Welcome - Explore my Blog

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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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Really Good Video about Plight of Bees

I love to visit Ted.com. There are inspiring and informative talks to be heard there. Often they last about 20 minutes and I always walk away curious about something I didn't know about before.

Here's a good video about the bees that a friend posted on Beemaster.com

The Bees are Out and About - Pollen in December???

Today as the "winter" temperature rose to the high 60s, the bees were out and about at all four hives. There was orientation behavior, particularly at Mellona and at Aristaeous2. I was pleased to see so much flying because I know there is life at all the hives - what a relief.



At Persephone, I saw two bees with full loads of yellow pollen in their pollen baskets - can you believe it? What in the world might be blooming in December? BTW, I "googled" pollen in Georgia in December and found that the only pollen present right now in Georgia is cedar...so it must be the source of the yellow pollen being brought into the hives.

In addition, that probably means the queen is doing OK because there must be babies to feed, although they may simply be refortifying their stores.

If you click on the picture below, you can see the bee at the entry way with one pollen-laden leg. Both pollen-carrying bees went into the hive too quickly for me to catch more than that.

Of course, another task when it's flying weather is the carrying out of the dead. Many bee bodies lie cast away on my deck. I'm sure the wren will have a feast.
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

BeeKeeping Ornaments

I couldn't post over the holiday because I forgot to take my transfer cord for my camera to the mountains. I did want to share my beekeeping ornaments. The collection grew a little this year.

I've loved the beekeeping angel below ever since my friend, Roberta, gave her to me.



My daughter Becky gave me the two bee ornaments that are flying and the beekeeping glove with the skep in it is a gift from my book club friend, Nancy.

I never see beekeeping ornaments, although I do look. I'm lucky to have others who find them for me!

Belated Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.
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Honeybee Hand Cream



I made a new batch of hand cream to give to people that I love with their Christmas gifts. I didn't have enough sweet almond oil but I did have red palm oil. I changed my formula to include less beeswax so that it wouldn't be so stiff and used the red palm oil since I didn't have any sweet almond oil.

Surprise! Surprise! The hand cream came out more like lotion and the red palm oil turned it bright yellow! I should package it in black and yellow striped containers. People seem to like it so far. I am waiting to hear from my nephew Clifford who is a fan of this lotion. I sent him a container of both the old formula and the new and hope to hear what he thinks.
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Metro Atlanta Short Course coming up in January - Register NOW

If you are in the Atlanta area, the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' Association offers a fabulous short course for beginning beekeepers that happens this coming January on January 24, 2009 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

The focus is always on helping one get started "bee-ing" a beekeeper and you'll find it well worth your while if you are within driving distance of Atlanta. We actually had a beekeeper from Mississippi come to take our course last year!

A good description of what will be offered and what you may learn can be found here.

If you sign up after reading this, be sure and tell them that you read about it on my blog! I'd love to know if writing about it here has any impact.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Golden Bee Suit ARRIVED!

I am so thrilled! My Golden Bee suit that was my birthday present arrived today. What a fabulous suit!

It is made for my height and is just perfect. Even in the winter in Atlanta, I can tell that it will be so comfortable to wear. The ventilation is amazing. The hood, although it zips off, is easy to manage and see through. In the pictures below I didn't draw up the strings around my ankle but it is set to keep the bees out of my pants as well.



My new dog Hannah likes the suit too. She thinks she likes the beehives but she is new and hasn't been stung yet although she sniffs around all the hives. Just wait until summer comes! Hannah will learn to respect the bees, I imagine.


This is the best thing that has happened in my beekeeping life in a while. What a great birthday present!



The pockets are oriented so that I can actually put my hands in them (unlike my other suit). Hooray!

If any of you want one, you have to special order it from The Golden Bee Company in Metairie, Louisiana. Their phone number is 504-456-8805. Sue, the daughter of the creators of the suit, is the person to whom you speak. I ordered mine the week before Thanksgiving and expected to wait a long, long time to get it but it came today, less than a month from my order placement.
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The Mortician Bees are Working Themselves to Death

Below you can see several views of the deck in front of the hives. The area is littered with dead bees. I swept the area clean about three days ago and since then the mortician bees have been busily carrying out the dead. During the winter, bees continue to live and die all winter. While the bees that over winter tend to live longer than the approximate 6 week life span of the summer bees, still bees die and their bodies need to be removed from the hive. The bees don't fly when it's too cold (usually below 50) so when there are warm days, the bees leave the hive to remove the bodies and to relieve themselves.

Interestingly tonight the deck is completely clean, but I didn't sweep it. Instead I saw two wrens making a feast out of the bodies lying on the deck, and cleaning it up for me at the same time. The cycle of life is amazing that way!



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Thursday, December 11, 2008

There are bees in Persephone

Follow-up note: This morning in the rain, I opened Persephone to see if I needed to add a baggie feeder. There were bees sucking the last of the syrup out of the baggie currently under the shim - lots of bees. So I replaced the baggie feeder with a new one and breathed a sigh of relief, at least for now!

There were also at least 30 SHBs. I ignored them - didn't even give them the hive tool treatment because I wanted to get in and out of there in a hurry, but I noted that they are LIVING through the winter in my hive.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's a Dog Eat Dog World in the Beehive

Upon looking closely at the ground around Persephone, in the leaves that have gathered around the hives, there are tons of dead bees. Bees and bee parts are scattered everywhere. Obviously the hive was robbed and a fierce battle ensued.

I fed this hive before Thanksgiving. Both the small nuc hive and it were needing food so I gave each of these two hives baggie feeders under the inner cover and well protected from other bees. However, during my absence for the week of Thanksgiving, both hives were robbed. The absconded nuc hive was demolished.

However, I don't know about the state of Persephone.



It's so sad to see bees in such a devastated pile of dead bodies.



When I first looked at Persephone, the hive landing was bare and clean. At the end of the day in which I took the above pictures in the morning, the landing looked like this below. I believe there are live bees in Persephone who carried the dead to the landing during this day during a warmer moment.



Tonight after a relatively warm day, the landing of Persephone (as is also true of all of my hives) is cleaned off. I hope the bees left in Persephone have a queen and can make it through the rest of the winter.

The feeding question remains. I fed those bees in what is considered the safest way for winter. I think I will open the hive when it is cold in the morning and add a new bag. Maybe in the cold, other bees won't notice the food and rob the hive. It is going to rain all day tomorrow so the bees won't be flying in both rain and cold.

There's hope for Persephone yet! We're almost to the Winter Solstice when her stay in the Underworld will be over.
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Work of the Mortician Bees in Winter

We have had very cold weather for late November in Atlanta. When I came home from a week away for Thanksgiving, all of the hives had dead bees on the front porch. It is part of the cycle of life that bees die during the winter, but when it is too cold to fly the mortician bees can't carry out the dead.

As you can see in the two pictures below, the dead bees accumulate on the bottom board of the hive until it is warm enough for a mortician bee to carry the bodies away from the hive.






Today although it has continued to be quite cold for Atlanta, we did have a few hours above 50 degrees. The bees can fly under those conditions and they carried away the dead, leaving their front porches clean and shiny.

This was true on my strongest three hives: Bermuda, Mellona and Aristaeus2. These hives went into winter with plenty of honey stored for the cold days and I often see bees at the entrance when the temperature approaches anything close to a flying level (above 50 usually, but sometimes these bees go out at 45 if it is sunny).

Note the clean porch below compared to the picture above with dead bees lying all around.



Persephone is another story. Her landing had dead bees on it on Sunday (see the picture below) and still has dead bees today. Closer inspection shows that there are many dead bees in front of this hive. I wonder if the hive has been killed off, as was the absconded nuc hive.

I opened the top of the box to see if they needed more food and only saw a few bees.

The baggie feeder is on top of the super and the cluster may be in the bottom box, if there are any bees left. I checked the syrup in the baggies and this hive is low. I will make some more tonight and see if they are there tomorrow to give it to them. When I went out to take a later picture, I did see a bee carrying out a body from this hive so maybe a small cluster is still alive.

Tomorrow I'll replace the baggie feeder without really opening the hive and hope for the best.

Note: My daughters who put credence into magical thinking asked how could I expect a hive named Persephone to survive? They reminded me that in the winter Persephone is condemned to the Underworld and her mother, Demeter, forces the earth to languish and almost die before Persephone returns to the Earth in the spring.

If this hive does make it through the winter, I'll rename it and maybe relocate it in the spring to take away this bad Karma!



At this point I have three hives that appear to be doing OK and this Persephone hive that appears to be in trouble. My first year only one hive made it through the winter: Bermuda. Bermuda entered the spring with bees ill from varroa-vectored diseases and was quite weak. Last winter both Bermuda and Mellona made it through the winter, and because of my attention in the fall with powdered sugar shakes (I assume) both were strong and healthy.

If Bermuda, Mellona and Aristaeus2 manage to live until spring, that will be an increase of one hive per year! Aristaeus2 is the small swarm that I collected from a shrub in Dunwoody. The bees are tiny and feral in appearance and it would thrill me if it lives until the spring.
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The Rescued Nuc Hive has Died

Today at the end of the work day, I decided to check to see if the nuc hive needed more sugar syrup. I had put baggie feeders on top of the nuc box under the inner cover and top of the nuc. There appeared to be no bees when I opened the top. When I removed the baggies I could see ripped up comb and dead bees. You can see the ragged edges of comb and a few of the dead bees in the picture below.



Sadly I lifted off the box and here's what the bottom board looked like.



I sifted through the bodies but didn't see the dead queen although I am sure she was in the pile somewhere. The beige stuff is composed of the wax cappings, ripped off of the comb as the robbing commenced.

I wish I had been a better beekeeper. All of this destruction is because I replaced the queen in Devorah when the original queen was still alive and kicking, although not laying. I also think this is because we have had such a drought in Georgia that supplies for the bees are so low - just as the US economy is in a recession, the bees are in a depression!
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Monday, December 01, 2008

How Does Martha Stewart Keep Her Beehives So White and Clean?

As winter is in full swing in Atlanta, I look at my aging beehives and wonder how Martha Stewart keeps her hives so clean and beautiful. One of my friends on Beemaster took the picture above of Martha's hives herself (so this picture is not doctored up for the magazine)! It was in April, but even in April, my bottom box is dingy from the year before.

Here's a video of a Martha Stewart show on harvesting honey. She uses an extractor and makes it sound as if that is the only way to harvest, but I don't use the extractor and get great (prize winning) honey. In the video she says she gives her bees all new homes for the winter. Even if mine go through the winter in new boxes, they would look a little done in by spring from the vestiges of the weather.

My bees, if they live through the winter, are in an old box at the beginning of spring. I wonder if it's worth giving them a new box? My bees are on my deck in full view of anyone who visits my house and a new box would certainly be more attractive. But would it be worth it to disturb the hive just for beauty? HMMMMMM.....

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