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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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Monday, October 31, 2011

Silence in Rabun County

It was gorgeous in Rabun County this weekend, but very cold.  The leaves were past their peak but still really lovely and a great depiction of fall.

Lark (my granddaughter) , my two dogs and I went to visit the bees and feed them.  They were still and silent - not a bee to be seen.

We put food in the empty rapid feeders on both hives and left them.  The temperature all weekend never went above 53.  I checked again on Saturday afternoon and not a drop had been touched.

I hope they are cold and OK instead of dead inside the hive.   This was the first time Lark has been into bee hives with me.  I took a veil for her but she wouldn't put it on.  It was a good first visit because there were no bees present!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Blue Heron Hive is Warm and Fed

Yesterday I went over to check on the Blue Heron. This incident with the vandal has left me really nervous. I pulled up to the garden parking lot and I was the only car there, so despite Roswell Road traffic in full view, I turned my car to face toward the street before getting out of it.

Then I walked up to the hives to feed them and was so nervous that I did something by accident to my phone so that all the photos were black and white - not nearly as illustrative as color, but certainly a sign that I am massively uncomfortable at the Blue Heron alone - which never used to be my truth.

The hive was still locked up and undisturbed.

The boardmans were empty and bees were flying in and out of the hive.

I reloaded the Boardmans with lovely amber colored bee tea which you cannot begin to appreciate in black and white.

The aster is still blooming, the bees are still flying in and out. I will probably move these bees home next week when the weekend cold will still the aster bloom.
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Using the Rapid Feeder

The cone in the rapid feeder sits over the center of the angel food cake pan type container. The bees come up from the hole in the inner cover and can walk down the ridged surface of the cone to the height of the sugar syrup.

When Jeff and I fed the bees last week, the feeders on the hives were empty. In the photo below, Jeff begins to pour the bee tea into the rapid feeder.

In this picture you can see the bees through the cone cover going down to the height of the bee tea. We had to pour slowly to avoid drowning bees and to allow the bees time to crawl up to dry ground.

The leaves floating in the bee tea are thyme, by the way.

The level rises and the bees crowd the top area of the cone.

As the bee tea gets higher, the bees are forced to move up even higher.

When the container is full, the bees can't go down the sides to get syrup, although as the amount of syrup is brought into the hive, the levels will diminish and the bees will be seen more on the outside of the cone.

Just thought you might enjoy these up close and personal pictures of the bees endeavoring to take in the bee tea.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Kim Flottum Visits MABA and Speaks on Preparing for Winter

Metro Atlanta was privileged to have Kim Flottum speak to our club at our monthly meeting last week.  He talked about overwintering bees and after a break, addressed the small hive beetle problem. 

 I always enjoy hearing Kim speak - he's conservative in his approach to beekeeping and I appreciate that.

Kim lives in Ohio and he was shocked to find out that in Atlanta we only need about 40 - 50 pounds of honey on a hive for it to have enough to survive the winter.  Apparently in Ohio, he needs to leave a hive with 145 pounds of food for the winter.

Another interesting thing he said was that  when it is cold outside, the bees in cluster need to have holes in the honeycomb to more easily travel across the frames to the honey source.  I've noticed in foundationless beekeeping that the bees often leave space (holes) in the comb they draw - passageways, as it were.

The most important thing he said the whole night came in this slide:

If we have put bees in a box to live and we are "keeping" them, then it is our responsibility to do everything possible to keep them alive.  Made me feel so much better about feeding my bees last fall and this fall to make sure they make it through the winter.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blue Heron in the Dark of Night

As you remember, on Sunday I moved the Blue Heron hive into a nuc for the winter.  On Monday night Jeff and I planned to move the nuc to my backyard - it would take two of us because it's a 2 story nuc. (Not to mention that he has the straps required to keep the thing together in the process of a move.)

On Monday in the middle of the day, I went over to see how the nuc was doing.  The bees were blissfully flying into the nuc with pollen on their legs and full honey stomachs from the field of aster in bloom just outside the apiary in the garden.

I looked at the garden, at the football field's worth of land, covered in white aster with some purple in the mix as well.  Each plant was weighed down with bees.

I couldn't justify taking this already damaged hive to a new place right now - it would be like saying they had to eat at MacDonald's when Godiva Chocolate was free for the taking.  So I decided I had to leave the nuc there until the aster bloom is finished.

The other glitch was that I was going to Santa Fe for a professional conference (where I am right this minute) and wouldn't be able to oversee the hive, so we needed to do something to protect them.

I wasn't free to do this until after dinner on Monday and Jeff agreed.  So in the dark of the night, we drove over to the Blue Heron.  It WAS dark.  We had flashlights and made lots of noise getting out of the car to scare the honey thief, or any other vagrant who might be around (there are supposedly two homeless people who live at the Blue Heron).

Jeff suggested that I leave the car unlocked so we could make a quick get away if we needed to, but I wasn't comfortable with that - his suggestion points to how unsettled we both felt.

Our plan was to lock up the hive with a bicycle lock as Julia had with hers.  We set the combination in the car - we had to hook two locks together to be able to completely surround the hive.  Then we headed for the hive.

We set everything up first - put the two boardman feeders I had brought together (set the jar of sugar syrup on each of them); prepared the nuc box that would serve as a surround for the feeders so we could place them on top of the inner cover; figured out what each of us would do to make this happen.

Jeff started to unlock the bicycle lock.  "Don't say the combination out loud," I said, still worrying that someone might be hiding in the bushes listening.

The pictures are below.  We did lock the hive up as best we could, but someone could still push the boxes out from under the lock, as they could at Julia's as well.

I suppose we needed another cable lock to make a "gift package" approach which would indeed secure the hive.  Jeff's suggestion was that we do some sort of hinge lock system on hives that aren't in our backyard.  Sounds like a plan to me.

BTW, Jeff was right about the car.  When we got back, I fumbled with the keys and took forever to get the thing unlocked - good we weren't being chased or threatened!  I don't believe we'll visit the Blue Heron at night again!

Oh, but we will have to go again at night to move the nuc when the asters are done......

As always, click on the slideshow below to see the photos full sized:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hope for the Blue Heron

Today I moved my hive at the Blue Heron into a nuc box.  I will give the bees a day to orient to the new box and will move it to my backyard tomorrow night.

 We talked via email all day about suggestions people made on this blog and ideas Julia, the Blue Heron board, and I had about ways to better protect our BH hives. I'm going to bed feeling a little more hopeful.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thoughtless Vandals Damage Blue Heron Hives

We are so sad to report that the Blue Heron hives have been vandalized by someone who apparently sought to steal honey.  Julia's hive was the only hive in the apiary that actually had honey.  The vandals removed her honey super and took three frames of honey away with them.  They then left all of the hives at Blue Heron opened up to the elements.

I'm sure bees died.

These hives are not in a good location.  They are not doing well and we feel violated as the hives have been, not to mention really discouraged.

Tomorrow I am moving what is left of my hive into a nuc and bringing it home for the winter.  In the spring I'll either move it back to Blue Heron or start over there with a new hive.

The best part of the Blue Heron project is that I have something special to do with Julia and with Noah.  Also the Blue Heron hives are a great central location for teaching new beekeepers about hive inspections and these hives have been important in that program for the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers.

But.....it's hard to get invested in those hives when we've now had the hives destroyed in two of the four years we've been there - first by flood and now by some thoughtless person.

Although Noah ventured the thought that perhaps someone thought that if the hives are at a public garden, then the honey is for the public to take.  I thought that was incredibly generous of him.

I personally have mean and ugly thoughts about the vandal.

Julia took these pictures when she went to survey the damage:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Are the Rabun County Bees Ready for Winter

This weekend I was at Rabun County to check on the bees at the School house Garden.  To my delight and surprise, one of the gardeners had cut back all the kudzu that was smothering the back hive there.  I was THRILLED.  I always carry pruning shears in my bee bag, but it was such a relief not to need them!

The bees looked like small hives but both were going fine and had some stores.  I saw young brood, small c-shaped larvae and eggs in each hive.  Neither hive even began to have enough to make it through the winter but at least they had some honey *(which is more than I could say for some Atlanta hives).  There's aster blooming right by the hives and the bees were all over it.

I removed the top box (empty) from each hive and replaced the box as a surround for a rapid feeder which I filled with two quarts of bee tea.

The entire time I was working on the hives, a blue heron stood on the bank on the opposite side of the creek, watching me.  His/her picture is at the end of the slide show.

Pictures speak louder, so here they are:

Monday, October 03, 2011

Pushing toward winter

At my own house where I live, the bees also need help in getting ready for dinner. I put Rapid Feeders on these hives also. This morning I lifted the top of one hive to see if they were taking the sugar syrup. You can see the bees inside the inner cone, enjoying the bee tea.

I also put entrance reducers on each hive to discourage robbing each other. One of the hives already had a reducer but the hives that didn't have reducers tripped all over each other as they figured it out.

Remember when I thought robbing had happened because of all the dead bodies on my basketball court? Well, I no longer think any hive was getting robbed. I've only been at this house for three months. There's a basketball goal with concrete underneath it with room enough to play Horse. The bee hives are at the edge of the concrete.

I've now noticed that there are bee bodies all over the court every day. What I've realized is that the mortician bees want to carry dead or dying bees out of the hive, but carrying a body the same size as themselves, they aren't anxious to carry the bees too far. So all these dead bees on my concrete are simply the dead of the hive being carried out only so far.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011

Bees at the Old Home Place - Getting Ready for Winter

Back at my old house there are four hives. I needed to check on them to determine if they are going to make it through the winter. The first hive I checked was the swarm hive. They are still in OK, but not great shape. They are only in one box but are filling that box. There is brood and stored nectar, but no honey. I decided that if these bees have a chance, they will need to be fed.

I had brought enough bee tea for all the hives at this house.

I emptied two quarts into a rapid feeder and closed up the hive.

Then I opened Lenox Pointe. The top box was relatively empty but the next three boxes were good and had honey stored since I didn't rob all they had. They should be able to make it through the winter in the deep and one medium, but I left them with three boxes, at least for this week. I may consolidate more next week.

I was afraid not to feed them. We have no nectar in Atlanta right now and all the hives are relatively light. If I don't feed this hive and am feeding the weaker hive next to them, they are likely to rob out the smaller hive. So I put a rapid feeder on this hive as well.


Colony Square was in great shape, also. Here is some of their honey - this was from the top box and isn't a full frame, but it's stored honey. Using the same logic, I left Colony Square with a rapid feeder as well.

Number 5 is one we brought back from the farm. They were in really bad shape when we first got them to Atlanta. They are really small now like the hive at Blue Heron.

The bees were only in the bottom box and only filled half of that box. This might also be a hive that needs to overwinter in a nuc.

They had brood, capped and uncapped and stored pollen but not much honey. I felt very discouraged until I lifted the second frame and found

Her majesty in the act of laying an egg. She looked great and gave me hope.
I filled their rapid feeder and will check early in the week next week.

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