Welcome - Explore my Blog

I've been keeping this blog for nine years and I began my 10th year of beekeeping in April 2015. Now there are about 1250 posts on this blog. . Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

Even if you find one post on the subject, I've posted a lot on basic beekeeping skills like installing bees, harvesting honey, inspecting the hive, etc. so be sure to search for more once you've found a topic of interest to you. And watch the useful videos and slide shows on the sidebar. All of them have captions. Please share posts of interest via Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

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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Monday, June 22, 2015

Mark Winston's Manifesto

I was lucky enough to hear Mark Winston in the spring of 2014.  He is the author of the Biology of the Honey Bee that I and many others studied for Master Beekeeper.  He writes essays on his blog and his essay today just blew my mind.

Please go and read every single word of it.

I hope to have the opportunity to hear him in person again soon.  He has some good YouTube videos:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Now THIS is a Beard

This hive started from a package that I got from Jarrett Apiaries at the beginning of bee season.

I got home in the 90 degree June (??? - feels like August) Atlanta evening and found this hive looking like:

And when I went around to the back, there were even more bees consigned to the outside of the hive!

This is a HUGE hive and I have not opened up the screened bottom board.  I haven't done that for the last two summers.  But for this hive, I may have to.

I wanted to give them room to spread out inside the hive but it was 8 PM when I got home.  So I went out and put on two empty boxes - undrawn frames - just to give them some hangout room inside the hive.  (This hive has a slatted rack at the bottom.)

I carefully moved the top to avoid upsetting the bee beard at the back and gently put those girls on the inner cover.  Still it was hard to find a handhold.  I only got stung once in this whole maneuver, though, on the ball of my thumb.  I put the two empty boxes on and closed the hive up.

One bee seemed interested in the salty sweat on my hand:

However, as night fell, the beard was hardly disturbed and no bees appeared to go inside. I expect the space needs to be distributed throughout the hive for them to take advantage of the extra boxes I gave them. 

After a hot night, the beard was only slightly smaller this morning, but there were no bees bearding at the back of the hive.  I'll put some beer caps on the inner cover to lift it up a little and that might help as well.

The nectar flow is over and it's time to harvest and make splits. I'm not certain about this hive because at Jarrett Apiaries, they use oxalic acid, so this hive may not be able to deal with varroa mite on its own.  Still, it's such a strong hive that I will make some overwintering nucs from it for the winter.  

I'll have my work cut out for me for the next couple of weekends!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Deep Dilemma

My hive in Rabun county died. Robin Line with whom I play Words with Friends wrote me a note on our ongoing game to tell me that there had been a pesticide kill and all the bees were dead.  He told me he had removed a large pile of bees from in front of the hive and that there had been no activity. They had sprayed Roundup on part of their garden to get rid of weeds and the next day the bees were dead.

He was sick about it and got a late spring nuc to replace the bees so I went up to the farm and installed them. I took apart the dead hive and felt just ill to see the thousands of dead bees inside the hive on the screened bottom board:

So I dumped the bees out and started over.  As I drove from Atlanta (leaving all my equipment behind except for two medium boxes), I started to remember that the new hive would be housed in a deep nuc.

Oh, no.  I didn't bring a deep with me and I couldn't remember what had happened to the deep I had up in the mountains for one of the two hives I had last year.  Perhaps I had taken it back to Atlanta.  If I were lucky, maybe it would be in the basement in my house in Rabun county, but I didn't remember exactly storing it there.  Although as I thought about it, I began to convince myself that of course it would be in the mountain house basement.

Then I decided that it wasn't there and that I had taken it home to Atlanta.  Worried about this and unable to listen to my book on tape for the thoughts in my head, I called Julia to confer about what I might do.  Suppose I didn't have a deep?  There were two hives up at the farm last year and I had left a two box medium hive and a three box medium hive which was the one that survived the winter (then killed by Roundup).

We talked about maybe I could put two medium boxes (empty) one on top of the other and put the deep frames in the top of the two boxes.  The bees would build comb extending from the bottom of the deep frames into the remaining about 3 inches but that would be OK.  So that was what I decided to do...make a make-shift Warre hive.

I stopped at the mountain house and sure enough, no deep hive in the basement.  I arrived at Robin's farm about noon.  I stopped by the barn where I had left a box and lo and behold, it was the deep from last year.

Problem solved.

I installed the hive into the deep and put two medium boxes on top of that with some drawn comb in each one.

This hive will collect honey to make it through the winter but we will not harvest from it.  The sourwood hasn't started blooming yet in N Georgia (although it may have begun about now) and they can gather nectar from it for the winter.

Cross your fingers that this hive survives and thrives!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Video of a Queen Moving Around the Hive

This talented photographer/beekeeper, Anand Varma, has made this video of the queen moving around the hive. He attached a fluorescent marker to the queen's back and shot this in black light in the hive. On my computer, at first it looked like the video wasn't actually posted, so be patient if it takes a moment or two to load. Since Mr. Varma is allowing people to embed his video in their websites, I wanted all of you to see it:

I wanted to show how a queen bee moves around her hive so I attached a fluorescent marker to her back and made a time lapse of her walking around under black lights.

Posted by Anand Varma - Photographer on Friday, May 15, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

WABE and **Me** - a Conversation about Allergies and Honey

Our local public radio station, WABE 90.1 FM, sent reporter, Michelle Wirth, over to my house to interview me and to look at and listen to my backyard hives. She spent a good part of last Thursday afternoon over with my hives and me.

As the day went on, she got more and more comfortable with my bees. In the end, I had to bake cookies for our MEETUP meeting that night and left her with the bees to tape sounds of the hive. She had gotten so comfortable with them that, wearing a jacket and veil, she was right up beside the hive surrounded by thousands of foragers coming home!

Here's the link to the radio show and about ten photos that her photographer took while they were here.

TED Talks on Bees

Here are all I could find:

Anand Varma
Marla Spivak:

Noah Wilson-Rich

Dennis VanEnglesdorp

John Miller

Dino Martins

Bees and Hexagons

Monday, May 18, 2015

Queen Problems in the hive

I checked on my doubly caught swarm today.  They apparently had a poorly mated queen who was laying spotty brood and lots of drones. So a month ago I gave them the resources to make a new queen.

Today I checked to see if they had made a queen and gotten rid of the bad one.

No is the answer to that question.

She has a terrible spotty brood pattern.  I gave this hive a great frame of brood and eggs but they did not successfully supercede this queen or perhaps there wasn't an egg suitable or they didn't see the need.

To keep resources available for my hives, I keep a nuc in my backyard apiary.  I made it with frames of brood and eggs from both of my strong survivor hives.  Today when I looked into it, they have a good queen, are drawing straight comb (another sign of good genetics) and have spare brood and eggs.

At first glance this may not look like a blue ribbon frame to you, but it certainly does to me.  There are eggs in almost every empty looking cell on the right side of this frame.  It will be perfect to steal from this hive and move to the community garden double caught swarm hive.

Maybe this time they will find a suitable egg and supercede the failing/pitiful queen. 

My backyard hives are all doing well.  The two packages that I got from Jarrett Apiaries are thriving but the bees in both hives are terrible cross-comb builders.  I tried today to influence them to build their comb straighter.  Most likely their worst boxes I'll put lower in the hives for them to have over the winter and then remove them next year, if they live through the winter.

All of my backyard hives, including the nuc, needed added boxes today, which I happily gave them. 

I'll let you know how the double swarm hive deals with the frame of brood and eggs.


Tom Webster, Heat and Nosema

I heard Tom Webster speak on Wednesday night at the local bee club meeting. Dr. Webster is at Kentucky State University and focuses his research on nosema.

He had slides to show how nosema lives as a parasite in the bee's gut. The spore of nosema sends out a tube which finds purchase in the wall of the bee gut lining and embeds itself. Nosema really messes up the bee's digestion then and eventually, if nosema gets the best of her, she dies from lack of nutrition since her digestive system is compromised.

I had a hive which is one of my survivor hives who appeared to have nosema over the winter. When the bees went on cleansing flights, the hive was covered with brown streaks of bee feces. I was sure they would die since I was not treating with anything. But when spring came, the hive has survived and is making honey like crazy as we speak.

Dr. Webster said that without lab proof, there's not a sure diagnosis and sometimes bees get diarrhea for other reasons, but also the presence of diarrhea/nosema does not always mean the hive will die.

Essentially he said the best way to address nosema is to get rid of old wax. He didn't say keep old comb for five years like UGA is now saying. He said GET RID OF OLD WAX.

I raised my hand and said that I have been cutting out the old wax and then dipping the frames in boiling water for 1 minute. When the frame is pulled out of the stewpot, the thin layer of melted wax on the top of the water coats the frame as it comes out. I wanted to know if that wax would still contain microbes for nosema.

Interestingly Dr. Webster said that heat will kill microbes so the boiling water should do them in, while freezing frames would just suspend the microbe. Once removed from the freezer and returned to room temperature, the nosema microbe would be alive and happy.

Since we often recommend freezing cut comb and chunk honey to kill wax moth eggs which might be in the wax, I found that really interesting.

Cold will kill eggs of bugs but will not kill microbes.

Heat kills.

Note: Feedback I got from a reader makes me want to write a little clarification as an addendum to this post:

When you make cut comb honey or chunk honey, you always freeze it so that your friend/customer doesn't open the jar or box to find wax moth larvae floating in their honey. Freezing the product kills the insect eggs. Obviously you can't heat either of these products or all the wax would be melted.

However, when you are cleaning frames, boiling water kills everything in the wax: wax moths, eggs of whatever might have been in the comb (roaches, wax moths, SHB), and microbes for nosema.

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