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.

Need help with an Atlanta area swarm? Visit Found a Swarm? Call a Beekeeper. ‪(404) 482-1848‬

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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.

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