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I've been keeping this blog for nine years and now 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, April 30, 2012

Birth of the Bee Blog

I try to notice every year when we reach an anniversary of the blog.  As of the end of April, my blog has been ongoing with regular postings for six full years - now begins the seventh year of my beekeeping experience and of my record keeping on this blog.


  • Thanks to all of you all over the world who follow this blog - you make my day!
  • Thanks to all of you who comment on my posts - it's such fun to hear your thoughts!
  • Thanks to all the beekeepers out there who, like me, are learning, growing and sharing with each other all the time.



I'm having a great time with this blog and will keep on posting!

As of today there are 993 posts on this blog, heading for 1000.  On the Internet there are almost 135,000 links to my site.  It appears on many bee club links pages as well as bee association pages.  It has been linked 6,700 times from Beemaster Forum.  The two most watched videos are how to harvest honey by crush and strain and how to build and use a solar wax melter.  There are 932 subscribers to the site as well as 508 Google Followers.  People have come from 185 countries - the most visitors from the US, of course, followed by Great Britain, Turkey and Canada.

I won't bore you with the rest of the statistics, but it is all gratifying to me - thank you, all of you, for continuing to visit and be interested.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Stonehurst Hives are All over the Place

In preparation for visiting the Stonehurst Place hives today I waxed foundation into sixteen frames.  I assumed I would need to add a box to at least two of the hives over there.  The last time I was there on April 11, I didn't check the largest hive because a UGS doctoral student was collecting samples of the bees in that hive for his research.





























In the service of his research, he probably killed about 300 - 400 of my bees.  But it's for a good cause.  I also had to spend about 40 minutes filling out a survey about how I manage my bees.

So I spent the first part of today waxing frames.  My wax tube fastener kind of bit the dust in the middle - I think it need a long bath fully submerged in boiling water - it seems clogged.



I tried a paintbrush which my friend Jerry says he uses, but just look at the picture.  It did not fare well.


I placed the frames according to Housel positioning in empty boxes to transport them to the inn.



At the inn, I found that Hive One was bursting at the seams, storing honey in comb between the boxes.  I moved the top box off, transferred two honey-filled frames to the new box and inserted the new empty box with the filled frames as ladders between the now sixth and fourth boxes.




I left Hive One with six boxes on it - the top four solid with honey.



Hive Two had a laying queen but the hive was slow to grow.  They had not really used the second box at all.  I didn't do much at all to that box.



Here's their second box - almost unused.



When I was last there about two weeks ago, Hive Three was queenless with about three almost ripe queen cells.  I was sad about this, but this week, I saw eggs - and ripped up queen cells.  The queen has obviously both emerged and started laying.

In contrast to Hive Two, Hive Three had completely filled their second box with nectar.  In the bottom box, they had lots of center-of-the-frame space available for laying and the queen had begun to do so.
I moved two frames of brood, eggs, and honey into what would become the new second box and sandwiched it between the bottom deep and the second box, full of honey.



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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

S&C's Bees are Thriving

Sebastian and Christina have this gorgeous side yard full of cutting flowers - yum to a bee!



I checked both hives today and they are THRIVING.  I started with the 8 frame yellow hive.   These bees were really gentle, despite my earlier experiences.  I only wore a jacket and veil, no gloves and barely used the smoker.



In the second box they were almost fully built out.   I am going to be gone this weekend so I decided to go ahead and add a box.



I wanted to put a couple of frames of brood from the box on top to make a frame for the new box.

I pulled the frame below and there was her Majesty - at about 6:00 with a yellow dot to make it easier to find her!



There was some nice brood on this frame as well.



I moved two frames into the new box and placed it in the middle position, like the meat on a sandwich.  I hope they'll make good use of the box until I see them again.  You can see the two used frames in the box below with empty frames for the other six.



So Yellow 7 grew a box.



The story was quite similar on Blue Hive.  It is a ten frame box set up, so they had only built out six of the ten frames.  Although not quite seven, I decided, given my trip status for the weekend, to go ahead and add a box to this hive as well.



Again, I saw a lot of good young larvae and brood in this hive (but didn't glimpse the queen).  I also took two good frames and put them in the new box, placing the new box in the sandwich position.  These bees were drawing some not so straight, so I reversed a few frames to make curving the comb impossible.  It may confuse the bees but will keep the box from getting out of control.
    


So both hives are doing well and both have three boxes on them - great for this time of year!

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Rabun Report - Bees Doing Well

Rabun County is literally a month behind Atlanta only a couple of hours to the south.  In Atlanta, we've been able to plant spring plants since the middle of March.  In Rabun county only now is it warm enough to plant anything.

I last checked the Rabun hives on Friday the 13th.  It is only a week later, but I had to come to Young Harris to a conference (a psychology conference - the bee institute is in May) so I stopped by again today.  I won't be back up here until the Bee Institute at Young Harris on May 10, so I wanted to make sure the hives had plenty of room as it is now the nectar flow should begin up here.

The swarm hive had good bee activity on the 13th (see below)



The queen was laying eggs and you can see c-shaped larvae in these cells.


I saw two bees like the one in the lower center who were completely covered in yellow pollen!

The lovely frame below is one I had stuck in on the side of the box with remnants of old comb.  The bees had incorporated the black comb into new fresh wax in the center!


In the blue hive on the 13th the bees were building wax and festooning.


Grass was growing up in front of the hive making access a little difficult, so I took a piece of cardboard and tamped the grass down with it.


Today on the 20th, the bees were making use of the cardboard as a place to drag out the dead.  Actually they do that anyway, just without the cardboard, the dead get lost in the grass.

Inside the hive, the bees hadn't used much new real estate.  I had brought a new box with me and although I didn't put the box on the hive, I took a full frame out of it and gave them a better ladder in their latest empty box.  I didn't put any new box on the green hive either because they are only in half of the second box.


Also in the blue hive, I saw the opened queen cell in the photo below, indicating that the hive had probably swarmed and requeened itself.  The queen is laying so maybe I missed this the last time I was here.

I'm trying to keep up with my hive boxes this year so before I left, I numbered these boxes.  I now have numbers on all of my 8 frame mediums that are currently on hives.  I also have some numbers on the boxes that are stored, not yet used at my house and at Jeff's. 

This way I can keep up with where honey comes from (that is to say, which hive produces the honey) and also make an effort to return harvested boxes back to the hive from which they came in an effort to keep the hives healthier.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The ongoing Tale of the Top Bar

So I opened the top bar to find an entire ant colony camped out on the top of the top bars.  I brushed them all off with my bee brush, but I kept feeling distracted by ants on my hands.  I like the feel of bees walking on my hands, but ants are another story.  Maybe I should sprinkle cinnamon on the tops of the top bars.



The bees were doing about a B+ job of building comb.  There was some jutting out inappropriately.  One set of two combs - the first two, actually, were joined together.  Comb three on bar three was a little crooked as well.

I tried to straighten it out, but later today thought I might go in and reverse the bar.  I think that would confuse the bees but would at least put a straight comb in position three going forward.  The combs on four and more were not built out to the ends yet, so were straight in the center.

At first looking at the brood on the comb below, I was concerned about the green in the bottom of some of the cells, but now in looking further at the photo, I think the green is grass showing through holes of incomplete cells….at least I hope that's what it is.


Here is one of the bulging combs - probably the one I will reverse (comb three)….so once again, the top bar is challenging me even though it is in my own backyard and more accessible for keeping up with it.


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Friday, April 13, 2012

It's the Bear!

Lark, my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter, loves the Jez Alborough book, It's the Bear!  She knows it by heart and her favorite line is: "Out of the woods stepped a big, hungry bear, licking his lips and sniffing the air."

Last night I gave a talk on Low Tech Beekeeping in Pickens, SC and since it was too far to drive back to Atlanta afterwards, I drove to Rabun Gap to my mountain place.  I got here around 10 PM.  I planned to go to a plant nursery this morning, so last night I took all of my bee stuff out of the car, including my show and tell for the speech.  I put it all in the carport and went to bed.

Some time after that, "out of the woods stepped a big hungry bear, licking his lips and sniffing the air."  I guess he was drawn by the smell of the honey comb lure in my flower pot swarm trap.  This is what the trap looked like this morning:


The bear had ripped it apart and torn off the bottom of one of the pots in an effort to reach what he smelled - I assume my honey comb lure.

So I guess the swarm trap attracts bears as well as bees!  How effective can you get?

And the dogs and I slept through the whole thing, happening just outside the house.

Not only that, but the bear rifled through my bag of other items and pulled out the ziploc filled with balls of wax (for demonstrating how to use the solar wax melter).  The bag was ripped and the balls of wax reduced to crumbs!











Lesson learned.  If you don't want a big hungry bear to step out of the woods, licking his lips and sniffing the air, don't leave anything in the carport to lure him/her!
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The Little Kitten Swarm

Cindy Bee who belonged to Metro Atlanta Beekeepers when she was in Georgia once said that when people called her about a swarm, she would  ask how big it was.  She'd say, "Big as a basketball? A football? A baseball?" but people would say, "Well, it's as big as my Mama's purse;" or "It's as big as two cats."

When I got this tiny swarm, I thought, "Only as big as a kitten."  So I housed the tiny swarm in a nuc box to help them thrive.  Since it was so small, it was probably a secondary swarm with a virgin queen and she needed time to mate and start laying.

I looked into the hive for the first time on Wednesday.  They have a laying queen!  She had an egg in almost every available cell. 

I am feeding this nuc, unlike my other hives.  I feel like mothering it - they are so small and I want to make it work for them.  Maybe they won't make it, but I loved opening the nuc and finding all these eggs.  And they were storing nectar.



Notice in the comb below that they have left themselves a passageway right in the center of the comb.  This is one of the advantages to the bees of foundationless frames.


The bees only occupy part of three frames of this nuc, but Michael Bush once wrote on Beemaster that at this time of year, if he had a group of bees about the size of a baseball (or a kitten), he would try to give them every chance.  That's what I'm doing.


And now that they are making a new home in the nuc box, I hung the swarm trap back up again.  It may have already used its 40% chance by catching the "small kitten" but I love it that it worked and want to try again!

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Let's See - Eight Frame/Ten Frame - Hmmmm

So the hives at Sebastian and Christina's house (to be referred to going forward as S&C) include a blue 10 frame box and a yellow 8 frame box. 

Of course, the reason I keep this blog is so that I can help myself remember stuff - did I look at the installation pictures before I drove over to add a new box and pick up the nuc boxes? 

No......

As a result I arrived to work on the S&C hives with two eight frame boxes to add to the two hives.

The bees looked good.  You can see them peeking between the frames.



The queens in both boxes were laying.  I had my camera set on "Kids and Pets" from being with the grandkids on Easter and I forgot to change the settings to "foliage" which works best for the bee pictures, so the focus isn't as clear.  If you look at the cells, even with the wrong setting, you can still see c-shaped larvae. 



The frames looked really good.



So I made two (count them, TWO) mistakes at this inspection (at least).  First in the yellow hive, I dropped, yes, dropped, a frame - a deep frame full of bees. I don't think I've done that in five years. Of course, they weren't happy and of course, Sebastian was watching me.

And for mistake #2, I brought an eight frame box for a 10 frame hive.  Oops!



Luckily as I mentioned earlier, Sebastian was there.  He had a board that we could use to cover the exposed two frames.

So we put the board on the box as it looked below.

This morning the temperature was 44 degrees in Atlanta but I didn't want to leave the hive in such vulnerable shape.  So I planned to go over early this morning around 9:00 to rectify the problem, taking a 10 frame box this time.



I was in a hurry this morning.  I had to go to Pickens, SC to give a speech tonight so I had to get this task out of the way....so I went to take care of the hive before I went to work. 

It was cold and I had on a fleece jacket.  Now this was my thinking - it will be too cold for the bees to move; I'll just leave on the fleece and put on a veil.  I didn't have time to deal with the smoker. 

Well, as you can imagine, when I opened the hive, the bees were not happy for me to be exposing them to the 44 degree air. I was made really aware the minute bees started crawling up my sleeves - OH, that's why I needed the bee jacket.  I put on a hive drape, but I really wished for the smoker.

 I got at least five stings on my hands.  And the veil I put on was one I keep for visitors - it's not secured at the bottom so bees flew in and I got three stings on my neck (and I had to give a speech tonight!)

The good news is that I've been stung enough that by this afternoon the marks on my hands were gone and the place on my neck that was about three inches in diameter had gotten to be about the size of a quarter. 

I forgot to mention that one other thing happened.  In an eight frame box, there's a little wiggle room.  It's never hard to get the frames into the box.  Not the same story with a 10 frame - it's a snug fit.

So while these bees were trying to remind me that I was invading their home, I'm trying quickly to fit 10 frames back into the box.  I got frustrated and put the hive tool on the one frame that wouldn't quite go into place and hit it with the heel of my hand - so now my hand is bleeding all over everywhere, and while I have Benadryl in my hive kit, I have no bandaids.

I locked the gate to S&C's backyard, and I left for work with a bright red neck, a bleeding hand and stings on both hands.

Ah, beekeeping:  ever the adventure!


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