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.

Want to Pin this post?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Podcast about Beekeeping and Beekeepers' Clubs

I was interviewed for a podcast by Darcy, a northern Kentucky beekeeper, back in August. He has recently posted the podcast.

We had fun talking about bee clubs, beekeeping and my blog for about 40 minutes.

Here's the link, if you'd like to listen.

There's a bar at the end of the post where you can click to listen to my conversation with Darcy.

Urban Beekeeping - Bees in the City

The Daily Green and Bee Culture teamed up to gather data and photos from urban beekeepers. Today the first pictures that were sent in response to Dan Shapely's request to hear from city beekeepers came out.

Here's the link.

I sent a picture of a hive inspection at the (now lost until next year) Blue Heron hives and sent them a story about my beekeeping adventures.

My picture and story are located at picture #36 in the slideshow. It's fun to look at all the pictures and see how many different ways people keep bees in the city.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Loss ..... and Gain

We had wondered about the hive with food that we set up at Blue Heron - were the bees there homeless or were they robbers from the neighborhood? Yesterday Julia and I went over and removed the empty boxes.

Under my box which had had the most activity was a clear sign of robbers. When robbers open honey cells, they rip the cell open, leaving ragged edges on the comb and dropping wax shards carelessly below. You can see the wax shards on top of the cinder block.

The reason there are shards on one block and not so much on the other is that some of the frames we put in the wrecked hive had dead brood and some had capped honey - so the honey must have been on that side.



We left the cinder blocks to inspire us for next year and to remind us that once there were bees thriving at Blue Heron.



From a practical point of view, last night I decided to look at the cost of what was lost.

Hive Body - 2 per hive $24
Telescoping Top $20
Inner Cover $10
Screened Bottom Board $15
Frames $20
Slatted Rack $11
Original nuc bees $75
Replacement Purvis Queen $50

Total $225

That's a lot of stuff floating down the river. Since there were seven hives there, each with approximately the same equipment, that means the total losses at Blue Heron for all the beekeepers there amounted to about $1575. Goodness -

While the whole thing was and is very sad, I spent some of Sunday afternoon with a young woman and her family who wanted to learn about bees to see what it would be like to start keeping bees in the spring.

Here's Annie in one of my beesuits, happily opening and exploring beekeeping as a possible new venture for herself.



So I tell myself there is balance. The bees and hives may have washed down the river, but there's at least one new beekeeper who wants to bring the tiny insects into her life.

And next year there will be more beehives and more beekeepers in the world.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 26, 2009

No Bees at Home, No Homeless Bees - Blue Heron Update

I have been concerned about the fact that the bees I saw on Thursday night looked like robbers rather than homeless bees. They were approaching the hive in the frantic way that robbers do. But still, if there were still homeless bees in the vicinity of the Blue Heron hives, now gone, I'd want to try to make them a home.

Today it is pouring rain in Atlanta. But it is still daylight. I decided to drive over to Blue Heron in the pouring rain and look at the hives. If any bees are taking shelter in their old home box, they should be there now, taking shelter from the rain.

I arrived in the rain at Blue Heron, put on my muddy tennis shoes and rain jacket and sloshed through the mud over to the hives. No bees were anywhere. I opened the nuc box - no bees. I opened the yellow hive - no bees. I opened Julia's hive - no bees. Her hive had six dead bees on the top of it.

We can now definitely toll the bells for the Blue Heron bees, rest their little souls. All of them are no more.

The bees eating the honey must have been neighborhood robbers or bees who survived the flood but were so worn out that they have died this week.

I didn't move our equipment in the pouring rain - but I'll go get it in the next day or two.

And we'll try again next year.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Current Blue Heron Report on Homeless Bees

On Wednesday, Julia and I set up these hives on our remaining cinder blocks - we put a nuc with drawn frames on top of one set of cinder blocks and we uprighted the yellow hive and returned it to its cinder blocks. The frames in it were wet and muddy but we put them in the hive all the same.

I returned on Thursday to find that the bees had emptied the jar of honey completely. However, they were not flying in and out of the nuc. Instead they were flying in and out of the yellow hive.



So I moved the nuc and set it on top of the yellow hive. At least the frames in it are habitable. I set the Boardman up at the entry to the hive as one would normally place a Boardman.

If any of you are wondering why there is a frame stuck in the side of this hive, there is a reasonable explanation. The yellow hive is an 8 frame hive. Its bottom board, slatted rack, inner cover and top cover were washed down the creek in the flood. I had an 8 frame top cover at home, but not another 8 frame bottom board or slatted rack.

I brought from home a 10 frame bottom board and we set the hive on that. This leaves that front corner unsupported. To keep the hive level we had to slide something into the space and in the middle of the Blue Heron field, all we had was an extra frame - so I poked it in the space to level the hive.



Julia and I decided to determine if the bees were considering occupying this hive (they are flying in and out of it). We didn't know for sure so I resolved to return to the Blue Heron at dusk to see what the situation was. I returned at dusk to find a confusing picture. Bees were flying frantically all around the hive, as it looks like when a hive is being robbed.

The only way to see if bees are staying in the hive at night would be to go look after dark. I couldn't go back there after dark - it's just not safe - to go alone to the back of this field where a flood has just happened. I didn't particularly want to meet either a snake or a wandering human back there in the dark, so I didn't go.



If the bees are occupying the hive, we have two options:
  1. Purchase a queen from someone close to Atlanta like Purvis or Fatbeeman and install her into the hive. Then we'd foster the hive through the winter at Blue Heron.
  2. Move the hive with the homeless bees to my house and combine it with another hive.
I asked Cindy Bee about doing that and she said that it probably wouldn't work because Blue Heron is only 2.4 miles, driving from my house and as the crow (bee) flies, it is only 2 miles from my house. She said the bees would return to Blue Heron and not stay with the hive combination.

So I think I may have only prolonged their lives a short bit by this effort.

What to do? What to do?


Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Homes for the Homeless Bees

Today was an amazing day. One of Julia's friends called her from Chastain Park (about a mile from the Blue Heron as the creek flows). She had seen a hive box in the creek over at Chastain. Julia and two friends met there and really got down and dirty.

They pulled hive boxes and hive parts out of Nancy Creek and in effect salvaged whatever they could find.

Then they went to Blue Heron and found another stash of hive stuff cast into the brush on the creek bank by the flood. Julia said there were even bees flying around.

I couldn't get there until 2, so Julia and I met there, suited up and tried to fashion a home for these homeless bees. We called Cindy Bee who said to put together a dry hive box with drawn comb frames and feed honey to the bees in an effort to gather them in one place.

The hardest part was seeing the survivor bees. Julia and I each suited up for fear that in their confusion they would want to sting us, but it was like being in a swarm - the bees had no inclination to sting - they had nothing to protect. We saw a few live bees that were muddy and trying to just move and it was awful to watch. Heart breaking, really.

We did everything Cindy said and the results you can see in the slide show below. Julia took most of these pictures. If you click on the slideshow, you can view it in a larger size:



We'll check in a few days and if the bees are in any organized position to be moved, we'll move them home and combine them with a thriving hive. Cindy said if enough moved in, we could order a queen and start another hive.

This whole event has been so sobering for us as beekeepers. The thought of "here today, gone tomorrow," is not one we have considered often as beekeepers and it made us sad.

A man who works at the Blue Heron headquarters stopped by while we were working:

"We loved having the beehives," he said. "I hope this won't discourage you from putting them here again."

And we talked about the probability of another 100 year flood!

Below is the graph of the level of Nancy Creek - it's remarkable to see the difference in the flood yesterday and the level today:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tragic Bee Loss at Blue Heron

Atlanta has had torrential rains in the last few days. The Atlanta paper said that two storm systems came together to create this perfect storm that has dropped 12 inches of rain onto some parts of Atlanta in the last 24 hours. The Blue Heron Nature Preserve is located beside Nancy Creek.

The USGS monitor reading as per their webpage at the Blue Heron gauge for Nancy Creek is currently two feet above "Major Flood Stage" of 13 feet. This morning creeks and rivers all over the city jumped their banks. Roads were closed, including the downtown connector because the water made them impassable.



My friend Julia took the two pictures below at Blue Heron around 5:30 today. The sign in the center of the first picture marks the entry to the community gardens and describes who has what plot in the flooded garden to the left of the picture.


Julia took this picture below of the area where our hives were located. To the left of the green tree, you can see something white. We thought at first that this was a hive (because it's where a hive was located) but now we think it's the sign about the bee area that has floated there.



This picture below shows how the area looked from my car at 6:45. You can see that the flood covers the drive into the Preserve. Our hives were located behind the tree with the reddish top. All seven of the hives were swept away by the flood. Julia and I had two of the hives and the rest belonged to nice guys who were just getting started with bees.

I imagine the waters rushed into the front entrance of the hives and drowned the bees before they could abscond, but Julia and I plan to watch the trees in the area for signs of absconded bees hanging in a cluster. We hope that some got out but are not expecting that they did because neither of our hives had a top entrance. If seven hives each had at this time of year around 40,000 bees each, that's 280,000 bees that died last night or this morning.



I put little boxes into this photo where the seven hives were at the Blue Heron Preserve. It was a great place for the bees and we had a good time sharing our hives with beekeepers who came on inspections with us.



More thunderstorms and rain are expected to start between 11 PM and midnight tonight and last through the night. What will tomorrow bring?
Posted by Picasa

Cindy Bee in the news

My friend and mentor, Cindy Bee, was the subject of a wonderful article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution yesterday.


Here's the story about her business, working to rescue and relocate bees in Atlanta structures. And here are pictures of Cindy at work.

Cindy is a wise and calm beekeeper. She helped me figure out how to handle the bee tree rescue and she gives me such helpful and thoughtful advice every time I ask her.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Annual honey contest at Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association

Today was the annual honey contest and picnic for our beekeepers' club. I usually love the honey contest but this year my bees didn't make much honey and I didn't have my usual entries.

I usually enter chunk honey and cut comb honey. I didn't get entry quality chunk honey this year. I also didn't get any cut comb honey - boy, am I going to miss it for winter biscuits! I didn't enter in either of those categories.

I did enter light and medium honey, but my honey didn't win anything. The judge said my light honey had foam in the jars. I thought I had checked each and looked again when I got home, but still didn't see the foam that obviously they saw....oh, well, live and learn.

The good news about honey being judged is that you learn a lot about your honey. Our judges always make notes and give them to us. I learned that my honey that I entered was well below the 18% moisture that is required by refractor test. This is great - many people have said that the honey this year is not as viscous as in other years. So this would make one worry that the honey would be too moisture laden.

My medium honey had a moisture content of 17.8 (it was not a prize winner because they said there were smudges on the jars). My light honey had a moisture content of 16.75. Hooray for the bees!

What was really nice is that a lot of different people won this year. The contest wasn't dominated by any one person and that makes everyone feel so good about what they accomplished for the year.

Below is a picture taken from far away of the judges looking at my wax block. In the end I poured the block six times this year. They are Welsh honey judges, which means that they must wear the Welsh judging coat and hat while they are judging a honey show.



And my wax block won a blue ribbon - first place! This is the top of the block.



This is the bottom side of the block (they look at all sides). The judges commented that there were some "scratches" on the top. Actually what was on the top were some swirls from the dishwashing detergent I used to grease the pan. I had polished it with panty hose, but still didn't get it all out.

They also said that they loved how it smelled. This was all wax from this year, melted in my solar wax melter.

This is the third year in a row that I have won first place for my wax block!



I also put the cross stitch below in the "craft" part of the contest. I bought the pattern at a needlework shop in Hiawassee when I was in Young Harris in 2008. I promised myself I'd finish it for the honey contest this year.

This won a blue ribbon as well. The judges made lovely comments on it: "beautifully framed, great work." So I was pleased.



This coming weekend is the Georgia Beekeepers' Association fall meeting (and honey contest). Last year both my honey and my wax block did well there, but I am not going this year. One of my daughters who lives in Atlanta is due to have a baby any day now and I don't want to be out of town for the event, so any honey contest entry for GBA will have to be in 2010.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Almost Perfect Wax Block Pour - But it Isn't

This is pour number four.

I did it last night and it is almost perfect. But there are blemishes on the shiny top part and some waves on the bottom as well as about a 1/4 inch split, so I am giving it one more try before calling it a day.



My dogs got up and walked right past it through the kitchen at 3:30 AM which is probably what caused the waves.



Keith Fielder tells me that pouring a perfect wax block is one of the most difficult things a beekeeper can attempt for the honey contest, and I am a real believer in what he says. So I will try again tonight. Maybe five times is the charm for wax blocks!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's Wax Block Time Again!

The Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' club honey contest is on Sunday and I haven't given myself enough time to pour the wax block 18 times like I did (literally) last year. I gathered all of the wax from my solar wax melter adventures this year and put it in the converted Presto pot I have for melting wax. (From Ebay) It's a lovely collection, isn't it?



After a short time melting, here's the lovely golden melting wax - just a little bit to go.


Last year at the Georgia Beekeepers' Association Fall Meeting, I heard Robert Brewer (a certified Welsh honey judge) talk about how to filter melted wax. In the past I've used panty hose, but Robert said to filter your wax through silk. It's hard to find silk today.

I went to Hancock's and they didn't even have silk lining material. Then a sales woman said, "I believe they did send us a small bolt by mistake." She went to some stack of fabric and pulled out white silk, exactly what I needed. I wanted white because I didn't want to discolor my wax by putting it through a filter with dye in it.

The converted Presto Pot has a spout on it and you can see the liquid gold pouring onto the silk filter. I did this late at night (11:30) and now the wax has been poured into a brownie sized pan and will cool until morning.



I never get it right the first time, so I can pour it again tomorrow, Friday and Saturday on my way to the Sunday contest! The pressure's on, though, because I can only pour it over a couple of times, rather than my record-setting eighteen last year!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sugar Syrup from Bag to Baggie

What a terrible year this has been for the bees in Georgia! We had hard rains throughout the honey flow and they put away very little in the way of stores. People tell me that there was little sourwood honey in the N Georgia mountains this year either. Whatever stores my bees put away they are consuming now as if it were already winter. My hives are very low on stores.

According to Keith Delaplane in First Lessons in Beekeeping, a hive should weigh 100 pounds (including the hive, the bees and the stored honey) going into winter. So my hives are all light because they have gone through their stores. I have been feeding them for the last several weeks and will continue into October.

It's not a cheap thing - more expensive, actually, per month, than feeding my two dogs. I go through a 25 pound bag of sugar weekly at $15.00 a bag - whew!


To make 2:1 sugar syrup, you have to bring the mix to a boil or that amount of sugar won't dissolve in the water. Occasionally I leave the kitchen with the pot on the stove, as I did this morning, and forget to go back until the pot has boiled for too long. Usually that means 10 minutes instead of the usual 1 minute boiling.

The other day I left the kitchen, I think, for longer than 10 minutes. When that sugar syrup cooled, it hardened into a block and I threw it away. There went 8 cups of sugar (4 pounds) and several dollars into the trash.

Today I ate breakfast while the sugar syrup was heating up, but left it while I went to check my email. When I (finally) returned to the kitchen, the syrup had boiled down 1/2" lower in the pan. This was bound to become another hard block. I just was not going to throw that batch away.

I decided to try something different.

So I boiled water for tea. When the water was boiling, I added it to the pan with the hot syrup in it and whisked it around. I think this will liquify what would have become a solid block and repair the damage so that I can use this sugar syrup. Here it is in its baggie, ready for delivery to the hives.




PS. As an illustration of how hungry the hives are, Bermuda consumed a whole gallon baggie of syrup between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thumbs Up for the Freeman Beetle Trap!

After 24 hours under Bermuda, the hive I disrupted so much on Saturday, here's what the tray looked like - Jerry told me to use less oil and it was so much easier to pull out and the beetles were dead, just the same!

The tray picture below was taken on Monday morning after putting the tray in on Saturday afternoon.


The picture below was taken on Tuesday morning after putting the tray in on Saturday afternoon. It's interesting that in the later picture (below) there are even more beetles and that they are concentrated in the same areas.


On the Podcast, I told Jerry I wish he would make one that is half tray, half ventilated screen so we could leave them on the hives in the south. I hope he does so. I'm leaving this full tray on right now
  • Because the hive has been so disrupted and
  • Because our nights are so much cooler right now that the bees are not bearding.
I put a feeding baggie on Mellona - the only hive I haven't been feeding. It is a 10 frame hive so I had a shim I could put around the baggie, making less space for the bees to protect.



You'll notice that Bermuda to the left, has a box surrounding its baggie. I replaced that with a shim today as well.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Adjusting Bermuda to Help with Unused Comb

The height of small hive beetle infestation is really not the time to do a hive inspection in which you take the hive all the way down to the bottom board. But Bermuda has lots of empty space in it and I've worried about this, my strongest hive.

I have two of Jerry Freeman's prototype small hive beetle traps. The first version was on this hive and although he has corrected this problem, the trap on this hive tended to kill bees as well as beetles. The second version of his trap was on the hive at Blue Heron that I took apart a few weeks ago. I wanted to change out the old trap for this safer-for-the-bees version.

Whatever guilt I have about taking the hive all the way down to the bottom board is somewhat alleviated by knowing that I set up this trap. If the SHB get too excited in this hive, hopefully the bees will cast them off the frames and they'll fall in the oil below and drown.



My plan for this hive was first to take the bottom box off of the hive because it only had frames with pollen in them. I would use the box further up on the hive after I readjusted a number of things. The second box had about three full frames of brood and about 3 partially filled brood frames. The third box had three full frames of brood and that was about it.

I was so lucky because I saw the queen in the second box. I forgot to put the camera on Macro so she's out of focus, but at least we can all know she is there. I was immensely relieved to see her and know that I could put her and the frame she was on in the hive and keep her safe (from me).



So I filled the bottom box with 8 filled or partially filled brood frames. That used to be the second box, so the queen was safely there as well. I put all the heavy with pollen frames I could find in the second box. I put a third box on of drawn frames - all empty - so that they could fill them either from the current goldenrod flow or from the sugar syrup which I planned to give them.



I placed a baggie feeder on the top of the frames that you can see in the box above. I then took each of the remaining frames that were not going back in the hive and shook the bees into the box on top of the syrup baggie. I left the frames leaning against the back of the hive and put a full box of frames from the hive in front of the hive so that the bees that clung to them could find their way home in their own time.



I have had such bad bee karma lately that I do hope this readjustment of the hive works. It isn't my house, after all. Who am I to decide where the nursery should be? But I did, so I hope the queen and workers agree with my readjustment.
Posted by Picasa

Hive Combination - Can They Be Social?


Today I took the queenless nuc and combined it with the hive right next to it. Here's what the nuc looked like. This is the sum total of the bees that were in it. The frame on the right is a solid frame of honey, more than I can say for any of my other hives.



I have been feeding Aristaeus2 because, like my other hives, there are few stores here for the winter. I decided to treat them as usual except that the top of their hive would change. So I added another baggie of sugar syrup. I have gotten to be really expert at gradually laying down the sugar syrup baggie so that there are no bee casualties squashed under the bag.

Although I forgot to take the picture, I also replaced the oil in the AJ's beetle eater that fits between the two frames in this hive box.



I decided to do a newspaper combine. I used the society page, hoping that all of those socially appropriate couples pictured on the page would inspire these girls to be friends. It's an article about the Southeastern flower show - which could also feel hopeful to the bees!

I cut a few slits in the newspaper to facilitate the bees moving into the box below.



Then I put the nuc box on top and added its top, leaving it propped so the bees inside would have an entrance until they make friends with the bees below. You'll notice that I also tore off the overhang of newspaper. That is done to keep the newspaper from wicking water into the paper between the boxes in the event of rain.


So since I am not doing well with hive disturbance, let's hope I will succeed in this combination.
Posted by Picasa

And in the Home Beeyard, my Troubles Continue

My strongest hive, Bermuda, I opened to inspect on Saturday, the 5th. There were a ton of hive beetles under the top cover. I wanted to go into this hive to see what is what as I get them ready for winter. This hive is full of bees, but as I inspected, it is also full of troubles.

There are little to no stores in this hive. I only took one super of honey from this hive and they had heavy boxes and still have five boxes on the hive. The bottom box held almost nothing but pollen filled frames.



The second and third boxes each had three frames of a beautiful brood pattern - especially this late in the year. The two sets of three frames of brood were not on top of each other. Three were on the right side of the second box and three were on the left side of the third box.

There was almost no honey in this hive. I haven't been feeding it because it had two full boxes on the top, but those are almost empty now.



So my plan for the bees in Bermuda is to rearrange the hive. I plan to take the six brood frames and put them all in the same box. I am going to move the empty-of-brood-but-full-of-pollen bottom box up and put the created brood box on the bottom with some of the pollen frames in it and any frames of honey I can find. While I'm at it, I'm going to put the Freeman beetle trap that was on the now defunct Blue Heron hive on the bottom of this hive.

I'm going to reduce the hive to three medium boxes and feed it like crazy between now and the first frost which in Atlanta is around mid November. The three boxes will be a brood box on the bottom, a box of pollen and any honey frames I can find, a box of empty drawn frames in which to store sugar syrup. I'll put a fourth box on the hive to surround a baggie feeder and will feed this hive like mad.

Then I opened the nuc that I brought back from Blue Heron with the other (inadequate) queen and a queen cell on one frame. Cockroaches ran out of the top of the hive. The feed bag which had not been emptied the week before was still full with sugar syrup hardened over one of the slits and a dead bee on it (I didn't take pictures....when I find depressing bee news, I often am so shocked that I forget about the camera).

There was no sign on any frame that these bees had a queen. And the queen cell that was on one frame on August 20th was nowhere to be seen. They had a full deep frame of honey (I operate no deep boxes at home).

I'm going to open that hive up today and if there is still no sign of a queen, I'm doing a newspaper combine to put these bees in the hive next to the nuc - Aristaeus2 - which has been thriving all year.

I hope it all works. At this point, I'll be lucky to make it through the winter with maybe 2 hives surviving.

Posted by Picasa

Pin this post

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...