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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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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blue Heron Inspection June 28

On Sunday we held a Blue Heron inspection of our three hives there. There were several goals for the inspection.

1. Julia wanted to taste the honey from her hive, so we planned to take a couple of frames off of it. This gave us an opportunity to show how to remove a frame from the hives without using chemicals or anything very violent - like a blower - to get the bees off of the frame.

2. We wanted to use hive #2 to look into the hive to see the development of the hive. This meant we planned to look for eggs, larvae, the queen, the state of the hive.

3. Hive #3 looks from the outside like it is not thriving and we wanted to understand why. In addition, Jerry Freeman sent me a new small hive beetle trap. Since this is a weak looking hive, it is subject to being damaged by the small hive beetle. I planned to take this hive apart and replace the current screened bottom board with the Freeman beetle trap.

It was about 100 degrees in the field at Blue Heron and we all sweated our way through the inspection.

I did not light the smoker for the first hive because we were taking off honey frames. The smoker sends a smoke smell into the hive which the bees can clean up over time, but if you are taking off honey frames, they will have a smoke smell if you use the smoker, so I never use a smoker when I am robbing the hive.

After removing the frames of honey from Julia's hive, I then lit the smoker, puffed at the door of the second hive, set the smoker down, and completely forgot about it. I never used it again. When I opened the third hive, one of the guests reminded me that I hadn't used it.

In spite of using no smoke, we had a very peaceful inspection of three hives. I explained to everyone that I rarely use smoke and the bees do just fine. As long as you move slowly and take some care with what you do, why should you need to smoke them?

With these goals in mind, please enjoy the slide show with pictures thanks to Julia. Click on the slideshow to see the pictures full sized and with captions.



So did we meet the goals of the inspection?

1. We removed two frames of honey for Julia

2. We saw eggs and tiny larvae in the second hive and saw great brood patterns, confirming the thriving nature of that hive

3. We determined that hive #3 is probably on its third queen and she has barely started laying. We did see very young (tiny C-shaped larvae) proving the existence of a functioning queen. She probably broke out of the queen cell, went on her mating flight, and has just gotten started. However, we'll keep an eye on this hive for the possible need for queen resources or extra frames of bees before the end of July.

4. We installed the SBB for the Freeman trap but didn't put the tray in or arm it with oil. We only saw one hive beetle and it's too hot to deprive the bees of the ventilation from the SBB.

Note to self: Buy ventilated inner covers for all of my hives. Julia's hive looked so cool and comfy.

This inspection is the last one Julia and I will be doing at Blue Heron for the Metro club this year. We've had a great time and I hope you've enjoyed our slide shows.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Value of a Silicone Mat in Honey Harvesting

I love using the silicone mat when I do crush and strain honey. It's merely a silicone cutting board that I bought at the DeKalb Farmer's Market in Atlanta. It perfectly fits the pan I use for crushing the honeycomb.

Here is the mat in the pan - it doesn't quite go end to end in the pan, but that makes it easier to pick it up to transfer the honey and comb to the straining bucket.


Here it is with one frame's worth of crushed honey on it, ready to be transferred to the straining bucket.

Now, this is why I love the mat. It has flexibility so that it can curve around and guide the honey and comb into the strainers. It can be easily lifted out of the pan and moved, honey and all to the bucket. It has an easy surface for using a rubber spatula to get the remaining honey off of the mat and into the bucket.

Here's what a full bucket looks like. I actually split this super into two buckets since a couple of the frames had very light honey in them and I wanted to keep them apart from the much darker honey in the other frames.


In general the comb I am harvesting this year is much less full than the last three years. I think this demonstrates how much the bees lost in making and capping honey when we had weeks of constant rain during the honey flow.
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bees on Echinacea - They love the Nectar

The bees at this time of year hang all over my echinacea. I take tons of pictures of them because they hold still for the photograph!


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bees on Cucumbers

Bees love cucumbers although the cucumber is not a great source of either nectar or pollen. This is because although an individual flower produces a good bit of nectar, there are relatively few flowers on a cucumber plant. Research shows that although the cucumber pollen is also something the bee might want, they only get pollen from the cucumber when there are no other pollen sources.



Many plants produce more nectar at certain times of the day. I think the cucumber must be one of them because so far I've only seen bees on the flowers in the mornings. I took these pictures at 8:30 AM. I love the one below of the bee diving headfirst into the cucumber flower!


My plants are covered with tiny cukes so the bee visits must be having quite an effect.


I love watching the bees on flowers. Here is a bee on a rather sad echinacea. Bees love echinacea for the nectar. This bee kept leaving this flower to go to other more beautiful coneflowers, but returned to this one time and time again. This must be a particular juicy one!
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Monday, June 22, 2009

What to do with Dripping Honey Frames after Harvest

After the harvest, I let the bees clean up the mess. When I've done crush and strain, the frames are all drippy with the remains of the honey. I harvested six frames, so I took them out to the bee yard in the five frame nuc that I used to carry them into the house. (See the sixth frame riding on the top of the box!)

I had an empty 8 frame box waiting for me. I had left two frames on the hive because they were not fully capped.


Here's a closer view of the honey comb left after cutting the comb off of the frame. First the bees will clean up the dripping honey, storing it in comb they are currently filling. Then the bees will use this remnant of comb as a starter strip to build new wax in the frame, if they are so inclined.

Here the box is filled with six drippy frames and there is space for the two frames left on the hive. I put those two back in their spots and put the super back on the hive. Because I sometimes get a super of honey around the Fourth of July (who knows where they get the nectar??), I put the box under the inner cover and will check it again when I'm back from vacation.


Below is my harvest from these six frames. I also bottled four queenline jars for potential honey contest entries and gave my daughter and grandson who helped with the harvest each a queenline jar. Those six jars are not in this picture. So from six frames of honey I harvested 18.3 pounds of honey.



Ordinarily I don't use such a variety of jars for harvest, but this year the harvest looks meager. From a "bird in the hand" point of view, I wanted to make the most of this super, so I bottled some large bottles for family, some smaller bottles for gifts and those two cute "Muth" bottles just for fun.

They are topped with a cork and have embossed in the glass: "8 ounces pure honey" with a bee skep and bees flying all around. My friend, Julia, told me about these so I ordered a box to see how I'd like them.
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bottling Honey with a Honey Contest in Mind

When I harvest honey, I always keep in mind that I might want to enter a honey contest. I keep on hand a box of 24 queenline jars which are standard for light, medium and dark honey in contests.

There are specific aspects of honey judging which are based on cleanliness of the jar. I wash the jars in the dishwasher and use the heated drying cycle. Then I never touch the jars with my hands after that - only pick them up with a lintfree towel.

I always pour the first four jars of each super into honey contest jars, lifted straight from the dishwasher. I pour the honey into the jar above the line so that I have some wiggle room as a contest nears.



Then I cover each jar with plastic wrap, rather than the screw top because you can't have any honey on the jar lid when the contest is judged so I don't top the jars until I get to the contest site.



Then I screw the caps on over the plastic wrap.



When you enter honey in a contest, the three jar entries must all be from the same batch of honey. To accomplish not mixing up the jars,
I set the jars into the box they came in and date the row so I will be sure to keep the same harvest together. I should put something under the jar bottoms. It's as important that your jar bottom be fingerprint and lint free as it is for the jar sides. So far I haven't addressed that.

People write about jarring the honey for contests and riding with it in their hot car to help the bubbles rise to the top so they can be skimmed off and not count against your entry. I don't have to do that because my already jarred entry will sit for several months before any contest and will easily be able to have all the bubbles rise to the top.

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First Honey Harvest of 2009


Here is my daughter Valerie with the first jar of honey harvested in 2009!

Today I harvested for the first time in 2009. I had two excellent honey helpers, my daughter Valerie and my grandson Dylan. We first cut the capped honey off of the frame and let the pieces drop into the prepared pan.


Then Valerie and Dylan crushed the honey comb with their pestles.

My job was to take the honey-laden silicon mat and scrape as much honey as I could off of it and into the filter bucket.

Dylan helped with that as well. We then put the filter buckets out in the Hotlanta weather to encourage the honey to filter through. They each took home a jar of their honey harvest.


To see a more detailed view of crush and strain, visit my video on crush and strain honey harvest.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Google Chrome Video with a BEE

Google Chrome is having a video contest to see how creative its users can be in creating the Google Chrome icon. This version has a bee made of cheese and seaweed! Watch - it doesn't buzz in until the end.

Google Chrome Bento Box

Friday, June 12, 2009

Presentation at St. Dunstan's Vacation Bible School

Today my grandson, Dylan, and I went to present about bees at a Vacation Bible School at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church in Atlanta. We took my friend, Julia's, observation hive.

Trying to get the hive to the car today was a much bigger challenge than the last time I used it. I had about 25 bees loose in Julia's house before we got everything squared away to take the Ob Hive to the car. There has to be an easier way. I spent about 20 minutes covered the bees with a glass and sliding a card under the glass to take them to the outdoors to release them.

We did the talk outside and set the hive up on a picnic table. I also took a medium nuc (the blue box), bee veils, honey for them to taste, and candles to feel and smell. We talked about the comb in the hive and they got to do the waggle dance. It was a lot of fun for me and I think the participants had fun too.


One of the teenage counselors took these two pictures. The first is of Dylan and me as we got started talking about the bees.

Here are the children learning to do the waggle dance to communicate!

This young man, Conner, was eager to try on a veil and to ask lots of questions.

Dylan who is only 3 was a fabulous helper and got a promised Brewster's ice cream cone as a reward when we left!

We returned the observation hive to Julia's with only two bees to return to the outdoors before we came home.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Difference in Beeswax and Honeycomb

In this, my fourth year of beekeeping, I am finding out that I have old beeswax that needs to be melted down. I've done it three times on hot days here in Atlanta and am disappointed every time. What I am melting is old brood comb. Last year I lost about three hives during the bee season - queen failure, absconding, etc.

This beeswax has been cut out of frames from those hives that didn't succeed last year to put into growing hives this year. When bee babies emerge from the brood comb, they have been encased in a cocoon that they leave behind in the cell when they emerge. Over time these casings accumulate debris in the cell, although workers do clean out the cells regularly.

Putting brood comb in the solar wax melter is a very different experience from putting honeycomb in the solar wax melter.

Here's what smashed together, blackened with cell casings and bee footprints brood comb wax looks like as it is placed in the solar wax melter:



At the end of the day, wax has filtered through the paper towel, but a large amount of slumgum stays on top of the paper towel. Little wax is the result.



I do end up with a nicely wax-impregnated paper towel to use as a smoker starter, though.



For comparison's sake, look at this slideshow from the solar wax melter with honey comb from the harvest in it.
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Thank you, Bees, for Blueberries!

I have had six blueberry bushes in my yard for the last three years. No blueberries ever came to fruition! This year with the age of the bushes and the rain, and, of course, the bees, I actually have blueberries!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I ate three right off the bush yesterday. Yummm.





Thank you, bees!
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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Rain and the Spring Flow



As I woke up this morning, the signs are all there that we will have another day of rain. We've had a honey flow season replete with rain.

Our neighboring state of North Carolina is experiencing similar conditions. In the June E-Flier from North Carolina bee supply company, Brushy Mountain, Shane Gebauer writes:

"The spring flow has been terrible this year. Any reserves are quickly consumed when the bees are house bound by all the rain and cool weather. Once this weather pattern breaks watch for swarms. They are crowded in a hive by the weather with nothing to do, so "hey lets make swarm cells". O.K., this is an over-simplification and imposes human traits/characters on the bees, but you get the point. This time of year there a spike in swarming activity after several days of rain."

In my past three years, during this period of time, I am both harvesting already and am putting on extra boxes by the day. This year my bees are not needing extra boxes as quickly and so far are barely producing honey for hive to use for the winter. I have hives that I will be able to take honey from in a few weeks, but not as much as in previous years.

And so today again it will rain. The drought was terrible for Georgia, and I'm grateful for the rain, but it isn't having a great effect on the bees.

P.S. Sure enough, it rained all day. I came home to find the bees in one hive all clustered on the porch (see above picture). It wasn't hot, the hive has a propped top and a slatted rack so should be well ventilated. Do you think they are plotting a swarm when the rain stops on Friday afternoon? Or are they all so bored indoors with nothing to do that they came out to enjoy the rainy afternoon and evening?



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