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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, May 30, 2008

As Paul Harvey Would Say, "And now, The Rest of the Story...."

Last night I left the broken branch swarm with access to the cardboard box in which I planned to collect it. I spread a swipe of my swarm lure in the cardboard box and I sprayed the bees who were still on the ground with 1:1 sugar syrup. I hoped for the best and determined to see what happened the next morning.

Well, today is the next morning and lo and behold, the bees were all in the cardboard box!

So I suited up and put Dylan (who spent the night at my house) in his bee veil. His job was to watch from the sunporch door.



Here's how the bees looked on the underside of the cardboard "ramp" I had in frustration simply put inside the cardboard box last night.

I picked up the bee-covered cardboard and shook them into the patched together hive box I have for them. The rest of the day, Dylan talked about "Gwamma dumped the bees!" It was pretty impressive to see the whole lot of them fall as one into the hive box. You can see how they filled the space.


I don't have any more medium frames and these two medium 8-frame boxes were painted and ready to add to other hives. I only had five medium frames left so I added two drawn comb shallow frames and a shallow frame of honey. I had to do something with these bees today, though, so this is the best I could devise.

I used the bottom board from a 5 frame nuc that I have - so in this 8 frame box, the last three frames (the shallow ones) are bottom-less. The box needed something to support the bottomless side, so I used a 2 X 4 on the bricks below it to balance out the nuc bottom board. I used two deep frame end bars to make a shim on the outside edge to keep the hive from shifting. I had no wood at all so I used a plastic mite count tray to serve as a temporary top and put a flower pot on it for good measure.



I have more boxes and frames on order but the earliest any of that will be here is at the end of this coming week.

When I came back in the house, I called PN Williams, a local supplier, and arranged to buy from him some medium frames, a screened bottom board, an inner cover and a telescoping cover. He doesn't carry any 8 frame equipment, so I will have to make yet another arrangement tomorrow. I'll put my last 10 frame medium box on the bottom and move the medium frames from the current bottom box into it. Then I'll use a 2X4 as I did with Melissa to allow the 8 frame boxes to sit on top of the 10 frame. I'll still have an inner cover and top for the 10 frame but I'll manage.
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Unsuccessful Swarm Capture (So Far)

As my grandson (age 2) and I were shoveling chips from a tree removal and taking them in the wheelbarrow to put in my flower beds, I looked up and saw the swarm below hanging in a very young Japanese maple in my neighbor's yard.


Dylan and I both ran inside and put on our bee veils. He stood right beside the wheelbarrow about 15 feet away while I approached the swarm with a cardboard box. Literally when I was one step from the swarm, the branch broke with the weight of the hive and the bees fell to the ground.

I picked up the branch (and bees) and put them in the cardboard box, but about three hours later, all of the bees had left the box and were hanging on both sides of the cardboard I had set up as a ramp to the box as well as in a clump on the ground. The queen obviously was still not in the box when the branch was put there.

After Dylan went to bed, at twilight, I tried to slide the bees on the ground onto a sheet or onto another piece of cardboard but was unsuccessful and got stung several times. I've left outside the box, the sheet and the cardboard ramp. I don't know how to manage this swarm.

Maybe they'll leave in the morning and maybe they will all be in the box (RIGHT....) I've posted on Beemaster to see what other beekeepers think I should do about this swarm. I only have a nuc to put them in and maybe they'll go there - it's in my carport within fifteen feet of the swarm and there have been scout bees sniffing around it for the last few days.

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Hyron Doesn't Like Me to Be A Homewrecker

Hyron, the hive made from the swarm I caught in the office parking lot, is not particularly pleased with me. As swarms go, Hyron was a small swarm. I brought it straight home and put the swarm colony in my lure hive on the deck. The lure hive was composed of old yucky frames in an old box, but it was the only place I had to house the bees on short notice.

Immediately you may remember, the bees began housecleaning. I wondered how they would think of the beekeeper since I had supplied them with a rather lousy place to live. At the end of the day, they had swept the hive clean of clutter and set about bee-ing bees.

My own theory about this swarm is that they had a virgin queen. Often a hive will "throw" a swarm in which the old queen leaves with half the hive population. After the original swarm several after swarms may occur with a daughter of the now-absent queen. These queens are usually virgin queens.

This means that the queen has to fly off to be mated and successfully return to the new hive before any real action starts.

Hyron besides demonstrating excellent housekeeping, showed little growth at the beginning. I never fully checked for eggs because in the disreputable hive I gave them, there was a broken frame and this was the frame on which the population seemed to be concentrated. I just assumed that the queen was laying on that frame and went on with life.

Before I went out of town at the beginning of May, I put an extra box on Hyron but still didn't check for eggs. The hive was installed on April 1.

If the queen were a virgin, then she would have had to orient to the hive, fly away and return safely. She would then start laying, but her first eggs would not be bees for 21 days. At best, we might have had new bees emerging at the beginning of May.

When I looked truly into the hive this past weekend, I did see eggs and a beginning of brood build-up. This was the first really "deep" inspection I had ever done of this hive in the two months it has been in my beeyard.

Hyron's bees were not happy. One sneaked onto my sock and zapped me on my ankle. Another stung me on my knee through my beesuit. They head-butted me throughout the time I had the hive open. They are used to being left alone, so they must have experienced me as quite the homewrecker. I never smoke the bees, but I smoked these just so I could see what I was doing.
I am delighted that they do have eggs and brood. So best wishes, Your Majesty, live long and lay lots of babies.

I also noticed that in the hurry of a previous inspection I had failed to slide the next to the bottom box on Mellona all the way back flush with the bottom box. You can see the slight jut-out on the hive in the right side of the picture between boxes 1 and 2.



The bees have been using this as a mid-entrance! The next two pictures were taken close-up from the top
of the hive looking into the opened crack.

You can see the glee of the bees, having a new entrance to their hive.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Harvest of the Huge Honeycomb

Below you can see a slice of the huge honeycomb from the double-wide comb. It was too fat to go into a cut comb box and frankly, wasn't pretty enough with its over-fat side of honey.


I saved one segment and put it in a wide-mouthed jar to make chunk honey with it.

Looking at the entire length of this comb, you can see that the bees coped in part with the width by making a second midrib. If you look at the lower part of the comb, you can see at the left edge and second midrib that goes approximately to the center of the comb length.
I guess this was to give the overfull area more strength.

Here's a closer view of the beginning of the second midrib. I crushed and strained this honey - first of the season. I haven't bottled it yet. It's still in the straining bucket waiting for me to have time this weekend.
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Monday, May 26, 2008

Another Adventure at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve

Two of the hives at Blue Heron appear to be queenless. I helped the guys look at their hives two weeks ago and there is still no brood, no eggs, no sign of a laying queen. They decided to bite the bullet and buy new queens, rather than using a frame of brood and eggs since the time involved would make them miss this ongoing honey flow.

The frame below is what all the frames in the hive looked like - lots of room for brood but no eggs and lots of nectar stored but little else. Wade installed his queen by laying her box on top of the frames in his 10 frame box.


He took the cork out of the candy end of the queen box and laid her on top of a central frame. I brought him a 10 frame shim to borrow to allow her release without removing a frame.



We closed the hive up and he'll check on her release state in about 4 days.

Kent is using 8 frame boxes (in the picture below). They are built with more space in them. He was able easily to space his frames in the box and allow room for the queen without removing a frame. He tied the box and then attached it to a thumb tack on a centrally located frame.

He too will wait four days and then check to see if she is released.


I'm really enjoying helping these guys with their hives at the Nature Preserve. They are all enthusiastic and eager beekeepers. Their excitement about their new adventure makes it all the more fun to help them out.

These guys caught a swarm while I was at Young Harris. It literally landed on a tree in the garden area near their hives.

We checked the box they put the swarm in and saw eggs and young brood. Clearly the queen in the swarm hive is thriving. We all cheered.

Great to have one hive doing well with a laying queen while the other two are getting a slower start.
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Inspection today

My goal today was to take the huge honeycomb off of Bermuda, but while I was all suited up, I checked in on each of the hives to see which one might need a new box. The Aristaeus2 hive just doesn't like popsicle sticks. If you look under my blue gloved finger, you can see that this frame had popsicle sticks as starters and instead of using them, the bees are building messy comb from the bottom.

I'm going to set some frames up with starter strips and give those to them instead.



The best growing hive was Melissa (located in my yard in bright sunshine). Fartherest from the camera is frame 4 and we are looking straight at frame 3. They drew these from starter strips.



Here you can see frames 4, 3, and 2 with 2 closest to the camera. True to typical bee form, they have most built out the frame closest to the center of the box and are working on the ones closer to the edge. I know you may be wondering if this is actually a top bar hive, but this is how bees build comb when allowed to do it in their own way. Eventually they will fill out the frame and often do not attach it to the bottom bar.



My favorite picture of the day is the one below. In Melissa, the bees were festooning in the top box as they draw out the wax. I pushed frame 7 over, creating a space between it and frame 8 and stretching this line of bees who were attached to each other "festooning" as they build wax in the frames.


I'll paint a new box for this hive and put it on tomorrow when I put the foundation-filled frames onto Bermuda to straighten out their wax making. I'll also give Aristaeus2 some foundation-filled frames to help get them on the right track as well.

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Giant Honeycomb in foundationless frames

In Bermuda I had noticed a huge honeycomb and knew I had to take it out of the hive today. The bees had taken advantage of the foundationless frame and it looked to me as if they had built comb hooking it to two side-by-side frames.

Instead what they did was to build one huge honey comb attached to the first frame and fattened through the second frame. The comb was not attached except in one place at the top to the second frame. Here's the comb hanging on my frame rack on the outside of Bermuda. At the lower right you can see the broken comb at the top where they had attached to the second frame.



The other side of the comb was beautifully capped honey - I wish it had looked like this on the other side. I could have boxed it for cut comb honey. Looking like it does, I can crush and strain or cut it for chunk honey in a wide mouthed jar. I'll probably do the chunk honey so I can remember what this huge comb looked like as I enjoy the honey.



Here's a side view and you can now easily see how the comb was expanded under the second frame but not attaching to it.


There's another comb in this same box with the same configuration (two frames with one very fat honeycomb), but they hadn't capped it enough to take it off of the hive. I'll fill the empty spaces in this box with frames WITH foundation to get these bees back on track.
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Friday, May 23, 2008

Working the Yard with Linda T's Bees

When I set up my two non-deck hives, Melissa and Devorah, my daughters told me that my backyard wouldn't be touched when the yard guys came. Sure enough last week, they worked on my front yard but completely ignored my backyard.

Today I was there when they arrived. I stopped one of the men and asked him about the backyard. "We're too scared of the bees," he said. I asked if he would do it if I gave him a net for his head. "OK," he said but he looked skeptical. The fellow working with him told me that he himself was allergic to bees and his throat swelled shut if he got stung. "You don't need to be in my backyard," I said.

The first guy put this camping mosquito net I have over his head and proceeded to weed whack and blow off the backyard. He seemed somewhat reassured when I told him that bees don't really hear and that the loud noise wouldn't bother them. He should, however, try not to fling stuff into the front of the hive.



He did a fabulous job, the bees ignored him altogether, and I took his picture while he worked. He didn't get stung and we agreed that I would leave this camping headdress on a hook in my carport so that he could work in the back this summer.



I kept my fingers crossed the whole time because it was very cloudy and thunder was starting. The bees can be easily aroused under those conditions, but the bees in both yard hives did their thing and ignored his yard work.

Of course, I gave him a jar of honey and promised more when I harvest this year!


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's time to Name the Hives

When I got home from the Young Harris Beekeeping Institute, I inspected the beehives. My main concern was to determine if the swarm hive and the apparently queenless hive yet had queens. When I checked both hives had tiny larvae and I saw eggs in the apparently queenless hive.

So all the hives are growing appropriately and now it's time to give them names.

From left to right on the deck we have Bermuda, Mellona, Aristaeus2, and Hyron.
  • Bermuda is my oldest hive, starting the third year of survival. The original hive boxes for Bermuda were painted a pale pink, so the name referred to the sands of Bermuda. This is my only hive with such a simple reason for her name.
  • Mellona is next. Mellona is the Roman goddess of bees. Mellona is in her second year. She tends to make wonderful honey, but is slower in production than Bermuda
  • Aristaeus2 is named for the Greek god Aristaeus who lost all of his bees to disease. Proteus advised him to sacrifice a number of animals, go away for a time. When he returned, he found swarms of bees in the sacrificed carcasses. His bees were never sick again. This was a small swarm and has managed to get started well, although they have a tendency to build burr comb.
  • Hyron, according to Wikipedia, is the Cretan word for swarm of bees. Since this was my first swarm that I collected this year, I decided it deserved the name.

This hive below is the nuc that arrived queenless (or apparently so). The supplier gave me a new queen who was released but disappeared and there still was no laying activity in the hive five days later.
I believe this hive had a virgin queen from the beginning and she is now laying well.
  • So I have named this hive Persephone since Persephone disappeared into the underworld for half the year but represented fertility when she was in the world during spring and summer.

    This little hive I have named Melissa, who in Greek mythology, saved Zeus' life by feeding him milk and honey. I hope this enthusiastic hive will make lots of honey to feed me and themselves.

    Finally, I have named this last hive Devorah, the Jewish poet and prophet, whose name in Hebrew means "bee." I did have this spelled Deborah, but a good friend of mine said the correct alliteration is Devorah.
"Hebrew scholars offer other possible Semitic origins of devorah,the modern Hebrew word for bee. They consider ancient cognates like the Aramaic for bee, debarta, and its Syriac cousin, deboritha, as well as the Hebrew word for honey, debash. There is another shoresh (three-letter word root) brought forth for consideration: the Mandaic Aramaic dibra 'back, tail, hence 'bee's stinger' (?) to be compared with the Arabic dubr 'backside, tail.'" I found this quote here.

I think since this hive is closest to my neighbor's yard and in full view and since this hive is directly beside the path the yard guys have to walk on to work in my yard, Devorah seems like a gentle name for a hive which at the moment appears to have a gentle feel. But with the sting of the bee implied in the origin of the name, we can also expect Devorah to keep the hive safe.

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Comb Configurations

When I inspected a hive last week (the smallest swarm hive), I found that I had put shallows in a medium super and the bees had built burr comb below the shallow frames in the space above their bottom box. I scraped off most of it and put the comb filled with nectar on top of the inner cover for the bees to save the nectar.


In place of the shallow frames I put in medium frames. Some of the medium frames had popsicle sticks for starter strips and some had wax starter strips. I put a frame with a full sheet of foundation in the center. This week there was more burr comb and instead of building comb from the top of the frames, the largest comb they had drawn out was the one below which they built on the bottom of the frame.

Again there was burr comb on the edges of most of the bottoms of the frames on one side of the box. I don't usually smoke the bees after an initial puff at the door. To get them out of the area with the burr comb, I did smoke them and they disappeared down into the hive.

This time I carefully scraped all of the burr comb off of the tops of the frames and off of the frames below. I have to train these girls to draw their comb straight and pretty. You can see below the amount of burr comb I scraped off - it will be nice for the solar wax melter, but what a waste of energy for the bees in this hive.



Thankfully, Bermuda has some beautiful capped honey in her next to the top box. I will take it off this weekend before the bees can track pollen and dirt over the gorgeous white comb. Isn't it pretty? There's a whole box of this. It does have a problem that I'll have to address. In frames 4 and 5, which were put in the hive without foundation, the bees have built one very wide comb. The comb is straight and goes the right direction, but instead of filling one frame's depth, they used two.

I both have no idea how I'll get the bees off of that particular duo comb and don't know what to do with it. If I can get it out of the hive in one piece, I'll take pictures. Then I'll probably crush and strain it.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Best Part of Young Harris

Obviously the best part of the Young Harris Beekeeping Institute is sharing information and getting to know beekeepers from Georgia and surrounding states.

Here's my fun lunch group from the last day. We had a great time at the lunches. (The food leaves something to be desired but the company is well worth hanging out in the cafeteria.) We all shared the experience of the day with each other. I didn't take pictures at the most fun event which was the shrimp boil held at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds on Friday night. The food is really delicious there and the people are all more relaxed because we're through with all the tests.



Tests? Yes, the Beekeeping Institute is put on by the University of Georgia and The Young Harris College. Most people come to try to get certification at some level. You can take the beginner level - which is Certified Beekeeper. That's what I did last year. The next level is Journeyman (must have two years of beekeeping under your belt) followed by Master Beekeeper and Certified Master Craftsman Beekeeper (those two take at least five years). I believe that Bill Owens is the only Certified Master Craftsman Beekeeper in the state of Georgia. Also available at Young Harris Beekeeping Institute is a class to certify Welsh Honey Judges.

I took the Journeyman tests both written and practical and turned in my proof of the required five public service credits I had earned.

I sweated bullets. I was pretty sure I had passed the written test, but the practical test included some entomology that threw me for a loop. So I wasn't feeling very hopeful as I sat down at the end-of-the-institute convocation.

When Dr. Delaplane called out the name of the person who had passed the Journeyman level, I was not that person, so I sat back in my chair and thought, "OK, maybe I'll try again next year."

Then after a pause, I heard Dr. Delaplane announce, "And Linda Tillman." I was thrilled. He commented that this blog influenced my certification, so thank you to all of you who come to read about my beekeeping adventures and comment on my efforts.



I keep a statcounter on the numbers of people who visit each day and now it averages 300/day from all over the world. Since January 1, 2007, Google reports that 1,989 people have watched my video on crush and strain harvesting and 2,848 people have watched the one on how to make a solar wax melter. Thank you all for your interest and for visiting so often.



I also entered the photograph below in the photography section of the honey show and it won second place. What a great day for me all the way around!

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