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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 16th year of beekeeping in April 2021. 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. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
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. (678) 597-8443

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Monday, August 23, 2021

ANOTHER pesticide kill!

 What a year! As you know, I am the beekeeper at SPARK elementary school (Springdale Park Elementary School - part of the Atlanta public schools. I've kept hives at SPARK since the summer of 2017 so this is my fifth year. We've done inspections there (Meghan M., the science person at the school) and I - you can see the hive installations this year by clicking here. And you can see an inspection of these hives here.

This week Meghan texted me that there were dead bees all over the rooftop garden at the school where we have the hives.


The sidewalks were lined with thousands of dead bees. On the ground level bees and other pollinators (bumblebees and lady bugs) were also dying. Many were lying in pools of their own feces.


I urged her to report this to the Department of Agriculture in Georgia. They will send out an inspector. 

As we talked and as she asked desperately about what might have happened, she found out that the school system's landscapers were at the school the day before from 9 - 11. She texted "No one at the school sprayed for anything. The landscapers were here yesterday but they are contractors. We don't know if they did something." 

The bees fell dead right out of their flight paths. 

The next day, one of the hives had a huge pile of dead bees in front of it. These girls managed to get back home, but died and were dragged out of the hive. This pile does not include the thousands dead on the sidewalks.

on the front edge of this photo, you can see yellow diarrhea...

Of course, when Meghan called the Department of Ag, they said if APS (the Atlanta Public Schools) had done the spraying, contractor or not, they can't issue a citation to APS for APS. They said if a neighbor had sprayed, then they could issue a citation and send out an investigator, but could not cite APS for something APS did, nor could they investigate.

However the Dept of Ag will report this to EPA.

I am heart sick. I was out of town when this happened and the first day I can go look at the hives is Wednesday. It will be amazing if these two hives can now make it through the winter, so short on bee resources as they now are.






Friday, August 06, 2021

Successful Late Summer Split

 Starting on June 21, the summer solstice, the queen slows down her laying and continues this decrease until the winter solstice in December. So in Georgia, where we generally harvest all the honey we are going to take by July 4, the queen also doesn't lay as many drones as she did pre-June 21. 

Making post-harvest splits is a fine procedure, but you do need to know that your new queen, assuming you let the bees make their own, may not be well-bred when she goes on her mating flight...less drones, less opportunity. So when I do make splits in July, I hold my breath until the new queen proves herself.

I moved to a new house in June and moved my bees at the very end of June to their new location. I had planned to split one of the hives to put a new hive of bees in my daughter's yard where the swarm we housed had absconded. My bees needed to adjust to their new location before I interfered and split them so I went to the mountains for the month of July, planning to cross my fingers and do a split when I returned.

As luck would have it, I came home for three days in mid-July, so while I was in Atlanta, I made a split for Sarah's yard on July 13. It was a tiny split - a frame of brood and lots of eggs, a frame of pollen, and a frame of honey and brood. That was it. I housed it in a medium box and crossed my fingers. I put a Boardman feeder on top of the inner cover, filled it with sugar syrup, and surrounded it with a deep box. 

A split in mid July provides a brood break which is a natural beekeeping IPM method of varroa control, so it helps the new hive stay healthy. Since our first frost is in mid-November, they had a good head start on building up for winter with a laying queen. I will, of course, make sure they are fed up until then. If the hive can make it through the winter, there's a good chance it will come into spring strong with a big population.

When I returned at the end of July, I exchanged the Boardman for a rapid feeder surrounded by a medium. There were plenty of bees (clearly some of the brood on those three frames had emerged) and the hive was calm. I didn't go into the hive for fear of ruining a maturing queen cell as I lifted a frame.

Sarah has kept the feeder full of sugar syrup which the bees have been devouring. On August 5, I returned to the hive to add a box. I didn't want them to backfill all of the laying space with syrup and I wanted to see if they had a laying queen by now. The split was twenty-three days ago and she should be laying, if she was able to survive and get mated. 

The first good sign as I arrived at the hive was that bees were carrying in pollen on their legs, often a sign of a laying queen. Not a great picture, but the bee on the left in the photo below has pollen on her legs.

The hive was still using about three frames for brood raising and the rest for storing syrup. I started the inspection on the side of the hive fartherest from the activity in the hive. Five frames were being used for syrup storage - only one was filled. The sixth frame had tons of eggs on both sides of it. You can see the frames on the occupied side of the box in the photo below.


I added the box, closed up the hive and celebrated!


A successful late season split! HOORAY!


Saturday, May 22, 2021

I was part of an educational bee article!

 I was asked to be a part of an educational resource website, Twinkl, in an article about the honey bee and other bees. Here it is, if you'd like to see. The resources on the page are fantastic and really helpful to students meeting the honey bee for the first time.


I was asked to provide a fun fact about bees. I sent two and the author decided (rightly so, I think) that the first thing I sent was too racy, so he used the second. But if you'd like to know my first fun bee fact, here it is:

The boy bees (drones) have one purpose in life which is to give a queen bee a special hug. They hang around in the sky at areas called drone congregation areas (like a club for boy bees) until a queen bee from another hive (not their mother) flies by. Then all the boy bees do their best to be the one to give the queen a special hug. They have waited all of their bee life for this opportunity, but when it happens a very important part of their body breaks off and they fall to the ground dead. They never get the joy they have been waiting for. But because none of them live to tell the tale, the boy bees keep lining up for this end to their life. Of course, the upside is that for the bee populations, this special hug allows the queen bee to go on and lay 1000 eggs a day for the rest of her life.



Impressive Treatment Free Video from Great Britain

 My friend Kathy Bourn sent me this video which is very heartening if you want to be a treatment free beekeeper. I haven't treated in my entire sixteen years of beekeeping but this guy doesn't treat and does research to support what is happening with his bees:


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Hope for the Future: Scout Bees at Dead Hive

 A little less than a week ago, I was meeting with the inspector from the Department of Agriculture to help him explore the pesticide kill at my community garden hive.

Today I went to the garden to check out the other hive there and to put some swarm lure on the hives there. There are two empty hives - one that hasn't had a hive in it this year and the dead hive. When I arrived, this is what I saw: 


Hope for the future!

There are so many other living spaces they could pick but just in general it feels good to think they are considering our community garden as a living space. I would be so, so happy if a swarm moved in.



Sunday, May 09, 2021

What to do when you have a pesticide kill

 The horror of a pesticide kill is extensive. It starts when you see the basketball sized pile of bees dead outside the hive; it continues when you smell the stench of hot dead bee bodies; and it gets worse when you find even more dead bees on the screened bottom board of the hive. I went through all of this when my best hive was killed last week.

The first step was to recognize the reality of the death of the hive. I just didn't want to believe it and took off box after box and looked at frame after frame, hoping it wasn't true. The hive had almost three full boxes of bright white new wax filled with nectar and some capped honey. The hive beetles had begun their opportunistic sliming of the lower boxes, also with some nectar-filled frames. UGHHH.

The next important step was to report the kill. I felt a little reluctant - what were the officials to do? Bees fly three to six miles for nectar and the source of the poison could be anywhere. But my friends urged me to report the kill. In Georgia, this means contacting the Department of Agriculture and filling out a form.

However, the form is designed for farmers and not for beekeepers. Here's the link, if you are in Georgia. Here is the form - the required responses are starred:


This is not the complete form but as you'll see, most of the questions are irrelevant to beekeepers. Description of crop where application was made: That would apply to a field, but not to the flowers all over the surrounding area where the bees collect nectar
Application date, time, weather conditions at time of application: On some rare occasions, the beekeeper might see and know this stuff but there is no way.

I picked up the phone and called: (470) 270-3044, the number of the Dept of Ag for pesticide kill reports. I left a message, shook my head and truly didn't expect to hear back any time soon. To my surprise, the phone rang minutes later and it was Katibeth Mims, calling me back from home during her lunch hour. 

After I described the situation to her, she promised that an inspector would be in touch with me on Thursday or Friday (the next day or the day after). That very afternoon (Wednesday), Brad Baker, the inspector assigned to my case, called to arrange to meet me at the hives on Thursday. Since I know the hive was alive and vibrant on Thursday, April 29, the bee kill likely happened sometime between Friday and Sunday morning. (April 30 - May 2)

Brad was the nicest guy. He arrived ahead of me and when I arrived ten minutes early myself, he had already interviewed the neighbors and checked out the area in which the hives and garden are located. The neighbor directly beside the garden on the downhill side acknowledged that he had sprayed for mosquitoes a few days previously. On May 3 and on May 4, about when the bees died, my neighborhood where the bees are had erratic blasting wind bursts due to a tornado WARNING. And it was windy anticipating the storm on Saturday, the first. The mosquito sprayers are not supposed to spray in high winds, but who knows.

Brad explained that he didn't know much about bees but he and others are sent for backyard beekeepers and their bee guy with bee knowledge goes out to the commercial complaints. He was thorough, filled out tons of paperwork, collected samples of the dead bees and the vegetation around the hive. I tried to tell him about the bees and how I knew it was a pesticide kill.

Brad Baker collecting samples of the pile of dead bees.

There were lots and he took any number of handful to pack his sample bag.

They were packaged in aluminum bagging and he wore gloves to diminish the chance of contamination.


Here are the dead bees on the screened bottom board.
Brad seals up the sample and then took it to his car to put it in a cooler.


Here Brad is collecting samples of the vegetation around the apiary. The Georgia Power guys had been mowing, but luckily they are scared of the bees and do not mow around the apiary.



Then Brad and I sat for a long time on one of the pilings lining community garden plots while he filled out loads and loads of paperwork.


I asked one of the gardeners to take our photo while we were working on the forms.

So now what happens is that Brad sends off the samples to the lab in Tifton, Georgia, where they will try to analyze what caused the bee death. It may take a little while.

In the meantime I divided the white wax honey between two healthy hives - the other hive at Morningside and a hive in my front yard. Hopefully the bees will cap it and I can harvest it. 




Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Pesticide kill at the Morningside Community Garden

 I posted this on Next Door in my neighborhood. I don't think it will have impact, but at least I get the opportunity to complain about the people who disregard the importance of pollinators.



Saturday, May 01, 2021

Installing Bees at SPARK Elementary in Atlanta, Georgia

 On Saturday, I installed two nucs of bees with Megan McCloskey, the science and nature person at SPARK, on the rooftop garden. We've had bees there for six or so years, but the hives died when we couldn't take care of them during COVID when we weren't allowed in the school. It was great to put bees back there again. They won't produce honey this year but maybe we can get them up and running well enough to make it through the winter.


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Yelp Event about Urban Beekeeper - Join Me

 Yelp sponsors "Events" on a local and a national level. The events coordinator for Atlanta spoke with the president of my local bee club, Metro Atlanta Beekeepers, and they decided that it would be fun and a good thing for bees and beekeeping to offer an event about beekeeping to help educate the public about the honey bee. 

Before I knew it, I had a phone call with Christina Venditti, the events coordinator for the Atlanta Yelp, and we decided I would present an urban beekeeping educational event that she would advertise nationwide on Yelp. 

So if you know someone who would like to learn more about the honey bee, here's the link for the virtual event that is happening on April 28 at 6:30 PM. I'll present a talk with slides on the honey bee and it should be both fun and educational.

See you on the 28th!

Monday, April 19, 2021

Capture and Installation of a Swarm

 This one was a piece of cake - easiest swarm ever. The bees were docile and easy to reach. What a gift! 




Thursday, April 15, 2021

Trying to establish Queen Castle Nucs is a Challenge

 This inspection was full of problems (including a bad mic in the first segment resulting in cutting some of the video). Here it is nonetheless, because all beekeepers have not the greatest days sometimes, so I'm glad to share.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Easter Sunday Hive Inspection

 While kids were scampering through yards looking for Easter eggs, I was inspecting the hives at the community garden. I began beekeeping on Easter Sunday in 2006. Seems just right that I am inspecting hives in 2021 on Easter Sunday!

Lots of interesting events during this inspection. We move frames with queen cells to a queen castle and deal with a queenless (apparently) top bar hive at the very end with an interesting solution to the issue. Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Hive Inspection March 29 and 30, 2021

 In our second virtual hive inspection this year at the Morningside Community Garden, we saw the queen!!!



I do have a video clip of my falling and rolling down the hill, but I'm not going to share it!

A number of issues came up in our discussion as we viewed this inspection last night. Here they are:

1. Marking queens: It's great to mark your queens and if you can, you should for several reasons. 

First, it's much easier to find her if she is marked. She does move a different slow regal way than the rest of the bees and she's 1/3 longer than workers, but she is very, very hard to find and marking her helps.

Second: There is a marking code for the color on the back of the queen. It determines the year she was born so marking your queen helps you know how old she is. 

Third: There's lots of equipment you can get to help you mark a queen. Some items are the queen clip, the queen muff, and there are even queen marking kits.

The color for 2021 queens is white. Last year's color was blue.



2. Walt Wright devised the idea of checkerboarding. 

3. Australian beekeeper on how to prevent swarming in your beehive. Remember his seasons are the opposite of ours in North America.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

First 2021 Virtual Hive Inspection Done March 5 - 14, 2021

 I presented my first virtual hive inspection of the year to the MABA bee registrants last night. While you don't get the benefit of the Q&A or the discussions, here it is, if you would like to watch it.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Time to Bait Hives with SWARM LURE

 Yesterday I baited every empty hive I have in hopes that this year bees will find me, as they do most years. Here's the recipe for almost-never-fail swarm lure:

1 square inch cube of beeswas

1/4 cup olive oil

15 - 20 drops of lemongrass oil.

Put the oil in a glass container and drop in the beeswax cube:

I make the lure in the container that I will put in my hive tool kit.




If it needs stirring, I use a tongue depressor or a chopstick.



Let it cool a bit before adding the lemongrass oil so it doesn't immediately evaporate. I have my container sitting on a piece of marble which cools it off quickly. After 3 - 4 minutes, then I add the lemongrass oil.

Now smear it on the hive at the upper edge of the entrance, around the inner cover, and on the tops of a few frames. 

And wait for scout bees to find your hive and entice their sisters to move in!


Here's how to apply the swarm lure for greatest effectiveness.



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Come to the GBA Spring Conference online - it's only $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers!

 It will be worth getting up on Saturday morning to hear Jack Rowe of Auburn talk about pesticides. Jack is talking about how we as beekeepers deal with the pesticides that come into our beekeeping life from outside our beehives - like our neighbors spraying RoundUp or agricultural farms next door to our apiaries. His talk is engaging and really worth hearing. Later in the day he is speaking on how to Bee a Good Neighbor. Here he is:


Jay Evans from the Beltsville, MD bee lab will speak to us on how to tackle the issue of stress in our bee colonies and later in the day, he'll talk about novel treatments for bee diseases. I've heard him speak on three different topics at EAS a couple of years ago and thought he was such a great and engaging speaker.


Jennifer Berry is our third "J" keynote speaker. She will share the results of the UGA Bee lab's oxalic study that is now complete and later in the day will end our conference with a talk about the sunny side of beekeeping. Jennifer is always funny and keeps everyone's attention as we all learn something. 


In addition to all of those great talks (six of them!) we have eight different breakouts from which you can choose. They are as follows:
1. Barry Bolling speaking on The Importance of Raising your own queens using the Queen hotel
2. Cindy Hodges: Races of Honey bees
3. Julia Mahood: Bee Club Apiaries
4. Michael Minardi: Making Mead
5. David McLeod: Diseases of the Brood
6. Willa Beth Smith: Medicinal Honey
7. Linda Tillman (yes, me) Offering a Virtual Hive Inspection for your Bee Club 
8. Georgia Zumwalt: Photography for Honey Shows

For the minimal registration fee, you can watch all of the breakouts and the keynotes after the conference for the following two weeks.

I'm sure all of you will want to come! To register, just click here and spend a wonderful Bee Saturday here in Georgia, ya'll. 






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