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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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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Small Absconded Hive is Still OK

I've left the robber screen on the small nuc to help this tiny cluster of bees and the queen. It isn't completely closed up - on the right side you can see the opening. However, a robber aims for the front door and the bees who live in the nuc are drawn to the queen, so they will go to the side opening without any problem.



It's extra cold in Atlanta for this time of year. Tonight the lows will be in the 30s for the fourth night in a row. I didn't want to disturb the colony but wanted to look for signs of life so I lifted up the inner cover and found these happy girls looking up at me.



There are two Boardman feeders inside the empty second box of this nuc with pint jars on them to accommodate the shorter size of the medium nuc. The bees do not seem to be taking the syrup, however. This weekend I may pour the syrup into two sandwich bags instead. I didn't want to put a gallon Ziploc in the nuc because bees tend to drown if baggie feeders fold over on themselves. There isn't enough room in the 5 frame to allow the Ziploc to lie flat, but two sandwich bags would.

A poster on Beemaster says that he pokes holes in the Ziploc with a pin and bees can then get the syrup without drowning, but I tried that and the bees completely ignored the baggie. Slits seem to work better for me.

If it warms up this weekend, I'll open this box up again and see if the larvae are developing in the two frames of brood that I found the last time I looked.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hilarious Interview with John Cleese on Beekeeping

I found this, while not full of new information, laugh out loud funny!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Off Topic Moment: I finished the 3 Day



I took time away from the bees this weekend to walk the Atlanta Breast Cancer 3 Day. We walked 60 miles in three days to raise money for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the National Philanthropic Foundation for Breast Cancer. There were 3000 walkers on the Atlanta walk.

The Atlanta walk raised $8.3 million - can you believe it! Of that, 15% goes to pay for the walk events and the rest to the National Philanthropic Trust and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The walk was an unbelievable experience. It was a combination of endurance and an adventure in many forms. The cold, wet rain for the first 24 hours was difficult. Lisa, my walking partner, lent me a thicker poncho than the one I had, which made all the difference. We were still cold and wet all day and the wet feet resulted in hot spots and later blisters that plagued me for the rest of the walk. I had trained well, so I didn't find the amount of walking difficult until Day 3. I didn't do any cross training - which I really regretted - because I had pain between my shoulder blades for the last two days from carrying the fanny pack, I guess.

Our spirits were lifted at every corner and at frequent intervals by the crew, all of whom dressed up in completely outrageous costumes. They reminded me of Atlanta's Seed and Feed Marching Band. I saw more wild bras than I have ever seen in my life - all worn outside the shirt! There were loud boom boxes playing from the motorcycles that the street "cops" drove (there were real cops too, but the crew were the best - they danced us across each street). Vans decorated for the occasion drove up and down the course with riders yelling encouragement through speakers. Spectators showed up in high spirits as well - dressed up and carrying posters - my favorite was one that said "Save Second Base!"

The pit stops, the lunch breaks and all the meals had themes. Our favorite pit stop was "The Fifties," playing rock and roll music and fully equipped with hula hoops! Our favorite dinner was Saturday night Mardi Bra - the crew was laugh-out-loud funny. All the people serving dinner wore exterior bras decorated with tassels and Mardi Gras beads.

Because it rained all day and all night on Friday, we slept the first night in an abandoned building. That sounds awful but it was a building that had housed some kind of technology business that had gone under so there were carpets on the floors and lights and warmth. They had marked the carpet with tape to designate each person's sleeping area, but it became a mass of sleeping bags and bodies in the middle of the night despite "fire lanes" marked on the floor as traffic areas. On Saturday we slept in a field of pink tents.


On both nights we took showers in 18 wheeler trucks - group showers like Japan - you got naked in public but unlike Japan, the showers did have individual curtained stalls!

The second two days were gorgeous. We were "OTP" (Outside the Perimeter, as it is known in Atlanta) for the first two days so Lisa and I, both of whom are "ITP" (Inside the Perimeter) people, were in foreign lands. We never knew exactly where we were...it just all looked like the woodsy suburbs. We did cross the Chattahoochee River several times and walked through the downtown area of Peachtree Corners. On Day Three, we walked into downtown Atlanta, so it was much more familiar and gave us a better sense of how much further we had to go. Heart Attack Hill toward Piedmont Hospital was broken up by a Pit Stop...which helped. The best treat of Day Three was that we had our lunch break in Piedmont Park, which is currently off limits to big events.

I am so happy to have been one of the 3000 Atlanta walkers and to have finished each step of the walk, despite a few minor obstacles. Thank you to all of my fabulous family and friends who supported me.

I'm limping around today, the result of blisters and a sore ankle, but it feels great to have walked every step of the Atlanta Three Day.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm Complimented - this blog gets special listing

I usually check the stats on this blog to see where my visitors come from to visit it. I get visitors from all over the world, so it's always interesting to see the countries, states, and cities from which people come. If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you'll see a map that is updated frequently during a day that shows what parts of the world have sent visitors to my site. I often visit the "referring website" to see if there is an obvious connection to bees.

Today a number of visitors have come from:

http://blogsofnote.blogspot.com/

I clicked on it and discovered that my blog is listed right at the top of the list - no wonder there are so many different visitors today. According to my statcounter at 7:30 EDT, there have been almost 4000 visitors today (compared to a typical day of 350 visits).

Thank you, Blogspot, for noticing my efforts to communicate about my beekeeping challenges!

The Downfall of Devorah - Beekeeper Error

Yesterday I opened the "bees who found me" nuc to see what was going on. I saw the queen who had a worn yellow spot on her back. This observation told me that the downfall of Devorah was all my fault.

I looked into Devorah right before Labor Day to find that there was no evidence of a queen - there was absolutely no brood, no laying or growing bee babies, nothing. I didn't see a queen upon what I thought was careful inspection and ordered a new queen from Rossman. The new queen arrived right before Labor Day, sporting a bright red spot on her back.

My theory is that I put that queen into a hive that actually had a queen who had stopped laying because of the dearth and the drought in Georgia.

Immediately the hive was disturbed - here's a new queen and they have an old one, so the new queen had to be done away with and they did so. This of course disturbed the hive. Then with the disturbance and whatever battle went on in the process, the hive was weakened and then robbed out by my other hives.

The original queen with the yellow spot absconded with some workers and they landed in my neighbor's yard. As you know from previous posts, they ended up in my yard, ensconced in this nuc.

The nuc has had its share of troubles. Because I was feeding with a Boardman, the the Boardman was robbed out yesterday. The bees remain however, and I saw the queen, so they are still trucking along. The interior of the hive does not appear to have been robbed - no jagged wax edges, etc.

I have changed their feeding to a ziploc baggie and have posted on Beemaster to see if I need to get some pollen substitute for them as well. We don't have terrribly cold winters in Atlanta, so I'm hoping this little group can make it through the winter if I keep feeding them. I also wonder if I should add a frame of workers from my strongest hive to this nuc.



In the photo below, although it looks like a spotty pattern, in fact the uncapped cells all have eggs or larvae in them.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Honey Judging and Entering Honey Contests

Robert Brewer, Welsh honey judge from Young Harris, Georgia

I know I haven't posted in a while. I had to miss the last Metro Beekeeper's meeting because I was leaving town on the day after the meeting and had to pack and get organized. I'm sorry I missed it - Keith Delaplane spoke on the thermodynamics of bees and I know I would have learned something new.

Sometimes, however, being a grandmother trumps being a beekeeper!

I did go to a talk at GBA by Robert Brewer, well-respected Welsh honey judge, on preparing honey for a show while I was at the GBA meeting a couple of weekends ago. I found my notes, so I want to share them with you.

In preparing honey jars for a show, Robert strongly urged that one always use new containers and new lids. Most people take their honey to the show with plastic wrap between the jarred honey and the lid so that no honey gets on the top of the jar. He suggested carrying new lids with you to the show to put on the jars when you remove the plastic wrap.

The first order of business is the cleanliness of the jars. He suggested that denatured alcohol will remove smudges from the jar. He also suggested polishing your jar with nylon or silk. I saw a number of people entering jars in the GBA show who came with special cloth for polishing the jar.

I used knee-high panty hose, but next year I'm going for silk!

After the judge determines if the jar is clean and without smudges, he or she will look at the fill level. On a queen-line jar, the honey should be just high enough in the jar that there is no air line between the honey and the jar lid when viewed from the side of the jar.

He said that honey is judged on clarity and cleanliness. If you see something in the jar or want to clear bubbles from the top of the honey in the jar, Robert said that a silver spoon will for an unknown reason do this better than a stainless steel spoon (who knew?). The judges take a flashlight and really look at the jar, both to see possible smudges on the jar and to pick up anything floating in the honey, so strain your honey very, very well.

For chunk honey (a cut of honey comb sitting in a jar of liquid honey), the comb should fit the length of the jar. As I've written about earlier, the comb needs to go in the jar the way it is in the hive, right side up. Judges prefer that the comb sit on the bottom of the jar.

Although my chunk honey won a blue ribbon in the state show, the judge (Robert Brewer) wrote that he would have preferred to see the chunk on the bottom of the jar. Since the wax wants to float, the only way to accomplish this wish is to somehow stick the honey comb to the jar bottom. Robert said that some people set the wide-mouthed jar in hot water so that when you put the chunk in the jar it melts slightly to the bottom of the jar and sticks there.

"Cut comb" is the comb in the clear plastic 4 inch square box. Robert said that judges look for clean cuts of the comb, no honey drips in the box, and for dry cappings. Bees can cap honey in two ways: wet cappings and dry cappings. The wet cappings look somewhat transparent as if the honey is touching the wax and sort of soaking into it. Dry cappings look white and lovely and the honey is not apparently touching the wax.

Robert also talked about pouring wax blocks (remember my 18 pours??). He noted that pouring a good wax block is particularly hard to do. Wax is affected by air currents and vibrations in the room. He suggested doing what I have done - pour the block and go to bed, leaving the block in a quiet room to cool. He said that some people put the block in the oven to cool with a piece of glass over it to keep the air currents from affecting the block. Even the air conditioner turning on or the vibrations of the refrigerator can cause wave marks on the top of the wax.

I've always liked the wavy surface when the wax cools. This year is the first year that I've learned that wavy surfaces count off, so I bought a pane of glass and have tried to minimize the waves.

While I knew the importance of even, slow cooling and the importance of avoiding the wavy look from the air currents, he also said that the edges of the wax block needed to be smoothed so that they are not sharp. Mine are always sharp so I am going to try what he said next year during my 18 or 19 pours. He said to take the ball of your thumb and rub it on the sharp edge to round it off.

Wax block pouring for judging is one of the hardest things to accomplish. This year my wax block won a red ribbon in the state show, but with all these helpful hints, maybe I can do even better next year.

I'm hoping to try all of Robert's techniques described in his talk "Preparing Honey and Hive Products for Show." There are other good hints about honey show success on the Metro Atlanta Beekeeping Association web site as well.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Good News for the Bees Who Found Me

The bees who found me are busily working in this nuc hive. They have filled four frames out of five in the bottom box and I have another medium nuc box above them with drawn comb. I hope that isn't too much space for them to defend, but they need to build up fast. I have been replacing their sugar syrup every day.



Here you can see the colored pollen they are packing into the cells. Randy Oliver said that it is important that there be varied pollen colors and while this is not too varied, they are bringing in several shades of yellow.



I never saw the queen but the camera did!!!! There she is escaping my view on the right side of the screen. I can't tell from the pictureif she has a red dot on her thorax since her thorax is out of view, but this is only a four frame hive. Hopefully the next time I open it I will actually see her with my eyes instead of the camera lens. It did give me great hope to see that she is alive in the hive. I hope they
can build up stores to make it through the winter.

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"Damn, it feels Bad to Bee a Beekeepa'"

With apologies to the Geto Boys, while they thought that "damn, it feels good to be a gangsta," I've been thinking, "Damn, it feels bad to be a beekeepa'." Especially when tragedy strikes.

Today I inspected the hive that looked as if it were being robbed the other day. There are bees buzzing all around the hive and the other night they slept in a clump on the corner of the roof of the hive. Bill Owens wrote me that those bees were probably residents of the hive and couldn't get in because I had mostly blocked the entry, so they spent the night on the corner.

And that's probably true, but when I opened the hive, it had been completely robbed out although there were bees everywhere.

Dead bees on the inner cover (along with hive beetles and a roach)


Typically robbed comb, with ragged edges and absolutely no honey at all.


Dead bees on top of the brood frames.


And a heartbreaking load of dead bees on the bottom board.



I felt sad and sick. I guess the absconded swarm that ended up finding me actually was the core of the old hive and a queen who made it out after the robbers ruined their home. I was proud of those four frames in a medium nuc brave bees. But very sad to lose this hive and the new queen I purchased from Rossman.
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