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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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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

SHB on a rampage

You can see in the photo below the numbers of dead SHBs in one of my Sonny/Mel traps. This trap came out of the dwindled and gone hive, Proteus.


Because of the dearth and the terrible weather conditions, I decided to feed my remaining two hives. I put a boardman feeder (since that's the only feeder I own right now) into a box in each of the two hives.
Note: Look at the numbers of SHBs on the walls of this hive. There were also plenty in the traps.

I hope these hives have queens. I am leaving for Labor Day weekend and won't be able to check until next week some time.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Woe is Bee

I'm hanging crepe in my beeyard. I sat eating breakfast this morning and thought, "Oh, my, there are no bees coming in and out of Proteus!" I had about 30 minutes before I absolutely had to leave for work, so I threw on my bee stuff and went out to the hive. I opened it to find to my dismay that there were only the few bees in the picture below. So sad.


I guess the queen must have died some time ago and they have been dwindling but I have been very busy and not paying good enough attention. I haven't looked in the brood box in several months. I can imagine someone would look in this bee-less hive and say COLONY COLLAPSE - but I know it's beekeeper neglect.



When I pulled the frame only these few bees were on it and there was one other frame with about as many. The hive was infested with wax moth junk (see below). I decided to try to rescue the few bees left when I got home tonight by combining them with another hive, but there were only a few bees left when I got home, so I did nothing.


I also opened Proteus Bee to find absolutely no bees. When I moved it last weekend, I probably was moving a hive full of robbing bees.

So now I have two hives and will be feeding them like mad between now and fall.
The only good news was that the hive had a SHB trap in it that was filled with dead SHBs.
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Friday, August 17, 2007

The Small Swarm is No More

I opened the small swarm hive today to combine it with Proteus Bee (both queenless). The hive was full of bees - I couldn't tell if they were robbers who just never went back home or if they were the bees who lived there.

The frames that were not honey-robbed frames were full of wax moth worms and wax moth damage. I removed all of those frames from the box.

In the top of Proteus Bee, there is an unopened queen cell, no brood and some bees. In the bottom of Proteus Bee there were a few bees and frames with wax moth damage. I removed those frames.

Then I went to Bermuda (strong queen, great source of brood frames). I took three frames - one beautiful brood pattern, one with lots of new larvae and eggs, and a third with capped brood. I put two of those frames in the top of Proteus Bee and one in the bottom. I then put the two boxes together with newspaper in between them. I cut a couple of slits in the newspaper to facilitate the combination.

Next step is to order a queen.

The bricks in the last picture are where the Small Swarm Hive once stood. Perhaps there will be bees for it next year. Meanwhile I took the hive apart and leaned all the parts against a tree. I'll wash them out thoroughly with a hose before I use them again.
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Wax Moth Worms, SHBs, Pests everywhere

We are in the middle of a drought and a heat wave. All the insects are thriving. When I opened the small swarm hive to combine it with Proteus Bee, I found it full of wax moth worms. I took out the damaged frames and leaned them against a tree so the sun (and the squirrels) could do their best. In the second picture in the upper left you can see a nasty wax moth worm. On the slatted rack below, you can see a wax worm cocoon with a bee beside it.

The third picture is a view of many of the wax worms who showed up when I scraped the cocoons off the insides of the hive. GROSS.

In Bermuda, the lure was working well. Instead of a club meeting of SHBs in the corner of the upper box, there were dead ones in the trap. I renewed the lure in all three traps, although Bermuda was the only one with dead (HA, HA) beetles in it.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Robbing is Happening at the Small Swarm Hive

I've decided to combine the small swarm hive with Proteus Bee. They were completely robbed out last weekend when I added a frame of honey and several frames of brood to them. So this week I added another frame of honey and the robbing started again.

Michael Bush advised me on Beemaster to close the hive up until tomorrow and hopefully the robbing will desist. Then I can combine the two hives tomorrow afternoon.

Here's a slideshow of the terrible efforts to contain the robbing. To read the captions and see the show in bigger pictures, click on the picture and when you get to the web album page, click on "slideshow" at the upper left of the picture:

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Meeting a Melissa Pollinologist

I haven't ever met a melissa pollinologist until the meeting of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association this past week. Our speaker was Dr. Paul Arnold and he refers to himself as such. Paul Arnold is one of the founders of the Young Harris Beekeeping Institute which I attended in May and has taught in the biology department of Young Harris College for 19 years.

He said that he is one of the few people in the country who analyzes honey to determine what pollen contributed to the honey. More people are melissa pollinologists in Europe and Australia. I was one of the nine or so people in the club who drew the straw that allowed us to bring out honey to him to take back to Young Harris and analyze.

Dr. Arnold told us that many people wonder why would one want to analyze honey for the pollen. There were four reasons:
  • To determine the nectar source for marketing purposes
    • You can't say for sure your honey is sourwood, for example, without this analysis
  • To determine undesirable nectar sources
    • This year there was an abundance of mountain laurel in the N Georgia mountains and because of the late hard freeze, the bees had little else from which to choose. As a result they made a ton of mountain laurel honey with is poisonous and smells like brake fluid.
  • To verify a pollen contract
    • If the person who hired the beekeeper wants to know if the bees he hired actually visited his almonds or blueberries
  • To determine the source of a pesticide kill
    • If bees are dead in droves around the hive, analyzing the honey may give you the source of the kill
There are many drawbacks (he had slide after slide about this) to doing pollen analysis. Among the drawbacks are:
  • Equipment cost - microscope, centrifuge, slides, etc.
  • Many pollens look alike so it's hard to come to an answer
  • There are few pollen guides on the subject
Dr. Arnold makes his own reference slides when he finally gets down to an identification

He had a series of slides which were a lot of fun to see showing the notable characteristics of various pollens:
  • Size: tupelo, for example is very large, dandelion is very small
  • Shape: pollen is sometimes triangular, 4-lobed, football shaped, round, winged, etc.
  • Wall apertures (openings)
  • Wall ornamentation (spikes, knobs, pits)
What he does in the process is:

He mixes 50% honey and 50% hot water. He mixes this well and then centrifuges it at 1500 RPMs for 5 minutes. He then pours off the liquid and there is a pollen pellet at the bottom. He pipettes this out onto slides and looks at it under a low light microscope.

I left my dark honey with him. He had said the less filtered the better, so I put some from a cut comb box of the dark into a jar and left it for him. I've been mystified by this honey because it is very dark - less dark this year - but still very dark. The bees made this honey while I was gone over the week of July 4th. I know this because the hive had no honey in any super before I left and this super was full when I came back.

Dr. Arnold did say that the dark honey in Georgia late in the season is often made from smooth sumac or catalpa. It will likely be weeks before I know the answer about my particular honey because he spends about 30 minutes processing each individual sample. He was very kind to do this for our club, and all he gets for the effort is our appreciation and a taste of each honey sample!

So I was very glad he shed a little light on the dark late season honey before he ended his interesting talk at the bee club.

I feel very lucky that he was so generous to our club - taking home members' honey samples to analyze.

Small Hive Beetle

When I opened Proteus A today, the small hive beetle trap had totally unalluring lure in it. The lure had completely dried up in our 103 degree weather over the last few days.

I removed the traps from all the hives and replaced the lure with juicy fresh alluring stuff in the bottle caps. In the corner where the SHB trap was, I found this collection of small hive beetles. I squashed many of them with my hive tool (see dead bodies in second picture)

I replaced the dried up lure in the third picture with new lure and put it all back together again. Maybe next week the beetles will be in the trap and not in the corner!

Bermuda, BTW, had about 20 beetles dead in the trap. I replaced their lure as well.
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Robbing in the Small Swarm Hive

(Something is wrong with Picasa today and the posts are not allowing me to post under the pictures (FWIW))

Last week I added two frames of brood and food to the small swarm hive and they were completely robbed out. I put up the robber screen that I have (not adequate - it was built for a 10 frame deep) but it did little good and today, the small swarm hive had no food in the hive, wax moth damage, and seemed quite discouraged - and of course, queenless.

Today I added two full frames of honey and two frames of brood and larvae to the small swarm hive. I took the brood from Mellona.

No sooner did I close up the hive than the robbing started again. Last week while the robbing was going on, I saw bees inside the robber screen passing honey through the screen to their sisters on the outside. Today I wanted to give the hive every chance. I put up the robber screen again and tightly secured it with bungee cords. I stuffed grass in the side openings. I reduced the hive entrance with two sidebars from a set of deep frames that I have never built. I even put a rock on a top opening on one side.

But robbing is happening although not as vigorously as I've seen last week. I remember reading on Beesource that if you wanted to stop robbing from happening, open the tops of all the hives and they will have to return to their hives to defend them. I don't feel secure enough to do that.

I'll check again tomorrow. If the SShive is completely robbed out again, I'm considering combining it with Proteus Bee to increase Proteus Bee's strength and relieve these girls who have barely survived now without their queen.
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Wax moth damage in the small swarm hive

Today I checked the small swarm hive and found to my dismay that the #8 frame as well as the #7 frame was full of wax moth damage. When I first opened the hive, a fat juicy wax moth crawled right out onto the hive box - YUCK. I smashed several wax moths with my hive tool and then tried to remove the damaged comb. In the end I took it out of the hive altogether and replaced the frames with frames of young brood from Mellona. I leaned the frames against the deck to see if bees wanted anything that was still there - pollen and such - but later I'll put them in one of my strong hives to get cleaned up.

The poor small swarm continues to struggle. I think today I'm going to call about ordering a new queen for them since they didn't make a queen cell from the frames I gave them on Sunday last week.
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Monday, August 06, 2007

A Bad Day in the Beeyard

I love Judith Viorst's book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I had a day like that on Sunday in my beeyard.

First I saw the dismembered head of a tiny chipmunk on the deck rail - guess an owl left it there last night. The chipmunk has been a frequent visitor to my deck. That was a bad sign - I should have gone back inside then and there.

But I pressed on.

The only good thing that happened was that I stacked the boxes like Gerard did on the Botanical Garden hive inspection. His method was so much easier on my back.

Then the sad saga began. I planned at the beginning of this visit to the hives to add a frame of capped honey to the small swarm hive to make their lives easier. I've been sort of worried about this hive at the back of my mind because they haven't been building up like they should have. You'll remember that they made their own queen, (I even took her picture) but I never saw a great laying pattern from this queen.

Sad to say, she is no longer there. Maybe I killed her. Maybe the bees killed her, but she is not there. There were no frames of new brood anywhere. I felt sadder and sadder as I lifted each frame to many empty cells and no capped brood. OK, I thought, they did it before, I'll let them do it again. So my plan was to take a frame of brood and bees from Mellona and one from Bermuda and let this hive try again.
I opened Mellona and went into the medium box (#2 on the hive) and found a frame of very young brood. I shook the bees off of the frame into the hive and checked the remaining few bees to make sure I didn't have the queen. I put that frame in the hive. Then I closed that hive back up and opened Bermuda.

Bermuda is always an angry hive. They hang out on the front deck, impatiently every night, as if they didn't have excellent ventilation; they argue with me every time I open them; they don't want me around. They were not happy but I found a frame with tiny brood and hopefully eggs, shook the bees off, checked for the queen and then put that frame in the small swarm hive.

This all took place around 1 PM. I then opened up Proteus. I have been wondering about the queenright state of this hive and thought I should check about the life in the brood box. I haven't opened up the brood box in this hive in about three months. Boy, were they angry. I smoked the hive, I smoked myself, I smoked the air in front of me. Bombarded from every side, I was sweating from the Atlanta heat as well as a little anxious, but I kept on. Suddenly I realized that my veil was glued to my neck with sweat and a guard bee was implanting her stinger in my neck.

My most recent previous sting resulted in a strange reaction in that the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet itched more than I can imagine itching. My brother, a physician, said that I should visit an allergist and he is probably right. Meanwhile I had purchased Benadryl to have immediately available to me in the dissolving strip form, but at the moment of the sting, I didn't have it with me.

Proteus is open to the elements, the small swarm hive is open to the elements and I left it all and ran in the house followed by several bees to take care of the sting. I threw off the helmet and scraped out the stinger. My palms were starting to itch and I couldn't find the Benadryl. I had organized my computer desk the night before - it had been sitting right in front of my monitor but it wasn't there and I couldn't find it anywhere.

So I put my helmet back on and went back out into the yard and put Proteus back together and put the top back on the small swarm hive. I drove to the nearby grocery and got two packages of Benadryl so I wouldn't misplace it again. (I still haven't found the first one). The irony of it is that I didn't have anything sharp in the car and it would take an act of Congress to open the Benadryl without a pair of scissors or a knife (Note to self: keep Benadryl in hive tool basket with my Swiss army knife). So I still had to wait to get back home to take it and by then the itching had stopped.

Meanwhile around 2:30, I looked out and there is robbing type of flying going on around the small swarm hive. Usually I see a bee every 2 minutes or so come and go from that hive. There were fifty bees banging against the hive. The pictures below do not do justice to the amount of flying in and toward that hive.

I put the robber screen against that box - it isn't set up for the robber screen - but I thought that might help.

Ever since then I've been worrying. Did I bring one of the queens from Bermuda or Mellona in error to that hive and the bees are trying to get to her? Did leaving that hive open for so long invite robbing and killing? I closed the top which had been propped open and secured the robber screen with bungee cords and now I am worried.

Should I order a queen for this hive? Should I hope for the best and combine them with one of the other hives before fall? Was it wrong to put frames from two different hives into this one? Isn't that what they do when someone makes a nuc? Why would this be different?

In a nut shell, what did I do wrong that I can fix? If anything - - - - -



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Small hive beetle musings

I checked all three traps. They each had a few beetles in them. The bees had propolized the holes so I took a toothpick and cleared out the holes. Only in one hive, Proteus were there dead bees in the trap - my bees are much smaller these days - so maybe 3/16 inch is large enough for some of the smaller bees to follow the lure.

I was disappointed to find that under the inner cover on Bermuda there was this corner congregation of SHBs. The bees were not happy they were there (witness the bees trying to attack the beetles), but there were more SHBs out of the trap than in the trap. Click on the picture to see it (and the beetles) larger.

As per an email from Sonny of the Sonny/Mel SHB trap, I have removed the inner cover from each of the three hives with the traps on them. Hopefully this will send the beetles to a death by FGMO drowning!
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