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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.


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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What a difference a Slatted Rack Makes!

Yesterday Lenox Pointe looked like this at the end of the day. Bees were hanging off the entry and lined up on the sides. Although you can't see it in this photo, there is about a 3 inch wide row of bees around the corner on the shaded side of the hive.  It's about 90 degrees.



Last night while sorting bee equipment in the basement, I found to my astonishment that I had another 8 frame slatted rack. I pulled out the blue paint and painted it as well as a few hive boxes in need of new paint.

This morning before I went to work, I added the slatted rack to Lenox Pointe. Now at night tonight around 9 PM, the photo below is what the hive looks like. Many fewer bees are hanging out on the entry. If you compare the two photos, you can see the raised area at the bottom of the deep box that is the slatted rack, missing in the upper photo.


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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Questionable Queen Situation in Rabun County

I last checked the Rabun hives two weeks ago. At that time there was an egg in every cell in the first hive, the 8 frame one. Today I saw no eggs at all, no brood, nothing. There was capped brood (probably from the brood I saw two weeks ago), but no new eggs. There wasn't a queenless roar and the bees were peaceful.



They were storing gorgeous honey: darker than the honey I'm seeing in Atlanta, but not raising bees.



So I took out a frame, covered the open hive with a drape and opened hive #2 in the hopes of getting a frame of brood and eggs to bring to Hive One. It never hurts a hive to add a frame of brood and eggs. Here are the possibilities:

1. Maybe I killed the queen in the last inspection (horrors!)
2. Maybe they didn't like the queen, raised a new one and got rid of the old one, but there hasn't been enough time for her to get mated and start laying yet.
3. Maybe for some bee reason that I can't fathom, the queen is taking a break from laying but is in the hive.

No matter which of those is true, or even if the scenario is completely different, adding a frame of brood and eggs does no harm. If there is a queen, the bees will use the frame to keep their population going. If there isn't a queen, the bees will use one of the eggs to make a new queen. If there isn't a queen and one is in process, the pheromone from the new brood added today will help stave off any laying workers.




So I went to Hive Two (they need names, don't they?) and stole a frame of brood and eggs and put it in Hive One and left with crossed fingers.

The sourwood flow should start soon, so even though neither hive needs it, I will leave an extra box on each hive on Monday when I go home to Atlanta.



Maybe since the hives are in Rabun County, I'll call them Warwoman and Tallulah for wild areas in the county.  So the 8 frame is Warwoman and the 10 frame is Tallulah.  That will help me write more distinctly about each of them!


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Friday, May 27, 2011

End of the Week Hive Report So Far

Stonehurst Place:  Stopped there on Tuesday (one week from my last visit).  The bees were busily flying in and out but they had not drawn or used the frames in the top box on either hive.  Despite the way my bees are flying, the nectar flow must be slowing somewhat.

Home:  Also checked on Tuesday.  Colony Square had drawn and filled two of the 8 frames in the top box and was just looking at the rest of the frames in that box.  Lenox Pointe had drawn none of the frames in its top box. The swarm hive had not drawn any (they had been in the hive for three days at this point), so I made some sugar syrup and fed them inside the hive.

















By yesterday, that baggie looked like this:


















So today it was empty and so I replaced it with a full bag.

I opened up the swarm hive and the queen is laying.  I was relieved to see eggs.  I am so glad that the queen is there, but they have very little comb drawn - just about four frames in the top box and are not using the bottom box at all.


Next week I'll switch the box positions.

Blue Heron:  We had terrible weather in Atlanta last night so I didn't check on the Blue Heron this week.  The hive combination should have taken by now and the queen should have been raised.  (We combined the hives and gave them resources to make a queen on May 7).  However, we won't open that hive until June 19 when the next hive inspection is scheduled.  That way the queen has time to get out, get mated, and begin laying.

Rabun:  I'm going up to the mountains tomorrow and will check on the hives there.  It's about to be sourwood season, so I'll make sure they have honey supers ready for honey storage.

Topsy and  Linda T's Bees in South Georgia:  Haven't been to either in a while, but will go check on Topsy on Monday and will go to South Georgia in the next couple of weekends.  Greg is down there looking over the situation this weekend so I'm not too worried about them.

Bees Doing the Washboard Dance

The bees gather a lot on the front of Lenox Pointe.  It's my only hive with out a slatted rack.  I somehow am short one for an eight frame hive.  I do have a modified one that I am currently using for the South GA Swarm hive and will retrieve it for Lenox Pointe when we move that hive to the farm.  We have slatted racks for all the hives there.

Meanwhile the bees in Lenox Pointe are often on the front of the hive, sent out to help with the heat inside the hive on a hot day.  When they are on the entry, the bees do the washboard dance.  Researchers haven't quite figured out what the bees are doing.  Evidence suggests that although they look like they are cleaning, they in fact are not.

Interestingly, as they are busy washboarding, other forager bees are trying to land.  You can see the landing foragers inserting themselves between the dancers and literally tripping over the dancers on the landing.

I made a video of them so you can see what they look like.


Since I said it makes me think of Bert doing the Pigeon in the video, below is a video of Bert, Doing the Pigeon on Sesame Street:



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Young Harris Shrimp Boil

At the Young Harris Beekeeping Institute, there's usually a shrimp boil on Friday night for all the participants. At that dinner, the certificates are handed out for people who passed their Journeyman certification or their Master Beekeeper.  Welsh honey judge certification is also awarded that night and the winners of the honey contest are announced.

It's a fun gathering and a casual time to talk to other beekeepers. Cindy Hodges took this photo of Noah, me, Julia and Allen Facemire, a fantastic film-maker who is also a beekeeper,. Allen has made movies of hive inspections and honey harvests for the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association.

It's a rare moment to see a photo of Noah, Julia and me not in bee garb so I thought I'd post a picture of how we look in real life, not at the Blue Heron all suited up for bees.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tom Seeley on Bee Decision Making

This morning driving in to work, I heard a great piece on NPR about honey bee decision making, with a delightful interview with Tom Seeley, author of Honeybee Democracy:



The NPR piece is certainly worth reading but is even better to listen and hear the sound effects as well as Seeley discussing his bee research.  Click on "Listen to the story."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Difficult Bee Landings

Today the bees were falling all over themselves trying to land on the hive entries. For fun I filmed it:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Free Bees in Dallas, GA for Jeff's First Swarm Capture

Greg has a friend in Dallas, GA who called to report a swarm of bees in the yard of a rental house he owns.  Greg was going to be tied up this morning.  At a recent MABA meeting, Mickey Anderson, a club member who used to work for Rossman Bees, talked to the bee club about how a swarm will leave for its new home, chosen by the scout bees, usually between 10AM and 2PM.  If the swarm is still hanging after 2, then it probably won't go anywhere that day.

So Jeff and I went to get the bees without Greg so that they wouldn't relocate after 10 AM.  Dallas is about an hour's drive from my house in Atlanta.  Trusting our phone's navigation systems and my GPS, we eventually found the place and got the bees.

They are Greg's bees so they will go to our business in south Georgia, replacing one of our lost hives.

Here's the slide show which is a pretty good representation of how to capture a swarm. Many thanks to Ryan who shot pictures while we did the collection. Be sure to click on the slides to be able to see everything (and the captions for the pictures) full screen.




Thursday, May 19, 2011

Busy, Busy Bees

Today I stopped at Stonehurst to check on the bees. I had added a new super to the hives last week. Once again, they had filled every frame and needed new boxes. Here's an example of the gorgeous honey they are putting up. I don't know what the source of this very light nectar is - could be clover or something that is blooming at the Botanical Garden just up the road from the Inn.



We only have one more box for these hives. If they fill up another super before the end of the nectar flow, I'll either need to harvest or we'll have to order new boxes!~



At home I found the same thing. The bees in both boxes had built out the comb in all the frames in the boxes on the hives.



I added a new box to each of my home hives as well. I lit the smoker as I usually do to knock at the door and announce my presence. As soon as I put the hive back together and moved the smoker which had been sitting by the entry, the bees tumbled over each other to get into the hive with their nectar loads.



Here's Colony Square, the tallest of the two hives. The honey in these hives is light just like that at Stonehurst. I'll need to do some reading to determine what might be the source of this light, lovely honey.


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Well, Shut My Mouth, as they say in the South

I think my bees must read my blog.  No sooner do I post that the nectar flow is slowing, based on my observation of the tulip poplars and blackberry bushes around here, but the bees show me that I must be wrong.

I came home the next day around 2:00 and the bees at both hives were falling all over themselves as they landed in the entry to the hive.  So many bees were coming and going that stepping into the flight pattern was hazardous:  a guaranteed bee-in-the-hair.

If you enlarge the picture below, you can see the little golden bodies speeding through the air on their way to and from Colony Square.



At the front door bees were landing on top of each other and pushing through other bees on their way to the hive entrance.


Even though Lenox Pointe is not as vigorous, they were exhibiting the same behavior.



So, shut my mouth, I take it back.  The flow isn't thinking of slowing yet.  They aren't gathering tulip poplar and blackberry but something very light is being brought into the hives by the bucket.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Georgia Flow is Slowing Down

In my neighborhood the tulip poplar has finished its bloom and the blackberry is all done. The air smells of privet but even the privet is at the end of its bloom with the flowers changing from bright white to old yellow on the branches.





















It's amazing to me that the bees have so little time with an abundance of nectar before they are in short supply.  And here at the end of the flow, we have had a sudden spate of cold weather - temperatures in the low 60s for several days and in the 40s at night.

Now the bees who have been very productive over the last month will have less to gather and will have no major source of nectar blooming in this part of Georgia.  They will still forage and will find garden blooms, milkweeds on the sides of roads and ditches, with sumac yet to start blooming as well.  But the big push for nectar gathering is done.

We only have one big nectar flow in this part of the state.  Goldenrod and asters provide a minor early fall flow, but those are not delicious honey flavors.  In Rabun County the sourwood flow doesn't start until June, but it too only lasts for a month.

















Now the work of the bees is to ripen the nectar they have gathered and to cap it for storage for the winter (and for harvest for the beekeeper).  After only a short, intense month, they will have to make do for the rest of their winter stores.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Speaking at Young Harris Beekeeping Institute

At Young Harris, I gave a talk on "Simple Beekeeping: A Low-Tech Approach" to the students there. I had to give the same talk four different times, so by the fourth time, I felt a little babbly. But many people told me they enjoyed it and I didn't hear any negative feedback, so that felt great.

I talked for 45 minutes, hitting the highlights of the simple approach to box size (using all mediums), foundation (using foundationless frames), pest management (a homemade SHB trap), melting wax (solar wax melter from a styrofoam beer cooler), and honey harvest (crush and strain).

I demonstrated cutting a wax strip with a rotary cutter.



I showed them how a foundationless frame looks going into the hives.



And, of course, I introduced them to the wax tube fastener and told them my story of learning to use it.



After all, it came with no directions, and I'd like to save others the agony I went through!



The first day the room was crowded and overflowing for each of my two talks and the second day, the room was full for each of the talks, so I felt pleased. I also spent a good amount of time evaluating the practical abilities of the certified beekeeper candidates.

I entered a wall quilt and my creamed honey in the honey show.





















My creamed honey came in second place (my friend Julia won the blue ribbon!) and my quilt came in third place.

Julia (who is a great beekeeper and has kept bees longer than I but didn't start the certification process until last year) earned her Journeywoman certification and Noah, her son, and my friend and fellow beekeeper, earned his certified level in the Georgia program.
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Friday, May 13, 2011

Rabun County Hive Check

In the terrible tornado weather in the Southeast on April 28, Rabun County, where my bees are located, suffered two tornadoes. One occurred about 2 miles from the hive at Lake Burton and the other occurred in Mountain City, another two miles in a different direction. I wonder how the barometric pressure changes in such terrible weather affected the bees?

Both of these hives were started with packages in early April. Both hives have built out the bottom box and one of the hives had started in the second box. Hive One which is housed in 10 frame medium boxes had not built in the second box at all.

In the first box the frames with the most mature capped brood looked like the one below. Pretty good brood pattern, some holes where bees had emerged, and a general good healthy look.



I found some odd laying patterns but still wondered if the tornado and accompanying weather phenomena affected the queen and her laying. The capping was new looking and fresh. Since larvae is capped about seven days after laying and the tornado was less than two weeks ago, I wondered if the odd drone pattern represented confusion in the odd weather pattern when the eggs were laid.



The good news about this hive is that almost every empty cell was filled with eggs or young brood.  Perhaps the queen is back on track or perhaps this drone laying pattern is an indication of a bigger problem for the hive.



I love the yellow tint of the wax in the newly built comb because of all the pollen coming in.  Hive one was only housed in the lower box, so I left it with two medium boxes as its configuration.

Hive two, housed in eight frame medium boxes, had built out all the frames in the bottom box and had drawn out three frames in the second box where they had proceeded to store nectar.  Also in hive two there was an egg in almost every cell.

Actually both hives are about at the same point.  Hive One has built out 10 frames in one box.  Hive Two has built out 11 frames in two eight frame boxes.



I left the hives with bottle caps on the inner cover corners to raise the lid slightly and provide more ventilation.

I'll be back Memorial Day Weekend to see how these bees are doing.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Great Progress at Stonehurst Place

I'm heading for Young Harris tomorrow so I stopped by Stonehurst Place today to check on the bees. I thought there was a slight chance they might need another box. I added a super to each hive on Monday, the 1st, and even though that was just about a week ago, we are in the middle of a nectar flow.

















Both hives had good activity going in and out of the hives when I got there.
















Hive one had nice white new honey comb in the second box but had not started making comb in the third box. I checkerboarded some of the comb from box 2 to box 3 to encourage them. I didn't move a lot of the comb because the queen is laying in the second box and there was some brood on the frames as well.

In the second hive at Stonehurst, the bees peeked up at me from box three between well-filled combs.  They had already filled every frame but one with comb and honey.

















Here is some of their beautiful honey.  I expect the guests at Stonehurst will get to eat some of this as cut comb honey if the owner is open to that idea.

















The cappings are just gorgeous!!

















In the second super in this hive there was also brood.  This is a busy queen and a good, growing hive.

















More brood.  I checkerboarded the frames in boxes three and four to increase the bees interest in box four.  In the process I had to cut off some honey-dripping comb so Jim, the inn-sitter while Caroline and Gary are away, and I tasted the first taste of their honey - really light and DELICIOUS.

















I added a fourth box to this hive and put bottle tops on the inner cover corners of both hives to add to ventilation.  I thought we ordered slatted racks for these hives, but we don't have them.

Funny that two hives started at the same time could be in two different places.  The bees in hive two (from which Victor sampled 300 bees) are more productive than the bees so far in hive one.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Albert Alligator and the Blue Heron hives

When I was a little girl, my father always loved the cartoon Pogo, drawn and written by Walt Kelly. It was a little confusing for me because there was a famous clown in the circus at the time named Emmett Kelly and I got the two mixed up and thought the clown wrote the cartoon in his off hours. Of course now I'm a beekeeper and there's a great beekeeping company called Walter T. Kelley. (Good I'm not still a child - think how confused I'd be).

Nonetheless in the cartoon, Pogo (a possum) and Albert (an alligator) frequently played checkers. When they did, Pogo often won and Albert had many responses to being beaten, most of which involved creating some kind of chaos. In one of my favorite Albert Alligator checker games, Pogo is winning and Albert suddenly throws the checkerboard into the air yelling, "Earthquake! Earthquake!"

If the bees at Blue Heron had read Pogo, they would have been buzzing "Earthquake! Earthquake!"  today when Julia, Noah, and I returned to the scene of the morning's inspection.

This is what it looked like in the middle of the chaos:



Noah took this picture below by accident, but I'm sure it's how the bee's world felt to them!



















In the earlier inspection we found that despite queen cells in both halves of the split, neither hive had a queen.  I don't know if it was because of really bad weather over the last weeks; if I killed the queen when I dropped my hive tool through the one hive two weeks ago; if the emerged queens were killed going to or from their mating flights; or what.

The sad story is that the splits both failed.

I went home and stole a frame of brood and eggs from both Colony Square and Lenox Pointe.  They were none too happy since I had inspected both hives the day before and being opened two days in a row is more than disruptive.

I put the two stolen frames into a five frame nuc with some empty frames to make transporting it easy.

















I made sure before the move that both stolen frames had eggs and very young brood on them....as well as capped brood.  The pheromones from the capped brood help the queenless hive avoid developing laying workers.

We removed two frames from the bottom box of the strongest of the two hives.

















In their place we put the two frames from home.

































Both hives had a good bit of honey on them.  We put the boxes of honey back onto this hive.  Then we topped the box with a piece of newspaper.  You are supposed to trim the newspaper so that there are not edges hanging over to wick in rain water.  I forgot to do that and will return today with a pair of scissors.


When the newspaper is in place, you take your hive tool and cut three or so slits in the newspaper to facilitate the bees working their way through the newspaper.  By the time the bees chew through the newspaper in two or three days, they will be friendly to each other.

We then put a box on the top for the bees from the other hive.  One frame at a time we sprayed the bees with sugar syrup and then shook and brushed them into the new box.

The frames we were shaking were deeps and the box into which we moved them was a medium.  We even shook the slatted rack and the screened bottom board.


We then added all the honey frames from hive 2 to the box into which we had shaken the bees.
In the end when we finished the combining, there was STILL chaos all around us.


We closed up the hive, cleaned up the "Earthquake" and went home with crossed fingers. We won't open this hive again for 21 days to give the queen time to emerge, go on her mating flight, and return to lay eggs.   I hope, hope, hope that this combined hive will survive, raise a queen and keep going.  We'll see on Memorial Day!

It was a difficult operation and I so appreciate that Julia and Noah came back with me to finish this project.  Both of them helped so much and Noah took most of these pictures.  They are wonderful friends and dedicated beekeepers and I enjoy every beekeeping minute with them.

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