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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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Friday, February 27, 2009

Nurturing Blue Heron

The Blue Heron bees are vigorous and HUNGRY. We put a quart of syrup on each hive last Saturday, another quart on each hive on Monday (the previous quart was empty) and gave each hive a baggie filled with 2 quarts of syrup/hive on Wednesday when we installed the hives.

Julia stopped by this morning (Friday) and found that the bag on my hive was empty and the bag on her poetic hive was almost empty. So she between raindrops filled two more half gallon bags and put them on the hives. I'll check again on Sunday - bet they will be out of food again!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blue Heron Phase Two Installation of the Nucs

Today we installed the nucs into their hive boxes. It's all in this slide show. Julia brought hive boxes that she had painted in both an educational and artistic way - perfect for the setting at Blue Heron. Be sure to notice them.

We also took probably more slides than you want to see because we really wanted to document the move from the nuc into the hive box as well as how to set up a baggie feeder which we did on both hives.

Click on the slide show below to see it full sized. You can also use the bottom of the slide show screen to say how long you'd like to view each slide. There are captions for each slide.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jerry Wallace speaks to the Bee Club on the Calendar for the Beekeeping Year

Jerry Wallace is one of the beekeepers I most respect in our bee club. He and I compete on wax blocks and with our honey each year at the annual honey contest. Last year he and I gave a program together on how to harvest honey. He's wise and makes informed decisions about his beekeeping.

So we were lucky to hear him on February 11 (I'm late posting this) go through a calendar of the beekeeping year in Georgia and hear how he thinks about his bees each month.

Some things he shared that spoke to me:

  • In Georgia in a reasonable year, we can expect to get around 50 pounds of honey per hive.
  • The average honey yield in the Southeast is 30 pounds per hive; the average honey yield in the United States is 52 pounds per hive.
  • The beehive should be boiling over with bees at the beginning of the honey flow.
  • He uses the slatted rack for ventilation in his hives (I think he and I are the only beekeepers in Metro who do!)
  • Hives need more ventilation at the top than at the entrance.
Often on beekeeping forums people ask the fun question: What do you keep in your tool box. Jerry provided us with his list of his beekeeping tools:
  • A hive tool
  • A frame grip
  • A veil
  • A smoker
  • A propane torch
  • Gloves
  • Bee brush
  • An ice pick (?) - yeah, me too. So I asked him what he used it for and he said to enlarge the holes in frames when he wanted to wire them.
  • A frame tool - see pictures below
  • A fume board
  • Bee quick
  • A refractometer
  • A leaf blower
  • A wheelbarrow

The tool seen above and below is an actual tool. It's sold by Dadant and others. Dadant calls it a frame cleaner.

Jerry uses it to clean out the groove in the frame - a real boon if you are using starter strips as I do.

Jerry also provided us with a list of websites he finds useful as beekeeping resources. Here they are:

Metro Atlanta Beekeepers
Randy Oliver's Scientific Beekeeping
Georgia Master Beekeeping lecture notes
Beesource discussion forum
The Bee-L Listserv
Purdue Beekeeping publications
US Dept of Agriculture
Ohio State's Honeybee Lab page
Walt Wright's Articles

His calendar for Georgia:
  • January:
Check the cluster and feed the bees on days with temps above 60
Repair and paint equipment
  • February:
Open hives to look at the brood pattern
Mid February feed 1:1 sugar syrup to encourage brood rearing
  • March:
Make splits
Get swarms - usually these begin with the first day of spring
Equalize colonies
Set out swarm lure hives
Check the queen's laying patterns
Probably need to add a box at the end of March
Showed a diagram of Walt Wright's swarm management configuration
  • April:
The honey flow begins in Georgia
Add supers as needed - one at a time for undrawn foundation, all at once if drawn comb
  • May:
First three weeks are the best honey production weeks in Georgia
First week in May is the best week to produce comb honey
  • June:
Nectar flow ends in Georgia, although some great dark honey sometimes comes in at the end of June and into July
When bees are on the purple coneflower, we're at the end of the flow in Georgia
The best hives have 8 - 10 frames of bees going into the winter.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Blue Heron Project

Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' Association will now provide hive inspections to help new beekeepers learn about beekeeping in a hands-on way at three locations.

One location is the Atlanta Zoo; another is the Dunwoody Nature Center; and the third is at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve.

Each site will have two working hives that belong to Metro members and will be used several times during bee season as inspection sites for the club.

As you may remember, I've already been involved with several beekeepers who have hives at Blue Heron. Previous posts are here and here. So I was thrilled when Kevin, the person in charge of the community garden at Blue Heron, got an OK from the board of directors to let us manage two hives there.

I'm going to have one of the hives and my friend and fellow beekeeper, Julia, will manage the other with the help of her two sons. They have been keeping bees longer than I have, so I am sure we will all learn from this experience.

Metro purchased two nucs for us and we provide everything else - the hive boxes, maintenance, etc. The nucs arrived (early, isn't it?) on Saturday. So we are feeding them in the nucs until Wednesday when Julia, Sam, her youngest son, and I will install them in the hives. Below is a slideshow of our experience so far.

We got a pretty good record of our adventure, but nobody had the camera when a bee stung me inside my hood. When I took off the hood, there was another bee in my hair. We all swatted at my hair as I hung my head upside down - I'm sure it was quite a sight, but we didn't get pictures!

Click on the pictures in the slideshow and you'll be taken to Picasa Web albums where you can view it in a larger frame.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Camera: An Essential Tool in Hive Inspections

Persephone looks like a hive that is flagging. I have felt quite discouraged about it. I opened it on Friday which was a very warm day (over 65). The bees in the other three hives were going like gangbusters - flying in and out, carrying pollen. The bees entering and leaving Persephone looked like marauders - they were hesitating at the entry and seeming tentative.

So I opened the hive to see what was up. I had left a ziploc feeding bag on the top of the second box, but very little had been used. This confirmed for me what I was afraid of - that the hive had died. Then I started pulling frames.

First I pulled from the bottom box where there were no bees. This was a deep (this hive was started from a nuc last year which came with deep frames). The frame had stored honey but no bees anywhere.

This is what I saw on the back of the frame: all of the bees in the photo below are dead, just clinging to the wax as dead bodies. Obviously I had my camera and was taking pictures so I could post here about the demise of this hive.

In the second box, a medium, I found lots of honey stores and a cluster of bees over about three frames - the size of a tennis ball. They were on top of honey but I saw no evidence of a queen - no brood that I could see and nothing but a few bees and the honey.

I left the hive after taking a few pictures and called Cindy Bee. "Is there a queen in this small cluster?" she asked. I told her I hadn't seen any evidence of one. She and I decided that I should combine this tiny group with another hive. She suggested that I used vanilla on the top bars of the hive I was moving the bees into to decrease the chance of rejection. And that I should do this soon so that the bees didn't die out.

I left for the mountains with the plan to combine this tiny cluster with one of the three strong hives when I returned today.

Before doing the deed, I transferred my pictures from my camera to the computer and looked at my record from the inspection of Persephone. On the first photo, you'll see bees, stored honey, lots of hive beetles.

In the second photo down at 6:00, you see Her Majesty. And above her you can even see eggs and brood in the cells!

Without this camera record, I would have begun transferring the bees and lost a potential good hive. There's no way in this weakened and quite small state that this hive will amount to much this year, but I'm going to do my best to help Her Majesty make the best success possible out of this.

I of course called Cindy again to report the news. She suggested that I move this small group into a nuc hive and feed them. I'll move a frame of brood and nurse bees from a thriving hive into the nuc as well if I can be sure there is no queen on the frame!

The Hive is alive! Long Live the Queen!
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Monday, February 02, 2009

Nosema or no nosema?

In the winter cluster, the bees do not relieve themselves. On a warm day, they finally can fly and they are desperate to get rid of their bodily waste. This hive, Mellona, has a splatter of diarrhea on the front just above the entrance after a warm day for the bees. I should note that the warm day came after a number of below freezing days in a row.

One worry I might have is that the bees may have nosema. Cindy Bee (really her name) a local bee authority and friend/mentor of mine told me not to worry about it. She sees it most winters and simply cleans the area of the hive box, but doesn't do anything for the bees. They get over it naturally.

In an old post from 2003 on Beesource, Michael Bush said, "How do you know they have nosema?" Diarrhea is not necessarily nosema. There are a lot of things that give them transient diarrhea. Just because you get the runs for the day does not mean you are dying of giardia."

Nosema is an opportunistic disease and it thrives with weaker hives - due let's say to stress or fighting off the winter cold in a cluster. However, diarrhea may be caused by stress and not mean that the hive has nosema.

Cindy says that to clean off the hive helps stop the spread of the problem if it is nosema. My plan is to clean the hive box off on the next warm day (not tomorrow when the high will be in the low 40s, but maybe this weekend) and to hope the bees with the upset tummies can make it through the winter.

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