Welcome - Explore my Blog

I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I began my 15th year of beekeeping in April 2020. 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.

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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Sunday, April 26, 2020

MapMyDCA.com and my friend Julia

My friend and beekeeping buddy, Julia Mahood, is a multi-talented woman. Among other things, she designed the license plate now sported by lots of Georgia cars; she was beekeeper of the year for GBA in 2018; and she is a Master Beekeeper. She, her son Noah, and I went together to Lithuania on a beekeeping tour back in 2013.

Always up for becoming an even better beekeeper, she is working on her Master Craftsman level of certification. The focus of her research for this is the drone bee. She has developed a citizen science website for mapping where the drone congregation areas are throughout the world. If you know where one is or are just interested in drones and their behavior, you'd enjoy her website.

So imagine my delight when wallowing in the middle of the depression of social isolation and never seeing anyone I care about in person, Julia suggested that I meet her in a field where she is catching and marking drones. It would be easy to do that and stay six feet apart!

I believe the way it works is she is interested in how often drones who don't "get lucky" return to the same DCA. She catches drones, marks them in a color representing this DCA, releases them and returns another day to see how many of her painted drones she catches a second time.

On this day, she was using a helium weather balloon for catching the drones.



The helium weather balloon is about a yard in diameter if not a little larger and flies high above the trees. If you look at the photo of Julia holding the balloon down at a lower height, you can see the trap hanging about ten feet below the balloon. The trap has a velcro part at the top where the drones can't escape.

Julia told me that drones only have enough fuel to fly for thirty minutes before they need to be back in the hive for more honey (fuel). So she flies her balloon for about five minutes at a time and takes three minutes or so to mark the drones before releasing them and sending them on their way.

In the photo below, if you look closely, you can see lots of little black dots, all of which are the comet of drones trailing the trap. The trap is baited with queen lure hanging in it (which entices the drones). I am sure the little black dots are all drones - Atlanta air in the pandemic is remarkably clean because there are no cars on the road since everyone is staying home!


Once back on the ground, Julia takes the drones out of the trap one at a time; marks their backs with a permanent red marker and releases them. At another nearby DCA, she uses a yellow marker. So if she sees her red-marked drones in the yellow district, she knows that the red-painted drone frequents more than one DCA.



It was interesting to look closely at the netting of the trap - it's a wide netting and very soft, unlike what I have seen in fabric stores. 


At the end of the whole process (Julia has found that she catches the most drones in the 4PM - 5PM time slot), she puts the balloon in her car and drives home very carefully because the balloon is so BIG that the hatchback will not fully close!


Julia's project has made me much more interested in the drones in my hive and more curious about their behavior in general.









Inspection of the Community Garden Hives April 24, 2020

On April 24, I videoed an inspection of the three hives at the community garden. In this time of COVID-19, we can't do gathering around the hives to inspect and this is a way to share how an inspection might go with new and old beekeepers.

I have bad timing for these videos. Most of the time, it's windy on the hill, but this time we were plagued with yard guys - incredibly noisy yard guys! First Jeff and I went to the garden to put on the robber screens and the Georgia Power people were weed whacking the garden. They stood to get their photos with us doing our bee work in the background.

Then several days later, I went to the garden to video the actual inspection. This time the yard guys from the house next door began loud leaf blowers or weed whackers as soon as I opened the hive. ARGHHH.

When I show these videos to the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers, we do it in a Zoom meeting with lots of questions and interaction. So far I haven't recorded the meetings. Maybe I should but for now,
here's the video:

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Attention: The Queen has Arrived

For four years, I have been the beekeeper at SPARK Elementary School in Atlanta. It's a public school with an amazing para-pro, Meghan M, who has a beautiful organic garden and teaches the children all about nature. She helps them grow plants, teaches them about the bees, and is very creative in the ways she explains nature to them in active, hands-on ways.

Over the past winter, we lost both beehives and I was really upset because the bees had survived treatment free for so long and the hives were about seven years old. We set the hives up with swarm lure and crossed our fingers while we waited for two nucs that we ordered.

Then before time to pick up the nucs, the coronavirus arrived. Luckily our swarm lure worked and a swarm moved into one of the hives. We were ecstatic. But then the schools closed for the year and we couldn't access the building to check on the swarm. On the first Monday after the schools closed, a day when the teachers were allowed in, we met in the morning and checked on the hive, which looked good. We set it up with an extra box, just in case, and barely looked at it because of time constraints, planning to come back the next week.

As the nation became aware of the severity of the virus, access to the school was no longer allowed. I was worried about the hive and didn't feel like it would be OK without our getting to look at it and add a nectar/honey box. But last week, the principal was going to be there and we could go check on our hive!

Meghan and I opened the hive and pulled out frame after frame of honey and nectar. There was no brood anywhere, not anywhere. The hive would have died in a matter of a couple of weeks without a queen.

"I have to go pull a frame of brood and eggs from one of my hives," I told Meghan. "I can be back in 30 minutes." With a frame of brood and eggs, the bees in the hive could make a new queen.

 I rushed home, opened one of my hives and pulled a frame of brood and eggs. "HURRY," Meghan texted me. The security guard had announced that only the principal and the cleaning staff could be in the building, but since we were saving the life of the hive (Meghan must have been really convincing), we could stay only long enough to insert the frame of brood and eggs.

Back up to the rooftop garden we rushed, and I took off the top and inserted the frame of brood and eggs into the middle box. I removed a frame of honey to make room for the frame and gave it to Meghan to take home and harvest. With the top back on the hive, I looked down at the entry to see how things looked and something amazing happened.

The bees were standing at attention, frozen and all facing the same way. I'm almost 100% sure I saw a queen bee enter the hive. I thought of how we rise for royalty and this must be the bees' version!



Then Meghan told me and I read in Mark Winston that the bees often freeze on the front landing and emit nasonov to help a queen on her mating flight find her way home.

Sometimes swarms, once they are settled, get rid of the old queen who came with them to get them started and make a new queen. This must be what had happened in the six weeks since the school closed. Meghan grabbed her phone and made a wonderful movie to share with the school students, now studying at home, on this Earth Day. And she gave me permission to share it with you. Video made by Meghan McCloskey for SPARK Elementary and shared here with permission. Watch to see the bees standing at attention.

Today is Earth Day - love the Google logo for today - featuring honeybees.









Saturday, April 18, 2020

Inspection of Community Garden Hives on April 17, 2020

Today we had a virtual hive inspection since we can't gather in groups to do an in-person hive inspection in Atlanta for quite some time to come. Here is the video of the inspection. I didn't know that my iPhone can film video on landscape because my old iPhone couldn't, so going forward I will put the phone in landscape orientation which should be better!

This inspection includes the installation of a nuc as well as the usual inspection of the two community garden bee hives.

Here it is, FWIW:

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Fourth MABA hive inspection

This is the fourth hive inspection (third video) done virtually to help those beekeepers who want to be a part of a group hive inspection and are staying at home because of the coronavirus. I am posting a video after each virtual hive inspection. I offer these inspections in my role as hive inspection chair for 2020 for MABA. The advantage of being a MABA member is that you can come to the virtual inspections and be a part of the QandA as well as the discussion, but even without belonging to MABA (MetroAtlanta Beekeepers Association), you can see these videos after the fact.

I thought my video was recording when I opened the first hive and didn't discover that it was not until halfway through the inspection. To make up for it, I added a short inspection of my top bar hive to the end of this video. My hands shake all the time, but they were really shaky during this video because I was so stressed that the video had not been running.




In the middle of the video I put in a slide about how to checkerboard and at the end of one section some photos illustrating how you rubberband crooked comb since you can't see me do the repair in the video.

This one wasn't my best, but I am putting it up for continuity of the record.


Review of Installing a Package

Back in May, 2007 when I was first learning about beekeeping (I started in 2006), I watched Bill Owens install a package at Young Harris and took photos (didn't have movie capability back then on my camera). Since people are receiving packages now and needing to install them, I thought it might be helpful to see this demo. Now Blogger won't let me edit a post that old, and the slides/photos from that post have disappeared (along with Picasa). If you want to read the post, click here.

The photos are resurrected here:


















Saturday, April 04, 2020

Learning to inspect your beehive in the time of the coronavirus

Since we are supposed to stay at home, it's difficult for new beekeepers to learn what to do in a hive inspection and how to inspect your beehives. I am the chair of the hive inspection program for the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers and have now done two inspections by video to show to the inspection groups in a Zoom meeting.

It's not as good as the hands-on, in-person version of our hive inspection program, but it's better than not getting to go. I had the first of my three inspections in person. The hives being used for this program are in a community garden in Atlanta. One hive is a swarm that I caught in Inman Park on March 11.

The swarm was on a hurricane fence and very challenging to capture since on the other side of the fence was a dense hedge of azaleas and neglect. Here's the swarm:

I put it into a hive at the community garden.

The other hive at the community garden is a nuc hive that was installed on March 21.

I did not film the March 21 inspection. We were still allowed to gather in person, but twelve people were signed up for the inspection. I asked them to divide and come one week apart. So six people came in person to this inspection. For the sake of social distancing and protection, I also asked them to put on their jackets and veils at their cars and come to the inspection with gloves and protective gear already on.

So the second inspection was on March 29 with the other six people and by then we were unable to gather in any size group in the city of Atlanta. So we had that one virtually. When I filmed at the community garden, the wind was blowing and it was hard to hear. But I will post it here anyway. I plan to post my inspections every week to help new beekeepers unable to attend inspections in person.




Then I did a second inspection on April 3, 2020. This time the wind was less bad but in the noonday sun, I couldn't see through my veil to see what was being seen by the camera on the individual frames. So this one you can hear but can't see the detail as well. I urge you to pause the video in both to see the frames better. Maybe for my next video, I can combine what I have learned from the first two and do a better job! 

It's hard to be the camera person AND the hive inspector, but that's what we do in the time of the coronavirus!




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