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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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Monday, July 21, 2008

Help with the Harvest

Over the weekend, my young friend Andrew, who is very interested in the possibility of keeping bees at his house, came over to help me harvest honey. My 2 year old grandson, Dylan, was also there.

We all worked on the harvest and took so many pictures that I've put together a slideshow:

Click on the slideshow to see the pictures full-sized.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Four Ways to Harvest Honey without an Extractor

Last Wednesday I was part of a panel on ways to harvest honey. I talked about harvesting without an extractor. Below is the slideshow of slides I used for my part of this. Each type of harvest has been more extensively talked about on this blog previously and most can be found in the video/slideshow bar on the side.

Here are my slides illustrating four ways to harvest honey without an extractor:

Click on the slideshow to see captions for each picture.

I have detailed slide shows and videos on all of these ways on the sidebar on the right.

Crush and Strain Honey Harvest
Cut Comb Honey
Chunk Honey
Jar to Jar several links: one, two, three

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mortician Bees are Earning Their Keep

Within the hive certain bees are designated to carry out the dead. These mortician bees have been hard at work in Hyron, the hive that was robbed on Saturday. Below is the pile of bees at the end of the robbing.

Yesterday (Monday) you can see that the pile has been greatly diminished by these tireless workers.

When I got home from work today, here's what the same pile looked like. Not only do the bees feel a need to clean house, they have a much harder job to do with the robber screen in place. Nonetheless, they soldier on, carrying the dead bodies up the screen to fly away to drop them far away from the hive.

Here you can see a mortician bee, carrying her dead sister up the tall robber screen to the 3 inch top entry. She flew over the top too quickly for my digital camera to catch her in the act.

You might notice the small hive beetle on the outside of the robber screen. I saw two of them this evening outside the screen. They must be eager to get into this very weakened hive, but the robber screen is a barrier for them as well as the robbers, at least at the moment.

I am in great admiration of this hive. Their boundaries were violated, their peace was shattered, and yet they continue with life, trying to restore their hive. I hope, hope, hope the queen is still alive and buzzing. I'll see this weekend.
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Mayhem and Marauders

When a hive is weakened, as Hyron was by robbing, then the bees and the hive itself become a playground for opportunistic insects. Small hive beetles become bolder. Wax moths may be able to lay their eggs and complete a life cycle. And from the outside there are wasps and other marauders such as the bald-faced hornet shown below.

This is not a good picture of the bald-faced hornet because he is curled around a fighting little bee. I watched the hornet capture the bee just as she left the landing deck of the hive. He wrestled her to the ground. She fought a good fight but in the end, the bald-faced hornet, cannibal that he is, carried her off to feed his young.

The ground in front of the hive that was robbed is littered with bees and pieces of bees. I wanted to cry when I saw it up close. They fought valiantly to protect their hive. Luckily it rained for the next two days and the robbing of the hive has ceased. This picture covers about a square foot of the ground in front of the hive and about three square feet look like this.

The bees are cleaning up in earnest. The robber screen makes it difficult. I always marvel when the mortician bee carries out the dead, flying with a body the same size as her own. However, the pile of dead bees in the corner of the robber screen has diminished, implying that the bees are carrying out the dead in spite of the obstacle of the screen.

I've opened the robber screen to give them about a 3 inch entry which you can see at the top of the robber screen in the picture below. The photo shows a bee aiming to land in the entry and you can see bees crawling up the screen from the landing to enter the hive at its new temporary front door.

I opened the hive today to put on a shim and a baggie feeder. I went full suited because this has been a very aggressive hive. There was no queenless roar and no attacks on me. I don't know if that represents their defeatist approach now that the war is over. Maybe the lack of a queenless roar means that the queen is still alive and survived the attack. And then again, it may mean that the queen is dead but they don't have the spirit to care.

I didn't want to open the hive for inspection because it was 7 PM when I got home from work and because they've been through enough right now. Having me tear apart their house after having marauding intruders a few days ago felt to me like adding insult to injury.

I do feel good as a beekeeper that I gave them a big baggie of sugar syrup, protected this time by a shim. I hope this hive can survive. If it's still alive next week, I'll probably combine it with Aristaeus, one of my other swarm hives. I'll especially make this decision if the queen of Hyron is dead.
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

More of the Robbing Story

Toward the end of the day, the robber screen became crowded at one corner with dead bees. I'm sure the house bees who still were alive were working to clean up the mess left after the robbing.

I had shut the propped top cover and had put a top bar blocking most of the access to the hive at the top of the robber screen. Bees continued to gather on the side of the hive - you can see the beginning of the gathering here. By the end of the day, the cluster was about 3 times as big as in this picture.

I determined that the clustering bees were hive foragers who returned to find the hive closed up and hung there because it was as close to home as they could get. So right at dark, I opened the top cover and propped it with a stick. By the time night had fallen, all the bees were gone back inside. I went out and removed the propping stick so tomorrow they will not have a back door, at least for a while.

After dark I opened the top of the robber screen to give about a 3 inch access space. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
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Robbing and Regrets

Regret is a difficult emotion. My first swarm hive, Hyron, has been colored this entire season with regret. When I hived the swarm colony in their hivebox, it wasn't a nice place. I regreted that I wasn't more prepared for a swarm.

I put them in the box I had set up as a swarm lure box, but it wasn't lovely - there were remnants of wax moth damage on the frames, it was my oldest deep box, it didn't have a screened bottom board or a good cover.

I haven't liked this hive. I tried to inspect them a few weeks ago and the guard bees fastened onto my jeans and stung me more than I have ever been stung on a hive inspection. They have insisted on staying in the bottom box, despite my best efforts to entice them to build upwards.

Toward the end of June I began feeding them with a Boardman feeder so I wouldn't have to open up this angry hive to put a baggie feeder in and get stung just to be nice to them. This, of course, is my latest regret because the Boardman, I believe, was the start of all of my troubles today.

I also regret that I didn't follow my inclinations two weeks ago. On that inspection, I thought I should combine Hyron with Aristaeus because both were slow to build up swarm hives and could complement each other and perhaps get big enough by fall to make it through the winter well. I didn't do that because I couldn't bring myself to the idea of killing one of the queens.

Well, today I stopped at home for water and a break in the middle of my 8 mile walk and glanced out at the bees on the deck to see full-scale robbing in progress at Hyron. I suited up and went out to take off the Boardman feeder (empty by that time). I set it on the deck rail and as you can see below, the bees clustered all around it.

I didn't want the hive to be destroyed, although I may have been too late, so I quickly installed the robber screen I made in 2006. I wanted to completely close up the hive, if possible. I put a top bar over the normal opening of the robber screen and will leave it that way all day.

The value of a robber screen is that the robbers want to enter the hive through the hive entrance. The bees who live in the hive are drawn to the queen's pheromone and will find an entrance to the hive, as they follow the hormone. So the robber screen protects the entrance and provides an alternate entry for the bees who live in the hive.

I think the hive is a goner, though. A few moments ago I saw a bee inside the screen carrying a pupae. Most of the time in robbing, the robber bees rip the caps off of the honey and maybe they also ripped caps off of brood as well.

Despite the robber screen, the bees still cluster all around the hive box in funny places like on the bungee cord (see above). There is one bee sized opening at the upper right (as we face it) corner of the robber screen and bees are coming and going through that. I don't know if they are robber bees or not.

Sad day in my bee yard. All of the other hives are behaving normally.
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There's always a silver lining....

The wax moth isn't a creature you want to find in your bee hive. Usually the wax moth takes advantage of a weak hive and suddenly the frames are a mess of yuck. I never have thought of the wax moth as having positive properties.

I'm training for the Breast Cancer 3 Day Walk in Atlanta in October. The walk itself includes three consecutive days in October, walking 20 miles each day. The training is vigorous, with the mileage increasing each weekend as we are now 15 weeks from the event. Today I had to walk 8 miles.

To make the miles less boring, I bought an IPod and download NPR podcasts and audio books to keep my mind off of the long distance. One of the podcasts I listened to today was NPR's Hearing Voices.

Imagine my surprise when one of the topics in a feature called Bugs and Birds was about the music made by wax moths!

A man actually cultivated the wax moths because of the high-pitched music they make after dark and he figured out how to record this. It is, I must say, quite beautiful. Who knew there was value to such a messy creature?

So now if I find a wax moth infestation in any of my hives, I'm going to try to remember their musical talent!
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Talk at Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' Association

Tonight I was part of a panel called "Everything Honey." Jerry Wallace and I were to talk about harvesting honey. We went together well since he uses an extractor and I do not. I talked about four honey harvest methods: Jar to Jar, Crush and Strain, Chunk Honey and Cut Comb Honey. Jerry talked about extracting and how different honeys come at different times of the year.

I had four slideshows - one on each topic above and I showed my video on Crush and Strain.
I'll try to post the slides in a single group later.
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It's the Little Things.....

At Young Harris Beekeeping Institute this year, I heard two different people talk about making splits in the summer to disrupt the varroa mite life cycle and to take care of your bees. One of the problems for me with using nucs to make splits is that the nuc I own is a deep (as most nucs are) and I am trying to move to all medium boxes.

The vendor at Young Harris, Brushy Mountain, offers a medium nuc that comes with two boxes. I ordered two at the meeting. I have to confess that when they arrived, the nucs looked like doll houses for bees. I've left them unbuilt for a couple of months.

Yesterday I needed to harvest some honey for a panel that I am going to participate in at the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' meeting tonight. As I thought about bringing in the honey and thought about how heavy a full super (medium) is, I remembered the bee doll houses.

I built two of the boxes right away. BTW, the medium nuc is a two box nuc, each a five frame 6 5/8" depth.

What a joy it was to carry the honey frames into the house in these small boxes - so much lighter. The boxes are designed for five frames and if I were doing it really correctly, I would have placed a space holder fifth frame in each of the boxes since I was harvesting an 8 frame super. However, it's only a few steps from my hives to my back door, so I brought the light, light (comparatively) boxes in one at a time.

Although I plan to use the medium nucs I bought to make splits, I will also be using them for honey harvest carrying going forward!
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Bees Must Like Licorice!

My bees really like anise hyssop. It is licorice flavor and must release its nectar early in the day. After sunup for a few morning hours, you can find my bees (and bumblebees and other varied bee types) sucking nectar from the anise hyssop.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

For Want of a Nail.......

At Young Harris Beekeeping Institute this year, I heard some of the people who were taking the Certified Beekeeper exam comment that there was a question on the exam about how many nails do you need to put together a frame? One might think 8 - two at either end of the top bar (4) and two at either end of the bottom bar (4), but if you gave that answer, you would not be right.

The real answer is 10: two at either end of the top bar, two at either end of the bottom bar and one on each side of the end bar going from the end bar sideways into the top bar. If you have glued the frame together and used that 9th and 10th nail, your frame should stay together well.

Unfortunately yesterday while inspecting, I tried to free a frame built last year from the propolis glueing it to the hive box. The picture below was the result. The top bar pried from the propolis, pulled up on its own and separated from the end bar. This is a good object lesson for me - last year I didn't glue my frames and I only used 8 nails on most of them.

Much to the bees' displeasure, I pulled out my trusty hammer and nailed it back together but didn't add the 9th and 10th nail (didn't want to disturb the girls even more), but I have learned my lesson - never put together a frame without glue and with only 8 nails!

The old nursery rhyme says it best:

"For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail."

Benjamin Franklin even included a version of this rhyme in his Poor Richard's Almanac.
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