Welcome - Explore my Blog

I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 17th year of beekeeping in April 2022. 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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Saturday, June 04, 2022

Harvesting Your Honey - a new Crossword Bee Buzzle

 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Surprising Water Source for Bees


This is my first full year in my new house and as spring approached, I planted a raised bed garden. I had too much soil so when my first raised beds were done, I ordered a felt raised bed. Felt pots are the "in thing" these days.

My garden is thriving and I water it about every other day. I've noticed a lot of bees around the felt bed. Imagine my surprise when I saw what they are doing.



Part of my felt raised bed - see the little girls at the fold lower center?




 The bees are clinging to the felt and letting its absorbency and the water in it be a source of water for them to carry back to the hive! Who knew? I thought I was doing a good thing for the plants and the soil and it turns out, I was also helping the bees.


Friday, May 06, 2022

Inspecting a Bee Hive Well - Crossword Buzzle

Test yourself! How much do you know about doing a good hive inspection? Here's the "Buzzle" I created for the monthly GBA newsletter this month:


The answers are in the GBA Newsletter each month (join here for a mere $15) or you can email me for the answers.


Monday, April 25, 2022

A Swarm Moved into an Empty Hive Box in My Yard and Did it Right in Front of Me!

 I got home from helping my friend with bees she tried to rescue from the airport at 5:30 PM today. 

When I left at 3:00 there were bees in my carport all over some stacked hive boxes there to be painted. I thought maybe a swarm was moving into the stacked boxes. My shed where I store all my bee equipment was getting a lot of activity too. I even left the door cracked to the shed because there were so many bees visiting the interior that I didn't want to leave them in there. And an empty hive box was getting lots of visitors. 

It's April and the height of swarm season in Atlanta. If you are a seasoned beekeeper with unoccupied equipment in your bee yard, it's not unusual to see scouts or to get a swarm interested in your empty properties. 

I came home and took my dinner out to the back deck to eat outdoors. I watched the hive while I ate, and noticed that there was still some activity - scouting - going on at the hive. I had almost finished my dinner when I heard a loud whirr and looked up to see a swarm moving into the hive.

The whole process took a mere 15 minutes so I filmed it all - it's kind of calming to watch the bees claim a home for themselves. These are truly free bees. They didn't cost me anything in terms of time, effort, preparation or money. Enjoy the video:


Bee Crisis at the Atlanta Airport

 A fellow MABA beekeeper got a call from a commercial beekeeper in Alaska yesterday. The beekeeper was calling to report that a huge order of packages had been rerouted in error from Sacramento to Atlanta instead of Alaska. Makes you wonder, doesn't it, if the cargo handler could read - the only thing Atlanta and Alaska have in common is that they both start and end with the letter "a." 

So hundreds of packages of bees which should have been in Alaska three or four days ago arrived at the Delta cargo building yesterday. Many were dead. The beekeeper who got the call, Edward Morgan, arrived at the airport and assessed the situation. The bees would not make it until they could leave again at 3:30 on Monday (today) to continue to Alaska and the ones surviving would surely not make it alive to Alaska.

An emergency email went out to the members of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers that if you could and wanted to try to save these bees, they were yours for the taking. Just come to the airport. My friend and partner in beekeeping at SPARK Elementary, Meghan, took her daughter and went down to the Delta Cargo building. They brought home fifteen packages of mostly dead bees.

The packages were nailed together in groups of five and wrapped in soft window screen wire. 


It must have been so hot in that cargo container. Only the bees in the end packages showed any signs of life. One difference in Atlanta and Alaska is that it is already pretty hot here and the bees must have died of heat, crammed into that container. 

The package facing us in the photo was the only one of the fifteen with a fully live queen. We checked the queen in every package - all were dead except for one other. That one barely moved. We exchanged the cork in her queen cage for a marshmallow and when she began eating it, she perked up. 

We put the fully live queen in between the frames in a hive box and set up a hive box over a telescoping cover to catch all the dead bees. We poured the live and dead bees out of the package.


The live bees are in the hive and the package box sitting on top of the hive. The bees you see there are all dead - the ones in the telescoping cover and the ones on the ground. It was heartbreaking.

A few of the fifteen packages looked like this with a few live bees clinging to the screen:


And caged queen after caged queen looked like this:


Meghan kept the dead queens to put in alcohol to make swarm lure.

In the end, the bees moved into the large hive with the queen. You can see them moving into the hive.


The marshmallow-feeding queen went into a nuc box. The bees on the nuc box are clustered over the queen cage. Meghan moved the hive down into her yard and left the nuc box open on the driveway near the now all-opened packages. 


We put two opened packages with the most live bees facing each other above the frame with the queen (we added another to the configuration in the above photo). We figured with a live queen maybe most of those bees left in the packages would go down into the nuc box by morning.

This was a terrible loss and tragedy. However, at least twenty beekeepers went to the airport to take bees to rescue. All were not lost, but thousands of bees suffered death in this awful situation.

Footnote: This horrible incident was covered by the New York Times on Sunday, May 1. I didn't know until I read the NYT article that the bees were unable to access their food/liquid because all of the packages were upside down, meaning the syrup in the cans would not be coming through the holes in the bottom of the cans. When Meghan and I went through the packages she brought home I was struck by how full the syrup cans all were.








Hive Inspection - Week of April 15


I still am holding virtual hive inspections and think it is a good value. In person is great, but COVID has taught us that you can learn a lot by asking questions on Zoom as well. This is the hive inspection that I shared last week on Wednesday on Zoom. We start with my top bar hive and then look at my Langstroth hive in my daughter's yard. It ends with a hive that is in the last throes because of a queenless situation and an overtaking by the small hive beetle. I included it so you could see what it's like to lose a hive like that. This hive was fully functioning and doing well three weeks ahead of this inspection.

 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Interference with Honey Bee Democracy and the Death of a Queen

 When a swarm issues from a beehive, the bees gather around the swarming queen on a bush or tree and cluster together. They aren't just resting and they aren't settling in for the long haul. Instead the swarm is sending out scouts every minute to find a new home for the hive. As the scouts return to the swarm, they dance on the surface of the swarm and campaign for the place they think would be a good home.

Tom Seeley explains in Honeybee Democracy that the dancing scouts are trying to convince other bees to go scout out the place they have found. If the convinced bees visit the new home and like it, they return and campaign to get others to go. If the bee doesn't find the place appealing, she returns and doesn't name call or belittle the choice. She doesn't bully the bees who want to move to the new place. She just doesn't campaign for it or try to get any of her sisters to go and visit.

In the end, some new home place will have convinced enough bees in the swarm that it is a good place to resettle. The swarm rises from the tree or bush and flies to the new place and moves in.

But if a beekeeper comes along and captures the swarm, we interfere with honey bee democracy. We have autocratically decided that our hive box is where this hive should live. 

Sometimes the bees don't agree.

I have an apiary site in the community garden at Morningside in Atlanta. Like many community gardens, this one is on Georgia Power land and huge power lines run over the hillside apiary site. Georgia Power "maintains" the land because it belongs to them. I put maintains in quotation marks because they do not go near the beehives and the grass grows very tall there. 

I don't think the bees like the power lines. I have housed three swarms on that hillside over the years and not a one of them stayed. 

Most recently I caught another swarm on April 4. I think it was from my own hive. I have a very large hive that has now swarmed three times. It had some beautiful queen cells in it - huge. One had opened and the others seemed to be left untouched. The first swarm I took to Morningside and they didn't stay.

I think the second queen was in a small swarm about fifty yards from my house. My neighbor who didn't know I would come to get it, promised it to someone else, but I feel pretty sure they were from my beehives. By the time the person she called returned to Atlanta, the bees had left for parts unknown.

As I was driving home from out of town on April 4, my neighbor called me to report that he had seen a huge swarm swirling around in his backyard (just over the fence from my hives) and that it had landed in a shrub across the street. I was about an hour from Atlanta and told him I would rescue them as soon as I returned if they were still there. They were and here is the capture in my new box from Hive Butler:



I decided to house these in a hive in my backyard, about fifty yards from their original hive and this time I put a queen "includer" under the hive between it and the opening to keep the queen in the hive for a day and discourage them from leaving. It then poured rain the entire next day and I couldn't remove the queen includer until Wednesday (almost 48 hours later). I was worried that the bees would still leave, but they did not.

Instead I discovered an odd phenomenon yesterday (April 11). In front of the hive was this ball of bees. I sat down with my veil on and took a tiny stick and tried literally to get to the bottom of it. But the bees were determined to keep this ball going and stung me and wouldn't let me interfere. I noticed that the bees in the hive were continuing to fly in and out with high numbers and regularity. They did not feel pulled to gather with the ball of bees on the ground. Here's what the bee ball looked like:


From the cinder block corner in the upper right, you can see how close they are to the hive. As I disrupted them a bit with the stick, I thought I saw a queen bee but can't be sure. My theory is that like many secondary swarms, this one left its hive with more than one queen. Possibly both queens left to mate and this one was the second one to return. The bees now have a mated queen in the hive and the bees don't want two, so they are balling her to death.

Note: Sometimes hives do have two queens but typically when that happens, it's a mother and a daughter. These two would be sisters. (Need to do more research about this.)

This morning I went out, hoping to find in the grass whatever dead thing they were on top of, and this is what I saw:


The ball is still there - not as active. I expect that some of these bees are dead. Maybe later today I can get to the bottom of it, but I still think what is under the ball is a second queen. I'll know more when I inspect the captured swarm hive in about a week to see if they have a functioning queen.

Bees often ball to death intruders in the hive - like hornets - but I haven't seen hornets yet this year and I'm betting on this being a queen.

Meanwhile, aren't bees the most interesting creatures in the whole world?

At 2 PM the next day (today), the cluster/ball was much smaller. I took a stick and stirred up the bottom and indeed, it was a queen bee. If you have any doubt as you look at the photo (she is curved into a C shape), you can see that her wings end and her abdomen extends about 1/3 longer than her wings. 


We'll know for sure next week when I inspect to see a laying queen, but I'll bet I do and this is the second queen in the swarm who managed to leave to go get mated but was balled to death to keep her from becoming the queen of this colony. 

From this angle you can see how much longer her abdomen is than her wings.




I brought her inside and she is lying in state on my computer desk. Rest In Peace - she certainly didn't plan for this ending.








Every Bee Hive Tells a Story

Every bee hive tells a story. From the minute you approach the hive for an inspection, the story begins. Watching the bees fly in and out of the hive is the first part of the story. You can read the story of the hive in many ways before you even open the top.

What do you see? 

  • Are the bees regularly and rapidly flying in and out in large numbers? 
  • Does a bee leave almost at the same time as another enters the hive? 
  • Are they bearing pollen? 
  • Do you see any drones? 
  • Is the energy busy and peaceful or is there fighting at the front door? 

While this isn't a choose-your-own-adventure story, each observation leads us down a path to the next part of the story. 

If the bees are flying in and out in large numbers, you know that your hive is busy and the bees are doing their jobs, whether they are collecting water, pollen, nectar or resin for propolis, they are hard at work. You also know that you have a good number of bees in the hive.

If the bees are leaving and flying in at about the same rate, you still know that the bees are working, but the lack of high level of activity may make me worry about the numbers of bees in the hive and wonder ahead of opening the hive if this means there's a queen problem or that there is another reason the bees haven't built up as fast as the hive with large numbers. (This, BTW, is a reason to have two hives at least so you have grounds for comparison.)

If the bees flying into the hive have pollen on their legs and there are lots of them (a bee with pollen every five bees or so) then you are likely to have a laying queen. It also has to do with the time of day. You'll notice with your own hives when the pollen comes in. My hives are more likely to be bearing a lot of pollen in the morning. However, I have had a queenless hive where bees still bring in pollen to feed the brood still developing after the queen has died.

If you see drones, that tells you two things. If it is early spring, drones flying in and out of the hive means it is time to make splits successfully. Why? Because in order to succeed with a split, the new queen has to get mated. She can only do that if there are drones flying. Later in the year, drones flying is a sign of an ongoing healthy hive which produces workers and drones and all are doing their jobs.

If there is fighting at the front door, it's probably late summer and a robbery may be starting. Bees don't fight with their own sisters, but invaders are a different story. Without even opening the hive, you know you need to take preventive measures - start a sprinkler, put on a robber screen. But many new beekeepers confuse the activity of orientation with robbing and these are two very different events. In orientation, the bees fly out of the hive and turn around to look at it. Then they fly back in and do it again. They are learning how to recognize the hive so that when they are foraging, they can find their way back. The hive looks really busy, but not angry. 

Here's a video of orientation flying: 

This is an old recording before I had a good camera, but here's what robbing looks like - you'll see it's much more violent than orientation:





Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Crossword "Buzzle" about Installing a Nuc or Package

These days I am creating monthly crossword puzzles for the GBA  newsletter. This month I made one up about installing a nuc or package since many people will be getting their nucs or packages in April. You can work the puzzle online! See how much you know, and good luck - it's not terribly hard in any month, not at all like the New York Times crossword.

 


If one of the clues stumps you, write me for the answer key.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Hive Inspection from Week of St. Patrick's Day

 Tonight I held a virtual hive inspection for Metro Atlanta Beekeepers. We watched the video below to see three inspections: a Langstroth hive that overwintered from a split in 2021; my top bar hive into which I installed the March 2 swarm I caught in Decatur; the split I made in my own backyard which has finally made queen cells.

If you'd like to see what we watched, minus the ongoing discussion that we had on Zoom as we watched it, the video is below:


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Video Record of the First Day of Spring Swarm Capture and Installation

 Yesterday, as I reported in my last post, while I was building a chicken coop in my backyard, my own hive swarmed. I had been checker boarding for several weeks and they swarmed anyway. But luckily I captured the swarm.

Unluckily, the movie I made on my iPhone required "converting?" That's the first time that has happened to me and it wouldn't download even after converting (from what??). So I shot some screenshots of the movie and then filmed the install which did not require converting for some reason.

Let me know in the comments or by email if you have any questions.






Monday, March 21, 2022

A Swarm in my Own Backyard

As a responsible beekeeper, I try very hard to pay attention to my hives and make efforts to keep them from swarming. On my largest hive this spring, I have taken a split from it. (I didn't actually split the hive, but took frames of brood and eggs and made a split.) I also have been checker boarding the hive to give them the idea that they had plenty of room. 

We had heavy rains in Atlanta. I moved in June of last year to a house, new to me. I just discovered in the last month that sometimes in the heavy rains, the back corner of my backyard and the back fence area of my backyard fill with water. The water literally came up to the bottom of the cinder blocks on which my largest hive - the one I've been checkerboarding like mad - sits. 

Yesterday I took that entire hive apart all the way down to the cinder blocks and moved the cinder blocks forward the length of a cinder block.


The green arrow indicates where the edge of the water was after the heavy rains (and it stayed there all day and night). The blue oval marks the footprint of the original hive position. Moving the hive forward about a foot didn't seem to bother the bees. They appeared to adapt immediately.

And today, despite three checkerboarded boxes on the top of the hive, they swarmed. My grandson and I were building a chicken coop in the backyard and the bees just wouldn't leave us alone. Then we realized that they were swarming.

This is a four year old survivor hive and I really didn't want them to swarm, and if they did choose to swarm, I wanted to collect the swarm. These bees flew into an evergreen tree about twenty feet from the hive and about ten feet up. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. 

The timing was terrible. Dylan, my grandson, had to go home for soccer practice. As I drove him home, I kept thinking about where I would put this swarm. I didn't plan to climb ladders this year, but I was going to today to get that swarm. Intermittently I reminded myself that you are not supposed to count your chickens before they are hatched. 

Sure enough, I ran into my backyard and the swarm wasn't up high in the tree. But bees were still buzzing around and I discovered that the whole swarm had moved down to a much lower branch.



It was a quick and easy (no ladder) swarm capture. I then left the box for about an hour for the bees to settle into their transport container. Then I installed the swarm about 20 minutes away in the Morningside Community Garden.

I'll check on it tomorrow. And when I post the YouTube of the capture and install, I'll put a link here.



Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Buttermilk Honey Rolls

 Today one of my daughters had a medical procedure so I wanted to take her dinner. I included with her dinner the buttermilk honey rolls that have won so many blue ribbons for me. I realized that I have never posted this video on this blog of how to make the rolls. 

Here it is:

Try them - they are easy to make and always a hit!

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Caught my first swarm of the season today - March 2!

 I got the call at about 3 PM from my local club swarm list. Dave, who manages the list, knew I didn't want to climb ladders this year and said this one was one inch from the ground. And it was only 15 minutes away near downtown Decatur.

The bees belonged to beekeepers, but not beekeepers who are members of my local club. They got bees last year, had not treated them with anything, and the bees lived through the winter. Today they swarmed and it was a HUGE swarm. As swarms go, this was the size of about four cats and when I carried it away, my estimation was that it was about seven pounds of bees. 

Here's the photo the homeowner sent:

This enormous swarm was hanging from a hydrangea bush and was also pooled on the ground. It was quite a challenge to collect. Lisa, the homeowner, said the bees began gathering at the base of the hydrangea. My assumption then was that the queen was down at the bottom of this swarm. 

The beehive from which the swarm issued was housed in a deep and a medium box - imagine how crowded these bees were since this only represents one half of the hive. I encouraged Lisa to get her husband (the actual beekeeper) to add a box when he got home to give the remaining bees space to grow.

Because of the swarm location I was unable to do a good video of the process. I could barely get to the bees and couldn't place the camera in a way that would work. I'll show you a short bit of what I tried to record. The whole process took an hour because even though I shook a ton of bees into the box, the queen didn't get there until I managed to brush her (I assume - I didn't see her) into a paint container that I had. Then the bees put their bottoms up into the air and began to send out pheromone signals to attract the bees not in the collection box.



Gradually most of the bees were either in the box or on the sheet. A few remained on the tree, but I had hope that they would return to their old hive about twenty feet away by morning. 

I took the bees to my empty top bar hive - a great place to put a swarm that large. I am sorry I didn't take any photos of the bees when we dumped them in - they absolutely covered the entire interior of the top bar hive because there were so many of them. There was a basketball size cluster of bees clinging to the ventilated top on the collection box. Even when I dumped those into the hive, there were still at least two cats worth of bees inside the collection box to add.

Here are a few stragglers entering the front door to their new home. The bees on the sheet below are still probably gathered around the pheromone of the queen, left by her after I swept her into the paint container and put her in the collection box.


P.S. My friend David L. and I get our hair cut at the same salon. His stylist is Jon, and David told me that Jon keeps bees. Rachel, another stylist there, cuts my hair. Ever since I learned about his beekeeping,  I have always had a short bee conversation with Jon about how his bees are doing every time I visit Rachel for a haircut. 

The morning after I caught this swarm, I got a text from Jon that said, "Good morning, Linda. This is Jon from C___ Hair Studio. I heard you had quite the adventure yesterday with my wife and son! Small world. Thank you so much....." 

Amazing that in this giant metropolis of the Atlanta area that I would know the person from whom I got the swarm (quite by the coincidence of being on the swarm list for MABA.)

Does your local bee club or extension agent keep a swarm list? It's a great way to get a swarm - put your name on it and you will be called when a swarm is available and it's your turn. I get at least one call a year from MABA and as a retired person who is very available to leave at the drop of a hat, I sometimes get more than one/year.



Monday, February 28, 2022

Crossword Buzzle about Swarm Season

In the south, when March arrives, you know if you are a beekeeper, that swarming sweeps in with the March winds. Being prepared for swarm catching for me means keeping my swarm catching kit in my car at the ready. Here is a crossword "buzzle" that I developed about catching swarms. 

If you feel like you need to learn about swarm catching first, visit this post. To see a YouTube video I made of a swarm I caught last year, click here

 

If you want the answer key, email me.

This is how it looks in the GBA newsletter, thanks to Peter Helfrich, our layout and graphics editor. He is amazing:





Sunday, February 27, 2022

It's Time to make SWARM LURE

 Years ago in 2007, an Italian beekeeper shared his swarm lure recipe with me and I have made it every year since. In a good bee year, it's amazingly effective. I have just put it on my empty hives at the community garden and on my top bar hive which is empty of bees. 

Next week is March and in Atlanta, that often marks the beginning of swarm season. I have drones flying in all of my hives, so I made swarm lure this week, like a good "be prepared" Girl Scout.

Here's the easy to follow recipe:

1 square inch cube of beeswax

1/4 cup of oil - olive oil was in his recipe but he's in Italy - any relatively no-smell oil will do

12 - 20 drops of lemongrass essential oil

Put the first two ingredients in a glass jar (small jelly jar) and set the jar in a small pan of hot water. Heat until wax is fully melted. I stir with a chop stick and remove the jar from the water. I use a jar lifter which I have for making apple butter. 

Let it cool only slightly and then stir in the lemongrass oil.

As the mixture cools, it will become solid but smeary. If your cubes are larger than 1X1 inch, use more oil. You want the concoction to be soft enough to smear. Sometimes I carry a chopstick to scoop out some of the harder versions of my lure before smearing it on the hive.

How to use this fabulous attractant?

  • Smear it around the center hole in the inner cover.
  • Smear it on some of the frames in the top box on the hive
  • Smear it on the underside of the top of the entrance to the hive (if you smear it on the bottom, the bees feet will stick and get goopy so just on the top of the entrance.
For photos and a previous post about this lure, click here.

This post shows where and how to smear the lure. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

First Split of the Year Feb 15, 2022

 My bees at the biggest survivor hive have been flying like crazy and I knew I had to either make a split or checkerboard or both as soon as was reasonable. Yesterday it was 65 at 3 PM, so I opened the hive and made a split.

I recorded it with my iPhone and wanted to share it with you. I apologize in advance. I didn't have my microphone on properly. Oh, well! It's the first time this year. 

If we were watching this on a virtual hive inspection, I would pause a lot to let you see the frame not in motion. Please do this as you watch so that you can see the queen, etc. BTW, the queen is on the top center of the frame when I show it to the camera.

Here is the recorded inspection:

 


Sunday, February 13, 2022

What did you learn in your short course? A Crossword Buzzle


I created this crossword puzzle for the GBA Newsletter after the MABA Short Course a couple of weeks ago. I thought you might find it fun! I'm doing these for the newsletter and will put them here on the blog after the newsletter has come out.

Have fun with it - pretty easy and should test your basic bee knowledge after a one day short course.

 

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Corks and the Bees Water Supply

 When I set up the bird bath, I wasn't thinking of the bees. There is water in my neighborhood - a nearby creek and feeder streams all over - so plenty of water available. But the first warm day this winter, I noticed bees in my bird bath, struggling to maintain their footing and a couple of dead bees in the water. I immediately added wine corks. Only a couple. I want the birds to use the water AND I wanted to accommodate the bees.

I noticed a very interesting feature of the corks when I was watching the bees in the bird bath yesterday.  You'll see too when you look closely at this photo:


Look at the unfocused bee on the cork. Her proboscis is stuck down in the cork. She is using the porous cork to suck up water absorbed into it, rather than risk drowning by balancing her way down to the surface of the water.

At the MABA short course on Saturday, several people asked how long is the bee's proboscis. I believe from watching them on the corks that her proboscis is a little over 1/8". This is why the plant: bee balm (crimson monarda) is not a flower that our honey bee can use as a nectar source. A hummingbird has a long enough tongue to gather from bee balm, but not the honey bee.


Even with the cork, there are bees who drown, but it at least provides a modicum of safety for those searching for water. The bees floating in the water are dead. But the ones on the back cork in the first photo look like they are winning the bee log-rolling contest. They are actually getting water between the two corks which don't move because the ice in the bird bath has glued them together.






















Monday, January 31, 2022

There are drones flying from my hives on the last day in January

 I was looking at the photos from my earlier post today and discovered that there are drones flying in today's 56 degree temperature. I went out to the hives specifically to see the drones in person - not just in a photo that I took. Sure enough, I saw three drones enter each of my hives in a space of less than a minute. Here they are in all their Frida Kahlo glory - with their eyes looking just like her eyebrows:

Below the large bee about to enter the hive is a drone.


In the photo below, the drone is closest to the raised edge of the entry in center of the photo.


In the photo the drone is right in the center of the photo. I believe the bee away from the entrance and near the center of the photo may also be a drone from how his eyes look, but we can't see his body well enough to know.


Two things to note from this:
1. It's a great idea to take photos when you inspect your beehives. You often learn something from the photos that you might not have noticed at the moment. I never saw the queen in the hive in my first few years of beekeeping but I did see her in photos that I took.

2. We may have an early swarm season in Atlanta with mature drones already on the fly! If there is a swarm call list where you live, be sure to put yourself on it and learn how to catch a swarm if you don't already know. Here's a video of a swarm I caught last year on April 19, 2021:






Bees are not supposed to fly until temp is above 50 degrees F

 My bees continually defy that rule. Yesterday when it was about 44, they were out flying and having a great time.


When the temperature is in the 50 - 60 range, the bees in the south can fly to gather lots of pollen available to them. As I watched the bees today (Jan 31) there was lots of pollen coming into the hives. 





Saturday, January 08, 2022

Water for bees all year - even in the winter

 There are a lot of days in the south and all across the country, when, even though it's winter, the temperature is warm enough for bees to fly. And when it's warm enough, they will fly.

Our bees in Georgia have year round pollen sources so when it's warm enough to fly, the bees will be out, looking for camellia or whatever might be a winter-blooming plant. Every day that my bees fly, I see them flying into the hives with pollen on their legs.

The other thing they are looking for is water. This year I'm in a new house (old, but new to me!) and have set up bird feeders. I also put a bird bath on my deck railing. I see birds in it on every sunny day. Because I know that bees can't swim, I have floated two corks in the bird bath to give the bees a landing place. I'll add a few more as a few more bottles of wine are opened.

The other night on January 4, our temperatures dropped to the 20s and in the morning, my bird bath looked like Lake Michigan in the winter:


I guess in the night the wind whipped up the water and it froze in place!


By Thursday, the 6th, it was warm again, and the bees discovered my water source. More accurately, probably one bee discovered my water source and went home and told her sisters to come too. You can see them below, balancing on the corks and the edge of the bird bath as they suck up water.



It froze again last night and by mid morning, it was 42F. I was taught that bees can't fly when it's lower than 50 degrees but these bees didn't get the memo, or someone didn't tell them that at 42F, they are not supposed to be out and flying. My bees were flying and were visiting my still thawing bird bath! 


So provide your bees with a water source. And most importantly, give them something to stand on so that they can get water without drowning.










Monday, January 03, 2022

MABA Short Course is January 29 by Zoom

 


Given the ongoing presence of the COVID virus, the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers is again offering our short course via Zoom. To register, click here.

The advantage of our course being on Zoom is that anyone anywhere can take it! If you are in the Metro area, your fee for the course includes a one year membership to MABA. But if you are from a different area, we will contribute $35 to your bee club of choice if you don't live in the Atlanta area to cover the dues you would have to pay at your own club for a year.  

I'm biased because I'm one of the chairs of the course and teach in it, but we have three master beekeepers teaching in our course: Bobby Chaisson, Julia Mahood and me. Also each of us has been GBA Beekeeper of the year - actually Julia in 2018, Bobby in 2019, and me in 2020! Jennifer Berry from the UGA bee lab teaches in our course and we have videos from Cindy Bee, whom many of you know, and from Dr. Keith Delaplane of the UGA bee lab. Kathy Bourn is editor of the GBA Newsletter and Jimmy Gatt is an expert on trees for bees. When we offer the course in person, we typically have over 100 people every year. 

Here's the program for the course:


We'd love to have anyone join us from anywhere. I find that I learn from every bee lecture I hear!




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