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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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Thursday, June 30, 2011

First Date with the Solar Wax Melter

Yesterday was my first date this year with the solar wax melter. I set it out before I left of work and when I returned at the end of the day, the wax had all melted and filtered through the paper towel. I couldn't find one of my industrial strength rubber bands and the flimsy rubber band I used had popped during the process (see below)



But this wax from Lenox Pointe is light and beautiful. The advantage of foundationless frames is that all new wax from honey combs (not just capping wax) melts to look like this. Brood wax is always darker and not as pretty - but wax from comb holding honey is gorgeous.


Here the disk is popped out and sitting on a paper towel.



Happy with my first date, I balled up the cleaned wax from the Stonehurst four frame harvest and set the wax melter up to work again today.



Sometimes the melting wax wicks down through the paper towel and accumulates on the foil below the container.   I found a new container with more surface area - I'm hoping this will be an even better result with less wicking.


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Monday, June 27, 2011

First Stonehurst Harvest

The owner of Stonehurst who usually lives in Germany came home for a couple of weeks. I wanted to harvest some of their honey so she could get a taste of it. We opened the hives on Sunday.

I always love to see the bees clustering around a broken pool of honey gathering it up. We took four frames of honey from their hives - only from the top box of hive 1 - to harvest.



Crushed it looked really pretty but in the jars was more medium than the light look you see here.



Because the frames were really pretty I cut five squares of cut comb honey and put it in my freezer. My agreement with them is that this year we split the honey. That is my recompense for being their beekeeper.




After I crushed the honey comb, a bee in the house tried to help me with clean up!



Here are my five cut comb squares. Really this probably isn't pretty enough for a honey contest because the cappings are too "wet" but maybe I'll enter them or look for better squares in my next harvest hive visit.  Either way they will be delicious to eat on hot biscuits.



I bottled the rest of their honey. From eight frames we got the five cut comb squares, four classic queenline bottles, two refilled Kroger plastic 40 oz containers (I was horrified because I think honey belongs in new glass containers, but Barb has ordered some pretty jars for Stonehurst and this will do in the interim) and
1.5 hex jars.



I bottled the four queenlines as if for a honey show. Stonehurst as an inn is a member of MABA and therefore could enter the honey contest but I can only enter once, so it seems to me, since I like on my own to enter honey contests, that Stonehurst should enter on their own and Caroline, the innkeeper, should make the entry, not me on their behalf.

Because of the four honey contest bottles, I am coming out on the short end of the stick in this division of the honey, since they are getting about nine pounds of honey to my 4.5.

I'll make it up in the next harvest, however.

It was a pretty start to their harvest. There are still four eight frame boxes to harvest on the hives at Stonehurst.
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Queen Release at the Blue Heron

As I returned home today, I stopped at the Blue Heron to see if the new queen had been released. Remember, she had not quite been released on Tuesday. The hive seemed calm and happy. I left my smoker in the car, so it was nice to discover that the bees were calm.



In the second box, the queen had been released and the queen cage was empty. I guess it just took them longer because there was more fondant to eat through.



I didn't check to see if she were laying. I would have been so disappointed if she were not, so it was simply enough that she had been released.



The hive started with the nuc was very quiet - no bees on the landing. I decided even though they were feisty bees and I was without my smoker, I'd still give them a look. As you can see in the photo above, it's a hive in only one deep box.

I am not a foundation user, and this is the first time I've ever looked at black plastic foundation. Wow, can you see eggs and brood well. You can have the same experience looking at the photo below. There is lots of brood and c-shaped larvae on this, the only frame I looked at.

Don't worry, I'm still a foundation-less beekeeper, but I'm glad I've had the experience now of looking at eggs and larve on black plastic - no wonder people like it.  I still think the bees like having the opportunity to make their own foundation and I'm sticking to that!

I am relieved - this hive may turn out to be a good one after all.



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Mixed Bee News from the Farm

We went down to the farm about three weeks ago to find all the bees starving. The area hasn't had rain in two months - actually since the tornado in late April. Nothing is growing in the woods, in the fields, nothing. So the bees were in terrible shape.

We put food on all the hives except one - the only one with substantial honey in several supers. None of us live down there and I came back worrying about the bees. After they ran through the feed, they would be in the same shape as before - no resources, no stores. Greg has no irrigation system on his farm so he can't plant without rain. The only dependable bee crop in the county appears to be cotton and it doesn't bloom until August.

When we came back to Atlanta I talked to the guys and we decided to bring most of the hives back to Atlanta. At least here we can keep an eye on them and keep them thriving instead of living on a desert as they were in Taylor county.

Jeff and I drove down and back last Saturday. We loaded up hives and equipment into two cars and drove back to Atlanta. It would have been fine, but Interstate 75 is under construction and a trip back that should have happened in two hours took four and a half! We were ready to scream.

















We installed three of the hives in the backyard of my new house where I will move on July 15. I'm there almost every day and can keep an eye on the bees.

The rest of the farm hives are in the backyard of my soon-to-be old house where Jeff and Valerie will be living. So there are five farm hives in Atlanta - two at my old house and three at my new house. We had done some combining of weak hives with strong ones, so we left two hives at the farm....the one that had been doing well and another that seemed in OK shape. Greg goes down every other weekend and he can mind them.

So today I opened all five hives to see how they were doing. All of them have been flying well and seem happy.

The first hive in my old-house yard had a huge tree branch fall on it in a storm on Friday night. I was worried that all would be a mess in the hive. However, they were doing fine.



The queen had been laying and the bees were calm. I only looked at a couple of frames, reasoning that these hives have been through a lot.  I just wanted evidence in each hive that the queen was alive and laying.



The other hive at my old-house yard is the swarm hive we captured in Dallas, GA. The brood pattern in it was great and I saw eggs on both frames I looked at.




At my new house, the bees were quite happy. I saw eggs in every hive, which relieved my worries that the queens may not have traveled safely....or been happy with the journey (I certainly wasn't). You know how when there are bees in the car, they usually go to the back window? Well, sitting so still on I-75 that the speedometer didn't register movement for several hours resulted in loose bees right by my driver's side window. Not the most pleasant trip for me.

You can see tiny c-shaped larvae in these cells.



You can see eggs in these.



I had to increase the contrast (our bees don't begin to be this dark) so you could see the eggs in this hive.



And in the last hive, there were brood, larvae and eggs all on this one frame.



I also met my next door neighbor who looked over the wall at me and my veil and smoker. He seemed nonplused by the fact that a beekeeper had moved in next door and asked if he would get to taste the honey!


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Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Not To Do .... When Harvesting Honey

I think it's funny that there's a current TV show called "What Not to Wear." This is a post about What Not to Do.....

I harvested today and my honey was various colors, so I decided to keep the light honey separate from the dark. Then I found some frames that seemed like maybe medium honey - neither dark nor light. I have two set up harvesting buckets. I also have a bucket that my brother gave me.

I ran to the sunporch, screwed in the honey gate which was lying in the bottom of the bucket and set the filters on the bucket. Then I put what looked like medium honey crushed into that container. I carried all three outside to let the Hotlanta heat hasten the filter process.

A few minutes into it, I went outside to put out the dripping cardboard for the bees to clean up. I looked over and there were way too many bees flying in the vicinity of my filtering buckets.



Horrors! The honey gate on Barry's bucket was open and leaking. I picked up the bucket, tilted it so the honey would not be pressing at the gate and redid the closure on the bucket. Meanwhile all of this honey was on the ground and the bees were all over the place, sucking it up.



My clean up after harvest included bringing two sheets of cardboard out to the carport for the bees to clean up and putting out the silicone mats I used for crushing for the bees as well.



I also put the dripping frames into an empty super and put them over the inner cover in Lenox Pointe for the bees to clean up.

















And I hung the towel on the porch railing that I had draped over the nucs for transporting honey into the house.  The towel had drippings on it from cappings that got damaged in the transfer and the bees had a field day.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Preparing Honey and Wax for Competition

Because it is harvest time, many beekeepers are bottling honey and preparing bottles to enter into honey contests.  We are hoping to have record numbers of entries at the MABA honey contest in September.  We have recently rewritten and much improved the honey contest rules for our club.

I gave a talk at the June meeting of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers on the topic of preparing honey and wax for competition and have uploaded it as a YouTube movie so that if you weren't at the meeting, you can learn about what to do.

It's a video, but if you want to pause it to read a slide better, it's easily done with a click on the pause icon (the two parallel lines) at the lower left..




Wednesday, June 22, 2011

And Now the Queen Slows Down her Pace

Yesterday was the summer solstice (also sometimes referred to as the change of days) in the northern hemisphere.  I don't have any pictures to post about this - just wanted to note that beginning with the summer solstice, the queen in the bee hive slows down her laying.  She continues to slow until the winter solstice when she begins to build back up for spring.

Ross Conrad gave a talk at Young Harris a couple of years ago in which he said that splitting your hives after the solstice would be a good varroa control.  The split causes one half of the split to be without a queen until they can make their own, so the varroa mite foundress (the great mother mite) has nowhere to lay her eggs until egg laying begins again with the new queen.  This interrupts the varroa cycle and helps your bee hive rid itself of mites.

Apparently despite the slow down of the queen in a hive that is chugging along toward winter, the queen in a new split after the solstice acts like a spring queen and works hard to build up quickly, knowing that winter is just around the corner.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pollinator Week Nationwide

According to the Wall Street Journal, this week is National Pollinator Week.  In addition, Governor Nathan Deal has declared that this week is Pollinator Week in Georgia as well:


GO BEES and BEEKEEPERS!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The State of the Queen at Blue Heron

In the 91 degree heat, I stopped by Blue Heron at 2:30 today. The queen cage was put in place on Thursday night. It's Tuesday and I thought the queen should be released by now. I opened the very calm hive to find the bees walking around in the area of the queen cage.

I lifted out the cage, but the queen was still in there!



The black tube that holds the fondant was eaten almost to the end. I thought by now they would have released her, and in a different kind of queen cage, they probably would have. The typical queen cage has about 1/2 inch of fondant between the bees and the queen. This cage has about 1 inch (see the black tube) of fondant. They have almost eaten all the way through it, but not quite.

I decided given the calm demeanor of the hive and the small amount of sugar left and the fatness of the queen (she's grown since Thursday) that the bees are accepting her. I could have direct released her at this point, but decided to leave her there and let the bees let her out in their own way.



This was a rather dissatisfying trip, so I took Hannah, my dog, and explored the community garden that the Blue Heron bees are pollinating.

I saw bees on onion flowers.



The bees were all over most of the flowering plants in the garden.



I also noticed straight cucumbers (denoting good pollination - thanks, bees).



Here's a view of the pathway leading away from the garden (and Hannah, of course).



Here's a view of half of the community garden that our bees at Blue Heron are pollinating.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

A Little More Blue Heron Help

We really have needed three hives at Blue Heron as a teaching spot for the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association. Another member, Cindy Hodges, offered to help us in an interesting way.

She offered a nuc that she had put together and in exchange, she wants her five frames back in August, leaving the queen with us. That way we get a start on a colony and she gets back what she originally had - five frames from one of her hives.

She wants, since she's not getting her queen back, to get a good frame of brood and eggs back in August with her frames.

I picked the bees up between some of the worst storms we've had in Atlanta in a month. I could hardly see through my windshield driving back and just hoped, hoped, hoped that a tree wouldn't fall on my car. As I arrived home, I put my key in the lock, turned it and at that very moment the power went out at my house for the rest of the night.

I took the bees out of the car and set them in my carport where they would be cool. I went into my dark house where I felt around until I found the box I had packed (because I'm moving soon) with all the candles! I just hoped the bees would be OK in the carport for the night.

I got up at the crack of dawn and took the nuc to the Blue Heron, setting the nuc on top of its hive box and removing the screen from the entry at 7:15 AM.




I returned to Blue Heron with Julia and Noah to install the nuc that afternoon.



The brood frames barely had any brood on them as you can see in the two photos below. I didn't look, but hopefully the empty cells had new eggs in them. I have my fingers crossed.



Another of the two brood frames with, as you can see, very little capped brood.



Noah is putting in the last frame in this photo below. It wasn't fully drawn out on the plastic foundation and had a little pollen on it.



Since there were still bees in the nuc box, Julia picked it up and shook it over the hive box. We then left the nuc box on its side to allow the bees to make their way into the hive.



I don't know how this new hive will do because it came with so few resources. We may need to reinforce it with frames of brood and eggs from other hives at our houses to get it to succeed.

But we are grateful that someone stepped up and offered us bees since we have both been on the swarm call list for our club all season and neither of us has gotten a call.



Below you can see the new hive with the nuc box beside it.


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