Welcome - Explore my Blog

I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I began my 12th year of beekeeping in April 2017. Now there are almost 1300 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. (678) 597-8443

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Monday, December 19, 2011

On a Warmish December Day....

the bees are all over this plant in my neighbor's yard. It's a shrub with palmate leaves about 1 foot in diameter each and with nine "fingers" on each leaf.

The bees are busy collecting something from this plant when it's warm enough to fly as it was this afternoon.  From looking around the Internet, it may be a Japanese shrub named Fatsia japonica.....or maybe not.

Anyone have an idea of what this is? Put your answer in a comment below.






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Friday, December 16, 2011

Making Hand Cream

Another beekeeper's winter thing-to-do:  make hand cream.  I still don't have the process down but here's currently what I am doing.

The recipe I used (always in revision):

1 3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sweet almond oil
1/4 cup + 1 T cocoa butter
7 oz coconut oil
4 oz beeswax
2 T lanolin oil
2 T honey
1/2 cup or so of water

Melt the first seven ingredients together.  Pour into a blender container.  Blend until it starts to thicken.  Gradually blend in 1/2 cup water.  Blend for 20 minute increments and stop blender and cool mixture for about 5 minutes.  Continue until the lotion is thick enough to put into containers.  (This takes 4 to 4 1/2 hours).

If you simply pour the mix into the containers, it will be hard as a rock.  The blending is necessary, but I haven't figured out how to simplify this process.  Let me know what you try and what works for you.

The finished product can't be slathered onto your hands or they will remain rather greasy.  As in Brylcream, a "little dab'll do ya."  I use a fingertip's worth to lotion my two hands.

Meanwhile, here's the slide show (click to see it full sized and read the captions):

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making Lotion Bars - A Winter Beekeeper's Joy

Lotion bars are quick to make and a holiday gift that the recipients love to get.  The ingredients are only three:

1/3 oil (avocado or sweet almond oil are best)
1/3 butter (shea butter, cocoa butter - I like a half and half combination)
1/3 melted beeswax.

Equipment needed:

A boiling water bath
A large measuring cup
Chopsticks to use for stirring
Molds for the bars (commercial ones can be purchased or you can use ice cube trays)

One caution:  These smell great because of the cocoa butter.  Once I gave one to someone and she took a bite out of it!  Important that your recipient knows they are lotion (although nothing in the bar would be bad for eating!)

These take a short time and are fun to do.  Here's a slideshow of the process:




Sunday, December 04, 2011

Newest Grandba-bee

Born Dec 2, 2011 and weighed in at 7 lbs even.  My third grandchild and second grandson.

Think he's ready for a beesuit yet?

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Beekeeper's Guide to Cyber Monday

Brushy Mountain is the only bee company I can find offering any benefit for Cyber Monday.

Brushy Mountain offers free shipping as per the paragraph from their Dec E-Flyer below:

"Cyber Monday: Cyber Monday is the internet's response to Black Friday at the brick and mortar stores and is always the Monday after Thanksgiving (November 28). No long lines, no rushing, just the comfort of your keyboard and mouse. This year we are offering free shipping anywhere in the lower 48 states as well as at least 10% Off on all items in the "Holiday Gift Ideas" section of our site. Here is the fine print: orders must to over $100 to qualify; excluded from the free shipping are buckets of corn syrup, honey, glass jars, and truck shipments; to get the free shipping and special prices,you must enter PCCM into the promotion code field of the cart. Once the code is entered the special pricing will be visible."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

General Bee Report as Winter Approaches

First, I'm sorry I've been rather lax in my postings.  I hope some of you have taken the opportunity to review some of the old posts while you wondered where in the world I was.

Last week was my birthday, my middle daughter was visiting from Maryland, my youngest daughter here in Atlanta is pregnant, due any day, and I hosted Thanksgiving for my family at my house.

Needless to say, the bees have taken a back seat.

However, over this weekend I checked on most of my Atlanta hives.  Most appear to be going into winter with good supplies.  I fed the bees bee tea going into the fall and most of the hives were slow to take any food, which is a good sign.  Generally they would prefer nectar and around my house we had a pretty good fall aster bloom (and therefore a decent fall flow).  So they haven't taken the bee tea because they didn't really need it.


For example, I put these two feeder jars on the Blue Heron nuc on 11/14.  Here it is almost two weeks later and they've barely touched it.  So I can feel pretty sure that they don't need it.  

One of the advantages of the rapid feeder is that it can stay on the hive during the winter.  A second advantage is that thick sugar syrup rarely freezes so if it is warm enough for the bees to move around, the syrup is there for their taking.  So my 8 frame hives will keep the rapid feeder through the winter.

Plans for winter:
1.  Make creamed honey from the early honey this season that has crystallized
2.  Build my unbuilt nuc boxes
3.  Paint equipment and assess my equipment needs
4.  Try to look for a possible local place to put the beehives from south Georgia
5.  Make plans about our bee business Linda Ts Bees with Jeff to determine where we need to focus come spring
6.  Work on my short course talk with Cindy Hodges on the year in the bee yard in a beginning beekeeper's year.
7.  Work out a sugar shake schedule to begin in January for all the hives.
8.  Decide about splits - surely I can split Colony Square and probably Lenox Pointe as well.

Bees in Winter at the Botanical Garden

For the first time this year, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has a new event, a festival of lights that is really beautiful. We toured the whole thing the Friday right after Thanksgiving....along with about 2999 other people.

It was really spectacular - especially the display in the main plaza.

When we got to the back side of the garden, they have an herb wall garden.  Each brick of the wall has herbs growing on/from it.  In front of these herbs is a display of bees created from light.  We, of course, just had to take pictures!  My daughter took all of these below.



One of the bees up close and personal.



Here I am in front of one of the bees.



And again.


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How One Beekeeper Approaches the Winter

While walking my dogs past my friend and fellow beekeeper's house, I saw Jerry sitting in his driveway. He usually keeps a solar wax melter about at this place in his driveway and keeps it working all during the warm months.

But now we are about to have cold weather. Snow is expected on Tuesday (it won't stick, if it shows up, because the ground is much too warm) - snow in Atlanta in November.

Jerry has taken on a non-beekeeping task. He is hulling walnuts in a special frame he built for this purpose. He hauled five huge bags of unhulled walnuts from Missouri in the back of his truck.

Now he sits in his canvas chair and pokes at the walnuts with a shovel until the shell falls off.



Here is the second phase of the walnut after Jerry's shovel has had its way with them.



Beekeepers come up with many ways to while away the winter!
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Queen of the Sun - a Great Bee Movie

Last night Julia and I went to a screening of "Queen of the Sun" at a local food club meeting.  We took food - it was a potluck dinner - to a local bar that opened just for this meeting.  We had a great time talking to people there and watching this wonderful movie about the bees.



















My favorite character who was filmed was this beekeeper, who keeps his bees without a shirt and wearing a necklace.  His funniest moment was when he used his mustache to brush the bees.



















The movie was well-done, in support of natural beekeeping and there are many interesting versions of hives in the film, such as the one below.  There were also frames that were different sizes.

























As you can tell from the comb attachment in the frame above, most of the beekeepers in this movie practiced foundation-less beekeeping.

The movie was filmed all over the world, which adds a lot of interest.  My only regret is that most of the beekeepers interviewed except for one, who was shown without her bees, were men.  

Monday, November 07, 2011

Beehive at the White House


This past weekend, I met my daughter, Becky, in Washington, DC.  One of my wishes for the weekend was to take a photo of the White House beehive.  Of course, you can't get anywhere close to it, but we could from two fences away, see it and take its picture.  The location under a beautiful tree facing south is just lovely.



I'm glad they situated it where the public could get a glimpse of it.  I think everyone knows that there is a beehive at the White House because it has been in the news and because beekeeping magazines have featured it.  But when I've said to friends that I am going to take a picture of the beehive, they to a person, said, "There's a beehive at the White House?"



Below you can see it in relationship to the White House from the Ellipse.



Just to record that we came, Becky and I got someone to take our picture together.  The woman, who didn't know we were interested in the beehive was thrilled to tell us that she got us both with the White House just over our heads.  I, of course, was more excited that the beehive is over my right shoulder (very tiny!)


Here you can see the beehive on the right side and the vegetable garden it is supposed to be pollinating on the left side of the picture.



We also saw, I'm sure, White House bees, when we toured the US Botanic Garden.  There were bees on every blooming aster.



Here's a video about the beehive, posted in a comment by a reader below, but I thought you'd all like to see it as part of this post.
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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Blue Heron Bee Report

Over last weekend, Julia called me from the Blue Heron with the sad news that she opened her hive and found it dead. The terrible vandal left it open to inclement weather, the bees had probably lost or balled their queen after that, and the hive had dwindled down to nothing. Very, very few bees were left in her hive and there was brood that needed to be capped and had died since the larvae was never capped. Very sad situation.

Julia had taken honey to feed her hive. My hive did not need food, so she left the honey on a cinder block with slits in the baggie for any takers. When I arrived to check my hive, there were bees enjoying the honey.


Here are Julia's hive boxes, now empty. We will scorch the insides for safety but the cause of death for this hive was mistreatment and exposure.


You can see bees on the landing of my nuc hive. The bees were flying in and out. I did see a few with pollen in their pollen baskets which was hopeful for the hive as a whole.



When I opened the hive, they had not emptied the jars of bee tea - when you have honey available why would you want bee tea? In addition the asters are still blooming profusely in the fields around the apiary.



I left them with the half empty jars and will check on them again this coming week.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

Silence in Rabun County

It was gorgeous in Rabun County this weekend, but very cold.  The leaves were past their peak but still really lovely and a great depiction of fall.
'























Lark (my granddaughter) , my two dogs and I went to visit the bees and feed them.  They were still and silent - not a bee to be seen.
















We put food in the empty rapid feeders on both hives and left them.  The temperature all weekend never went above 53.  I checked again on Saturday afternoon and not a drop had been touched.

















I hope they are cold and OK instead of dead inside the hive.   This was the first time Lark has been into bee hives with me.  I took a veil for her but she wouldn't put it on.  It was a good first visit because there were no bees present!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Blue Heron Hive is Warm and Fed

Yesterday I went over to check on the Blue Heron. This incident with the vandal has left me really nervous. I pulled up to the garden parking lot and I was the only car there, so despite Roswell Road traffic in full view, I turned my car to face toward the street before getting out of it.

Then I walked up to the hives to feed them and was so nervous that I did something by accident to my phone so that all the photos were black and white - not nearly as illustrative as color, but certainly a sign that I am massively uncomfortable at the Blue Heron alone - which never used to be my truth.



The hive was still locked up and undisturbed.


The boardmans were empty and bees were flying in and out of the hive.


I reloaded the Boardmans with lovely amber colored bee tea which you cannot begin to appreciate in black and white.


The aster is still blooming, the bees are still flying in and out. I will probably move these bees home next week when the weekend cold will still the aster bloom.
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Using the Rapid Feeder

The cone in the rapid feeder sits over the center of the angel food cake pan type container. The bees come up from the hole in the inner cover and can walk down the ridged surface of the cone to the height of the sugar syrup.

When Jeff and I fed the bees last week, the feeders on the hives were empty. In the photo below, Jeff begins to pour the bee tea into the rapid feeder.



In this picture you can see the bees through the cone cover going down to the height of the bee tea. We had to pour slowly to avoid drowning bees and to allow the bees time to crawl up to dry ground.

The leaves floating in the bee tea are thyme, by the way.



The level rises and the bees crowd the top area of the cone.



As the bee tea gets higher, the bees are forced to move up even higher.



When the container is full, the bees can't go down the sides to get syrup, although as the amount of syrup is brought into the hive, the levels will diminish and the bees will be seen more on the outside of the cone.

Just thought you might enjoy these up close and personal pictures of the bees endeavoring to take in the bee tea.


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Friday, October 21, 2011

Kim Flottum Visits MABA and Speaks on Preparing for Winter



Metro Atlanta was privileged to have Kim Flottum speak to our club at our monthly meeting last week.  He talked about overwintering bees and after a break, addressed the small hive beetle problem. 






















 I always enjoy hearing Kim speak - he's conservative in his approach to beekeeping and I appreciate that.



Kim lives in Ohio and he was shocked to find out that in Atlanta we only need about 40 - 50 pounds of honey on a hive for it to have enough to survive the winter.  Apparently in Ohio, he needs to leave a hive with 145 pounds of food for the winter.



Another interesting thing he said was that  when it is cold outside, the bees in cluster need to have holes in the honeycomb to more easily travel across the frames to the honey source.  I've noticed in foundationless beekeeping that the bees often leave space (holes) in the comb they draw - passageways, as it were.



The most important thing he said the whole night came in this slide:



If we have put bees in a box to live and we are "keeping" them, then it is our responsibility to do everything possible to keep them alive.  Made me feel so much better about feeding my bees last fall and this fall to make sure they make it through the winter.

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