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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.
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Thursday, October 25, 2007
The honey didn't mess up my kitchen, but pouring my blue ribbon wax block ten times did. I have drips and drops of wax on my kitchen floor that I have been ignoring for a while. They look like the picture above - little wax blobs that have dirt sticking to them.
I read on the Internet that you can remove wax from carpets and floors in the following way:
1. Heat a dry iron
2. Take a piece of brown paper such as a brown paper bag (one layer)
3. Lay the brown paper over the melted wax on the floor
4. Put the hot iron on top of the paper right over the wax drop
5. Do not move the iron. Leave it in the same place for at least one minute
6. When you remove it the wax will have melted and soaked into the brown paper
7. If any is left on the floor, like the shiny area you can see in the last picture, simply wipe it off with a paper towel.
Isn't the Internet an amazing source of helpful hints?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Today I opened the two hives to check on the Ziploc bags of honey I left on them about 10 days ago. In Mellona, most of the honey had been eaten and I didn't see many small hive beetles - I believe the cooler nights are taking their toll on the growth of SHB. I pulled the bag out and hung it over the deck rail. See how the bees gather around the slit (on the top of the rail). The rest of the bees clustered over the honey that gravity pulled to the lower corner.
I put a bag of 2:1 sugar syrup in Mellona and cut a slit in it. I also returned the remains of the bag of honey, pulling the corners up against the hive body to encourage gravity to draw the honey toward the slit.
In Bermuda, the situation was about the same. Most of the honey was gone from the bag. In this hive I discovered small hive beetles clustered in the zipped opening of the bag.
See them in the last picture? It's not clearly focused - the camera focused on the bees behind the bag on the frame of honey. I squashed the beetles by pinching closed the zipped area - some escaped by flying away.
In this hive I returned the honey bag, turned upside down with the split against the frames, again raising the corners of the bag to encourage the help of gravity. I added a bag of 2:1 sugar syrup beside the original bag and using a sharp knife, cut a slit in the bag.
The whole time I fooled around with this task, I kept thinking of Sue Hubbell's book that I am reading, A Book of Bees, in which she gently points out that when we approach the hive with the hive tool, every time we free a part of the hive - like lifting up the inner cover - we are destroying the hard work of propolizing the hive to keep the cold air out.
I know I'm in Atlanta where it's 70 something today and almost every day of at least 8 months of the year, but I feel bad that after I do my beekeeping tasks, the bees have to redo work that they didn't destroy - I did.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
On the bee forums on the Internet (Beemaster, Beesource) the general belief is that it is less messy to extract honey than to do crush and strain. Every beekeeper has a different opinion about everything beekeeping, so here's mine.
I did extracting at the Folk School in a beekeeping class I took, and it was incredibly messy. When we were finished, there were so many items to clean, not to mention the floor, table tops, etc. When I use crush and strain to harvest honey, I put cardboard under everything and the clean-up is minimal....the filters, the bucket, the pan into which I cut the comb, the pestle, the knife, and the rubber spatula. I do mop the floor but I don't experience honey everywhere.
Yesterday I made apple butter - 16 pints, but one broke in the water bath. I do this every year from the delicious apples I buy in the N Georgia mountains. I have never had such a messy experience. Apple butter is everywhere in my kitchen. And I've washed pots and pans, wiped the counters, cleaned the stovetop. What a mess and this morning I still have to clean the stovetop yet again because I was too tired to do it before I went to bed!
The apple butter is delicious, but so, so, so much messier a process than any day of harvesting honey.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Early this morning the bees were up - they looked like they were doing orientation flying. This is a warmer morning than we've been having and that temperature rise may explain this more-summer-than-fall behavior.
I had a break in the day this afternoon and went home to feed the bees since I was in the mountains this weekend and missed my inspection.
Last Sunday when I did a talk at the Atlanta History Center, I was unloading my supplies when the rolling cart onto which I was putting my hive, honey jars, etc. tipped over onto the cobblestone drive. Everything crashed onto the ground. The honey jars remained intact (amazing!) and the hive I borrowed from a friend sustained a dent, but all looked OK for my talk.
When I began my talk I picked up the frame of honey I had brought to discover that it had detached from the bottom of the frame in the fall onto the cobblestones. It also was leaking honey. I had a piece of waxed paper where it could sit during my talk and demonstration, but at the end of the day, with kids touching it, etc., it was not good for much.
I was saving this frame of honey to feed the bees in the winter. However, we are having the worst drought in at least 25 years in Georgia and my bees are eating their winter supplies. I wrote on Beemaster, and the repliers suggested that I could feed the honey to the bees just like sugar syrup.
Today at my break, I filled two Ziploc bags with the honey and put each bag on top of the frames in each of my two hives. I wanted to put a bag in each hive to discourage robbing if one had extra food and the other didn't. I cut a slit in each bag about 3 - 4 inches long and left it for the bees. I hope they love the fruits of their labors as much as I do!
Also in the drought, their water source had completely dried up over the weekend. I refilled it and left to go back to work, satisfied that at least for today, I had been a good beekeeper.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
This weekend in N Georgia there were asters of many sizes and colors blooming everywhere. We stay in the mountains at my house across the valley from Black Rock Mountain so we often hike there.
At Black Rock Mountain State Park, there's a lake with a path to walk around it. We saw tons of these white asters, covered with honeybees and other bees as well. The first picture is a honeybee on the aster. The second picture is some other bee, also enjoying the aster.
I'm reading Sue Hubbell's A Book of Bees. She raised her bees in Arkansas, but says in her book that in the fall, the bees feed on asters as much as they feed on goldenrod. Either flower makes a rank-tasting honey, but mostly beekeepers leave this honey on the hive for the bees.
In the city of Atlanta we don't have much fall flow, but out in the country or up in the mountains, goldenrod and asters - blue ones and white ones like these are everywhere in abundance right now.
From reading the Internet today, I believe this is heath aster, or aster ericoides, found prolifically in Georgia. I'm not sure what these flowers are, but if you want to see a lovely collection of aster photos, click here.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
She chooses the hive from which to make a queen based on many factors including honey production (which she said was 15% genetics and 85% management), hygenic behavior, gentleness, and several other factors. She said to determine whether a queen was raising bees who were hygenic, you can do the following:
- Cut a section of comb out of a brood frame - about 3- 4 inches round or square
- Count the number of empty cells, ones with pollen, or ones with honey so you'll know how many in the section did not contain brood to begin with
- Freeze the section overnight in the freezer
- Return the section to the brood frame and toothpick it back in place
- The next day (24 hours later) check on the section and count the empty cells.
Isn't that fascinating?
BTW, her reference for a good book about queen rearing is Successful Queen Rearing by Spivak.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
The kids who came to the talk (see previous post below) were interested as much in the wax as in the honey that I had for them to taste. This young man wanted to smell the wax block. I can understand how he feels - the smell is heavenly and it is as if you are standing in between the hives on a warm day to smell a wax block.
Everyone was interested in the chunk honey so I opened the jar so they could taste it with popsicle sticks.
For the last of my three talks, my sweet angel grandson showed up to help me. I am holding him and answering questions in the last picture!
Today I did three talks at the Atlanta History Center about harvesting honey as a part of their Harvest Day event. I took bee stuff to help illustrate what I had to say. Here's what my table looked like - you can see that I took an empty frame, a frame with small comb built on it, a frame with larger comb and a completely filled frame. I also took a borrowed model hive - an 8-frame medium. I took my hat and veil, my gloves, my bee brush. I had some honey to show how you harvest it - cut comb, chunk and clear. And I took wax both in my big wax block and in smaller blocks.
The kids who came liked trying on my bee veil and tasting honey. This is the first time I've given a talk about beekeeping to non-beekeepers and I had fun. I hope I get to do it again.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
I also saw a Varroa mite on the back of a bee, so I did another powdered sugar shake as well. Today was a pest control inspection!
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
I have been appalled that "ginormous" is now a word that is accepted and is in the dictionary. I certainly don't want to supply any more terrible contributions to the English language, so I want to do my part to rectify an error.
Dr. Paul Arnold is a "Palynologist" not whatever I labeled him earlier (not writing it again to avoid continuing the trend in the ginormous direction.)
OK, so let's look at the word. Wikipedia says
"Palynology is the science that studies contemporary and fossil palynomorphs, including pollen, spores, dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs, chitinozoans and scolecodonts, together with particulate organic matter (POM) and kerogen found in sedimentary rocks and sediments. Palynology does not include diatoms, foraminiferans or other organisms with silicaceous or calcareous exoskeletons."
I heard from Dr. Arnold today about the analysis of my pollen sample. Here is what he said:
"Sorry it has taken me so long to look at your specimen! You had what seemed to be quite a bit of tulip poplar, and some magnolia pollen. Also, quite a bit of rosaceous pollen was found in your specimen (possibly blackberry, strawberry, apple, etc.). Holly pollen was also present in pretty large amounts, as was another very large pollen grain which I have not seen before. I keyed it out through my pollen keys, and it seemed to lead me to either a type of lily or yucca plant. I’m not 100% sure about this last grain, since I have never made a reference slide of yucca, but I wouldn’t rule that possibility out. All in all, a pretty typical spring woodland honey (with the exception of that last grain)."
I wrote back that this super was filled by the bees in early July - actually late June/early July.
Here's his response (what a nice guy - he ran my specimen again.)
For those of you who care about words like I do, here is Wikipedia's description of how the term originated:
"The term palynology was introduced by Hyde and Williams in 1944, following correspondence with the Swedish geologist Antevs, in the pages of the Pollen Analysis Circular (one of the first journals devoted to pollen analysis, produced by Paul Sears in North America). Hyde and Williams chose palynology on the basis of the Greek words paluno meaning 'to sprinkle' and pale meaning 'dust' (and thus similar to the Latin word pollen).[5"
So there you go - and down with English additions like ginormous.....
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
For my book club where we read Hive of Suspects by Sheila Pim, every item that we ate was made with honey. From right to left in the picture:
**A Waldorf type salad with apples, grapes, dates, walnuts, celery and a honey/mayonnaise dressing from The Backyard Beekeeper
**Honey glazed carrots from the Vermont Beekeepers' Cookbook
**Chicken fingers, rolled in balsamic vinegar and honey, then in breadcrumbs and baked from The Backyard Beekeeper
**Homemade biscuits with either plain honey in the honey server or comb honey in the box
**Lemon Hive Cake with a honey glaze and lemon frosting
The book was good and the food was good and I sent everyone home with a jar of honey from my bees.
I finished my beehive cake this morning for my book club meeting tonight when we are talking about A Hive of Suspects by Sheila Pim. I can't get over how cute it turned out! The bees are made with yellow jelly beans and almond wings. The cake is a lemon cake....really yummy - I tasted the crumbs when I put the two halves together!