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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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Monday, December 31, 2012

Give a Bee Hive

If any of you are doing last minute charitable contributions as the clock approaches midnight and the end of 2012, a great thing to do is to contribute to the Heifer project.  Only $30 provides a hive of bees to someone in a country where they need help to make a living.

Here's the link.

Their page is a little slow tonight as many US citizens try to do last minute donations, but it is well worth it and you will be adding to the honey bee population as well as increasing the number of beekeepers in the world.

If you didn't know this about Heifer, when they give an animal or in this instance, a beehive, then the recipient has the responsibility to pass their knowledge on to another person.  In other words,  a new beekeeper should, next year, split the hive they were given this year and give the split to another person as well as help the person get started as a beekeeper.

It's the old teach a man to fish approach rather than feed the man fish.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bees on Christmas Trees

Every year my collection of ornaments bee for the tree grows a little.  Here's what my tree looked like in the "bee" section this year:

There's a bee from my daughter, Becky, a beekeeper's glove from my friend Nancy, a honey jar from my friend Mary, a lady beekeeper (her face is obscured but she has appeared in other holiday posts from previous years).  

This year I was given two new ornaments bee.  My friend Gina gave me an adorable skep and my sister Beth gave me a metal bee:

Sadly, the honey jar jumped off of the tree when nobody was anywhere near it and shattered so it will be no more - that's of course, is one reason why it's nice to get these two new ones.

Then last night I went to a lovely post-Christmas dinner with women friends and my friend Nelia presented me with this fabulous female beekeeper to grace my tree for years to come:

She was made in Germany and is a woman after my own heart - she has a bee in her "bonnet" and a bee on her arm.  Since I'm not in the mountains any longer, I put her on my Atlanta tree so I can enjoy her for the next few days until I take the tree down here.  I only decorate that tree with candy canes so that my grandkids can take one home each time they come over, so this little beekeeper really stands out on the tree.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stocking Stuffers for Beekeepers

I saw this on Facebook and thought it might be useful for some of you out there.  Here's a convenient list of stocking stuffers for Beekeepers:


What I would add to her list:

  • A box of Ziploc sandwich bags:  great for carrying wax scrapings, etc. back from the beehive
  • Rubber bands - the giant kind - for holding comb into frames that is catty-whumpus and you want to straighten out.
  • Bee Christmas ornaments - I now have a small collection, the latest of which is a metal honeybee that my sister bought for me at a craft fair
  • Molds for soap, lotion bars, or candles
  • an 8"square baking pan - if you enter wax blocks in honey contests, you can never have enough of these since you almost need to use a new one each time
  • Permanent magic markers - innumerable uses
  • Bee related magnets for your car 
  • Any bee item from Etsy
  • Small jars of someone else's honey - always fun to taste and compare - although most beekeepers will always think their own is the best
  • A subscription to a bee magazine
  • A propane grill lighter - great for lighting smokers
  • A honeybee cookie cutter

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Dean Stiglitz on Honey Bee Genetics

ApiNews this week included a link to a video by Dean Stiglitz.  Dean ran the Treatment Free Bee Conference that Julia, Noah and I went to this summer.  He is also the author with his wife Laurie of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping - which is a great book (so far--I'm reading it cover to cover this winter and am not through yet.)

Dean gave a version of this talk at the conference in Massachusetts.  The slides in the video that I am sharing in this post are a little off - don't know what was wrong in the YouTube video - but you can make sense of them anyway.

He obviously had a very short amount of time to give this presentation, but he did a good job of explaining how the drone's genetics work in the mating with the queen.

I thought you all might enjoy it:

Friday, December 07, 2012

Alexander and the Red Ribbon Year

I love Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.  Poor Alexander - nothing goes right for him.  He even has to wear his railroad train pajamas and he hates his railroad train pajamas.  When he goes with his brothers to buy shoes, everyone gets cool ones, but they only have boring uncool ones in Alexander's size.

It's a great book to read when things aren't going well.

My honey contest year was a little like Alexander's day.  When I entered my wax block, in each show the winning entry was poured into a design mold instead of a block.  It's much harder to pour a solid block but since most honey contest rules don't designate specifically a solid block with no design, then fancier looking entries always win.

So this was a red ribbon year.  I never won a blue ribbon in any of the many categories I entered.  And I should remember that there were plenty of people who entered honey contests this year who didn't get any ribbon at all, but it was still disheartening.

Usually one wants to improve, not go downhill!

Ordinarily I'd say, "Well, there's always next year," but I'm thinking I might skip entering contests next year and focus on honey production instead.

I'm pretty sure I've entered my last wax block, although I feel so drawn to that effort.  I didn't get to enter the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' honey contest this year because I was in Ireland, and our honey contest rules do not allow a design mold poured block.   Here are our rules for wax block:

Class 7:  Wax block
1.      The block must be at least one inch thick but not more than two inches thick.
2.      The block must weigh a minimum of two pounds, (but no more than three pounds)
3.      The block should be smooth-surfaced and free of decorations or embellishments.

We worked really hard at Metro to develop a complete and comprehensive set of rules.  If your club needs guidelines for how to write honey contest rules, we ran ours past Robert Brewer (who trains most of our country's Welsh honey judges) and Keith Fielder before completing them.  Here's a link to the MABA honey contest rules.

So, we'll see next year.  Maybe I'll enter the wax block, but probably skip the honey entries for next year.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

GBA Newsletter

At the Georgia Beekeeping Association's fall meeting, Gina, my friend and president of Metro Atlanta Beekeepers, and I volunteered to write the monthly newsletter for the association.  We came up with a basic formula for what we wanted to include and began with our first issue in October this year.

We now have done three issues and are getting good feedback.  The issues are not only sent out to the registered GBA members, but also are posted here, if you'd like to see what we are doing.

Here's our plan for each month:

  • We feature a photo about beekeeping taken by a member at the beginning of each newsletter.
  • We ask the president of the association to make a short statement each month.
  • We try to feature an article of importance. 
    • The first month we featured the Georgia beekeeper of the year;
    • in November we featured an article from a well-known Georgia beekeeper, and 
    • this month we featured an article by Cindy Bee, a nationally known beekeeper who recently left Georgia to move to Maine 
  • We try to come up with a beekeeping tip or a piece of interesting bee information from ApiNews or some other source
  • We feature a funny beekeeping adventure from one of our members
  • We ask one bee club in the state each month to write up what their club is doing, what speakers they've had that they particularly liked, etc.
  • We try to put in about three quotes that are about beekeeping
  • Finally, we beg people to send us articles, photos, and informative items
We figured that if we had a basic plan, then we wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel each month.  We ask everyone only to write a paragraph or two to take the pressure off.  However, most people write us more than that.  

So far, so good....but this is only the third month!  We have gotten pretty good feedback so far and I'm having a great time working with Gina.

I've never done a newsletter before.  It's a lot of work.  Literally, we pushed "Send" today to send out the December issue, and Gina said, "Whew.  Ok, now what are we going to do for January?"  And it will take that long to get enough articles and information to do our next issue.

We're hoping our newsletter will help promote beekeeping in Georgia and maybe up the membership of the state organization (it only costs $15 to be a member of the GBA).  I've noticed that the presidents of the three bee clubs we have featured so far are not members of GBA!  

We're open to ideas or suggestions.  If you go to visit the site and read the newsletter, let me know if you have any feedback or thoughts about how it could be even better.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Asters in December

It's December - usually in years before Global Warming, we would actually have cold weather.  The supposed first freeze date in Georgia is generally November 15.  So far this year, as last year and the more recent warm years, we haven't had a freeze yet.

The temperature dipped into the 30s at least two nights, but still was two degrees above freezing.  The problem for bees is that if they fly out of the hive, it is usually to relieve themselves.  There isn't food to be had.

However, walking today I came upon an aster blooming happily and covered with bees!

There are beekeepers all over Virginia Highlands in Atlanta where I live.  I just hope these joyful bees are mine!

For more on Global Warming, here's a TED talk:

Monday, November 05, 2012

Rabun County Marauder

I don't know where the fall went.  It's November and I have no idea what happened to autumn.  Today I'm in Rabun County.  I've missed being up here and have entirely missed the fall leaves.  I haven't done a good job of checking on the bees up here, so I wanted both to check on the bees and turn on the heat at my house so that the pipes won't freeze as the winter arrives.

I arrived at the School House Garden and was shocked with what I found.  As you remember, one of the hives had died.  I left one box on the cinder blocks - a slatted rack, a screened bottom board, one hive box, an inner cover and a telescoping cover.  My hope was that in the spring a hive might move in as a swarm.

Today here's what the empty hive looked like:

I don't  know how to think of this - the cover on the hive box could not have been off for long because the wood is not discolored and I haven't been here in two months.  The slatted rack and screened bottom board are discolored and wrecked.  I don't know if an animal did this or since the weeds had been cut back, if a tractor ran over the whole thing.

At the remaining live hive, I saw an occasional bee enter.  The bees all entered on the same side of the entry, but there were very few of them.  

I had brought an empty 10 frame box to act as a surround for a rapid feeder.  So I set up the rapid feeder over the inner cover and filled it with honey.  It was 62 degrees.  Generally when a hive is in need of stores, when you put on the feeder, at least one or two bees immediately show up in the tube to sample the new honey.  

Not a bee appeared.

I lifted the hive from the bottom hand hold.  It seemed relatively heavy as if they had put on a good amount of stores.  

I get really cautious when I've lost a hive, so I didn't go into the box and just left to go to WalMart.  While I perused the aisles at WalMart, I kept thinking about the bees.  Were those hive bees or were they marauding bees from the nearby hive in the wall of the old school building?  Should I have left all of that good honey on a deadout when there are hives that could use it in Atlanta?  

Needless to say, after I checked out of WalMart, I drove back over to the community garden and opened up the hive box.  

The top box held honey but no bees.  But on the second and bottom box there were bees covering four frames in each box (8 frames of bees in all).  I knew they had clustered there the night before when the temperatures were in the 30s, and I felt relieved to see them.

Still cautious, I didn't check any further to see if there were a queen, but instead closed up the hive with a sigh of relief.  I'll check them again in a few weeks.

I rode home wearing my sunglasses this morning because as probably all of you know, during the fall, leaves look more colorful through sunglasses than they actually are so I could have the illusion that I didn't miss the fall leaves in North Georgia!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Yet Another (two) Wax Block(s)

Well, I'm at it again:  The Great Wax Block Saga.

Last night I poured two wax blocks for the Tara Contest and hoped at least one of them would be good this morning.  When I got ready to pour, I pulled out my piece of silk and found that a wax moth or some other creature had feasted on it:

So I resorted to using panty hose - not as good a filter, but hey, it's what I had.

The panty hose is stretched over a measuring cup with a pouring lip that has been heated in a pan of simmering water so the wax won't solidify as it hits the glass.

I cooled one block in the downstairs oven and the other on the counter top.  I heated the oven to its lowest temperature:  170 and then turned it off before putting in the wax.  Inside the oven while it is heating is a roasting pan filled with hot water and the mold for the block:

I poured one round mold and one in a bread pan.   This morning both were good, but the bread pan had striated lines on the edges of the block:

I polished it while I put the round mold in the freezer - it wouldn't come out of the mold and sometimes the freezer for about 30 minutes will do the trick.  As a last resort, I could use this block but I don't want the striations.

Voila!  The round mold came out just lovely:

I can see a couple of specks in it - result of the use of panty hose instead of silk, but it is a gorgeous wax block.  I've packed it up (after polishing and polishing with panty hose) to go to the show tonight as well.

It rides in its own Tupperware container and sits on a linen napkin - throne for a queen, I guess.

Wish me luck and I'll let you know how it goes.

Entries for Tara Honey Show

I belong to a couple of bee clubs.  The Tara Bee Club is having its honey contest tonight.  I have to work until 6:30 and I live 16 miles in going home traffic from the Tara meeting in Forest Park, Georgia.  They are accepting honey entries from 6:45 - 7:15 so I will arrive at best just under the wire.  As a result I had to get everything ready last night so that I only have to take the plastic wrap off of the jars, put on new tops, and hand them to the steward.

Generally to a honey show, I take a leg of panty hose or a piece of silk for polishing, gloves to pick up the jars, a flashlight to look for fingerprints, a squirt jar of water in case something needs cleaning, toothpicks for last minute bubble removal, silver demitasse spoons for equalizing jar fills, and lint free cloths for polishing jars.  I'll probably have all of that with me, but in reality, I won't have time tonight.  So last night I spent hours getting my entries ready for the show.

I poured two wax blocks and crossed my fingers until this morning.

I polished, equalized, and de-bubbled jars (actually only one jar had bubbles).  I put new tops for each jar in plastic Ziplocs.  I put all the finished products in a sectioned box:

So I'm entering (from top of photo to bottom) black jar, creamed honey, light honey, chunk honey (and a wax block - see next post).  You can see the flashlight peeking out of one of the jar lid filled sections and the new tops for the jars in their baggies.  

I only have light honey to enter this year since Jeff and I only really harvested from Five Alive and Stonehurst.  Like last year, the Stonehurst honey has crystallized early - it was kind of medium - so all we have is the light honey from Five Alive.

We'll see if anything places - I've not done great in honey shows this year, but if I say so myself, the creamed honey we are entering into Tara is really fabulous.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pests in the Hive - Ants and SHB

One of my hives at Stonehurst is the subject of a UGA study (along with a number of other beekeepers' hives).  The researcher came last week and emailed me that he thought the hives were so infested with SHB that they would not survive the winter.

I went over today with the only small hive beetle trap I could quickly find that didn't need an Imrie shim.  It was an AJ's trap.  I recently won two beetle traps like AJ's from Buster's Bees at a Tara Beekeepers meeting, but I couldn't find them today.

I opened the smallest hive and there were SHB EVERYWHERE on the top cover and in the corners.  I didn't see the SHB in the actual hive, which was comforting.  First I used a funny suction instrument that John Jones gave me.  I tried....I really did, but I only sucked one SHB all the way into the bottle.  The rest were in the suction tube and I had no idea how to manage them.  So I gave up on the method and installed the AJ's.

The good news is that the larger hive (fartherest away in the picture) felt heavy and when I opened it, there was not a single SHB.  In the smaller hive beside the smoker, were the tons of SHB - probably at least 150 on the top cover.

I left the hive with an oil filled AJs and we'll see if it catches any of them.  I also put a surround box with a rapid feeder filled with last year's honey on the small hive.

After that I went to Sebastian's to see if that hive needed food.  I opened it to find that ants had taken up residence:

I wish you would LOOK at all the ants.  Funny thing, they weren't in the rapid feeder and there was still some crystallized honey in it.  I had two jars of last year's honey so I refilled the rapid feeder.

I think I'll go back and sprinkle cinnamon all over the inner cover.

At the bee club meeting this week, the president asked who wasn't feeding their bees.  I didn't know whether to raise my hand or not.  I'm not feeding mine in the way she meant - with sugar syrup.  I am feeding the ones that are light on stores with last year's honey.

After the bee meeting in Massachusetts, I want to raise bees that aren't dependent on my interference and don't need sugar syrup to make it through.  I also was scanty in my harvest this year to make sure that the bees are OK for the winter.

It's a Long Way to Tipperary....

I just got back from a vacation trip to Ireland.  I was lucky enough to get a seat on the trip done by the Embry Hills Methodist Church (many members of my book club belong to this church).  Their choir was taking a tour to Ireland and they had some empty seats that they needed to fill.  Since I knew a number of people on the trip because we are all in book club together, I was more than glad to fill a seat on the plane.

One of the places we stopped was Clonmel, a town in Tipperary.  According to Wikipedia, Clonmel is derived from the Gaelic:  Cluain Meala, meaning "honey meadow" .  In Ireland, rewards are given for "Tidy Towns" and we never saw any trash anywhere - every little town was tidy, and Clonmel was no exception.

Despite the fact that Clonmel (Meadow of Honey) refers, according to history, to the fertile soil, I was nonetheless determined to find some Clonmel honey to bring home to Gina, Julia, Jeff (and for me).  My roommate and I took a taxi into the tiny town and walked the streets to find local honey.  We were told we had just missed a "honey show" the weekend before.

We found two places where I bought local honey and the honey is lovely:

I watched for honey every time we stopped to shop, but I found the most in Clonmel.

Snake in the ..... Bee Boxes

I've been a little overwhelmed going into fall - too much going on in my life; too many responsibilities.  So I have some bee boxes that need the drawn comb frozen to kill the wax moth, but haven't had time to think about focusing on it.  Meanwhile I left the bee boxes on my driveway so that the sun and light would discourage any eager wax moth.

Before I left for vacation, I lifted up a bee box to see how the comb was faring and I found a garter snake curled on top of the box!

I'm not used to thinking of my phone as a camera, so I ran inside to get my camera.  By the time I returned, Mr. Garter Snake was no longer curled on the box but had made it to the driveway.

Here's a more up close and personal shot of him:

So this year I've seen ear wigs, roaches, ants, lizards, and small hive beetles in my hives.  This is my first snake in the bee hive in seven years!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm about to leave for a week of vacation and I'm worried about the bees with no honey.  The bees at Jeff and Valerie's all have plentiful supplies.  My bees are OK at my house, but the bees at Sebastian's and at Chastain are without stores.

Today I ran by Sebastian's and fed those bees by refilling the rapid feeder with honey.  Jennifer Berry says she's never seen a feeder in which bees didn't die.  So far I've never found a dead bee in these rapid feeders, but there's always a first time.

I had given the bees old honey from last year that had crystallized.  Today I had more of the same.  When I opened the top of the hive, the feeder was pretty much down to the crystals.  I poured in more crystallized honey from two jars:

Because it was crystallized, I left the jars for a while upside down to drain.  Also because it was sort of crystallized, the honey didn't climb up on the inside of the cone to the level where it was on the outside of the cone.

I took my spoon and scraped around a little at the base of the cone to move any blocking crystals.

The bees were thrilled and eagerly began transporting their new supplies.

One great advantage of the rapid feeder is that because it is closed and the only entry is from within the hive through the hole in the inner cover, the smell of open honey is not permeating the area inviting robbers.  I hope these bees live well and prosper.

I'll let you know when I'm back home from vacation!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bad News, Good News, Bee News

This is a funny year - spring was too early; I started out with only five hives that made it through the winter.  I ended up with 20 something.  I've lost a lot to robbing or absconding.  It's been a roller coaster of a year.

I went to Stonehurst last week to check on the bees (I had been three weeks earlier).  I had left the strongest hive there (the only one that made it through the winter) with five boxes full of honey still to be harvested.  Jeff and I had taken one box from the hive, but left the rest.  The only reason I had left the honey was that he had not gone with me again and I couldn't lift the top box off of the hive.

When I arrived, the front of the hive was covered with wax shards and there was a pile of dead bees in front of the hive.

The entire huge hive had been totally robbed out.  Not a drop of honey remained, nor a bee.  There were still robber bees or foragers who missed the event milling around on the empty comb.  Pitiful and so sad.  I felt ill.  I brought the ragged but beautifully drawn comb home to freeze and use next year.

So now, at Stonehurst we have lost one hive.  At Sebastian's and Christina's house one of the two hives was robbed out and died.  I'm feeding the remaining hive there with honey from last year.

The bees at Chastain have NO (read that absolutely none) honey in the hive.  I am also feeding them honey from last year.
I put a feeder over the inner cover and put a stick at the front entrance to reduce it since I didn't bring an entrance reducer with me.

The bees at Morningside seem to be doing OK.  I'm giving them water but they are bringing in nectar from whatever fall flow we may be having.

At my house, I lost the one big hive to robbing and another to queenlessness that I didn't notice in time.  The top bar absconded.  I only have three hives there, but all are doing well.  I put entrance reducers on all of them after the large hive was robbed out and all of those bees are bringing in fall nectar.

And at Jeff's house where the four hives are that lived through the winter, we have tons of unharvested honey.  All the hives have plenty of honey and appear to be bringing in fall nectar.  We will probably harvest a little more from them when I get back from vacation at the end of September.  We put entrance reducers on all of those hives.

So the good news is that the survivors appear to have honey except for Chastain.  I have enough honey left from last year to keep feeding them honey instead of sugar water.  The bad news is that I've lost a lot of bees this year - three or four at my own house (depends on how you count them), one at Stonehurst, one at Sebastian's, one at Blue Heron.  I still have four hives at Jeff and Valerie's house, three at my house, two at Stonehurst, one at Sebastian's, two at Morningside Garden, one in Rabun County and one at Chastain.  Maybe I can keep all of them alive until next spring.  Then, if the nectar flow is good, Linda T's Bees should have a banner year in 2013.

I am a little worried about Chastain.  None of the three hives there have honey.  They are located next to a golf course and I'm wondering if the golf club maintenance contributes to the lack of available nectar.  It's strange that they have nothing, but Sebastian's bees in East Atlanta have nothing either and they are not next to a golf course. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Carl Chesick and Sustainable Bees

Last weekend was the fall meeting of the Georgia Beekeepers Association.  I went because the speakers look better than in any previous year I remember and because I am on the board.  The most interesting speaker was Carl Chesick, Director of the WNC Center for Honey Bee Research.

Carl was focused on sustaining bees that can outlast the varroa vectored diseases.  He said that in Asheville and the Asheville area, his center was encouraging everyone who has an untreated hive that lives through the winter to split it in early spring.  This is a fabulous plan and one that is in some ways obvious.

I, however, keep hearing that we should be supporting survival stock, and hadn't exactly understood how little ole me would be instrumental in that since I am not a queen breeder. But Carl pointed out that a split and a new queen that results is in fact breeding (a) queen on a very small scale.  Duh! But I hadn't registered this thought.

It's basic math, though.  If I have a hive that lives through the winter, untreated and only fed honey, then in the spring, I split it.  I have doubled the number of hives in my yard that are survivor bees.  The bees in that hive are strong enough to live WITH the varroa and not be defeated by the varroa.  If everyone did that, imagine how quickly treatment for varroa would go away.

Basic split involved in this:

  • 2 frames uncapped brood with attendant nurse bees
  • 1 frame of capped brood (to replace aging nurse bees)
  • 1 frame of honey and pollen
  • 1 frame of drawn empty comb
I rarely succeed with a split because I am always scared to bring enough nurse bees.  But in this split, if I were to take the queen by accident along with enough nurse bees, then the hive that is left becomes the queen breeder!  

In three weeks, the new queen should be emerged and laying.

Carl's talk followed a talk in the morning by Kefyn Carley from WNC University.  Kefyn's main interest is in spiders and mites, but after his talk I wanted to scratch my eyelashes.  He said mites are necessary and EVERYWHERE (even - read that often - in your eyelashes)...

His main point was that we would lose if we try to defeat (read that kill off) the varroa mite.  That approach only breeds a stronger varroa mite.  Instead, we need to accept the varroa mite and try to work with natural selection.

To do that, we have to recognize that if the parasite (the varroa) kills off its host, it will die as well, so it behooves biology for a mite to develop that can co-exist with its host.

It will take from 6 to 12 years to get mites and bees that can co-exist together and neither kill the other off.

So after hearing him talk and then hearing Carl, I am determined to get my bees to live through the winter and then split them!

Friday, September 07, 2012

And.....the Wax Block Pouring Continues

Well, the first pour was cracked in both blocks.  The second pour of two blocks last night resulted in two cracked blocks.  I was so disappointed.  Since the GBA honey contest is Saturday, tonight is really my last opportunity to succeed at this unless I pour a block during the day tomorrow while my grandkids are napping.

Generally a cracked block means that there was uneven cooling, but sometimes there's no explaining it. I had done almost everything I know to do, so I decided today to buy new pans and try with them.  I went to Target and bought two bread (loaf) pans to give that a try.   One is glass....

The other is no-stick metal:

I heated the measuring cup in a pan of hot water and melted the wax in my converted Presto Pot.  I have some silk that I use to filter the wax.  So what happens is:  The wax melts in the Presto Pot.  I rubber band the silk over the large measuring cup (and 8 cup measure).  Then I pour the wax through the filter into the hot measuring cup.

Having the measuring cup hot keeps the wax from solidifying on the bottom of the measuring cup.

When the wax has filtered through the silk,

I carefully remove the rubber band and the silk (so that the filtered debris doesn't fall into the hot wax).  Then I pour the melted wax into the mold.  I put panes of glass on the mold after I've filled it so that the block won't have a wavy surface.

One is cooling in the oven in a pan of very hot water and the other is cooling in the oven downstairs in a pan of very hot water.  Cross your fingers that at least one of these is usable in the morning.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Wax Block Pours Again.......

Those of you who have been along for most of this journey remember the year when I poured a wax block for the honey contest 18 times.  This is the first pour when I innocently thought this might be pretty easy.  And this is the 15th.  I did get a blue ribbon, but now I think that was a little (are you laughing yet?) obsessive.

This weekend is the Georgia Beekeepers' Association fall meeting and honey contest.  I am going to miss the Metro honey contest this year because I will be on vacation.  So I am entering the GBA contest this weekend.  For sure I'll enter liquid honey, chunk honey, creamed honey (remember Jeff's and my detailed experience), crafts, and maybe photography, but I don't have a photo that just screams to be entered.  I'd like to enter wax block but I didn't pour my first one until last night.

Well, to be honest, I poured two.  I had enough wax and I figured that one would probably come out OK and I could keep repouring the other to try to attain perfection (or close).

The other aspect of this contest is that I'll be up against Virginia Webb - she wins everything.  Her honey has won Best in the WORLD at Apimondia - TWICE.  And she always wins the wax block.

The last time I went against her at GBA she entered a block that wasn't a classic wax block but was poured into a mold covered with designs. She got the blue ribbon and I won the red.  Our rules for MABA specify that the block has to follow the classic rules - a plain, no design on it, 2 - 3 pound wax block.  But this weekend Virginia is sure to enter a lovely designs all over it block and I will not get the blue ribbon - so I'm trying for the red.

The truth is I may not have an entry at all.

This morning I woke to find that neither block had finished well - both had cracks in them.

The prettiest wax I have poured all the right ways - left in a hot pan of hot water in a 350 oven that I turned off right before I put the wax into it.  I put a window pane over it, closed the door and left it for the night.  Nothing doing, it's a mammoth failure....

The second block I put in a pan of hot water on the work bench with glass over it and it too cracked in cooling.  That usually means uneven cooling but I had it in a hot water bath, with two sheets of glass over it.

It looked pretty good from the top, but underneath:

Undaunted, I repoured both of them tonight - we'll see.  I didn't change much - used a little more release (dishwashing liquid) and added some extra hot water to the pan.

We'll see in the morning.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Article on Urban Beekeeping in Organic Gardening

Last night I got an email from a friend of mine saying she had seen an article about me in Organic Gardening.  I was interviewed back in the spring and a photographer came and spent the morning at my house.  I knew it was coming out soon, but thought I'd get a copy when it hit the newstands.

The article is online at Organic Gardening magazine,  but there are only two photos from my hives in the online version.  My friend said in her email that she really liked the photo(s).  I decided today to go buy copies at the bookstore so I could see for myself.

I flipped through the magazine at the bookstore to the article and found lots of photos both from my bee yard in my backyard, and the beeyards of two other beekeepers, both men, one in Chicago and the other in Vancouver.  I was so excited, I bought several copies so I could give one to each of my children.

I brought my purchases indoors and opened the magazine's cover for the first time, instead of flipping through as I did before.  The second page held the table of contents and there I was, the background photo for the Table of Contents page!

I'm honored that of all the women beekeepers in the country, Janet Davis, the author picked me for her article.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rabun County Bees

A couple of weeks ago when I went to Asheville for the Natural Beekeeping meeting, I stayed at my house in Rabun County.  On the way up I saw the bear in the misty rain at Black Rock Mountain Lake.    The day after the conference, the lake was sunny and beautiful and while I didn't see a bear again, I did see Joe Pye weed and goldenrod, evidence of the fall flow (for what it's worth).

Before I drove back to Atlanta, I checked on the Rabun bees.  The last time I was up at the mountain house, I discovered that one of the hives was almost dead and had small hive beetles all through it.

I didn't really check out the cause of the problem when I was there before because I was so upset, so I opened the hive on this visit and brought the boxes back home.  Clearly the hive had been robbed out, and left so weakened that the small hive beetle took advantage of the opportunity.

Two things are evident in this picture.  The edges of the cells are ragged, indicating a robbery.  There were dead bees littering the ground in front of the hive.  And you can see the slime of the small hive beetle.  I brought four boxes back to Atlanta and could hardly stand the sicky sweet smell in the car of the SHB's destruction.

The other hive was almost completely covered with weeds.  It was totally in the shade and had kudzu and other brambles all over the entry.  I didn't take a before picture, but I wish I had.  The bees were still flying happily in and out of the hive.  I knew this vegetation situation was likely so I brought my hedge clippers with me.  I went to work and freed the hive from most of the vegetation.

When I opened it, I was shocked (in all the previous shade) to find that I only saw one small hive beetle in the hive.  Perhaps they were all satiated on the frames from the other hive?

This hive has honey in all three boxes and brood in the bottom box.  I really wanted to taste their honey.  The top box is likely sourwood, but they had not completely capped the honey in those frames, so I brought back a frame from the middle box.

I didn't come prepared for harvest transport, so after brushing off the bees, I put the frame into a pillow case (I'm now using them for hive drapes like Julia taught me), and brought it back to Atlanta.  I crushed and strained it and now have three pounds of luscious grape-flavored honey, likely from the kudzu all around the creek bed where the hive is located!

(The HIDDEN honey frame).

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