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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 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.

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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.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Sunday, July 08, 2012

Gosh, I'm Feeling Like a Bad Beekeeper

I went up to the mountains for the Fourth of July to see the fireworks and to check on the bees.  I love the Rabun County fireworks - we go and sit on a blanket in a field near the Rabun Gap Nacoochee School.  We wait eagerly for dark (which doesn't come until 9:30) and by then the grandkids are sleepy.  But the fireworks are grand and glorious - (and don't include Atlanta traffic jams) - so we have a great time and are back at the house by 10:05.

Since the Fourth was on a Wednesday, all of us needed to go back to Atlanta the next day.  Before I left I went to check on the bees.  Sad news:  The over-wintered hive was almost completely dead - all of the honey was covered in small hive beetles and the whole hive smelled of orange crush (a sure sign of being slimed by the small hive beetle).

I was so upset that I didn't want to look at the evidence and determine the reason the hive failed, allowing the rise of the SHB.

When I was last up there about three weeks ago, there was no nectar and although I saw brood and eggs, the hive had no evident stores (although the slime would indicate otherwise).  I imagine that I may have killed the queen in that inspection.  When I put on one of the boxes, a roar went up from the hive, but I discounted the possibility.  If the queen died in that inspection and stores were so low, the hive may have not been able to make a new queen.

The frame of bees below is all that were left.  Since I didn't know what caused the end of the hive, I didn't shake them into the other hive for fear of contaminating them, if the hive were diseased.

I regreted not having enough supplies - I couldn't move the bees into a nuc because I didn't have one.  I had brought boxes to add but not solutions to problems.

On the good side of things, the other hive, which was a swarm that took up residence there this year, was busting out all over with bees.  In spite of encroaching kudzu, hundreds of bees were coming and going.  Afraid and feeling like a bad beekeeper, I didn't inspect this hive - didn't want to kill another queen.

I looked in the top box which was completely empty on my last visit.  They had filled five frames, drawn new wax and were filling it.  Sourwood is blooming up there now and this looks like nectar that ends up as sourwood honey.  We'll see.

I won't go back until the 22nd and by then the surviving hive may be covered up with kudzu.

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  1. Sorry to hear about the dead hive. It's hard not to beat yourself up when a hive dies and then to find it a breeding ground for SHB just adds to the insult. SHB hasn't quite taken hold here yet and it's not something I'm looking forward to.

    - Jeff

  2. Jeff, where do you live that you have no SHB? You are so lucky! I thought these little devils had moved in just about everywhere. It always surprises me how quickly a pest like small hive beetles, varroa mites or even old-fashioned robbing can bring down a hive. Lee

    1. I'm in Seattle, WA. I've heard of some people saying they have seen them come in with packages, but at this point they still seem to be isolated to those hives and don't seem to be spreading to other yards. Perhaps our colder ground temps and rain make it more difficult for the larvae to pupate here so they haven't been able to get a foothold yet.

  3. Penny8:34 AM

    Hi, Linda.
    I just came across my first writhing SHB larvae 3 weeks ago (after only seeing beetles before then) and they literally turned my stomach! My apiary inspector said they weren't that bad (!) and had me put the supers and bottom boards out in the strong sun immediately. The sun seemed to dry out the larvae within 1/2 day and they were gone the next day, maybe courtesy of snacking birds. By the next day the bees were scavenging any good honey from the supers. The inspector's advice reminded me of your Richard Taylor quote, from a different angle: set it up so the bees can handle it, then step back out of their way.

  4. What is Kudzu? Is it a plant?

    1. Dear innocent Stephen. You must live in paradise, if you don't know what kudzu is. Think of a fast growing, smothering, clinging vine. Now picture it covering your garden shed, your trees, your sweet old dog trying to take a nap in the sun....well, maybe not your dog getting covered, but almost! It grows even up utility poles and along power lines, all through the deep southern part of the United States.If you don't have it where you live, consider that a blessing!


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