the American Beekeeping Federation convention in January, 2015 in Anaheim, California. Photo: Jeff Lee

Mark Winston’s Bee Time Wins Governor General’s Award

On our book shelves devoted to beekeeping are some of the classics; Langstroth’s Hive and the Honey Bee, Root & Miller’s ABC and ZYZ of Honey Bee Culture, Francis Huber’s New Observation Upon Bees, and dozens of other books that cover everything from queen breeding and selection to honey production to health benefits from hive […]

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Frame of brood infected by ascphaera apis, chalkbrood. Photo courtesy of Bee Informed Partnership.

Battling honey bee chalkbrood an expensive, maddening affair

We’ve had our hands full this year, what with the exceptionally early spring and the unusual advancement of bloom times. Our blueberry and raspberry growers called us in early, and the wild blackberry flow that we all depend upon in the Fraser Valley for our honey is just as early. But what’s been equally troubling […]

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Large honey bee swarm. Photo: Jeff Lee

A massive swarm reminds us swarm season is here again

It is swarm season again, but this time with a twist. The early spring is wreaking havoc for beekeepers, who are finding overwintered colonies exceptionally strong. The mild winter, I think, has lulled some beekeepers into not realizing their hives are bigger, stronger and hence, more prone to swarm earlier than usual. The general rule […]

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We made a simple syrup dispenser for our bee yards out of a small 12-volt pony pump, marine deep-cycle battery, garden hose and fittings. As long as you wash it out with hot water after use, it works like a charm! Photo: Jeff Lee

Build a sugar syrup pump for feeding the bees

When we first started out beekeeping with two hives, we didn’t need anything to feed other than a bucket, some sugar and a couple of in-frame feeders. These, of course, were for those necessary periods in the fall, winter and early spring when forage isn’t around. If you had told me that we would eventually […]

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How many times have you seen this kind of a swarm, just out of safe reach? No ladder long enough, no way to reach it? We've made a simple solution using a collapsible window-washing or painting pole and an old water carrier with the bottom cut off.

How to make a honey bee swarm retrieval pole

With swarm season comes a multitude of challenges of how to successfully retrieve a colony that makes like a hive and splits. Many of us have seen the pictures of swarms in really, really odd places; on the wing tips of aircraft, under bicycle seats and on the tines of harrows and other farm equipment. […]

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Julia Common, left, with her daughter Sarah, right, and Jim McLeod in the middle, examining a hive in the Hastings Folk Garden in the middle of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. Photo credit: Jeff Lee

Hives for Humanity teaching beekeeping in Vancouver’s poorest district

There’s an interesting marriage of social enterprise and beekeeping taking place in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that offers promise for some of Canada’s poorest residents. Julia Common runs Hives for Humanity, a fledgling enterprise that has put beehives into the DTES with a goal of teaching people how to raise bees and produce honey for local […]

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