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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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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Hive Inspection May 29, 2020

Yesterday my main goal in the hive inspection was to see if the pesticide kill hive were surviving OK. I also looked at the taller hive and at the small hive housed in a nuc tower. Please enjoy the inspection and send any questions you have to me.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Pesticide Kill at one of my hives

I knew what had happened as I walked up the hill to the community garden. The smell was overwhelming and meant only one thing. I was going to find a pile of dead bees in front of one or all of my hives.

The UGA extension website has an article on The Effect of Pesticides on Bees.

The article suggests that either the hive will survive on its own without the beekeeper's help, or that I should take out the combs of pollen and wash them all out. I wouldn't begin to attempt that since most of my pollen is on brood frames and the hive is decimated as it is. So I will cross my fingers and hope for the first possibility to happen. If the poison is stored in pollen on the frames, the brood and bees will continue to die.

I videoed a drone, affected by the poison, trying to walk on my hand and trembling and unsure of himself:

The video ends abruptly when one of the men who comes to my virtual hive inspections drove up and we had a six-foot-apart discussion of the hive poisoning.

The article states that bees are affected by pesticides in several ways. If a bee were in the path of the spraying of mosquito poison that occurs all over Atlanta, she would die right there and not return to the hive. If the bee brings the pesticide back in the pollen or nectar she transports, then many, many bees will die. Some will die from contact with the pesticide brought back by the original ill-fated bee. More will die because she (the unintentional poison carrier) will tell her sisters where this marvelous source of nectar or pollen is and they will then go and be affected in the same way.

The effect of taking in all of this poison is seen/smelled by the shocked arriving beekeeper (me) because there will be a pile of thousands of dead bees in front of the hive:

The second photo is around the side of the hive. 

And the stench is unforgettable. It smells like very rotten garbage. I found this on Thursday, one week after my last visit to the garden on the previous Thursday. The only saving grace may have been the weather. The hive was fine at the last visit. We had good weather over some of that weekend. But then on Sunday night, Monday and all day Tuesday we had rain. The way these dead bees smelled meant to me that they had been in front of the hive for a few days. 

I expect that the rain interrupted the visits to the poisoned source and the rain may have also diluted the poison over the several days of it. 

There were still lots of bees in the hive. I barely opened it because they were suffering and I didn't want to make it worse, but in opening the hive, many of the bees were trembling and looking confused. The systemic damage is such that they are disoriented and palsied. I just wanted to cry.

I've only had pesticide kills in two hives - both at the community garden - separated by about four years. I did go back to this hive the next day and bees were still writhing on the ground, but there were lots of bees hanging on the robber screen who didn't appear palsied, and I saw a bee go into the hive with pollen on her legs which may mean the queen is still in there and laying. Cross your fingers! I certainly am.

However the UGA article does say that if the poison is in the pollen, nurse bees and brood will continue to die. This is a wait and see situation.

P.S. Today is Sunday, three days since I found the dead hive. I have just walked up to the hive. The smell is almost gone; the pile of bees does not appear to have grown. There are not as many bees on the front of the hive as in the photo I took (above) on Friday, but there were active bees and they didn't look like they were dying. I forgot my phone so don't have a photo.

At my next inspection of this colony, we will go down into the brood box to see how the growth of the hive is going, given the poison/pesticide event.

May 23 Inspection: A Pesticide Kill and a Tiny Honey Harvest

Here's the video from the latest inspection for the MABA beekeepers in this time of coronavirus. Zoom is helping us to connect and to learn about bees virtually if not in person! In this video, we inspect the three hives at the garden, rob the bees of two frames of capped honey, and I demonstrate how to harvest via crush and strain in the last twenty minutes of the video.


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Another MABA Hive Inspection

I took a week off for Mother's Day and skipped last weekend, but really made up for it this week. On Monday, the 11th, I moved the little queen castle hive that was only four frames in a two-medium box hive into a nuc. We are going to let it grow in the nuc this season.

On Friday, the 15th, I inspected the two established hives at the garden and gave a quick check to the now-nuc hive. To add a little interest to it all, I did an inspection of my top bar hive which is boiling over with happy bees and honey.

The whole pieced-together inspection (it starts on Monday and ends on Friday!) is below:

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Checkerboarding a hive during honey production

While I was checking on my own hives, I discovered that one needed a new box. I decided to video the process of checkerboarding.

There are two ways to employ checkerboarding to open up space in your hive. First is in the early spring when you checkerboard an overwintered hive to fool the bees into thinking they don't need to swarm because there is plenty of space. In this instance, you move every other frame in the top box of the hive into an empty box and replace their previous space in the old box with empty frames. You do this with the honey box that is typically above the brood nest. This gives the bees more space to use and may interrupt their desire to swarm for more space.

Michael Bush wrote this on Beemaster to explain the basics of checkerboarding:
"For a bee colony:
o  Survival is the primary motivation
  - Survival of the existing colony takes priority.
  -  Bees will not do a reproductive swarm if they perceive it to jeopardize survival of the existing colony.
o  Survival of the species runs a close second.
  -  Generation of a reproductive swarm is the secondary objective of every over-wintered colony.
  -  The over-wintered colony expands the brood volume during the build-up by consumption of honey.
  -  When the colony has expanded the brood nest to the amount of reserve that they consider appropriate, they are now able to move into the swarm preparation phase.
  -  The first activity of swarm preparation is to reduce the brood volume by providing additional stores. As brood emerges, selected cells are filled with nectar or pollen.
  -  Alternating empty drawn combs above the brood nest "fools" the bees into thinking they don't have enough stores yet for swarming and causes them to expand the brood nest, giving both a bigger field force and avoiding reproductive swarming.

During honey production, checkerboarding can help open up room for honey production. In fact the bees will not draw wax or store nectar when there is no nectar flow. I've found during the nectar flow, though, that employing checkerboarding in honey boxes increases the storage of honey. I did this in my hive today (we are still in an ongoing nectar flow).

I use foundationless frames and it is essential to provide checkerboarding when you add a box of foundationless frames. The full frames moved up to a new box provide a "ladder" for the bees to get to the tops of the frames to draw wax.

Here is a video of how to do it:

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Hive Inspection during the coronavirus - Inspection on May 1, 2020

We can't gather in groups and I continue to offer virtual hive inspections to members of my local bee club, including the people who took our short course this year. Every virtual inspection has about 15 people in attendance and while some people come more than once, I also have new people each time.

In this inspection one of the key things was to notice the difference in honey production between the over-wintered nuc, the swarm I installed on March 11, and the tiny new hive from a three frame nuc in a queen castle. My biggest conclusion after I made this video is that the three frame nuc hive needs to be in a nuc and not in a hive. The space is just too big for them. I will move the hive into a stacked nuc hive before the next inspection.

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