Welcome - Explore my Blog

I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. 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.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. ‪(404) 482-1848‬

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Saturday, January 20, 2024

Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Short Course is a Week from Today

 If you live in the Metro Atlanta area and have wanted to become a beekeeper, the best short course you can possibly imagine is happening next Saturday, the 27th at Peachtree Road Methodist Church in Buckhead. Registration is still open. Just click here.



Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Rosalyn Carter and the Bees

 As Rosalyn Carter's memorial service was held in Atlanta yesterday, I was reminded of how I was lucky enough to meet her through beekeeping. My friend Curt Barrett and I were volunteering for the butterfly festival at the Carter Center in Atlanta, representing the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers.

Mrs. Carter was there to attend the festival and to dedicate a butterfly trail. As part of the festivities, she participated in the inspection of a beehive. I helped her with her gloves, always too big for women's hands in those days (2016).


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Monday, March 13, 2023

Secondary Swarm Saturday, March 11, 2023

I'm sure it's not a national holiday, but it was a day of celebration for me that both started and ended with secondary swarms. 

I was still in my pjs when I got a call from a beekeeper who belongs to my local club, Metro Atlanta Beekeepers. She has two hives and no extra equipment and her hive had swarmed. She asked if I would like the swarm. I was THRILLED to go and get it; threw on my clothes and was out the door. Like most beekeepers at this time of year, my swarm collection gear is always in my car so I can literally jump in and head out, as long as I have put on my own clothes!

She had made a split from her largest hive and there was good evidence that it had swarmed as well. Then a few days later she sees this little teardrop of bees in the tree above her hives:


The swarm was quite small, as secondary swarms often are. The original swarm leaves with the hive's queen mother and about half the bees. But if there are virgin queens in the hive as may happen as queen cells emerge, a virgin queen may head up a smaller secondary swarm. This swarm has less of a survival chance because after the secondary swarm is rehived, the virgin queen still has to fly out, successfully mate, and return.

I have sworn not to go up ladders this year but this swarm was small enough and on a shrub at about seven feet off the ground. I climbed the ladder (very carefully!) and was able to snip off the branch and lower the bees into a honey bucket. 

Here's the video of the collection and rehousing of the bees in a nuc at my house.


Later that afternoon, I led a MABA hive inspection at the community garden where the two swarms I collected last week are installed. The first hive is going wild - building tons of wax and filling it with brood and nectar. They looked fabulous except for a couple of wonky combs in my foundationless frames. 

As I drove home from the inspection, my cell rang and it was the man who lived at the house where I collected my first swarm last week, the one mentioned in the paragraph above. He had another swarm in his yard and wanted to know if I wanted it. When I arrived, he told me that he had discovered the origin of the bees. He lent me his binoculars to look fifty feet up into a nearby tree where the bees were living.

The swarm was another secondary swarm, my second in this wonderful Saturday. It was equally easy to collect. 

Here is the video of that swarm capture and installation in my backyard.
 
What a wonderful, bee-filled Saturday! I'll take a day like that any day.














Thursday, March 02, 2023

A Very Bee Week So Far

 It's only Wednesday, but I've been very bee-sy. On Saturday I discovered my community garden hives were both gone...the first died before winter and the second was without a queen (who had been there two weeks ago) and was in terrible shape. I didn't open the hive two weeks ago - just lifted up the top and took off the feeder. The bees were flying in with pollen and I felt pretty sure that we were coming out of winter fine. Then I did an inspection on Sunday and found them broodless and queenless with a tiny diminishing population.

These are teaching hives and the MABA philosophy is that our swarm hotline will supply swarm calls to the teaching hives first until we have two hives for teaching. I called the swarm commander, Dave, and he called me so quickly the very next day, on Sunday, with a swarm ten minutes from my house. I got it  in the early afternoon.

I installed that swarm at the community garden with a queen excluder to keep the bees there. Swarms have often left that garden after being hived - maybe they don't like the GA Power electrical lines - so now I routinely put a queen "includer" between the bottom of the bottom box and the entrance, keeping the queen (and unfortunately the drones) in the hive until I remove it.

Monday I was called for another swarm, literally six minutes from my house. It was on a mailbox and much more difficult to collect. I was there for over an hour, coaxing the bees onto frames of old comb. When most of the bees were in the nuc box, I left the box propped slightly open and went home to get the queen excluder (which I have forgotten - I always forget something!). 

I took those bees to the community garden and installed them in a second hive and put a queen "includer" on that hive. 

Yesterday, Tuesday, in my own yard, I did a walkaway split with my one and only hive in my yard. It was boiling over with bees and I was afraid they were already making swarm plans. It was an old hive that I had neglected when I moved into this house in 2021 and the brood boxes were full of cross comb. The original hive died and before I could clean it out, a swarm moved in while I watched! So this new occupant is dealing with crossed comb and I can't inspect the brood boxes. So a walkaway split is the ideal way to manage this. I could see looking between the frames that there was brood and hopefully eggs in both boxes. Because I am not sure about this, I am trying an experiment.

I used a double screened board and did the even split but kept the boxes stacked on each other with the double screened board between what is now two hives. If one of the halves does not have a queen in three weeks, I'll recombine them. 


Bees testing out new hive's entrance

The red arrow (above) points to the Snelgrove or double screened board between the two colonies. The center of the board has a movable entrance, open on the upper side to allow bees from the upper colony to have an entrance. 

Then I drove over to the community garden (20 minutes there and 20 minutes back) and removed the queen includer from each of the hives. There were still bees at the queenless hive - appearing to protect the entrances so I know they weren't robbers - but what are they doing there?

I hadn't been back at home five minutes when my phone rang. It was the beekeeping teacher at SPARK where there is a hive of bees. They had had an "incident" in which a teacher was stung. I haven't been in that hive this year, so I got back in the car and drove 20 minutes to the school. There I found a healthy hive, boiling over with bees with not a queen cell in sight. There were, however, plenty of eggs in the brood frames.

So to change the atmosphere over there, Whitney (the new beekeeping teacher) and I made an even split into the second empty hive on the school rooftop. The bees will be calmer, will be distracted by the need for one half of the split to make a queen, and they are not likely to swarm. 

Needless to say, when I drove home 20 minutes in the Atlanta 5:00 traffic, I was bee-exhausted and truly tired from four solid days of Bee-Ing!


A Swarm on a Mailbox - Never an Easy Collection

 On Monday, I was called to collect a swarm from a mailbox in a neighborhood near mine. It's never easy to collect a swarm from an unmoving landing spot. Some difficult ones I've had in the past included a swarm on a I-beam; a swarm on a chain link fence; and a swarm on a bench. I don't ever like being violent with bees but a gentle shake into a collection box is much easier than trying to seduce the bees away from the solid item they've chosen to land on.

This mailbox, while quite accessible, was a challenge. I took a nuc box filled with drawn comb frames to use to gather the bees. I haven't done this before and it wasn't easy but as time passed (a lot of time - I was there over an hour!) I got better at sort of scooting the drawn frame up under the bees, sliding from the bottom up. In the very end, I had to brush the last of the bees into a scoop but that probably amounted to only about three hundred or so bees. 

Then when I arrived at the community garden to install the hive, I used a method I saw on a Cotswold, England beekeeper's YouTube channel. It was a miracle to watch the bees march into the hive. They looked like a school of fish made of bees as they flowed into the entrance. 


Now we have two hives of bees at the community garden, ready to grow and be a part of the MABA hive inspection program. My first inspection is on March 12!


Wednesday, March 01, 2023

First Swarm of the Year: February 27

 I was called to get this swarm because the teaching hives at the community garden died. One died before winter - it was full of really mean bees and I don't miss them a bit. The other was alive two weeks ago with good signs like bees flying in with pollen on their legs. But I opened the hive on Sunday, the 26th, and there was NO brood, about half a nuc box worth of bees and two solidly filled medium boxes of honey. Clearly there was no queen and the hive would not make it.

Metro Atlanta has six teaching sites with hives for hands on hive inspection sessions to teach new beekeepers how to do it. We are first in line for swarms for these teaching hives if a hive dies. So I called our swarm hot line and literally the next day, Dave, the swarm commander, called me to go for this swarm which was about a seven minute drive from my house.

Below is the YouTube of the capture of the swarm and its installation at the community garden. I left a queen excluder under the bottom box and above the entrance because swarms have left the community garden location before. It's on Georgia Power land and I don't think the bees like the current in the electrical lines. So I hived the swarm and left the excluder on for a day and a half. I removed it yesterday.


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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Short Course Metro Atlanta Beekeepers January 28, 2023

 Most beekeepers, if they are lucky, get to participate in a short course. Many bee clubs offer short courses. Metro Atlanta's is one of the best. If you are interested, want to learn to keep bees, and live within driving distance of Atlanta, we offer a great course. It's a one day course in all that you need to know to get started keeping bees. Location of the course: Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in the heart of Buckhead, Atlanta.

Julia Mahood, Claressa Lucas and I are the co-chairs and organizers of the course. We would love to have you! We all teach in the course. Julia is a master craftsman beekeeper, Claressa is a journeyman and I am a master beekeeper. Our instructors are all well-trained and very experienced. You can get hands-on experience at our in-person hive inspections after the course is complete for the whole of 2023's bee season. Also you automatically become a member of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers. If you come from another area, we will pay for your dues at the club of your choice.

Here's a link to the registration for the course.


For 2020 and 2021, the course was held online. This year it is in person. The photos below are from 2019, the last year we had a face-to-face course.

Ed Hoehn demonstrates to some of our 2019 attendees how to light a smoker.


The course includes a vendor to help you in ordering supplies. And you can spend the lunch hour in a small eight person group, eating with an experienced beekeeper. You can ask all the questions that might have not been answered during the morning's talk.

Join us if you are in the area! If not, find a local beekeeping short course and take it. You won't regret it and will surely add to any knowledge you already have about keeping bees.



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