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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a!
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

Need help with an Atlanta area swarm? Visit Found a Swarm? Call a Beekeeper.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Feeding Frenzy Two

Today I finished cleaning up from our first harvest.  I put out the wax - still sticky with honey in a pan and in two filters.  Here's the amazing progression over the course of a short time as the bee foraging scouts got the word out:
11:23 AM


11:50 AM



11:51AM


12:14 PM


I didn't go back down until 4:30 and it's all over now but the shouting.  Here's what it looks like now:



Amazing, what quick work they made of cleaning up the comb.  There are still bees in the filter with the dark comb in it.  It's stacked pretty deep because it is the wax from one 8 frame super.  So the bees burrow down to get the drips of honey.  

We have NO nectar at all right now, so they were thrilled for this opportunity.  I'm sure bees came from all around.  I could see their flight paths as they flew from the back to the front of my house, so clearly they were not in any way all from my hives.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Queenless Hive - How to Move a Frame of Brood and Eggs Without Accidentally Including the Queen

Julia and I inspected our hives at Chastain a week ago.  We discovered to our dismay that my hive was queenless.  There was no sign of queen cells and the bees, while there was no queenless roar, were diminshing in population.  We added a frame of brood and eggs from Julia's hive at Chastain and crossed our fingers.

For best results in adding a frame of brood and eggs, the beekeeper should add a frame weekly until the hive has established a new queen.  Michael Bush talks about this in the queenless hive that has resulted in laying workers, but it holds for any queenless hive:  adding a frame of brood and eggs weekly allows the best possibility of the hive being able to become queenright.

So this weekend I need to move a frame of brood and eggs from one of my hives at home to my Chastain hive about 25 minutes away from here.

As you know, I edit the Georgia Beekeepers Association newsletter with my friend, Gina.  We asked Noah to suggest a question for Aunt Bee, our Dear Abby of the Georgia bee world.  Noah suggested a question about how to transport a frame of brood and eggs to a queenless hive.

I also asked him to answer the question.   He said he had always heard to wrap the frame in a towel soaked in warm water and put it in a cooler to maintain its warmth.  I thought that sounded good.  What I typically do is drop the open brood frame into a pillow case and drive like mad to the far away location.

That is, of course, not the safest plan!

So to confirm Noah's suggestion, I went online "googling."

I found the suggestion on Beemaster forum to wrap the frame in a warm damp towel for transport.  As I explored I found a post from one of my favorite posters on all the bee forum places.  This was from Indypartridge who posts on Beemaster but I found his advice on Homesteader.

Generally the best way to move brood is with the nurse bees to keep them warm.  Most people removing an open brood frame are afraid that they might accidentally take the queen.

This is what Indypartridge said:

"I can understand being nervous about accidentally transferring the queen along with a frame of brood from the strong hive to the weak. ........you can simply shake off the bees and give the weak hive a frame of eggs & open brood. If you want to give the weak hive an even better boost, you should transfer nurse bees along with the frame of brood. Do it this way so you don't transfer the queen:
1) Take a frame of eggs/larva from the strong hive. Shake off all the bees.
2) Put a queen excluder on top of the strong colony.
3) Add an empty box on top of the excluder. Put the single frame in the box.
4) Cover up the hive, leave for an hour or two.
5) Come back, the frame will be covered with nurse bees (and no queen).
6) Put the frame of eggs/larva & nurse bees in the weak hive.

I use this method for making nucs and splits when I don't want to spend time looking for a queen."


You could then put the brood frame with the nurse bees into a nuc box for transport.  Typically a hive will pretty readily accept nurse bees from another hive.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Feeding Frenzy

After the harvest, I always put the dripping frames from crush and strain back onto the hives for the bees to clean them up.  So last week when we harvested, I did that - put the frames back onto the hives.  Probably this week I should take those boxes off of the hive because the bees will not draw any more wax this year.

Left in the filter buckets is the comb from the crushing and it always has some honey left on it.  In past years I've washed that comb and then put it in the solar wax melter.  For the past two years I have been putting the crushed comb out for the bees to clean up.  I put it far away enough from the hives to keep robbing from happening but close enough for them to find it (hopefully my bees find it and not bees of my neighbors).

Here's what it looked like at 7:24 this evening in the pan that I left out for the bees to clean:






They are upside down in the pan and having a field day cleaning up the comb from the harvest!

The Power of the Sting

Now that I am in my ninth year of beekeeping, stings are relative in their impact on me.  Often I get stung on my hands since I don't usually wear gloves, but most of the time within a half hour, I have no idea where I was stung or how many times.

Don't get me wrong - I often inspect hives and don't get stung at all, but probably do get stung about once a week during bee season.

Julia and I went to Chastain to check on the hives there.  We have had three hives there, but she took the swarm hive she collected and took it to her mountain house to gather sourwood honey.  So there are two hives now at Chastain:  her hive which overwintered there and my hive which was a swarm collected by a beekeeper who wanted to donate it to Chastain for teaching purposes.

First we opened her hive.  It was doing well, but not busting at the seam with bees.  There were plenty of bees in the hive.  We saw a lot of larvae being pulled out of their cells by other bees.  This larvae was white and all the way to the stage where their eyes are developing.  We wondered if this were a particularly hygienic queen or if the bees had been affected by pesticide.




I love the last photo where there was old comb and the bees added to it this year with new.

We have been told that the city doesn't use pesticides on the golf course.  Apparently they can't afford it so they just keep the course well cut.  (The hives are in the center of one of Atlanta's biggest parks and golf courses).  However we noticed an area right by the hives that had been sprayed with Round-up and when we spoke to the directory of the Chastain Conservancy, he told us that they use a good bit of Round-up in the area of the quonset hut where the hives are.

Julia's hive did have eggs, an obviously thriving queen and stored honey.

In the process of the inspection, she went to her car to get a frame.  Her ten frame boxes included one box that only had 9 in it and she had an extra frame in her car.  We had draped the hive with pillow cases to keep the bees calm, but when Julia returned, she rapidly pulled off the pillow case and as I reached for a frame, I got nailed in the third finger of my left hand.

I walked away and flicked (I thought) the stinger out.  A few minutes later I realized I had not gotten the stinger so I used my fingernail to get it out for good.  My finger felt tight and swollen.  It has continued to feel like that all day.  A couple of hours after the incident, I noticed another stinger in the joint of my finger.  No wonder it continued to hurt so much.  It is now hours after the incident and my finger is still swollen and hurts.

We opened my hive to bad news - no queen.  The hive had requeened itself recently and we had noticed at the last inspection that the queen appeared to have gone off to get mated.  But she clearly did not succeed and I did not bring over a frame of brood and eggs every week as I should have until I clearly had a laying new queen.


We went through frame and frame and there was no sign of a queen.  Julia very generously gave me a frame of eggs from her hive and we put it into the queenless hive.  Hopefully they will make themselves queenright before winter.  I'll try to do a better job of paying attention to their status and add more brood and eggs if necessary.

You may notice the air-cast on my right foot.  I've had to wear it now for almost a month for a torn ligament.  It really has hampered my beekeeping.  I was so grateful for Julia who could bend her leg and pick up things, etc. in a way that I cannot with this air-cast on my leg.



Monday, July 14, 2014

Cannibalism in the Bee Yard

Today the bee-eaters were out in force.  At this time of year I often see the European hornet in the beeyard, looking for bees to feed their young.  One such hornet has camped out on the post to the stair railing of my deck, keeping her eyes on the comings and goings of the bees in my nearby hives.  While she is large and fierce looking, she is not so much a danger to me as she is to the bees.  She grabs bees and whisks them off to feed her babies.



Although I caught her on this shrub, most of her time she spends on my deck stair post.

 

From this vantage point, she has a great view of the bees as they come and go.  She didn't like my presence and although she didn't sting me, she dive bombed my hair as she did the day before.  It worked.  I moved.   


Although I didn't get a shot of it, I saw a bald-faced hornet struggling with a bee.  The hornet finally won the battle and carried the still-fighting bee off to feed its family.

I think I've gotten a photo of the bald-faced hornet in its cannabalistic glory every year so I'll have to watch over the next few days for another opportunity to capture its image.

Maker Camp at Google+ (free) makes bee condos

I got an interesting email today from Maker Camp and Google+.  Apparently they run a daily free camp for kids 13 - 18 about making different interesting and exciting projects.  They wrote to me because I have a bee blog and tomorrow they are making condos for solitary bees.

I've seen lots of bee condos on the Internet, but this seems like a fun project.  Here's the link for tomorrow's project.  Maker Camp looks intriguing.  I watched a video on how to make LED decorations for your shoes so you can truly light up a room!  It looked easy and fun.

So I plan to keep watching what they are doing but because the project looked like so much fun (and my grandchildren are still too young for such fun at ages 8, almost 5, and almost 3), I wanted to put it out there so some of you might enjoy doing the projects.

I may try a few even if I'm not 13 - 18.  All you do is tune in at 11AM PT/2 PM ET every day until August 15 when it is all over.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Crushing with Bear's Amazing Honey Crusher

This weekend Jeff, my son-in-law, and I harvested honey.  I've been not as active with my beekeeping because I am wearing an air-cast on my right leg.  I tore a ligament at Christmas and it hasn't gotten better so I have to do this for at least a month to allow the ligament to heal.  So I was grateful for his help.

First we went to the Morningside garden hives.  These were the latest installations we made this year and they do not have any honey to harvest, but to get to the hives I have to climb straight up a hill and I knew I would need Jeff's help to do anything with these hives.  I haven't looked at them in a month.  They are on a hill covered with kudzu.  Kudzu can grow one whole foot overnight.  It's known as the vine that ate the south and our beehives are no exception.

The entrances to both hives were covered with kudzu.  The bees were flying in and out just fine, but seemed grateful that we unearthed their entrances.  We tugged and cut the kudzu.  We also left a jar of water on each hive in a Boardman feeder.  Both hives were doing well but only had enough honey for themselves so we patted them on the top cover, frowned at the kudzu to encourage it to stay away, and left the hives for another day.

At my house we only harvested from Sebastian's hive.  We have at least two other hives with lots of honey to harvest, but we stuck to just this one.  We took two full boxes of honey off of this hive.  We crushed and strained the honey with Bear's wonderful present.  It is so mammoth that it is the Paul Bunyan of crushers.

Jeff wielded it first.  You can see in the photo that it crushes much more real estate than any other pestle we have.  What a wonderful gift!  Thank you so much, Bear.


Then I took a turn - great fun to crush with this southern pecan crusher.

We will harvest the rest soon, but it was fun to get a start on the season.


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Lovely Greens Article

Tanya, a beekeeper, gardener, soap maker and nice person, from Lovely Greens asked me to write a guest post on how to get started keeping honeybees.  If you'd like to read the post, here's the link.

I was out of town at a conference when it appeared a week ago, but wanted you all to know about it.  I certainly appreciated Tanya featuring my beekeeping and my blog.

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