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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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Saturday, June 06, 2020

Hive Inspection FAQs: Common questions asked during my Coronavirus Inspections

Similar questions come up every time I do a virtual inspection. Since you all are not on my virtual inspections, I thought I'd address some of the FAQs that are asked every time:

1. What are those white cloths and why do you use them?
They are hive drapes. I learned about them from Billy Davis. He used oilcloth. I have used these for years. I use either pillow cases or flour sacking kitchen towels. You need something that the bees won't get tangled in (nothing with a nap) and both pillow cases and flour sacking cloth fits that bill.

When the hive is covered with a hive drape, it really cuts down the need for smoking the hive. I typically smoke the front door to knock on it (learned that from Michael Bush) and then set my smoker down and rarely pick it back up.

Like a surgeon, you can use two drapes to allow yourself only to expose the one frame you are about to remove from the hive. I keep one of them draped over the frame on my frame rack as well.

Here is an earlier post on hive drapes where you can see them in action.

2. Why don't you use a queen excluder? 
The queen excluder was developed for commercial beekeepers to use when they are harvesting honey. They can drive their trucks through the bee yards and take off the top boxes, blow the bees out of the boxes and load the box on the truck without worrying that they are taking the queen. All harvested honey in a commercial hive is above the queen excluder.

Bees don't want to be separated from their mother and the queen does better when she can lay wherever she wishes, so there is really no reason for a backyard beekeeper to use a queen excluder when there is no good reason to do so.

There are about four good uses for a queen excluder so it isn't really a useless piece of equipment for the backyard beekeeper. Here they are:

---As a drain rack for cut comb honey. The bars on the queen excluder are close enough together to distribute the weight of a square of cut comb honey without causing indentations in the cut comb.

---To prove your theory that there are two queens in a hive. Put the queen excluder between where you think the two queens are living in the hive. In seven days, look at the top box. If there are new eggs and brood, you have a queen in that box. Look below the queen excluder and if there are new eggs and brood, you also have a queen in that box.

---If you want to make a split and are scared you will take the queen. Take an empty box and put into it the frames of brood, eggs, honey and pollen that you want in the split. Shake every single bee off of these frames as you remove them from the hive. Put a queen excluder on the top of the top box and put your box of frames but no bees above the excluder. Put on the inner cover and top. In the morning, nurse bees will be in your new box to take care of the brood. Remove that new box and you have a split without a queen in it but resources to make one.

---As a queen includer when you catch a swarm. To make sure the swarm stays in the box where you hived them, put a queen excluder below the bottom box on top of the entrance. The only bees who can leave the hive are workers. The queen will stay put. After no more than two days, remove the "includer" and the hive will have established itself.

3. How do you make a robber screen?
Billy Davis also taught me this. With his robber screens on your hives all year long, robbery never happens. It's made of #8 hardware cloth and I have also used window screen. The secret is to keep an entrance reducer on your hives all year long. The entrance of the robber screen has to be four inches minimum away from the entrance of the hive.

See photos and more discussion here.

4. Should you start feeding your bees as soon as the nectar flow is over?
The nectar flow is over in Atlanta, but we are not in a dearth yet. Here the nectar flow is defined by the bloom of the tulip poplar. When it is over, the bees no longer stumble over each other in their rush to enter the hive and leave again to get more. But the end of the flow does not mean there is no nectar. Many nectar bearing plants bloom in early summer in Atlanta. As long as there is nectar, there is no reason to feed your bees. Since honey is the bees natural food, why not let them eat what they have brought in? If I see that my bees are eating all of their stores, then I should feed my bees and I will. But then if I have it, I will feed honey and if I don't, I will feed bee tea.

Now is a good time to check your hives for weight so you'll know how heavy your hive is at the height of the season. Then if it is really light in August, you should feed!.

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