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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 18th year of beekeeping in April 2023. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. 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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Friday, February 28, 2014

The Wonder of a First Spring Opening: Bustling Bees

Last weekend (the 23rd) I opened my backyard hive for the first time.  This hive has regularly with the warmer days between our frigid January weeks brought out seemingly tons of dead.  The pile beside the hive grew mountainous on each warm day.....and I worried.

Were these bees diseased?  Why were so many being carried out dead.

Well, I got my answer when I opened the hive that went into winter in four medium eight frame boxes - there are thousands and thousands of bees in the very busy hive.

The queen had been working hard - this was one of a number of frames that were end bar to end bar filled with capped brood.  Billy Davis would say that this is medium biscuit - dark biscuit brood which means the bees will emerge really soon.  I believe she laid most of these in the week between our snows when it was still icy cold in Atlanta.

I took this photo from one end to the other to show you how close to the end bar she lays the brood.  In many hives with a slatted rack, this is often the case.  I think the slatted rack puts an obstacle between the entry and the brood, allowing the queen to use the space fully, without the brood getting chilled.

This hive had plenty of honey in reserve.  This was one of many frames.

In the top box, they were bringing in and storing new nectar.  I am not feeding these bees, nor any of my bees, but this must be from the red maple or another early blooming plant in the area.

These overwintered bees look pretty fat and pretty healthy.

If you click on this picture to view it larger, you'll notice that these are large cells.  In these cells are eggs which means that drones will be raised here.  Also you'll see a number of small hive beetles who overwintered with the bees.  Next weekend I'll put on a beetle jail or two or three.

I saw brood in all stages in all three of the lower boxes.  Interestingly, the newest eggs and larvae were in the bottom box.  In the top box where the newer wax was (the last few photos), there were some drone eggs and some newly stored nectar.  I have high hopes for this hive.

Next weekend I'll check again and will either checkerboard boxes 3 and 4 or add a new box and checkerboard boxes 3 and 4.  I don't want this strong hive to swarm and their natural inclination will be to do so, but with the eggs I saw, I expect we won't have drones flying until the third week of March, at best.  Since swarms can't happen without drones, I should have another week to spread out the space in the hive.


  1. Hi Linda, I am knew to reading your blog and a soon-to-be beekeeper. Quick question: What do you mean when you say "checkerboarding"? Thanks and looking forward to learning from you.

  2. Hi Linda, On that second photo, I'm seeing some sunken brood on the right side. Or am I (hopefully) mistaken?

  3. I think it's just the perspective and the camera lens. All the brood looked fine.

    Checkerboarding is from Walt Wright. You can read about it here: http://www.knology.net/~k4vb/all%20walt%20articles.htm

    His theory in small is that the queen needs the illusion that they are not crowded and have plenty of brood laying room to avoid swarming. To that end when the hive is bound by a crown of honey (a box full of honey above the brood), then the queen won't go above that honey to lay. So Walt does checkerboarding in which he takes every other frame of honey and moves it to the box above and fills in the empty space below with an empty frame. This gives a checkerboard arrangement to the two boxes and the bees feel an expansion of the brood nest is a possibility.

    1. Thank you so much for that very clear explanation!

  4. Hi Bev, On looking at the photo again, I think you are right that the cappings of some of the brood are sunken on the right side. We had severe weather (snow and below average cold temperatures) in Atlanta on January 28 and then again on Feb 12. The color of these cappings is about medium biscuit (as per Billy Davis) and would mean these bees were laid between the two snows or maybe even the week of the second snow and 2 degree weather. Probably the brood on the right side died with the cold - that side of the hive faces the coldest side of my yard. I would expect the bees to clean out that brood, but the rest of the frame looks healthy and good.


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