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There are over 1200 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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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hornets from Hell

When I went to Rabun County to harvest honey at the beginning of August, I found a dead European hornet on the hive landing.  I have since learned that the beekeepers in N.  Georgia are having quite a time with the European hornet and the baldfaced hornet.  It looks to me as if the bees balled the hornet and then dragged her body out onto the landing.



I searched for the answer to how the bees might have killed the hornet.  I found this wonderful video on National Geographic about the ways bees kill the giant hornet in Japan.  But I imagine it's just what happened to the hornet in my hive.

If you'd like to see it, here it is.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Harvesting Sourwood Honey in the Mountains



On Thursday and Friday, my four year old granddaughter and I went to the mountains to harvest whatever sourwood honey might be on the hives we have at Robin and Mary's farm in Rabun County.   When we arrived, the first thing I saw was this dead European hornet on the landing board of the hive.  The bees must have balled it and killed it - go bees - the European hornet takes live bees to feed their young - GRRR.
                                                                                 
Rain was threatening so I went quickly to work to take the capped frames of honey off of the hives.  This is Rabun County so I left them lots of honey so that they might make it through the winter and only harvested one super from the largest hive.  The smaller hive appeared to have swarmed and requeened and didn't have surplus honey for me.



The capped honey was just beautiful and I gave Robin a cut-comb square along with some liquid honey as a thank you for letting us have hives on his farm.

I put the harvest into a nuc box, covered it with a towel and when the box was full, transported it to the car where I had an empty super waiting.

Robin, who kept bees early in his life, put on a veil to watch and help.  

The way the hives look below is how we left them.  There is a goldenrod flow as August begins to wane so I may add a box to each to accommodate the fall flow, but now we have harvested from the blue hive and consolidated the yellow hive so that both may do well for the remaining days of summer.


Robin and Mary have a beautiful garden in which these hives reside:


Mary and Lark are standing in front of her zinnias and cosmos.

Lark and I went to my mountain house to crush and strain the honey before dinner.  Lark was quite the honey harvester and was seriously good at doing this.



She is using the little pestle in these photos, but it wasn't long before she switched to the big crusher that Bear made for me and was crushing in high style!

The next morning we bottled the honey right after breakfast.  Lark was good at this too and we had quite the assembly line going. 




And the honey was DELICIOUS - yummy sourwood probably mixed with tulip poplar - a different taste than we get in Atlanta.



Monday, August 04, 2014

Bee Fun Crossword Puzzle by Linda T

Recently I created a crossword puzzle about bees, using an app on my iPad.  I put it in the August edition of Spilling the Honey, the GBA Newsletter, but I thought I'd also put it up here for you all to try and enjoy.  The easiest way to work it is online at this link.

If you get stuck on anything, email me and I'll send you the filled in puzzle (the answers!)



Have fun!

BTW, this is my 1200th post on this blog since it began in 2006.  Since beekeeping has been such an exciting puzzle for me, to post a puzzle on what happens to be the 1200th post is kind of cool!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Feeding Frenzy Two

Today I finished cleaning up from our first harvest.  I put out the wax - still sticky with honey in a pan and in two filters.  Here's the amazing progression over the course of a short time as the bee foraging scouts got the word out:
11:23 AM


11:50 AM



11:51AM


12:14 PM


I didn't go back down until 4:30 and it's all over now but the shouting.  Here's what it looks like now:



Amazing, what quick work they made of cleaning up the comb.  There are still bees in the filter with the dark comb in it.  It's stacked pretty deep because it is the wax from one 8 frame super.  So the bees burrow down to get the drips of honey.  

We have NO nectar at all right now, so they were thrilled for this opportunity.  I'm sure bees came from all around.  I could see their flight paths as they flew from the back to the front of my house, so clearly they were not in any way all from my hives.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Queenless Hive - How to Move a Frame of Brood and Eggs Without Accidentally Including the Queen

Julia and I inspected our hives at Chastain a week ago.  We discovered to our dismay that my hive was queenless.  There was no sign of queen cells and the bees, while there was no queenless roar, were diminshing in population.  We added a frame of brood and eggs from Julia's hive at Chastain and crossed our fingers.

For best results in adding a frame of brood and eggs, the beekeeper should add a frame weekly until the hive has established a new queen.  Michael Bush talks about this in the queenless hive that has resulted in laying workers, but it holds for any queenless hive:  adding a frame of brood and eggs weekly allows the best possibility of the hive being able to become queenright.

So this weekend I need to move a frame of brood and eggs from one of my hives at home to my Chastain hive about 25 minutes away from here.

As you know, I edit the Georgia Beekeepers Association newsletter with my friend, Gina.  We asked Noah to suggest a question for Aunt Bee, our Dear Abby of the Georgia bee world.  Noah suggested a question about how to transport a frame of brood and eggs to a queenless hive.

I also asked him to answer the question.   He said he had always heard to wrap the frame in a towel soaked in warm water and put it in a cooler to maintain its warmth.  I thought that sounded good.  What I typically do is drop the open brood frame into a pillow case and drive like mad to the far away location.

That is, of course, not the safest plan!

So to confirm Noah's suggestion, I went online "googling."

I found the suggestion on Beemaster forum to wrap the frame in a warm damp towel for transport.  As I explored I found a post from one of my favorite posters on all the bee forum places.  This was from Indypartridge who posts on Beemaster but I found his advice on Homesteader.

Generally the best way to move brood is with the nurse bees to keep them warm.  Most people removing an open brood frame are afraid that they might accidentally take the queen.

This is what Indypartridge said:

"I can understand being nervous about accidentally transferring the queen along with a frame of brood from the strong hive to the weak. ........you can simply shake off the bees and give the weak hive a frame of eggs & open brood. If you want to give the weak hive an even better boost, you should transfer nurse bees along with the frame of brood. Do it this way so you don't transfer the queen:
1) Take a frame of eggs/larva from the strong hive. Shake off all the bees.
2) Put a queen excluder on top of the strong colony.
3) Add an empty box on top of the excluder. Put the single frame in the box.
4) Cover up the hive, leave for an hour or two.
5) Come back, the frame will be covered with nurse bees (and no queen).
6) Put the frame of eggs/larva & nurse bees in the weak hive.

I use this method for making nucs and splits when I don't want to spend time looking for a queen."


You could then put the brood frame with the nurse bees into a nuc box for transport.  Typically a hive will pretty readily accept nurse bees from another hive.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Feeding Frenzy

After the harvest, I always put the dripping frames from crush and strain back onto the hives for the bees to clean them up.  So last week when we harvested, I did that - put the frames back onto the hives.  Probably this week I should take those boxes off of the hive because the bees will not draw any more wax this year.

Left in the filter buckets is the comb from the crushing and it always has some honey left on it.  In past years I've washed that comb and then put it in the solar wax melter.  For the past two years I have been putting the crushed comb out for the bees to clean up.  I put it far away enough from the hives to keep robbing from happening but close enough for them to find it (hopefully my bees find it and not bees of my neighbors).

Here's what it looked like at 7:24 this evening in the pan that I left out for the bees to clean:






They are upside down in the pan and having a field day cleaning up the comb from the harvest!

The Power of the Sting

Now that I am in my ninth year of beekeeping, stings are relative in their impact on me.  Often I get stung on my hands since I don't usually wear gloves, but most of the time within a half hour, I have no idea where I was stung or how many times.

Don't get me wrong - I often inspect hives and don't get stung at all, but probably do get stung about once a week during bee season.

Julia and I went to Chastain to check on the hives there.  We have had three hives there, but she took the swarm hive she collected and took it to her mountain house to gather sourwood honey.  So there are two hives now at Chastain:  her hive which overwintered there and my hive which was a swarm collected by a beekeeper who wanted to donate it to Chastain for teaching purposes.

First we opened her hive.  It was doing well, but not busting at the seam with bees.  There were plenty of bees in the hive.  We saw a lot of larvae being pulled out of their cells by other bees.  This larvae was white and all the way to the stage where their eyes are developing.  We wondered if this were a particularly hygienic queen or if the bees had been affected by pesticide.




I love the last photo where there was old comb and the bees added to it this year with new.

We have been told that the city doesn't use pesticides on the golf course.  Apparently they can't afford it so they just keep the course well cut.  (The hives are in the center of one of Atlanta's biggest parks and golf courses).  However we noticed an area right by the hives that had been sprayed with Round-up and when we spoke to the directory of the Chastain Conservancy, he told us that they use a good bit of Round-up in the area of the quonset hut where the hives are.

Julia's hive did have eggs, an obviously thriving queen and stored honey.

In the process of the inspection, she went to her car to get a frame.  Her ten frame boxes included one box that only had 9 in it and she had an extra frame in her car.  We had draped the hive with pillow cases to keep the bees calm, but when Julia returned, she rapidly pulled off the pillow case and as I reached for a frame, I got nailed in the third finger of my left hand.

I walked away and flicked (I thought) the stinger out.  A few minutes later I realized I had not gotten the stinger so I used my fingernail to get it out for good.  My finger felt tight and swollen.  It has continued to feel like that all day.  A couple of hours after the incident, I noticed another stinger in the joint of my finger.  No wonder it continued to hurt so much.  It is now hours after the incident and my finger is still swollen and hurts.

We opened my hive to bad news - no queen.  The hive had requeened itself recently and we had noticed at the last inspection that the queen appeared to have gone off to get mated.  But she clearly did not succeed and I did not bring over a frame of brood and eggs every week as I should have until I clearly had a laying new queen.


We went through frame and frame and there was no sign of a queen.  Julia very generously gave me a frame of eggs from her hive and we put it into the queenless hive.  Hopefully they will make themselves queenright before winter.  I'll try to do a better job of paying attention to their status and add more brood and eggs if necessary.

You may notice the air-cast on my right foot.  I've had to wear it now for almost a month for a torn ligament.  It really has hampered my beekeeping.  I was so grateful for Julia who could bend her leg and pick up things, etc. in a way that I cannot with this air-cast on my leg.



Monday, July 14, 2014

Cannibalism in the Bee Yard

Today the bee-eaters were out in force.  At this time of year I often see the European hornet in the beeyard, looking for bees to feed their young.  One such hornet has camped out on the post to the stair railing of my deck, keeping her eyes on the comings and goings of the bees in my nearby hives.  While she is large and fierce looking, she is not so much a danger to me as she is to the bees.  She grabs bees and whisks them off to feed her babies.



Although I caught her on this shrub, most of her time she spends on my deck stair post.

 

From this vantage point, she has a great view of the bees as they come and go.  She didn't like my presence and although she didn't sting me, she dive bombed my hair as she did the day before.  It worked.  I moved.   


Although I didn't get a shot of it, I saw a bald-faced hornet struggling with a bee.  The hornet finally won the battle and carried the still-fighting bee off to feed its family.

I think I've gotten a photo of the bald-faced hornet in its cannabalistic glory every year so I'll have to watch over the next few days for another opportunity to capture its image.

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