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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.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bees and Sugar

After I reassured myself that Mellona had a functioning queen, I did a powdered sugar shake over the hive. I know I've posted lots of these types of pictures, but seeing the ghostly bees seems appropriate as Halloween approaches.

I also planned to add sugar syrup to both Mellona and Bermuda. It is so hard to get those screw tops off of the jars. When I finally got one of the tops off, the tiny holes were propolized. I took a toothpick and opened up the holes before refilling with sugar syrup.

I put a full quart of syrup in Mellona and about 3/4 quart in Bermuda (I ran out). I'll add more next weekend if need be.

In inspecting I pulled out a frame and it came apart on me. This is the third time this has happened during an inspection. I think the lesson for me is that I hammered my frames together but did NOT glue them. Probably had I glued the frames together as well as hammered them, then they would not be pulling apart.

Oh, well, live and learn.

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Bee Business for Today


I inspected the hives today with several items on the agenda. First I wanted to see if I should add sugar syrup to the hives. This would be determined by the presence and strength of the numbers of the small hive beetles in my hives.

Second I wanted to see if the queen were alive and laying in Mellona. The numbers of bees have diminished greatly and I've been worried that the queen may have died while I was out of town on vacation earlier in September.

First when I opened the hive, I saw SHBs but in much smaller numbers. I had added the vinegar frame trap to the hive last Saturday and there wasn't a single beetle in the trap. I took out the feeding bottle from Mellona and you can see the SHBs in the edge of the screw top. I think this indicates that they do thrive with the sugar syrup, just as they do with grease patties.

However, Mellona isn't very prepared for winter. There are empty frames, as a result of the dearth at the end of the summer, with comb but no stores in the upper box where the honey should be, so I want to feed these bees.

Bob Binnie, a Georgia beekeeper who I really respect, says to feed your bees 2 gallons of sugar syrup per hive as winter approaches. So, SHB or no SHB, I am going to put food on this hive today.

When I began looking for the queen, I found capped brood and frames with nothing in the frame - no brood, no honey, no pollen, just empty cells. I even found the comb in the second picture which looks like queen cells on the edge - kind of bizarre - each of which has a hole in the bottom.

I went down into the bottom brood box, looking for evidence of the queen. I found several frames that were empty of brood and anything else. I found a beautiful frame filled with pollen (I've been watching them bring it in). I found lots of capped brood, but no evidence of new or young brood.

I left the hive opened and went to Bermuda while I thought about what steps to take. I could call the Purvis Brothers and see if they had a queen available and drive up to get her. I could put a frame of brood and eggs from Bermuda into Mellona, but that would do no good because in neither hive did I see drones, meaning that making a queen on their own would not work since the drones aren't around for mating.

Well, I thought, I need to make completely sure so I looked at every single frame in the lower brood box of Mellona. On the last frame I looked at, I finally saw evidence of the queen. Babies and very small brood. I didn't see any eggs, but I never do when out at the hives and the brood I saw was very young. I also didn't hear the queenless roar which I now know to recognize, so I felt reassured that Her Majesty is functioning.
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Friday, September 28, 2007

Bees, Books and Honey

I am in a women's book club that meets monthly. At our meetings the hostess generally serves food that fits the book - either food that was mentioned in the book or food that relates in some other way to the book.

Last year in my first year as a beekeeper, I had chosen (pre-my own bees) Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God as the selection for my turn in October. There's a wonderful passage in the book about bees, as it turns out. Janie, the heroine, has spent most of the day under a blossoming pear tree. Here is the passage (it's rather seductive):

"She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to the tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage!"

a little later:

"Oh to be a pear tree - any tree in bloom! With kissing bees singing of the beginning of the world! She was sixteen. She had glossy leaves and bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her. Where were the singing bees for her?"
So in response to this part of the book, I gave all of the women who came to the meeting jars of honey to take home.

This year I wanted to do the same thing - give the members honey to take home and I wanted to have a book for which bees played a significant part, so that I could make food that all had to do with honey. Everyone had read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and just about everyone has either seen or read Fried Green Tomatoes (although wouldn't that be fun to have fried green tomatoes!) so I couldn't suggest those titles.

I searched Amazon and ordered a number of books:

The Beekeeper's Apprentice - by Laurie R. King
A good book but has very little actually about bees. It's based on the premise that Sherlock Holmes retired and became a beekeeper. There's a wonderful passage right at the beginning about bee-lining, but other than that the bees are like wallpaper for the mystery and play a very side-line role.

The Honey Thief - by Elizabeth Graver
I liked this book about an unhappy little girl who befriends a neighborhood beekeeper. Early on we learn that the child takes things that aren't hers and this applies to her beekeeping relationship as well. Somehow it didn't quite work for me as the book for this year's book club.

Beeing: Life, Motherhood and 180,000 Honeybees - by Rosanne Thomas
This is a nonfiction book about a woman who learns a lot about life and herself when she becomes a beekeeper. She sort of fell into beekeeping so I identify with her and her struggles parallel some of my own with the bees. While I loved reading this book, I thought my book club members who were not actual beekeepers would not particularly find it as intriguing as I did.

A Hive of Suspects: An Irish Village Mystery - by Sheila Pim
This wonderful little book has been republished by Rue Morgue Press. It is about a murder, closely linked to bees. The victim was a beekeeper and for a while, it looks as if the bees may have murdered their keeper. The author, who was also a fabulous gardener, weaves so much interesting knowledge about beekeeping into the fabric of the story that I thought even the non beekeeper would find it fascinating. The beekeeping while always playing significantly in the background does not dominate the plot. I thought it would be perfect.

The meeting is on Tuesday night, and I've had some feedback from a few members that they liked the book, but we'll see for sure on Tuesday.

I'm serving all honey based food. We're having:

Honey-baked Chicken from Kim Flottum's The Backyard Beekeeper (p. 129)
Honey Carrots (also from The Backyard Beekeeper (p. 142))
Apple Salad from The Backyard Beekeeper (p. 148)
Biscuits with my own cut comb honey from The Gourmet Cookbook (p. 596) - which despite the terrible yellow unreadable titles for the recipes is one of the best cookbooks I own, and this is the best biscuit recipe ever - better even than my southern mother's recipe.

My daughter gave me for Mother's Day a cake pan that bakes a honey skep cake from Williams Sonoma that came with its own recipe for Lemon Beehive Cake - so we'll have that for dessert.

I'll take pictures and let you know how it all comes out.

The Art of Polishing a Beeswax block


When my wax block got a blue ribbon, the judge wrote on her card, "Needs to be polished." Who knew? I seriously thought that the only requirements were that the block not have unfiltered junk in the wax and that it be a solid, uncracked block (a hard thing to accomplish).

After googling polishing wax and reading through a lot of sites with the keywords, I finally found two sites that suggest that finished beeswax be polished with nylon pantyhose.

I put a knee-high stocking on my hand and tried it out on the wax block. The first picture is how I polished it - the second shows the gleaming results.

Wait until next year...SmileyCentral.com
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Thursday, September 27, 2007

New York Times Article Today

Today there is a very environmentally oriented article in the New York Times about beekeeping.

The article focuses on the damage all of the chemical elements brings to the beehive. The point is to try to help the bees grow strong in the face of all the chemicals that are currently in use in the hive.

Thankfully, so far, my hives are not subjected to poison.

The pure organic beekeeper will say that I am introducing powdered sugar by sifting it over the bees and that it is not natural. They have a point, but I am not using poison and the powdered sugar does have impact on the Varroa mite.

The pure organic beekeeper will say that I am introducing a chemical element by feeding sugar syrup to my bees in the drought of Georgia. Again, they have a point, but I am not using chemicals in the way of poison or feeding syrup like corn syrup which again introduces poison into the hive. Corn is the second most poisoned crop in the country after cotton. So when beekeepers feed corn syrup to their bees, the bees get the poison which has been sprayed, dusted, etc. onto the corn.

While I am not a pure organic beekeeper yet, keep watching because that is the way I am going. For the first time this year, I have frames of honey frozen in my basement freezer so that I can feed the bees actual honey in the winter this year.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Checking up on the Small Hive Beetle


When I left for vacation a couple of weeks ago, the hives were full of small hive beetles. I think this was in part because I had been feeding my bees in the face of the dearth for the week before. I left a quart of sugar syrup on each hive on Sept 6, but haven't added to it since.

As a result there are less SHBs in my hive - that and the time of the year when they are diminishing anyway. Here are the opened Sonny-Mel traps from my two hives - I added new lure to each one today. They are working.

Inside Bermuda, the hive was boiling with very calm bees. They usually rush to attack and hate my intrusion with or without smoke. Today they went about business as usual and ignored me. I didn't add any syrup but will feed both hives beginning in the middle of October to keep them alive over the winter.

The last picture is what Mellona looked like inside. There are tons of bees in between the frames but not many on top of the frames. I have seen many bees going in and out of both hives over the last week with their pollen baskets full, so I think there are baby bees in Mellona. Also they were very quiet today - no queenless roar - so I think although they aren't as robust as Bermuda, they are doing fine.

I'll do a deeper check on them next weekend if their numbers continue to look low. I have to remember that this is a first year hive while Bermuda is a second year Varroa survivor strong hive.

I saw no evidence on the backs of bees of Varroa mites and I saw no deformed wing, but I'll also do a sugar shake and count next week. Notice that I added the vinegar frame trap (on the far right next to the wall) that I used last year to Mellona. I can't find the other one - when I do, I'll put it in Bermuda. It's on a frame somewhere!
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Friday, September 21, 2007

Prizes Won at my Bee Club!

My vacation coincided with the Annual Beekeepers' Picnic and Honey Contest held by the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers every September. My sweet friend, Martha, agreed to take my wax block and honey and enter it into the contest in my absence.

The wax block that I poured ten (10) times before finally feeling OK about my entry won FIRST PLACE and a blue ribbon. I am thrilled. The judge, Evelyn Williams, who is a certified Welsh honey judge, said that the block needed to be polished but was very clean and not sunken in on the top. I am so excited. I have looked all over the Internet to find out how one polishes a wax block, but I can't find out. Perhaps I could polish it with a well-worn men's handkerchief. I'll ask Evelyn, the judge, at our next beekeeper's meeting.

Pouring that block was something I did over and over again. Every time I thought the block looked perfect I would find another tiny speck of something. This final one I poured into a new pan that I bought just for the purpose and I left some wax in the bottom of the pot in which I melted it in hopes that the debris would remain there at the bottom of the melted wax. Guess it worked!

I am also grateful for my solar wax melter which did such a good job of melting the wax to begin my wax block journey.


My queenline jar honey was entered into the light honey category. I won second place. She said nice things about it: "Good fill, clean jars, pretty honey." I literally never touched these jars from dishwasher to contest. I took them out of the dishwasher by lifting them with a worn clean dishtowel. I held them with the dishtowel while I opened the honey gate and filled the jars. Then I put the top on, holding it with a worn towel. (The "worn" towel is important because it is less likely to leave fibers on the jar). I then put the jars into the box in which they came and took them to Martha to enter into the contest. I am so pleased that they won.

This means that everything I entered into the contest won a ribbon of some kind.

I can't wait until next year, but for now I am going to take the beeswax block and turn it into handmade lip balm. Stocking stuffers from my bees!
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Honey in Quebec

I just got home from a 10 day vacation, hiking in Quebec in the Charlevoix area. While in Quebec City I went to the Marche du Vieux-Port to see the market and produce there.

I was so pleased to find a honey vendor. The nice guy running the stand is not the beekeeper (disappointment) but he was fun to talk to and he did sell me a jar of blueberry honey (below).

The fresh blueberries were in every stall in the market. The honey is good. I'm going to save the jar for our Bee club's honey tasting next year.





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Monday, September 10, 2007

Nastiness in the dead hives

Amazing that I am in Canada on a 10 day hiking trip and can still post to the blog. This is thanks to the Internet and wireless service at my hotel.

Before I left I opened the dead hives to clean them up. In the first hive Proteus, I found wax moth mess throughout. I scraped moth cocoons and killed larvae by smashing it with my feet and with my hive tool. I threw most of the wax mess over the deck to the ground below and then left the frames leaning against an oak tree for the chipmunk to snack on as they are prone to do.

Then I opened Proteus Bee - roaches ran out of the hive and there was wax moth damage throughout. I took the hive apart and when I got to the solid part of the slatted rack just above the SBB, there were these nasty larvae. I think they must be roach larvae since they are not cocooned and were in this pile in the corner. I dumped them on the deck and smashed and stomped on all of them.

Amazing what housekeepers a good beehive contains. This damage is the result of creatures taking over when there are no bees to maintain the cleanliness of the hive.

Yuck!
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Feeding and Sugar Shaking and Unwanted Critters

Since the two hives died, I am trying to keep my other two hives doing well as we approach fall. I started feeding about two weeks ago. Sugar syrup feeding means hive beetles galore! See picture of them in the corner of this hive being fed. The bees keep the beetles cornered but there are tons of them - and this with a working SHB trap in the hive that also has many dead beetles in it.
For extra good measure, I also did a powdered sugar shake on the bees. The two pictures below show you how the bees look after a good sugar shake. In the process I discovered that I had lost my bee brush. I'll order another because I often use it.

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Cleaning the beekeeper's gloves

Recently there have been posts on Beemaster about cleaning the gloves we wear. I read somewhere about washing your hands with soap and water while wearing the gloves. In the first picture, you can see my gloves right after I washed my hands with soap and water. Then I put olive oil on my gloves - you can see it glistening in the fold in the middle of the hand in the second picture. I work the oil into the gloves as I would hand lotion on my hands. Then the glove remains soft and nice for wearing the next time I visit the hives.


My biggest problem with gloves is not cleaning them but rather the size that they are. My hands are small and gloves are made for men - so look at my hand on top of the glove and you can see that I have a lot of unused space at the tips of my fingers - makes for clumsy manipulation!
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