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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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Thursday, September 30, 2010

So How's Topsy, the Top Bar, Doing?

I've been feeding Topsy a quart - two quarts a week for the last two weeks. On Tuesday I took two quarts of syrup over there and was pleased to find bees tumbling over each other at the entrance, loaded down with pollen.

I had only taken one quart over on Thursday the week before and it was totally used up. I did see about 10 small hive beetles on the Boardman - which upset me, but I'll take a small hive beetle trap over there - the Sonny-Mel will sit fine on the screened bottom - the next time I go.

The hive is only occupying bars 1 - 10 but there are plenty of bees. This is bar 10. I pulled it out and I think it's just bees clinging to each other like they would do on a slatted rack. I was in a hurry and didn't stick my finger in to find out if there were comb under the masses, but if you'll look close up, there doesn't appear to be.

Bar 9 is a brood comb and had capped brood on it, also covered with bees.

I'm going to continue to feed this hive through October and I'll put an SHB trap in it. I will probably move the follower board close to bar 10 as the cold weather approaches to close their space and make it easier for the cluster.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How DOES the queen do it?

When the queen lays an egg, the egg is like a tiny grain of rice that stands straight up in the cell. She does this a thousand times a day in the height of bee season and her eggs manage to balance on end almost all the time. You can see many examples of her skill at work in the slide below....many eggs, all standing properly on end.

I am part of a Foxfire-Mountaineer festival in Rabun County on Saturday - it's at the Old School Community Garden behind the Civic Center in Clayton for anyone who is in the area and wants to stop by. I'm giving a talk for children at 11 and 2:30. To talk about the bees, I thought I'd make a model of what a frame looks like in the hive. I'm copying something my friend Jay made to use in demonstrations.

Well, I thought I'd make eggs and larvae out of Skulpy clay (baked in the oven) to show what they look like. Truly this project takes me back to the days of my children's science projects for school - they were always involved with foam core board, clay, dyeing fabric with walnut shells, etc.

To create the egg, first I tried using rice. I put grains of rice, with a dollop of glue on the tip end into the nut cups I'm using for cells and for the life of me, they wouldn't stick and wouldn't stand on their ends. How DOES the queen do it?

Here we see a fallen-over grain of rice.

In this blurry picture I am trying to hold the rice upright with a toothpick while the glue dries to no avail.

Finally I settled on baked clay eggs but even they, larger than the rice, wouldn't glue and stand up on end, so I had to concede that the queen has a special talent that I don't and made a round clay bed to hold the eggs upright.

Thankfully this morning all are still standing.  I am going to redo the board so that it isn't square but is rather shaped more like the rectangle that a frame of brood comb is.

For now, this is what it looks like:

As per Jay's example, I have capped brood, capped honey, pollen and larvae.  I'm going to put polyurethane over the larvae to be the liquid in which they lie and in the empty cells at the top to be nectar.

Don't you love the bee?  I found it at Michael's just sitting on a shelf waiting for me to choose it!
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hive Inspection at Blue Heron on September 25

Noah and I took about a dozen people on the inspection of the Blue Heron hives on Saturday at 11.  It was a little cooler (thank goodness) and we looked through the two remaining hives.  You'll see the slideshow below.

On the inspection we did a powdered sugar shake and fed the bees with baggie feeders.  The participants asked good questions and seemed to have a good time learning about the bees at Blue Heron.

Blue Heron article in the Atlanta paper

I didn't see the paper yesterday, but I found it today online.  There's an article about my beekeeping buddy Julia in the Atlanta paper yesterday.  It's all about the flood at Blue Heron last year and the recovery.  Here's the link, if you'd like to read it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Today is the anniversary of the Atlanta flood

Today is the anniversary of the Atlanta flood (and thus the Blue Heron flood).  Last year on this day seven hives floated down Nancy Creek in the swollen flood waters and 300,000 to 450,000 bees were killed in seven wet hive topples.

(photo taken on Sept 22, 2009)

We lost bees and equipment which floated down the creek.

Today the Atlanta Journal published pictures of what various area locations looked like on September 21 last year and what the same location looks like today.

To follow their lead, above you can see the catastrophe of one of the toppled hives.  Below you can see the present day at Blue Heron.  We now have a new high-on-a-hill location for our Blue Heron hives and have kept on keeping on as beekeepers in the apiary there.

(photo taken March 30, 2010 as we installed the nucs)

Ah, we are persistent beekeepers, Julia, Kevin, Peter, and I (the owners of the four hives there).

A Visit to My Top Bar Hive

Valerie is in Italy on her honeymoon (she and Jeff got married in April 2009 but didn't take a honeymoon at that time) so I stopped by her house to bring in mail and check on the bees. I haven't looked at the hive in a couple of weeks and given my current bee experience, I'm scared to visit any hive for fear of what I'll find.

Topsy was busy as bees can bee. Bees were bumping into each other at the entrance. The kudzu above and behind the hive is past its bloom but it's aster season and there are asters everywhere in bloom.

I had two Boardman feeders inside the hive and both were empty. Unfortunately I only brought one quart of sugar syrup with me, but will bring two the next time I come. This is a view of the inside of the feeding area and a giant beetle caught by accident on the screen in the hive. I also saw a few small hive beetles on the Boardman feeders and will bring my Sonny-Mel trap the next time - it can easily sit on the screen at the bottom of this hive.

Some of the old comb I had tied in as a lure has melted through the string and fallen to the bottom of the hive. I'm not going to move it just now because it serves an insulation purpose for the moment. Maybe in the spring cleaning I'm clear it out of the hive.

Bees came out to see what was I doing when I removed the roof. I was very cautious to explore this hive much and didn't remove a single comb. I've got to get over the overly cautious part - I'm so afraid that I'll do something to cause the demise of the hive after my current losses. I must inspect this hive for real when I come back on Thursday afternoon.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Beekeeper Scarecrow in the AB Garden

Every year the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Club has an entry into the annual Scarecrows in the Garden contest at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This year Julia has volunteered to make the scarecrow. She and Karen, another beekeeper, worked hard to put together this scarecrow.

Karen is a structural engineer, so you can imagine that this scarecrow has a backbone!  The plan is to have bees coming out of the hive entry on wire, so Karen has also constructed a board with holes drilled for the wire to back the entry for the wires to be stabilized.

The scarecrow is due on Thursday and I'll add pictures as it gets closer to completion. The eyes are orange crush bottle caps (a subtle reference to our crush and strain method of honey harvest!)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blue Heron Check up on September 18, 2010

A Metro inspection is scheduled for Blue Heron on September 25, the last one of the year. We went over this weekend because we wondered how the hives were doing and if they needed feeding. We took sugar syrup in preparation.

When we got there we discovered various problems. Julia's first hive did have some honey and we saw the queen, but the hive was light and needed feeding. Her second hive, BP of the oil trap spill, had absconded - nary a bee in the place. My hive looked like it had been robbed, and it had some other problems which you can see in the slideshow below. We addressed the problems, were sad about the loss, and fed the bees with hope for the future of the two hives that are left.

Both of the hives that are left were low enough on stores that we will need to feed heavily throughout the rest of September and October.

Click on the slideshow to see it full size - also there are captions for each picture.

No Bees at Home

I guess the end of this saga at my house is that there are no bees at home. The hive on the left is the huge one that absconded earlier in the summer. The middle hive with the robber screen on it is the one I moved to a clean box to try to thwart the fact that they appeared to be a dying hive.

The nuc box (blue) on the right is the nuc I started with the queen who had been caged for two weeks when I finally realized it and moved her to this nuc. She must have suffered from PTSD after such a long caging and didn't get going - her brood pattern was spotty at best and in the end, the nuc was robbed out and all the bees died.

The wax moths will move in if I don't move the wax into the freezer - which is a project for tomorrow. You can see a wax moth cocoon on the right on frame 3.

To add to the sadness, when Julia, Noah, and I went to Blue Heron today to check on and feed the bees, one of her two hives there had absconded. There wasn't a bee in the place.

So goes this summer. I hope next year will be better for both bees and me. At least I still have the Blue Heron hive, the hive at Valerie's and my hive in Rabun County.

I want to sell my house and move closer to my Atlanta children so that I can be a more active grandma. This will give me an opportunity to move the hives off of the deck and have it pressure washed and maybe stained to help sell the house next spring.

 I've already ordered two nucs from Jennifer Berry for next year. I'll probably get a couple from Don in Lula as well, but he doesn't take orders until the beginning of the year. I'll put those bees either at Rabun, Blue Heron or wherever I live next!
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Noah wins Best in Show at MABA Honey Contest

 This weekend was the annual picnic and honey contest for the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' Association.  There were 58 entries into the honey contest.  In the photo above you can see the range from dark to light.

I didn't have a harvest this year ( only five jars from the Rabun County hive) so I entered three of them and won third place in light honey.

The amazing best in show winner for the entire contest was Noah, my friend Julia's son, whose face you will recognize from all the Blue Heron inspections shots.  Noah won first place for his creamed honey and best in show for his creamed honey.  He also won first place for his photo of the bee with wax coming out of her wax glands at a hive at his house.  Here's his winning photo.

 Below you can see Noah, grinning from ear to ear, with honey judge, Evelyn Williams.

Meanwhile Julia, Noah's mom, won ribbon after ribbon for all of her harvesting efforts.  She won first place for her chunk honey and first place for her cut comb honey.  She also won other ribbons for her creamed honey and her dark honey.

Since I had so little honey to enter, I also made a quilt and entered it in crafts where I won a blue ribbon.

The food was great, it was fun to talk to other beekeepers and in general, I think everyone had a good time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Lengths to Which a Beekeeper Will Go!

I was in Rabun county for the weekend and it rained like cats and dogs. One of my goals for my trip up to the mountains was to check on the hive at the Rabun community garden. Finally on Sunday morning we woke up to a gorgeous, sun-filled day. I brought a smoker to use on the hive since they have not been peaceful bees. But any possible fuel, i.e., pine needles, near my house was soaking wet.

I went out and gathered pine needles. My daughter suggested we dry it in a 250 oven. I set the oven up, put the pine needles on a cookies sheet and after about 20 minutes of drying, the pine straw was ready to go. I bought a new smoker for Rabun County so I could always have one up there.

The smoker, filled with oven-dried pine needles, lit beautifully and the hive was full of bees flying in and out in the sunlight. Some kind soul in the community garden group had weed whacked a path for me to the hives.

Inside the hive I found the bees to be busy, busy, busy. They were collecting nectar in the second box. You can see a picture below. Asters and members of the aster family are blooming all over Rabun county.

This hive is light and not nearly supplied well enough to make it through the winter. I decided to hold off on feeding them until I see how much honey they put up from the fall aster flow.

This plant had been cut down near the garden and the bees were all over it.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Talk at Young Israel Youth Program in Toco Hills

Today my friend Jay and I did a talk and demonstration for the young people at the Young Israel Program in Toco Hills in Atlanta. The group was larger than we expected and the kids and their parents were quite enthusiastic. Before the talk one little boy could be overheard saying to his mother, "I don't want to get stinged" and his mother replied, "The bees can't get out." But he was quite concerned and voiced this several times.

However when Jay dropped the sides of the observation hive and let the kids come forward, he came too. Here are about a third of the young people looking at the bees while Jay points out the workers and the queen with his flashlight.

We had some giant flowers and a wonderful model of honey comb that Jay had made with pill dispensing cups filled with various representations of honey, nectar, and pollen. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but maybe I'll have another chance when he and I run a table at a fair in late October.

Of course we had to do the waggle dance. Actually given the shape of the room and the size of the crowd, I decided to make it a circle dance. Here are the children following me the Pied Piper of Beedom as we buzz and flap our wings and waggle our way around the room.

At the end of our talk, the children had a snack of apples dipped in honey. Rosh Hashanah is coming up and dipping apples in honey symbolizes a sweet new year in the Jewish tradition. The organizers of this event wanted the children to understand a little more about honey.

This beautiful little girl was enjoying her apple dipped in honey.

This threesome shared the same honey plate and gave up the apples for fingers which was more efficient!

Jay sold some of his organic honey to some of the parents.

In general we had fun and the children appeared to learn something and enjoy the event.
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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Solar Wax Melter Hard at Work

I used the solar wax melter to melt the wax from the Rabun County frames I robbed a couple of weeks ago. The wax comb in those frames was some old drawn comb I had given to these bees. What a difference there is in that comb and the freshly drawn comb of a foundationless frame! First the comb is tough and harder to crush and strain. Next it's dirty - see the photo below.

When the wax melter worked on this wax, the slum gum was extensive and burned and yucky.

Of course, the reward is the beautiful and lovely smelling wax that is the result of filtering through the paper towel to the water below. Isn't this pretty and I wish you could smell it!

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