Welcome - Explore my Blog

I've been keeping this blog for nine years and I began my 10th year of beekeeping in April 2015. Now there are over 1240 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.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

WABE and **Me** - a Conversation about Allergies and Honey

Our local public radio station, WABE 90.1 FM, sent reporter, Michelle Wirth, over to my house to interview me and to look at and listen to my backyard hives. She spent a good part of last Thursday afternoon over with my hives and me.

As the day went on, she got more and more comfortable with my bees. In the end, I had to bake cookies for our MEETUP meeting that night and left her with the bees to tape sounds of the hive. She had gotten so comfortable with them that, wearing a jacket and veil, she was right up beside the hive surrounded by thousands of foragers coming home!

Here's the link to the radio show and about ten photos that her photographer took while they were here.

TED Talks on Bees

Here are all I could find:

Anand Varma
Marla Spivak:

Noah Wilson-Rich

Dennis VanEnglesdorp

John Miller



Dino Martins



Bees and Hexagons

Monday, May 18, 2015

Queen Problems in the hive

I checked on my doubly caught swarm today.  They apparently had a poorly mated queen who was laying spotty brood and lots of drones. So a month ago I gave them the resources to make a new queen.

Today I checked to see if they had made a queen and gotten rid of the bad one.

No is the answer to that question.


She has a terrible spotty brood pattern.  I gave this hive a great frame of brood and eggs but they did not successfully supercede this queen or perhaps there wasn't an egg suitable or they didn't see the need.

To keep resources available for my hives, I keep a nuc in my backyard apiary.  I made it with frames of brood and eggs from both of my strong survivor hives.  Today when I looked into it, they have a good queen, are drawing straight comb (another sign of good genetics) and have spare brood and eggs.


At first glance this may not look like a blue ribbon frame to you, but it certainly does to me.  There are eggs in almost every empty looking cell on the right side of this frame.  It will be perfect to steal from this hive and move to the community garden double caught swarm hive.

Maybe this time they will find a suitable egg and supercede the failing/pitiful queen. 

My backyard hives are all doing well.  The two packages that I got from Jarrett Apiaries are thriving but the bees in both hives are terrible cross-comb builders.  I tried today to influence them to build their comb straighter.  Most likely their worst boxes I'll put lower in the hives for them to have over the winter and then remove them next year, if they live through the winter.

All of my backyard hives, including the nuc, needed added boxes today, which I happily gave them. 

I'll let you know how the double swarm hive deals with the frame of brood and eggs.

  

Tom Webster, Heat and Nosema

I heard Tom Webster speak on Wednesday night at the local bee club meeting. Dr. Webster is at Kentucky State University and focuses his research on nosema.



He had slides to show how nosema lives as a parasite in the bee's gut. The spore of nosema sends out a tube which finds purchase in the wall of the bee gut lining and embeds itself. Nosema really messes up the bee's digestion then and eventually, if nosema gets the best of her, she dies from lack of nutrition since her digestive system is compromised.

I had a hive which is one of my survivor hives who appeared to have nosema over the winter. When the bees went on cleansing flights, the hive was covered with brown streaks of bee feces. I was sure they would die since I was not treating with anything. But when spring came, the hive has survived and is making honey like crazy as we speak.

Dr. Webster said that without lab proof, there's not a sure diagnosis and sometimes bees get diarrhea for other reasons, but also the presence of diarrhea/nosema does not always mean the hive will die.

Essentially he said the best way to address nosema is to get rid of old wax. He didn't say keep old comb for five years like UGA is now saying. He said GET RID OF OLD WAX.

I raised my hand and said that I have been cutting out the old wax and then dipping the frames in boiling water for 1 minute. When the frame is pulled out of the stewpot, the thin layer of melted wax on the top of the water coats the frame as it comes out. I wanted to know if that wax would still contain microbes for nosema.

Interestingly Dr. Webster said that heat will kill microbes so the boiling water should do them in, while freezing frames would just suspend the microbe. Once removed from the freezer and returned to room temperature, the nosema microbe would be alive and happy.

Since we often recommend freezing cut comb and chunk honey to kill wax moth eggs which might be in the wax, I found that really interesting.

Cold will kill eggs of bugs but will not kill microbes.

Heat kills.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Note: Feedback I got from a reader makes me want to write a little clarification as an addendum to this post:

When you make cut comb honey or chunk honey, you always freeze it so that your friend/customer doesn't open the jar or box to find wax moth larvae floating in their honey. Freezing the product kills the insect eggs. Obviously you can't heat either of these products or all the wax would be melted.

However, when you are cleaning frames, boiling water kills everything in the wax: wax moths, eggs of whatever might have been in the comb (roaches, wax moths, SHB), and microbes for nosema.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Slatted Rack and the Empty Bottom Box in Early Spring

Every spring in most of my colonies, the bees have moved up in the hive and when I open the hive for the first time, there is nothing going on in the bottom box.


I keep a slatted rack on all of my colonies and this serves at least two purposes. I say "at least" because I'm sure there are other ideas than mine on what the slatted rack does. As you can see in the photo above, the slatted rack is simply a box about 2 inches deep fitted with slats that parallel the frames in the hive boxes. If the slats parallel the frames, and if you are using a screened bottom board, varroa mites fall through the cracks and through the SBB. If the slats run 90 degrees, then the varroa mite might bounce on a slat and not fall through the SBB.

Note: the photo above is an adapted slatted rack in that the slatted rack is for a 10 frame hive and my boxes are eight frame, so I have put a board above the unused two slats and put an eight frame box above that, but ideally the slatted rack is the same size as the hive. I just hated not to use the available 10 frame and that's the only photo I could find this morning!

First the slatted rack gives the bees somewhere to hang out in the hot summer. In the heat of Atlanta summers, the slatted rack cuts down on hive bearding. The slatted rack helps keep the brood from being chilled. And secondly, because the slatted rack provides a layer between the hive entrance and the bottom box, the cold air coming in through the entrance doesn't immediately chill the brood. As a result in the brood frames, the queen often builds brood from end bar to end bar instead of the usual football shaped pattern.

In the spring in Atlanta, the nights can be pretty cool. This spring we had a particularly cool-night laden spring, with night temps often in the 40s. In my survivor hives, over the winter the bees move up in the boxes. Partly this is to orient the cluster to the food sources so they can live.

However, in every hive when I open it for spring for the first time, there is no brood in the bottom box. There are some exceptions. My nuc hive was only building brood in the bottom box but it was not on a screened bottom board and was in a solid nuc box. In the other hives the bees were up at least two boxes and the queen was building her early brood there.



While my first thought was to remove the empty box to give me the convenience of being able to clean out the old wax, I re-thought it and left the empty box on at the bottom. After all, with no bees in it and these cool nights, the empty box and the slatted rack together should give the bees more protection from the air and allow the brood to thrive.

When I consolidate the box for winter, I will remove the box and clean out the wax in the frames, but for now, I will let it act with the slatted rack as an insulator. Now that we are deep into the nectar flow, I only check my hives for the need for a new box, so I have no need to go all the way down to the bottom box. We'll see what leaving the empty bottom box on this bee season does for my hives.


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Genetic Consciousness at Work

Today I checked the hives at Stonehurst Place (doing fabulously well) and my backyard hives.  The Stonehurst hives each needed a new box - we've had great weather throughout May after the wettest April in years and years.

The bees are having a great opportunity to bring in nectar.

When I checked my backyard hives, I was particularly interested in the nuc split I had made several weeks ago.  They appear to be doing fine, but I didn't want to go into their bottom box in case I might destroy a queen cell about to emerge.

Michael Bush says it never hurts to add a frame of brood and eggs to a hive when you have any question about the queen.  So I have taken that approach with this nuc.  I made the nuc because it's good to have a nuc in your bee yard as a resource - it can provide bees or eggs or a boost to any hive in your yard once it is established.

I am trying to be conscious of genetics.  So this year I have only added frames of brood and eggs from hives that survived the winter and did not bow to the dreaded varroa vectored diseases.  So I took a frame of brood and eggs from my survivor neighborhood swarm hive from last year and added it to the nuc hive.  This is the second frame of brood and eggs I've added to the nuc.  The first frame came from the nuc hive that overwintered (now in a full sized hive).

The nuc hive is a medium nuc, currently consisting of two boxes.  I added the frame to the upper box so as not to disturb any event in the bottom box.  I think the added work force will help the nuc and the eggs on the frame will give them the ability to make a queen if they have not yet been successful with that endeavor.

Whatever queen they make, she will come from survivor stock since both hives where I have pulled frames of eggs survived the winter.


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Protecting the Community Garden Beehives

For several years now I have had hives at the Morningside Community Garden, within walking distance from my house.  On three occasions, I have visited the hives to find something awry.  Once the entire top was off of the hive - inner cover and top cover and both were on the ground about 16 feet away at the bottom of the hill on the top of which the hives are located.

Once recently I was out of town over the weekend and when I came back the top cover was off of the one hive there at the time.  The bees were tightly circled around the hole in the inner cover.  It had rained over the weekend - not a lot, but some.  More rain was coming that night.  The top cover was leaning against the hive as if a human had removed it.

Every time this happens, I try to blame the weather.  Maybe the top covers blew off, etc.  This most recent time did not in any way look rain related.  I figured some teenager took a bet that he/she could take the top off of the hive.  Then he/she was stung and ran off, not interested in repairing the injury to the hive.

So I first put big stones on top of the hive assuming that the wind would be rendered powerless:


Then I ordered on Amazon this garden flag which is really cute but keeps getting blown off of its flag holder.  Today I'm taking safety pins over to secure it!



Maybe the rocks will deter the wind and the sign will discourage the vandals!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Swarm Hive Intervention

In Atlanta this year we have had a record-setting 53 days of rain.  It rained on April 8 and 9.  Then Atlanta tied a 1980 record with rain for eight straight days from April 12 - 19.

Now in the beekeeper's mind, this has lots of consequences.  First the tulip poplar began to bloom during that period.  Frequently after the many stormy days and nights, I've seen this on the ground:


A tulip poplar bloom on the ground (and there are many) is not providing nectar for the bees.

The swarm I captured twice on April 7 was the third swarm issued by the originating hive. That means the queen was a virgin. And what does a virgin queen have to do when she finds her new home with the secondary (or in this case tertiary) swarm? She has to fly out and mate.

The odds of her mating successfully or well are slim with the constant rain.

This weekend, almost three weeks since the swarm was hived, my daughter and I went up to see the bees. I noticed that the bees in the hive I made from a split of a Mountain Sweet Honey hive that survived the winter were flying in and out with pollen, but the bees in the swarm hive were not.

I started worrying that the queen might have been short-bred or not mated at all.

Today I went up and opened the hive. I had with me a frame of brood and eggs from my neighborhood hive that overwintered successfully. I had wrapped the frame in a warm towel from the dryer because I wanted the eggs to stay warm.

I opened the hive and found bees and comb, but no queen activity in the bottom box. At this point I put in the frame of brood and eggs. 

In the second box also no bee activity - drawn comb that I had given them but nothing was being stored in it. There were many bees in this box. 

The third box had mostly drone brood with a few worker cells. I think the queen was poorly mated. The bees weren't even bringing in nectar, almost as if they knew they were doomed. 

I hope the frame of brood and eggs will give them a new lease on life. I'll add a frame of brood and eggs each week now until they have a successful queen in the hive.

The other hive, the split from Ray and Julie's Mountain Sweet Honey bees, was doing really well. Their new queen had successfully mated and there were eggs, brood, pollen and honey in that hive. The comb they were drawing was lovely and I have high hopes for that hive.



If you zoom in on this photo you can see many eggs in the open cells below the pollen.

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