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There are over 1170 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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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Report on the Rabun County Hive

The last time I looked into the hive in Rabun County was on May 13, so the bees have been undisturbed between then and now. I drove to the mountains on Friday morning and went straight to the hive. I opened the back of my car and found that I had brought my bee-inspection bag, but I had left my smoker at home.

Well, I reasoned, these are Don's bees and he works them with no protective gear, so I put on my jacket, tucked my jeans into my socks, and headed for the hive. He does, however, use a smoker and I didn't have one with me.  I didn't wear my gloves, at least not at first!

 I opened the hive and the bees reacted as if an intruder had entered their home (Duh.....) I was head-butted and hand-butted by guard bees. OK, so I put on my gloves.

Anyway, the hive was doing well. They had built out the first box and the queen was laying beautifully. I even saw her in all her regal glory (she was quite lovely) but didn't get a picture. I took the empty box off of the top of the hive and put on a box I had bought from home, painted a la Julia, my beekeeping buddy, but not as pretty as hers. This box included a full frame of honey as well as several frames of drawn out comb from another hive.





The bees were flying in and out, pollen in their pollen baskets and generally looking well-pleased with their situation.



Today it was raining, but I had left the dark green box on the ground in front of the hive and needed to do something with it.  Also I had gotten a worried email from one of the community gardeners who had seen mowers around the beehive and wondered if that would have been a problem for the bees.  So in the rain, I went back today before driving home to Atlanta.

Now some of you will think I didn't do the right thing - I don't know if I did or not. The tulip poplar is blooming in the mountains and their nectar flow is still going, unlike in Atlanta. I can't get back up to Rabun County until the 26th of June at best. My grandson's birthday is next weekend, then I'll be visiting my daughter Becky who lives in Maryland and going to a conference in West Virginia the next week and weekend, and the following weekend is my daughter Valerie's birthday (one of the two who live in Atlanta) and my grandaughter's christening.

With that many weeks before I am back up in Rabun County, I decided to put the other box on as well. I realize they may simply use the middle of both of the top two boxes rather than build the boxes up, but I would feel horrible if they needed the space and I wasn't there to provide it. At the same time, it increases what they have to defend in the event of problems from outside.

So I don't know if I did the right thing or not. I left another box, outfitted with frames in the basement of my house up there. When I return on June 26, the sourwood flow will have begun and I want to be prepared for it. I am actually considering moving Aristaeus2 or Mellona up to Rabun also if they get going better through the month of June so that they can take advantage of the sourwood flow.


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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ditto: Queenless No More in Second Now-Nuc Hive

I saw bees in the queen cage last night but didn't check to see what the situation was because it was getting dark and rainy. This morning I found that there was definitely a released queen. A path had been eaten through the sugar, but there were bees in the queen cage.



Just to be on the safe side, I removed the queen cage and closed up the hive.  I took the cork out of the corked end of the queen cage while I held my finger over the open sugar end.  Then I slid the entire cage into the hive at the entry.

Maybe the bees were still drawn to traces of queen pheromone still in the cage - who knows?

Given the fate of the L hive, I didn't like seeing the small hive beetle in the queen cage and returned to the hive and installed AJs beetle traps for a safeguard or at least a start to IPM management of this SHB problem.


The way this bee season has gone, I only expect to get some honey from the Easter hive.  The other six hives will hopefully build up for the winter.

Valerie and Jeff's top bar, Topsy, backs up to a kudzu mess and they may get some of that purple kudzu honey - you never can tell with bees, as Winnie the Pooh said so wisely.  I may get some sourwood type honey from the Rabun county hive, but we'll see.  I'm going up this weekend and will optimistically take an extra box for those girls.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Queenless No More

Today five days have passed since I installed the two queens from Don in Lula, GA.  I checked on one hive tonight to see if the queen had been released.

I opened Aristaeus2 and the hive was quiet.   I didn't plan to spend long in the hive so I didn't light my smoker or wear my beesuit.  I keep getting stung on my hands when I don't wear gloves, so I did wear nitrile gloves.

I picked up the queen cage and found that the bees had not released the queen.  I went inside and called Don.  He told me to make sure the bees were feeding the queen and not being aggressive.  If that were the case then he told me to release her into the hive.

I went back out to the hive and gently picked up the queen cage.  Bees were on the screen feeding the queen.  So I removed the cage and closed the hive up, after replacing the frame I removed to install her.



Don said that after the hive was put back together, I should carefully either remove the cork on the non-sugar end or push it into the cage, gently.  I tried to pry it out but instead ended up pushing it into the cage.

Following Don's instruction, I placed the now opened queen cage in the entry of the hive and Her Majesty walked right into the hive!  All of the workers in the cage with her were dead, but she climbed over their bodies and entered her new hive.


Tomorrow morning I'll take the queen cage out of the nuc.  I opened the top tonight and could see that they had eaten a pathway through to the queen, but there were still bees in the queen cage.  If one of those is the queen, I'll release her in the morning.  It was too dark and starting to rain, so I decided to wait until tomorrow so I could do this without pressure.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Second Blue Heron Inspection of 2010

By the way, I have lots to share from Young Harris - I learned a lot there, but will share as I apply what I learned.  There's too much to try to give you a Young Harris memo in one post.

We did our second Blue Heron inspection for the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association on Saturday.  The weather held and we had a good time.  As you will remember, the first two hives we installed here with Jennifer Berry's nucs appear to have been queenless.  It was an odd situation because they may have swarmed but without leaving a queen cell.  To make sure all was well, we added a frame of brood and eggs to each hive from our hives at home.  Then we didn't open the hives for three weeks to give them time to make a new queen, get her mated and have her start laying.

Noah and I checked on Sunday after Young Harris and found evidence of active queens in both hives - what a relief.  We then had a hive inspection on May 22.

Here is the slide show for all to see.  At the bottom of the black frame, you have an opportunity to click to see the captions for all of these pictures.  If you want to see the show full screen, double click on the slideshow below and then choose Slideshow and full screen from the Picasa Web Album:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

And What of the Queenless Hives?

In the first hive, Aristaeus2, I pulled out the cork from the candy end of the cage and wedged it in between two frames. There's lots of wiggle room in the eight frame boxes to do this. I'll check it on Wednesday and see if they have released the queen. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that this queen will appeal to this growing-smaller hive.


Shock and sadness, when I opened the L hive, it was practically a dead hive. There were bees in the box on all the frames, keeping company with slimey small hive beetle larvae (see photo below). The hive was a mess.



My plan was to requeen this hive but now I had a new problem. I took all parts of the hive and moved it about 25 feet away and set the boxes in my yard, as well as the SBB and the slatted rack.

I set up my 5 frame, two story medium nuc as a new hive and prepared to make a split. I placed the nuc in the old L Hive location but none of the boxes, the frames, etc. are from the old slimed hive. I opened my Easter swarm hive which has more bees and brood than it knows what to do with and took two frames of brood from that hive. I checked very, very carefully to make sure there was no queen on either frame. Then from an upper box, I took two full frames of honey from that hive and one frame that had some brood but many open cells.

I put all of those frames and bees into the nuc in the L Hive location. I shook a few extra bees into it from the top box of the Easter hive. My thought was that the bees from the L Hive will return/stay in that location. The new frames, brood, clean honey,etc. will provide a home for the nurse bees that I took from the Easter hive.

The 5 frame nuc doesn't have enough space to wedge the queen cage between the frames and Don had told me not to hang the cage. So I put it on top of the frames and put the second story of the nuc box on top with one frame removed. The other frames are drawn comb.



So here's the set up. When I finished and closed everything up, all of the old boxes (see the yellow box in the background) had been moved away and the nuc stood on its own ground.





I think I'm going to order some nematodes.......


Meanwhile either two frames of honey are being robbed out in my carport or a swarm has moved into some hive boxes I have stacked there!  There have been swirling bees in large numbers there all day.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Visit with Don (Fatbeeman) in Lula, GA


This afternoon I drove to Lula, Georgia with Julia and Noah to get the two queens I had ordered for my queenless hives. Don K is a character and fun to spend time with - I learned so much in the 45 minutes we spent at his beeyard. He was constantly sharing what he knows and challenging us to think about the whys and wherefores.

He had the queen cages ready. He said he knew I'd post pictures so he had new queen cages for me! We got to go with him into the yard to get the queens out of his hives. Note he has on NO protective gear - neither did any of the three of us. I did have veils in the car, but we didn't stop to put them on.

Don has his own system of hive marking. The brick you see in the picture with the stick on it means that the hive we are opening has a laying queen in it, ready to be sold and go to a new home.


His beeyards (his land is covered with bee hives - all systematically organized in his own special way) sport multiple colors and many types of tops and bottoms. Many of his boxes are really boxes - solid on the bottom and four sides - with a drilled entrance hole.

Here he explains his brick marking system to us.

He shows us the brood and eggs this queen is laying.  He makes sure each queen that he sells is proven as a layer.


He had Noah, who is trying to be more comfortable with the bees, lay his hand right on top of them to feel how they are under his hand!  He was totally surprised but did well.
Don found the queen and put her in his closed hand; he held his hand over the open hole in the queen cage; she moved right in.  Then quick as a wink, he picked up about five workers from the frame and put them in with her.  He marked the hive as now queenless and we moved on.

 
To rectify the queenless situation, he immediately moves to a hive that has queen cells (he can read the bricks on top of the hives to know which ones fit the bill).  He finds a viable queen cell.
    
Using a knife, he cuts a circle of comb containing the queen cell.  The cut cell lies next to the smoker in the next picture  He then wedges the ripe queen cell between the frames of one of the queenless hives and that hive is in business again!

There's no way to cover everything we learned in such a short time in this post.  One of my favorite moments was when he pointed to this stack of nuc boxes.  "Now this is natural beekeeping," he said.  As he pointed out the nucs are about the size of a tree trunk and he can stack them and the bees will make honey forever.  "After all, it's just like a tree...." he said.



Since this visit, I have had two very negative interactions with Don - one in 2011 and one in 2013.  

Don is a good beekeeper and a good teacher but does not appear to take a positive approach to his customers.

I have bought bees from him every year since I found out about him, so in 2011 I just let what he did go and chalked it up to his being basically a rather angry man.  In the most recent incident, he directly blamed me for the failure of a queen and hive after three weeks when the queen was obviously not mated well - the bees wouldn't release her and when we directly released her, she only laid drones.  He was very difficult to deal with, criticized me personally and my beekeeping,  and did not say, "no problem; I'll be glad to replace the queen"  Rather he said I would have to bring him the failed queen in order to get another and was quite angry and critical.    

I will not ever buy bees from him again and, since I am in charge of the list we give out to new beekeepers, I am planning to remove his name from the list of suppliers that Metro Atlanta Beekeepers recommends to our members and participants in our short course.
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Bees and Wax Glands

Noah, Julia's son, has claimed their top bar hive as his own. He was looking in his hive yesterday and actually saw the bees with wax coming from their wax glands on their abdomen. You can really see the wax on the bee in the center of the first picture (thanks, Julia).



Below although the picture is fuzzy, you can again see wax flakes coming from the bees abdomen where the wax glands are located!



The bees take the wax flakes and mold them with their mandibles to make honeycomb.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Still Queenless After All These Days

I installed two new queens, one into Aristaeus2 and one into the L hive, before I went to Young Harris.  The queens were installed on Saturday afternoon.  I had to leave on Wednesday from work so the last possibility to look into the hives was before 8 AM on Wednesday.  At that time at my house, the bees are not flying and it isn't really warm yet.

On Wednesday before I left for the office (from which I was driving to Young Harris), I opened the top on Aristaeus2 and looked into the hive enough to see that the sugar had been all eaten out, so I didn't pull up the cage and left thinking all was well.  I didn't have time to check the L Hive.

I got home on Sunday and opened both hives.  Aristaeus2 had indeed eaten out all the sugar, all the attendants were gone, including the two dead ones who were in the cage when I got the queen, and the now dead queen was left in the queen cage.  Of course, there was no brood nor eggs in the hive.
The L Hive is doing very badly.  There were dead bees on top of the ventilated hive cover, bodies bitten in half:


The hive wasn't robbed.  There was nectar in the hive and no torn wax cappings.  I wondered if this were the work of bald-faced hornets because I do see them around my hives.  I haven't seen any this year but last year they were always lurking in the bee yard.  They are carnivores and cutting the bees in half seems fitting for how they might carry bee bodies to their young.

The top box had slime on it from hive beetle so I took the box off and plan to render that wax.  I pulled out the queen cage.  She had not been released and the queen and her attendants were all dead.  The sugar had not been eaten at all.  I expect these bees have given up - they are from the abandoned hives that we rescued earlier this spring.

I am very distressed.  I feel like the L hive queen death was beekeeper error because I didn't check the cage at all before I left.  I don't know why the bees killed the queen in Aristaeus2.  The man I got the queens from guarantees his queens, but both queens were in cages with at least two dead workers in the cage when I picked them up.  I don't know how long they had been caged before I received them.  I don't feel good about these queens and don't want to get more from him.

I called Don (www.fatbeeman.com) in Lula from whom I got the great packages for Rabun County and the top bar hive at Valerie's house.  I am driving up to Lula to get two queens from him on Saturday afternoon. 

I plan to introduce one to the Aristaeus2 hive.  In the meantime, I put a frame of brood and eggs in that hive from the swarm hive.  A hive doesn't lose hope (and develop laying workers) if they think there's a chance of a queen.  I'll check to see if they have made a queen cell after work tomorrow.  I also put a frame of eggs into the L Hive.

The L hive I'm going to move into a nuc.  I am going to take the queen from Don and put her in a nuc with medium frames.  I'm going to shake the bees left in the L Hive into the nuc and see if they can make do with a new start.  Bees are supposed to expand in the spring.  This hive has contracted and now it is going to be a nuc.....

Isn't beekeeping amazing - new challenges at every turn!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Checking on the Top Bar Hive

Yesterday I went through all my hives to see how things were going. I drove to Valerie and Jeff's house to check on the top bar which I haven't looked at in 10 days.

They were doing really well for the most part. They were building comb on about eight of the top bars. The comb is beautiful for the most part. Here's an example:



The queen is wasting no time in laying eggs. You can easily see eggs in almost all of the cells on the left of this picture. Isn't the new wax lovely? I love letting bees build their own foundation - it's always beautiful.



Where I had tied in old comb to welcome them to the hive, they are doing interesting things. Below you'll see an old comb I tied in. It had large cells so they are using it (the old comb) for nectar storage and have attached brood comb to either side. They definitely don't like the string in their hive and have made each piece I looked at fuzzy by picking at it with their mandibles.



Early in the hive there were a few examples of cross comb. I hadn't interrupted this the last time I went in, so this time I worked on it to give them the idea that they are to build their comb straight. I exposed brood in this process and hated doing that but these bees need to build comb in parallel with the top bars.

If you'll look closely at this picture, you can see the each bee in the line extending her proboscis to collect the fluid leaking from the broken cells.



I'm still using the two empty packages to prop up top bars to look at them.  Setting the crooked comb top bar on them, I tied the now-broken comb onto the bar, pulling it more in line.


This is an interesting picture to look at because Don's bees are small-cell bees.  You can see the contrast between the cell size on the old comb and the cell size of the brood comb that the bees have built next to it.

Here are some of the other combs - notice the string and how they have managed it.  And notice how they have built around the tied-in-comb.  If you click on these pictures, you can view them larger.:


   

  

My daughter Valerie took all of these pictures.  I was so proud of her.  She threw on a veil and a pair of gloves but even though I brought a bee suit for her, she didn't wear it and wasn't worried.  I wish I had taken a picture of her - I will the next time.

I think this hive is going really well now.  It certainly has been a learning curve.  I am going to name the hive Topsy for Topsy Turvy - which is certainly the way it has gotten started in a topsy turvy way!

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Master Beekeeper! HOORAY!

To reach the level of Master Beekeeper, you have to fulfill many qualifications. I got the Certified Beekeeper certificate in 2007 and was awarded Journey(wo)man in 2008.

Then all of this year I have been working on meeting the qualifications for Master Beekeeper. I have given talks to non-beekeeping groups, rescued swarms, run booths at eco-fairs, been interviewed on three Internet podcasts, run workshops (3 of them) at a regional meeting, provided hives for community gardens and many other things.

All of the evidence of my public service activities as well as five subspecialties had to be presented in a tabbed notebook which was turned in last Thursday afternoon.  I had pictures to document all of my public service and specialty areas.  I had saved emails and thank you notes, fliers and brochures.  All of it went into this notebook!





Then a lot of us spent Thursday morning sitting in class cramming everything we could into our heads from lectures on current stuff that we might not know....including that an apis mellifera fossil has been discovered in Nevada that is native to North America.   The name of this bee is: apis nearctica.  And that was on the test.

Below you'll see Dr. Keith Delaplane.  He is the head of the entomology department at the University of Georgia and the head of the Master Beekeeper program that brings us all the various certifications.  He's laughing because we are nervously peeking into the room where he is grading our exams.



While ten or so people attended the Master Beekeeper lectures on Thursday morning, actually only three of us sat for the exam.  Here we all nervously are, awaiting the results.  We are all friends and members of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association.



The Young Harris Beekeeping Institute, where we took this exam, draws participants from the region: Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina as well as all over Georgia, so it is rather remarkable that the three of us, Cindy, Jay and I, who sat for the exam were all from Atlanta and all from the Metro club.

In the end, with much relief, we were all awarded the Master Beekeeper certification level.  There are currently ten living Master Beekeepers in the region and we add three to that number.  There is also one Master Craftsman Beekeeper, Bill Owens, who is the only person in the state of Georgia to reach the highest possible level.

Here's the certificate:


 The sweetest part of the event is that my friend Julia and her son, Noah, who were also at the Institute, wrote a song for me celebrating my getting the Master Beekeeper.  They sang it to me, complete with Julia playing the guitar, after breakfast this morning.   I will always remember that about this day.

And, by the way, this is my 700th post on my blog to date!

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