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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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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How the Bees Protect Themselves in Winter

When I opened Mellona on Sunday, even though bees were flying in and out of the hive for about an hour before I opened the hive, there were no bees under the inner cover. I could hear the hum of the hive but couldn't see a single bee.

I took off the first box and there they were. Their cluster was just below the top box on the front left corner of the hive box. Interestingly this corner of the box is where I always found the queen in this hive during bee season. They clustered in their "home place" in the hive.

When I took the telescoping top off of Bermuda, I found the hole in the inner cover had been propolized to keep out the cold. Bermuda has the most stores of all my hives so I decided not to break the propolis, but to leave them alone until my next hive check in a week or so.

The only reason I have to open the hives in winter is to make sure the bees don't need feeding.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

The Baggie Rules!

I have had two Boardman feeders inside an empty nuc box on top of the absconded hive. Yesterday I opened the box and found some dead bees inside the holder for the feeder jar. I don't know if the cold weather affected the flow or if the jar was leaking between the lid and the glass - whatever the explanation, liquid leaked and bees died.

I removed the jars and replaced them with two sandwich sized baggies. I used sandwich bags because if I ever use a baggie that can't lie completely flat, then the bags get filled with drowned bees. I figured that the two sandwich bags gave the bees about the same amount of food, but wouldn't cause the problems that the full sized baggies do.

Persephone is also a hive low on supplies. I had put a baggie in last week but was not in a suit. When I opened the hive, the bees weren't happy with my intrusion so I couldn't leave the hive open long enough to slit the bag. So this week I slit that bag and added another full bag.

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The Bees are Flying

On Sunday in Atlanta finally the temperature began to rise. We've had day after day of highs in the 40s but on Sunday it was supposed to go up to 50. While my thermometer still read 45, the bees began to fly. Both the hives were in a sunnier spot than this thermometer and maybe the bees knew that the afternoon was going to be continually warmer.

There were active bees on the entry way on each hive. In fact, at the time I took these pictures, the bees looked like they were doing orientation flights, but my pictures don't really capture the numbers in the air.
I have been concerned that the bees in the nuc may not be alive, but they are thriving. Their numbers look strong and they seemed more active than any of my hives.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Feeding the bees in Winter

It's a dilemma - to feed or not to feed. I definitely need to keep food on my small nuc hive. Persephone went into winter short on stores as well. I checked a week ago and all was fine. It's been way too cold to open the hives (didn't get above 45 today) so I haven't checked the stores this week. I will feed tomorrow, however, so I mixed up some sugar syrup today.

It's hard to mix up 2 parts sugar to one part water and have the syrup be liquid. Instead I mixed 6 cups sugar to 4 cups water. Hopefully that will not be thin enough to encourage brood rearing but will be thick enough for me to manage as I transfer it to the hives.

At first it's mostly sugar, solid in the liquid as in the first picture. With heat under the pot, the dissolving begins.

In the picture below the syrup is just below boiling and will be clear soon. When it is clear I'll turn off the heat.

Here's the finished syrup, clear and because it's a thick syrup, you can see some sugar crystals at the edge of the liquid. I'll put this in Ziploc sandwich bags to put in the nuc. I may also feed Persephone.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Where are the bees?

Bees in winter are deeply involved with each other but not seen except when the temperature is higher than it is today in Atlanta. The front of the hive looks lonely and forlorn. Mostly in the winter, the bees cluster in a ball and keep themselves warm. They are not warming the hive but rather are warming the cluster. They do not relieve themselves in the hive but save up for a warm day when they can fly out and relieve themselves outside the hive.

Right now we've had a number of over 50 degree days and the bees get out and fly so I don't have an entrance reducer on my hives. However, it will be below freezing tonight and probably tomorrow I'll put entrance reducers on my hives to help the bees keep out intruders.

I did open Persephone and gave the hive a bag of syrup to help them with their low supplies. They were not happy to see me (it was 4:30, cold and almost sundown). I only got one slit cut in the bag and will revisit this hive feeder bag tomorrow or the next day to cut slits that are useful for the bees.

I saw a ton of hive beetles in this hive just under the sugar syrup Ziploc. I didn't stay in the hive long enough to kill them but was disgusted with how many there were. Even though this picture is not focused, I thought I'd show you their large numbers - and that's only under the sugar syrup bag......GRRRR.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Water for Bees

I provide the bees a water source near their hives - but do they choose to visit it? Not when there is some nastier water source around. The bees seems to love water in gutters, on the tops of old flower pots, or in the tops of garbage pan lids. When my trash is collected, the garbage guys throw the tops on the ground. This one was left upside down for a week through a rare 24 hour rain in Georgia.

Result: A garbage can top filled with water and leaves. The bees need the water so they come here for it. Without anything to ride on, they often drown. When I discovered this water source, I also saw a number of drowned bees, floating in the pool of water.

To help the situation, I added a stick so that the bees could stand on the stick and drink the water.

I didn't get a picture of a bee on the stick, but below you can see a bee collecting water from the trash can lid.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Powdered Sugar and the Bees

Yesterday I did an inspection of all of my hives to make sure they have enough supplies for winter. I added a Ziploc feeder baggie to Persephone because that hive has been low on stores. I considered doing what a friend on Beemaster's Forum calls the Robin Hood principle: taking a full super from Bermuda and giving it to Persephone, but the drought and dearth being what they are in Georgia, I was hesitant to take any of the Bermuda bees' hard earned product away.

While I inspected, I did a powdered sugar shake on all but the nuc of bees who found me. Then I read this article by Randy Oliver and felt somewhat purposeless in my powdered sugar efforts. He says that powdered sugar really doesn't do much in the fight against the varroa mite and that mite-resistant bee development is the answer. However, he does say that a powdered sugar shake at this time of year, when there is little brood raising going on, may move varroa out of the hive for the winter.

Randy is a scientist and I respect his careful examination of beekeeping tenets. Here's what he said might be effective:
"Sugar dusting can be quite effective for
reducing the mite population in broodless (or nearly
broodless) bees, such as during summer dearths or in
winter (if the bees are not tightly clustered). It also
works quite well to drop mites from package bees,
shook bees, or swarms. Another use is to “clean up”
new nucs (best applied at day 7 after the queen begins
laying--just before the first brood begins to be sealed)."
----Randy Oliver

This is what a bee looks like up close and personal when a powdered sugar shake has occurred.

The powdered sugar clings to the hairs on their bodies and they groom themselves and each other to get it off.

In the grooming process, varroa mites are groomed off as well and fall through the screened bottom board to the ground below, hopefully never to return to the hive.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees

Not since Ulee's Gold in 1997 have I seen a movie portray beekeeping so accurately. There are many reviews of the movie: here, here, and here. Obviously the three beekeeping sisters are headed by Queen Latifah - her name in the movie is August, but that she was queen was also her role. And the movie is about a community mostly of women. The men are sidebars and one is clearly in the role of drone (the man who courts June).

As a woman who was in high school in 1964 when the movie takes place, I don't think Dakota Fanning's character could have moved into a household of African American women without community reaction, but that was not the point of the movie. It was a sweet as honey film with a loving portrayal of women's strength and sisterhood.

The beekeeping was extraordinary. Clearly Queen Latifah was comfortable handling the bees as was Dakota Fanning. I loved seeing them examining the frames of honey in the hives. And there is even tape of a queen bee in the center of workers on a frame! They lit the smoker authentically, wore veils, and August (Queen Latifah's character) advises Lily (Dakota Fanning's character) to approach the bees with love.

(I can't figure out how to post an audio clip to this blog, but there is an audio clip of Queen Latifah talking about her beekeeping education here - scroll down to the center left of the page and you'll see it).

I loved this movie and think it represents beekeeping so much better and authentically than the Bee Movie, released about this time last year.

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