Welcome - Explore my Blog

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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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Video on How to Use a Simple Solar Wax Melter

Here's a video on how to use a very simple solar wax melter for beautiful results.

The plans for the solar wax melter can be found here. I built the solar wax melter last year and have been using it on every sunny day this June to melt the wax I've collected over these two seasons.

Pictures of how I put it together can be found here.

Using the solar wax melter is simple, fun, painless (it happens while I am at work during the day without any energy or supervision from me), and the results are gorgeous filtered wax. Try it, you'll love it. This is the most popular video on my site (#2 is the Crush and Strain video) and for some reason both are blacked out by Google today - so if you would like to watch a video about the solar wax melter, you can click here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Small Swarm Gets its Own Hive Box


Last night I painted the hive box for the small swarm that invited itself to my deck. My plan was to move them out of the deep nuc where they have been living to a medium 8-frame box.

I moved each frame from the nuc, orienting it exactly as it had been in the original nuc. When I first put the swarm in the nuc, the bees were living on deep frames since that is the box they had claimed for themselves when they arrived on my deck.

I have gradually moved out the deep frames and replaced them with medium ones. One I moved because it had wax moths. Several others I moved when I added frames of brood and bees from other hives. So I thought they were living on all medium frames in a deep nuc.

Imagine my surprise when I found that the last frame was still a deep - oh, dear. I examined the frame carefully and found that there were a few capped brood cells but the queen was not recently laying there.

What should I do?

I went to another hive and got a frame of capped brood that was a medium frame and substituted it for the deep. I made sure I didn't get the queen from the hive where I stole the frame. To do that I shook most of the bees on the frame back into their original hive before moving the frame. I needed to get dressed and go to work so I couldn't pick over the frames as I might under different time stress. So the frame I moved also had a lot of drone cells. I hope that won't be a problem for this new hive.

I put it all together, stood the nuc box and the deep frame outside the entry to the hive, put the top on and added the mint plant which has been on top of the nuc.

So now the small swarm has its own home. I hope they will thrive there.

When I pulled the frame from Bermuda, I saw lots of open swarm cells and one supercedure cell - and I only looked at three frames. They are packed into that hive, although I've given them lots of room to grow that they are barely using. I'll need to think about how I might open up the brood box even more.
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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Honeybee on Echinecea

This morning when I walked outside to place the solar wax melter on my garden walkway, I saw this bee working hard on the purple coneflower.

In this picture you can see pollen on her back legs.

Amazing effort! She is probably an older field bee because the hair on her thorax has been worn off.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Translations of the word "bee"

In the process of revamping the sidebar, I don't want to lose these either, so I'm posting them here so they'll continue to be a part of the site.

--in Czech is včela
--in Danish is bi
--in Dutch is honingbij, bij
--in Esperanto is abelo
--in Finnish is mehil'inen
--in French is abeille
--in German is Wettbewerb, Biene, Biene
--in Greek is ουσ
--in Italian is ape
--in Latvian is bite
--in Lithuanian is bitė
--in Maori is Pi
--in Norwegian is bie
--in Philippine Islands in Tagalog is pukyutan
--in Polish is pszczoła
--in Portuguese is abelha
--in Rumanian is albină
--in Russian is пчёла
--in Serbo-Croat is včela
--in Spanish is abeja
--in Swahili is nyuki
--in Swedish is bi
--in Turkish is balarisi or ari


Quotations about Bees

This has been an item on my sidebar but I will be revamping my sidebar and didn't want to lose the work I put into finding quotes about bees - so it will live here instead of on the sidebar:

"Veiled in this fragile filigree of wax is the essence of sunshine, golden and limpid, tasting of grassy meadows, mountain wildflowers, lavishly blooming orange trees, or scrubby desert weeds. Honey, even more than wine, is a reflection of place. If the process of grape to glass is alchemy, then the trail from blossom to bottle is one of reflection. The nectar collected by the bee is the spirit and sap of the plant, its sweetest juice. Honey is the flower transmuted, its scent and beauty transformed into aroma and taste.” Stephanie Rosenbaum


"The careful insect 'midst his works I view, Now from the flowers exhaust the fragrant dew, With golden treasures load his little thighs, And steer his distant journey through the skies." John Gay


"The pedigree of honey Does not concern the bee; A clover, any time, to him Is aristocracy." Emily Dickinson


"How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour, And gather honey all the day From every opening flower." Isaac Watts


"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few." Emily Dickinson


"The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it." Jacques Yves Cousteau


Other items from Today's Inspection


I have crossed my fingers throughout the honey season that Bermuda, my weak hive that barely made it through the winter, would survive until next winter. I have not had any expectations of getting honey from that hive. The hive is thriving now and bustling with bees. It is the hive from which I got the frames of brood and eggs for my nuc and Proteus Bee.

Today I was pleased to find honey being capped in the hive. The third box on Bermuda is a box of 7/11 comb. As you can see from the picture the bees are making gorgeous white wax cappings and are in fact making honey. The honey in these frames looked darker than what I have harvested so far.

I love how the bees circle damage in a comb and quickly go to work to save their hard work from spilling out on the ground. Look at the circle of bees surrounding the lower right of the comb where a bridge was broken between this frame and the next.

I also did powdered sugar shakes over the brood boxes in Proteus A, Bermuda, and Mellona.

Last week when I opened Mellona, I noticed that it was honey bound in the same way that Proteus A had been. I removed frames 3, 5, and 7 from the second box and replaced them with starter strip frames. I moved those honey frames to the box above (Box 4) in positions 3, 5, and 7. I didn't know what I would find when I opened the box today.

You can see the bees festooning as they draw wax in the starter strip frame. Frame 3 was being drawn with large cells as if for more honey storage. However, the cells in frame 5 measured 5.2 so I think the queen may lay there and expand the brood nest into the next box, where I've tried to make her welcome.
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A Bee Emerges in Front of my Eyes!


I opened the small swarm nuc to make sure all was going well and to determine if I needed to move them into their own hive box before I leave for 10 days. They are busy and working the frames they have, but aren't yet crowded, but I may go ahead and move them to make sure they have enough room while I am gone.

I pulled out a frame to examine it and there right in front of me was a bee emerging from her cell for the first time. I was caught in a dilemma. She is supposed to emerge into the dark and here I was confusing her reality because I had the frame out in the light on a frame rack.

I couldn't stand it and had to take a few pictures before I put her back into the safety of the dark nuc. You can see in the first picture that she has barely chewed the cell open. The opening is much larger in the third picture. By the fourth picture she has raised her body almost out of the cell.

I put her frame back in the nuc so her emergence might be more "normal," or as normal as life can bee when a beekeeper keeps intruding on your world.
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The Ongoing Saga of Proteus A and Proteus Bee


On June 6, I posted that Proteus had a solid box of honey between two boxes of brood. On Beemaster forum, the suggestion was that I put a queen excluder between Box 2 and Box 3 to determine if there were a queen in both boxes. I did that and on June 13 reported that there was new brood in both boxes, indicating that there were two queens.

On that same visit to the hive, I opened up the brood box in Proteus A by taking out the center 6 frames of honey and putting in starter strip and SC filled foundation to encourage the queen to expand rather than leave via swarm. Then I put the queen excluder between Box 2 and Box 3.

After asking around about splitting the hive vs. combining the hive, I decided to split the two hives and give each queen her own place. I did the split on June 16 and posted here that only after I had moved Proteus Bee into her own 8 frame medium hive, I thought about brood and that I had not noticed any new brood in Proteus Bee.

I think that action of opening up the brood nest was a mistake if I wanted to keep both queens alive. My guess is that the bees, with the hive now open top to bottom killed the queen in Proteus Bee before I did the split. I should have left the honey barrier until after doing the split. When I considered that I had not seen any new brood, I decided to add two frames of brood and eggs to Proteus Bee in case they were queenless and needed to make a queen.

Indeed, today when I opened up Proteus Bee, it is full of bees, no new brood, and they have made two supercedure cells, although in this case they did this not to supercede a queen but rather simply to HAVE a queen. Those locations were where the newest and best eggs were in the frame I gave them.

We're about through with the honey flow here. We're in the middle of a drought and I will be thrilled to have another hive. So like the small swarm nuc, I have another hive - this time a split - on its way to being queenright. Let's hope it works.

I watched Proteus Bee this week and found it disconcerting that I rarely saw a bee actually enter the hive. The two hives are side by side and bees would approach the entry to Proteus Bee and fly up and down in confusion. Sometimes they would even land on the bottom board and walk on the landing but then go into Proteus A.

Yesterday I saw a lot of bees orienting to Proteus Bee - must be new foragers - and the population entering Proteus Bee went up considerably. When I opened Proteus Bee today, there were plenty of bees. I had thought I might trade places of Proteus A and Bee to increase the numbers in Proteus Bee. I may yet do that but for now, let's see if the queen emerges.
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Using wax impregnated paper towel to light the smoker

I use smoker fuel from Dadant in my smoker. It burns light and cool and lasts a long time. Often when I am through for the day, there is plenty of fuel left for the next time. Today I used one of the paper towels impregnated with wax from the solar wax melter to start the fire that starts the fuel burning.

The paper towel lit vigorously and immediately. Before I knew it I had a flaming smoker and the fuel cylinder was lit and I was good to go. Thanks, solar wax melter!

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Bee-ing Stung

Last year I only was stung 3 times the entire year...and once was by a bee in the house.

This year I've stopped counting. I think it's a natural feature of being a beekeeper - comes with the territory, as it were. I also think the number of stings relates to how engaged I've gotten with the bees. Last year I was simply hoping that the hives would live through the season and through the winter.

This year I'm trying to get the bees to use natural cell size. I've given a small swarm a home in a nuc and have stolen frames of eggs and brood from other hives to help them get a good queen. I've had a two-queen hive and I've split it effectively into two hives. I've had a hive that barely made it through the winter that I've tried to nurture both to survive and to live in natural cell size. There's a lot going on in my bee yard.

So I shouldn't be surprised that I have been stung more. I've had stings on my knees twice this year. My forearm doubled in size one week from a sting when I didn't get the stinger out in time. Each of my thumbs got stung and each swelled up so much that about ten days later, the skin peeled off as if I had been sunburned. I've stepped on a bee in the house barefoot and been stung again this year. And on and on. I don't notice it as much any more, although the stings still hurt when they happen, still swell, and if I don't get the stinger out fast enough, still itch for about 10 days.

Tonight I was working in my garden in front of my house. Tomorrow is a watering day (we have designated days in Atlanta because we are in extreme drought) so I wanted to get the last of my plants planted and mulched before I start the sprinkler in the morning. It was 8:45 PM and getting dusky. A bee flew up my t-shirt as I was mulching and I guess she didn't like finding herself there. She began to buzz angrily and I headed for the house, stripping as I hit the kitchen door. Before I got my shirt off, she stung me on the upper arm. Then as I pulled the shirt off, I got stung again on the neck. I guess that means there were two bees under my shirt, although I only heard one.

And this sting set didn't even come from working in the bee yard......GRRRRR.


Lessons being learned from Experience with the Solar Wax Melter


Today was my fourth experience with the solar wax melter, so I wanted to share what I have learned from my experience so far.

As the first picture illustrates, as the wax is filtering through the paper towel, it also wicks throughout the paper towel. At the end of the day, the paper towel is impregnated with wax.

I'll use that paper towel to start my smoker, but it also makes it stiff and a little hard to remove. I tear out the center brown cooked waste and put the edges in my baggie full of smoker starter stuff.

Also as the wax wicks into the paper towel, some of it drips outside of the Tupperware onto the floor of the solar wax melter. I line the floor of the styrofoam box with aluminum foil. You can see the wax that ends up on the floor on the aluminum foil in the picture. When it has cooled it is easy to pull it up.

Last lesson: The two days when the wax came out the prettiest, I left the solar wax melter on the sidewalk until after sunset. Today I carried it into the house and set it on the counter while everything was still quite hot. As a result, some of the wax swished up onto the sides of the plastic container. I'll leave that wax in the container and tomorrow it can melt into the block that floats on the water.

After three wax collections, I have 15.4 ounces of gorgeous yellow wax. I'll add the proceeds of today's melting when it has cooled. I still have enough cappings to do another round tomorrow (not to mention the two gallon bags of wax cappings in the freezer from last year).
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Solar Wax Melter Succeeds Again!

Today I left wax all day long in the solar wax melter and brought it in after sunset. The wax had drained all the way through the paper towel, leaving this burned non-wax residue. Isn't it amazing that the residue burns dark brown/black in the heat of the SWM? The paper towel is stiff with wax, making me wonder if it wouldn't be a marvelous starter for my smoker. I'm going to save it and try it.

Here's the gorgeous block of wax, the shape of the rectangular container, that was floating on the water under the paper towel. Have you ever seen such beautiful wax?

I love this solar wax melter. It's a "green" way of melting wax. My kitchen isn't messy and my double boiler isn't ruined. Now that's a good deal all the way around.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Squirrel Discovers Bee Products

A squirrel on my deck decided to eat what was left on this deep frame, propped outside my door. He thought it was a gourmet treat.

He moved on to a hive box that I had hopefully inviting swarms at the corner of my deck and used his teeth to get to the frames in the box before I discovered what he was up to.

What a fine set of teeth he has! He left a pile of gnawed frame and comb which I discovered under the hive box when I moved it and covered it. Last year I was on the watch for bald-faced hornets and yellow-jackets. This year we can add squirrels to the list.
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Monday, June 18, 2007

Entering honey contests

I'm no expert in honey contests, but my comments on my videos about bottling honey have brought questions about honey contests, so I thought I'd post about it. Honey contest judging is based mostly on how the beekeeper handles the honey. The beekeeper doesn't make the honey so the honey itself is only occasionally judged for taste in such things as black jar contests. The honey judge does taste the honey and points would be taken off if the honey tasted bad or tasted contaminated, which could reflect on how the beekeeper handled the honey.

The main honey judging is on how you handle the jar of honey. This comes down to packaging cleanliness. You are not supposed to have any human fingerprints on the inside or outside of the jar. There should be a clean rim of the jar - not sticky honey between the top of the jar and the lid. When you are cleaning the jar for entry into the contest, you have to be careful not to get cloth fibers in the jar - a man's linen handkerchief is recommended for avoiding fibers.

There are guidelines on the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers web page for how to prepare your honey for a contest. Another wonderful guide on how to think about preparing honey for honey contests is here. Ultimately it comes down to how clean your jars are from lid down and how clear your honey is (indicating how you filtered it). But as the writer in the University of Florida guide referenced second says, "Judging honey is not like evaluating other commodities. The product itself is not examined so much as the care the exhibitor takes in putting it up for show."
However, honey should taste like the delicious honey it is, and the judges do taste the entries.

Here is an example of the honey contest rules for EAS 2006 honey contest. You'll notice that while taste is one of the items to which the judge pays attention, it is last on the list. I noted in red the cleanliness issues:

Honey Classes
Class # Description
H1 Three 1lb. jars of honey: Extracted Light
H2 Three 1lb. jars of honey: Extracted Medium
H3 Three 1lb. jars of honey: Extracted Dark*Entries must be in 1 lb., glass queenline type jars and may have metal or plastic lids.
International entries may use 500 gram universal jars. (see clause 3 on show rules)
H4 Twelve 1lb. jars of honey: ExtractedEntries must be in 12 identical 1lb. queenline type jars with metal or plastic lids.
International entries may use 12 identical 500 gram universal jars. (see clause 3 on show rules)H5 Three section boxes of comb honeyH6 Three packages of cut comb honey: 4 inch squareH7 Three round section of comb honeyEntries must be in the appropriate container: Window cartons, round section lids-both
transparent, cut comb box-all sides transparent. (see clause 3 on show rules)H8 Three 1lb. jars of creamed honeyH9 Three 1lb. jars of chunk honey
Entries must be in cylindrically uniform “wigwam” jar or in the new “shoulder” jar.
(see clause 3 on show rules)H10 One frame of honey: suitable for extraction
Frames may be of wood or plastic and should be housed in a glass sided bee proof enclosure. (see clause 3 on show rules)1. All entries must be the product of the exhibitor’s apiary and have been produced since the previous EAS Honey show.2. Entries will be judged on their individual merit. Cleanliness of the container, lid or hardware, uniformity of wax cut, proper fill of jar or container, cleanliness and clarity of the honey, moisture content, aroma and taste will be considered by the judges. In creamed honey texture and firmness will also be considered.
3. No tamper-proof seals.

Now I'm no expert - I've only entered one honey contest for my bee club last year. My chunk honey did get second place, but I have learned a lot more since then about how to put it in the jar.




Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lots of Honey


Tonight I bottled more honey from a super I took off of Mellona yesterday. I bottled 12 queenline jars in case I want to put any honey in a honey contest. These jars once put in the dishwasher were never again touched by my hands.

I took the jars out of the dishwasher with a cloth towel; held them with the towel while they filled; still holding them with the towel, put the jar on the counter. I then put all 12 jars in the box in which they came. Tomorrow I will probably freeze them.

In addition, I bottled 9 other 12 oz bottles (one pound of honey in a 12 oz bottle). This batch is still filtering and I expect to get about 2 more 12 oz bottles before all is said and done.

All told so far I have harvested about 77 pounds of honey total from three shallow supers. I only took 9 frames from two of the supers and 6 from the third, so all of this honey has come from a total of 24 shallow frames of honey - which is about 3.2 pounds/frame.

Good year in spite of the drought.


Today I'm Trying the Solar Wax Melter

Today I'm taking the cappings from the crush-and-strain harvest I did to fill the chunk honey jars and trying to see if my solar wax melter works.

Some of you may remember that I built the solar wax melter last year, but didn't do it until October when it wasn't hot enough long enough in the day. The outside temperature needs to be at 79 for most of the day to make it work.

Today the high is supposed to be 92, and when I put the box out at 9:15, the temperature was 76 and rising. We'll see. I'll report back later and let you know if it worked this time.

As you will see from the slideshow, it worked just great! I wish I had left it alone until after dark. When I removed the paper towel, melted wax that hadn't filtered through it yet poured onto my counter and I would have saved that mess if I had waited. I pulled it indoors at 4 PM and the results were gorgeous as you'll see in the slide show. I can't wait to use it again, with my new lessons learned from today's first trial.

The pictures below will play as a slideshow, but if you click on the picture, you can go to the album itself which has captions explaining the pictures.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Harvesting Chunk Honey


I love honey comb. I love to melt it in my tea and drink it that way. I love spreading it on a biscuit and having the melted wax be part of the feast. I've done a video on how to harvest honey as chunk honey.

I previously did a post and video on how to do crush and strain to harvest liquid honey. You can see it here.

Please leave any comments or questions you have in the comment section. Here it is:

Splitting Proteus into Proteus A and Proteus Bee


Well, today I split the two-queen hive, but I don't know if I did the right thing. I moved the top hive into an 8 frame medium. I moved the brood frames into the first box over the slatted rack and SBB and then put the second box above it, with the honey frames from the old hive. I tried to keep the brood in the same place in the hive.

After I did the whole transformation I started thinking that I didn't really see any larvae today in the upper hive (Proteus Bee) although there was plenty there on Wednesday. There's a picture to the right of the brood pattern which looked more filled out than when I saw it on Wednesday, but I'm not sure there was any new brood since Wednesday. For a few minutes I thought I should put it all back and just remove the queen excluder, letting them be one big hive.

Then I decided that I might as well go ahead and make a split even if the queen were no longer present. So I took a frame of very young brood and hopefully eggs from Bermuda and added it to the brood box in the new hive. I put the two hives side by side, in the way that Michael Bush describes an even split.

Although now in looking at the first picture I wonder if the queen isn't the bee in the middle of the first picture on the left side. It's out of focus so you can't really tell. Well, if she is, great, and if she isn't there, the new frame of brood gives the hive an insurance policy.

I figure that this way even if the queen is dead, they have the potential to make a new queen. I had a hard time finding brood and eggs in Bermuda, but I could add another frame tomorrow and may do so, just to make sure.

In the even split method, with the hives side by side, some bees may drift to the new hive. In about a week, I'll switch the hive positions and even out the drift and hopefully also even out the population.

I looked in Mellona, my best honey producer, and found that this hive was honey bound in the way that Proteus was. Above the brood box in Box 2 was a medium, frame to frame honey. In this hive, I tried something to open up the brood area. I took out frames 3, 5 and 7 and put in their place starter strip frames. This encourages the queen to move up.

While I was looking for brood, I saw a swarm cell on one of the frames, so I think that the timing of opening up the brood box is either right on target or too late. See the newer looking frames in the picture? Those are frames 3, 5 and 7 of starter strips that I have added.

I put these full frames of honey in the super above Box 2 (Box 3) in positions 3, 5, and 7. To do this I had to remove nectar filled frames from Box 3.

I set the frames aside that I removed from Mellona - they were filled with unprocessed nectar (where are they getting it in this drought?). The bees from these frames which were leaning against the deck rails made a cluster on the rail and I took their picture. The cluster was gone 5 minutes after I removed the frames.

I really didn't know what to do with the frames. I shook the bees off of one of them and gave it to the new Proteus Bee and took the other two inside the house. They are mediums and the two upper boxes on Mellona (the hive where I got the frames) are shallows, so I can't put medium frames in them.

This is a clear argument for using the same size box all the time. I have on Mellona two shallow boxes of frames for clean-up. In the next week or maybe even tomorrow, I'll add another medium box to Mellona for brood and will put the nectar laden comb frames in that box along with starter strip frames.

I also harvested 9 frames of honey from Mellona, my best producing hive this year.

I ended my time in the bee yard today by giving Proteus A a powdered sugar shake. Proteus A is the hive where on Wednesday, I took the clear picture of the bee with a Varroa mite on her back.
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Bees on the Butterfly Bush


Last year I saw butterflies on the butterfly bush, but never bees. Maybe this year with the worst drought in 50 years here in Georgia, the bees are desperate. These butterfly bushes grow just about 6 feet from the deck where the hives are. The bees are having a glorious time on these bushes.



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I Saw the Queen Today!


I saw the queen in the small swarm nuc today. This is not a good picture but there she is right in the center of the picture. She scurried away over the top of the frame and onto the other side when she realized she was exposed.

I also saw the fruits of her labor (see the larvae in the following two pictures). She has been hard at work. I'm leaving this little swarm in the nuc until probably Thursday before the 4th of July. Then I'll move the whole kit and kaboodle into an 8 frame medium.

I have all the parts except for a screened bottom board that I ordered yesterday. So when it arrives and I paint the new hive, they will move into a new home. For the moment though, I was THRILLED to see her alive and in person (or in bee, as it were)!
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