Welcome - Explore my Blog

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, June 27, 2020

Hive Inspection on June 25, 2020 with my grandson, Dylan

Here is the inspection that I did with my grandson Dylan, who was the videographer. I have had so much fun incorporating him into the bee stuff. When he was little, he really didn't want to be around the bees and these days, he is fearless and moves in close to video them. I am so proud of him!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The joys and stings of my top bar hive

The other day my grandson and I were filming the hive inspection for the virtual inspection on Saturday on Zoom (here in the time of the coronavirus). So we thought we would look at the top bar hive while the camera was running just so we could share how well it is doing.

The top bar hive was moved from my backyard to my daughter's backyard in late February. The queen was killed during the process of the move and the hive was gone toward the end of March. I cleaned out the hive, harvested all of the honey that was left, and straightened up any messy toppers on a Saturday. On Wednesday, a swarm, a huge swarm, moved in and they have been thriving. 

I've shared a little of the top bar in some of my hive inspection videos, but never with someone else holding the camera so Dylan gave me a huge present to do this:

Hive Inspection June 17, 2020

My grandchildren helped me do this hive inspection. Dylan who is 14 did the video and Lark who is a rising fifth grader helped in many ways. It is sharply shot and shows up great on Quicktime, but uploaded to YouTube kind of fuzzy. Here it is:

We had so much fun that Dylan came back the next week to film my inspection again!

Monday, June 08, 2020

Two Bees in a Podcast

My walks with my dog, Hannah, have become more entertaining times because of Jamie Ellis and his sidekick, Amy. The University of Florida beekeeping institute has introduced a podcast titled: "Two Bees in a Podcast." Every episode is delightful as Jamie discusses huge range of topics about honey bees with well-informed guests.

The podcast includes funny interactions between Jamie and Amy who obviously enjoy their back and forth. They have produced at least nineteen episodes at the time of this writing.

And when Jamie has a guest who wanders into language that might be a little on the too-scientific side, Jamie easily and disarmingly makes it understandable for the lay listener. I listened to an episode on invasive species and the honey bee. His guest was discussing ways to intervene to get rid of invasive species in rather scientific terms. Jamie interjected gently that when he teaches he usually says that there are mechanical means, biological means, and chemical means for getting rid of invasive species. That simple clarification made the rest of the conversation flow in a much more user-friendly way.

His episode on the Asian Murder Hornet was fascinating and there is an episode on ants in the hive that is really interesting. Each episode is thoroughly documented with show notes on each topic covered with references galore.

At the end of each episode that I have listened to, there is a Q&A section (which Jamie sometimes calls, "Stump the Chump") in which Jamie addresses questions that have been sent in by listeners in his usual entertaining style.

If you haven't heard Jamie Ellis speak, he will be a featured speaker at the GBA Virtual Fall Conference on September 25 and 26. People love his talks because he is so easily able to connect with his audience. I'm sure there are lots of YouTube videos of his talks as well.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

No Weed-Whackers, No Wind, but an Emergency???

During the coronavirus consciousness about social distancing and not gathering in groups, we are not having in-person hive inspections for MABA, my local bee club. I'm the chair of the hive inspection committee and have felt a great responsibility to figure out a way for the newer beekeepers in the club to have the opportunity to see inside a hive.

Zoom call hive inspection

My solution, albeit not at all professional, has been to video my hive inspections with my iPhone. I dutifully bought a light tripod from Amazon which is easily added to my kit that I carry to the hive. I put the phone in the mount on the tripod, push the "video" button, step in front of the camera and start my hive inspection.

I've run into numerous issues. I always seem to go to the hive when someone in the area is weed-whacking - either in the yard next door or Georgia Power has sent their yard guys to weed-whack the community garden. The wind up on the hill is always blowing like it's March every single time, making loud whooshing sounds as it goes over the mic on the phone. And sometimes someone, urging commands, walks their dog right past my hives.

And then there's my iPhone itself. It has a mind of its own.

I'll go through a whole hive and then find that right in the middle of my inspection, the phone simply turns itself off. Once it was because my memory was full, but I've deleted everything so that doesn't happen but even now, it just turns itself off with no obvious cause. Bees often fly into the phone screen while I am filming, but that shouldn't turn off the video unless they perfectly head bump the round circle with the little red square in it. I would think that would knock them unconscious and maybe I am missing their tiny bodies, lying unmoving on the ground at the base of the tripod.

I prefer to blame it on the iPhone having a mind of its own.

So this Thursday, it's a miracle - no wind, no weed-whackers! I set up the iPhone in the tripod and like Santa Claus, checked it twice, and it appeared to be running in video mode. Blissfully chatting about what I am seeing in the hive, suddenly I hear a voice from the phone: "What's the emergency?"

I ran to the tripod to find that the iPhone had called 911 and the operator was patiently waiting for me to describe whatever tragedy I was enduring. "I'm sorry, M'am," I said. "I'm a beekeeper filming a hive I am inspecting with my iPhone. I guess the phone called you by mistake. I'm fine. Please don't send anyone!"

Thankfully, she believed me and the fire truck, the ambulance and the police did not appear at the community garden!

PS: If you push one of the volume buttons and the button on the opposite side of the iPhone at the same time, your phone will call 911. #nowIknow  That's what was happening as the tripod gripped the iPhone horizontally.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Hive Inspection FAQs: Common questions asked during my Coronavirus Inspections

Similar questions come up every time I do a virtual inspection. Since you all are not on my virtual inspections, I thought I'd address some of the FAQs that are asked every time:

1. What are those white cloths and why do you use them?
They are hive drapes. I learned about them from Billy Davis. He used oilcloth. I have used these for years. I use either pillow cases or flour sacking kitchen towels. You need something that the bees won't get tangled in (nothing with a nap) and both pillow cases and flour sacking cloth fits that bill.

When the hive is covered with a hive drape, it really cuts down the need for smoking the hive. I typically smoke the front door to knock on it (learned that from Michael Bush) and then set my smoker down and rarely pick it back up.

Like a surgeon, you can use two drapes to allow yourself only to expose the one frame you are about to remove from the hive. I keep one of them draped over the frame on my frame rack as well.

Here is an earlier post on hive drapes where you can see them in action.

2. Why don't you use a queen excluder? 
The queen excluder was developed for commercial beekeepers to use when they are harvesting honey. They can drive their trucks through the bee yards and take off the top boxes, blow the bees out of the boxes and load the box on the truck without worrying that they are taking the queen. All harvested honey in a commercial hive is above the queen excluder.

Bees don't want to be separated from their mother and the queen does better when she can lay wherever she wishes, so there is really no reason for a backyard beekeeper to use a queen excluder when there is no good reason to do so.

There are about four good uses for a queen excluder so it isn't really a useless piece of equipment for the backyard beekeeper. Here they are:

---As a drain rack for cut comb honey. The bars on the queen excluder are close enough together to distribute the weight of a square of cut comb honey without causing indentations in the cut comb.

---To prove your theory that there are two queens in a hive. Put the queen excluder between where you think the two queens are living in the hive. In seven days, look at the top box. If there are new eggs and brood, you have a queen in that box. Look below the queen excluder and if there are new eggs and brood, you also have a queen in that box.

---If you want to make a split and are scared you will take the queen. Take an empty box and put into it the frames of brood, eggs, honey and pollen that you want in the split. Shake every single bee off of these frames as you remove them from the hive. Put a queen excluder on the top of the top box and put your box of frames but no bees above the excluder. Put on the inner cover and top. In the morning, nurse bees will be in your new box to take care of the brood. Remove that new box and you have a split without a queen in it but resources to make one.

---As a queen includer when you catch a swarm. To make sure the swarm stays in the box where you hived them, put a queen excluder below the bottom box on top of the entrance. The only bees who can leave the hive are workers. The queen will stay put. After no more than two days, remove the "includer" and the hive will have established itself.

3. How do you make a robber screen?
Billy Davis also taught me this. With his robber screens on your hives all year long, robbery never happens. It's made of #8 hardware cloth and I have also used window screen. The secret is to keep an entrance reducer on your hives all year long. The entrance of the robber screen has to be four inches minimum away from the entrance of the hive.

See photos and more discussion here.

4. Should you start feeding your bees as soon as the nectar flow is over?
The nectar flow is over in Atlanta, but we are not in a dearth yet. Here the nectar flow is defined by the bloom of the tulip poplar. When it is over, the bees no longer stumble over each other in their rush to enter the hive and leave again to get more. But the end of the flow does not mean there is no nectar. Many nectar bearing plants bloom in early summer in Atlanta. As long as there is nectar, there is no reason to feed your bees. Since honey is the bees natural food, why not let them eat what they have brought in? If I see that my bees are eating all of their stores, then I should feed my bees and I will. But then if I have it, I will feed honey and if I don't, I will feed bee tea.

Now is a good time to check your hives for weight so you'll know how heavy your hive is at the height of the season. Then if it is really light in August, you should feed!.

Inspecting the community garden hives on June 4, 2020

In this inspection, my plan was to take a frame of bees from one of the strong hives and give it to the smaller nuc hive to help it build up its numbers. However, we found that the tall hive had a new queen who had not laid in the medium boxes - so we couldn't take a frame. However, we made an entrance reducer for the nuc hive out of wine corks. I'll try to visit that hive and take a frame of brood and eggs from my strongest hive at home to help the nuc hive build up.

Meanwhile, here's the inspection. There are instructions and video on how to make a solar wax melter from a styrofoam beer cooler (I first posted about this in 2006) at the end  of the inspection movie.

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