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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. 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.


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Monday, March 25, 2013

Hive Installation Glitch

Most of the time when something goes wrong in a hive, I'm quite clear that I've made an error (and anyone who has been following this blog knows that I have made many)

Every once in a while I'm not totally responsible for the bee messes that can happen in my hives.  Last Sunday and Monday I installed two packages - one in my own backyard and one at the Chastain Conservancy.  Generally the beekeeper would go back into the hive in about 3 - 5 days to see if the queen has been released from the queen cage.

However, both we've had bad weather ever since and (good news for me) my office practice has been very busy so I haven't had any free bee-ing hours during the few times when it was warm enough to open a hive.  Over the weekend our highs were in the 40s and it was pouring rain on Saturday as well as cold.  We can't get into the Chastain apiary on Sundays.

So now it's Monday - one week from installation - and I have not opened either hive to see if the queens were released.  Hopefully they each were and all is well, but you never know.  The temperature is going to be in the freezing range, really until Friday, so the chance of opening the hives is slim.

So here are the various scenarios:  The queen has been released and the hive is functioning with an empty queen cage in the hive.  That shouldn't be a problem at my home hive because I wedged the queen cage between frames:



















But at Chastain, I set the queen cage on the bottom bar of a frame (one of the advantages of using foundationless frames).  There if she has been released, the queen cage is in the way and they may have built crooked comb around the cage, throwing off the symmetry of their comb building:



















It won't be in the 60s until Friday and I'll be out of town, but Julia will open the Chastain hive that day and remove the queen cage and check to make sure she was released, but I won't be able to do a thing between now and then because of the weather.

Atlanta has the strangest weather.  We don't have winter until March and now it's the week after the first day of spring and we are having the coldest week since March of last year.

Of Duct Tape and Rapid Feeders

Every time I turn around, I find another use for duct tape.  When I was a Girl Scout leader, my co-leader and I kept count for the more than 100 uses we found for the bandana.  I have now found a new use for the center cone of the Rapid Feeder!

My grandchildren came over to dye Easter eggs on Saturday and we didn't have enough cups for the egg dye.  I went to the nearby CVS, but they didn't carry any plastic drinking cups like we sometimes have used.  So we put to work the center cup of the Rapid Feeder as a dye holder:



















The kids had fun and thanks to the help of the Rapid Feeder, we dyed beautiful eggs.

























Afterwards I ran the Rapid Feeder cups through the dishwasher in case any dye residue affected the honey for the bees in the feeder later on.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What Not to Do with a Smoker

My life has been really bee-busy lately and at the same time I've been really busy at work.  Also I keep my grandson on Wednesdays and Thursday from 3 - 5 and have my other two grandchildren at my house on Fridays all day.  So I've been going at a run for the last week or two between all of that.

The other day I went to the Morningside Garden to check on the bees.  I lit my smoker to inspect the hive.  I actually put a good bit of pine straw in it out of habit, but only needed to be there a very short time.

When I was done, I stuck a cork in the mouth of the smoker and threw it into the back end of my Subaru.  I ran home to do work there and didn't take any bee equipment out of the car.

Two hours later I went to my car to go back to my office.  I got in the car and was shocked that the car was all foggy on the inside.  At first I wondered what was going on because it wasn't foggy OUTSIDE the car.  Then my nose woke up and I realized the car was completely filled with smoke.  The cork had been knocked out of the smoker on the less than a mile ride home from the garden and it had been puffing along inside the car for TWO HOURS.  I could have won a smoker lighting contest with this smoker.

Now when I want the smoker to stay lit, it goes out every five minutes, but when it would have been perfectly lovely had it cooperated in that way, on this particular day, it stayed lit for over two hours.

Ten days later and my car still smells like a forest fire.  Every time I leave the car in my business clothes to go into my office, I think the people who come to talk to me are going to think I've been on a Girl Scout campout because I'm sure the smell comes into the office with me.

Today I took my car to a car wash where they do the wash by hand and are pretty meticulous with the inside.  The car still smells of smoke, but not as badly as before.

I am lucky - the smoker was right over the gas tank and at least the car did not catch on fire!

Note to all:  Do not leave a smoldering smoker in your car.  Worse things can happen than that your car fills with smoke, and that is certainly bad enough!

Spring Report on Rabun County Bees

On Sunday I drove up to Rabun County just for the day to check on the bees there.  I took Hannah, my dog, with me.  Hannah had a delightful time - she is a dog to whom rules do not apply: she sleeps on my bed; sits on the furniture; and loves to run off-leash on trails with stern signs at the beginning:  ALL DOGS MUST BE ON LEASH.

When we go to the community garden in Rabun County, I let her run free out of the car.  While I am checking bees, she is racing up and down the creek banks and running through the water.  She had fun.  I did not.














I found no bees in the remaining Rabun hive.  The first Rabun hive was dead before winter and someone/something destroyed the equipment.  The remaining Rabun hive was populated by a swarm last spring and the bees were still going strong in December.  Now, however, there are no bees.  They left the hive full of honey.   On the top of the slatted rack were dead hive beetles.















On the screened bottom board were less than 20 dead bees.















I brought the honey home and crushed it to feed to the new hives.  I hope there isn't anything wrong with the honey but I assume with honey's antiseptic qualities that the risk of the honey being OK is pretty high.

The only frame I could find with any brood looked like this:



















I feel a need to explain that my brood comb typically doesn't look this dark and dirty.  I usually replace it every year, but a swarm moved into this hive with old comb before I knew they were there, so the hive didn't get its usual culling out of comb previous to spring.

Even with the SHB on the slatted racks, the honey had not been slimed.  I brought home six frames of honey that tasted like kudzu.



















I put the hive back together and left it as a 2 box hive.  I smeared swarm lure (olive oil, beeswax and lemongrass oil) on the landing, under the inner cover and in several other places.  Maybe the feral hive in the wall of the abandoned school nearby will send a swarm my way.
















Meanwhile, I'll make several nucs in Atlanta with the idea of taking one of them up to Rabun to have bees there this year.  My sweet friend, Julia, gave me a frame with at least one queen cell on it to do just that.  I added frames from the Morningside apiary to make the nuc and if it succeeds, I'll take it to Rabun County.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Creative Entrance Reducers

In Billy Davis' talk to our bee club, he emphasized the importance of entrance reducers.  He stated that the use of entrance reducers and keeping robber screens on the hives at all times stopped robbing in his apiaries.  So I am taking him seriously and trying it this year.

I've had two rather humorous experiences so far.  First at Morningside, the men who live in the house beside the community garden (where my hives are) are complaining that my bees are disturbing their use of their hot tub.  They are nice guys and supply water to the community garden, so we want them to stay happy.  I wrote them that there are five beekeepers within a mile of the community garden and that my bees are highly likely not to be the only ones visiting their hot tub.

However, to begin to address the problem and hopefully to prevent my needing to move my hives, I put a Boardman bottle of water on each hive.  I put a teaspoon of Chlorox in each bottle and a few drops of lemongrass oil to entice the bees to get their water at home.  However, I also wanted to reduce the entrance as per Billy Davis.  The Boardman bottles took up space and I don't have entrance reducers that short so I did something that I had read about on a beekeeping forum.  I used wine corks:




The bees fell all over themselves as they learned the new entrance but then calmed down.  I also put the same corks on the hive that I made from the Colony Square nuc the week before.   This photo was taken just before I left the Morningside hives.

I do wonder what the gardeners will think of all the wine corks - possibly that I really like wine!  But it is serving the purpose and looks like fun, doesn't it?








After the corks, I was really tired - not from putting in corks, but because we had done a lot of bee work already.  Jeff and I had already done our splits that morning; I went to the Morningside Garden berfore the splits to work on my plot there; and I was anticipating moving the hives in a few hours that night.  I knew the 3-box hive at Morningside needed a new box, but I just wanted to go home for a couple of hours and not do bees.

I sat on a stump by the hives and watched the bees for about 10 minutes.  Then I started for the car, telling myself that I'd get to it another day.  But I was already there and had already carried the box and all my bee stuff up to the hives.

I sat another second and then opened the hive and got to work.  I had brought a box of half empty frames and half drawn frames.  I checker-boarded these frames with the frames in the box below.  As I lifted out the seventh frame in the box on the hive, there was the queen!  What was she doing in the top box and on comb that looked like it was for honey storage - too large a cells for worker bees?

I got a little concerned that the reason she was there in that box was because the bees were running her around to get her ready to swarm.  She does look a little skinny!  However, skinny or not, she is certainly a pretty sight, I must say.  As is the beauty of the brand new wax and the festooning bees.















So I decided it was a good sign to reinforce my staying to add the box.

That was my funny entrance reducer story #1.  My second story happened on Sunday afternoon.  After the big split Saturday, on the next day (Sunday), I drove to Lula, Georgia to get a package of bees from Don Kuchenmeister for our teaching hive at Chastain Conservancy.

First I drove up to Rabun County to see if the bees there had lived through the winter.  Remember the one hive had been destroyed by what, I don't know.  The other was a hive that was populated on its own by a swarm last spring.  Those bees were alive in December, but Rabun county is 125 miles north of Atlanta and they have had a cold winter and some snow.

I found the hive dead, full of honey, with no bees at all in the hive except for about 20 on the bottom board.  I left the hive set up to possibly attract another swarm from the feral hive that lives in the wall of the nearby school building.

Then I picked up my package from Don - actually he had an extra one that I also bought to replace the Rabun hive, since I need a hive there and don't have confidence in my splits.  I couldn't drive another hour north to Rabun again, though, so I took both packages home.



I installed the first package in my backyard.

As I am getting ready to install the bees, I am thinking of Billy Davis.  So before I put in the package, I equipped the front of the hive with a robber screen as close to the one Billy had as I could do with my landing being slightly different from his.



















Then I installed the package and stepped back to view my "great job."






















And then there was my moment of realization, my Ah-Ha of the day.  A package consists of several pounds of bees (three in this case) and an unknown queen in a queen cage.  These bees aren't attached yet to the queen - they were only dumped in the package yesterday.  So the bees are no different than robber bees.  Without the pull of the queen pheromone, they have a hard time finding a way into the hive.  Attached to the queen, resident bees can negotiate the robber screen and undaunted, enter the hive from the side opening of the robber screen.

DUH.  My bees were flying at the hive in every direction and not finding the hive entry.

So I removed the robber screen and allowed the wayward bees to find their to-bee-queen and will wait to install the robber screen!

But I do plan to put them on every hive this year.  I lost my two biggest hives last summer to robbing and I am not having that happen again, if I have any possible way to influence that occurrence.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Rest of the Splitting Story

After we did our lovely split of Lenox Pointe, it was time to open Colony Square.  The week before on Saturday, I had opened the hive to find eggs - enough that I made a nuc and took it to Morningside Community Garden.  However on this day when we opened the hive, we couldn't find a single egg.  It was mid morning and sunny, so we should have been able to see eggs if they were present.  We also never saw the queen.

I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't take any pictures of this phase of things - we were making decisions and struggling with this.  Of course we couldn't split a hive with no eggs - there would not be resources for the queenless hive to make a queen.  And indeed was there a queen in this hive?  We didn't know.

We finally found a frame with about three queen cells on it.  All of them were still open and had the workers upside down in the cell taking care of the larvae.  Would a hive swarm without leaving capped queen cells behind?  Maybe the queen cell that counted and was finished was hiding somewhere???

I think either the hive had swarmed without leaving queen cells finished (unlikely, right?) or they were planning to swarm and were stopping the queen from laying while they made queen cells.  In any event since we only saw the one frame of queen cells, we decided that we would have to move this hive as a whole.  We were taking it to a man who lives behind a community garden in a neighborhood that abuts the Emory campus.  The bees will have not only the community garden, but the floral abundance in lovely Lullwater park on the Emory campus as their foraging ground.

What we decided to do was to put the two boxes of brood together and to put the two boxes of honey together with a bottom board and top as if two separate hives so that we could carry it together.  We left for the day and planned to come back in the evening to move the hives.  We strapped them up before we left and planned to close the entrance with #8 hardware cloth when we returned.

In the dark of night, we carried the queenless half of the Lenox split and the two halves of the Colony Square hive over to Ron's house in the Emory area.

















A close up:


















By the time we drove 30 minutes to the Emory area (Atlanta is really big, you know), it was dark.
We set the hives up in Ron's backyard - you can see the moving screen we used on one of the hives and the screened wire we used on the other:



















Our last move of the night was to take off the screens and leave the bees to settle into their new environs.



















So optimistically I was hoping for at least four hives out of these two three year old hives.  Instead I got one even split and moved the other as a whole.  We even brought the deep box on Colony Square because it was full of brood.

I did see one tiny c-shaped larva in that deep, meaning the queen was laying about three days before.  That reassured me a little because one of my worries was that I had inadvertently put the queen in the nuc I had made the week before....not the case, as per the egg age in the old hive.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Quite a Day of Bee-ing

Bees are such interesting bee-ings.  I never know what I will find when I open a hive - and the surprises keep it so interesting.

Jeff and I had big expectations for today.  Our plans were to split both hives at my old house and then move them to different locations.  I had ridiculous plans to do an even split of both hives and get a nuc out of both hives.

The bees had other plans.

We arrived at the house at 11, when the Atlanta Saturday was warm enough to be comfortable opening the hives.  I had had nightmares all night, remembering/dreaming about when we moved Topsy, the top bar hive, and in essence killed the hive with the huge mess we made.  Granted, these are all Langstroth hives, but I still was without confidence.

I called Noah on the way over and he suggested that I look at the experience as a reparative moment: instead of killing the hives, I would be saving them.  I tried to take that in but I was still nervous about the whole event.

Our plan was to do an even split a la Michael Bush's description.  We started with Lenox Pointe because we felt less sure of Colony Square, which has been Jeff's nemesis ever since he began this endeavor.  Jeff set two screened bottom boards at right angles to the hive:















In an even split, you make sure each hive has a box of brood and eggs and each hive has resources - honey, pollen, etc.  With four boxes above the deep, we figured we could deal it like cards, as Michael suggests, and have two and two.  I had been in the hive the weekend before and knew they were not using the deep except for storing pollen.

We quickly found the queen just where I had found her the week before in the second box.  We immediately took that box off and it became the first box for one half of the split.  We marked it on the side of the box with a Q since the queen was there for sure.















The box below that one (box #3, going down) had brood and eggs in it so it became the base for the second half of the split.  We sorted through the frames in the remaining two boxes, removing frames with crooked comb and too fat honey comb.  I'll harvest that honey (about three or four frames worth) and feed it to the package I'm getting tomorrow for Chastain.

Doing this type of project allows the beekeeper to make some helpful changes to the hive.  We removed all of the frames that were out of whack in terms of how the comb was built and replaced those frames with better ones.  One thing I've learned from foundationless beekeeping is that you can't give the bees a box of empty frames for honey with just one ladder in the center.  Instead, if the box will be used for honey, you need to checkerboard - one capped honey frame, one empty frame, one capped honey frame, one empty frame across the box.  This keeps the bees from making fat honeycomb and intruding on the frame beside it.



















In the end we had two boxes of honey, pollen and empty frames to put on each of the boxes.


















We felt so great about this split.  We knew we divided the resources well; we knew which half held the queen; and we followed our goal to the end.  BTW, we used a nuc as a quiet box, as per Billy Davis, throughout the removal of frames.  Jeff didn't get stung the whole day.  I got stung four times, but as he pointed out, I insist on not wearing gloves!

We noticed, however, that all the foragers were going back to the box where the queen was - pheromone influence and all of that.  So we decided to go ahead and move the hive with the queen in it rather than wait until evening.  We put it in my car - I have two eight frame size moving screens - fantastically helpful.  Then we put the queenless half of the split in the original hive location so the foragers would come back to it and left it at the house until evening.
























We called Sebastian and took the queenright half to his house to replace the hive lost going into winter. He and Christina were thrilled and Jeff and I felt good about solving this problem.

















I'll write about the rest of the day tomorrow.  I know I have only told the smooth part of the story, but we'll get to the way the bees were surprising tomorrow.  We moved hives and I did bee things all day and I'm exhausted.  More on St. Paddy's day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Bee-ing

Atlanta has strange weather.  In December and January, it's not very cold - I rarely get out my winter coat, but March - it's cold.  It's a week before the first day of spring and the nights are in the 20s and 30s.  However, this weekend the temperature is supposed to reach 72.  But all over Atlanta last week the bees were swarming, so I got worried about my 3 year old hives at my old house.

I drove up there on Saturday to check for swarm cells and make at least one split.  We do have drones in the hives - not yet in large numbers, but I am seeing them, so I thought I could make a split and then plan to split and move these hives on the 16th.  I need to sell the house and can't put it on the market with bee hives in the backyard!

I went through every frame in Colony Square and didn't find a single swarm cell.  I made a nuc from frames in the hive.  I did find good brood patterns and that the queen was filling in holes where brood had emerged with new eggs.



















The hive was full of bees and seemed to be doing well.  I looked at every frame but the two under the board in the lower box.  This is an eight frame box hive sitting on a 10 frame deep.  I blocked the two outside frames with a board that is so well-propolized that I didn't even try to get it off.  Since there were no swarm cells (and I looked at every frame except those two), I'm thinking it will be fine until Saturday the 16th for Jeff and me to do splits.

Next I went through Lenox Pointe.  Again, no swarm cells

In Lenox Pointe I saw signs of a good queen at work.  Empty cells, each with a single egg or c-shaped larvae.  And then I saw the queen in the second box.

  

















I realize it's a blurry photo, but at least she is distinctive and you can see she is there...right in the center.

In the bottom box, nothing much was happening.  When we split the hives on the 16th, I will leave this box off altogether, if I can, because I prefer to use all medium boxes.  If not, I'll make a nuc of deep frames from Colony Square and Lenox Pointe and see how they do.









I had made a nuc from frames out of Colony Square so I closed it up rather clumsily with hardware cloth.  Note to self:  Next time staple the hardware cloth to the entry before putting it into the car to go visit the bees!  Because I hadn't closed the entry well, there were bees all over my back window, much to the consternation of the car behind me at a red light.  

I took the nuc to install it at the Morningside Community Garden to replace the hive that had died over the winter.  The bees seemed happy there, but I am worried that I didn't shake enough bees into the nuc, as I always worry when I make a split.


I then went into the survivor hive at Morningside that made it through the winter.  It had obviously emerged brood with the cells filled in with new eggs and larvae - great, hard working queen.  

Although the camera doesn't let you see it, the space inside the curve where brood has obviously already emerged was filled with eggs.  I took a frame of brood and mostly eggs from this hive and put it into a pillow case to take it home to the drone laying hive.

At home the drone layer hive looked the same.....still three frames of drone brood.  I went all the way down to the bottom of this hive and found eggs in two of the bottom deep frames.  I have not yet seen the queen in this hive, but every cell I see with eggs has only one egg and it is standing upright, as it is supposed to.  I don't think I have a laying worker, but rather a poorly mated queen.

I added the frame of eggs from Morningside to this hive to give them the resources to replace their queen.  There are a lot of bees still in this hive, despite the queen not making replacement workers.

In this hive on the bottom I found in the deep a frame close to the side of the box that had fairly new wax in it.  In the cells were dead small hive beetles - not bees.  The SHB were crowded and face down in the honey cells just as a starving hive of bees might be.  I don't know how to explain it since the hive is alive and doing well.

I made all of these photos last weekend and tomorrow is my move and split day.  Jeff and I are meeting to split the hives at my old house in the morning and we are moving the newly split hives at dark later in the day.  I will take one of the nucs to Rabun County to replace one of the hives there and will cross my fingers that the other hive is also there and alive.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Billy Davis' Quiet Box























Billy Davis respects his bees, his "critters," as he calls them.  I learn so much from him every time I hear him speak.  The first time I heard him was at EAS in Boone, NC.  From him I learned about the reason to use hive drapes and have used them ever since.  We employ hive drapes in our inspections at Chastain Conservancy and the bees are so much calmer.  We light the smoker and rarely use it.























 Billy Davis spoke to the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers last night about his nuc sustainability program in Round Hill, Virginia. Billy said that a beginner can learn more from raising bees in a nuc than any other way.  He said something like, "Anyone can find a queen in a five frame nuc!"  He also emphasized the importance of taking notes and said people in his apiary have to prove they can take notes before they can manipulate any hives.

Billy has been keeping bees since he was a kid - over 50 years.  He stressed the importance of having a mentor as well as the importance of using nucs.  He does not like the idea of buying a commercial nuc but rather creating a nuc from your own splits.  A nuc is
  • a great learning tool, 
  • a generator of drawn comb, 
  • a generator of honey, 
  • a source of brood queens.  
  • Splitting colonies into nucs is a way to increase your apiary.  
  • Nucs are also a way to practice swarm control.  If you take the queen and enough bees to support her, the colony thinks they have swarmed and you have stopped the swarm.
Billy's approach is that we need to help the bees survive by promoting hygienic queens and raising local queens.  He has an extensive program in Virginia in which he runs nucs and raises queens.  He went through his methods for the nuc program in explicit detail, more complicated than I can repeat here, but essentially he is making nucs over and over; overwintering the nucs; culling out queens who are not certifiable breeder queens.  And then he does it all over again.

He railed against artificial insemination and said that it had ruined many aspects of farming - breeding cattle, breeding hogs, breeding all kinds of animals.  He thinks the bees should raise their own queens.  He selects for hygienic queens by systematically killing capped larvae and seeing if the bees remove it within 24 hours.  If so, he uses that queen as a breeder.  As a result he does no varroa treatment and said the most number of mites he has seen this year is THREE.

He is a wood-working guy (in his non-bee life, he works at Home Depot) and makes his own equipment so that he can keep these nucs on a common base.  He has entrances on opposite sides and faces his nucs so that the prevailing winds are not blowing toward the entrance.  You might notice that he uses all medium equipment - no deeps or shallows for him.























He keeps a robber screen and an entrance reducer on every hive.  I was interested in his robber screen - not complicated like mine, but rather a simple screened wire, looks like #8 hardware cloth or maybe a little smaller.  He says it needs to extend 4 inches on either side of the entry to be effective.  He simply staple-guns it to the hive body and the landing.  It's folded into a squared edged to create a tunnel to the entry hole.  Boy, I plan to do this on every hive after my terrible robbery at two different great hives last year.

We have used hive drapes at Chastain Conservancy since I heard him speak about them at EAS.  Now I'd like to try the other item he uses during an inspection: his "Quiet Box."  The Quiet Box is the green box in the photo below.

Billy said that anyone in his apiary who took out a frame and leaned it against the hive would be in big trouble with him.   In our inspections, we typically use a frame rack that may or may not be under the hive drape.  It is his contention (and he's obviously right) that being out in the sun like that is very disturbing to the bees.  

I often find a clump of bees on the outside wall of the hive box when I remove the frame from the rack to return it to the hive.  They left the frame and crowd together on the hive box, probably trying to get into protected space where it isn't very light.

Instead of this disruption, Billy uses a quiet box - the green box in the photo.  It is equipped with a built-in hive drape.  He puts the first frame removed from the hive into this box where there are a couple of other frames.  If the frame is alone in the box, he might also put in the frame on which he finds the queen.  These frames remain in the "Quiet Box" until he is finished with his inspection and then he returns them.

If he chooses not to return them to the hive, with those two frames, he has the beginning of a nuc.  He just needs to add frames of honey and pollen, capped brood and bees.

We could easily take an empty nuc box to our inspections at Chastain (and at my private hives) and use that as the "Quiet Box."  I am anxious to try this and see how we do with it.  Our first inspection there is on the 23rd, so I'll let you know how it works for us.

Billy feeds all of his bees sugar syrup all the time.  He says that they will quit taking the syrup when there is nectar available.  He uses the rapid feeder from Bee Works in Canada that I also use.



He likes this feeder because it is inside the hive and because the bees are protected from drowning when using it.

Billy employes nematodes to control the SHB.  He says the first year you need to do three applications (Julia and I only did one the year we did the nematodes) and thereafter you need to do two applications.  I need to get back in touch with SE Insectaries and order some more to do that again.
At the end of this wonderful talk, Billy was surrounded by members of the Metro Atlanta Club who wanted to ask him questions and thank him for all the information.  I went up afterward to thank him personally and had such a lovely surprise.  He looked at me and said, "I'm so glad you came.  I was hoping you would be here.  I do go to visit your web site sometime, you know!"  I was bowled over and honored - who knew that he even knew who I was?  

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Young Harris Beekeeping Institute Registration Opens on March 4

The annual Young Harris Beekeeping Institute will take place May 9 - 11 2013 at Young Harris College in Young Harris, Georgia.  Registration opens on March 4 (TOMORROW) and it fills up fast. This year in addition to the usual teaching crew (which includes me!), guest lecturers will be Dr. Tom Seeley, Dr. Dave Tarpy and Michael Young from Ireland.

Don't delay in registering - it fills up quickly.  I do understand that this year 175 people will be able to register (25 more than in past years).

At Young Harris, in addition to learning a lot, you can take the Certified Beekeeper exam, or sit for the Journeyman or Master Beekeeper exam.  I think there are several people working on Master Craftsman beekeeper this year as well.  Even if you are not trying for certification, there's lots to learn at Young Harris.

Talks will be given on queen rearing, bees and mites in the forest, queen's effects on her colony, decision making in the bee colony, national bee loss, cooking with honey, and many other great topics. I'm talking about low tech beekeeping, although this year my talk is going to focus on foundationless beekeeping, with some other low tech items thrown in for fun.

I find Young Harris to be valuable every time I go and I expect this year will be especially great.  I am so looking forward to hearing Dr. Seeley who will speak at MABA on Wednesday night before going to Young Harris for the rest of the week.

Sign up - for a great time and lots to learn.

Bees Wax Room at the Phillips Collection

Originally my brother sent me an article about this in the Wall Street Journal.  Today someone else sent me this article.  It seems so amazing.  I want to go.....

The Beeswax Room

And another

And this article has information about the artist.

And here's a lovely radio interview about the process.

I love to meet my daughter who lives in Cumberland, MD for a weekend in DC.  Next time we do that, the Phillips collection will definitely be on our agenda.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Clarence Collison's What Do You Know?

I gave a talk at the GBA Spring Meeting a couple of weeks ago about why one might go for certification such as Master Beekeeper.  It was such fun to get ready for this talk and fun to give it as well.  In the talk I highly recommended Clarence Collison's book, What Do You Know?    For me, it was a priceless study guide for the Master Beekeeper exam.

Today I found out on Amazon that it is out of print and they don't even have used copies available.

What I would suggest is that anyone wanting the book go to Bookfinder.  It's a purveyor of used books and often has what one is looking for, if the book is out of print.  I couldn't today find a copy of the Collison book, although one might be there tomorrow.

Many apologies to those who went looking for the book after my talk.  It is a great reference book and I am sorry that it isn't easily found.

Snippets of Follow-up on this Bee Year's Bumpy Start

My mentor and friend, Penny, suggested in a note that I write to Tom Seeley and ask him why a swarm hived into what looks like a good situation, would abscond.  So I sent this email to him on his Cornell contact site:


Hi Dr. Seeley,

I am so thrilled that you are speaking to my bee club, MABA, on Wednesday in May before I again get to learn from you at Young Harris.  I am writing because I hope you can address my swarm question in your talk, if possible.  

For the third time in my beekeeping experience, we hived a swarm in what looked like great conditions for their happiness and the swarm absconded.  The swarm, as we jokingly measure them, was a 3 cat swarm (the size of three cats).  Here's a link to a slideshow showing the installation:
http://beekeeperlinda.blogspot.com/2013/02/swarm-for-chastain-conservancy.html  The swarm went into a 3 medium box hive with drawn comb and about 2 empty frames;  there was a rapid feeder on top with honey in it; there was an entrance reducer in place.  The hive is in the center of the Chastain Park, Atlanta's largest public park, in the middle of a golf course.  

Three days later, the swarm was gone.  All that was left was a handful of bees who were probably out foraging when the others left.  They were hived on a cloudy, cold day.  Any thoughts about why swarms abscond under what looks like ideal conditions for happiness?

Thanks in advance and I would be glad either to get an email from you or to hear about this in your talk at Metro. 

Looking forward to meeting you,
Linda Tillman

Also Penny suggested that I send samples from the dead-outs to the bee lab at Beltsville, MD.  It's too cold in Atlanta for today (and I have grandchildren at my house all day) and for the next few days to revisit the hives who were bereft of bees.  However, when I get there again, I now have the link to the bee lab.  They analyze dead bees (if they are not decayed) and brood comb with or without brood to see if they can determine what the cause of death might have been.  Surprisingly it is a FREE service.

I remember last year in Asheville when the man from the bee lab in North Carolina that analyzes wax for Mary Ann Frazer was one of the speakers.  I believe the lowest cost for analyzing the wax was $250.  So I am shocked to find out that the Beltsville lab is glad to provide this service for free.  There are also directions on the site about how to manage the samples (the bees must be put in alcohol, but the alcohol must be drained before shipping since it isn't allowed by the shippers).  Comb can be wrapped in a paper towel.

And then just to warm my heart and make me feel less despondent, there's a wonderful article by James Tew in the newest Bee Culture about his bee losses.  (That link will take you to Bee Culture's extremely useful web page but the magazine itself is not available online unless you have an online subscription.)  Tew holds an annual symposium at Auburn.  I missed it this year but want to go next year.    He acknowledges how hard it is to look at and own the fact that winter losses happen, even to him.  He relates beekeeping to the myth of Sisyphus.  Sisyphus' punishment is to roll a stone up a steep hill.  Every time he gets to the top, the stone rolls back down again, and again, and again.  Tew likens his beekeeping to the penance of Sisyphus and I can certainly get into that boat.  But he says, "For me it is not a penalty.  I want to continue rolling that rock up that hill."  Me, too.

For the first time this year, however, I am not spending lots of money on bees.  Last year I spent a lot (close to $1000) getting my hives up and running.  This year I have not ordered any equipment except for two medium cypress nuc boxes that I bought optimistically thinking I would be splitting all of these hives (HA, HA).  And I bought those from Rossman at GBA so I didn't have to pay for shipping.  And I ordered one package of bees from Don Kuchenmeister to populate my hive at Chastain since we use it for teaching.  I'll be getting them on St. Paddy's Day.  Does that give them the luck of the Irish to succeed?  I certainly hope so.

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