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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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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Les Crowder on Using Top Bar Hives

Before the conference in Massachusetts, I didn't know about Les Crowder.  He is a well-known person in the world of permaculture and has been raising bees in top bar hives in New Mexico for years and years.

I love it that his website is called "for the love of bees" which is what we all feel who keep them.

Les has been keeping bees for 40 years.  He likes top bars and natural comb because he thinks we should trust the bees to know what they need to build in the hive and to know how to "run themselves."    He doesn't use any treatments in the hives because he wants "clean honey" on his table with no poison.

Because Les was one of the original teachers of beekeepers in New Mexico, most beekeepers in New Mexico are treatment free and most use top bar hives.  After my challenges with the top bar, I was very interested to hear how he manages his hives.



I always worry about crushing bees in pushing the top bars back together.  Les says as you lower the bar, put your fingers under the ends of the bar and push the bees out of the way before you lower the bar.  I'm certainly going to try that.

He also uses rather shallow top bar hives - his are 10 inches deep, 20 inches across, and 42 inches long.  
The shallow depth helps keep the comb stable.

He doesn't use follower boards (says they stop air circulation) and uses side entrances on his top bars.  He doesn't screen the bottoms of his TBHs because he said it's too much work to add the extra part.  He thinks you need a false bottom under the screen if you use a SBB on a TBH.

To encourage the hive to "stretch" and grow, he opens up the hive by putting an empty bar between two drawn brood combs.  This helps the hive stretch.  He generally in winter moves the honey to the end of the hive for winter.

He said, as all of us who have struggled with top bars know, that top bar hives should be inspected about once every two weeks to manage the comb.

I enjoyed hearing his tales of growing up and working in the bee hives all his life.  I plan to follow his web site and pay attention to what he is saying about these challenging hives.  Maybe I'll try again next year.


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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Meeting Michael Bush - I Can't Believe It!

When we arrived in Leominster, Massachusetts, for the NE Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference, here is the sign that greeted us!  It took us until Friday night to find the bar that was "accepting apps," but we were glad for the glass of wine that we bought there when we did finally locate it!




The conference was great in so many ways and I learned a lot, but I thought I'd post a few of the highlights (including the sign) tonight and then I'll post some of the content over the next week.

Sam Comfort talked about Warre hives and I was so entertained and learned a lot.  I knew nothing about Warre hives before I listened to him speak.

I had hoped we would also get some time with Sam in the beehives but it rained every day.  He is a wonder to watch as he works the bees with no protective gear and only a broad-brimmed hat.  I really wanted Noah to get to see Sam in action.  Sam told Noah that he drove his bees down to the conference inside his van - they are top bar and Warre hives - so they were not screened off.  Should have been quite an adventure.



Before we got there, Sam taught a workshop on how to build a skep.  Here is a skep that he built.  Some funny beekeeper equipped the skep with a head covering, sunglasses and a German smoker for a pipe!



But for me the highlight of the meeting was getting to meet Michael Bush in person.  I was so star struck that the first day, the best I could do was to introduce myself and essentially run back to my seat.  But the second day I got to chat with him some and got to eat dinner with him on our last night there - which was a privilege.

When I first started beekeeping, I wanted to be a natural beekeeper and found little support in my local bee club at that time seven years ago.  I went to the Internet for guidance and found Michael on Beemaster and Beesource.  He has been my model for how I'd like to keep bees from the beginning and he has always been willing to answer emails and questions I've posted on Beemaster and Beesource.  I've also learned from reading his website and posts in answer to questions from other people.

It is so rare to get to thank someone like that in person - Michael was every bit as nice in person as he is when he responds on the Internet to questions that he must have been asked 800 times.  I am absolutely thrilled that I got to meet him.

In the photo below, we are standing in front of a table filled with his books that he was selling at the meeting.  In addition to his own book, he has reprinted old beekeeping manuals from classic beekeepers.  I already own his book, so I bought his compendium of queen rearing guides.



Julia, Noah, and I had a great time at the conference and I came home more determined and informed about the importance of no treatment and the importance of raising hives that can fight the varroa mite without my intrusion.
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Friday, July 27, 2012

NE Treatment Free Bee Conference

Well, Julia, Noah, and I spent the day at the conference. We've all learned lots.

Michael Bush was the first speaker. I couldn't believe I was getting to meet him in person. He is such a nice man and as good a speaker as I had imagined.


He spoke on balance in the beehive and the value of no treatment, bee nutrition, and natural comb. 


 We then heard Dean Stiglitz on the value of raising your own queens and I kept feeling inspired to come home and make splits!


 Sam Comfort talked about simplicity of keeping bees and was a delight as he always is. 


 We also heard Erik Osterlund and Kirk Webster I'll post more when I'm with my computer at home and can put up more pictures and info. 


Having a great time! Wish you were here!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thursday's Almost Here!

I am beyond excited.  All of you know how much I admire (and often refer to or quote) Michael Bush. Well on Thursday, Julia, Noah and I are going to Leominster, Massachusetts (home of the the manufacturer of all those food grade plastic buckets we all use at honey harvest) to the NE Treatment Free Beekeepers Conference!

And guess who will be there:  Michael Bush!!!  I've wanted to meet Michael Bush for seven years!



Not only will Michael Bush be there, but also Sam Comfort, whom I love and love to hear speak (I first met Sam when he and I were both speakers at the SE Organic Beekeepers Conference a couple of years ago and then I saw him again that year at  EAS - he's always a trip); Dee Lusby, the queen of treatment free beekeepers; and the host of the conference:  Dean Stiglitz who wrote the Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping.  (see below)



I plan to listen well, take lots of notes, and bask in the presence of these masters - people for whom I hold intense hero worship.

I will be completely happy if Julia takes a photo of me with Michael Bush, or better yet if someone else takes all three of us with him.  Actually I am realizing there are no photos of Michael anywhere - not even on the book he wrote.  He's from Nebraska - maybe he's part of an Indian tribe that believes you lose part of your soul if someone snaps your picture.  So whatever it is, I'll be glad to meet him, but not press for a picture, unless it seems like the appropriate thing to do.

The conference includes a lot of hands on stuff this week, but I couldn't leave work so we are going for the main conference which starts on Friday.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Linda T's Bees - We're Selling Honey!



My friend and fellow beekeeper Julia is an artist so she, dear friend that she is, designed a label for us.  Jeff and I are now in the honey business!

This honey came from the beehives in Jeff's backyard.
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Friday, July 20, 2012

It's the Annual Bees on Echinechea Post!

I know some of you can't stand these, but I can't get enough of bees on echinechea.  So here they are again.  First and last time this year, I promise!



More….



More…..


Isn't my new garden pretty!


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A Sad Day in the Life of a Beekeeper

Right after lunch today, I inspected the hives at the Morningside Community Garden.  The yellow hive has been washboarding every time I've stopped to check onmy tomatoes and the blue hive looks like in the picture below.  So I've been worried about the state of the blue hive - is it going OK?  Is it dwindling?

Today I checked it out.



The top box on the blue hive has two frames of comb that I moved into it for a ladder, but nothing else.  The box below it, though, is filled with capped and uncapped honey.  The last time I looked, the only honey was capped.  The bees are bringing in something - I don't know what it is, but all of my midtown hives are bringing in nectar - and there are frames being filled.  The frame below is from the blue hive; the next photo is a frame from the yellow hive.





At this time of year, unless I have reason to be concerned, I am only looking in the hive to see:

  1. What is the state of their stores?  Are they eating honey or putting it in the comb?
  2. Is there a queenless roar, or any other reason to suspect queen problems?
Otherwise I just shut them back up.  The only maneuver I did was to add bottle caps to the tops of the inner covers to increase ventilation.  Wonder if that will stop the washboarding?




Then I returned home to check on SOS1 - this hive has been hard to get going.  We made a split from Colony Square much earlier in the year and because the bees were so mean, we named it SOS (Spawn of Satan 1).  These bees seemed unable to make a good queen.   Their first queen was poorly mated; their second queen while mated OK was a poor layer and slow to build up.  For all I know they even made a third queen.

Last Thursday I went through the hive.  I didn't see the queen (which I should have paid better attention to) and I noticed that the numbers were still way down.  I added two frames of brood and eggs from my strongest hive at my house to help them increase their numbers.  I thought if they hadn't done any better, this week I would combine them with SOS 2 right next to them.

So I opened the hive - no bees.  There were about 30 bees on the inside of the top cover.  I think they were newly emerged bees from the frames I gave the hive last week.  There were no more bees, no honey, no nothing in the hive.  There were remnants of eggs and brood on the two frames I added last week.  The bees were gone and the wax moth larvae were already in the bottom box.

I shook the 30 bees onto the inner cover of SOS2.




I've now lost four hives - and all have absconded.  The only good news is that all of them were free bees - well almost all of them.  The first hive to go was my top bar hive which was a swarm collected in Decatur. 

The second to go was my hive in Rabun County.  That hive was a purchased package from Don in Lula in 2011, but I had assumed they wouldn't make it through the winter and had purchased two packages to replace the two Rabun hives.  Then I found to my joy that one dead hive had a swarm move in (and it was thriving last time I was up there) and the other hive was doing well up until the beginning of June.  I didn't go through it to find out why they had dwindled.  There were still bees in that hive, but I don't think they had a queen and the SHB had taken over.

Last week just before adding a new box and only a week after seeing the queen, my Little Kitten swarm absconded.  They left nothing behind.

And then today I lost SOS 1.  I feel deeply disheartened.  The only saving grace is that most of them were free bees.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ugli Honey

Jeff and I harvested three frames of honey from the original Lenox Pointe over the weekend.  I crushed and strained the total of 8 frames that we took on Sunday.  Some of the honey was very strange.

Here's what the cappings looked like.  Instead of individual cells being capped, the bees indulged in this stained glass approach.  The honey was a dark orange.



The frame below is what a whole frame looked like - it's all disorganized and the cappings on all three frames had this modern art look.



Inside the cells some of the honey was crystallized!  The grains of the crystals were large and rough against the roof of my mouth.   The honey tasted a little like apricot with a sharp finish at the last minute.  I've never tasted anything like it.  The moisture level on the refractometer was right at 18.6.



Here's a view of the cut side of one of the combs.  See the thickened crystal?




These bees are all overwintered hives so we didn't feed them this year at all.  I wondered if this were honey that was the result of the bees visiting a hummingbird feeder, but with three full frames (and we left the other five in the super because they weren't capped yet), that would be a lot of sugar syrup.

What nectar could these bees have gathered that would crystallize in the comb?  And we've had very hot weather in Atlanta - about a week of days with temperatures over 100 in the last couple of weeks.

Any ideas?


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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bee House Calls

My father was a doctor in Natchez, a small town in Mississippi.  When I was a little girl, he often went on house calls to take care of patients in their homes.  This generally happened at the end of the work day, and he often took us with him.  "Us" at that time consisted of my mother, my brother and me.

While Randy and I mostly bickered in the back seat, I actually remember it as fun.  Often to break up the evening in the car, Daddy would stop at the Dairy Queen, one of two "fast food" establishments in Natchez, the other being the Monmouth, an old-fashioned drive-in with trays that hooked to your car window.  We only went to the Dairy Queen (now the Malt Shop) for dipped cones - Yummmm - nothing better on a hot Natchez night.

Today I made house calls on my bees at other houses.  First I went to the Stonehurst Place Inn where I manage three hives.  In the first hive, there was plenty of honey and on the frame closest to the side of the box, I saw Her Majesty.  You can see her as well - isn't she gorgeous with such a long golden body!



I was both thrilled to see her and to see that the hive was not eating up all of their honey and seemed fine.



The second small (only two medium boxes) hive also had recently drawn comb in the top box.  They were happily storing nectar.  I didn't see the queen, but felt good about this colony.






The third hive was difficult.  It's a mean hive and I put on my gloves before opening it and smoked them both at the entry and at the hole in the inner cover.  I did not get stung today, but that's a first for me when visiting the Stonehurst Place hives.  I didn't go down far enough to see if the queen were laying.  The hive was calm and I wasn't worried about that.

They had plenty of honey - probably we can take another box off of this hive.  However, under the cover I saw plenty of hive beetles.















Between the Stonehurst Place and Sebastian's house (my second house call) in childhood style, I stopped by the King of Pops' stand on the corner of North and Boulevard and bought a blueberry lemongrass popsicle - nothing better (except all the other popsicles he makes which are equally scrumptious).  You should try the chocolate sea salt - WOW.... but I couldn't afford those calories today and blueberry lemongrass was so good that I'll get it again.

Sebastian and Christina have a lovely garden plot just to one side of the hives.  Their cucumbers are healthy and I'm sure the bees are enjoying the blooms!




These bees were in a different state than my bees in Va Highlands.  The hives both had stored honey and brood and eggs, but the yellow hive had no honey in the corners of the brood frames.  I only saw three full frames of honey in that hive.

The blue hive had a ten frame inner cover and hive top, so I replaced those with the appropriate 8 frame sized inner cover and telescoping top.

I told Sebastian we would harvest a frame of honey from one of these hives (probably the blue one since it is hived in a ten frame box and probably has more stores).  But we won't get a box of honey from either of these hives since they aren't gathering nectar like my Va High hives that are only a few miles away.



I left the blue hive with the appropriate top wear!


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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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