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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I began my 11th year of beekeeping in April 2016. Now there are about 1275 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. (678) 597-8443

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hope and the Honey Bee

This bee season I have learned something about hope and the honey bee through having two drone laying queens.  The first drone layer was in a hive I purchased as a nuc last year whose queen was obviously not mated well enough to last beyond one year.  The second drone layer was the package I bought from Don Kuchenmeister this year whose queen wasn't mated or was barely mated.  She was never released (she wasn't sending out queen pheromone so the bees weren't interested) and when she was directly released, only laid drones.

In each hive I followed the standard recommendation that I put a frame of brood and eggs into the hive weekly until they successfully requeened themselves.

It may be unfair to attribute hope to the honey bee.  After all, they are incredibly efficient creatures.  Every bee has a job to do every day.  When a different need arises, she moves to the next job.  Each job she takes prepares her for the next until she becomes a forager and wears herself out (and dies) in the service of perpetuating the life of the hive as an organism.

For the honey bee, it is inefficient to use the resources of the hive taking care of drone brood once enough drones have been raised by the hive to contribute to the general environmental needs for mating with a queen in the general drone congregation area.

In The Wisdom of the Hive by Tom Seeley, he says that "the pheromones that provide the proximate stimulus for workers to refrain from laying eggs come mainly from the brood, not from the queen."(reviewed in Seeley 1985; see also Willis, Winston, and Slessor 1990).

So giving the hive a frame of brood and eggs brings a pheromone into the hive emitted from the brood that helps the hive know that there is the possibility of a queen or at least the perpetuation of the hive through new workers - even if there is not a current queen or if there is a queen that they don't like.  In both of my drone laying hives, shortly after the first frame of brood and eggs was added to the hive, they began casting out the drone brood, ripping them out of their cells and throwing them in front of the hive for the birds to eat.

Here's what it looked like in my backyard.  And here's what Noah and Julia photographed on a visit about a week after April 16 when I gave the Chastain drone-layer hive a frame of brood and eggs.


Look at all the dead drones in the grass at the front of the hive at Chastain!























At the point of these photos both in my home apiary and at Chastain, each hive had either killed the drone-layer or appeared to be planning to cast her out.  The drone laying hive at my house had chewed off the wings of the drone laying queen in preparation for pushing her out of the hive.  With the frame of brood and eggs, they know a good queen is now possible even though neither hive made a queen cell from the first frame of brood and eggs given to them.

Today at Chastain, there was some capped worker brood from the frame of brood and eggs that I gave them on the 16th.  That brood will probably emerge in three or four days to help the hive, but they did not make a queen cell from those eggs.  I had to transport the frame for 30 minutes.  I put it in a nuc box but didn't really have an appropriate way to keep it warm and probably none of the eggs were good enough when they were finally in the hive about 45 minutes after they were removed from their home hive.

In my hive at home with the third added frame of brood and eggs, they now have four or five queen cells on the frame I most recently added and are probably now home free (assuming the emerging queen survives her mating flight).  The hive at Chastain today got a good frame and I'll give them another next week and the next, if that is what it takes.

Michael Bush says it takes several weeks of weekly addition to make it work.  He is a great fan of adding brood and eggs.  Here's what he says:


"There are few solutions as universal in their application and their success than adding a frame of open brood every week for three weeks. It is a virtual panacea for any queen issues. It gives the bees the pheromones to suppress laying workers. It gives them more workers coming in during a period where there is no laying queen. It does not interfere if there is a virgin queen. It gives them the resources to rear a queen. It is virtually foolproof and does not require finding a queen or seeing eggs. If you have any issue with queenrightness, no brood, worried that there is no queen, this is the simple solution that requires no worrying, no waiting, no hoping. You just give them what they need to resolve the situation. If you have any doubts about the queenrightness of a hive, give them some open brood and sleep well. Repeat once a week for two more weeks if you still aren't sure. By then things will be fine.

If you are afraid of transferring the queen from the queenright hive, because you are not good at finding queens, then shake or brush all the bees off before you give it to them.

If you are concerned about taking eggs from another new package or small colony, keep in mind that bees have little invested in eggs and the queen can lay far more eggs than a small colony can warm, feed and raise. Taking a frame of eggs from a small struggling new hive and swapping it for an empty comb or any drawn comb will have little impact on the donor colony and may save the recipient if they are indeed queenless. If the recipient didn't need a queen it will fill in the gap while the new queen gets mated and not interfere with things."


I've now added brood and eggs several times to these hives - twice to the Chastain hive and three times to my hive at home.

I love thinking that they are hopeful for their future and trust that they will be able to make a functioning queen.

Despite that romantic thought, in fact what probably is happening is that they recognize that there is healthy brood now and they need enough energy to manage the healthy brood well, so to that end they get rid of the energy sucking drone brood that is way more than they need.

But I like the sentimental thinking better.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bee Culture Article That I Wrote

I was so pleasantly surprised to find an article that I wrote had been accepted by Bee Culture and is in this month's issue:























I wrote about how to establish a hive inspection program for your bee club.  We have a great hive inspection program at Metro Atlanta that is now in its fourth year and doing well with good participation.  I had sent the article in at the beginning of the year and didn't have any idea that it had been chosen for publication!

This is my second article in Bee Culture.  I had an article in the February issue earlier this year on "Treating Your Speaker Well" - about how a bee club should manage guest speakers.

Here's what the article looks like in the magazine:























It's two pages - I felt quite honored that mine was chosen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Trying Out a New Small Hive Beetle Trap

Jeff and I decided to try out a "new" small hive beetle trap.  I put the "new" in quotes because I think I have owned the kit for this trap for three years, but never have used it.  It is from David Miller in Jackson, Tennessee and I bought it at the Young Harris bee institute about three years ago (maybe four???) 

Jeff put it together and we decided to test it on one of Sebastian's hives, so we installed it on Sunday.  We'll follow up and let you know if/how it is effective. 

Below Jeff is deciding which extension to use - it came with an extension to make it useful on an eight frame hive which is what we are running at Sebastian's house (and everywhere).


Here Jeff is adding the section which is screwed onto the trap.  The trap goes on the front entry of the hive.  It provides an entrance for the bees with a screened floor so that the small hive beetles fall through the screen as they enter the hive.

Below you can see the trap attached to the hive, waiting for the bees to notice their new entrance.


Jeff slid in the oil trap.  It comes in on the side, is comprised of three chambers, each filled with oil to drown the icky creatures.  


The bees were a bit confused about their entrance, but they were beginning to figure it out when we left the apiary.

The trap kit included some soft screen to put over the inner cover opening to keep SHBs from entering through the top.  We didn't have a staple gun with us so we didn't put that on the hive, but may at our next visit (I have to get over my fear of the staple gun which is IMMENSE).  However, advice in the kit says that the bees may propolize the soft screen.......hmmm, now there's a rationalization for not getting out the staple gun!

Monday, April 22, 2013

News from Drone Layer Queen

The bees are rid of the queen.  I've added weekly a frame of brood and eggs for the past three weeks.

Today I saw queen cells - at least FOUR of them - on a frame of brood and eggs I left them last week.  The best looking one is below.  The second photo is blurry but there is another queen cell.  I saw two others - all on this same frame from the nuc Julia gave me the queen cell to use to start it.





































Michael Bush says that with a drone layer, you need to give them brood and eggs three times and then they will probably make a successful queen.  I hope this time, they get a good one.

I'm so glad I got to see this process so close up - watched them remove the drone brood in a good housecleaning; saw the old queen with her wings chewed almost off; now see they are making a queen cell.  From just watching the front of the hive, you'd have no idea this was going on!

The brood you see is capped brood from the frame of eggs I gave them last week.  It was a good testament to why a beekeeper should have a nuc or two going all the time.  I took a frame out of a nuc.  It was two large tear drops of newly drawn wax, covering about 2/3 of the frame.  Almost every cell had an egg in it.  There was no honey or capped brood.

These bees managed to make four queen cells from the eggs.  So by the middle of May the hive should be queenright again.

They are not missing the nectar flow which is currently going.  They have really been storing up honey.

Note:  Each time I have opened this hive, I've had to squash at least 30 small hive beetles.  Today I only saw five small hive beetles the whole time I was fooling around with the hive.  I need to order nematodes which I have not done yet.

Honey of a Dinner on Saturday night

On Saturday, my daughter Sarah and I enjoyed the company of six people for dinner in which all the menu items included honey as an ingredient (well, almost all).  We had a great time.  Ernie, the man who purchased the dinner at the bee auction last September, brought his wife, his son, his daughter-in-law and her parents to the dinner.

The first course was flat breads made with Mahon cheese and drizzled with honey and thyme:

photo by Stan Williams

We served them on a honey bee tray that Sarah's mother-in-law had given me.

The second course was a spring pea soup with cream.  It had about a teaspoon of honey in it.




















For the entree we had roasted cornish game hens with honey, thyme and lemon.  On the plate also were the two items that included no honey - a wild rice pilaf and asparagus ribbons (way too much trouble - note to self: Don't make these again!) 

We also had Canadian Buttermilk Honey rolls - no photo again.  We were busy in the kitchen - no time for cameras!
























The asparagus was pretty but a lot of trouble:



















Then, European style we had a simple butter lettuce salad with bleu cheese and a honey champagne vinaigrette dressing, but none of us remembered to take a photo!

For dessert we had profiteroles with honey lavender ice cream.  I made the ice cream earlier in the week and made the profiteroles the day of the dinner.  I've made the profiteroles before for Sarah's birthday.
























This one was taken after the first profiterole on the plate had already been eaten!

Stan, one of the guests, took the profiterole photo, the photo of the dinner plate with the hen, rice, and asparagus, and the photo of the flatbreads.  Thank you for sharing it with me, Stan.  Stan also brought wine to go with every dish.

I had fun cooking everything; Sarah was a fabulous helper and expediter for the meal; and the company was lots of fun.  I'll offer it as an auction item again in September this year.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tour to Lithuania to Explore Beekeeping There

In my email box this email appeared:


Dear Bee lovers,

Here is Simona Cibirkaite from Lithuanian travel agency "Visit Lithuania"
writing. We are destination management company offering a new, guaranteed
departure specialized tour  "Lithuanian Beekeeping" on     17th - 22nd July
2013. 

Beekeeping is one of main crafts Lithuania is proud of. We would like to
share centuries -old beekeeping traditions, which are still alive in some
areas of the country; introduce to beekeeping nowadays, give a chance to
taste divine Lithuanian honey and fall in love with beautiful land of
Lithuania.

Please find the programme attached. Group discounts available.

If any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime by


Ph. no.: +370 61860628


Thank you for your time and hope to hear from you soon.


Best Regards,

Simona Cibirkaite
Incoming department manager
Travel Agency "Visit Lithuania"
Ph: + 370 5 2 62 52 41
Fax: + 370 5 262 52 42

Seemed intriguing to me and I forwarded it to Julia and to Gina to see if either of them might think of going on this.  Here's the link to the tour details:


Julia, Noah and I want to go.  If there are six people in a "group," there's a discount rate.  If anyone reading this wants to come too, let me know and we can be a "group" to go together!

The museum on the last day looks fascinating, the open-air museum,  and the candle making workshop.  


Monday, April 15, 2013

Today is the Birthday of the Blog!









Happy Birthday to the Blog!













Today I begin my eighth year of beekeeping!  It's been a great ride so far and I appreciate everyone who visits, watches my slide shows and videos, comments, and emails - and there are lots of you.

This is my 1088th post on this blog.  I've shared with you all of my triumphs and failures, what I've tried and what has worked and what has not.  I've been through several iterations of my beekeeping self, but I've always remained true to what I believed in at the beginning - that it would be better to lose bees than to treat them with poisons and that I wanted to be as natural a beekeeper as possible.  I've tried to be a beekeeper and not a bee-haver, as per George Imrie, and I work hard at it.

I usually put up stats in this post, so here I go again.

1040 - people subscribe to this blog by RSS feed
552 - people are "followers" on Google
8000 - hits for this blog since April 1, according to statcounter.com
193 - the number of countries from which people have visited
146,971 - the number of links to my site from various places  on the web - it's been my particular pleasure to find that my site is listed on a number of state and club websites across the country as a good resource!  What a compliment!

Thanks, everyone, for coming to visit, for cheering me on, for all the support and friendly outreach over these past seven years!  You're the best.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Upcoming Honey of a Dinner

Every year Metro Atlanta Beekeepers has an auction to raise money for the club's projects.  For the last couple of years, I've offered as an auction item a "Honey of a Dinner" in which every menu item has honey as one of the ingredients.

This coming Saturday, the man who purchased the dinner at the auction is coming with five family members (his wife, his son and his son's wife, and his son's in-laws) to have this dinner at my house.  My daughter Sarah who likes to cook as well, is going to come over to help me cook and serve the dinner on Saturday.  She and I make what we call the "Over the Top Christmas Dinner" every year for our families on Christmas Eve, so we have often cooked together and she has great ideas about food, so I'm thrilled she is coming to be with me.

I'm starting to work on the dinner today.  I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday to buy some of the ingredients.  Also yesterday I made homemade chicken stock for the soup and today I'll make the ice cream for the dessert item.  And I might go ahead and make the rolls and/or the profiteroles ahead of time and freeze them.   So since it's on my mind, I thought I'd share the menu with all of you:


Honey of a Dinner Menu   

Appetizer:  

            Flatbreads with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt
Soup:
            Spring Pea Soup with Cream
Entrée:  
            Honey Lemon Thyme Cornish Game Hens with
         Wild Rice and Asparagus Ribbons

Salad:  
            Butter Lettuce Salad With Honey Champagne Vinaigrette

Bread:  
            Canadian Buttermilk Honey Rolls
Dessert:
            Profiteroles with Honey Lavender Ice Cream


Friday, April 12, 2013

Nuc to Replace Drone Layer Hive at Chastain

On Thursday morning I checked on my backyard hives and was particularly interested in the nuc we are thinking of moving to Chastain as a teaching hive.  Julia gave me a queen cell on a frame for this nuc back on March 18.

As Billy Davis would say, the queen cell looked "medium biscuit" in color which means it was about midway through its development.  So I expected the queen to emerge within a week.  But I left the hive alone, except for giving it honey to eat in a Boardman feeder inside the hive.

On Thursday I opened the nuc to look at the work of the queen for the first time.  Notice the make-shift entrance reducer!  Jeff is making us some better ones.  I have had no confidence in my ability to make a nuc - have never done it successfully - but this year every one I have made is a success.

























The queen was laying and so eager, that she was laying in barely drawn comb.  If you click to enlarge either photo below, you'll see an egg in every cell:




















The nuc had eaten all of the honey I had provided in the Boardman Feeder, so when I was confident that the queen was there and doing well, I went inside to fill a jar from some honey I had crushed from a deadout.

I filled the jar and then, to my horror, dropped the jar and broke it to smithereens on the rug in my basement honey harvest area.  I took the broken jar and honey out to put it where the bees in my apiary could clean it up:

How I left it was how it looked above.  This afternoon (one day later) when I arrived home, this is what the rug looked like:

All the bees left was the glass!

Since on Thursday when the jar broke, I was leaving for Rabun County before I could crush any more of last year's honey, I gave the bees a jar of local, but commercial honey.  

I'm embarrassed to be feeding them commercial honey, but I wanted you to see what it looks like to use the Boardman as an interior feeder in a nuc.

Depending on the weather, I'll either take this hive to Chastain on Monday or Tuesday morning.  I'll also take a frame of brood and eggs to put into the drone layer hive now over there to help the bees begin to address their ineffective queen problem.  

Morningside Honey - Gorgeous Bee Work

When I got back from Rabun County this afternoon, I went straight over to Morningside.  I've taken frames of brood and eggs out of that hive, but I haven't really inspected the survivor hive in about a month and I haven't ever opened the split hive up there.  The split was made on March 9.

I started with the split.  The queen, if they successfully created her and she mated successfully, should be laying by now.  She would just barely be laying.  When the bees make a queen from an egg, it takes 16 days for the queen to emerge.  Then she spends four or five days in the hive to reach sexual maturity.  (We're up to March 29 at this point).  Then she may mate over two to four days, making more than one mating flight.  (We're up to April 2).  Then she returns to the hive to begin her forever job as an egg-laying machine.  (April 3).  So she may have been laying for about 9 days at most.

Here is the opened queen cell, so when I got into the bottom box (first), I was pleased.


I was pleased to find that she is indeed laying and the bees seem happy.  They have lots of empty drawn comb and have drawn some nice comb.












In the second picture you can see stored pollen and a little capped worker brood.  In every empty cell there is either an egg or larvae.  Really good results of this split.  Since larvae is capped at about 7 days, those capped larvae in the center are probably her first capped brood!



















The Morningside survivor hive I first inspected this year on February 24.  I haven't looked deeply into it since then (horrors!).  I have opened it to steal a frame of brood and eggs to help other hives.

Well, it is boiling over with bees.  While I was lighting the smoker (before I put on my veil), I got stung twice in the head by bees blown into my hair from that hive!  I opened the hive planning to add a box but ended up adding two.



The top box was filled with almost fully capped GORGEOUS white comb honey.  I marked the box as a possible cut comb honey harvest with a magic marker.  I brought a box of foundationless frames to give them for more honey.   I put it beneath the white capped honey box because I didn't want the honey to make the queen think the hive was out of room.

I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to take a photo of the white capped honey.


I then went into the next box and both it and the box below it were full of brood.  The queen had nowhere else to lay.  This is a real problem.  So I took another hive box and checkerboarded the brood frames with empty frames in hopes that I can prevent a swarm.  I didn't see swarm cells but I didn't go into the bottom box.  


The photo below was an interesting frame - it was drone brood on either side with worker brood in the center.  I think it must have been a drawn frame that I put in the box to act as a ladder so the queen used the cells by virtue of the size of the cells....the large ones for drones and the small ones for workers!

Perhaps if I have time this weekend, I'll make a split (or two) from this hive and take one of them up to be the second Rabun hive.  I was hoping for a swarm from the school wall hive but today when I walked up there, the school bees that have been there for years were dead and gone.








Bees are Now in Rabun County

Yesterday was a tough decision bee day.  I was going up to the mountains for the weekend so the queen I was supposed to get from the supplier couldn't be brought back to the Chastain hive.  I couldn't move the Chastain hive to Rabun county because it is a failing hive now with few bees since the drone layer queen is not replacing the bees.  I'm only up there about once every 3 - 4 weeks so I wouldn't be able to intervene if it didn't go well.

So what I decided was to take a split from my backyard to Rabun.  They haven't made their own queen yet, so I could put the replacement queen in it.  Then I could keep giving the Chastain package brood and eggs until they finally make a workable local queen.  Michael Bush says that when you have a drone layer, just give the hive a frame of brood and eggs every week until they successfully make a queen.

I went over to Chastain to retrieve the drone layer queen, but in the process and in talking to Julia, I changed my mind.  I've had two angry/mean phone calls from the supplier and two angry/mean emails from him and the idea of driving to Lula, an hour away, to allow him to say critical comments to my face just wasn't appealing just to get a queen.  And since he and I will no longer be doing any further business, what investment would he have in giving me a good queen?  For all I know, he would give me another unmated queen.

So Julia was very generous and gave me a frame of brood and eggs to put in the split I was taking to Rabun.  I had given it a frame of brood and eggs about five days ago, but didn't see a queen cell, so wasn't too hopeful about them.  I put the frame in the split hive and drove to N Georgia, feeling great relief as I passed the turn off to the supplier's house without even considering turning off.

Also the place where I collected the huge swarm on Tuesday was unhappy that there were still a baseball sized bunch of bees still clustered where the swarm had hung, so I stopped there and sprayed those bees with vanilla flavored sugar syrup, shook them into a Tupperware container and when I got to Rabun, added them to the hive split that I had brought.  The vanilla allows the bees to mask the pheromone and generally they will combine without killing each other.  Cindy Bee taught me that years ago.

So Rabun County now has bees at the community garden with plenty of bees, honey and the resources to make a queen.  I left the dead out hive in place there so that perhaps a swarm from the old school nearby where there are bees in the wall might move in as they did last year.



Weather with tornado watches was predicted for Rabun and as I drove into the county at 6:45 PM, the rain started.  I installed these bees in the rain, carrying the hive by myself about 50 yards to the bee site.  As soon as I had shaken in the bees from the swarm, then the rain started to pour down in full force.

What I have learned from this experience:
 
Always ask your supplier what their policy is should the queen fail in the establishment of the hive.  I did not do that and when I said the queen had failed, his response was that his queens were proven layers.  That was a terrible position for me to be in, since I had a failed queen purchased from him.  It set the situation up for his stance that the problem was with the purchaser rather than the seller.  And this queen was a drone layer from the beginning on March 18.  When selling bees, for good will and for continued support from the purchaser, the supplier should assume the customer is always right.

We will leave the drone layer hive at Chastain so that when we are doing teaching inspections, as we do there for new beekeepers frequently over the spring and summer, we can talk about drone layers, demonstrate how to handle a drone laying hive (hopefully), and talk a lot about how to choose a better bee supplier than we did.

Meanwhile so that we will have three good hives over there, I'll move a split I have made with a queen from Julia's yard to Chastain to be up and running since the queen is already "proven" and laying.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Another Queen Failure - this one from a Fatbeeman Package

The queen in our package installed at Chastain Conservancy was not released by the bees.  I picked up three packages from Don Kuchenmeister (Fatbeeman) for Julia and two for me on March 17.  I dropped Julia's by her house and drove home with my two.  On that same afternoon, I installed one package at my house and saved the other to take to Chastain the next day.

In most packages, the bees cluster around the queen cage and hang like this in the package (generally clustered around the queen cage suspended beside the feed can:


The bees in the package for Chastain were all over the place completely filling the box - not hanging around or organized on the queen cage.  That should have given me pause.  But I didn't think about it at the time.

I checked the newly installed hive for food needs two days after installation.  The queen hadn't been released and I gave them more honey.  Then the temperatures dropped into the 30s and low 40s for about eight days or more.  As soon as it was warm enough, we had our first hive inspection and the queen had still not been released.  So we made the decision to direct release her and she walked into the hive happily.

Now, three weeks after installation, I went to do an inspection with Julia on our own (not teaching).  To my alarm, the only brood in my hive was drone brood.  Egg cells had two to five eggs in them as if there were a laying worker.  I found several cells with two tiny c-shaped larvae in the bottom.  However, instead of a laying worker, we found the queen and watched her put her bottom in a cell to lay.

What this means is that the queen was barely mated.  She was mated enough to think she could lay but she must have only mated with a single drone, if that.  The bees weren't clustered around her in the package because she wasn't giving out queen pheromone and they didn't release her because of that as well.  Don said you couldn't tell by how they hung in the package, and said that I must have bumped the package.  I didn't - it's how the package looked when I got it from Don and also the next morning before I had touched it in any way.  Jerry Wallace, a well-respected local beekeeper, said that the bees weren't clustering around the queen cage in the package was a sign she wasn't mated.

When you purchase a package, if you get to pick it out yourself, you look for a package that has as few dead bees lying on the bottom of the package as you can.  Also since they are filled by estimate, look for one that is pretty full.  Now I know to look for how the bees are hanging in the package to make sure the queen is fully functioning.

Because there is no replenishment of the numbers in a hive that starts as a package, the number of bees is now greatly diminished and this formerly 3 pound package now only occupies a sparse three frames in the hive.  If the queen were properly mated and laying, this would not be an issue because she would have replacement brood and more ready to emerge by this point, but without any replacement bees, this hive is in jeopardy.  The remaining bees will not live for the three weeks it takes for the queen to lay brood and have it emerge.

I called Don and he questioned everything I had done with the hive.  He said I should have called him when the bees had not released the queen.  I didn't call him because once before I had purchased a queen from him; she had not been released and when I called him, he said, "Release her directly."  So rather than bother him, we just released her directly.

He said all of his queens were proven layers and that if I wanted him to replace the queen, I would have to catch the faulty queen and bring her back to him and then he would give me a queen - "I still have three or four," he said.  I said I thought he should give me some bees as well because the $95 I paid for the package is all for naught with no replacement brood at this point.  He said, "Bees are not guaranteed to live."

I told him that I have a hand tremor and that I have never picked up a queen.  He said with a tone filled with contempt, "You are a Master Beekeeper and don't know how to pick up a queen?"

When I went over to Jerry Wallace's house today, he lent me his queen clip and also told me how to "herd" the queen into a queen cage without having to pick her up, so I'll try that first tomorrow and then the queen clip if I can't "herd" her.

I have bought bees from Don for four years and spent a lot of money with him.  I have put him on our supplier list that we give out to new beekeepers (over 100 of them) who take our short course.  Every time anyone asks me where to get bees I recommend him highly.

No more.

I wish he had just said, "Gosh, I'm sorry, Linda.  With this cold beginning to the spring a lot of queens have been poorly mated.  Come by and get another one, no problem."  But instead he was angry that I was unhappy and seemed resentful that he would have to replace my queen.

I guess he would rather be angry at me and make a poor business decision in how he handled my problem instead of being nice and helpful to me, a steady customer who has sent him many, many customers.

I told him that in my business, we call what he was doing to me "blaming the victim," and he told me not to lecture him and to get another supplier.

But now that's done, as far as I am concerned.  I will not be giving out his name any more to anyone.  Julia and I are in charge of the MABA short course next year so I will remove his name, since he has essentially suggested that I do so, from our recommended suppliers.  I can't imagine a new beekeeper having to deal with what I had to deal with yesterday and today in my interaction with him.

Post Script:  Jerry Wallace has been in touch with a number of bee suppliers in south Georgia where Don's packages are raised.  Jerry reports that they tell him that many of the queens coming out of south Georgia as early queens are poorly mated because we have had such a cold March throughout the state.  Our winter months were not any of them as cold as the first three weeks of March were in Georgia.  So many of the queens who flew out were not able to mate as often or as well as they would need to in order to be a success in their hives.  I imagine I am not the only one who has called Don to say that the package they received from him had a bad queen.









Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Capturing a Swarm 2013

Today I was driving home from Rabun County and one of my friends, Patty Engstrom, called me.  She had a swarm of bees in her holly bush and wanted to see if I'd like to come get it.  My WAZE on my iPhone said I would be home by 10:22 so I told Patty I'd be at her house to get the swarm before 11:30.

The swarm was HUGE.  I had taken a banker's box rather than a nuc box because she had described it as about 15 inches tall and 12 inches wide.  It looked like a basketball with a witches cap on either end. But it was hot in Atlanta today so I started worrying about such a large swarm in a banker's box with #8 hardware cloth over each of the handle openings.

I laid down a sheet to catch any bees that missed the box and strategically placed the box directly under the swarm.  Patty lent me her shears to clip of the holly branches that were in the way.

The bees marched into the box to join the queen and were almost completely in the box about 30 minutes after shaking the branch.  Julia came over to meet me and brought me a screened top to put over the box so they wouldn't be so hot.  She also brought some sugar syrup spray - since in my hurry I left mine at home.

The swarm was so huge that it dislodged the hardware over one of the hand holds - so my car was full of loose bees as I drove home.  I installed it into a two box 8 frame hive because it was too large for one medium box.  Then I spent a long time brushing loose bees into a Tupperware pitcher and carrying them to the backyard to dump them into the hive!

The slide show is below for your enjoyment.  If you click directly on the slideshow, you'll be able to read the captions.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Follow-up on the Queenless Half of the Even Split

Today my grandkids and I stopped by Ron's house to see how the two queenless hives were doing.  Colony Square had a queen cell when we moved it, so now three weeks later, the queen should have emerged, mated, and started laying.  The other hive at Ron's is the queenless half of Lenox Pointe.  (The half with the queen went to Sebastian's house.)

I only had fifteen minutes, grandkids and Hannah, my dog, with me so I couldn't do an inspection.  I went and observed both hives and took the top off of both hives but didn't take out any frames.



















The hive on the left is Colony Square - you'll remember it as my most productive hive.  It's three years old and was moved from my old house.  When we moved it, we planned to split it but there was absolutely no brood as if the hive had swarmed or had some other problem.  We did find a queen cell - several of them - in the yellow box, so we moved the hive as a whole without splitting it.  The hive on the right is the queenless half of the even split of Lenox Pointe.  Both hives had bees flying in and out of them.

I didn't even take the time to light the smoker since I was not planning to pull any frames.  I took off the telescoping top and found what I found in both hives:  earwigs under the cover.



















I lifted the inner cover of Colony Square and found that, true to form for this hive even in a new location, the top box had evidence of new wax (look at the second frame)
and appeared to be full.  So I added a new box.  The nectar flow is beginning and I don't want to dampen their enthusiasm for making honey.








































I peeked into Lenox Pointe as well, but saw limited numbers of bees and it was clear that they had not used the top box at all.  There were less bees flying in and out as well, as you might expect from a queenless hive as its population dwindles, awaiting the emergence of a new queen.  If I had had my smoker and time, I would want to look into this hive although for a queenless hive, it's really about a week too early to look in and see if there's a queen evident yet.






































Both hives had bees bringing in pollen.  Since pollen is used for bee bread to feed larvae, it is often seen as evidence that the queen is laying, but I'm not sure of that in the second hive.

Next week I'll take the time to open Lenox Pointe and see if there's evidence that a queen emerged and is mated.  And when I do come to see this hive, I'll bring a frame of brood and eggs from one of my hives at home - perhaps the newly installed package - to add to this hive just in case.

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Impending Death of a Queen

This morning it's finally both warm and I'm in town AND I am off on Monday mornings, so Hive Inspection time.  I was very anxious to get into the drone layer hive and see what's going on.

I got out to the backyard to find that the bees in the Drone Layer hive were carrying out the bodies of drones, ripped out of their cells:



















So now I'm thinking something is going on and the drones are either ill or perhaps they have a new hygienic queen.

I wanted to open the hive, but when I took the top off, I found a ton of hive beetles.  Those of you who have heard/seen my hive inspection talk/slideshow (on right sidebar under Pages), know that my cure for the small hive beetle is SMASH THEM WITH YOUR HIVE TOOL.  So that's what I did.  The first photo shows the shiny little !!#$!@#$ and the second shows the smashed dead bodies.
















But then I opened the hive.  I started in the bottom box where there was pollen stored but no brood.  The last time I was in the hive, I saw (or thought I saw) eggs in the bottom box.  I worked my way up.

In the second box, I found the old queen.  She had a yellow dot on her thorax which means she is the original queen from the hive that was purchased as a nuc last year.  The yellow dot means she is a 2012 queen (yellow is the color for years ending in a "2") - the drone cells mean that she was indeed "short bred" and did not get mated well enough to justify selling her with the nuc that I bought.

The bees do not like her and are setting her up for her impending death.  I'm putting up several photos of her so you can see that they have chewed her wings.  I think they are about to push her out of the hive and with her wings destroyed, she will die.  I don't think they would do this or pull out the drone brood if they didn't have a new queen.





I know it's a lot of photos, but I thought this was fascinating....the impending murder of the queen....and it's by slow torture.  First they chew the wings, then they will cast her out to die in the elements - and she has been taken care of all her life.  What thanks does she get???

There was no brood in the hive.  But I found an opened queen cell, probably made from the frame that I put in the hive from Morningside.  So I think they have a new queen who is either out getting mated or is back from getting mated and isn't quite ready to start laying.



Since there was no worker brood, just for safety's sake, about 30 minutes after I closed up the hive the first time, I opened it up again and I added another frame of eggs into the hive from Morningside .

I think this hive feels hopeful as a group.  There hasn't been a good queen for quite a while but there were still a ton of workers in the hive as well as drones.

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