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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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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bee Christmas Tree

I've been lucky to have been given a number of bee Christmas ornaments every year. This year I had a small table tree that I decorated only with bee ornaments. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera until Christmas day so I didn't get a picture of the tree. However, I bought these ornaments from Brushy Mountain to put on the tiny tree.

My friend and fellow beekeeper in Atlanta, PN Williams, gave me this tiny hive (I am pretty sure he made it himself) so I put it on the tree as well. Isn't it a treasure? Thank you, PN.

I think these photos should be titled:  "Gulliver Visits the Lilliputian Bee Yard."

Hope all of my fellow beekeepers have had a happy holiday season!
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The Bees' Knees

On Christmas Eve in my family we always have what my oldest daughter has named the "Over the Top" dinner. In past years we have made the menu provided by Gourmet magazine, complete with the selected wines. This year, as many of you know, Gourmet is no more - the November issue was its last. We had no Gourmet to guide us, but Sarah came up with our menu.

Our appetizer course gave a nod to my bees. We had a cocktail called "the Bees' Knees." It consisted of (for two drinks) 1/2 cup gin, 3 T honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water), 2 T lemon juice. This concoction is shaken in a cocktail shaker, which another daughter noted looked like a bee hive. Consumption of this delicious drink gave all of us an appropriate "buzz!"

The shaker

The drink

The appetizers that went with it: Pancetta crisps with goat cheese and pear slice and garlic crostini with a sage/white bean spread.

Wondering about the rest of the menu? Here's our Christmas Eve menu for the 2009 Over the Top Dinner:

Crostini with White Bean, Sage & Roasted Garlic Spread
Pancetta Crisps with Goat Cheese and Pear
Scarlet Carrot Soup
Herb Stuffed Leg of Lamb Braised in Red Wine
Winter Squash Gratin
Chard with Tomatoes and Asiago
Linda T’s Amazing Dinner Rolls (also made with honey)
Winter Jewel Upside-Down Cake with Pomegranate Compote
Chocolate Truffles

We had appropriate wines for each course. My son-in-law, Jeff, brought a bottle of wine he had brought from Paris a number of years ago to go with the lamb....really special.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Holiday Party

Last night was the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Holiday party. It was a lot of fun. I was in charge of the party and I also took pictures - therefore there are no pictures of me at the party, but I promise I was there! It was a lot of fun. About 60 people came and we had a wonderful time.

Here's a slideshow of the party.

BTW, the Metro Atlanta Short Course is coming up in January - please come!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Apis Mellifera

To help me study and for whatever interest it may generate in those of you who read this blog, I'm going to share what I am learning between now and the Young Harris Institute in May, 2010. In between I'll keep posting what I am doing this winter as a beekeeper.

Today I read the first chapter in The Biology of the Honey Bee. Often people ask PN Williams from whom many people buy bees in Atlanta if his bees are Russian or Italian. I've heard him say many times that he sells "mutt bees" as do most beekeepers who sell nucs. Carl Webb in North Georgia sells Russians and is a registered breeder of Russian bees, but for the most part the bees here in Georgia are all genetically mixed up.

In Winston's book he discusses the different members of the bee family, Apidae. The honeybee belongs to this family along with the orchid bee, the bumble bees, and the stingless bees. What makes members of this family unique is the presence of the pollen basket on their hind legs.

Remember biology? Family, genus, species? The family is Apidae; the genus is Apis; and the species within the genus include: A. mellifera (the honeybee), A. dorsata and A. laborisoa (the giant honey bees), A. cerana (the Indian honeybee), A. florea (the dwarf honeybee).

Our favorite bee, the A. mellifera, probably originally developed in the African tropical regions. On its own the bee migrated to Asia and to Europe, but was found nowhere else in the world.

But people loved honey and bees, and beekeepers began moving their bees with them to the western hemisphere, Australia and the rest of the world. So now, although they are not native all over the world, honeybees are found all over the world.

The honeybees we beekeepers "keep" build nests of comb inside cavities (like tree trunks - or in hobbyist/commercial apiaries, hive boxes). While there are lots of races of A. Mellifera, these are hard to distinguish because scientists separate bee types in one way and beekeepers tend to focus on other characteristics. Scientists are looking mostly at measurable features such as wing veins, mouthpart and antenna length, body part sizes. Beekeepers look at characteristics like color, behavior, honey production, gentleness.

However mixed up they may be, we keep European races of bees or genetic combos of European races. As the Africanized honeybee encroaches on American beekeeping, bees at least in the southern regions of the country (from New Mexico east to Florida) may include genetic mixes of Apis mellifera scutellata - an African race of bee.

OK, that's all I've learned tonight - now shared with you!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On the Road to Master Beekeeper

At the Young Harris Beekeeping Institute each year, there's an opportunity to earn various levels of certification in beekeeping. The Institute is sponsored by the University of Georgia's entomology department, so the people who are speaking offer a lot of knowledge and experience. I went to the Institute in 2007 and 2008.

May 2007: Passed Certified Beekeeper in state of Georgia
May 2008: Passed Certified Journeyman Beekeeper in state of Georgia

In 2009, I had to miss Young Harris because one of my dearest friends had a surprise birthday party in Charleston, South Carolina, so I went to SC instead of Young Harris.

This year (2010) I plan to at least try for the Master Beekeeper. Here are the requirements:
  • Must have three years of beekeeping experience. DONE
  • Must have held Journeyman rank at least one year. DONE
  • Must pass a written test (over Institute lectures) and practical documentation. To do in May 2010 hopefully
Note: To do the pass-the-test part, another friend from my bee club and I are going to form our own Master Beekeeper study group to cheer each other on to get to the goal. The books pictured above are what Keith Delaplane recommends for the Master Craftsman Beekeeper in addition to First Lessons in Beekeeping. They are The Biology of the Honey Bee by Mark Winston and The Wisdom of the Hive by TD Seeley.
  • Complete 10 units of public service work beyond that required for Journeyman (see public service requirements).
    • Here's my public service so far:
      1. "Providing a hive of bees to pollinate a public garden" I managed two hives at a public garden (Blue Heron) - well-documented
      2. "Officership in local beekeeping association." I'm in my third year of a three year term as a director on the Board of Directors for Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association
      3. "Presenting bee-related lecture or workshop to non-beekeeping group (youth or adult)."
      4. 3/31/09 Gave a bee talk at an Atlanta preschool
      5. 4/6/09 Collected a swarm from a resident's yard in Chamblee, G
      6. 5/13/09 Gave a bee talk (and did the waggle dance) at Clairmont Elementary School
      7. 6/12/09 Gave a presentation a St. Dunstan's vacation Bible school on bees (and did the waggle dance!)
      8. 7/20/09 Was the featured guest on a public blogtalk radio show: Scorpion Equinox, talking about being a beekeeper
      9. 10/14/09 Gave a talk at the Peachtree Battle Garden Club on beekeeping and gardening
      10. "Public demonstration on beekeeping topic at fair, festival or similar public event." 5/9/09 Ran a demonstration booth at the Eco-Fair at the Blue Heron
      11. "Other activities may be admissible, but candidates are advised to contact program officers about specific cases" I've written the two directors about the bee tree rescue below and I already know they approve of my blog as a public service:
      12. 8/5/09 Helped a tree cutting company rescue a beehive that they found in a tree so that the hive would not be destroyed. The event was written up in a community news email blast sent to 1596 citizens of the local area
      13. Have managed this blog since April 2006 and have posted 624 posts (so far)
      • NOTE: whoo - ten PSCs are all I need
  • Practical documentation must demonstrate expertise in at least five of the following 18 subspecialties:
    • Winning 1st or 2nd place in an authorized competition in extracted honey. DONE
    • Winning 1st or 2nd place in an authorized competition in comb or cut-comb honey. DONE
    • Winning 1st or 2nd place in an authorized competition in crystallized (spun or creamed) honey.
    • Winning 1st or 2nd place in an authorized competition in beeswax. DONE
    • Publishing article in beekeeping publication (excluding newsletters).
    • Publishing article in a non-beekeeping publication (with at least state-wide distribution).
    • Being recognized as a beekeeping authority in your local area by appearing on radio or TV. (Wonder if the Scorpion Equinox blogradio interview counts or the podcast I did for NKYbeekeeper?)
    • Documenting training in life-saving treatment of persons suffering from allergic reactions to insect stings.
    • Attending at least three regional (multi-state), national or international beekeeping meetings.
    • Conducting a program or workshop at a state, regional, national or international meeting or convention. Have been invited to speak at the Southeastern Organic Beekeepers Meeting in Florida in February, 2010
    • Demonstrating competence in small-scale queen rearing.
    • Completing a course on queen artificial insemination.
    • Acquiring private pesticide applicator’s license.
    • Documenting legally-licensed honey processing facility.
    • Participating in a beekeeping research or extension project at an approved institution.
    • Demonstrating theoretic knowledge of Integrated Pest Management, practical competence in its application, and personal commitment to its precepts.
    • Acquiring other certified bee-related training as approved by Review Board.
    • Serving two or more years as officer of regional, national or international bee organization (need not be consecutive nor in the same organization).
So at this point, it looks like I need to do something else in the eighteen sub-categories just above - like publish an article in a bee magazine, get some more certified bee-related training, or get asked to appear on local radio or TV.....
I need to pass the test.

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Metro Atlanta Beekeeping Short Course Coming Up

The Metro Atlanta Beekeepers will offer a short course again in January 2010. The course is invaluable for getting started in beekeeping. Here's a link to the information about the short course.

If you live anywhere near Atlanta and want to learn about beekeeping, please come - I took it before I got started and it made a huge difference to hear real people talk about their beekeeping rather than just reading information in books.

There will be great speakers, a honey tasting, good lunch and discussions. I'll be there, too. It's my job this year to put together a table about how to do a hive inspection. We'll have a slide show running continuously on a computer to show you the aspects of an inspection.

Please come - you'll learn a lot and it will be fun.

Missing Blogger

Hi Everyone,

Several of you who are used to getting at least weekly posts from me have emailed to find out if I am OK. I'm sorry for the gap in posting. I had a death in my family and have been in my hometown of Natchez, Mississippi several times in the last two weeks.

I am back in Atlanta now, though, and will be back up and posting on my bee blog.

Thanks for checking in with me.

Linda T

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Fate of the Crystallized Sugar

You'll remember that yesterday when feeding the bees, I found a baggie feeder with crystallized sugar in it. Rather than take it back into the house, I spread it out on the railing of my deck.

I went out this morning (you can see on the thermometer that the temp is below 60 degrees) to find the sugar covered with bees.

If you click on the picture below so that you can see a larger image, you'll see the bees sticking their tongues into the sugar. It was raining this morning and probably some of the sugar liquified.

As I studied this picture, I realized that in addition to honey bees, there were yellow jackets and a bald faced hornet feeding on the sugar.

If you couldn't find them, I have circled the yellow jackets in red and the bald-faced hornet in blue. Everyone's hungry, I guess!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Last Call for Lunch

I'm about done feeding my bees to build them up for winter. Today when I opened my hives at home, the hives felt heavy enough to satisfy me as far as their having enough supplies to make it. I went ahead and added food today, though.

I have made the sugar syrup for the bee trees and will make one more trip over there either tomorrow or Saturday.

Here's the newly placed baggie feeder on Bermuda.

When I opened Mellona, the sugar baggie that was there had crystallized sugar in it. I don't have good luck with the method I am currently using if I don't heat the water some after adding the sugar. This baggie represents a sugar syrup baggie in which I boiled four cups of water and then stirred in 8 cups of sugar and turned off the heat. The sugar syrup never lasts as well that way.

When I leave the pot over the flame for a minute or two after adding the sugar, then the suspension works better.

I didn't know what to do with the sugar crystals. I could mix it back into water. I decided for now to put it on the deck and observe how the bees handle it. It is supposed to rain tomorrow night and on Saturday, so I may bring these crystals in tomorrow and mix them back into water for more syrup.

Finally Aristaeus2 got their baggie. These bees had a bag with some syrup still left in it but I replaced it all the same.

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Rainy Fall Morning

The other day I woke up to find a chilly rain outside. I wondered what do the bees do inside in the rain - no TV, no entertainment. The house bees all have jobs but what do the foragers do when it rains?

For some reason, thinking about the bees indoors reminded me of a Sesame Street video from long ago that my grandson likes to watch on You Tube about the ladybugs sitting around. For your entertainment, here it is.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Interlopers in the Bee Hive

When I opened my hives I found roaches living on top of the inner cover. There were none in the hive (that I saw). I believe they are on the inner cover to take advantage of the heat, the dark, and the shelter of the hive. But GROSS is how I felt when I saw them in each of the three hives.

It's amazing - always some creature - the last time I looked I had small hive beetles. They seem to have subsided for the winter and the cockroaches have taken their place.

In some parts of the country (probably in Atlanta as well) mice sometimes move into the hives for the winter. So far I haven't had a mouse, but I could do without these roaches. In Beekeeping: An Illustrated Handbook, Diane Stelley says, "Even with the entrance reduced, a small mouse can still wriggle in, make a nest, and tear up the wax combs." She and other beekeepers suggest using a piece of 1/2 inch hardware cloth nailed across the entrance to keep mice out but still allow bees to come and go.

None of my books mention roaches, but Michael Bush, in a post on Beemaster, says that roaches between the inner and top cover and normal. If they make their way successfully into the hive itself, that is a sign of a weak hive.


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Dead Bees on the Landing in the Early Morning

Unusual for October 18, we had 37 degree weather last night. This morning there were dead bees clinging to the landing of both Bermuda and of Mellona. Dead bees look like living ones, but these had no life in them. I wondered if they had come home too late or if they were ready to die and were pushed out of the hive, but not all the way to the ground.

They have the appearance of perhaps trying to cluster together but there certainly weren't enough of them to manage the cold.

There were also dead bees on Mellona's landing area. These looked more like they had been pushed out. Maybe when it's cold the mortician bees simply drag the bees to the front of the hive and don't fly out with them.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dinner with Honey

The National Honey Board sends out a regular email with interesting facts and recipes for using honey. I grew exactly two butternut squash in my garden this year before the stem borers killed the squash. So I was thrilled that the honey board sent out this recipe for Butternut Squash Soup, to make soup using honey from my bees.

My mother says that a good cook is generous, so I followed the recipe but was quite generous with my ingredients. Here's what it calls for and I'll put what I really did:

2 T butter
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
3 carrots diced (mine were small so I used about five organic carrots)
2 celery stalks (I chopped up the center three stalks of a heart of celery)
1 potato peeled and diced
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced (mine were small so I used both of them)
3 cans chicken broth (14.5 oz each) - I used boxed organic chicken broth which comes in 8 oz containers, so I used almost 6 of them
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves (I have it fresh in the garden so I used about 1 tsp fresh)
salt and pepper to taste

With the soup I had a slice of oatmeal bread (also made with honey) with cheese melted on it.

So honey made my dinner quite lovely and delicious.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Delaplane Speaks on CCD

Last night Dr. Keith Delaplane spoke to the Metropolitan Atlanta Beekeepers Association on Colony Collapse Disorder. Lucky me, I got to go out to dinner with him before the meeting and we had a lot of fun, talking about bees and life in general.

Delaplane is heading up a consortium grant involving 17 colleges and universities. The grant is a four year, 4.1 million dollar grant to study CCD. The studies are focused on determining the cause of CCD.

Delaplane said that there are three major pathogens being studied: viruses, nosema, and pesticide residue. Other factors being considered are an increase in bee pollinated crops and at the same time a decrease in beekeeper managed hives. In other words, as there are less beekeepers in the country, the almond pollination needs are rising.

I've always wondered why almonds were the benchmark crop. Delaplane explained that it is a valuable nut that is currently fetching a premium price. Pollinating an almond is a simple event in that a single pollen grain on a single stigma equals one nut.

As most of you know, beekeepers rent out their hives to the almond growers. There is a bias in beekeeping toward migratory beekeeping because there is so much money in it.

The migration begins when hives are rented to the almond growers. Then migratory beekeepers might load up those hives and go to the Dakotas to get a honey crop from clover; go to Michigan to pollinate the blueberries; and then migrate to Florida to pollinate the orange crops.

Honey yields go through the roof with migratory beekeeping, so there's an ongoing reward for beekeeping in this way. This migratory circuit is typical of American beekeepers but not found in other parts of the world.

In general the bees gather nectar and produce honey during a short period of the year. In Georgia we have a 6 - 8 week honey flow. Then the rest of the season is spent conserving the supplies to make it through the winter. The migratory bees don't get a break but go from honey flow to honey flow.

Currently there is an ongoing study project comparing 30 bee colonies which stay in the same place with a group of 30 USDA colonies which are migratory. Hopefully some understanding of the impact on bees of migration will be the result. I tried to find a reference on the web for this and couldn't.

Delaplane referenced a wonderful study on PLOS ONE which he encouraged us all to read. That this open source study is available to us non-scientists is a real gift. This study looks at the interaction of stress and pathogens on bees and CCD.

He also encouraged us to search regularly on the website: eXtension.org, using bees/honeybee/bee as a search terms. This is a site maintained by the land grant universities and gives all of us commoners access to the latest research being done by land grant colleges and universities on bees.

For example, if you go to this article, you'll see on the right a number of other articles that may have a similar focus and may be of interest to you. Or try this concentration area on Bee Health.

I'm a little scared of this site because I think I might get lost in all the interesting reading and not come up for air!

As always, Dr. Delaplane was full of helpful information and useful pointers. I can't wait until he returns to our bee club next year.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hive Box for BT2

So here's the rest of the story of BT2.

Here is the second bee tree. There is less activity; it's a smaller hive; and as always with a tree felling, the queen may not have survived the "earthquake" that happened to the tree. But I'm going to proceed with hope that she is there and the hive may survive.

I've nailed the plywood over the hole. Then I set a box filled with drawn comb frames.

Finally I set a baggie of sugar syrup over the frames and slit the baggie. This treetop is quite slanted so the sugar syrup wanted to run out of the hive box. I am going to have to try to level the box with wood shims the next time I am over there.

I put a second hive box (empty) around the baggie and put an upside down bottom board on for a top. I have a better top and will bring it the next time I come to these hives.

The whole contraption looks a little crazy but I think it may work if we can entice the bees to move up.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bee Tree Two aka BT2

George Imirie wrote that some people are bee-havers and some people are bee-keepers. I think there needs to be a third category. Eddie of Eddie's Odd Job Tree Service in Atlanta is a bee-saver. His company cut another tree on Friday that was full of bees and they again brought it back to their office.

You can see Bee Tree One in the background with a hive box on top of it. In front of it in the foreground of this picture is bee tree two (BT2 - thanks, biologie!) BT2 is much smaller than BT1. The bees are coming out of a knot hole in the lower center right of the tree.

Here's an up close and personal look into the hole.

I missed this tree sectioning. When they did it, apparently they cut off a good bit of the hive in a section of tree that they left near the tree they set up. It has empty comb in it. They did this cut this morning, so I am surprised that the comb is empty. The bees may have robbed it out, but in 30 minutes between cutting the section and my arrival? These bees may be like mine at home and are already using up winter stores.

I took these pictures and hurried home to set up the hive box. First I went by Lowe's and bought a 2X2 board, brought it home and cut a circle out of the center.

I put it in the car, along with a hive box with drawn comb, an empty box, a bowl of sugar syrup in a baggie, a bottom board to use for a top, and my basket of bee goodies.

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