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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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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Great Article in NY Times about Honeybees

This is a wonderful article by Leon Kreitzman. His field of expertise is chronobiology and he writes about seasonal rhythms. The bees fit right into that picture. I'm not going to try to recreate the article here, but rather, just send you there!

Note: Many thanks to the GBA member who sent all of us in Georgia this link.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Inspection at Blue Heron: The Good and The Bad

We had our second inspection of the hives at Blue Heron yesterday. Noah, Julia's son, led the inspection and did a fabulous job. He was well-informed, could answer questions, and gave the participants lots of helpful information.

One of the nice things about having two of us at the inspection is the proof of the old adage: Ask 10 beekeepers a question and you'll get 10 different answers. In fact, Julia and I do things a little differently so when questions were asked, there was a demonstration of the fact that beekeeping is a matter of choice. We all make decisions and not always the same decision!

In the bad news column, Julia's hive was filled with swarm cells and apparently no longer had the original queen. We counted 12 queen cells on the bottom of one frame. The hive was calm and didn't have a queenless roar when it was opened, however.

This may mean that there is a virgin queen in the hive who may or may not have successfully mated but at least is not yet laying. We decided to add a frame from one of my hives to her hive.

This is like an insurance policy. If the virgin queen is in the hive and just hasn't started up yet, the frame we added would provide a jump in numbers as the eggs and larvae mature. If there is no queen or an ineffective one, we gave the bees the resources to make a new queen.

Another choice that could be made is to order a new queen. Julia will have to decide if she wants to wait for the maturation of this queen or to do that.

Either way, the hive is now behind in the middle of the nectar flow. It will take about a month for the hive to be up and running well if they have to make their own queen - which will be half way through the nectar flow. And if they have a queen, they still will be behind since she isn't laying yet, but not as far behind.

On the good news side, my hive in which the bees made their own queen was thriving. We took a frame from that hive to add to Julia's. We didn't see the queen so we were very careful to make sure the queen didn't leave with the frame we gave to Julia's hive. There were good brood patterns and lots of eggs and larvae in that hive.

On the second hive of mine we saw the queen with remnants of her red dot - the bees frequently eat the paint off in the process of grooming the queen. She had been laying well also.

On all three hives the box we added about 2 1/2 weeks ago remained untouched, so we didn't add any further boxes although we had brought them along. Since we'd like to get honey from these hives, the slow progress in the middle of the nectar flow is a little discouraging, but my hives at home are doing exactly the same thing.

Below is a slide show of photographs from the inspection. Click on the slideshow to be able to view it larger and with captions for the pictures:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Is there a Queen and Is she Laying?

The swarm I collected a couple of weeks ago looked like a secondary swarm and probably had a virgin queen. So the big questions are is there a queen and is she laying?

We've had terrible weather in Atlanta since I got this swarm and you never know how well it will do. The virgin queen had to brave wind, storm, hail, etc. to make the mating flight and get back in one piece. I had no idea if this had happened.

I was thrilled to open the hive today to find capped brood, lots of eggs and tiny larvae on two of the five frames in the bottom medium nuc box! If you can click on the pictures below, there are some good pictures of egg and tiny brood larvae. I was so thrilled!

In such a small hive, I should have been able to see the queen. I looked hard for her on the two frames of brood and larvae but didn't try too hard on the other frames. I was so relieved to see evidence of her.



My goal for this hive is for it to build up enough numbers and supplies to make it through the 2009 winter. We've gotten off to a good start. They are not in the upper box yet. The comb pictured below was all that had been made and the bees hadn't moved into this upper box.



Most of the time, the queen will only lay the amount of eggs that her workers can manage, so I suspect she is going slowly. She'll lay more and more as there are more workers to be nurse bees, and it will be a while before she gets into the second box. I'll bet that I move this hive into a full-sized box at the beginning of June - we'll see.

We have a Blue Heron inspection on Sunday that Julia is leading but we will inspect my hives in the process. We'll get to see if the "made" queen is laying and if the nuc hive is doing well. Decisions will be made about whether the hives need to be combined or if they can stay as two hives.

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Drones and Drips

I checked on all of my own hives today to see if I needed to add a box to any of them. All of the hives were working in the box below the most recent addition, so I'm leaving them alone for another week.

In Bermuda, there was an opportunity to photograph a great drone. They look sort of like cigars - blunt on the end. Their eyes are huge compared to the workers in the picture. I saw drones walking around in every hive.


In Bermuda, the box below the top box is a shallow that I stuck on for honey production while I was not bee-ing and was away at my daughter's wedding. The queen is laying in two frames of the shallow. Here is a good shot that shows eggs in the early stages as well as very young larvae. There is also another good big-eyed drone photo op at the upper left corner.



In Mellona, one frame of honey was attached to the frame next to it. When I removed it, comb broke off creating a huges honey drip. The bees immediately marshall forces to repair the problem. I hate creating the drip, but watching the bees circle the edge of the honey puddle and work their way to the middle is fascinating. The ones in the circle around the comb are collecting the spilled honey.



In Aristaeus2, the queen has also been very active. She has also been laying in the third box. It is only an 8 frame box so brood in the third box is to be expected.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Hive Check Easter Sunday

The tulip poplar flow began in Atlanta last week, so I am anxious that my hives take advantage of this, our best honey flow. I checked the boxes yesterday afternoon to see if any new boxes were needed.

On Saturday I had put a new box on Aristaeus2 (the swarm hive from last year) so I didn't expect it to need anything. I did peek in, but the bees were not happy to see me since I had disturbed them only the day before!

My daughter is getting married and I won't be paying attention to the bees next weekend, so before I get totally distracted by the wedding, I'll put a new box on both Bermuda and Mellona. Each of those hives is very active.

In Bermuda, with four boxes on the hive, the queen was avidly laying in the third box. The fourth box given to them to invite honey production still has three undrawn frames. I attributed the lack of wax work to the weather in the earlier part of last week when we had two nights in the 20s/30s - probably slowed them down a lot. So given warmer weather is on the way, I'll put a new box on Bermuda before I leave for the wedding.

Mellona also has a few undrawn frames in the top box and a very actively laying queen. I saw eggs everywhere. I'll, for the same reasons as Bermuda, give her a new box on Tuesday or Wednesday before I leave for the wedding.

When I lifted one of the honey frames out of Mellona, I unintentionally ripped wax off of the tops of a 1 1/2 inch vertical strip of honey stored. The bees anxiously recollected the honey from the tops of the frames. In the picture below they are congregating around a drip of honey.



In Aristaeus2 they were drawing wax in the new box I had given them. I'm sorry for the unfocused picture. I think the camera thought I wanted it to focus on the deck rather than the honeycomb! I'll try to pay better attention to the focus next time because I loved seeing the bees in action.



In Blue Heron news, I added a box to both hives on Friday morning and added a box to Julia's hive. Her hive still had undrawn frames and seemed lackluster by comparison to the other two. There have been four swarms seen or captured in the vicinity of the Blue Heron hives and I wonder if her hive has swarmed.

While I was there on Saturday, (and I didn't have my camera #$&#$&) Kevin, the overseer of the garden, was moving a swarm that he collected on Friday night just before the tornadic rains came down. He had had it in a temporary box arrangement and was moving it to a real hive box.

The swarm was hived in a cluster around the queen in the hive box but a handful about the size of a baseball remained on the tree where they had been found. He, his brother Peter, and I looked carefully through the "baseball" and didn't see a queen. We surmised that the bees were still drawn to the queen pheromone that remained where she had been on the branch.

Our decision was to cut the branch and move it bees and all to sit in front of the hive to see if the bees would move to the stronger smell of the queen from within the hive. I wish I had pictures.

Lesson learned: Always have the camera in the car (and an extra hive tool) - you never know!

SHB note: Still not a sign of small hive beetles in the hive with the Freeman trap on it. To be fair, I didn't see a single small hive beetle in any hive yesterday.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

Swarm is Settling In to New Home

I borrowed a frame of honey from another hive to fill the empty space in the medium nuc.



I opened the nuc to find the bees busy at work, cleaning and settling in. I was easily able to insert the frame of honey to add to their jump start.



My grandson came out to watch the settling in process.



I have a reduced entrance and the bees are falling all over themselves as they enter and leave their new home.

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Even at the White House......

It's a swarm!

Monday, April 06, 2009

What I did Before Going to Work Today: I Collected a Swarm

Today I got an email from someone in Chamblee, a part of Atlanta about 15 minutes from my house. She had a swarm of bees in a shrub in her yard and wanted my help to rescue them. I was excited to go get them because my April 1 swarm from last year is a very strong hive this year.

I found out about the swarm at 10 AM and I had to be at my professional office at noon. I threw on my beesuit over my work clothes. I jumped in my car, Google maps directions in hand. Luckily most of my bee stuff was still in my car from the Blue Heron inspection on Saturday. I called her on the cell phone as I drove to make sure I knew where to look at her house.

When I arrived the bees were easy to find. The swarm was quite small - probably a second swarm thrown by a hive. Often the first swarm from a hive is about half the bees in the hive plus the old queen. Then a hive may throw several smaller swarms with virgin queens. This swarm looked like the latter description would fit.

I was desperate to find something to take with me to collect the swarm. My very neat daughter and her husband are living with me until they move into their new house in May. As a result, I have no cardboard boxes sitting around - when one arrives it is immediately flattened and recycled. It's a great habit, but leaves me with no help for swarm collecting! So I got a nuc box and bungee-corded it to its bottom so I would have a box of sorts.

Because I was short on time, I drove home in my beesuit wearing my gloves. The bees who had no gate on the front of the nuc and a poorly fitted top over the bungee cords were flying around the back of the car. The driver behind me did a double take seeing bees flying in my back window and then nearly doubled over when he passed me and looked at my bee get-up.

When I got home with the swarm my son-in-law Kevin was there and was willing to photograph the bees being dumped into their new home. I feel so thankful that he was OK with doing this for me.

Here's a slide show of the whole event. Click on it to make the slideshow bigger and so that you can control how long each slide remains in view:

The best laid plans of bee and me....

If you've been reading this blog, you know that I have been using foundationless frames for a while. The idea of the foundationless frame is to let the bee choose what size cell to build. Michael Bush, one of my beekeeping heroes, is a big promoter of this concept of giving the bees the opportunity to build their own cell size. (If you follow the link, be sure to scroll down to read all the quotes about giving the bees the opportunity to build their own comb, from Rev. Langstroth to Richard Taylor)

Often when they are storing honey, they build very large wax cells. When they are raising brood in a frame, they build smaller cells than the commercial foundation. It seems democratic, organic, and caring to allow the bees the freedom to decide.

However, sometimes they run rampant with their creativity. It doesn't happen a lot, but when it does, the beekeeper has a problem, just as a beekeeper has a problem when the bees build strange comb on foundation, as they sometimes do. I try to always have at least one sheet of full foundation in each super or a fully drawn out comb in each super. I believe it's Don at Dixie Bee Supply who says that crazy comb building is a sign of a bad queen. I can't find that quote on Beemaster, though, so don't hold me to it.

When I was in my hives over the weekend, I discovered this interesting comb. The bees had only the small line of cells at the top of the frame as a starter. They apparently couldn't make up their minds about how to fill this frame with comb. The comb at the left was attached to the frame next to it (I clearly ripped it when I removed the frame).



Toward the right you'll see a two layer comb arrangement. The larger piece has capped honey in it.






In order to clear this up, I substituted a new frame in this space in the hive and brought this one inside to eat the honey, cut the wax off for melting or showing to children when I give talks, and to make the frame ready to reuse. If a hive has a lot of crazy comb, rather than just one frame, the solution is to cut out the crazy comb and to rubber band it into the frame as it should be. Then return the frame to the hive and they'll make it right.
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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Freeman Beetle Trap

Today I opened up my hive named Bermuda. This is the hive with the Freeman beetle trap on it. I fully expected to find SHBs under the inner cover as I usually do. I did not see a single beetle in this hive today. Instead I found many dead beetles in the oil tray, along with a lot of other hive debris. Hooray!



A closer view of the oil and debris in the tray:

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Blue Heron Actual Inspection - Finally!

Today it was warm - the weather cooperated and we didn't have anything unusual like snow, hail or Oobleck, so we could continue with our inspection. We had a great time and ended it with a taste of honey. Click on the slideshow below to get a larger view with captions:

Friday, April 03, 2009

Holly and Honey

When we were lucky enough at our bee club to have a visit with the palynologist, Dr. Paul Arnold, I had the opportunity to have him analyze my honey. He examined a sample of my honey and according to his analysis, one of the key ingredients in my honey was pollen from holly. I had never even noticed that holly had a bloom. I've fully appreciated the lovely red berries in the fall, but I had not paid attention to the blooms.

Well, today I noticed that my holly is blooming and smells luscious. If I were a bee, I'd bury my head in a bloom and never leave, the smell is so sweet. I took a regular picture and a close up of the bloom. Looking at the close-up, you can see the nectar sources for the bee.

The male flower has four stamens, each of which produces pollen for the bee to pick up. The female flower has a large green ovary. You can see both the stamens and the ovary in the pictures below. If you'd like to learn more about the holly and bees, you can read it here.

I tried to get a picture of the honeybee who was visiting the plant at the time, but it didn't come out in good focus. Maybe I'll be luckier tomorrow.




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