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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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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Fate of the Crystallized Sugar

You'll remember that yesterday when feeding the bees, I found a baggie feeder with crystallized sugar in it. Rather than take it back into the house, I spread it out on the railing of my deck.

I went out this morning (you can see on the thermometer that the temp is below 60 degrees) to find the sugar covered with bees.



If you click on the picture below so that you can see a larger image, you'll see the bees sticking their tongues into the sugar. It was raining this morning and probably some of the sugar liquified.



As I studied this picture, I realized that in addition to honey bees, there were yellow jackets and a bald faced hornet feeding on the sugar.



If you couldn't find them, I have circled the yellow jackets in red and the bald-faced hornet in blue. Everyone's hungry, I guess!




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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Last Call for Lunch

I'm about done feeding my bees to build them up for winter. Today when I opened my hives at home, the hives felt heavy enough to satisfy me as far as their having enough supplies to make it. I went ahead and added food today, though.

I have made the sugar syrup for the bee trees and will make one more trip over there either tomorrow or Saturday.

Here's the newly placed baggie feeder on Bermuda.


When I opened Mellona, the sugar baggie that was there had crystallized sugar in it. I don't have good luck with the method I am currently using if I don't heat the water some after adding the sugar. This baggie represents a sugar syrup baggie in which I boiled four cups of water and then stirred in 8 cups of sugar and turned off the heat. The sugar syrup never lasts as well that way.

When I leave the pot over the flame for a minute or two after adding the sugar, then the suspension works better.



I didn't know what to do with the sugar crystals. I could mix it back into water. I decided for now to put it on the deck and observe how the bees handle it. It is supposed to rain tomorrow night and on Saturday, so I may bring these crystals in tomorrow and mix them back into water for more syrup.



Finally Aristaeus2 got their baggie. These bees had a bag with some syrup still left in it but I replaced it all the same.

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Rainy Fall Morning



The other day I woke up to find a chilly rain outside. I wondered what do the bees do inside in the rain - no TV, no entertainment. The house bees all have jobs but what do the foragers do when it rains?

For some reason, thinking about the bees indoors reminded me of a Sesame Street video from long ago that my grandson likes to watch on You Tube about the ladybugs sitting around. For your entertainment, here it is.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Interlopers in the Bee Hive

When I opened my hives I found roaches living on top of the inner cover. There were none in the hive (that I saw). I believe they are on the inner cover to take advantage of the heat, the dark, and the shelter of the hive. But GROSS is how I felt when I saw them in each of the three hives.

It's amazing - always some creature - the last time I looked I had small hive beetles. They seem to have subsided for the winter and the cockroaches have taken their place.



In some parts of the country (probably in Atlanta as well) mice sometimes move into the hives for the winter. So far I haven't had a mouse, but I could do without these roaches. In Beekeeping: An Illustrated Handbook, Diane Stelley says, "Even with the entrance reduced, a small mouse can still wriggle in, make a nest, and tear up the wax combs." She and other beekeepers suggest using a piece of 1/2 inch hardware cloth nailed across the entrance to keep mice out but still allow bees to come and go.

None of my books mention roaches, but Michael Bush, in a post on Beemaster, says that roaches between the inner and top cover and normal. If they make their way successfully into the hive itself, that is a sign of a weak hive.



YUCK!


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Dead Bees on the Landing in the Early Morning

Unusual for October 18, we had 37 degree weather last night. This morning there were dead bees clinging to the landing of both Bermuda and of Mellona. Dead bees look like living ones, but these had no life in them. I wondered if they had come home too late or if they were ready to die and were pushed out of the hive, but not all the way to the ground.

They have the appearance of perhaps trying to cluster together but there certainly weren't enough of them to manage the cold.



There were also dead bees on Mellona's landing area. These looked more like they had been pushed out. Maybe when it's cold the mortician bees simply drag the bees to the front of the hive and don't fly out with them.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dinner with Honey



The National Honey Board sends out a regular email with interesting facts and recipes for using honey. I grew exactly two butternut squash in my garden this year before the stem borers killed the squash. So I was thrilled that the honey board sent out this recipe for Butternut Squash Soup, to make soup using honey from my bees.

My mother says that a good cook is generous, so I followed the recipe but was quite generous with my ingredients. Here's what it calls for and I'll put what I really did:

2 T butter
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
3 carrots diced (mine were small so I used about five organic carrots)
2 celery stalks (I chopped up the center three stalks of a heart of celery)
1 potato peeled and diced
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced (mine were small so I used both of them)
3 cans chicken broth (14.5 oz each) - I used boxed organic chicken broth which comes in 8 oz containers, so I used almost 6 of them
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves (I have it fresh in the garden so I used about 1 tsp fresh)
salt and pepper to taste

With the soup I had a slice of oatmeal bread (also made with honey) with cheese melted on it.

So honey made my dinner quite lovely and delicious.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Delaplane Speaks on CCD



Last night Dr. Keith Delaplane spoke to the Metropolitan Atlanta Beekeepers Association on Colony Collapse Disorder. Lucky me, I got to go out to dinner with him before the meeting and we had a lot of fun, talking about bees and life in general.



Delaplane is heading up a consortium grant involving 17 colleges and universities. The grant is a four year, 4.1 million dollar grant to study CCD. The studies are focused on determining the cause of CCD.

Delaplane said that there are three major pathogens being studied: viruses, nosema, and pesticide residue. Other factors being considered are an increase in bee pollinated crops and at the same time a decrease in beekeeper managed hives. In other words, as there are less beekeepers in the country, the almond pollination needs are rising.

I've always wondered why almonds were the benchmark crop. Delaplane explained that it is a valuable nut that is currently fetching a premium price. Pollinating an almond is a simple event in that a single pollen grain on a single stigma equals one nut.

As most of you know, beekeepers rent out their hives to the almond growers. There is a bias in beekeeping toward migratory beekeeping because there is so much money in it.

The migration begins when hives are rented to the almond growers. Then migratory beekeepers might load up those hives and go to the Dakotas to get a honey crop from clover; go to Michigan to pollinate the blueberries; and then migrate to Florida to pollinate the orange crops.

Honey yields go through the roof with migratory beekeeping, so there's an ongoing reward for beekeeping in this way. This migratory circuit is typical of American beekeepers but not found in other parts of the world.

In general the bees gather nectar and produce honey during a short period of the year. In Georgia we have a 6 - 8 week honey flow. Then the rest of the season is spent conserving the supplies to make it through the winter. The migratory bees don't get a break but go from honey flow to honey flow.

Currently there is an ongoing study project comparing 30 bee colonies which stay in the same place with a group of 30 USDA colonies which are migratory. Hopefully some understanding of the impact on bees of migration will be the result. I tried to find a reference on the web for this and couldn't.

Delaplane referenced a wonderful study on PLOS ONE which he encouraged us all to read. That this open source study is available to us non-scientists is a real gift. This study looks at the interaction of stress and pathogens on bees and CCD.

He also encouraged us to search regularly on the website: eXtension.org, using bees/honeybee/bee as a search terms. This is a site maintained by the land grant universities and gives all of us commoners access to the latest research being done by land grant colleges and universities on bees.

For example, if you go to this article, you'll see on the right a number of other articles that may have a similar focus and may be of interest to you. Or try this concentration area on Bee Health.

I'm a little scared of this site because I think I might get lost in all the interesting reading and not come up for air!

As always, Dr. Delaplane was full of helpful information and useful pointers. I can't wait until he returns to our bee club next year.


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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hive Box for BT2

So here's the rest of the story of BT2.


Here is the second bee tree. There is less activity; it's a smaller hive; and as always with a tree felling, the queen may not have survived the "earthquake" that happened to the tree. But I'm going to proceed with hope that she is there and the hive may survive.


I've nailed the plywood over the hole. Then I set a box filled with drawn comb frames.



Finally I set a baggie of sugar syrup over the frames and slit the baggie. This treetop is quite slanted so the sugar syrup wanted to run out of the hive box. I am going to have to try to level the box with wood shims the next time I am over there.



I put a second hive box (empty) around the baggie and put an upside down bottom board on for a top. I have a better top and will bring it the next time I come to these hives.

The whole contraption looks a little crazy but I think it may work if we can entice the bees to move up.


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bee Tree Two aka BT2

George Imirie wrote that some people are bee-havers and some people are bee-keepers. I think there needs to be a third category. Eddie of Eddie's Odd Job Tree Service in Atlanta is a bee-saver. His company cut another tree on Friday that was full of bees and they again brought it back to their office.

You can see Bee Tree One in the background with a hive box on top of it. In front of it in the foreground of this picture is bee tree two (BT2 - thanks, biologie!) BT2 is much smaller than BT1. The bees are coming out of a knot hole in the lower center right of the tree.



Here's an up close and personal look into the hole.



I missed this tree sectioning. When they did it, apparently they cut off a good bit of the hive in a section of tree that they left near the tree they set up. It has empty comb in it. They did this cut this morning, so I am surprised that the comb is empty. The bees may have robbed it out, but in 30 minutes between cutting the section and my arrival? These bees may be like mine at home and are already using up winter stores.



I took these pictures and hurried home to set up the hive box. First I went by Lowe's and bought a 2X2 board, brought it home and cut a circle out of the center.



I put it in the car, along with a hive box with drawn comb, an empty box, a bowl of sugar syrup in a baggie, a bottom board to use for a top, and my basket of bee goodies.


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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yet Another Bee Tree!

I'm at Bald Head Island in North Carolina with my sister, but as we were driving here, my cell rang. It was Annette at Eddie's Odd Job Tree Service where the first bee tree is. She called because they had cut another tree full of bees and had brought it back to the office.

The plan was to section the tree as they did the first one - so when I get back to Atlanta, there should be a second bee tree right next to the first one. I can't believe it!

Of course from here I have no pictures, but will get some when I get back. Annette said this is a smaller tree than the first one. The bees in this tree should be in desperate straits. Their winter supplies will have been destroyed or at least turned into a big mess with the felling of the tree.

When I get back to Atlanta, I'll get a piece of plywood as I did before and cut a center hole. I'll take a hive box over there with drawn comb. Then I'll cross my fingers that this will work!

I'll need to feed them like mad to get them ready for winter as quickly as possible. Lucky for us the first frost in Atlanta is usually around the middle of November....so we have a little bit of time here.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Messy Sugar Syrup Process

When people talk about harvesting honey, there's always some discussion about how messy the process is. When I harvest via crush and strain, I put cardboard under everything, keep the harvesting in a small area of my kitchen and have very little clean-up. I put the cardboard outside on the sidewalk and the bees clean it up. The equipment - a pan, a rubber spatula, a pestle, a sharp knife - is easily cleaned in the sink.

Making sugar syrup is an entirely different matter. I find it very messy and difficult to clean up. Since the process takes place on my gas stove, I can't line the burners with anything and sugar and drippy syrup get all over EVERYTHING.

When I'm done, there are sugar drips on the stove, on the floor, on the counter, on my clothes, on every square inch in the vicinity of the pot.



Drips happen in the pouring of the syrup from the pot to the ziploc baggie. The measuring cup drips. The pot is too heavy for me to pour and hold the baggie open at the same time so I start by transferring the syrup from the pot via a glass one cup measure. Drippy, drippy, drippy.



And in pouring the sugar into the boiling water, sugar gets sprinkled all over my burners.



The only discovery that has diminished the mess is that I discovered that two of these one quart mixing bowls (see photo below) filled to this level = eight cups of sugar. I then don't have to make as many transfers from the bag of sugar to the boiling water. That has cut down on the sugar on the counter.

When I'm finished I have to clean at least three or four pots, three or four mixing bowls, an assortment of whisks, a sharp knife, and of course, the kitchen counter, the floor and the stove top.

In addition the bees go through a baggie in about five days so I am feeding at least once a week and often more. So unlike harvesting which takes place a couple of times each summer, this feeding mess and clean up happens weekly or more and has been continuous since the beginning of September.



All in all, I'd say making and using sugar syrup in ziploc baggies is the biggest clean-up challenge I've had so far in beekeeping.
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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Newest Baby Bee



I've paused in my beekeeping to welcome the newest baby "bee" to my family....my little granddaughter, Lark, born 10-6-09! I suppose that means she's a bird and not a bee, but nonetheless, I see a bee veil all her own in her future!
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Friday, October 02, 2009

Bees Eating Sugar Syrup

These days I am feeding my bees sugar syrup in order to help them prepare for winter. I didn't do this last year, but this year my hives, despite my harvesting very little honey, are too light to go into winter.

The bees in the picture below have just discovered the sugar syrup floating by the slits in the baggie feeder.




The hive from which I took these pictures yielded me no harvest this year and they are very light on stores for the winter. This is the hive that I combined with the nuc from Blue Heron back in August.



In these two pictures (above and below) you can see the bees' tongues out to slurp up the honey.



Below is a frontal view of a syrup slurping bee.



I closed up the hive with one last glance through the hole in the inner cover to see them feeding away!




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