Welcome - Explore my Blog

I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I began my 12th year of beekeeping in April 2017. Now there are almost 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.

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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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Wax and Winter

Mostly in the winter I fool around with wax. I should be cleaning frames (or better yet, my basement), but instead, I find myself rustling up a batch of soap or making lip balm. Wax is my winter friend.

I just bought ripe avocados to make a soap recipe that the Soap Queen mentioned and must make it tonight or tomorrow while the avocado is not over-ripe.

Just to pique my curiosity, on the GBA Facebook page today, there is a link to an article about 17 uses of beeswax. I visited the page, of course, and just had to comment on her article. It is really good and includes wonderful, helpful links to pages and pages of adventures with beeswax.

Interestingly, she did not include soap making. Jeff and I are dedicated to putting beeswax into every soap we make. I changed the avocado soap recipe to include some beeswax. That's what lye calculators are for, you know! Here are two: Brambleberry's calculator and Majestic Mountain Sage's calculator. As any of you who make soap know, even recipes you find on the Internet should be run through a lye calculator before you make them and certainly if you change the recipe up at all, you should put it through one as well.

Speaking of recipes on the Internet, I plan to create a section on this blog for soap recipes, as someone asked for in a blogpost comment.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Winter, Summer, It's All the Same in Atlanta

OK, it's not unusual for me not to break out my winter coat until January and our worst winter months are February and early March. As a matter of fact, the two hardest snowstorms we have had the entire thirty-seven years I've lived in Atlanta were in March 1993 and in February 2014. In the March snowstorm the temperatures were in the teens and we had tons of snow (relatively speaking) and no power for over a week. In February 2014, I got home just fine in each of the two snowstorms two weeks apart, but many people were stranded on the Interstates since in Georgia we get layers of ice under the snow on the streets and driving is impossible.

But in all of those years, in November and December, while my winter coat remained in the closet, I would on many mornings put on my fleece jacket or vest. We did have one cold week here in 2015 during early December, but it only warranted a jacket in the early morning. By afternoon the temperature had risen up to the high 60s.

This Christmas week takes the cake. Yesterday the thermometer read 79.5 F - couldn't quite get to 80. I mean, really, it's DECEMBER.

So the bees are confused and this is bad news. Every day they are flying, using up energy and needing to consume their saved stores. There is an illusion among the hives that spring may already be springing - is the queen laying at her pre-spring rate? Or is she slowly increasing as of December 21 which is her usual procedure?

Right after the actual cold winter week, I saw evidence on one hive that they may have nosema.

















But that was several weeks ago and the bees in that nuc hive continue to fly as eagerly as the others.

I worry because I didn't feed my bees this year - I rarely do. Instead I harvested relatively little, leaving lots on each hive for the bees. The nuc in the photo and a sister nuc are from splits I made in late July after the nectar flow had long ceased. I gave each of those hives two jars of honey, harvested from another hive.

So in giving them that honey did I transfer nosema from the other hive to them?

I don't know, but we can only hope for the best.  I won't feed them anymore and cross my fingers that they make it through the winter. The two nuc overwintering hives are splits from my strongest survivor hive so hopefully they will have traits to endure their way through nosema or whatever else the varroa mite dishes out over the "winter," such as it is!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Making soap is lots of fun!

Last January my sister and I took a class in soap making at the John Campbell Folk School. It was a weekend class and we had a great time and learned a lot. We also made a lot of soap in that weekend.
  
I immediately came home, ordered supplies and then looked at them for so long that by the time I got around to making soap six months later, I had to relearn the process.....but boy, is it fun. And making soap is a useful way to employ beeswax.

Beeswax in soap makes the soap harder and causes it to last longer. My recipe that I have finally settled on for now includes both beeswax and palm kernel oil flakes to harden the soap. The soap is full of shea butter and when one uses this soap, it softens, rather than dries, one's skin.

My daughter is an attorney and she ordered gift bags from Linda T's Bees as thank you gifts for her referral sources. We put soap, lip balm, lotion bars, and honey in each bag. I got to make lots of fun soaps for the project.

   

 

I made pumpkin soap colored with paprika and with an exfoliant of poppy seeds; then I made basil/rosemary soap, oatmeal honey soap, cocoa swirl soap, honey/chamomile soap, dirt and basil soap, chocolate chip cookie soap, cucumber mint soap, green tea soap, and vanilla oatmeal soap. I have loved making soap. I just found a recipe for fresh carrot soap and want to make that as well as avocado soap with fresh avocados (like bathing in guacamole?). I even ordered avocado oil to use in that soap.

I've bought silicone soap molds, have used cardboard milk cartons (as we did in the Folk School) and have just had so much fun.

If you have any beeswax from your bee year, this is a great use for it. You do have to melt and filter the beeswax and weigh it precisely to make this all come together well.

Some helpful hints:

1. You have to melt some of the oils in order to use them. The last thing one wants to happen is for the oil to turn over and spill, so I have put a cotton placemat in the dutch oven filled with hot water to keep the plastic bottle upright.


2. There are all kinds of silicone pans that one can use - this is a silicone bread pan from Target:


3. After you make soap, it has to cure for three weeks. Another great use for the queen excluder:



Try it, you'll like it. (Note: this is cold process soap made with lye)


Monday, December 07, 2015

The Thing about Keeping a Blog This Long is that I start to Repeat Myself!

So today and yesterday have been warm December days in Atlanta. At night we've had temperatures in the 30s but in the day, the temperature rises into the high 60s. My neighborhood is crawling with men digging mysterious holes in the area between the sidewalks and the streets. Rumor has it that Google is putting in the wiring for Google Internet - look out Comcast and AT&T. (I, for one, will be running to Google the minute it is available.)

Despite the loud racket of the digging and the numbers of cars and people, at one corner of my neighborhood is a Fatsia Japonica covered with flying insects (this was established in a blog post in 2011 - see how I am repeating myself?) Honey bees are all over the flowers on this shrub which is just starting to bloom.

There are 4000 species of bee in the United States. At least eight of those species were frantically visiting this plant when my dog Hannah and I walked by it today. I am disturbed by all the digging, but the bees appear not to care about Google and their industrious venture in my neighborhood.

I only had my phone so if you want to see good photos, revisit my post from 2011. Only the second photo actually shows a bee, but they were all over the shrub, I promise. Since the shrub is the only blooming plant in the area, it is a very popular place.





Sunday, December 06, 2015

Piedmont Park opens an Apiary

Atlanta's Piedmont Park lies right in the heart of the city and is a place where people walk, run, and play. Festivals are held there; is available in the park each Saturday; an interactive fountain in which my grandchildren like to play offers water that sprays in sync.


I live close enough that I walk my dog there almost daily. In the park, there is a model orchard and garden. This year they added an apiary.







(my granddaughter Lark playing in the fountain)




Atlanta's Botanical Garden is attached to Piedmont Park, extending the green space in the city even further. The Botanical Garden has had bees for years and has an observation hive in the children's garden. But Piedmont Park itself has been without an apiary.

I'm sure my own bees feast on the flowers in the park and at the Botanical Garden since both are within a mile of my house and apiary.

The Northwood Garden Club sponsored the new apiary and in honor of the ribbon cutting, they invited me to come to their meeting to introduce them to bees and beekeeping. I talked to them and showed a PowerPoint I have called: Meet the Bee. Then we all went to the new apiary for the ribbon cutting.


Beekeepers Mary Yetter and Bob Hassenritter. Mary is a new beekeeper and Bob has kept bees for several years now. They installed these bees late in the season (August) which means the bees missed the nectar flow. They are feeding the bees with inboard feeders. It was nice to meet Bob who is a member of Coweta beekeepers and reads this blog!!!


The Rotary Club and the Northwood Garden Club sponsored the apiary so the presidents of each of those organizations shared the scissors to cut the ribbon, officially opening the apiary.


Mary and Bob talked a little about the bees. I was so proud of the Northwood garden club members who were able to answer some questions accurately since they had just heard my talk.


Here are the two hives, surrounded by fencing to protect onlookers from getting too close. The Georgia Beekeepers Association has a goal of getting bees in the state parks around the state, but here we have bees in a city park in Atlanta.



Apology and Explanation

Dear people who follow my blog,

I have been silent for several months and wanted to offer an apology. I am a clinical psychologist in real life when I am not a beekeeper. I am approaching retirement in a couple of weeks and this fall has really been a time full of saying good-bye to people I have known and worked with, often for years.

So my energy has been pulled away from writing on this site to saying good-bye.

Then in the middle of that process my 93-year-old mother died. It was sudden and although she was 93, she lived on her own and was in relatively good health, so that has also pulled me away from thinking about writing about my bee work and fun with bee stuff in general.

So I plan to get back to writing about my love and fun with bees starting today and wanted any of you who have been concerned to understand my long absence.

Warmly,

Linda T


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Only two days left to sign up for GBA Conference to hear Michael Bush, Dean Stiglitz, and Dewey Caron

On September 12, the rate for the GBA conference in Milledgeville on September 18 and 19 goes up to $75 a person. Sign up TODAY to get the discounted rate of $60. The conference has a great program, great speakers, a honey show, an auction of bee-related products, and much more. You get lunch both days at the conference, have a chance to hang out with like-minded beekeepers, and visit all of our vendors' booths.

Come one, come all. Sign up today - even if you are not a member of GBA, signing up as a nonmember buys you not only the conference but also the newsletter for the next year!

How can you do anything but win.

Hear Michael Bush in person - rarely in the Southeast.

To sign up, click here.  To see the program, click here. To join GBA before you sign up, click here. (It's a bargain: $15 a year for an individual membership; $25 a year for a family membership).

See you in Milledgeville!

Monday, August 10, 2015

At long last here is the program for the GBA Fall Conference on September 18-19

We welcome GBA members and nonmembers alike! To register, click here.

Julia and I are part of the meeting committee and have really worked hard to plan a good meeting. We are proud to have Michael Bush, Dewey Caron and Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer as nationally known speakers as well as a host of other good speakers and breakout presenters.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Mr. Holmes: A Poem on Film

This afternoon I went to see Mr. Holmes, a beautiful poem of a film that is acted well and just lovely. I appreciate Ian McKellen as both an actor and a beekeeper. The scenes of the beekeeping are well done. The bees look great and Mr. Holmes even gets to use his powers of deduction in his apiary.

I wanted to put a photo of him in his beekeeping garb but couldn't find one. Sad, because it was fun to see him in his veil and with his half gloves.

Generally it's a movie about aging and decline of the mental faculties and it does it gloriously in a beautiful place with bees. And when they add they little boy who learns to be a beekeeper in the process of the movie, I just fell in love!

At least seven people have told me that I have to see this, so I will say to all of you - go and see it - beautifully shot beekeeping scenes, not to mention a quite good movie.

Here is a write-up about it.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Upcoming GBA Fall Conference - Michael Bush, Dewey Caron, Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer

Julia and I have been working really hard on the meeting committee to plan to the GBA fall conference on September 18 and 19 in Milledgeville, Georgia. We are thrilled with our speaker line-up. Michael Bush is coming as well as Dewey Caron and even Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer, authors of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping.

Below you'll find the latest issue of Spilling the Honey - the GBA newsletter that I edit with Gina Gallucci. All the details of our fall conference, the main speakers, the breakouts, the honey show, etc. can be found there.

Please plan to come - we will be glad to see you!


Monday, July 20, 2015

New Take on the Solar Wax Melter - Trying Something Different

I've got a lot of wax to melt and have been feeling a little frustrated with the solar wax melter method I am currently using. I hate wasting all of those paper towels and you can only do a little at a time with the Tupperware, the paper towel, the rubberband, etc.

So wandering around Youtube, I found another solar wax melter, fancier than my version below, but based on the same idea. I quickly went past the video and haven't been able to find it again, but thanks to whoever provided this idea.

I went to the grocery store and bought aluminum 8X10 cake pans with about 2 inch sides. I took the handy awl I have in my toolkit - don't ask - it's the influence of my father in my childhood and his ideas of what one should have in a tool box. I may have never used it before. I used it to punch holes in the bottom of one end of the cake pan.



I also bought some plastic rectangular boxes and filled the boxes about one inch or so deep with water. I took my reliable on stand-by styrofoam beer coolers and placed a plastic water-filled box in each of them. The box was too large to go all the way down to the bottom but was large enough that it supported itself against the walls of the styrofoam cooler.

Then I put the aluminum pans at a slant in the cooler above the water filled plastic box. I made sure the end with the awl-punched holes was on the lower end of the slant.

I filled the aluminum pans with dry wax particles.


Then I covered the cooler with its pane of glass cover and left them to sit in the sun. Oh, and I lifted the high end up a little with an empty frame as support.


At the end of the day, the wax had melted and gone through the holes to float on the water below; the slum gum was all black and yucky, and I had lost no wax to a paper towel.




I have been using this for about a week now and have melted a lot of wax. Here's what I have gotten from my efforts so far.


Advantages of this melter:

1. Larger quantities of wax can be processed at a time.
2. No loss of wax to the paper towel filter.
3. The wax is quite clean and shows no need for a filter - all the slum gum stays in the aluminum pan. The water works beautifully as it did in my old melter for providing a surface on which the wax can float.
4. The wax is often in small bits from dripping through the holes - this will be easier to measure for soap and lip balm than having to melt the huge wax block before measuring (that's what's in the small plastic bags in the bucket - small bits of wax)

Disadvantages of this melter:

1. I believe the aluminum pans will have to be replaced after ten or twelve runs
2. At the end of the day, when the sun is no longer beating down, the slum gum hardens to the bottom of the aluminum pan. I've had to put the slum gum pans in the melter for a couple of hours the next day and then wipe them out with paper towels before they are available to use again.
3. The above task requires a pot holder because the pan is so hot and it's nasty to wipe out the slum gum...yuck.
4. Costs from scratch about $15 - $18 to make because the aluminum pans were not cheap...$6 for the styrofoam cooler, $5 for the aluminum pans, cost of glass pane will vary. The other solar wax melter cost about $10 total but melts much less wax and is more bother.







Thursday, July 09, 2015

Growing a Greener World

Last year I spent a good bit of time driving up and back to Milton, Georgia, home of Joe Lamp'l, the producer and star of Growing a Greener World. The irony is that Joe's wonderful show is seen on PBS in almost all the states except Georgia and Alaska, but Joe lives here in Georgia on a beautiful organic farm north of Atlanta.

His sixth season started with the episode that I helped him with on becoming a beekeeper.

Here's a link to the episode.

He visited my beeyard earlier in the year.  That resulted in a small piece of another beekeeping show he did.

We had quite an adventure through the year and I was so honored to be asked to be a part of Joe's good work in the organic gardening that he does and the influence that he has.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Rabun County Bee Status Report

Since I am up here for the Fourth of July holiday, I went over to check on the bees at Robin's house. The sourwood is blooming up here.  It started early this year and is about in the middle of its bloom.  I fully expected the bees to be bringing in tons of nectar.

We are not planning to harvest from this hive this year. Starting so late, our best hope is that the bees can collect enough honey to make it through the winter.

There were plenty of bees coming in and out of the hive, but also asparagus greenery in front of the hive so it's hard to see any bees in this photo - trust me, they were there!


The first thing I did was to kill a black widow spider who had built her web and laid eggs inside the top cover.  I frequently have found black widows in the inside of the top cover - this is at least the fifth one in the last two years. (You can't see her in the photo but can see the remnants of her web.

Upon opening the hive, I found beautiful straight comb and the bees were making good use of what they had. In this comb they were storing nectar:


In these two shots the honeycomb is full of eggs - just look at how active this good queen is!



Since I live over 100 miles from this hive, I decided to leave them with a fourth box even though they had barely started using the third box. It is the height of the sourwood flow and if they don't use the box for nectar, it will help with ventilation. I did not put a ladder frame into the hive because there wasn't one available in the box below, so we'll just hope for the best.

Truly my car was not parked on top of the hive, but it does look rather strange!  I'll be back in a few weeks to check on this hive and probably to steal one frame of sourwood honey!

As I drove back to the mountain house, I was struck by the beauty of the roadside blooming weeds that serve the bees so well in the country.  There was an abundance of Queen Anne's lace, bright orange butterfly weed (a member of the milkweed family which bees love), and black-eyed Susans.



Aren't they lovely? The sad thing for bees today is that when you aren't in the country as I am now, the sides of the road are not full of flowering weeds. 









Monday, June 22, 2015

Mark Winston's Manifesto

I was lucky enough to hear Mark Winston in the spring of 2014.  He is the author of the Biology of the Honey Bee that I and many others studied for Master Beekeeper.  He writes essays on his blog and his essay today just blew my mind.

Please go and read every single word of it.

I hope to have the opportunity to hear him in person again soon.  He has some good YouTube videos:





Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Now THIS is a Beard

This hive started from a package that I got from Jarrett Apiaries at the beginning of bee season.

I got home in the 90 degree June (??? - feels like August) Atlanta evening and found this hive looking like:


And when I went around to the back, there were even more bees consigned to the outside of the hive!

This is a HUGE hive and I have not opened up the screened bottom board.  I haven't done that for the last two summers.  But for this hive, I may have to.

I wanted to give them room to spread out inside the hive but it was 8 PM when I got home.  So I went out and put on two empty boxes - undrawn frames - just to give them some hangout room inside the hive.  (This hive has a slatted rack at the bottom.)

I carefully moved the top to avoid upsetting the bee beard at the back and gently put those girls on the inner cover.  Still it was hard to find a handhold.  I only got stung once in this whole maneuver, though, on the ball of my thumb.  I put the two empty boxes on and closed the hive up.

One bee seemed interested in the salty sweat on my hand:



However, as night fell, the beard was hardly disturbed and no bees appeared to go inside. I expect the space needs to be distributed throughout the hive for them to take advantage of the extra boxes I gave them. 


After a hot night, the beard was only slightly smaller this morning, but there were no bees bearding at the back of the hive.  I'll put some beer caps on the inner cover to lift it up a little and that might help as well.


The nectar flow is over and it's time to harvest and make splits. I'm not certain about this hive because at Jarrett Apiaries, they use oxalic acid, so this hive may not be able to deal with varroa mite on its own.  Still, it's such a strong hive that I will make some overwintering nucs from it for the winter.  

I'll have my work cut out for me for the next couple of weekends!






Monday, June 15, 2015

Deep Dilemma

My hive in Rabun county died. Robin Line with whom I play Words with Friends wrote me a note on our ongoing game to tell me that there had been a pesticide kill and all the bees were dead.  He told me he had removed a large pile of bees from in front of the hive and that there had been no activity. They had sprayed Roundup on part of their garden to get rid of weeds and the next day the bees were dead.

He was sick about it and got a late spring nuc to replace the bees so I went up to the farm and installed them. I took apart the dead hive and felt just ill to see the thousands of dead bees inside the hive on the screened bottom board:


So I dumped the bees out and started over.  As I drove from Atlanta (leaving all my equipment behind except for two medium boxes), I started to remember that the new hive would be housed in a deep nuc.

Oh, no.  I didn't bring a deep with me and I couldn't remember what had happened to the deep I had up in the mountains for one of the two hives I had last year.  Perhaps I had taken it back to Atlanta.  If I were lucky, maybe it would be in the basement in my house in Rabun county, but I didn't remember exactly storing it there.  Although as I thought about it, I began to convince myself that of course it would be in the mountain house basement.

Then I decided that it wasn't there and that I had taken it home to Atlanta.  Worried about this and unable to listen to my book on tape for the thoughts in my head, I called Julia to confer about what I might do.  Suppose I didn't have a deep?  There were two hives up at the farm last year and I had left a two box medium hive and a three box medium hive which was the one that survived the winter (then killed by Roundup).

We talked about maybe I could put two medium boxes (empty) one on top of the other and put the deep frames in the top of the two boxes.  The bees would build comb extending from the bottom of the deep frames into the remaining about 3 inches but that would be OK.  So that was what I decided to do...make a make-shift Warre hive.

I stopped at the mountain house and sure enough, no deep hive in the basement.  I arrived at Robin's farm about noon.  I stopped by the barn where I had left a box and lo and behold, it was the deep from last year.

Problem solved.


I installed the hive into the deep and put two medium boxes on top of that with some drawn comb in each one.

This hive will collect honey to make it through the winter but we will not harvest from it.  The sourwood hasn't started blooming yet in N Georgia (although it may have begun about now) and they can gather nectar from it for the winter.

Cross your fingers that this hive survives and thrives!


Monday, June 01, 2015

Video of a Queen Moving Around the Hive

This talented photographer/beekeeper, Anand Varma, has made this video of the queen moving around the hive. He attached a fluorescent marker to the queen's back and shot this in black light in the hive. On my computer, at first it looked like the video wasn't actually posted, so be patient if it takes a moment or two to load. Since Mr. Varma is allowing people to embed his video in their websites, I wanted all of you to see it:

I wanted to show how a queen bee moves around her hive so I attached a fluorescent marker to her back and made a time lapse of her walking around under black lights.

Posted by Anand Varma - Photographer on Friday, May 15, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

WABE and **Me** - a Conversation about Allergies and Honey

Our local public radio station, WABE 90.1 FM, sent reporter, Michelle Wirth, over to my house to interview me and to look at and listen to my backyard hives. She spent a good part of last Thursday afternoon over with my hives and me.

As the day went on, she got more and more comfortable with my bees. In the end, I had to bake cookies for our MEETUP meeting that night and left her with the bees to tape sounds of the hive. She had gotten so comfortable with them that, wearing a jacket and veil, she was right up beside the hive surrounded by thousands of foragers coming home!

Here's the link to the radio show and about ten photos that her photographer took while they were here.

TED Talks on Bees

Here are all I could find:

Anand Varma
Marla Spivak:

Noah Wilson-Rich

Dennis VanEnglesdorp

John Miller



Dino Martins



Bees and Hexagons

Monday, May 18, 2015

Queen Problems in the hive

I checked on my doubly caught swarm today.  They apparently had a poorly mated queen who was laying spotty brood and lots of drones. So a month ago I gave them the resources to make a new queen.

Today I checked to see if they had made a queen and gotten rid of the bad one.

No is the answer to that question.


She has a terrible spotty brood pattern.  I gave this hive a great frame of brood and eggs but they did not successfully supercede this queen or perhaps there wasn't an egg suitable or they didn't see the need.

To keep resources available for my hives, I keep a nuc in my backyard apiary.  I made it with frames of brood and eggs from both of my strong survivor hives.  Today when I looked into it, they have a good queen, are drawing straight comb (another sign of good genetics) and have spare brood and eggs.


At first glance this may not look like a blue ribbon frame to you, but it certainly does to me.  There are eggs in almost every empty looking cell on the right side of this frame.  It will be perfect to steal from this hive and move to the community garden double caught swarm hive.

Maybe this time they will find a suitable egg and supercede the failing/pitiful queen. 

My backyard hives are all doing well.  The two packages that I got from Jarrett Apiaries are thriving but the bees in both hives are terrible cross-comb builders.  I tried today to influence them to build their comb straighter.  Most likely their worst boxes I'll put lower in the hives for them to have over the winter and then remove them next year, if they live through the winter.

All of my backyard hives, including the nuc, needed added boxes today, which I happily gave them. 

I'll let you know how the double swarm hive deals with the frame of brood and eggs.

  

Tom Webster, Heat and Nosema

I heard Tom Webster speak on Wednesday night at the local bee club meeting. Dr. Webster is at Kentucky State University and focuses his research on nosema.



He had slides to show how nosema lives as a parasite in the bee's gut. The spore of nosema sends out a tube which finds purchase in the wall of the bee gut lining and embeds itself. Nosema really messes up the bee's digestion then and eventually, if nosema gets the best of her, she dies from lack of nutrition since her digestive system is compromised.

I had a hive which is one of my survivor hives who appeared to have nosema over the winter. When the bees went on cleansing flights, the hive was covered with brown streaks of bee feces. I was sure they would die since I was not treating with anything. But when spring came, the hive has survived and is making honey like crazy as we speak.

Dr. Webster said that without lab proof, there's not a sure diagnosis and sometimes bees get diarrhea for other reasons, but also the presence of diarrhea/nosema does not always mean the hive will die.

Essentially he said the best way to address nosema is to get rid of old wax. He didn't say keep old comb for five years like UGA is now saying. He said GET RID OF OLD WAX.

I raised my hand and said that I have been cutting out the old wax and then dipping the frames in boiling water for 1 minute. When the frame is pulled out of the stewpot, the thin layer of melted wax on the top of the water coats the frame as it comes out. I wanted to know if that wax would still contain microbes for nosema.

Interestingly Dr. Webster said that heat will kill microbes so the boiling water should do them in, while freezing frames would just suspend the microbe. Once removed from the freezer and returned to room temperature, the nosema microbe would be alive and happy.

Since we often recommend freezing cut comb and chunk honey to kill wax moth eggs which might be in the wax, I found that really interesting.

Cold will kill eggs of bugs but will not kill microbes.

Heat kills.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Note: Feedback I got from a reader makes me want to write a little clarification as an addendum to this post:

When you make cut comb honey or chunk honey, you always freeze it so that your friend/customer doesn't open the jar or box to find wax moth larvae floating in their honey. Freezing the product kills the insect eggs. Obviously you can't heat either of these products or all the wax would be melted.

However, when you are cleaning frames, boiling water kills everything in the wax: wax moths, eggs of whatever might have been in the comb (roaches, wax moths, SHB), and microbes for nosema.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Slatted Rack and the Empty Bottom Box in Early Spring

Every spring in most of my colonies, the bees have moved up in the hive and when I open the hive for the first time, there is nothing going on in the bottom box.


I keep a slatted rack on all of my colonies and this serves at least two purposes. I say "at least" because I'm sure there are other ideas than mine on what the slatted rack does. As you can see in the photo above, the slatted rack is simply a box about 2 inches deep fitted with slats that parallel the frames in the hive boxes. If the slats parallel the frames, and if you are using a screened bottom board, varroa mites fall through the cracks and through the SBB. If the slats run 90 degrees, then the varroa mite might bounce on a slat and not fall through the SBB.

Note: the photo above is an adapted slatted rack in that the slatted rack is for a 10 frame hive and my boxes are eight frame, so I have put a board above the unused two slats and put an eight frame box above that, but ideally the slatted rack is the same size as the hive. I just hated not to use the available 10 frame and that's the only photo I could find this morning!

First the slatted rack gives the bees somewhere to hang out in the hot summer. In the heat of Atlanta summers, the slatted rack cuts down on hive bearding. The slatted rack helps keep the brood from being chilled. And secondly, because the slatted rack provides a layer between the hive entrance and the bottom box, the cold air coming in through the entrance doesn't immediately chill the brood. As a result in the brood frames, the queen often builds brood from end bar to end bar instead of the usual football shaped pattern.

In the spring in Atlanta, the nights can be pretty cool. This spring we had a particularly cool-night laden spring, with night temps often in the 40s. In my survivor hives, over the winter the bees move up in the boxes. Partly this is to orient the cluster to the food sources so they can live.

However, in every hive when I open it for spring for the first time, there is no brood in the bottom box. There are some exceptions. My nuc hive was only building brood in the bottom box but it was not on a screened bottom board and was in a solid nuc box. In the other hives the bees were up at least two boxes and the queen was building her early brood there.



While my first thought was to remove the empty box to give me the convenience of being able to clean out the old wax, I re-thought it and left the empty box on at the bottom. After all, with no bees in it and these cool nights, the empty box and the slatted rack together should give the bees more protection from the air and allow the brood to thrive.

When I consolidate the box for winter, I will remove the box and clean out the wax in the frames, but for now, I will let it act with the slatted rack as an insulator. Now that we are deep into the nectar flow, I only check my hives for the need for a new box, so I have no need to go all the way down to the bottom box. We'll see what leaving the empty bottom box on this bee season does for my hives.


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Genetic Consciousness at Work

Today I checked the hives at Stonehurst Place (doing fabulously well) and my backyard hives.  The Stonehurst hives each needed a new box - we've had great weather throughout May after the wettest April in years and years.

The bees are having a great opportunity to bring in nectar.

When I checked my backyard hives, I was particularly interested in the nuc split I had made several weeks ago.  They appear to be doing fine, but I didn't want to go into their bottom box in case I might destroy a queen cell about to emerge.

Michael Bush says it never hurts to add a frame of brood and eggs to a hive when you have any question about the queen.  So I have taken that approach with this nuc.  I made the nuc because it's good to have a nuc in your bee yard as a resource - it can provide bees or eggs or a boost to any hive in your yard once it is established.

I am trying to be conscious of genetics.  So this year I have only added frames of brood and eggs from hives that survived the winter and did not bow to the dreaded varroa vectored diseases.  So I took a frame of brood and eggs from my survivor neighborhood swarm hive from last year and added it to the nuc hive.  This is the second frame of brood and eggs I've added to the nuc.  The first frame came from the nuc hive that overwintered (now in a full sized hive).

The nuc hive is a medium nuc, currently consisting of two boxes.  I added the frame to the upper box so as not to disturb any event in the bottom box.  I think the added work force will help the nuc and the eggs on the frame will give them the ability to make a queen if they have not yet been successful with that endeavor.

Whatever queen they make, she will come from survivor stock since both hives where I have pulled frames of eggs survived the winter.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Protecting the Community Garden Beehives

For several years now I have had hives at the Morningside Community Garden, within walking distance from my house.  On three occasions, I have visited the hives to find something awry.  Once the entire top was off of the hive - inner cover and top cover and both were on the ground about 16 feet away at the bottom of the hill on the top of which the hives are located.

Once recently I was out of town over the weekend and when I came back the top cover was off of the one hive there at the time.  The bees were tightly circled around the hole in the inner cover.  It had rained over the weekend - not a lot, but some.  More rain was coming that night.  The top cover was leaning against the hive as if a human had removed it.

Every time this happens, I try to blame the weather.  Maybe the top covers blew off, etc.  This most recent time did not in any way look rain related.  I figured some teenager took a bet that he/she could take the top off of the hive.  Then he/she was stung and ran off, not interested in repairing the injury to the hive.

So I first put big stones on top of the hive assuming that the wind would be rendered powerless:


Then I ordered on Amazon this garden flag which is really cute but keeps getting blown off of its flag holder.  Today I'm taking safety pins over to secure it!



Maybe the rocks will deter the wind and the sign will discourage the vandals!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Swarm Hive Intervention

In Atlanta this year we have had a record-setting 53 days of rain.  It rained on April 8 and 9.  Then Atlanta tied a 1980 record with rain for eight straight days from April 12 - 19.

Now in the beekeeper's mind, this has lots of consequences.  First the tulip poplar began to bloom during that period.  Frequently after the many stormy days and nights, I've seen this on the ground:


A tulip poplar bloom on the ground (and there are many) is not providing nectar for the bees.

The swarm I captured twice on April 7 was the third swarm issued by the originating hive. That means the queen was a virgin. And what does a virgin queen have to do when she finds her new home with the secondary (or in this case tertiary) swarm? She has to fly out and mate.

The odds of her mating successfully or well are slim with the constant rain.

This weekend, almost three weeks since the swarm was hived, my daughter and I went up to see the bees. I noticed that the bees in the hive I made from a split of a Mountain Sweet Honey hive that survived the winter were flying in and out with pollen, but the bees in the swarm hive were not.

I started worrying that the queen might have been short-bred or not mated at all.

Today I went up and opened the hive. I had with me a frame of brood and eggs from my neighborhood hive that overwintered successfully. I had wrapped the frame in a warm towel from the dryer because I wanted the eggs to stay warm.

I opened the hive and found bees and comb, but no queen activity in the bottom box. At this point I put in the frame of brood and eggs. 

In the second box also no bee activity - drawn comb that I had given them but nothing was being stored in it. There were many bees in this box. 

The third box had mostly drone brood with a few worker cells. I think the queen was poorly mated. The bees weren't even bringing in nectar, almost as if they knew they were doomed. 

I hope the frame of brood and eggs will give them a new lease on life. I'll add a frame of brood and eggs each week now until they have a successful queen in the hive.

The other hive, the split from Ray and Julie's Mountain Sweet Honey bees, was doing really well. Their new queen had successfully mated and there were eggs, brood, pollen and honey in that hive. The comb they were drawing was lovely and I have high hopes for that hive.



If you zoom in on this photo you can see many eggs in the open cells below the pollen.

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