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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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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nice parts of the blog in 2007

I've enjoyed keeping this blog so much.

People have written me from all over the world - both in comments on the blog itself and in email behind the scenes.

This blog has had 37,344 hits so far this year (and there will be between 60 - 100 more tomorrow).

The most popular places people go to on this blog (besides the first page) are:

Outside of views on the blog, on Google's YouTube, the crush and strain honey video has been viewed 811 times, the solar wax melter video has been viewed 782 times, the chunk honey video has been viewed 488 times and the small hive beetle trap 495 times.

Perhaps the biggest compliment on the blog came from Bee Culture magazine in October 2007 when my blog was featured first in an article on Blogs and Web Pages. I was completely surprised and found out about it through a post someone put on Beemaster! I scanned the page so that you can see it if you don't subscribe to the magazine.

As a beginning beekeeper, it is my pleasure to share my trials and tribulations, catastrophes and triumphs with all of you.

Thank you for reading my blog in 2007.

See you next year!

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Good news! The Bees in Both hives are alive and flying

When the temperature hit 50 degrees (F) this morning, the bees started flying out of both hives. We are supposed to have a high in the 60s today so they should have some time to do cleansing flights and carry out the dead.

I even noticed a bee bringing in pollen. The only thing blooming around my house is a Camellia Sasanqua. The Sasanqua blooms in early winter and the one in my yard is blooming a lot right now. I guess that's where she got it - the pollen looks like what I see in the plant.

The first two pictures are from Bermuda. The second two are from Mellona. In the first Mellona picture, one bee is trying to convince another bee that she is dying and should be carried away.

There is less activity at Mellona, but it has always been a smaller and more tranquil hive than Bermuda.

Well, at least for the moment, I am relieved that all seems well in my bees' world.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Short Course in Beekeeping at Metro Atlanta Beekeepers

There's not much news on the beefront. My bees are clustered, it's cold in Atlanta, the hives are heavy and there's nothing new to report.

Everyone that I have given lip balm to is ecstatic about it - which makes my day.

So I decided I should post about the short course that is being offered by the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association. If any of you are close to the Atlanta area, the course is a great one. After I took the course I bought bees, joined the club and started my blog.

Here's the link to the short course.

You'll notice if you click on the agenda that I am one of the presenters - that doesn't mean I'm an expert - in fact I'm doing a little presentation with some other beginning beekeepers to help me on the trials and tribulations (and hilarity) of the process of beginning beekeeping.

If you sign up, please tell them that you heard about it from me!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Holiday Party

The Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association Holiday party was held at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (where we have our monthly meetings) on December 12. Below is a slideshow of snapshots from the event. A great time was had by all!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Learning about Lip Balm

I made my first attempt at making lip balm today and it turned out OK - not great, but I learned a lot. Here's what I did:

1. I bought Coconut oil (organic and virgin) from the Internet
2. I bought 100 containers from the Internet and some from the Container store
3. I bought 1" circular mirrors from EBay
4. I followed the recipe in Kim Flottum's book: The Backyard Beekeeper.
5. I weighed and melted the wax
6. I put the glass jar of coconut oil into a boiling water bath to melt it
7. When both were melted and both were 150 degrees F, I stirred them together.

Now the problems start. The recipe said to take the mixture off of the heat and stir in the vanilla and honey. As soon as I took the mixture off of the heat, it started solidifying. I poured in the honey and vanilla but they never really mixed well despite my using a whisk.

So I put the glass measuring cup with the mixture in it on top of one of the boiling water baths with the burner turned off and the mixture came together much better. I filled the containers by using a syringe that the pharmacist at Target gave me. I put the container filled cookie sheet right beside the boiling water bath on top of which sat the balm mixture so that it wouldn't solidify before getting into the container.

Filling the containers wasn't easy - somewhat messy, but I succeeded in filling 90 small containers and five larger ones. As they cooled I realized that in about 20 of them, the honey/vanilla mixture was on the bottom of the lip balm and that those would not be usable because there was liquid below the balm mixture.

I don't know if I can wash and re-use these containers - I hope so - it's a lot of effort if I have to throw out 20 of them.

My camera lens had a smudge on it, but I made a slide show anyway to show you the pictures:

Checking on the Bees

I had two jars of heavy sugar syrup ready and decided to put them on the hives today.

If you don't believe in global warming, you should come to Atlanta. It hasn't been significantly cold yet although we did have a couple of below-freezing nights. Today it is 78 degress - horrors - and it's supposedly winter. I've lived here since 1979 and each winter seems significantly warmer.

The temperature roller coaster is confusing to the bees who are flying today, as one might expect.

I opened Mellona (first picture) to find the feeding bag I had left earlier was completely empty, so I replaced it with a feeding jar with holes punched in the top. I didn't make up feeding bags this time, although Jennifer Berry swears by them, because the last time I put a feeding baggie in the hive when I came back it had 15 dead bees inside it.

In Bermuda I was surprised to find a huge palmetto cockroach in residence - see him at the upper right corner? The bees were ignoring both me and the roach. I brushed a few bees aside and gave them a jar for feeding as well. It was too tall for the empty super that is on the hive so I found another empty super and added it to Bermuda to accommodate the feeder jar.

While I was fooling with the bees, I added water to their water source. With the terrible drought we are enduring (did someone say global warming?) this may be their only source of water. I don't even know if bees take in water during the winter, but I don't want to neglect them in any way this year - I can't stand to think of my bees who died last winter from beekeeper neglect.
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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bees and Good Housekeeping

Remember my post two days ago about the dead bee bodies accumulating on the porch of the hive in the cold weather?

Yesterday our high was in the 60s all afternoon. The bees, being extremely good housekeepers, took care of the debris and this morning their front porch is all clean and shiny. I wish I were as good a housekeeper as these girls are!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Winter Dead in the Beehive

In winter it is often too cold for the bees to haul out the dead....and as most of you know, some bees in the hive reach the end of their lives each day. These last few days in Atlanta have been 50 degrees or below and the bees can't fly the dead bodies away from the hive, so they lie on the entry waiting for a bird to eat them or warmer weather.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) the high is predicted to be 61. We'll see if any mortician bees break the cluster to dispose of the dead.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Sad Tale of Shattered Wax

When the trick-or-treaters had gone on Halloween, I was left with a lot of candy. Well, that's not exactly true. I live in a neighborhood of 80 year old people and there are very few children....so I never get any trick-or-treaters on Halloween, but I always buy a bag of Three Musketeers, just in case this is the year when someone actually says "Trick or Treat!" at my door.

Sadly, this year was no different - no kids in costume knocked at my door. To keep from eating the candy, I took it to my downstairs refrigerator to freeze it. When I opened the upper door to the freezer compartment, a practically unused box of 7/11 foundation, stored in the freezer, crashed to the floor and broke into shards of wax.

The bees made beautiful comb from this wax last year and I made boxed and cut comb honey from it. Now it's all in pieces.

I guess I have several choices. I could save the shards and put partial strips in honey supers next year so the bees could get a start at drawing the beautiful wax for cut comb boxes. I could melt it all into candles.

Lesson learned: Don't store foundation in the freezer.

I should know this. I overnighted some comb-filled frames in the chest freezer to kill wax moths and dropped one when I took it out. That comb also shattered into pieces of wax.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Preview of Coming Attractions!

Tonight I took Step One toward making lip balm out of my prize winning wax block - seems a shame to grate it up, but that's the direction I'll be taking.

I'm planning to use the recipe in The Backyard Beekeeper to make lip balm for Christmas presents. Tonight I found coconut oil (an essential ingredient) on the web and ordered it!

Here's the recipe:

1 cup shredded beeswax
14 oz coconut oil (what I ordered are 2 bottles - each 14 oz - of coconut oil)
5 Tbsp honey
5 Tbsp vanilla extract (I have great Mexican vanilla extract)

Heat the wax in a saucepan over low heat to 150 degrees. In a separate saucepan, heat the oil to the same temperature. When both are heated to the proper temperature, add the coconut oil to the beeswax, remove the pan from heat, and stir steadily until well blended. then add the honey and the vanilla extract. Continue to stir until well blended. Pour into tubes or tubs, allow to cool overnight, and then cap the containers and store at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.

Well, I'm fired up to do this - the recipe above makes 100 .15 ounce tubes of lip balm or 65 1/3 ounce pots. I've already been to the Container Store and have bought a few pots for the lip balm - we'll see how it turns out. The coconut oil has been ordered from a place in Texas and I'm ready to do this.

I found a great Internet site for making lip balm. Her site led me to another good site about lip balm. And in further exploring I found these tins to put the lip balm in. Goodness, after all of this ordering stuff, I hope I actually can successfully make lip balm!

Since next week is Thanksgiving, I imagine that this will be a post-Thanksgiving project - but you know I'll record it for this blog!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bee Report - After First Freezing Night

Last night we had freezing temps - not for too long, but long enough for my fig tree's leaves to curl up. This morning I worried about the bees. I was out of town last weekend so I haven't checked them in two weeks, and I didn't know if more food were needed.

I opened the top of Mellona and didn't see a bee. There were a few stragglers on the outside, but I only saw a silverfish on the top cover and no bees. My heart sank....not another absconded hive. It was warmer - about 50 - so I lifted up the second box and under it the bees were clustering! I was thrilled and hoped I didn't chill them too much. I immediately put the hive back together.

I left them with a bag of new 2:1 sugar syrup on top of the frames and took the propping stick out of the tops of both hives.

Bermuda was active and clearly doing fine. I'll give them sugar syrup tomorrow because I needed to make more and it will be too hot to put on the hives until tomorrow. It actually will cool pretty quickly but I can only work on the bees today while my grandson is asleep and he'll wake up before the new syrup cools.

I did other things to help with the cold. I removed the shim that I had put on both hives to help with ventilation and with the small hive beetle trap. I removed both small hive beetle traps to clean and get ready for next year. I refilled their water source which in our drought-suffering Georgia had completely dried up.

FWIW, the weather reports show no rain at any time in the near future.
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Getting Wax Off of my Hardwood Floors

The honey didn't mess up my kitchen, but pouring my blue ribbon wax block ten times did. I have drips and drops of wax on my kitchen floor that I have been ignoring for a while. They look like the picture above - little wax blobs that have dirt sticking to them.

I read on the Internet that you can remove wax from carpets and floors in the following way:

1. Heat a dry iron
2. Take a piece of brown paper such as a brown paper bag (one layer)
3. Lay the brown paper over the melted wax on the floor
4. Put the hot iron on top of the paper right over the wax drop
5. Do not move the iron. Leave it in the same place for at least one minute
6. When you remove it the wax will have melted and soaked into the brown paper
7. If any is left on the floor, like the shiny area you can see in the last picture, simply wipe it off with a paper towel.

Isn't the Internet an amazing source of helpful hints?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Feeding the Bees - Part two

Today I opened the two hives to check on the Ziploc bags of honey I left on them about 10 days ago. In Mellona, most of the honey had been eaten and I didn't see many small hive beetles - I believe the cooler nights are taking their toll on the growth of SHB. I pulled the bag out and hung it over the deck rail. See how the bees gather around the slit (on the top of the rail). The rest of the bees clustered over the honey that gravity pulled to the lower corner.

I put a bag of 2:1 sugar syrup in Mellona and cut a slit in it. I also returned the remains of the bag of honey, pulling the corners up against the hive body to encourage gravity to draw the honey toward the slit.

In Bermuda, the situation was about the same. Most of the honey was gone from the bag. In this hive I discovered small hive beetles clustered in the zipped opening of the bag.
See them in the last picture? It's not clearly focused - the camera focused on the bees behind the bag on the frame of honey. I squashed the beetles by pinching closed the zipped area - some escaped by flying away.

In this hive I returned the honey bag, turned upside down with the split against the frames, again raising the corners of the bag to encourage the help of gravity. I added a bag of 2:1 sugar syrup beside the original bag and using a sharp knife, cut a slit in the bag.

The whole time I fooled around with this task, I kept thinking of Sue Hubbell's book that I am reading, A Book of Bees, in which she gently points out that when we approach the hive with the hive tool, every time we free a part of the hive - like lifting up the inner cover - we are destroying the hard work of propolizing the hive to keep the cold air out.

I know I'm in Atlanta where it's 70 something today and almost every day of at least 8 months of the year, but I feel bad that after I do my beekeeping tasks, the bees have to redo work that they didn't destroy - I did.
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Honey vs. Apple Butter

On the bee forums on the Internet (Beemaster, Beesource) the general belief is that it is less messy to extract honey than to do crush and strain. Every beekeeper has a different opinion about everything beekeeping, so here's mine.

I did extracting at the Folk School in a beekeeping class I took, and it was incredibly messy. When we were finished, there were so many items to clean, not to mention the floor, table tops, etc. When I use crush and strain to harvest honey, I put cardboard under everything and the clean-up is minimal....the filters, the bucket, the pan into which I cut the comb, the pestle, the knife, and the rubber spatula. I do mop the floor but I don't experience honey everywhere.

Yesterday I made apple butter - 16 pints, but one broke in the water bath. I do this every year from the delicious apples I buy in the N Georgia mountains. I have never had such a messy experience. Apple butter is everywhere in my kitchen. And I've washed pots and pans, wiped the counters, cleaned the stovetop. What a mess and this morning I still have to clean the stovetop yet again because I was too tired to do it before I went to bed!

The apple butter is delicious, but so, so, so much messier a process than any day of harvesting honey.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Feeding the Bees

Early this morning the bees were up - they looked like they were doing orientation flying. This is a warmer morning than we've been having and that temperature rise may explain this more-summer-than-fall behavior.

I had a break in the day this afternoon and went home to feed the bees since I was in the mountains this weekend and missed my inspection.

Last Sunday when I did a talk at the Atlanta History Center, I was unloading my supplies when the rolling cart onto which I was putting my hive, honey jars, etc. tipped over onto the cobblestone drive. Everything crashed onto the ground. The honey jars remained intact (amazing!) and the hive I borrowed from a friend sustained a dent, but all looked OK for my talk.

When I began my talk I picked up the frame of honey I had brought to discover that it had detached from the bottom of the frame in the fall onto the cobblestones. It also was leaking honey. I had a piece of waxed paper where it could sit during my talk and demonstration, but at the end of the day, with kids touching it, etc., it was not good for much.

I was saving this frame of honey to feed the bees in the winter. However, we are having the worst drought in at least 25 years in Georgia and my bees are eating their winter supplies. I wrote on Beemaster, and the repliers suggested that I could feed the honey to the bees just like sugar syrup.

Today at my break, I filled two Ziploc bags with the honey and put each bag on top of the frames in each of my two hives. I wanted to put a bag in each hive to discourage robbing if one had extra food and the other didn't. I cut a slit in each bag about 3 - 4 inches long and left it for the bees. I hope they love the fruits of their labors as much as I do!

Also in the drought, their water source had completely dried up over the weekend. I refilled it and left to go back to work, satisfied that at least for today, I had been a good beekeeper.
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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bees and Asters

This weekend in N Georgia there were asters of many sizes and colors blooming everywhere. We stay in the mountains at my house across the valley from Black Rock Mountain so we often hike there.

At Black Rock Mountain State Park, there's a lake with a path to walk around it. We saw tons of these white asters, covered with honeybees and other bees as well. The first picture is a honeybee on the aster. The second picture is some other bee, also enjoying the aster.

I'm reading Sue Hubbell's A Book of Bees. She raised her bees in Arkansas, but says in her book that in the fall, the bees feed on asters as much as they feed on goldenrod. Either flower makes a rank-tasting honey, but mostly beekeepers leave this honey on the hive for the bees.

In the city of Atlanta we don't have much fall flow, but out in the country or up in the mountains, goldenrod and asters - blue ones and white ones like these are everywhere in abundance right now.

From reading the Internet today, I believe this is heath aster, or aster ericoides, found prolifically in Georgia. I'm not sure what these flowers are, but if you want to see a lovely collection of aster photos, click here.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jennifer Berry and Queen Rearing

Tonight Jennifer Berry talked to the Metro Atlanta Beekeeper's Club meeting about queen rearing. She talked a little about grafting, but focused on choosing the bees from which to rear your new queen. I was most interested in what she said about hygienic queens.

She chooses the hive from which to make a queen based on many factors including honey production (which she said was 15% genetics and 85% management), hygenic behavior, gentleness, and several other factors. She said to determine whether a queen was raising bees who were hygenic, you can do the following:
  • Cut a section of comb out of a brood frame - about 3- 4 inches round or square
  • Count the number of empty cells, ones with pollen, or ones with honey so you'll know how many in the section did not contain brood to begin with
  • Freeze the section overnight in the freezer
  • Return the section to the brood frame and toothpick it back in place
  • The next day (24 hours later) check on the section and count the empty cells.
Since all of the brood in the frozen section will now be dead, what you want to find is that the bees have cleaned out the cells in the section. This will be a great indicator of good hygenic behavior and will then indicate a hive from which to raise a queen. If they don't do a good job of cleaning out the dead cells, then you wouldn't choose to raise a queen from this hive.

Isn't that fascinating?

BTW, her reference for a good book about queen rearing is Successful Queen Rearing by Spivak.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More from the History Center

The kids who came to the talk (see previous post below) were interested as much in the wax as in the honey that I had for them to taste. This young man wanted to smell the wax block. I can understand how he feels - the smell is heavenly and it is as if you are standing in between the hives on a warm day to smell a wax block.

Everyone was interested in the chunk honey so I opened the jar so they could taste it with popsicle sticks.

For the last of my three talks, my sweet angel grandson showed up to help me. I am holding him and answering questions in the last picture!

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Bee Talk at Atlanta History Center

Today I did three talks at the Atlanta History Center about harvesting honey as a part of their Harvest Day event. I took bee stuff to help illustrate what I had to say. Here's what my table looked like - you can see that I took an empty frame, a frame with small comb built on it, a frame with larger comb and a completely filled frame. I also took a borrowed model hive - an 8-frame medium. I took my hat and veil, my gloves, my bee brush. I had some honey to show how you harvest it - cut comb, chunk and clear. And I took wax both in my big wax block and in smaller blocks.

The kids who came liked trying on my bee veil and tasting honey. This is the first time I've given a talk about beekeeping to non-beekeepers and I had fun. I hope I get to do it again.
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