Campbells Honey On Sugar


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 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.

A Taste Sensation Unsurpassed !


Some of the most stimulating taste sensations present in this area of Ontario are, Chocolate from the World’s Finest Chocolate Factory in nearby Campbellford, and Maple Syrup produced at Sandy Flats Sugar Bush just down the road,  but the most salubrious local delight that’s often imitated, but never replicated, is the all natural sweet flavour experience of pure Canadian honey, fresh from the bees.

For almost 30 years we have been taking pride in the production of our unique, naturally flavored honey. Where many honey operations mix all their honey into one product, we take the time and trouble to sort the flavors by taste, color, locality, and beeyard.

Our honeyhouse sales room opens with white honey from spring flowers in the first week of August. When the Purple Loosestrife honey is harvested, usually in mid August, we fill a separate tank in the sales room, and add it to our inventory. By this time we also have Creamed White honey available on the shelves. Then in early September, we have Fall White, and Buckwheat Honey in the tanks, and on the table in our containers.

You can bring your own honey containers. Our customers are encouraged to save money by bringing their own honey containers to be refilled,  and to purchase a year’s supply of honey at a time, thus saving money and helping the environment. This idea has caught on, and we have many customers who bring their own honey pails to be  filled with large amounts, and different flavors of Campbell’s Honey.

For the most part people are entranced with the salivary delights of sampling the different honey flavors. A possible exception are those, city born and bred, who have never tasted honey from the source.

Buckwheat Honey is dark and strong, with just a hint of the absurd. When I meet someone who is obviously unfamiliar with the flavor, I laughingly suggest (as she raises the sample spoon to her mouth) that she, “won’t like it!” Sometimes I am wrong, but its always good fun, on a busy day in the sales room of Campbell’s Honeyhouse.

The Extracting Room in Operation


The Honeyhouse is a Hive of activity in September.

Customers bring their pails and come for miles for their favorite flavor. Some like it strong and dark, others like it  mild and light, but all love the sweet sticky taste of Campbell’s Honey.

Everyone has a job, and no matter what it is, by the end of a day you will have honey in your hair, on your clothes and all over your body.. The air is filled with honey whipped  up by the high velocity of the rotating extractor as it spins the frames in the process of freeing the honey from the wax combs.

Peter wheels  a pallet of honey into the extracting room. This honey has been dried overnight at a temperature of 83 F. to make it warm enough to spin out  and leave the wax combs dry.

He wheels it around and leaves it at the hoist ready for John to put the individual frames through the uncapping machine and into the tray where it will travel along  a chain to be pushed into the extractor.

The Extractor is controlled by compressed air. The huge stainless cover raises by itself when a small  lever is toggled. After the cover opens more compressed air pushes a load of full frames in, while the previous load is pushed out.

Every 15 minutes a fresh load of frames are transferred in and out of the extractor. The honey runs out of extractor into a heated tank, where the small pieces of wax rise to the top and the honey is pumped from under this, into the final strainer.

This picture shows the Extractor full, with the cover still up. Peter prepares to give the carriage a spin before lowering the cover. The empty frames from  the previous load  are waiting to be boxed in supers, and transferred into the storage area.

Its a busy job that begins at 8 am and extends to12 noon. By that time, we need to barrel the honey off, and do the cleanup.  The floor must be washed, and the machinery wiped down before we can start again the following morning.

Visitors from Texas


We were honored this week by a visit from friends, who for five months each year, live next-door to us in Texas USA, where we take our winter holiday. Dale and Betty Fawcett left Texas in June/09,  have been on a tour of the Eastern USA and Canada, and have included us in their itinerary on their trip back home, via Niagara Falls.

Dale is a gifted photographer and Betty,( like the magicians helper) is shown in the picture as an adept hang-glider pilot extraordinaire.

Our local community has many interesting, and progressive businesses which we were able to showcase for our  guests.  First we went to Campbellford, and visited the Empire Cheese Factory which is the only farmer owned Cheese Factory left in Ontario.  At The Worlds Finest Chocolate  factory and store,  we bought mouth-watering, chocolate covered almonds at a reasonable price. Dinner was at  Apollo’s Restaurant where we dined sumptuously on sirloin strip steak, on a bed of Greek Salad.

After we finished work the next day we went to The Sandy Flats Sugar Bush, where the owners, George Potter and his wife Alice entertained us with a tour of the premise and tastes of Maple Sugar, and Maple Syrup. George is a Premier Maple Syrup Producer who has won numerous awards for his Maple Syrup, at local fairs, and at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.

On another evening we had a Corn Roast dinner here at Campbell’s Honey. We boasted that our locally grown sweet corn was second to none in the world, and our guests were in accord.  (The next picture shows the Fawcetts tasting honey samples in the sales room – bottom picture is their Travel-Trailer parked in our front yard.)

Dale and Betty understood that we were working in a window of opportunity, and graciously waited each day until we finished extracting, and closed up the sales room in the honeyhouse.  Then we  were able to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Thanks to them for being such good friends. We truly enjoyed their visit!

Comments welcomed.

Extracting the Fall Flow


September is here, and we are well into extracting our fall honey crop. Its been a lighter honey harvest than usual because of the cool wet summer. However we are pleased to see the brood chambers full of honey, and a good population of healthy bees, as we remove the honey from the colonies.

The bees will continue to forage for honey, and pack it into every available spot in the brood chambers,  even thought the honey supers have been removed from the hive. We are seeing the worker bees expelling the drones already. The workers wait by the hive entrance, and block the drones as they try to enter the hive after their daily flight. The worker bees do this to conserve food in preparation for a long cold winter. A drones usefullness is past once the Queen is mated, and he will do nothing but eat honey all winter,( a waste of food which will not be tolerated by the colony.)

Today we picked the honey from 6 beeyards, and brought it into the honeyhouse. We were surprised to find that this honey was a mixture Purple Loosestrife, Buckwheat, and Goldenrod.

Once its extracted and in the tank,  the  taste and color of this unusual blend of delightful fall honeys will tell the story. Everything depends on how it looks, and how it tastes.

Drying Purple Loosestrife Honey


This honey season has been cool and wet, and our Purple Loosestrife Honey is coming in with a high moisture content. Fortunately we have the equipment to dry it down to a exceptable level.

In order to store honey in its pure natural state, the moisture content must be below 19%. A high level of moisture in honey will produce a fermentation, which destroys the flavor and  renders the product inedible.

Small honey producers avoid this problem by  extracting the fully capped frames, and leaving the uncapped  (probably high in moisture ) frames in the hive to be dried, and capped, by the bees at a later date. Commercial operators with  many colonies, have a limited time frame in which to get the honey off the hive and extracted. This makes it necessary to have a setup in the honey-house to dry the honey as it comes in from the hive.

As we bring the honey in, its wheeled off the truck on skids, and left in the cooling room overnight. As it cools,  the few bees remaining in the honey supers vacate, and fly to the window where they cluster. Next day the skids of honey are wheeled into the heating room and set in rows over a slatted floor.

The heating room  is connected to an oil furnace which blows warm air up through the honey supers as they sit on open center skids on the slatted floor.  This arrangement will lower the moisture of the honey by approximately 1% each day. We also have the option, on a hot summer day, of circulating hot air from the attic, through the honey, via the furnace fan, which helps the environment by saving oil, while drying the honey.

Multinational Honey Packing Companies who buy honey from the beekeeper, prefer a low moisture honey. They process our fine Canadian Honey by pasteurization and filtering. The filter takes out the natural pollen, ( and most of the health benefits)  while the pasteurization assures the keeping qualities after they add enough water to bring the product up to 22% moisture. The finished product is a blend of filtered Canadian Honey, water, and a percentage of low quality off shore honey. However the water and filtering  give it a nice clear sparkle in the glass, and the uneducated consumer, happily, scoops it off the grocery shelves.

The moral of the story is – if you want pure natural Honey, read the label on the container. Look for the name and address of the Beekeeper who produced it.

Buy local honey!

You don’t need the water, the off- shore honey, or the artificial sparkle in the glass!

The Warkworth Long Lunch


The Warkworth Long Lunch is one of our favourite local events. This unique celebration is done in support of town beautification. It takes many volunteers all giving their time and energy to make this unusual festival happen.

As we came into the town, we found the main street closed to vehicular traffic and a long row of tables and chairs, stretching  way down the center of the street, past the shops, the town hall, the bank, and even past  some houses. The parking lot beside the Royal Bank contained the big BBQs and other well stocked food tents. The side walks were filled with hungry people who were lining up to get their plates of hot food.

While we waited we enjoyed the music, and songs of the Dudes, who were playing and singing Old Time songs and Golden Oldies.

This year over 1200 people dined at the event, and that’s a huge amount of BBQ beef,and pork, to say nothing of the baked beans and delicious (picked fresh that morning) corn on the cob.

After we had eaten everything on our plates, we went to the dessert tent to secure a piece of delectable homemade pie.

Then,  before going home, we took time to tour the cookie factory and step inside the many boutiques along main street where we saw some wonderful pieces of art, exciting articles of furniture and clothing, and many other interesting artifacts.

It was a perfect way, to spend a day!

What is Creamed Honey?


A question often asked by our  customers at Campbell’s Honey is, “How do you make creamed honey?”

We  appreciate our customer’s interest, and take pride in their high esteem of our natural food products.

Honey Creaming begins with 600 lbs. of freshly extracted honey, which is pumped into a stainless mixing tank and allowed to settle overnight. Next morning the mixer is started, and 60 lb of seed honey is gradually added into the mixer, until the batch is completely blended.

Seed honey is simply creamed honey from a previous batch, that was saved especially for this purpose.  All honey granulates naturally, but often in a coarse granulation that is not taster friendly. This is why the seed  honey is has been selected because its fine crystals insure a smooth, delicious taste on the tongue.

An interesting note, the seed we use to make our creamed honey was selected by a beekeeper for its fine quality, and smooth taste, over seventy years ago.  Each succeeding batch of Creamed Honey over the years has been made utilizing this specially selected seed. Sometimes we wonder if there are still a few of the original crystals left in the mix from the very first batch?

The seed honey is gradually added to the mixer and slowly blended into the new honey,  which is still a warm liquid in the stainless steel mixing tank. The machine  slowly stirs the combination for twenty minutes, after which the blend is poured into plastic tubs and placed in a nearby freezer where it cools overnight.  The honey must be cooled quickly to keep it from melting the seed crystals.

Next day the tubs of honey are moved again, out of the freezer, and into a  refrigerator set at 59 degrees F. ( the ambient earth temperature) so that the seed crystals induce other crystals to grow around them. The  honey mixture then begins a controlled granulation lasting about14 days, at which time those fine crystals will have turned the liquid into a solid, and our delicious spreadable, ‘Creamed Honey’ is ready for the table.

It is interesting to know that the same batch of honey, whether liquid or creamed will always taste differently. This taste difference is caused by your taste buds playing a trick on your brain.  For some reason the tiny honey crystals send a different signal to the brain than does liquid honey.

Lorene enjoys creamed honey at breakfast every morning, while I prefer the liquid. She likes to put it on thick and pile it up high, secure in the knowledge that it won’t drip through the holes in her toast.

Honey in the Comb


Of all the food we eat, there is nothing quite so genuine, as close to nature , or as wildly delicious, as honey in the comb.

To pass around a piece of honeycomb, and watch a wide-eyed, wondering child taste the sweetest most delectable food  known to man,  is a joy beyond  description.

There are many ways and methods of producing comb honey, and all beekeepers have their own favourites. An interesting fact about comb honey, is that the bees are never happy with the process, and usually have to be tricked into doing it.

Comb honey can be made in 2 designs. Ross Rounds are circular combs in a plastic holder. These come in a special plastic super in a circular design, and the bees will not work in them unless they are forced into it by cutting down on their available storage space.

The other method, and my preference, is ‘cut comb,’ or wax foundation in a  deep frame that  can be cut to size.

I use a regular full super frame (5 5/8″ by 16 3/4″) with a single wire across the center to hold the sheet of wax foundation firmly in the frame. Each frame thus prepared,  will yield  a possible 8 pieces of comb. The ideal time to  place these frames in the hive (in this area) is the first week of July.

By early July,  many colonies will have at least one super with 5 or 6 frames of honey. When I find one of these, I pull  the 2 side frames out, and move 2 full center frames to the edges, and replace  these full frames with two ‘cut comb’ frames, leaving a full frame of honey between the two empty ‘cut comb’ frames.  The bees like to fill the center of the super first, and as there are already full frames surrounding the ‘cut comb’ frames in the center, the bees will go ahead, draw out the comb foundation and cap it quickly.

Its important to watch these comb frames carefully, and take them off as soon as they are capped, because thousands of tiny feet walking over them day and night, will soon darken the bright new wax cappings.

As soon as the full comb frames are taken from the bees, we place them in a freezer over night, to kill any wax-moth eggs that  could be waiting to hatch.  The comb is then cut to size, and placed in clear plastic containers for sale

.-comments welcomed-

Bringing in the First Flow


Its been a busy week at Campbell’s Honey, as we begin to harvest the  early honey crop, and fill the shelves in the Honeyhouse store  for our annual August – September honey sales.

Every beekeeper has a different  technique for honey harvesting
. The problem, of course, is to get the honey on the truck, minus the bees.

This can be accomplished by many different means. Years ago, “bee escapes” (devices which allowed the bees to pass one way only) were popular, but the downfall was in lifting the heavy honey boxs, to install the device next to the brood chamber.

Later, “Beego,”an acid, was brushed on a fume board, and placed on the top of the hive. The heat of the sun on the metal board caused the acid to fume, and the bees were chased down.This was effective, and widely used, until evidence of the acid was found in the honey.

This season, our approach is quite different.

First we checked each colony for full honey supers, which we  pried off  and set on their ends, on  a hive top (see picture). When the beeyard was completely checked, and all the full boxes were sitting on the hive tops, we went along and smoked each super. This moved the bees out of the honey frames, and onto the outside of the super, where they be could easily blown off with the bee-blower.

Then, before the bees found it again, we quickly carried the honey to the truck, where we stacked the supers on pallets.

Back at the honeyhouse,  the heavy supers are easily wheeled from the truck to the cooling room.

~ Comments are welcomed ~

Another Super Storage Trailer


Our honey business, like an small child, never seems to stand still, but keeps continually growing and gets a little bigger every season.

Storage space for our empty honey supers has been at a premium for some time. When we were getting established in the business, we stacked our honey boxes in the honey house, but  the heat of the processing equipment encouraged wax moths, and we had to find a different storage facility, so we purchased a used transport trailer.

We parked the 48 foot trailer at the north end of the honey house. It’s capacity is about 1800 empty honey supers. We have been using this for about five years, but it is no longer large enough.

At Campbell’s Honey, we’re fortunate enough have our own wood shop where we manufacture most of our own beekeeping equipment. Each spring, before we unpack the bees from their winter wraps, we spend some time constructing hive lids, inner covers, bottom boards, and honey boxes (which can also be used as brood chambers). In the spring of 2008 we purchased five thousand “one piece” plastic frames which came complete with plastic foundation, and we built enough supers to hold all of these new frames. This is one of the reasons we were so short of storage space.

Honey supers are only on the hives for a few months in the hottest part of the summer. Then they are taken back to the honey house and the honey is extracted from the wax comb and the boxes are put into storage until next year.

Recently we purchased a 53 foot trailer, and just this last week, we built a new cement dock for access. Now, when we’re extracting honey, we can wheel the empty supers directly into this new space.

Another benefit will be added protection for the empty supers from the invasive wax moth. These destructive insects lay their eggs in the wet comb (after the honey is extracted) and the developing larva destroy the wax and fill the supers with cocoon and web. The wooden frames, and beeswax comb is rendered useless, and we lose all the infested equipment. As of now our additional trailer will be tightly closed, air tight, water tight, and insect proof, and by using a very small amount of insecticide in the storage trailer, our honey supers will be safe.

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Sold Out of 2008 Honey!


Campbell’s Honeyhouse store is open for honey sales from Aug 1st, to September 30th each season. We have a special offer that our customers appreciate during that time. When they bring their own containers, we fill them directly out of the honey  tank. This is economical for them, as they have no need to buy plastic honey containers, plus, it’s good for the environment. We are open for bulk honey sales (by the drum), most of the year, and we have just recently sold the last of the 2008 honey crop.

In years past, the bulk of our product was exported by Truck  to the much larger American market. Large ‘Product of USA’ Honey Packers quite openly desire Canadian honey which, because of its light color and gentle flavor, mixes well with cheaper off-shore honey varieties. At the present time there is a world-wide shortage of honey, due to CCD ( colony collapse disease),several years of unfavourable weather, plus the fact that many beekeepers, both in Canada, and the US, have been unable to cope with low honey prices, and huge honeybee losses due to CCD.

Eating locally is becoming vogue in rural Ontario, and we are already noticing a rise in local demand as the trend grows. The ‘100 mile diet’ is fast becoming fashionable, as people choose to consume food produced within one hundred miles of their homes.

Locally grown food including Honey is being promoted by the  Local Fall Fairs as a food product of the ‘100 mile diet,’ and this is encouraging the rise in consumption.

At the present time we are suppliers to a Packer who has a contract to supply local supermarkets and other food stores. We also supply another local Producer / Packer who runs several hundred colonies of his own bees, but who always needs extra honey to fill his contract with a food manufacturing company. Several other smaller Packers, and or Honey Producers, often ask for one of more drums to fill their needs at Fall Fairs and  Farmer’s Markets.  One 45 gal. drum of honey weighs 600 lb. net.

The Summer Bee Pasture


Canadian Agricultural Food Statistics equates a dairy cow with a colony of honeybees. This is because each entity must be tended and cared for by the farmer or beekeeper.  A dairy cow rewards the farmer by producing milk, and butterfat, while honeybees pay their way by producing honey, and beeswax.  These  creatures both need feed, medication, and constant care in order to to remain healthy and produce their distinctive commodities that are so valuable to humanity.

It is fascinating, that both these creatures,  so  different in size, shape, and bodily type, are  so alike in another way. In this case they both live on plant vegetation, The cattle eat the grass and legumes, while the bees gather the nectar and pollen.

Dairy cows and a honey bees are similar, in that they both have two stomachs. The cow uses her first stomach to collect her grazing’s. After she has grazed for a period in the hot summer sun, she finds a  cool spot under a shady tree to lie down, and chew her cud.  To this end, she regurgitates the contents of her first stomach, masticates it by the mouthful, swallows,  and relocates it to her final stomach, where digestion begins.

The honey bee uses her first stomach to collect nectar from the blossoms. When this stomach is full, she makes the journey back to the hive. At this time, a process similar to digestion takes place and  the nectar that was just collected becomes a watery honey, which is then deposited in the honey comb. The worker bees fan the fresh honey with their wings, moving the air through the hive to assist evaporation. The moisture content of the honey must come down below 20% to preserve it against fermentation. When  the bees  are happy with the moisture content, they seal it over by placing beeswax cappings on the cells of the honeycomb.

The golden blossoms of the cultivated legume, “birds-foot trefoil,” are large and prominent this season, and can be seen growing in luxurious blankets along the side roads and in the fields of the area. This birds-foot, is intended to be cut for hay, but in the meantime, is being ‘grazed  by the honeybees.

Cattle graze on the legumes, and grasses, that grow naturally in the pastures and meadows of Southern Ontario. Honey bees graze on the flowers of these species, as well as the blossoms of numerous wild plants. Some of these invaders are termed, “noxious weeds” by the dairy farmer because his cattle will not eat these course plants. These weeds pervading his cultivated fields are pertinacious, and difficult to eradicate.

One of these noxious weeds, much hated by the dairy farmer,  and dearly loved by the beekeeper, is “Vipers Bugloss.” ( The tall blue spiked flowering plant illustrated here,) The common name for this wild plant is, “Blue Devil Weed,” and we are always very glad to see it growing in abandoned fields, and hillsides as it yields a water white honey, that mixes well with clover nectar, and  the honey of other early spring flowers.  It begins to flower in June, and continues to yield nectar until the fall frost.

Comments welcomed ~

Campbell’s Honeyhouse gets some new Lights.


Campbell’s Honeyhouse was built in 1982 from lumber cut and milled right here on the farm.  There was a recession in the spring of that year, and we were able buy the steel for the roof and sides at a good price. The trusses are forty feet wide, and were purchased for $100 each.

We’d been renting a honeyhouse at Roseneath, and learning as we went. We were new beekeepers at that time, and we needed to know what was required in a modern honey extracting facility. After renting for five years we were ready to go ahead, so we drew up the plans and proceeded to build our own honey extracting plant.

My father was a retired carpenter from a local lumber company, and at  age78 he was only too happy to be the foreman on our construction site  It was a learning experience for me, and we had fun working together, building our own honeyhouse. Sons, Peter, Ian, Robert and Jeffery, also worked on the project at one time or another. Each of the boys remembers doing something different on the building, and they have all left their marks on the structure, from the names in the cement of the loading dock, to the signage in the workshops and sales room.

Good things evolve with time, and  although we didn’t know it back in 1982 the honeyhouse was destined to be a work in progress. As time goes by, we are continually up-grading to newer and more modern equipment. Our first extracting machinery of galvanized steel, had been used before, and after a few years it was replaced with two stainless steel rotary extractors. Just recently these machines have been upgraded once again to a single automatic radial extractor that will spin out 6000 lbs of honey in 4 hours. Each time we upgrade there are a number of alterations that need to be made to the interior of the building.

Today, local electricians were busy installing some new lighting fixtures to brighten up the interior.

Extracting honey is such busy time! We try to to get all the jobs done, and everything up and running before the end of July. Its tradition at Campbells, to have fresh liquid honey in the tanks to be ready to pour into our customers containers on the first weekend in August, and this year, we hope, will be no exception.

Yoga, the Quintessential Lifestyle


A young woman,  anxious to shed a nervous fingernail biting habit, was advised by a friend to try Yoga. She did, and her fingernails were soon growing normally. When her friend asked if Yoga had cured this nervous affliction, she replied, “No, but now I can reach my toenails, so I bite  them instead.” ~ author unknown.

After beekeeping, my next most enjoyable activity is Yoga. My wife and I have been practising Hatha Yoga since our oldest child was able to babysit his three younger siblings. We began by taking weekly classes, which have evolved over the years, into a 45 minute session, 6 mornings a week, before breakfast.

Yoga is a series of slow stretching movements designed to strengthen your muscles and lubricate your joints. After an early morning yoga session (trust me) you feel so good you will hardly be able to stand it, and the morning ritual is certain to become a favourite part of your day.

Along with a happy, healthy lifestyle, and a well balanced diet, I credit the practise of Yoga with the fact that, at age 75, I am able  to operate  four hundred colonies of honeybees, mostly by myself, and enjoy every day, as if it were my last.

My wife Lorene, is also healthy and happy, and able to spend large amounts of time helping with the honey,  keeping the house, and playing bridge at  several clubs, both in Canada and the US.

Comments welcome!

The Summer Honey Flow


The weather in Southeast Ontario in April, May, and early June, was unusually cool and wet. Not  exactly the kind of climate we were hoping for, after coming out of a cold winter with a thirty percent bee mortality rate. However as spring turned to summer the cool weather turned hot, the bees surprised everyone. Without delay the strongest hives were split in hopes the new queens would mature, mate, and lay eggs before the first of July; we hoped the hives would get strong before the start of the traditional summer honey flow.

Our hopes were answered, and we began to ‘super’ the hives before the end June,  not only to provide for honey storage, but to cool the strong colonies and keep them content at home. Last week I was adding 6 or 8 supers on a yard of 30 colonies, This week  I have several yards with most of the hives supered, and one perfect yard where every colony has a honey super. Just to set the record straight – I now have my original 400 colonies back, after losing 100 (more or less) over the winter.

There’s more to supering (adding a honey box) then you might imagine. First  and foremost we check the hive to make sure it has a healthy queen laying eggs in the brood chamber. This is important  because if the hive is queenless it will soon die, and we not only lose our year’s honey crop, but probably also the wax frames which are then at great risk for loss or damage by wax moths.

If the hive has a young queen, not yet mated, its very possible that she may come back from her mating flight and enter the honey box above the queen excluder where she will begin to lay eggs. When she fills the honey supers with brood, the worker bees will store the honey below in the brood chambers where the beekeeper cannot get it.

If the hive is not checked for a laying queen before the honey super goes on, a young mated queen may be about to begin laying. At this stage in her life, although she is mated, she has not yet grown to her full size, and as she moves about in the hive she might crawl up through the excluder into the honey box.

We always begin supering with a single box on each hive. This is because Honeybees like to fill several boxes at the same time, which makes a lot of handling and extra work for the beekeeper as he gathers his early honey crop for extraction. The only exception to this, would be if the colony was exceptionally strong, with bees hanging on the outside of the broodboxes. Then we would add an extra honeybox to help cool the hive, and make the colony more comfortable

Later on, we sometimes tease the bees by adding a super of wax foundation (this is undrawn comb as it comes from the bee supply house). We like to put this on top of a box of drawn honeycomb. The bees will fill the super of drawn comb completely, before beginning to draw out the foundation above. They hate starting from scratch on the flat plastic or wax sheets, but when they have no other choice they will draw out the foundation and fill it with honey.

What sweet little creatures they are!

Supering the Hives


The time for ‘supering’ the hives, (or adding honey boxes) comes in early June, right after the dearth, and with the advent of warmer nights, and stronger bee populations. It’s normal for some colonies to be ready for honey supers before the rest.  Hives that have been split will have an old queen in one split, and a new queen in the other. The old queen’s egg laying was not interrupted by the splitting, so her colony will have a larger population, and be ready first. The other half of the split has had to draw a queen, and their new queen will be several weeks later.  I’m finding many colonies at this time, with wall to wall bees on the top super, and the bottom super mostly empty. This has been caused by colder than normal weather, which left the bottom brood chamber too cold for the queen, and she refused to go down.

If swarm cells are observed on the bottom bars of the upper brood chamber, at any time after splitting season is past, the standard practise is to add the honey super, which cools the colony and usually changes their mind-set, from swarming away- to staying home and gathering honey. As you can imagine, temperatures, both inside, and outside the hive, are very important to a colony of cold-blooded insects.

Each honey super consists of eight frames of drawn wax comb, and can, on a good honey season be filled with 60 to 70 lbs of honey.  We usually add these honey boxes one at a time. In this area the early honey comes in slowly over a 4 week period. If 2 supers are added at once, the bees have a tendency to fill each box about half full.  To cut down on handling, and keep the bees honest, we wait till the first box is full, before adding the second.

Another tool exclusive to honey production is the queen excluder.

The queen excluder is a coarse screen, precision made to the exact size that will allow worker bees to pass through, but  block the  queen. The reason for the importance of this tool, is because the queen will always go to the top box of the hive to lay eggs. But the honey supers are stacked on the top of the hive to facilitate the honey harvest. The queen excluder is placed ( like a window screen) over the top of the brood chamber, under the honey boxes, and the queen is  thereby confined to lay eggs and raise the brood in the bottom two boxes of the hive, leaving the honey supers clear for honey storage.

Honey and Hand Cream.


Campbell’s Honey is locally famous for it’s purple loosestrife honey, and another product, called Honey Hand Cream.

Purple loosestrife nectar is gathered by the bees in August in the hottest and driest part of the summer. Because these plants have deep roots in swampy areas they continue to produce nectar all through the summer droughts.

The single variety honey known as Purple Loosestrife, is slightly darker than water-white, and has a slightly stronger flavor. When bottled in glass it can appear a pale shade of green. We like to call it the “medicinal honey” since its been used by doctors to heal bedsores on patients with stubborn conditions that were resistant to standard medical procedures.

Beware of beekeepers that advertise ‘organic’ honey

Although our Purple Loosestrife Honey is derived from plants which are not under cultivation, we do not label our product “organic.”  Its our belief, there can be no organic honey produced anywhere in Canada at this time, because all beekeepers are finding it necessary to apply at least four different chemicals directly to the bees, to keep them alive, and to save them from the ravishes of two different types of blood-sucking mites, a small hive beetle, and several other devastating bee diseases.

Honey Hand Cream is another  popular product which we have been making for several decades. This homemade salve is prepared by hand in small batches, and sold to our many dedicated customers.

The main ingredients are beeswax, olive oil and honey. These constituents are heated, and mixed together with water and borax. The mixture is then beaten until it cools and thickens, at which time it is poured into small jars and labeled. The resultant cream is useful for many skin ailments, especially dry cracked skin on hands and feet.

The Spring Dearth


Each spring in Southern Ontario, after the apple blossoms drop,  the dandelions blow and the lilacs have all turned brown, there comes a disruption in the nectar flow which is caused by an interval between the early spring flowers, and the summer blossoms. This seasonal interruption in the nectar flow is called a dearth, and the bees, predisposed to gathering nectar, become miserable and cross…

At this time I find it best to catch them in their hives, early in the morning, before they have ventured out, and returned empty and ugly.  Several puffs of smoke change their mindset, from brooding disappointment, to  rigorous desperation, and they will grudgingly allow me to rummage around in their nursery, and bread-basket.

Yellow Buttercups are blooming profusely in the pastures and roadsides, but the honeybees  fly right on by.  For some reason they are not attracted to Buttercups.

Bright red Honeysuckles bloom in fence rows and gardens, but the bees can’t access their nectar, stored in the ends of the long tube-like flower. The dearth is a very difficult time in the life of a bee, but fortunately it  only lasts about a week or ten days.

God Save The Queen!


The biggest thrill in beekeeping is always, finding the queen. It’s especially nice to know where she is in the hive, but finding her by definition, is a chore in itself. Either you get lucky, and find her on the first frame you pull, or you search for an hour and end up shaking the bees into another super, minus the queen.

Some queens are so brazen they will lay eggs even as you hold the frame up in the direct sunlight, while the next queen is so shy she runs and hides in the darkest corner as soon as the lid is lifted. Nevertheless it’d be unusual to work in a beeyard for several hours without finding several queens by accident as you work in the hives.

Fortunately it’s seldom imperative that the Queen be located, and there are other, much easier ways to determine her health and existence. During the  spring and summer when the beekeeper pulls a frame or two from the top super, the health and well being of the Queen becomes very obvious. Empty cells, or scattered uneven brood patterns, are a sign of an old or injured Queen, but when the frames are well filled with capped brood, or uncapped larvae and eggs, the Queen is alive and well.

A colony is only as good as its queen, and the queen is the mother of the colony. During the busy summer months she lays up to 2000 eggs a day, and the worker bee numbers soon grow to as many as 80 to 100 thousand. A honey bee gathers two teaspoons of honey in her life, and dies from overwork, or work related accidents such as a head -on collision with an outgoing bee as she is coming in, heavily loaded, for a landing at the hive entrance.

Spotting the queen amid 20,000 workers is a special skill. The trick is not to look for the queen specifically, but to  relax and let your eyes travel across the frame. The queen (if she is there) will jump out at you,( metaphorically speaking.)

A bad weather spell will sometimes keep a young queen from her mating flight. An unmated queen can be as small as a worker, but usually slightly lighter in color. Once mated she will quickly grow longer and thicker, to accomodate the sperm cells  from her mating flight, which she will use to fertilize the worker bee eggs. Hopefully she will have enough to last for her lifetime of 3 or 4 years.

A Mouse in the House


When I bought my first 40 colonies of honeybees in the early 1970’s I knew very little about beekeeping, except that my brother and oldest son already had five colonies and were talking about expanding.  I jumped into the business on a whim, and from that day forward we all learned the science of apiculture together, and called our business “Campbell’s Honey.”

Shortly after starting out, we began to purchase more  bees. Our first venture was 150 colonies from  an elderly beekeeper  who was suffering from heart disease.  To this day I can still remember his blue lips. As his wife told us later, she had never known him make a deal on paper, but  he wrote it out for us on Saturday, and died the following Monday. The deal had been signed, and we were able to buy the bees from his wife. Shortly thereafter we were approached by another retiring beekeeper who had been in the business for forty years and was firmly established with over 350 colonies. Again we were able to make the deal, and at this point we began to think of ourselves as Commercial Beekeepers.

We were able to get established in a hurry, but with old and worn equipment. The beehives were made of  pine lumber and had been sitting outside in the weather for many years. Although they were still serviceable, they were definately showing signs of wear. Its also worth noting that the wooden equipment had been made by many different bee-men, and came in all shapes and sizes. Many pieces were a loose fit  that allowed field mice to crawl  under a hive lid in the fall, and find a warm place to spend the winter. Field mice build their nests in the brood chamber, and chew holes in the comb of several frames. The bees will not repair the comb and the damaged frames must be discarded.

What happens to the mice? The bees get their revenge in the spring. The mice enjoy the warmth and shelter of the hive in the winter, and they get to eat some of the  wintering bees, but when warm spring weather arrives, the bees regain their freedom of movement. Honey bees are very clean insects and the rank smell of a mouse is enough to get them enraged. Venom from bee stings acts by slowing the muscle movement of warm blooded animals, and although some mice do escape,  ten bee stings or more, can be fatal, and quite enough venum  to stop the heart of a field mouse.

Making Increases in Swarm Season


Swarm season is an exciting time for a hobby beekeeper with a swarm box set up and ready to (hopefully)  catch a swarm of honeybees looking for a new home. But more experienced commercial beekeepers are all about preventing swarms, and properly managing increases before the bees draw out a queen cell and ‘split’.

In the old days, commercial beekeepers counted on swarms to make an increase in their  colonies.  Here’s an old-time beekeeper’s rhyme,

A swarm in May, is worth a load of hay. A swarm June is worth a silver spoon.  A swarm in July is not worth a fly.

There are several good reasons why catching swarms has gone out of style with commercial beekeepers. A swarm is an unknown quantity. Nobody knows if the bees are carrying mites, foul brood, or some other bee disease. Bees that swarm are not as able to produce honey because their efforts are focused on producing bees.  The swarming tendency is inherited, so the commercial operator is not usually interested in catching swarms. But he is very interested in preventing his bees from swarming.

I begin to split  colonies as soon as the queen bee is forced down into the bottom box (around May first) where she resumes laying eggs. I make continuous trips about every two weeks to each hive, until the honey flow begins around July first. I pry the supers apart and search for swarm cells that are built on the bottom bars of the top super.  A swarm cell is a queen cell built to expedite a swarm. When I see this cell I split the hive, and this usually succeeds in keeping the colony from swarming.  I want my bees to stay home and produce honey.

There are two kinds of beekeepers, honey producers and queen and nuke producers.  (A nuke is a four frame nucleus of a hive complete with a queen bee).  The queen and nuke producers (bee breeders) produce honey bees and queens for sale. If you are a member of a Beekeeper’s Association, it’s doubtful you will hear much about splitting bee colonies from the membership, because if everyone split their bees to make an increase the Bee Breeders sales would be flat.

A Roving Bee Inspector


There were an estimated five thousand beekeepers in the Province of Ontario in the 1980’s. Many of these people were hobbyists and not up to speed on the prevention, cure or even the proper diagnosis of honeybee diseases. Consequently a malady known as ‘American Foul Brood’ became a huge problem in Ontario honeybees during that decade. This is a contagious disease that spreads quickly when bees from strong hives rob the spore infested honey from weak (diseased) beehives.

June 1990 I was asked to join a special task force of provincial government funded bee inspectors and work for the Dept of Agriculture and Food to stamp out AFB and other bee diseases while educating hobbiests on how to feed antibiotics. We were sent to inspect many different problem areas in the province to ‘search and destroy’ diseased beehives.

Once identified, American Foul Brood must be burned, as there is no known cure, and the spores of the disease will live in the ground for up to 70 years.  We found some bee operations that were totally inundated with the disease, which looks like brown sticky gravy and has a very distinctive sweet and moldy odour. An AFB Stick Test is conducted when a beekeeper pokes a brood cell with a stick and brown rope gravy clings to the stick as its removed.  At that point our only recourse was to have a large hole dug in a local gravel pit. Here the unfortunate beekeeper’s infected hives and equipment was burned, often by the truckload.

The first procedure after finding the disease was to pour half a gallon of gasoline over an open colony to kill the affected bees. This made moving the colony easier, and facilitated burning.

Not everything had to be destroyed each time. When there were only a few colonies affected, we dug a small hole by hand, lit a fire, and burned the diseased combs. Then the empty brood chambers were stacked together with paper, and ignited at the bottom. As the fire caught,  the beeswax coating on the inside of the supers ignited, and the temperature soared to over 1200 degrees F. which is hot enough to kill the spores. Equipment scorched in this way could be safely reused.

One adventure that comes to mind, was an incident at a large apple orchard in the fruit growing area of Niagara. The owner had a few colonies to pollinate his apples, and when his bees became sick he called the Department of Agriculture.

I was dispatched along with a young helper to inspect these colonies. After diagnosing the disease as AFB, we conferred with the owner, and proceeded to burn the two affected colonies. After soaking them with gasoline we lifted them onto my small truck to take them to a suitable place to be burned. My helper was sitting on the open tailgate of the truck, with his smoker still lit. As we drove down the lane the breeze fanned the smoker, which flamed up, and caught in the  fumes emanating from the gasoline drenched hives. Suddenly I heard a  loud “Whoosh” as both hives exploded at once.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt, and no damage done!

I stopped the truck  backed around, and we kicked both burning hives off  the back of the truck and into a grassy ditch where they burned without any more problems.

Miracle in the Beeyard!


If you had  10 colonies of honey bees and half of them died during the winter, that’s quite a loss!  But if you could walk into that same beeyard in the middle of May, and manipulate those  colonies, and half an hour later see 10 living colonies, with busy bees flying in and out, wouldn’t you call that a miracle?

Of course you would, unless you were the beekeeper who made it happen.

How To Make ‘Splits’

It’s all about  watching and working  with each live colony to get them up to full strength in the spring. Feeding sugar syrup if  they are hungry,  checking the Queen’s brood, and adding a frame of fresh eggs from the strong colonies to equalize all the live hives.

Then, by mid May the queen has filled the top super (brood-box) with larva, and the bees have been bringing in nectar and pollen. The queen is forced to go down to the bottom super where she begins to lay in the freshly cleaned honeycomb the workers have prepared.

Along comes the beekeeper and checks the hive. Prying the supers apart , he sees the newly laid eggs, and the abundance of bees in the bottom super, and the miracle begins to happen. He sweeps clean the parts of a nearby dead hive, and sets an empty super on top of a bottom board. Then he takes the top brood chamber from the live colony and sets it on  top of the dead box, making a live two super hive again. Revisiting what’s left of the live hive, he switches the remaining supers and puts the remaining super (the bottom box of the live hive), on top of the 2nd empty super from the dead hive.

The Workers Make A New Queen

It makes no difference which hive the Queen is in, because the workers will raise a new Queen using the fresh eggs which can be found in either super of a strong hive. The workers will know immediately if the Queen is absent, and will begin at once to raise a new one with a freshly laid egg in an elongated Queen Cell and  will increase the feeding of Royal Jelly. In less than 25 days a new Queen will hatch, mate with a drone, and begin laying eggs a few days later.

Special note – When making splits, the live bees are always placed on the top of the empty ‘dead’ supers, because heat rises, and bees are very prone to chill, esp the fresh brood, and eggs.

Sadly enough this Miracle Story is the best case scenerio.  It doesn’t always happen. If the live hives are weak and  the bottom supers empty, the Beekeeper must wait until the colony gets up to strength. My success rate with splits is about 95%, but this year I’ve been through all my colonies and I am still short  35 colonies. I was lucky, in that many of my remaining live hives came up to splitting strength by mid May. Any splits I make later, may not be strong enough to gather honey, when the flow begins in July.

Miracle in the Beeyard!


If you had  10 colonies of honey bees and half of them died during the winter, that’s quite a loss!  But if you could walk into that same beeyard in the middle of May, and manipulate those  colonies, and half an hour later see 10 living colonies, with busy bees flying in and out, wouldn’t you call that a miracle?

Of course you would, unless you were the beekeeper who made it happen.

How To Make ‘Splits’

It’s all about  watching and working  with each live colony to get them up to full strength in the spring. Feeding sugar syrup if  they are hungry,  checking the Queen’s brood, and adding a frame of fresh eggs from the strong colonies to equalize all the live hives.

Then, by mid May the queen has filled the top super (brood-box) with larva, and the bees have been bringing in nectar and pollen. The queen is forced to go down to the bottom super where she begins to lay in the freshly cleaned honeycomb the workers have prepared.

Along comes the beekeeper and checks the hive. Prying the supers apart , he sees the newly laid eggs, and the abundance of bees in the bottom super, and the miracle begins to happen. He sweeps clean the parts of a nearby dead hive, and sets an empty super on top of a bottom board. Then he takes the top brood chamber from the live colony and sets it on  top of the dead box, making a live two super hive again. Revisiting what’s left of the live hive, he switches the remaining supers and puts the remaining super (the bottom box of the live hive), on top of the 2nd empty super from the dead hive.

The Workers Make A New Queen

It makes no difference which hive the Queen is in, because the workers will raise a new Queen using the fresh eggs which can be found in either super of a strong hive. The workers will know immediately if the Queen is absent, and will begin at once to raise a new one with a freshly laid egg in an elongated Queen Cell and  will increase the feeding of Royal Jelly. In less than 25 days a new Queen will hatch, mate with a drone, and begin laying eggs a few days later.

Special note – When making splits, the live bees are always placed on the top of the empty ‘dead’ supers, because heat rises, and bees are very prone to chill, esp the fresh brood, and eggs.

Sadly enough this Miracle Story is the best case scenerio.  It doesn’t always happen. If the live hives are weak and  the bottom supers empty, the Beekeeper must wait until the colony gets up to strength. My success rate with splits is about 95%, but this year I’ve been through all my colonies and I am still short  35 colonies. I was lucky, in that many of my remaining live hives came up to splitting strength by mid May. Any splits I make later, may not be strong enough to gather honey, when the flow begins in July.

Busy Bees Are Happy Bees!


One of the happiest places on earth is the middle of a beeyard on a warm sunny day in May. Thousands of honey bees are noisily buzzing in a constant coming and going… They fly in all directions, like tiny transport planes at a commercial airport, they buzz in to off-load, take a brief respite, tank up again on honey (to re-energize) and off they go for another load of nectar, and pollen. It takes a lot of energy (honey fuels the bee) to haul in nectar from the field, but unbelievably, a strong colony in July can fill a 60 Lb honey super in three days.

A million workers inside these hives are fanning the moisture from the nectar (the honey making process) and making an aromatic scent, which adds to the quiet roar that makes up the ambiance of the bee-yard.

The beekeeper is hardly noticed, and its quite possible to work without gloves on such a day. The bees are so busy they are quite unconcerned and dont seem to notice the beekeeper’s bare hands as the hive is manipulated. The big difficulty is to work without touching, or putting a finger on a bee, which makes working amid thousands of bees without getting stung next to impossible for a commercial Apiarist with a schedule to maintain. There are times when I almost wish I had just three or four colonies, so I could spend all day working with them.

Apple Pollination


Spring flowers in the month of May paint the landscape with dabs of brilliant color.  Yellow dandelions, white plum blossoms, pink and white apple blossoms send the honeybees droning off in all directions, like little airplanes, hungry for the sweet addictive nectar. The beekeeper is also running off his feet, working to get his colonies of honeybees ready to move to nearby apple orchards for spring pollination. Its the season of time management, as each hour in each day is precious to beekeepers, bees and apple blossoms.

Apple trees are living, breathing, beings. Their reproductive cycle erupts in the spring, and their intense excitement and promise is flaunted, like a bride at her wedding, all dressed in stunning pink and white with beautiful scented bouquets. The bees are ready to answer the call to duty. Their job (one that a tree cannot perform) is to impregnate, or pollinate female parts of the flower with male microscopic pollen grains which  the bees gather from other apple trees and blossoms. The tree’s trade off for the service of pollination, is pollen, which is needed to feed the young bees, and of course the nectar from the blossoms makes honey. As the bee flies to the orchard their short body hair attracts a positive electrical charge. The pollen grains attached to a flower’s anthers carries a negative charge. As the bee gathers nectar, the negatively charged pollen grains stick to her hair, and are carried from flower to flower, and in this way, the pollination process is achieved.

We load the colonies on our trucks and move them to orchards as soon as the first blossoms appear in the spring. This procedure is best carried out in early morning, or late evening when most of the field force bees are home in the hive. Apple trees do not all come into blossom at the same time, so we leave the bees in the orchards for up to two weeks to complete the pollination. As soon as the pollination process is completed and we are picking the colonies up to return them home, we can see the tiny apples forming on the trees. This inspiring observation gives us pause, and we think of our bees as tiny creators who have just engendered an apple crop.

A Beekeeper Battles Black Bears


Honeybees, it seems, are plagued with predators, both large mammals and microscopic Tracheal Mites.  But the largest and most evident bee predator is the Black Bear, which has been roving Southern Ontario since before the first settlers arrived. When I began keeping bees about thirty years ago, we seldom saw a bear or experienced  damage in the bee yards.  Although there have always been areas that were prone to bear damage, we were usually able to out guess the bear 95% of the time.

That all changed about 10 years ago when the Black Bears became far more prevalent during the summer months. We were getting hit so often, it was difficult to carry on. We tried every method we could think of. One hobby beekeeper set his 2 colonies of bees close to his house and put the tractor’s front-end loader down over them, which effectively defeated the Bear. This solved his problem, but would not work in a professional situation. Another apiarist put his bees in his barn and locked the door, but the bear smashed in the door and smashed up the hives.

Then American technology (made in China) came to our rescue in the form of a reliable solar-powered electric fencer. Beekeepers soon learned that 3 strands of electric wire stretched around the beeyard would keep the bees safe. The bear soon learned that touching his bare nose on the charged wire, would send an electric current through his body, to his 4 bare feet, and into the ground. The resulting electric shock was great enough to teach him the facts of life in a definite hurry. Today we seldom have any bear damage to the hives, but every bee yard must be protected at all times with an operating electric battery.

Black bears are very specialized, and some of the most successful creatures in the wild. When a mother bear with cubs comes upon an unprotected bee yard she breaks up several colonies to get at the honey. The cubs (without the thick hair of their mother) would stay back, out of deference to the bees, which were furiously stinging everything that moved or smelled  like bear.  Mother bear solves this dilemma by picking up a honey-box and walking on her hind legs, as far as 100 yards to get away from the angry bees, so the cubs could eat. A bear can digest anything it can swallow, and if hungry enough they will eat the wooden frames along with the honey. The frames are strengthened with wire, and the bear will swallow the wire along with the honey and wood. A few days later the strong acid in the bear’s stomach will have dissolved the wire.

Tracheal Mites – Bee Parasites


Nobody gets a free ride, not even a honeybee. Today there are a multitude of pests living on its blood, while other viral foes attack the developing brood in the comb.

Today, we were placing formic acid pads on the top bars of the brood chambers in an effort to eradicate tracheal mites, a microscopic transparent creature which lives in the tracial tubes of the honeybee.

This tracheal mite lives on the bees blood, and will increase in numbers inside the tracial tubes until it weakens and suffocates its host. Formic acid is a naturally occuring substance (which can be found in very small amounts in honey) is lethel to the tracheal mite in a stronger solution. At Campbells Honey, our approach is to soak small pads in formic acid, and then place them on the top bars of the brood chamber, right inside the beehive.

How does formic acid work? The mites are killed when the bees breathe in the strong fumes of the acid. Its essential to wear gloves and use tongs when you apply the acid soaked pads; we must be careful not to come in contact with the solution, which can severly burn our skin. Beekeeping is dangerous sometimes.

Smoking in the Beeyard


All beekeepers smoke when they are working around honeybees. Smoking is considered ok in a beeyard, even in a health conscious society. Honeybees are calmed by the smoke of almost any combustible material, from dry leaves, to dead grass, or wood shavings.

Why does smoke work? Bees are hatched unable to reason, instead they have an inborn reaction to many given situations. One of these is the threat of fire, at which time they rush to their stores of honey, and gorge themselves, perhaps trying to save as much honey as possible before the possible destruction of their hive.

A  bee with a full stomach is a much calmer insect than the one who is a lean, mean, fighting machine.  When the Apiarist prys open the hive cover, he first puffs some smoke under the cover. Then, when the cover comes off, the bees are scrambling down between the  honeycombs, instead of flying up to attack. A honeybee is not concerned with her own life, as her intent is with the safety of the colony.

How would you feel if King Kong Lifted the roof off your house, and began to rummage around in your kitchen and nursery? A real scary idea, isn’t it?

An unsmoked hive that’s being manipulated by the beekeeper feels threatened, and can become almost unmanageable. This has a detrimental effect on the health of the colony, which will not go back to work until they calm down once again. With each bee-sting, a pheromone is given off, and this strong scent enrages the colony, causing many more bees to rush into the fight.

Stripping and drugging.


The dandelions are blooming, and the bees flying, as I parked the truck by Beeyard #1. It was 8:30 am on a warm Monday, and I was surprised to see so much activity so early. I lit the smoker and began lifting lids and inner covers, The bees were wall to wall (as we say when they are so strong they cover the complete hivetop.) I spread a Tablespoon of Oxytet across the hive bars to (a drug) prevent American Foulbrood, and apply 2 strips of Apistan between the middle bars to discourage the Varoa Mites. Varoa Mites suck the blood from the living bees. Its like a person with a blood sucking pumpkin stuck between his shoulder blades. The worker bees are flying back to the hive even as I work, loaded with 2 sacks of bright yellow pollen (one sack on each back leg). They are so happy to be working again after a week’s hiatus of cool wet weather. I work my way along the back row of colonies, happy with the condition of the Colonies. Now I find a colony with only a handful of bees. They have enough honey to eat, but their numbers are down so low they can’t keep the new eggs and developing brood warm. The Queen has been laying, but the new brood is chilled and dieing. I pry out some frames and find the Queen on the first frame I pull, She  looks young and sprightly but  is effectively limited by low population and cool spring weather. I use my hivetool to pry out a few more frames and put the frame with the Queen back in so she won’t get lost. Now I go on ahead searching for a wall to wall colony, with an access of nearly developed brood and lots of bees. I take a couple of frames (making sure the Queen of the donating hive is not on the frames) back to the original cold hive. I place the bee-covered frames on each side of the Queen’s Frame. Now that she has help to keep warm, that colony will thrive.

Soldier Bees


Beekeepers Prepare For Spring Pollination

A hive of honeybees contains anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 worker bees, plus hundreds of drones, (male bees) and only one queen, yet it’s a single colony. The Apiarist (beekeeper) and the bees, both recognize the colony as a single entity. Honey bees are always on the alert to protect their home from attack, whether it be from a bear, skunk, or a human with a sweet tooth.When the colony is threatened, hundreds soldier bees fly out, in total disregard for their personal lives, and thinking only to save the colony sting the intruder to chase it away. If the attack was successfully thwarted, the bees that staved off the attack will certainly die, as their stingers remain in the body of the attacker, and are torn from their abdoman as they fly off.

That the bees recognize the colony as a single entity, is proven by the fact that if a single bee, or a small number of the insects, are attacked or threatened while away from the colony, not one bee comes rushing to the rescue. Single Bees are dispensable, but the colony as a whole is not.

what now?


Most Ontario  beekeepers have lost from a third to over half their bees this winter, and the Summer Honey crop is now in Jeopardy. My 100 dead colonies are cleaned and sitting on the hive bottoms, as if waiting for more bees. What to do? The few bees that are for sale are selling at a premium. My remaining live colonies are strong with good populations, but its been a long winter and the  expanding populations are rapidly eating up the remaining winter feed supply of Honey. Dandilions are the first significant nectar flow, ( the weather channel is calling for a cold week ahead) and we wonder if the dandilion flow will be in time to save the bees from Starvation.

Trouble in the Beeyard.


Unwrapping is not a big Job, and can go quickly if all is well. But when colonies die, the fun of unwrapping is not there. I’m finding too many hives filled with dead bees, and the smell is very unpleasant.

Last October we packed well over 1200 healthy, strong, well fed Colonies, for the winter. This spring we unwrapped less than 900 alive and well.The problem has been getting progressively worse, year after year, and the panic point is fast approaching, where there will not be enough Honeybees to pollinate food crops for Human and Animal feed. 90% of the food we eat depends on natures #1 pollinator the honey bee to pollinate and set the  fruit and seed.

Scientists call this Problem C.C.D. or Colony Collapse Disease, and they refuse to name the Cause (could it be for Political reasons,?) Beekeepers believe CCD is caused by the buildup of Chemicals in the environment which is poisoning the honeybees. Huge Multinational Drug Companies producing hundreds of  different Insecticides, Herbicides, and Fungicides, some of them now Systemic, show up in the nectar as the bees gather it from flowers, and carry it back to the hive, where its fed to the developing Brood. CCD is a problem in Canada, but in the USA its already a disaster. Some countries in Europe have already banned some Chemicals from being used on food crops. There is now a shortage of Honeybees world wide, and its no surprise.  If you think the world food supply is short, you have seen nothing yet!

Spring Trip To The Beeyard


The air was sharp, and the breeze cool, as I pulled my white bee-suit over my boots and blue jeans. It was close to 9 am, on this, the traditional first day of the 2009 Honey season. I was wondering how many colonies had survived the winter, as I tested the bear fence, ( 3 strands of electric wire strung around the yard to deter hungry Black Bears) After Lighting the Bee Smoker I stepped over the electric wire and began opening and unwrapping the Hives.

The Buzzings of an Older Beekeeper

Apr14- 2007

Spring must be a wonderful break for a colony of honeybees. Imagine being a cold-blooded creature shut up in a drafty box on a minus 20 degree below zero, night in January. Twenty thousand contemporaries are right there beside you, and everyone is trying desperately to keep warm by crawling in, warming up, and crawling out of the cluster, between frames of honey in the comb. The honey must be kept warm too, because Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper depends on the Sweet Nectar being soft enough to eat, without teeth or even a Jaw to crunch it. Honeybees are Miracles going everywhere to Happen, and Humanity has been taking them completely fore granted for thousands of years.

Spring is here, and its almost time to unwrap the winter insulation and set the bees free to fly in and out, unobstructed by the black Plastic wrap that has shielded them from the chilling winter wind, and snow. The weather is still too chilly for the bees to navigate. A daytime high of 61*F. is needed to provide enough heat to keep a honeybee warm enough for coordinated Flight.

But soon now, temperatures will soar, the sun will warm the earth, the hives will buzz and the beekeeper will once again dream of sweet liquid gold filling the empty honey combs.

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