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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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Thursday, August 28, 2008

...But Who's Counting??

I own a lot of 8 inch brownie pans. The funny thing is that to make the brownie recipe I really like, I use a 9 X 14 pan. Why do I have all of these pans? It all has to do with the bees. I like striving to make a great prize-winning type wax block with my wax at the end of bee season.

However, after a brownie pan has been used a couple of times, it starts to develop characteristic problems. For example, see the three pictures below.

The first picture shows wax that adheres to the side of the pan so that the block doesn't drop out cleanly. This happens despite my using PAM or dish washing liquid to lubricate the sides of the pan.

The picture below is of an even worse example of the wax adherence. The block was otherwise perfect so I was quite disappointed.

And below you can see a little divot in the top corner of the block. Who knows why that appeared. Maybe there was a pool of PAM at that point or the wax all around the divot area hardened quicker than the center.

Who knows why it's so hard to pour a perfect (or at least close to perfect) wax block? I've now poured this attempt at making the block seven (7) times. But who's counting?
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The Continuing Story of the Small Cluster

For four days of solid rain, this cluster has been gathered under the hive that I had named Hyron. I've watched the cluster every day but the rain has been continuous and I haven't been able to see what's going on. Today after I installed the queen in the Devorah hive, I checked out this cluster.

After days of solid rain, the bees below are all that are in the cluster - about two cups or probably one pound of bees. I couldn't let them just die there and there probably is a queen in the center. I went inside and got a Tupperware storage box (about a 2 pint size) and slipped it under this cluster. Many bees fell into the small Tupperware container. I brushed others into the box.

I took the bees and dumped them into a 5 frame medium nuc. There's probably not much point, but I had five frames of fully drawn comb and thought maybe they could use it to establish their hive again. The box they are hanging under was filled with ants, wax moths, and vagrant bees. Before winter I may combine them with another hive but for now, they'll at least have a chance.

Two hours after the transfer, I lifted up the top of the nuc to see what was what and there were lots of bees in the box. Cross your fingers!
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The queen is here, long live the queen!

Yesterday at the end of the day, I got a call from the post office that Her Majesty had arrived and would I please come and get her. Apparently the postman did go to my house to deliver her, but I was at work. I was instructed to come to the back of the post office and call the employee on my cell and she would come out to meet me.

I told the caller that I wouldn't be finished at work until 7 PM and she still wanted me to come to pick up the queen. I loved picking up the queen. Mrs. Campbell who came out of the back of the building to deliver her to me was quite concerned. "I don't hear any buzzing," she said. I assured her that the queen was probably fine. I drove home and wished I had opened the package so Mrs. Campbell could see Her Majesty.

I've never ordered a queen in the mail before and was fascinated by the package with all of its admonitions.

Here is the queen cage - I didn't get a good picture. I didn't want to flash a bright light on the queen and her attendants. We have had stormy weather for the last four days and I was worried I would not be able to install her. Tonight the skies cleared a little and when I got home at 6 PM, even though I never work the bees at the end of the day, I decided to go ahead and put her in the hive.

I opened Devorah, took the cork out of the candy end of the queen cage, used a twist tie to suspend the cage between the center frames. I hope these bees will release her and adapt to her presence. This hive has so many bees and good stores. I really want it to make it through the winter.
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Friday, August 22, 2008

In Which I TRY to Make Candles

I have a book on candlemaking that I've had since the fifth grade which was the first and last time I tried on my own to make candles. I took a class in beekeeping at the John Campbell Folk School. Virginia Webb taught the class. In between learning about the bees, we made candles, but I never had to wick the candle molds.

My wonderful daughter, Valerie, gave me a rubber mold for votive candles two Christmases ago and I haven't ever used it (I'm a little cowed by it). Today I got it out to make the effort. I tried and tried but couldn't for the life of me get the wick to go in the tiny holes punched in the bottom of the candle mold.

I called my friend Martha Kiefer, Georgia's 2007 beekeeper of the year. Martha makes gorgeous candles. Martha said to use a yarn or upholstery needle to thread the wick into the mold. Martha also advised me to wax the wicking. I was melting wax for my wax block so it was no big deal to add wicking to the leftover melted wax.

The waxed wick easily threaded through the eye of the yarn needle.

Then I poked the needle into the hole in the bottom of the candle mold.

I melted some of my lovely solar melter wax and look what I got as a result! I only made these four but now at least I know how to do it.

Then, feeling my oats and feeling quite inspired, I thought why not make dipped tapers. The examples below illustrate exactly why not. This was my first attempt. I can't wait and do plan to melt these back to liquid and try again.

The problem is that as I dipped the taper, a drip started lengthening on the bottom of the taper, thus making it harder to dip the taper as deep as I would like. There's got to be a way to avoid the candle growing in that direction.

I'll check the Internet and try these again. It was fun, just the end result isn't the lovely taper I was expecting!
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Pouring a wax block for the Honey Contest - year 2

I'm trying today to pour a good wax block in hopes that I don't have to make 10 attempts like last year. Here is the liquid wax, poured into a brand new brownie pan. The whole kit and caboodle sits in a hot water bath in a roasting pan. This allows for even cooling and keeps the block from cracking.

The picture below is out of focus, but it is a picture of my hand, using a toothpick to pop any bubbles in the wax block that rise to the surface in the early part of cooling.

After about 30 minutes the block looks like this. I leave it until the water around it is cold and the block has no heat rising from it. Usually that takes all day or over night, depending on when I pour it.

Tonight here's the finished product. I'm almost happy with it. There's a white mark on one side and if it doesn't polish out, I'll be pouring this again!
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Lots of Bad Beeyard News

This was a bad day in the beeyard. Today I found that three of my hives are queenless.

I have known a number of people who "keep" bees - which simply means they have hives and those hives they leave pretty much alone. I have been that sort of beekeeper since the beginning of July. I opened the hives to harvest the honey but I haven't made a deep inspection of any hive in over a month.

I have lots of excuses. This hasn't been a great summer. My dog died unexpectedly at the end of June. My grandson and my daughter and son-in-law moved to Virginia at the end of July. And I've been teaching a 10 week semester at the Emory med school in the physical therapy department - twice as long as my usual summer teaching with them. But actually none of that justifies doing a poor job as a beekeeper and I have not been paying the right kind of attention to my bees.

The combined hive that I was concerned about had no queen. There are bees in the hive but it's really weak - I even saw wax moth worms on some of the frames. I don't know what to do with those bees who represent two poor hives, now without a queen anywhere and absolutely no brood or larvae. I had a baggie of sugar syrup on the hive that I put there last week and it hadn't been touched. I closed that hive up and thought that tomorrow or Sunday I'll shake those bees into another hive.

Then I went to one of my yard hives to check on it and found it completely queenless as well. All of the frames in the brood box looked like the one below. There was honey - about a box - and another box with no honey.

The wax moths had come in and there was wax moth debris all over the inside of the hive. This hive had a lot of bees in it, though, so I did combine it with Aristaeus on my deck.
I took the "brood box" - a misnomer if there ever were one since there wasn't a single capped cell and no larvae or eggs - and put it on top of Persephone with a sheet of newspaper in between.

The remaining two boxes I put on the bottom board and covered them. Tomorrow I'll shake the bees from those two boxes into the top of the combination where their sisters are.

Here's a picture of the combination. I hope this works. The hive below is quite strong.

And then sadly enough, I opened Devorah - my last yard hive. It was boiling over with bees. In addition it had two boxes solidly full of capped honey. I went down into the bottom box and there wasn't a single capped brood cell, no eggs, no larvae, no queen to be seen and certainly no evidence of a queen.

This hive looks so strong that I hate to lose it. I ordered a queen from Rossman that should arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. Meanwhile I will see if I can get a couple of frames of brood from Mellona to add to this hive. If they don't make a queen themselves at least it will give them something to do while we wait for the new queen.

So here's the end of the summer tally:
  • I had two hives that survived the winter this year - Bermuda and Mellona and they appear to be doing fine, but I haven't looked into the brood box for them yet. They do have copious numbers of bees and a large beard each every night.
  • I bought three nucs - one had no queen at the beginning - it's now the bottom box of the combination I made today. The other two nucs were my yard hives and they are now both queenless and likely not to make it.
  • I captured four swarms and kept three swarms - the first swarm was the bottom box of the failed combination. The second swarm is thriving and doing well. The last swarm that I kept is the one my grandson and I captured. It was robbed out and absconded and I combined it in a failed attempt last weekend.
So at one point this summer I had eight hives - I'm down to four thriving hives and one bustling but queenless hive that may not make it although I have ordered a queen.

I feel despondent about my bees. I should have been paying better attention so that I could have addressed this problem before it got so bad.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Keith Fielder, Master Beekeeper, Speaks at Metro Atlanta Club

Keith Fielder, [if you click on the link, his write-up is on page 3] a Master Beekeeper in the state of Georgia, was the speaker this past Wednesday at the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association. He spoke on Bee Biology for Dummies. I enjoyed what he had to say and learned some things I didn't know.

He had marvelous illustrations in his PowerPoint from HowStuffWorks and referred very positively to their Internet site and the illustrations available there. I went for a visit. How's the above for an information-filled illustration (Thanks, HowStuffWorks!)?

Interesting facts from Keith Fielder:

1. Bumblebees scent-mark the flowers they visit. This explains why some flowering plants have one or two bumblebees one day and are covered the next.

2. Flowers have a negative charge. The hairs on a bee's body have a positive charge. Since negative and positive attract, the bees are literally drawn to the flowers. Pollen is also attracted to the positive charge on the bee. And interestingly enough, women's hair is negatively charged so when bees fly into your hair, according to Keith, they are drawn there and can't prevent being pulled into your hair!

3. The pollen basket isn't really a basket at all but rather a concave surface covered with stiff hair. The bee combs the hair on its body, gathering the pollen on its body hairs and bringing the pollen into a ball on its leg.

4. And, away from bee biology into commenting on the hive, Keith said that the honeycomb is the "liver of the bee colony" in that it absorbs all the yuck that comes into the hive. This is important rationale for getting rid of old comb on a regular basis and bringing new comb into the hive.

We are very lucky in Atlanta to have such a wealth of wise beekeepers who come to speak to us.

Keith Fielder is full of knowledge. This is the fourth time I've heard him speak.
  • He spoke at my first Young Harris meeting on Requeening your hives;
  • He gave a similar talk to our bee club earlier this year on making a push-in queen cage of #8 hardware cloth;
  • He spoke at GABA on giving talks about beekeeping to school children, I believe; and
  • Now I've gotten to hear him on bee biology. He's always entertaining and I'll look forward to my next opportunity to hear him talk on any bee topic.

Our speaker in October for his second visit to our club this year is Dr. Keith Delaplane.

Wax from the Solar Wax Melter

Here it is - the gorgeous collection of wax from the solar wax melter this year. I love the yellow golden color and wish I could share the smell with you through the Internet. Wax is delicious to smell when it is melted like this. I am constantly amazed that I can put a glob of wax, dirt, pollen, bee parts, etc. on top of a paper towel and these are the results.

Now I will start the process of trying to create a wax block for the Honey Contest at my Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Club picnic on September 14. Last year I poured the block at least 10 times!
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Hive Combination continued

I can't say that there is a good ending. I'm not sure about the hive box that I put on top in the combination. Maybe the queen was in there although I didn't see evidence of her and didn't find her.

I put the two boxes together with slit newspaper in between and left them for a week. All of the Internet forums said that within that time the bees would chew through the newspaper and join each other. I should see a pile of chewed newspaper in front of the hive. Well, that never happened.

Instead I saw the bees carrying out larvae (see picture below) and saw a lot of conflict in front of the hive. I had been feeding both of these hives before the one was robbed out. I didn't feed them during the combination week and instead supplied the top box with two frames of honey on either side of the box. The lower hive had stored honey.

I opened the hives on Saturday to see what had happened. Evidence of the mayhem abounded. There were dead bees all over the newspaper and detritus from wax moths that had inhabited the top hive. I pulled off the newspaper, killed some wax moths and put the hive back together.

This coming weekend, I'll probably take off the top box and leave Hyron as a one-box hive. The combination was not a success. I'll have another opportunity to try to do it better in the future, I'm sure.
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Unwanted visitor to the bee yard

Yesterday I stacked my unused boxes up in a corner of the deck. Leaving the boxes in the light keeps the wax moth from taking over the frames inside the boxes. I am in the process of removing boxes that the hives don't need so they can get compact for the winter.

I also did a hive combination yesterday and removed a feeder bag from under the Imrie shim. I set the almost empty bag on top of the stack of boxes.

This morning the bag is being worked over by bald faced hornets. I've seen them cannibalizing my bees but never taking sugar water.

Their faces are those that only their mother could love. They look like the stuff of horror movies to me when you gaze at them like this, up close and personal! They even fought among themselves, sending one of the group off to look for live bees to carry home to the nest.

Below is a picture I found on Google of the other cannibal in my bee yard:

The other hornet I see daily in my bee yard is the European Hornet. It seems to be a predator for live bees as is the Bald-faced Hornet. It is brown with a large yellow abdomen. Ugly and threatening, it flies toward bees in the air, trying to snatch them.
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Combining the weak hives

Yesterday Hyron and Hyron2 became one.

At the end of the day when hopefully most of the foragers were home, I put the absconded swarm hive and the weak swarm hive together. I carried the absconded hive back up on the deck and put it in combination with the Hyron hive that has been weakly surviving all along.

Hyron was my first swarm hive back on April 1 and has not built out of the first box to this day. It's a sad little group. There is a queen and brood but it never has taken off. Hyron2 which was robbed out and absconded appears queenless at this point although most of the bees are in the box.

I opened up Hyron and put newspaper over the top of the box. I cut several slits with a knife through the newspaper to facilitate the bees chewing through. The idea is that by the time the bees in the upper box chew through to the lower box, everybody will be friends.

I removed the Imrie shim and the feeder bag - I actually don't know what to do about feeding and will post on Beesource and Beemaster to find out how to manage this.

When I put Hyron2 on top, I left the Imrie shim, but didn't replace the baggie feeder. I don't want to encourage any food fights as they get to know each other. Keeping the shim on does give me an easy option for feeding them in about a week when the combination will hopefully be successful.

I also removed the robber screen. I thought since there's not really anything to rob out right now, it isn't really necessary. I also thought that it would be easier for them to carry out the newspaper shreds if I didn't have the entry blocked.

It was cooler than usual this morning but already the bees at this hive were orienting. I expect that it will go well and I am keeping my fingers crossed for a successful hive combination.

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The Small Hive Beetle 2008

I am SO prepared for the small hive beetle. I have made Sonny-Mel traps from sandwich boxes, I have ordered and own AJ's Beetle Eaters, I have two of the Hood beetle traps. But this year I'm not using any of them. Knock on wood, I have rarely seen a small hive beetle this year. Amazing luck for me and certainly good luck for the beetles who would meet a vinegar/oil ending should they have visited my hives.

I'm not totally free of the pest. Yesterday I saw a few in my two hives that are in my yard and not on my deck. The bees don't like the SHB and when they see one, they pursue it aggressively.

In the picture below two separate bees are aiming for two different small hive beetles. They run toward the beetle and try to discourage its presence in their domain. I smashed the six I saw with my hive tool.

The picture below is a small hive beetle that I injured with my hive tool. The bees finished him off.

Then, as they would with a member of their own kind, a bee (not well-focused) picked up his little carcass and removed him from the inner cover!

I have strong hives this year that seem to be keeping the SHB in check. However, I have all the equipment, including a mouth aspirator to suck the little guys into a trap, for any occurrence next year!
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