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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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Monday, August 29, 2011

The Messy Part of the Honey Harvest

When my kids were little, they'd complain because when I'd cook, there was very little left in the mixing bowl for "licking the bowl." I feel that way when I harvest honey. I'm so aware that in a bee's life she only collects enough nectar for 1/4 tsp of honey. So I feel dedicated to the concept of not leaving a drop in the bucket, so to speak.

This is the messy part of harvesting honey. I can keep the drips to a minimum by using cardboard under everything and by having these lovely crush and strain buckets with honey gates. But at the end of the process, there comes a point where the honey gate is useless. Then you have to use the rubber spatula to scrape every possible drop of honey and somehow get it into the tiny jar that is what is needed to hold the remnants of a harvest bucket.

It's a Gulliver and Lilliputian situation. The jar is so tiny and the bucket is so large. So this is when drips go everywhere. There's many a slip between the bucket and the lip of that jar despite my gripping it all tightly.



Below the gathered honey slides into the tiny jar.



I have been putting wax out in the solar wax melters, but this is the wax I have yet to melt. I washed it all today and set it up to dry tonight. Tomorrow or the next day I'll put it out to melt in the SWM.



Some of my wax is really light. Wonder if I can make a good wax block this year for the honey contest? It's late to do 18 pours, but I've sworn never to do that again. We'll see.


Here's the wax from this year that I have already melted. It will need to be filtered through silk before becoming a wax block or a candle.
I love all the various products of the hive, though, and will always melt my wax.


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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rabun County Bee Talk

On August 20, I gave a talk for the Rabun county people on how to start beekeeping the natural way. I did an hour and a half PowerPoint on Becoming a Beekeeper and then we went into the hives at the community garden.

I was so scared to go into those hives. After all the positive things I had said, I hadn't been to check on the hives in a month and was quite sure I'd find disaster in the hives.

The talk went well. There were about a dozen people there. They asked good questions. About three of them were already beekeepers but said they came because of the old saying, "Ask ten beekeepers a question and you'll get 12 different answers." They figured I might have something new for them to learn. I don't know if they did, but nobody fell asleep and I think it was a good talk.

Going to the hives felt tentative to me. I could see bees flying in and out of the first hive - so I knew there were bees inside, but wasn't sure how we'd find them. I had seen NO larvae the last time I was there. We opened it up and there were bees, honey, larvae and we even saw the queen. She was gorgeous and sort stood there for all to observe her!

The second hive looked neglected and abandoned. I ended the talk before exploring it. One of the experienced beekeepers remained with me to check it out, though and I greatly appreciated his help.

In the month since I was there, the hive was completely covered in kudzu. I was nervous about all of this and didn't have the forethought to ask anyone to use my camera, so I didn't get any pictures. I wish I had - seeing kudzu dripping grape colored blooms and covering this hive was quite interesting.

The other beekeeper and I cut back the kudzu with some garden clippers I carry in my bee bag. The hive looked forlorn. He smoked the front door and lo and behold, some bees appeared. I opened the hive and at first it looked pitiful. There was no honey, no brood in the top box.

But in the second box there was honey, brood, and eggs. I was relieved. The hive isn't doing great - smothered in kudzu, it's rather amazing it was functioning.

Neither of these hives had extra honey and both had a box on the top that was relatively unused. I removed the top box from both hives. There was some honey in the top box on hive one, so I put those frames into the second box in spaces where there were some empty frames.

I'll go back up and check it again really soon and see if they need feeding going into winter.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Harvesting the Stonehurst Honey

I had a great time harvesting the Stonehurst Place honey.  Caroline, the innkeeper, took some photos at the beginning (so I am in the photo for a change!) and then I took some pictures of the frames and the rest of the process.  We got about 80 pounds of honey from the two hives (from the two harvest visits) which is remarkable since the hives just got started this year at Stonehurst.

Click on the slideshow to see it full screen and with captions.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Avoiding Robbing Behavior

I've harvested a lot lately - from Colony Square and from Stonehurst. At the end of a crush and strain harvest, the beekeeper is left with dripping frames, honey harvested, but broken wax and drips of honey remaining. Usually it is a good solution to put these frames into a hive box and return them to the hives.

Neither Colony Square nor the Stonehurst hives are at my house. And the hives that are at my house had a robbing incident when I fed Topsy. So I decided not to put the dripping frames back on any hive.

Instead I set boxes of dripping frames and the cardboard which was under my transport nucs in which I brought the honey from Stonehurst out on my driveway in front of my house (the hives are at the far back of the house).



Bees arrived in droves to take away the spoils. However, none of my hives in the back of the house were subjected to robbing. This was set out fair to all comers. And come, they did!



Toward the end of the day, the last piece of cardboard was all that had anything sticky on it and the bees cleaned it up as well.



I have one more set of four nucs full of frames of honey from Stonehurst to harvest. I'll treat the dripping frames in this same way since it seemed to be a fair and peaceful way to share the spoils equally.

One year ago:  Bee Mad, Bee Mean
Two years ago:  Blooming Kudzu
Three years ago: Keith Fielder, Master Beekeeper, Speaks at the Metro Club
Four years ago:  The Small Swarm is No More
Five years ago:  Filtering the Honey
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This is my 900th Post! Blue Heron Inspections in July and August


I can't believe this is my 900th post. Fitting, since I've been showing so much throughout the other 899 posts about inspecting the beehive, that this post is about two inspections at the Blue Heron. I've been so tied up this summer with moving on July 15 and with teaching at Emory, as I do every summer, that I've gotten behind.

Here, then, is the slideshow from the Blue Heron inspection on July 10. We combined two hives into one - one was the weak nuc we got as a donation and the other was the long-queenless hive that apparently did not accept the donated queen that we got on the same day as the nuc.

First you'll see the inspection of Julia's hive including removing a frame of honey for harvest. Then you'll see the combination of the two weak hives.



We went back to inspect these hives this past weekend on August 14. We've been away from these hives for a little over a month.

Julia wasn't with us and so we didn't get many pictures. I took some of Noah inspecting his and Julia's hive but didn't take any during the inspection of my hive, so you'll just have to read about my part.

The slideshow is below. Noah's hive looked good - with honey, brood, and some small hive beetles but not as many as we have seen before.

My combined hive had no newspaper left between the boxes. The original nuc hive had a black queen from Jennifer Berry's stock. We did not see her but did see an opened queen cell as well as the queen.

This queen was golden and lovely and looked just like the queen I had installed about six weeks ago into the queenless hive half of the combo with the weak nuc. I wonder if she killed off the black queen or if she is a new queen that the bees made. They have had time to make a new queen and for her to be laying since we introduced that donated queen.

We did see lots of eggs and small brood in the combined hive and the hive appeared to be doing well. Cindy wants us to essentially give her back the nuc she gave us in a split from this hive (which she was hoping for in August). However, there's no way this hive is in any kind of shape to split so we'll have to give her back her nuc in the spring.



Interesting stats at this 900th post:
There are 448 of you who follow me on Blogger, 817 who subscribe by RSS feed, and 60 who follow me on Twitter. There are visitors to this site from 180 countries in the world. So far in August there have been 7771 pageloads of these blog pages.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ravages of War

Last weekend I brought two frames of honey home from my old house to feed Topsy. I also made some syrup to put in the Rapid Feeder on top of the inner cover inside an empty hive box. I put all this on the hive and robbing began. As my grandson would say, it was a battle royale. I covered the hive with a wet sheet, but the bees were attacked viciously as other hives wanted to rob this very weak hive.

Bodies were strewn all over my backyard. The hives border a concrete basketball court so evidence of death was everywhere and more easily seen than in the grass.

Just look at all these dead bees. I wanted to cry.



Many of the bodies were ripped in half. Bodies were all across the concreted area covering about a 10 X 20 foot area.


If you click on the picture below, you can see many dead bees.


It's harder to see, but I stepped back so you could see how extensive the area of death is.



I believe at this point that Topsy is no more.  I am sad to see such a persistent hive bite the dust, but that is what has happened here.  Bang the drum slowly.

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Monday, August 08, 2011

The Many Lives of Topsy

Like a cat, I think Topsy must have at least nine lives. Started out as a top bar, but the bees absconded. I fooled around with the top bar box and situation (removed the legs and set it on cinder blocks; blocked the screened bottom board, gave them some old comb) and the bees were reinstalled. This time they stayed.

We've had numerous problems with the hive building comb attached to the side of the top bar. Jeff and I practically destroyed the hive one day as we tried to unhook the comb from the box sides. We killed lots of bees and made a complete mess of the whole thing.

This year I decided to leave it entirely alone because every time I addressed the problems in Topsy, I made it worse and often killed bees and destroyed comb.

A few weeks ago we tried to split Topsy and the very next day, they had absconded once again, leaving the two boxes practically devoid of bees. I had gone to the beach with family. Jeff found the swarm behind his fence. The problem was that the long handle of my fancy swarm catcher was available to him but the water jug was not.

Enterprising, Jeff bought another water cooler bottle and cut off the bottom. His cat helped!






















Since he didn't have the epoxy, he duct taped the water cooler jug to the long handle.  Then by himself with no help and nobody to record it, he captured the swarm.  The night before he had delivered the hive into which we split Topsy to my back yard.

He dumped the bees into a banker's box that he outfitted with screen wire over the handle holes to create ventilation and drove the bees to my house.  He put them in their split hive box but in a new location: my backyard.  He then added the second box of the split, setting it right beside the first box.

My mentor from Virginia, Penny, wrote me that it was possible that the queen was not with them since they didn't really have enough time to get her skinny enough.  I had hope though since we brought both of the split hive boxes that if the queen did not go, perhaps she was in the box waiting for her bees.

I left them alone for a week.  I put their own honey in a hive top feeder and crossed my fingers.  Then  on Saturday, I opened both boxes to combine them.


From the largest hive I had ever seen, the bees had dwindled - partly because we killed a number in splitting the hive and partly because of age and disturbance.  I was discouraged and put both boxes together noting that there was empty comb where we had rubberbanded in brood and that the hive looked forlorn.





I did notice a couple of frames with new wax on them, but at that moment my dog Hannah ran away from home.  She is quite smart and has discovered how to climb over the rock wall fence around my backyard.  I dropped everything and went to find her.

I couldn't get that new comb out of my mind so after retrieving Hannah from a neighbor's yard, I went back to the Topsy bees and pulled those two frames.  To my amazement, there were eggs, tiny c-shaped larvae and hope for the future.

I immediately gave them some more honey and put on an entrance reducer.




So Topsy is still surviving - in new form and very small and weak.  I harvested honey this week and put the dripping frames from Colony Square onto Topsy to give her more resources.  We'll see........

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Mystery grape vine and my bees

On my new street there's a grape vine on a fence that runs the length between two driveways. You can see the extent of it but can't really appreciate how far it goes in this picture from my phone. Every day in the middle of the day, bees are all over it. I like to think they are my bees - after all, my house is about a football field's length away, but there are several beekeepers that I know nearby so maybe the bees belong to Jerry or to Curt!



I met Theresa, the owner of the vine, and she doesn't know what kind of grape it is....thinks it is ornamental. But the bees LOVE it. I crushed one of the young purplish grapes between my fingers and it didn't have a smell or any allure for me.

The bees go crazy, though. And not just honey bees - I saw at least 5 of the other 3999 varieties of bees in the USA on these vines.


Look at this busy little bee.

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