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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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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Color Combo Honey

Note: (Google has been having some problems with uploading images. These images are small but at least they uploaded. If you click on the image, you can see the photo much bigger).

Last year most of the supers I harvested had honey of a consistent color. An early super would have light colored honey on all 10 frames. A super filled in July would have very dark rich-tasting honey, possibly from sumac and catalpa.

I took off some frames from the hives over the weekend and discovered that the frames from Melissa had two colors of honey in the same frame - both light and dark. In the picture below, I've outlined the honey on the outside of the frame that is very dark and the honey in the center is quite light.

In this picture if you look at the uncrushed comb, you can see the very dark honey on the edges and at the top of the picture and the top of the uncrushed comb, you can see the very light honey

Even when I crushed the comb, you can still see the pool of light honey up against the pool of dark honey. I'm not sure if this is atypical and will let you know when I hear from the forum question I will post.

Post Script: One of the posters on Beesource suggested that this represents a switch in nectar source. The picture of the full comb is on a frame sitting upside down. The light honey was stored first (at the top and center of the frame). We are now moving into the season where I get dark, rich, delicious (to me) honey. So the honey more recently loaded into this frame was probably from the dark honey sources (sumac, catalpa).

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Hodge-Podge Post

This post is full of random hodge-podge from my inspection and harvest this weekend.

Remember the hive where the comb was being built only on 2/3 of each frame in the super? I posted on the Beemaster forum, and I received replies suggesting that the bees would continue in this hive to build comb only in the front 2/3 of the box unless I took action. The recommended action was to turn the box 180 degrees so that the bees would now have the back in the front and the front in the back. I did this and now they are filling out the frames (see below).

I keep a stick in the back of my telescoping covers to add ventilation to the hives. When I do my inspections, the first thing I remove is the stick.....and then I lose it because I put it down just any old place. Today I decided to keep the stick in my hand until I take off the top cover and place the stick inside the telescoping cover before I take the hive apart. Seems simple, but it's hard to remember to hold onto the stick while I remove the cover. However, it pays off. I was much less frustrated since I could easily find the stick at the time to close up the hive, and I made myself remember to do it with each of the eight hives. Hooray!

Hyron, my first swarm, has been lagging behind the other hives. There is definitely a queen, but although she has a beautiful football shaped laying pattern, the swarm has not been building up as I would like it to. They haven't even considered the upper box. To find out how they really were, I needed to go into the brood box. I opened up the top box and set it on the inner cover.

I removed a frame from the brood box (the only box with any bees in it.) The bees were hot and not happy with me. Immediately they flew out of the hive and fastened themselves onto my jeans. It is so hot that I had opted to use my jacket with a veil that I love from BeeWorks. As a result I was wearing my blue jeans. There were at least 50 bees on my legs. I felt the stings start; put the frame against the hive; and headed for the house.

I could feel the stings through my jeans and tried to brush all of them off. When I finally counted the stings, I had 15 including one that crawled up my jeans and stung my knee and one that slipped under the elastic band on my wrist. Note to self: If I want to wear the veil for an inspection and not my full suit:
1. Don't inspect Hyron, the hot swarm hive
2. Wear loose jeans like my overalls instead of well-fitted jeans.

I don't know why this is such a hot hive, but I get stung every time I open it. Beekeepers will say that I need to replace the queen. I think I'm going to ignore this hive for a while and maybe replace the queen going into fall.

Meanwhile, like a true Southern woman, I felt inspired to feed these bees (we Southern women feed everyone). Maybe they haven't experienced me as hospitable as they expected here in Georgia. I haven't been feeding any of my hives because we've had a good nectar flow going, but these girls must be hungry. The jar which was totally full, had about an inch of feed taken from it since I installed. Maybe this will tame their spirits, but meanwhile it will be a cold day in ,.........before I open Hyron again.

While I was in the hives today, I took off about 9 frames of beautiful capped honey - some pretty enough to cut comb, all of it good for chunk honey. I took the wax cappings/crushings out of my filter from last weekend to make way for the new harvest. I washed it to get it ready for the solar wax melter. Here's the beautiful wax, ready to go outside and melt. There's a lot of it - will take about three different days in the SWM.

That's all for the hodge-podge post!
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cut comb Lessons Learned from Last Year

Last year I cut comb, drained it, boxed it, froze the honey in the boxes, thawed it and found that honey oozed out around the edges of the comb as it thawed.

This year I cut it; drained it; put the draining rack and honey into the freezer overnight; removed the draining rack and honey from the freezer and thawed them; and THEN boxed it. This year's honey doesn't have liquid honey oozing out the bottom.

Below you can see the difference in 2008 honey on the left and 2007 honey on the right.

Here are six dry packed boxes of cut comb honey. The honey is earlier honey than last year and is lighter. Last year I made cut comb from the dark honey made by my bees in July.

Here's a close-up of the ooze from last year's thaw post the overnight in the freezer.

Here are my last two boxes from 2007 stacked up against the lighter boxed honey from 2008. You can really see the difference.

Beekeeping is all about learning new things every year.
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Today's Honey Harvest with a Special Helper

I've read that if a mouse lives in a beehive (as mice often have the propensity to do over the winter) and if the mouse dies, the bees are likely to encase the mouse in propolis. I have in my own hives found small hive beetles encased in propolis near the edge of the frames.

Imagine the gross surprise when I pull these gorgeous frames of honey from Mellona and there between two frames, the bees have encased a roach egg with wax. It literally was bridging the space between two frames.

I cut out the piece containing the roach egg and ground it up in the garbage disposal! I did crush and strain on the rest of the frame in case there were any hidden eggs of any type elsewhere in the frame.

Some of the honey in this super was so well-capped that it begged to become cut comb honey, so that's what I did with it.

Last year I allowed the cut honey to drain, boxed it and then put the boxes in the freezer. When I thawed the boxes, there was more bleeding of honey in the now-boxed honey. I wanted to prevent the post-freezing honey drain into the packaging. So these squares of honey will be frozen overnight, allowed to thaw and drain into the pan below, and THEN I'll box the cut combs.

My favorite part of the honey harvest today was that I had my enthusiastic grandson to help me with this super. If you're interested you can click on the slideshow below and see all of his and my adventures with the honey.

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Second Super Harvested This Season

Collecting honey from the beehives was a challenge because since I unexpectedly have eight (8) hives (!!!!!) I don't have any extra medium boxes.

When I take off a super from a hive, I shake each frame to free it of bees and put the bee-free frame into an empty super to take inside. When the super is filled, I carry in the frames to harvest. Because I have NO empty boxes, I didn't know how I was going to clear out the super from Mellona today. Looking in my bee equipment in the basement, I found this box from a bee order that was just the right size to hold honey-laden frames. It saved the day!

Mellona makes gorgeous honey - this hive produced lovely honey last year and this year is no exception. The frames from this super were perfectly capped frames of honey - what great bees grow up in this hive.

The frame below is sitting on top of a queen excluder because I am about to make cut comb honey with this lovely comb and the queen excluder is the best drain rack there is. The wires are close enough together to avoid causing damage to the comb.

When I cut the honey comb off of the frames I stacked the dripping frames in an extra honey bucket. The small amount of honey that drained off into this bucket will be unfiltered. I don't want to mix it with my beautiful filtered honey so I will save it to be fed back to the bees. The opaque looking sheet is my flexible cutting board from the crush and strain I did today. (Note: less than 8 ounces of honey drained into this bucket and I put it in a small bottle to give to the bees, when needed)

After I had harvested all 10 frames from this super, I put the dripping leftovers into my only empty medium super (the one I took off of Mellona to harvest these). I put the medium box with the dripping frames on the new swarm hive (whoops, need a name for this one!) The bees there will have the advantage of the dripping honey since I am not feeding them and they can use the frames to build new comb and work hard.

I believe I'll call the new hive Hyron² since it is a swarm hive and is exponentially vigorous compared to the original Hyron.
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Delivering the Carport Swarm to my Friends

On Tuesday, this swarm moved into the nuc sitting on my carport brick wall. They've been housekeeping and setting up shop quite busily since then. I know they chose me, but I can't have another hive - I have eight now.

At the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' meeting on Wednesday, I asked my friend Gina if she would like these bees. Turns out her second hive had absconded and she was wishing for bees. So we planned for me to deliver them at dark tonight.

I have a door for a medium hive but not one for a nuc, so I devised a makeshift closure to keep the bees in the hive for the drive to Gina's house, not far from mine. Below you can see Gina and me as we get ready to take the bees out of my car.

We carried the nuc down through her lovely garden spot and placed it next to its new hive home which the bees will move into tomorrow. We opened the front door of the nuc and took off all of the bungee cords, securing the closure of this small hive. Gina's husband, Phillip, took these great pictures of us in action.

Since these bees have been oriented to a location in my carport, Gina placed some greens in front of the nuc to help the bees orient tomorrow. She'll put the bees in the hive tomorrow and then disrupt that entrance with greens as well to help the bees get their bearings. I do hope this becomes a successful hive for her.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Honeybee Botany and Dr. Paul Arnold

Tonight at the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' meeting, Dr. Paul Arnold spoke to us about Honeybee Botany. Paul is a professor and researcher at Young Harris College and I have met him several times. He spoke to us last year about palynology and he was one of the teachers in the Journey(wo)man course I took at Young Harris.

He talked tonight about basic plant biology - the difference in fertilization and pollination as well as the parts of the plant and how they function. I had learned all about perfect and imperfect flowers at Young Harris. Here's a summary of my notes:

1. He described the two types of imperfect flowers: Monoecious and Dioecious. These two terms have Latin roots. Mono means "one" and Di means "two" The "Ecious" part comes from the same root as "ecology" and means "house" So if Monoecious means "one house" that refers to a plant in which the staminate and pistillate flowers are both on the same plant - like corn and cucumber. A Dioecious or "two house" plant refers to a plant that has staminate and pistillate flowers on different plants - such as holly where there is a male and female shrub or the ginko tree where there are male and female trees.

2. Bees find the flowers that they pollinate in several ways - some flowers have UV markers on their petals. Bees don't see red so if they are attracted to a red flower, it is not because of the color, but rather because of something else like UV markers or scent. Bees seek out flowers which will give them the reward of nectar or pollen. Sometimes the scent of the flower draws the bee.

3. Bees make good pollinators for several reasons. First they have perennial colonies which have large populations (lots of pollinators). Second, bees only eat nectar and pollen - they don't eat anything else and aquiring nectar or pollen results in pollination every time the bees seeks food. Bees have plumose body hairs that collect pollen easily ("plumose" means having feathery hair as bees do all over their bodies). Bees tend to stick to one type flower per trip. So if a bee goes out foraging to get nectar from the holly tree, she moves from holly flower to holly flower, rather than to two or three kinds of flowers at once. This makes it easy for her to carry pollen from one holly flower to another. Finally bees are good pollinators because the hives can be manipulated as well as moved to increase effectiveness.

4. The attractants for bees to flowers include sight: nectar guides on petals, color, pattern, and movement of the flower
and scent: the bees hold the scent memory for up to five days.

Finally he got to an explanation of my abelia.

5. Some plants, including abelia (I asked him), have "extra-floral nectaries." Looking at the trumpet shape of the abelia flower, it's hard to imagine a little honeybee sticking her body in far enough to stick her tongue in far enough to get the nectar. But as I reported in last night's post, both the bunblebees and the honeybees appeared to be getting nectar from where the flower meets the sepals.

In many flowers, the nectary is in the center of the bloom. But in the case of abelia and tulip poplar and many others, there is an extra-floral nectary. This is exactly what it sounds like: a nectar source outside the petals of the flower. This is the case with abelia and this explains why the bees are hanging on the outside of the flower to get to the nectary at its base.

If you enlarge this picture by clicking on it, you can see that the bumblebee is on the outside of the flower, slurping nectar from the extra-floral nectary.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Yet Another Swarm Chooses Me!

When I drove into my carport from work today, there were bees buzzing all around this little nuc stored with some bee equipment on the side wall of my carport. Another swarm has chosen my house for its home.

Yesterday I saw lots of scouts buzzing around the nuc which at that time had no bottom board. Just in case, before I went to bed last night I went out and put a bottom board under the nuc. This evening it is full of bees. I only watched them zooming in and out and didn't really check it out. I did lift the top enough to see bees crawling on the tops of the frames. This isn't a large swarm -it isn't boiling over with bees, but they definitely have moved in to stay.

In a way they have chosen wisely. The nuc is up on a brick wall about knee high. It is protected from the elements by the carport roof and it faces directly east.

Against this home choice is the fact that my carport light comes on automatically at 6 PM and stays on until 11. The nuc is 3 feet from my kitchen door, the door just about everyone uses to enter my house. And as you can see, they don't have a direct flight out of the nuc - it faces a stack of frames, boxes, slatted racks, and bottom boards, although I will be putting most of those pieces of equipment into use in hives this weekend.

I can't believe that this is the second swarm to arrive in my yard this year. Perhaps these are cast from my own hives, and maybe they are from somewhere else....none of my hives seem at all diminished. I guess now that I am a beekeeper, the smell of equipment and other bees in residence draws the swarm.

I imagine after they've settled in about a week, I'll relocate them somewhere in my backyard. Where, I don't know since I already have eight hives. I could put them next to Devorah under the tree in my yard, rather than on my deck.

Meanwhile my abelia is in full fragrant bloom. Abelia is a member of the honeysuckle family and blooms most of the summer. Every day it is covered with bumblebees. I think the nectar may be far down for honeybees, but today I noticed my bees working just as hard on this abelia as the bumblebees were.

Here's a bee hanging on the abelia blossom, not quite nectar oriented yet! Addendum, June 11 I have just watched both bumblebees and honeybees for about 15 minutes on my abelia bush - they all gather the nectar from the space where this honeybee is getting it - between the calyx and the corolla. So the bee in the picture is in fact harvesting nectar for the camera.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Today's Inspection - Beautiful Capped Honey

Today in the 98 degree weather at the hottest part of the day (3 PM) I inspected my hives. I found a couple of interesting anomalies to share on this blog. In Persephone all of the frames were built out, but only in the front 2/3 of the frame. What do you think that is about? I'm going to post on Beemaster and I'll let you know what they say. It was the oddest thing.

When I opened Melissa, I was thrilled to find this pure white capped honey. Isn't that gorgeous? The super wasn't fully capped so I won't harvest it yet, but I was impressed with this new hive. Mellona does have a box of capped honey that I will remove this weekend. Some of it is pretty enough to cut into cut comb honey. The honey below needs a little more time to be fully capped. While the frame in the picture is capped, there were at least four or five that were not fully capped in this super.

I have been giving the bees starter strips of wax in the frames and in each box I put one full sheet of foundation. However, since these are honey supers, I am using thin surplus foundation that I ordered my first year to use in shallow supers. Since this is a medium super, the foundation isn't long enough to fill the frame.

To keep the bees from pushing the foundation sheet (which can't be attached to the bottom because it's too short) out at an angle, I always put a rubber band around the frame to keep the foundation in line. Most of the time after waxing it into the groove, I remove the rubber band before putting the frame into the hive.

I forgot to on this frame. See how the bees indented the comb to accommodate the rubber band!

Finally in inspecting all of my hives today, I only saw one small hive beetle. However, this year for the first time, I have silverfish - yuck. (Whoops! See comment below - it's an earwig.)
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Hotlanta Breaks a Record (and so Does This Blog)!

Today the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported:

"Atlanta reached 98 degrees today, breaking a 13-year-old record by one degree.
Forecasters expect another hot one Tuesday and again on Wednesday. Summer's here, a bit earlier than usual."

You can see the bees bearding on the landings of their hives in an effort to cool off. The bees maintain a temperature of around 94 degrees in the hive. In Atlanta today where it was 98 degrees, you can imagine that it gets even hotter inside the beehive unless the bees do something about it. What they do is to send some of the bees outside to lower the heat indoors. Once on the porch, some of these bees fan to increase the ventilation. Others do the washboard dance - maybe to forestall the boredom of just hanging out on the porch.

Mellona, below, was creative in its bearding, making an outline of bees around the bottom box.

Persephone had her bees hanging out in the orientation branch. The bearding in all of these hives would be much denser, but for the slatted rack, the screened bottom board, and the stick that I use to prop up the top cover at the back.

As Atlanta set a record of 98 degrees, this blog with this post sets a record of 400 posts so far.

I've kept the blog for two years and 55 days. This averages out to approximately one post every two days. The blog continues to be a great way for me to keep a record of my bee activities and has been a wonderful way for me to make beekeeping contacts around the country and around the world.
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

What Do Beekeepers Do After Dark?

Well, we read books about bees, we chat on the Beemaster forum, we gaze at our hives and wonder what it will be like inside when we look in on the bees the next time. We look at the bearding bees on the fronts of our hives and wonder what is going on there.

Tonight in addition to the beards on the front porch, there was a clump of bees on the ground in front of Mellona. I tried to take a picture but it was dark and the bees were not happy with my bursts of flash so I kept my distance.

When I came in and loaded the pictures onto the computer, I found out what was going on in Mellona. The yellow circle is around one of those 2 1/2 inch Palmetto cockroaches. I imagine he came to visit inside Mellona and the pile of bees rushed him right back out.

This evening this beekeeper came home to Beekeeper's Treasure. The beekeeping supplies that I ordered from Betterbee and Brushy Mountain all arrived in a stack of large boxes in my carport. Given the sparse nature of my equipment - so much is in use at the moment - I hurriedly unpacked the boxes to find out what surprises were inside.

From Betterbee there were slatted racks, an inner cover, and a telescoping cover. From Brushy Mountain there were screened bottom boards, cut comb honey boxes, and two medium frames nucs (two medium boxes per nuc). The little end pieces for the boxes are so cute - like a doll house for bees.

So naturally what this beekeeper did on this night was paint equipment in my carport. Now I can help Persephone who has a solid bottom board both for the top and bottom of the hive, graduate to greater heights and state of coolness with a screened bottom board, a slatted rack, an inner cover, and a telescoping cover (all painted in my 2008 yellow and blue). I can also put a slatted rack on Melissa (another hive short of equipment.)

Now I am waiting on medium end bars to turn the shallow frame kits I currently have into medium ones. This will of course be what this beekeeper does after dark on another beekeeper night.

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