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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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Friday, February 29, 2008

Spring is Coming - Invitation to a Swarm

Both of my hives were very active today. Outside of Bermuda, the young bees started orientation as soon as the temperature reached 50 degrees (around 2 PM) and continued for about 2 hours. Mellona was almost as busy, although it is a smaller hive.


Last year I had an empty box standing on its side on the deck and a small swarm moved in without my even realizing it until I moved the box. I'd prefer to attract a swarm to a good, warm, well-equipped place to live.

So I put a hive body out on the deck on concrete blocks. It's a 10 frame deep, and I'm trying to move to all 8 frame medium boxes so in theory this is a box I wouldn't use for anything else this year. Even the nucs that I will be getting in April (which will come on deep frames), I'll put into deep 8 frame boxes. So if a swarm doesn't make this box it's home, I still won't be missing this piece of equipment.

Originally (in an earlier post), I described put drops of lemongrass essential onto an old hive body with a cover to try to encourage a swarm to move in. BeeHappy commented that the odor of the essential lemongrass oil will last longer if I made an oil paste to put on the frames instead.

So I did that today. If you click on the picture below, you can go to the slide show and see the process full screen:


Now let's hope a wandering swarm finds this lovely place to live and moves into it.


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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Snow in the night

When I woke up this morning there was a smattering of snow on the deck in front of the hives. The water source was frozen solid. We were supposed to have flurries last night and obviously we did. Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will remember that around this time last year, one of my hives died of starvation.

I am so determined that they will not starve this year. To keep starvation from happening, I have put a Ziploc baggie of 1:1 sugar syrup on each hive every weekend since the beginning of February. I had some new syrup in the kitchen, so I bagged it up and right before I left for work I went out to the hives.

I opened each hive and found that they each still had sugar syrup in their Ziploc feeders. In Mellona, interestingly enough, there were about six bees walking over the baggie to the slit. I guess they were designated "nectar" retrievers since it was still around freezing and too cold for the bees to do much moving. Both hives have been feeling light and I don't want either to starve this year.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Starbucks goes for Honey

This is certainly the week for companies to side with the honeybee. Today Starbucks began serving honey latte and honey Frappuccino. Nice to see more honey products on the market!
As noted in an earlier post, Haagen-Daz is really focused on the bees. Meanwhile Burt's Bees has been sold to Chlorox - what is the world coming to?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Talk at Henderson Mill Elementary School

Today I visited Henderson Mill Elementary School in DeKalb County to talk to their 5th grade garden club about bees. I had a great time. The students took me on a tour of the two large garden areas that they manage with their teacher who is a Master Gardener. They wanted to learn how bees and beehives work. I talked to them all about bees and then let them taste some of my honey. Here they are with popsicle stick tasters, sampling the honey.
They also explored the comb in frames that I brought. The comb was in various stages of being made - I had some partially filled frames. The kids at this table are looking at a frame in which the bees had just started to store honey at the end of the nectar flow.

To get ready for this talk, I found two marvelous children's books on bees and beekeeping:
The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci
and
The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons

Both of these books are well-illustrated and give simple reasonable explanations about life in the beehive.

I did wish that I had large pictures of the worker bee, the queen bee and the drone. I also wanted a picture of bees with pollen baskets full that was large. I have some good photos that I have taken, but they are not large (poster like) so I'm going to look at the bee supply companies for some resources.

I had a great time at Henderson - I hope I get more opportunities to speak about the bees - it's always fun.!
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Lure of Lemongrass Oil

Today I got home from the mountains to find it sunny and warm in Atlanta - perfect weather to open the hives. I opened Bermuda to find it bubbling over with bees. The brood has been mostly in the bottom box, but today they are also raising brood in the second box. They had eaten all the sugar syrup I left them last weekend. I wanted to check on the brood situation and to open up the brood space while in Bermuda. I removed several frames from the brood box and spread out the brood with an empty frame between frames 2 and 3 and another between frames 7 and 9.

I then did a powdered sugar shake - the bees grumbled in a bee-way by buzzing and flying around. You can see how much they have to clean off by looking at the bees in the above picture.
In Mellona there wasn't quite as much activity and there are fewer bees. They too had eaten all of the sugar syrup I had provided. I made some at 3 PM before going out to the hives at 4 PM. It was still warm but I put some in a Ziploc bag, laid it on the top box and slit the bag. I don't think the fact that it is still warm will be an issue. After all the bees like to be in the 90s themselves.

I noticed some drone cells being made in each of the two hives. With spring coming soon, the girls are ready for some males in the picture to mate with queens, should a hive need to make their own queen.
While working on the bee hives, I thought I might try to lure a swarm. I have an empty deep on the deck. Today I lifted out each frame and shook off a few dead roaches who had wintered there. The hive has a few frames with starter strips and mostly drawn out brood comb. There are a few plastic based foundations and some with none. I used lemongrass oil (this is an effective lure for swarms, according to Michael Bush and others on Beesource and Beemaster) and dropped about 10 drops on the center 5 frames. For good measure I put a few drops at the entrance as well.

Swarm season will be on us in March so I want my bee hive to be an appealing place, should a swarm come along. I love it that on the bottle of lemongrass oil, there is the word: INSPIRING. Let's hope the oil draws a swarm and INSPIRES it to live on my deck!

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ice Cream for Bees

Haagen-Dazs recognizes the importance of bees to the creation of their ice cream. To that end they have created a wonderful bee-friendly site for you to enjoy.

Bees are so important in our agricultural production in the US. Ice cream is a particularly delicious product that relies on the honeybee.

This morning I heard a feature on NPR about how Haagen-Dazs is working to help the bees. I couldn't wait to get to a computer to see what their website had done. It's fun to see the container for their upcoming flavor: Vanilla Honey Bee

The flavor was created to support their efforts to make the plight of the honeybee more obvious to all of us ice cream eaters!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Determining Equipment Needs for 2008 BeeSeason


Tonight while watching the eclipse, I took some pictures of the boxes I have stored in my carport to determine what I need to order. I have three nucs coming in late March, early April. I have the equipment to set up two more hives with medium 8-frame boxes. I have screened bottom boards, slatted racks, inner covers and telescoping covers for those as well as about six 8 frame boxes.

I have lots of shallows like these and a number unbuilt in my basement. My next trip downstairs should be one to determine what built and unbuilt equipment I have down there. I know I have a deep, a couple of solid bottom boards, and some unbuilt shallows, but there are other things there as well. Oh, yes, and I have the deep cypress unbuilt hive box from Rossman's that I won at the Georgia Beekeepers meeting a few weeks ago!

Here are the 8 frame items - slatted racks, etc.

So it looks to me as if I have the possibility of setting up three hives easily - two in 8 frame equipment and one in 10 frame equipment. I will try to have the 10 frame hive in medium boxes.

I don't plan to use foundation except for starter strips - and I have enough thin surplus and other wax foundation to give the bees a start.

I think if I order more equipment, it will all be 8 frame mediums. I might order another SBB and slatted rack as well as an inner and telescoping cover in hopes of a split or a swarm.

Next week I will bait the empty deep 10 frame box on my deck and give it a squirt of lemongrass oil weekly to see if a swarm will find it attractive.
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Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Beekeeper's Valentine: EB White's Song of the Queen Bee

Song of the Queen Bee

by E.B White


New Yorker Magazine 1945
“The breeding of the bee," says a United States Department of Agriculture bulletin on artificial insemination, has always been handicapped by the fact that the queen mates in the air with whatever drone she encounters.”

When the air is wine and the wind is free
and the morning sits on the lovely lea
and sunlight ripples on every tree
Then love-in-air is the thing for me
I’m a bee,
I’m a ravishing, rollicking, young queen bee,
That's me.
I wish to state that I think it’s great,
Oh, it’s simply rare in the upper air,
It’s the place to pair
With a bee.

Let old geneticists plot and plan,
They’re stuffy people, to a man;
Let gossips whisper behind their fan.
(Oh, she does?
Buzz, buzz, buzz!)
My nuptial flight is sheer delight;
I’m a giddy girl who likes to swirl,
To fly and soar
And fly some more,
I’m a bee.
And I wish to state that I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

There’s a kind of a wild and glad elation
In the natural way of insemination;
Who thinks that love is a handicap
Is a fuddydud and a common sap,
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I’m devil-may-care and I’m fancy-free,
The test tube doesn't appeal to me,
Not me,
I’m a bee.
And I’m here to state that I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

Mares and cows, by calculating,
Improve themselves with loveless mating,
Let groundlings breed in the modern fashion,
I’ll stick to the air and the grand old passion;
I may be small and I’m just a bee
But I won’t have science improving me,
Not me,
I’m a bee.
On a day that’s fair with a wind that’s free,
Any old drone is a lad for me.

I’ve no flair for love moderne,
It’s far too studied, far too stern,
I’m just a bee—I’m wild, I’m free,
That’s me.
I can’t afford to be too choosy;
In every queen there’s a touch of floozy,
And it’s simply rare
In the upper air
And I wish to state
That I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

Man is a fool for the latest movement,
He broods and broods on race improvement;
What boots it to improve a bee
If it means the end of ecstasy?
(He ought to be there
On a day that’s fair,
Oh, it’s simply rare.
For a bee.)

Man’s so wise he is growing foolish,
Some of his schemes are downright ghoulish;
He owns a bomb that’ll end creation
And he wants to change the sex relation,
He thinks that love is a handicap,
He’s a fuddydud, he’s a simple sap;
Man is a meddler, man’s a boob,
He looks for love in the depths of a tube,
His restless mind is forever ranging,
He thinks he’s advancing as long as he’s changing,
He cracks the atom, he racks his skull,
Man is meddlesome, man is dull,
Man is busy instead of idle,
Man is alarmingly suicidal,
Me, I am a bee.

I am a bee and I simply love it,
I am a bee and I’m darn glad of it,
I am a bee, I know about love:
You go upstairs, you go above,
You do not pause to dine or sup,
The sky won’t wait—it’s a long trip up;
You rise, you soar, you take the blue,
It’s you and me, kid, me and you,
It’s everything, it’s the nearest drone,
It’s never a thing that you find alone.
I’m a bee,
I’m free.

If any old farmer can keep and hive me,
Then any old drone may catch and wife me;
I’m sorry for creatures who cannot pair
On a gorgeous day in the upper air,
I’m sorry for cows that have to boast
Of affairs they’ve had by parcel post,
I’m sorry for a man with his plots and guile,
His test-tube manner, his test-tube smile;
I’ll multiply and I’ll increase
As I always have—by mere caprice;
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I’m devil-may-care and I’m fancy-free,
Love-in-air is the thing for me,
Oh, it’s simply rare
In the beautiful air,
And I wish to state
That I’ll always mate
With whatever drone I encounter.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hive Inspection - First Real One of the Year

I did my first real hive inspection of 2008 on Sunday afternoon. Both hives looked healthy and had lots of bees. The bees in Mellona in the first picture were all through two boxes. The brood was all in the bottom box and had not moved up, to my surprise. The second box was still heavy with honey.
Last year at this inspection, Bermuda was a small handful of bees, with Varroa everywhere. But the queen was alive and with many powdered sugar shakes, the hive rebuilt itself. This is the hive where the original queen was cast out on January 6 this year. They obviously have a queen and are really building up. I scraped off the burr comb that you can see on top of a couple of frames.
I did a powdered sugar shake on both hives today and with the DWV (Deformed Wing Virus) that I saw earlier in the month on the dead bees on the deck, I will be shaking sugar every inspection this spring. Look out, Costco, here I come!
The sad news was that I had left a Ziploc bag feeder inside the Bermuda hive. There were so many bees in that hive a few weeks ago that I was afraid they would go through their stores. I knew when I put it in the hive that it had sort of folded over on itself, but I didn't do anything about it. The many dead bees I found inside it today let me (and preventively all of you) know that a ziploc feeder must be sitting flat on the frames in order to keep bees from drowning as they get the sugar syrup.
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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Innisfree or When Will Spring Be Here?

My sister led me to this poem by William Butler Yeats:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler Yeats

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the mourning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

My wish is for spring to be here. I love the "bee-loud glade" that happens on my deck in the spring.

I did open the hives today to do a powdered sugar shake on each hive. It was rather quiet, not at all "bee-loud," as the bees were not expecting me. The temperature was in the 60s as it will be all week, so it was a good moment to begin sugar shakes to help slow the Varroa mite.

The number of bees in the hives has doubled since last weekend. This will hopefully be a different spring. I'm hoping that at last I'll have two vigorous hives make it through the winter to begin the spring well.


Lots of Bright Yellow Pollen Coming In


It was bright and sunny today. In the warmth the bees were out in force. many delivered loads of bright yellow pollen to the hives. The red maple is blooming now and the pollen probably is coming from that. According to this page, which is organized by blooming time of the species, the pollen of the red maple is grey, but the pollen of the maple tree is generally yellow. So the bees are probably delivering pollen from a maple tree - not specifically the red maple.
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Monday, February 04, 2008

There's a bee in the house tonight

There's a bee in the house tonight and I feel both sad and hopeful.

I'm sad because she will die. She has been throwing herself up against a ceiling light and she will wear herself out and die. Even if I were to try to rescue her, she's probably a lost cause.

I have no idea how she got in. The glass doors are closed between the sunporch and the house so coming in through some secret opening in the sunporch windows isn't how she got here. Probably she came in on the back of one of the dogs.

I'm hopeful because her presence to me means that spring is really just around the corner. In bee season, I have a bee or two in the house almost every night. With my hives just feet from the door to my house, it is hard to prevent the arrival of a bee in the house. The inside bees don't sting - they are much too frantically trying to kill themselves on the lights.

Note: The bee book I am reading for February is Robbing the Bees by Holley Bishop. My sweet daughter gave it to me for my birthday and I am enjoying reading this "biography of honey."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Garden Club Talk about Bees



On Monday night I gave a talk to a garden club in Stone Mountain, GA on being a beekeeper. I took an empty 8 frame medium hive box, screened bottom board, super and some frames. I took a frame of pollen, a frame of partially drawn comb, and a fully capped frame of honey to show them.

The meeting was a group of men and women who were quite interested in the bees and asked all kinds of questions. I let them taste honey from my bees and gave them all lip balm in tin watch cases (see picture). I passed around a beeswax candle and let them try the lotion that I had just finished the night before. I also handed out a sheet of bee facts that I had gotten from various places.

I was a little scared since the only other talk I had given to non-beekeepers was at the Atlanta History Center in October. This garden club talk went really well and they asked good questions. As it turned out, the hardest part was finding the house where the garden club met, although now that I have a phone with a GPS system as part of it, I never get completely lost!

My next scheduled talk is on Feb 25 when I will be talking to the Henderson Mill 5th grade school garden club at their after school meeting - that should be fun.
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