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I've been keeping this blog for nine years and now there are over 1200 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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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mutabilis Rose and my Bees

My mutabilis rose burst into bloom a few days ago. The flowers start out yellow and deepen in color as they age. I saw my bees on the earlier (more yellow) roses this morning. If you look at these two blossoms side by side, you can see that the older pink blossom has very little pollen.
















Here's a bee working hard to get the pollen from a newly opened blossom.






















Again, the bee is working in the younger flower.

















Here's the whole bush so you can see the variety in the color of the roses. The lighter roses are more newly opened.
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Bear-y dogs

My dog Henry is a small Pomeranian who this morning ran into my office area and then dashed uncharacteristically out and back again. He then ran into the closet (he never does this) and dashed back down the hall. On the next dash I stood up and followed him to find out what the excitement was. When we reached the den he sat down and looked at me expectantly.

I didn't get it, so I went back to my room again and he dashed ahead of me. Then I heard it - the sound of a buzzing bee. I couldn't see the bee. The ones in my house usually go toward the light bulbs but no bee was there. Then I realized the problem. Henry had a bee deep in his fur and wanted me to rescue him from her potential attack. I couldn't find the bee and in the end Henry squashed her and left her on the floor near my chair!

I don't think he was stung this time, although he has had that experience before. Every time he goes near the hives, he gets bees in his long black coat. I believe the bees think he is a bear.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Eager BEEvers

Today we had cool temperatures and intermittent rain all day. In spite of this, the bees were out flying. Here is my thermometer on my deck - so you can see how cool it was. Below is Mellona where the bees were out and about.

We've had incredible amounts of pollen in Atlanta - one of my friends calls it Atlanta's spring snow - and you can see it on the deck, marked by raindrops!

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bees Blooming in Bermuda

Today I got an email that a friend in my bee club has ordered two queens who will be arriving this weekend - she probably doesn't need them and wanted to know if anyone wanted them. I called her right away thinking that requeening Bermuda may help its recovery. She wondered why the hive was weak and I proferred my theory that the varroa mite had taken its toll over the winter. She wondered about unhealthy brood or what else might be wrong. She's coming to look at my hives on Saturday so she can help me think about the problem.

Meanwhile I had a 2 1/2 hour break in the middle of the day and came home to look at Bermuda. The number of bees in the hive has definitely increased since my last inspection of the brood area about 10 days ago. I took some pictures. In the first picture you can see well-capped brood and larvae uncapped in various stages of development. In the upper right quadrant you can see a bee with bright yellow pollen on her legs. She's at about 3:00 on the brood edge.

















I saw this larvae below with a definite Varroa mite on the larvae. See the little orange thing on the left of the C-shape of the larvae? That's a Varroa mite, happily developing with the bee.















I saw the queen (below with the white dot in the center of the picture). She is in the act of laying in this picture.

















If you click on the picture below, you can see in the lower part of the frame, brood in many stages of development. I do think this means that Bermuda is well on the way back. Granted, the queen is not covering the frames with brood - maybe an argument for requeening - but she is laying a good pattern and the bees are coming back. Currently the bees are all in one medium frame box.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Frustration of the WTF

Why don't strange inventions come with directions?

My mother gave me a collection of French cookbooks from Le Cordon Bleu and the series had NO INDEX - none of the individual cookbooks (there are more than 20 of them) had indices nor was there a collective index. I hardly ever cook out of those because to find a recipe means flipping pages and I am a busy woman with much more to do with my time.

This wax tube fastener came with NO DIRECTIONS. Now after a long post and many replies on Beemaster, I FINALLY get how to use the thing.

It's supposed to operate like a straw when you dip it into liquid and put your finger over the open end of the straw. You can then lift the straw out of the liquid and no liquid runs out of the straw until you remove your finger from the open end. I understood the principle, but when I received the directionless WTF, I saw a wooden handle and a metal tube. I understood that the metal tube needed to be filled with hot wax then to put the wax in a groove in a frame for the beehive. so I took the second WTF apart and poured wax into the tube. It hardened and of course could not come out of the tube, not to mention that the tube was flaming hot to the touch.

But there's a SECRET about these WTFs.

















Without directions and looking at a BLACK wooden handle, only with extremely careful examination does one find A HOLE in the black wood. See picture below. I promise if you simply received this in the mail, you would have a hard time seeing the hole. I had to take three (3) pictures to get the handle at just the right relationship to the camera for the hole to show up.

















SEE - it's right there on the lower side of the black handle.

Why doesn't Dadant at least draw a red circle around the tiny opening since they don't include directions? Or paint the wooden handle a lighter color and still put a different colored circle around the hole?

It's just like those blankety-blank French cookbooks without an index.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Sad Saga of the Wax Tube Fastener

I purchased a "wax tube fastener" from Dadant to make securing the starter strips in my frames much easier. Everyone speaks highly of them on the Beemaster forum. This is what a wax tube fastener looks like. It comes with NO instructions beyond the description on the Dadant Internet page. Here are the instructions from that page:
"Wax Tube Fastener is ideal for securing foundation into grooved thin top bar (cut comb and chunk honey) frames. Metal cylinder is filled by lowering into container of hot, liquid beeswax. When cylinder is filled, wax is retained in cylinder by placing finger over air hole. With foundation in place, the wax tube fastener is run along the top bar groove. By removing finger from air hole, a small amount of wax flows out to cement the foundation to the top bar. Each, wt. 5 oz."

So I took the WTF apart (see below), melted my wax and then poured wax into the tube.

















The wax immediately hardened - DUH - the tube wasn't hot since I poured the wax in. I was so frustrated that I ended up using the bread pan that I used in an earlier post to put the wax in the grooves for the starter strips. BTW, the BandAid on my index finger is from an injury sustained as I tried to push out the old medium frame foundations (built out fully in comb) from last year so I could substitute the starter strips - Beekeeping is a dangerous business.

















When I finished I poured the rest of the melted wax through a run panty hose and made this lovely beeswax bar in a bread pan.

















In great frustration, I posted a query on Beemaster about how to use the wax tube fastener - seems lovely in concept, but I couldn't imagine using it. Here's what I asked:

"Last night I needed to fasten starter strips to my newly cleaned medium frames - I melted wax in the double boiler and poured it into the tube. The tube is then very hot and NOTHING comes out of the tiny hole in the tip. I tried to reinsert the wooden handle but it was difficult with the hot tube to hold. The instructions on the product description say to fill the tube by lowering it into a container of hot beeswax and then putting your finger over the hole at the tip - it's hot as H..... - how in the world do others do that? And what about all the wax that will then cover the tube that you are supposed to put your finger over the tip of - hot again as H.... This seems like a masochistic act to me.....

What should I do to make the wax tube fastener functional?
How do the rest of you happy tube users keep from

1. getting burned?
2. dripping wax all over the place?
3. getting the wax to come out of the tiny hole?


Michael Bush (my beekeeping hero) said:

"I put a tin can in a pan of boiling water to melt the wax. When it's melted, put the wax tube fastener in the wax and wait for it to get up to the temperature of the wax. If you don't let it get hot, the wax just congeals inside and won't come out. If you lift it out now and then you'll see if wax runs out the tip or not. Once it's warmed up the wax will have run into the tube. You put your thumb over the hole and pick it up and it's like putting your thumb over the end of a drinking straw to keep the liquid in the straw. When you have the tip of the wax tube fastener over the spot you want to wax you lift your thumb to let the wax run out. I hold the frame at a slight angle to the side and a slight angle down and start at the top. The wax runs down the foundation and the top bar all the way to the other end. When you want to stop you put your thumb back on the hole and move to the other side."

To read the entire thread, click here.

I still am unclear as to how one avoids getting burned when you "lift" the wax fastener out of the melted wax with your thumb over the opening of the tube. I certainly will try again using the MB method.

Note: Apparently (later response from MB on my Beemaster question) you don't SUBMERGE the wax tube fastener in the hot wax but rather hold it in the wax so that the tube doesn't completely fill, leaving the top of the tube available for holding without burning. You can then lift the tube out of the wax to see if wax has gone into the tube and if it is filling. THEN holding your thumb over the large opening, you take the now-loaded-with-wax tube to the frame in which you plan to glue the starter strip.
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New medium hive boxes on Proteus and Mellona

This morning before going to work, I put new medium hive boxes on Proteus and Mellona. You can see the new level on each hive below. These boxes each have 10 frames fitted with starter strips of 4.9 mm foundation. I followed the process I used earlier to cut the strips (using my quilter's rotary cutter).

















You might notice that I still have the deep on its side in front of Bermuda (a shadow of its former self). I am not sure if the bees stored any pollen in those frames and I am going to leave it accessible to them for a while.

















In about a week when the tulip poplar begins to bloom, I'll put honey supers on Proteus and Mellona to get honey production going. The weather has been hot and dry, so I also refilled the water source for the hives.

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Preparing for Starter Strips in the Medium Boxes

Michael Bush suggested that to get the plastic based foundation out of the frames, I simply needed to push hard at the center. He did say that I might need to use a tool. Well, after pushing until my finger bled, I got a putty knife and a hammer and suggested rather strongly to the wax holding the foundation to the frame that it might want to let go.


















With some hammer and putty knife action, followed by bending the smaller side of the frame (the bottom), I actually was able to snap out the frame as Michael suggested I could. This emptied the medium frames for the starter strips.

















I put the comb over plastic from the old medium in a plastic garbage bag. Maybe I'll take it to the next bee meeting and see if anyone wants it - after all, it's drawn comb, albeit large cell.


















Then I took the frames for two hive bodies (20 frames) and waxed in starter strips. I'll put the boxes on the hives before I leave for work in the morning. I now have a wax tube fastener, but it didn't come with instructions, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to make the thing work. I gave up and used the bread pan again - worked fine. I now have a metal tube filled with wax that would not for love nor money come out of the tiny hole at the end. I'm going to post on Beemaster to find out how to use the !#$)%&#$%&)@ things.
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The Cows are going to the Cow Barn

A funny thing happened when I was inspecting today. When I put the inner cover back on Proteus, all the bees headed for the opening in the center like cows going back to the barn at the end of the day. If you click on the picture below and enlarge it, you will see how they are all heading for the opening....I've not seen this happen in the past year. This apparently is quite a close group of bees - they can't stand to be apart!

















It's always hard to know what beekeepers are talking about until you have the experience. In the picture below in the center is an obvious drone. Notice how much bigger he is than the girls around him - useless, of course, unless he gets to mate with a queen, but big and imposing, nonetheless!
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Revitalizing Bermuda

Bermuda makes me sad - the bees are barely there, but they are surviving and there is a good brood pattern and a laying queen, but they are slow to get up and go. Today I gave them their third sugar shake of the spring. I hope this will clean off most of the mites. I 'll wait now for a couple of weeks before starting again.

Upon inspection, Bermuda is not building in the lower deep, so to remove some of their stress, I removed the deep. It looks quite pitiful with only the medium hive body, but maybe this will allow them to rebuild their strength. My only fear was that the queen was in the deep since I didn't see her, but I set it on its side in front of Bermuda and by nightfall, most of the bees had returned to the now tiny hive.

















Bees around the feeder at Bermuda - the one at the corner has a nice load of pollen on her legs.

















Here is Bermuda reduced to a single medium box with the deep on its side to invite the bees to return to the mother ship. I don't have another medium, but do have the old hive bodies that a friend gave me from his beekeeping 20 years or so ago. I may take one of the mediums and burn out the inside - after all I do need to initiate my propane torch - and use it for Bermuda's second story after they grow a little. I also may take a medium frame of capped brood, when one is available, from Proteus since it is growing so fast and add it to Bermuda.
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Remarkable Comb Building

I've been out of town since Thursday, so I didn't get to do a hive inspection this past weekend. My plane got back into Atlanta in time for me to inspect the hives quickly before I left for two appointments at my office at the end of the day. Amazing to see what I found!

Proteus and Mellona have had starter strips for two weeks at this point. In both hives the empty frames had been built out and they were working on the 10th frame in each hive. Below is the frame from Mellona closest to the center four nuc frames. You can see that it has been built out all the way to the bottom.


















Here are three of the starter strip frames from Mellona. They are hanging on the hive in the way they are in the hive box. In other words, the frame closest to the camera is the 10th frame. The second comb layer is the second from the edge and the third comb layer (almost to the frame bottom) is next to one of the frames from the originating nuc. Such beautiful comb they are building!


















This frame below is from Proteus, my strongest hive. Proteus was calmer today. No hive seemed particularly upset with my intrusion today, as a matter of fact. Maybe they are waiting for me to notice how well they are doing and to provide them with more building space. This frame is the 10th frame in Proteus. They have built it almost all the way down and are storing honey (made I'm sure from the syrup I have been providing) in the cells.

















This last picture is from Proteus. This is the frame closest to the nuc center. They have built it all the way to the bottom. There are drone cells all in the center top of this frame and at the very top is stored honey. Amazing how fast and furious these bees are working!

















Tonight I built the frames for the medium that will go on this hive and put in the starter strips. I freed the medium frames for Mellona in quite a process that I will describe in a later post. In the morning before I go to work, I'll put a medium on both Mellona and Proteus fitted with starter strips since they have more than met the guideline that they build out 80% of a box before the beekeeper provides more brood space.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Advantages of having my hives on my deck

There are many advantages of having my hives on my deck. Some of them are:

1. In my neighborhood, my house is at the highest point on my street. To see into my deck my neighbors have to look up. The bars on the rail keep them from seeing my hives.

2. I can watch the bees at all times of the day from the comfort of my sunporch. This allows me to learn more than if they were located on the fence line of my yard.

3. I can observe what comes out of the hive quite easily because the deck offers more for me to see than if the hives were in grass - so I can get a pretty good idea of how many dead bees are being brought out.....hey, we don't have snow much in Atlanta and this gives me the advantage those of you with hives in the snow have of being able to see what comes out of the hive in the winter

4. One could argue that the small hive beetle might be thwarted by not being able to breed in the dirt below the hive since there's only wood there, but I can attest to the thriving presence of the SHB, despite being 14 or 15 feet above the ground.

Here's what I see from my table on the sunporch.


















5. If I am feeding the bees, it's quite easy to refill the feeder at night (or at least it was easy on Mellona and Bermuda). When I got to Proteus, home of the aggressive bees, I lifted out the feed bottle to find a bee attached to it. I left the bottle on the deck and went inside to make more syrup. When I came out 30 minutes later the bee had returned to her hive, but when I placed the bottle in the Boardman (it's 11:30 PM) the bees inside the hive roared a loud buzz and several came out to see what I was doing.


















I visited P.N. Williams today (source of my two nucs) and I asked him about the different nature of the bees in Proteus compared to the bees in Mellona. Did he think they might be Russian? He laughed and said that these bees were "what we call mutt bees" because the queen is naturally mated and who knows who she was with in the process!

Below is a picture of Proteus before I removed the bottle and bee that came with it. Notice that the bottom board (formerly the roof) now has no bees on it.


















6. People can stand inside my sunporch and watch me work the bees without worry of being stung. My daughter Becky took this picture through the door last summer while I was inspecting the hives.


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New Telescoping Top for Proteus

Proteus has had a leftover bottom board substituting for an inner cover and telescoping top for the last week. It arrived on Monday and I put the parts together and painted it last night. Today at a break I ran home to replace the top.

















I opened this vigorous hive wearing a veil and my gloves over my work clothes - no smoke. This is what the bees looked like under the lid.

















I put on the inner cover and the telescoping lid and left the bottom board on its side so that the bees there could go back into the hive. I also put the flower pot back on the top in case the bees have been using it to identify their hive. Maybe I'll plant mint in it when it's a little warmer!

















Mellona has used half a quart of sugar syrup again today. I can't open the hives until Monday, the 26th - can't wait to see how drawn out the small cell comb will be by then.
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