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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.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

"What's in a name? That which we call a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

This quote is from Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

I've been thinking about this all morning since I opened the hives today to see how the honey supers were looking. What's in a name? Well, maybe a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've been struck all day by how like their names my hives are behaving.

Last year I was into the beehives as leisure activity (what was I thinking???) and named my hives for vacation destinations. The hive that barely survived through the winter was Bermuda.

Bermuda, the country, is only 22 miles in length and 2 miles in width - quite a small piece of land. If I were to drive (I usually take MARTA) to the Atlanta airport from my house inside the perimeter around Atlanta, I drive 26 miles - farther than the entire length of Bermuda, the small country.

So my hive Bermuda, lives up to her name and is quite small. I'd like to give her an extra frame of brood but since I haven't yet switched to all medium boxes, the brood I have available from other hives is all on deep frames.

So Bermuda is growing very slowly. This bad picture is of a frame in the second box that the bees have finally drawn out and the queen (see middle of picture wearing a white dot) is laying well. But the hive is so small that today I put an entrance reducer on it to help them maintain their forces.

The hive that drew the crazy comb is named Proteus. I named the hive Proteus because the Greek god Proteus saved the lives of bees, but he had another characteristic - he was a shape-changer.

So in this hive the bees refuse to build straight comb. The comb is never the shape it is supposed to be.

Michael Bush said that sometimes you can't get bees to draw straight comb. I think he must be right because the bees in Proteus take after their namesake and are continuing to draw crazy comb. I got them to stop it in one box which is now filled with beautiful capped honey, but in this their new box, they are still making bridging comb between frames (see the pieces in the frame below). Wikipedia gives all kinds of shape-changing references for Proteus. Perhaps I should have researched further before naming this hive in a way that suggests the bees will be shape-changing with the comb!

And finally there's Mellona, named for the Roman goddess of bees and beekeeping. Blessed by Mellona as this hive is with her name, the bees are quietly and methodically making wax and honey, busy as bees.

They are currently building up their fourth box. The boxes all have been drawn from starter strips. Mellona has a beautiful brood pattern and gorgeous capped honey (see below) in two boxes and the bees are busily drawing out comb and storing honey in the fourth box.

So what's in a name?

I think a lot - or in psychology we might say that this represents magical thinking on the part of the beekeeper to think that the name of the hive has influenced me to make assumptions about the bees in it. And they are fitting right into my assumptions....which is why magical thinking seems so effective!
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Stages as Honey Becomes Ready for Harvest

The bees in this first picture are building comb and filling it with honey at the same time. We are in the middle of a strong tulip poplar flow in Atlanta so they are working as fast as they can. The honey looks light and nectar-like.

Here the honey is much darker. The bees have been fanning it with their wings and working the liquid out of the honey, making it thicker and almost ready to cap. Honey that is mostly tulip poplar is very dark as you can see in this picture.
This honey is being capped. You can see at the top of the picture fully capped honey. As you look at the bottom of the picture you can see cells in various stages of being capped. This type of capping is called dry capping. The bees also do a wet capping that looks more transparent. Both are considered capped honey.
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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Do bees pollinate lemons?

I was making gazpacho for lunch and suddenly noticed that the lemon I just cut in half has a honeybee on its label. As we do in today's computer driven world, I immediately searched google for "bees pollinating lemons" and found several references.

One University of Florida paper says:
"Lemons: Russian literature is cited which indicates lemons benefited from pollination. This is in opposition to most U.S. studies indicating the value to be minimal. However, there is evidence that seedlessness can result from self pollination, and that seedlessness may contribute to a reduction in fruit set."

An article on CCD says:
"A number of agricultural crops are almost totally dependent on honey bee pollination (90-100%), including almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, kiwifruit, macadamia nuts, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, onions, legume seeds, pumpkins, squash, and sunflowers. Other specialty crops also rely on honey bee pollination, but to a lesser degree. These crops include apricot, citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, etc), peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, grapes, brambleberries, strawberries, olives, melon (cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew), peanuts, cotton, soybeans, and sugarbeets.

A fun Smithsonian article on teaching students the importance of bees in our food suggests making a bee-free barbecue and mentions bee-dependent foods that the students couldn't use, including lemons.....hmmm I guess for the iced tea or as an ingredient in the BBQ sauce.

I'm interested that the lemon grower saw fit to put a honeybee on the label - nice for us beekeepers, but the bee doesn't seem to be essential to the lemon crop as the bee is to some other crops.

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Full On Attack Against the Small Hive Beetle

I read on BeeWorks about a new possible method for ridding the hive of the small hive beetle. Every time I open my hives I find SHBs under the inner cover. I smash as many as I can with my hive tool, but they are always there.

Last year I bought an apple cider vinegar trap from Brushy Mountain Bee. I found dead beetles in the trap every time I opened the hive, but also found live ones. The trap is easy to put together and easy to use, but it uses up one frame in the super and I'd like to find something even more effective.

Here are my previous posts on the SHB showing the Brushy Mountain trap and its results:

1. Installing the SHB trap
2. Checking for the results of the trap being in the hive
3. Looking at drowned beetles who fell into the trap

The men whose method is posted on Beeworks are Sonny Chidister and Mel McConnell. They make a lure like one would use to lure wax moths and put it in a sandwich container with a top on it. The container has the lure in a bottle top and sits in the sandwich container which has FGMO on the bottom of the container. There are small holes poked in the sides of the sandwich holder to allow the beetle access, but too small to allow the bee.

The recipe for the lure is 1 cup water, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar and a ripe banana peel, cut up in small pieces. (I was short 3 T of apple cider vinegar and substituted 3 T of raspberry vinegar - if this doesn't work we can blame the vinegar!)

I mixed the apple vinegar, sugar and water. Then I took my very sharp knife and cut the banana peel into tiny pieces. I added that to the mixture and poured the whole mess into a pint jar. Sonny just emailed me and told me to put the jar outside for a day in the sun and it will be ready to use.

I went to the grocery store to buy the mineral oil and the plastic sandwich containers. Checking out the mineral oil, the clerk looked at me with pity as if she had had to use the stuff herself. I smiled and said, "Oh, this is for my bees." The conversation after that was totally confusing for everyone. What was I thinking, explaining small hive beetles while holding a bottle of mineral oil in my hand!

So the next challenge is to make holes in the plastic sandwich container. I'll let you know how it goes on another post.

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Why is Proteus a Rusty Hive?

A few weeks ago I noticed that my Proteus hive was rusty on the top, unlike the other hives. I thought perhaps it was because I had a flower pot on top without a saucer. I removed the flower pot and wiped the top of the hive, but some of the rust stayed. The rust continues to be bright orange on the top cover.

Then I noticed the concrete pavers that I was using to lift the hive off of the deck surface had changed color from gray to rusty brownish orange. Hmmmmm.

There are three trees that my deck is built around - with circles cut in the deck floor to accommodate the tree trunks. The other two hives are near and under pine trees, but Proteus is under an oak tree. The oak sap must be causing the rusty effect.
I set up my ladder and attempted with my lopers to reach the oak branches to trim them. Well, I need a taller ladder or longer arms or a super-duper loper to reach these branches. One pitiful branch fell right at Proteus' front door before I gave up.

We're almost through spring and moving into summer. The sun hits the deck much earlier in the summer. Here in spring, the hives get touched by sunlight from early morning on but my house faces S/SE and it takes a while for the sunshine to hit the hives fully. That happens after lunch. But as we move toward summer, the sun is there earlier and may help with this rusty effect. Meanwhile, I'll just live with rusty Proteus.
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Friday, April 27, 2007

Back Doors for the Bees

Since the weather is getting hotter, it's time to consider the hive's ventilation. For air circulation through the hive, it helps to give the bees a propped top. I usually find a stick to put in between the telescoping cover and the inner cover. Today I propped the tops on all three of my hives.

In addition to providing ventilation, the propped top gives the bees a back door. I do see them using it as such - perhaps it shortens the distance to the delivery of nectar when the top box (just under the inner cover under the propped lid) is where the bees are storing honey.

I also added a new box to both Proteus and Mellona. Proteus has brood in the bottom box and the medium above that was filled with almost completely capped honey in every frame. This is the box where they made confused comb. Mostly the comb is fine now and the box is almost completely capped. I want to encourage the queen to lay in the medium, so I put a new medium between the bottom deep and the honey-filled medium.

In the interest of giving these confused bees the best possible chance of building straight comb, I used Housel positioning in my starter strips and included two full frames of small cell foundation. I also wrote the name of the hive and the number of the box on the outside of each box. Proteus now has from the bottom up: Brood Box, Box 3 - new mostly SC starter strip frames with Housel positioning, Box 1 filled with capped honey; Box 2 - foundationless frames with starter strips.

In the version of Housel positioning that I used, I did not incorporate a center frame. For understanding what I mean by Housel positioning, see this earlier post.

Meanwhile, Mellona is going gangbusters with honey making. Mellona, the Roman goddess of the bees, is obviously working on this hive. When I checked the status, Mellona has beautiful comb throughout the hive. They have fully built out all of the boxes, so I added a fourth. When I checked yesterday, Mellona had a filled brood box on the bottom; a medium that they drew out from starter strip frames that is completely filled, a shallow (actually painted for another hive) that is already filled on 8 frames with almost capped honey. I wanted to add another honey super - a shallow using Housel positioning, so I did that today. I also labeled and numbered the boxes on Mellona in the order in which they were added. Unlike Proteus, the boxes on Mellona are stacked in the order in which they were added.

I thought someone might like to see how close Proteus is to my sunporch. This picture was taken with me standing beside the other two hives looking at the back of Proteus.

And here is a picture of my grandson who spends every Friday with me, looking out of the sunporch door from the inside. This is the Dylan's-eye view of my beeyard on my deck.
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Thursday, April 26, 2007

How to use the Wax Tube Fastener

After all my difficulties with the wax tube fastener, I figure I am not the only person to be challenged by its lack of directions.....although if I am, the rest of you can enjoy a good laugh at my expense.

Meanwhile to address the problem, I made a video of how to use the wax tube fastener. I forgot to say in the video that to release the wax from the tube, you slightly lift your thumb from the hole in the handle.

Here it is:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Colony Collapse Disorder

As most of you have probably read, bees are disappearing from hives in this country and so far there is not an explanation for why this is happening. The New York Times has a good article on the thoughts about this problem. My computer stays signed in to the NYT, but you may have to sign in to read the article.

Also, Bill Maher has an Earth Day article addressing CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder).

Beekeepers seem to have quite a creative sense of humor. On the Beemaster Forum, people have been playing with outrageous reasons why the bees are disappearing. My three favorites so far are:

"...they joined the army reserve trying to bee all that they can bee."


"The Honey Bee internal GPS system gets its directions from Map Quest now..."


"The worker bees created a union and decided to go on strike..."

On May 9, the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association meeting will have as the guest speaker, Dr. Keith Delaplane from the University of Georgia honeybee research program. Dr. Delaplane will talk about Colony Collapse Disorder.

It's everywhere! It's everywhere!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bees at Dusk, Tired from Tulip Poplar Nectar Gathering

The bees have spent the day gathering nectar from the Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). Here's a beautiful picture of the flower from a Florida website. Here's another great source of basic information about the tulip poplar, also with good pictures. On this site, they say, "The tulip poplar flower has a colorful base that guides bees to the flower's source of abundant nectar."

Now almost all of the bees are home and a few are gathering on the front porch. I love the foursome lined up together. Later in the hotter weather, the bees will be massed on the front of the hive - now it isn't hot at night and there aren't as many bees yet as there will be in a few short weeks.

This is my hive with the new Country Rubes screened bottom board. It's a very well put-together SBB. You can see the cedar stand and the bent screw eye that serves as a lock to keep the panel in place that allows access to the sticky board if one is in place. I have the bottom open on Proteus. Some of you who looked at the video may have noticed light in the center of the hardware cloth under the hive. This is light reflecting from the deck through the bottom of the screen.

Below is a close-up of the bees sorting out the news of the day. Probably they are commenting that it is the first Monday since their arrival that that darned beekeeper didn't disturb them by checking on their creative ways of building comb.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Video of my beeyard

This is a video of my beeyard on the deck behind my house. I set up a tripod with my digital camera on it to film the activity at Proteus. I love how golden the bees look in the sun.

Since I took this in the middle of the afternoon and wasn't fully suited, I didn't take the camera closer to the other two hives because I didn't want to walk, carrying the tripod, through the buzzing busy flight paths. (I usually go behind a tree on the deck to go to the other hives when Proteus is this active.)

It's fun to hear and see the bees buzzing!

Hope you enjoyed it!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Building a Nuc for Potential Swarm Collection

Yesterday in a moment of risk-taking, I emailed Cindy Bee, a Metro Atlanta Beekeepers member, who keeps a swarm list of people willing to go get swarms. There's not much chance that I'll be asked to get a swarm, as you'll soon see. Her questions to me were:

1. How far are you willing to travel?
2. How high are you willing to climb?
3. How available are you?
4. Do you have a cell phone?

I told her
1. I would go just about anywhere within the limits of time, but that within 5 or 6 miles of my home would be preferable.
2. I only have a normal ladder such as one would use to paint a room and couldn't plan to climb any higher than that.
3. I work full time and am only really available on the weekends
4. YES, I do have a cell phone (the only answer without qualification).

So you can see that there are probably many people who have better answers to those questions and would be able to go before I could to capture a swarm.

But with ongoing hope for the future, I decided to build a nuc to get ready for the possibility (and I may be glad for it when I decide to split a hive or find queen cells). Here are the pieces of the nuc as it comes from Dadant. All other boxes I have ordered have dado cuts along the edges making it perfectly easy to fit the sides together. You can see that these pieces are, but for the cut handholds, simply pieces of wood. The directions were pictures with arrows and that was that.

My father can build anything. He has a well-equipped workshop, including things like a metal lathe, drill press, etc. When I was a child, I was allowed to watch while he worked in the workshop, but didn't get any hands-on experience. Consequently, how you hold two boards together in a steady firm fashion while pounding a nail into a corner was not part of my training. Putting together the bottom was fairly easy. I only bent one nail.

The whole event took more concentration than I expected. I was planning to watch a movie while putting it together, but ended up doing my construction while listening to music instead!

The next exercise of hammering the sides onto each other with no way to hold them steady was a challenge. I tried to nail the two corners and then fill in the other nails.

I managed to finish the nuc. It's not as perfect as the usual Dadant box, I'm sure because of my poor nailing ability, but it will do. I plan today to get flat-headed wood screws the length of the nails provided to screw the bottom to the nuc box (it is currently unconnected). If I were to take a box to collect a swarm, it would need to have a connected bottom. I am also going to set up a deep with a screwed on bottom. Now that I am converting to medium boxes, I may as well use a leftover deep box for a good purpose, like my fantasy of collecting a swarm.

I am not going to paint this nuc because I am so unlikely to be called to get a swarm that this box may well go unused.
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Wonderful Article on Beekeeping in Langsroth country

Here's a wonderful article on beekeeping from the Newburyport Daily News, in the part of the country where Rev. Langstroth, the originator of the hive box that many beekeepers use today, used to live.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Funny quote from Organicbeekeepers list

There's a listserve on Yahoogroups: Organicbeekeepers. On the email this morning is this funny quote. The question was asked:
"Is one of the benefits to organic beekeeping healthier, more disease resistant bees?"

The person who answered the question said:

"That's the reason for organic anything, methinks. I bee healthy, you bee healthy, they bee healthy. Lotsa healthy bees. :-)"

That certainly is my goal with not using poison and not treating the bees chemically. I can't say that I am an organic beekeeper yet, though, because my bees came in nucs which came from beekeepers who probably treat their bees and even if they don't, use foundation which has chemicals accumulated in the wax from previously chemically treated bees.

In addition, the organic folks think that it is outside of organic methods to use powdered sugar to get the bees to clean the varroa mites off of their bodies and it is outside of organic methods to feed the bees anything but honey. I do powdered sugar shakes and I feed the bees sugar syrup in the winter and early spring.

In psychology, the term successive approximation applies. This means that I am gradually moving to pure organic beekeeping but I am not there yet. To the best of my ability so far, I am practicing my version of organic beekeeping, but obviously have a way to go before I can call myself an organic beekeeper.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thoughts on Getting Stung

Bees sting - that's part of being a beekeeper. However, beesuits, veils, smoke, and caution should keep stings to a minimum. All of my first year of beekeeping, I was only stung three times. The first time was when I stepped on a dying bee in the house and she stung the bottom of my foot.

When I get stung, I have what is called a "large local reaction." First the bee stings, I scrape the stinger out, and the site really burns and looks red. Then four hours or more after the sting, a huge area around the sting site gets red, swollen, hot and itchy. The "large" part of the large local reaction can be four to six inches long and wide. The swelling lasts for days, as does the itching.

Well, my second sting was much more dramatic. I was stung as I was watching the bees come in and out of the hive. The guard bee got me right under my right eyebrow. It was around 5 PM on a Sunday afternoon. The next day, Monday, I was scheduled to make videotapes with my Emory graduate students in which I had to be taped as well as the students. I woke up to find that my eye was almost swollen shut. I still had to teach my class, make the videos with the students and put on a good front. I told them I could only be filmed from the left side!

I don't remember the details of the third sting but I think it was on my knee.

In this my second bee season, I have already been stung four times. I think it is in part because I am not being as careful about having my beesuit and veil on when I do small things with the bees. When I broke my camera about a week ago, I got stung twice on my left arm and once on my right little finger. I didn't have my gloves on my hands and I was being careless. The stings on my left arm have just stopped being swollen and have just stopped itching.....ten or more days since I was stung. For about a week, you couldn't see that I had knuckles on my left hand because my hand was the size of a squashed tennis ball.

That brings us to today. This morning while I was talking to my daughter on the cell phone, I went out to sweep off the deck between the beehives. I didn't have on a veil, no gloves, no jacket and was wearing black (a no-no around the bees who then think you are a bear. ) As I was sweeping and talking, I was stung on my right elbow.

I had read that putting a real penny on the sting helps, so right away I put a penny on the sting. Sure enough, the pain went away quicker than usual. But now it is 10 PM, 12 hours after the sting and my elbow is swollen in an elongated six inch by three inch oval. It is hot and itches. And so begins another 7 - 10 day stretch.

I'd put a picture up but it seems too much like those horrible pictures of skin diseases that my brother and I used to look at in my father's medical journals!

Next time I sweep, I'm wearing my bee gloves!

Weak Hive is doing FINE!

I checked the brood box in the weak hive, Bermuda, today. I saw the queen, dutifully laying eggs. The first picture shows her brood pattern. She has laid brood in six or seven of the frames in good patterns. The outer two frames in this hive are filled with capped honey and pollen. I think for a queen with her work cut out for her, she has done quite well. I had put one SC starter strip frame in the number 2 position in the bottom box and they were festooning on it when I opened the box. In addition, the bee numbers are increasing and they are moving up into the medium above the medium brood box.

In the second medium, they are just starting to draw out the starter strips. There is a filled frame in the center with small cell foundation. They had drawn it out and filled the cells with uncapped honey. They were just starting on the rest of the essentially empty frames. I'm no longer worried about Bermuda. This hive may not produce honey for me this year, but they'll do fine for themselves.

Next I went to Mellona and went into the brood box there. The girls had drawn out all the frames very straight and gorgeous. The frame in this picture is in the #2 position and you can see brood at the bottom and the edges and capped honey on the top area of the frame.

I pulled this frame out of the second box, a medium. They've drawn this comb out rather well and you can see some capped brood at the bottom. They have a ways to go in this box, however, with only six frames drawn out. The last four frames all had festooning bees, making wax, however. I was pleased.

Finally I opened Proteus, the crazy comb hive. They had straightened out most of the comb. I still cut a little that was bulging over toward the next frame. I checked the bottom brood box in this hive and they had beautiful comb and good brood in all stages. The bees with the starter strips in this hive tend to build comb in two dips off of the top of the frame. I guess they'll fill in the center later?

I did this inspection today especially to see if Bermuda still had a queen and if she were laying well. I am pleased and will not go into the brood box on any hive now for several weeks, unless I have reason to suspect a problem. All three looked good and were doing fine with the starter strips, albeit a little dippy sometimes.

For the next few weeks, I'll open each hive about once a week, but only to look to see if they need a new super for the honey flow.

It's funny - last year I inspected the hives because I thought I was supposed to and usually didn't have a real goal. This year my goals every time are clear. I now have a new camera and will be learning to use it before my next post.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Problems with Blog Pictures

I woke up this morning (April 19) to find that Google managed to fix the problem so the pictures are back. I'm sorry for any inconvenience for any visitors to my blog.

: Google has a message on the help site that they are working on the Picasa ongoing problems (has been a problem since the blog came out of beta) and as a result some of the pictures posted will not be available. They currently say at 7:30 PM PDT on April 18 that the pictures are now fixed, but obviously they are not.

I'm so sorry - I have no power over this. Hopefully Google will get this straight sooner than later.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Inspecting Mellona Today

In Mellona today, the combs in the medium were being drawn well and straight. You can see the bees festooning in the picture below. I didn't disturb the hive much because I only had a short time before I had to go to work. Also it was cold and I didn't want to freeze the bees - just wanted to make sure they were building straight comb.

This hive is in an old repainted deep box and the medium box where this picture was taken is also an old box. The frames they are using are old frames - you can see the comb remnants from last year in the bottom of the frame. I wonder if the smell of the old comb, etc is helping these bees draw straight comb.....

Here is an example of an almost-filled comb from that hive:

I took off the honey super shallow box that I added last week and looked in it to see if the bees were building comb yet. They had barely started. In addition, I had put a full sheet of SC foundation in a frame in the center of this shallow.

The bees had completely chewed out the foundation. I actually heard them doing it. While it was really cold I went out and listened to the sides of the hive - it's something that I like to do because the smells and sounds of the hive at work are just wonderful. I heard the sound of them crunching and wondered what it was. Now I know.

I didn't run that foundation top to bottom (cutting error), but it extended to about 1/8 inch from the bottom. For some reason they didn't want it there and chewed it off......SC foundation is really expensive and the cheap part of me felt resentful that they wasted it like that!

On Beemaster I asked about the chewed foundation and the reply was that they probably needed the wax in the box below and chewed it off to use it there. If I had waited a little longer before putting that box on, then they might have left it alone. I usually add a super or box when the box below has 7 - 8 frames drawn with only a couple to go. This time I added the super when they had only drawn 6 frames. I did this since the tulip poplar flow is on and it was going to be too cold to go into the hives over the past week. Of course if it's too cold to go in the hives, it's also too cold for the bees to fly so having the extra super was too early and not necessary.

I think the old saying is "Hoist by my own petard." No, I just looked it up on Wikipedia and actually that's not the correct expression because it means to be harmed by something you intended to harm someone else (as in being blown up by your own bomb).

Since I only LOVE the bees, no harm was intended. In my family when you push to get something done in a more than timely way, we say that we are "pushing the train out of the station," a phrase used in my grandmother's house when my mother was growing up. So I guess in putting the super on too early, I was pushing the train out of the station.

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I took a brief look into Bermuda - boy, those are angry bees in that hive. They growled discontentedly when I opened the inner cover, and buzzed at my veil. They have not begun work in the medium that I added last week. It's possible that the hive is queenless (by virtue of the anger and the buzz when I opened the box) so I'll give it a proper inspection later in the week. Although it is also possible that the hive is still gathering strength since it was so weak a month ago.

Proteus Inspection Today - looking for messy comb

Remember that Proteus made a mess of drawing out comb from the starter strips? I had to go in and cut out bridging comb between the frames. They still are not perfectly straight in the center frames, but there was no bridging comb. I only cut a one-inch piece or two that was extending off of the edge of the frame too close to the next one, IMHO. Below is the first frame I pulled out (and thanks to my daughter, Valerie, for lending me her camera). Honey is being capped in this centrally located frame.

The frame below is the one that was the messiest last week. They still are not on track, but mostly are working on filling the frame. The open comb is where I cut a sticking out piece of comb off.

On the frames on the edge of the box, the bees are building good comb as evidenced by the picture below. There's hope for this hive. This medium box in which they made the mess is a newly built box and the frames are all newly built frames. The other new hive, Mellona, is doing a much better job. That medium box is an old repainted box and the frames are old medium frames into which I waxed starter strips. Wonder if the smell makes it better for those bees to draw straight comb? HMMM, I'll ask on Beemaster.
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It's the Birthday of the Blog!

Actually as of yesterday I've been keeping this blog for one year! Think how many bees have come and gone on my deck during the year.....thousands upon thousands! I've done my best to record all the successes and failures. In the process I've
  • lost one hive and one camera,
  • learned to use a hammer and nails for many different construction projects including building hive bodies, putting together frames, and creating a robber screen.
  • harvested honey using both the crush and strain method and making cut comb honey
  • learned several ways to feed the bees
  • tried to cope with the Varroa mite and the small hive beetle using non-chemical methods
  • worked with starter strips and began the process of regressing to small cell
  • learned a lot about the weather
  • paid much more attention to what is blooming when in Atlanta
  • found wonderful resources for bee knowledge on the web, in classes I've taken, and in my Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association
  • met both in person and on the web a very diverse and fascinating group of people who also keep bees
  • realized how much, much more I still have to learn about bees and beekeeping.
Keeping this blog has kept me on track with my project and has been very fulfilling. I will BEE continuing as I grow and increase in my bee experiences in this second year of the blog.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wax Melting and Filtering Part Two

I stirred the wax in the double boiler with chop sticks so that I could throw them away later.

I set up half of a waxed carton with panty hose stretched over it as a filter. Then I poured the leftovers from crushing and straining my honey last year through the filter. Left on the hose is junk from the wax including bee parts, trash, bugs, etc.

I wish I had filtered into a coffee can because I had a hard time getting the wax out of the waxed carton. I need to learn how to manage the wax from crush and strain differently. What I did was crush the wax and when the honey was all harvested, I washed the wax that was left.

Inevitably there was water in the bag with the wax pieces. It froze with the wax as tiny droplets on the individual wax pieces. When I poured the first wax through the filter, there was water in the melted wax. As the wax cooled it hardened around the water. So when I took the hardened wax out of the carton, water went everywhere. It was a mess, actually, and I lost some wax in the process.

If I had poured the water-laden wax into a coffee can, I could have poured the water out when the wax had hardened and then put the metal can into boiling water to remelt the wax. There has to be a better way to deal with the water, so I will visit some candle making books and web sites to find out.

The end result is that I remelted the now-filtered wax again in my double boiler and poured it into two bread pans to cool.

Below are the bars I made in bread pans from my wax. Next time I want to wax in starter strips, I'll have filtered, pure wax bars to melt for sticking the strips in the frames.
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When a beekeeper harvests honey, everyone says, "Don't do it in the kitchen because honey will be everywhere." I did my entire harvest in the kitchen without making a mess. I managed the honey harvest without a sticky kitchen.

Melting wax is quite another thing. Wax drips and pieces are everywhere in my kitchen after this process. I scraped wax off of my stove for a long time after I finished. Realizing that I don't want to do this to my stove ever again, I bid (and lost) on EBay for a hot plate. I'll get one on EBay or somewhere else before I melt wax again so the process can take place in my basement!

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