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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, 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.

Maker Camp at Google+ (free) makes bee condos

I got an interesting email today from Maker Camp and Google+.  Apparently they run a daily free camp for kids 13 - 18 about making different interesting and exciting projects.  They wrote to me because I have a bee blog and tomorrow they are making condos for solitary bees.

I've seen lots of bee condos on the Internet, but this seems like a fun project.  Here's the link for tomorrow's project.  Maker Camp looks intriguing.  I watched a video on how to make LED decorations for your shoes so you can truly light up a room!  It looked easy and fun.

So I plan to keep watching what they are doing but because the project looked like so much fun (and my grandchildren are still too young for such fun at ages 8, almost 5, and almost 3), I wanted to put it out there so some of you might enjoy doing the projects.

I may try a few even if I'm not 13 - 18.  All you do is tune in at 11AM PT/2 PM ET every day until August 15 when it is all over.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Crushing with Bear's Amazing Honey Crusher

This weekend Jeff, my son-in-law, and I harvested honey.  I've been not as active with my beekeeping because I am wearing an air-cast on my right leg.  I tore a ligament at Christmas and it hasn't gotten better so I have to do this for at least a month to allow the ligament to heal.  So I was grateful for his help.

First we went to the Morningside garden hives.  These were the latest installations we made this year and they do not have any honey to harvest, but to get to the hives I have to climb straight up a hill and I knew I would need Jeff's help to do anything with these hives.  I haven't looked at them in a month.  They are on a hill covered with kudzu.  Kudzu can grow one whole foot overnight.  It's known as the vine that ate the south and our beehives are no exception.

The entrances to both hives were covered with kudzu.  The bees were flying in and out just fine, but seemed grateful that we unearthed their entrances.  We tugged and cut the kudzu.  We also left a jar of water on each hive in a Boardman feeder.  Both hives were doing well but only had enough honey for themselves so we patted them on the top cover, frowned at the kudzu to encourage it to stay away, and left the hives for another day.

At my house we only harvested from Sebastian's hive.  We have at least two other hives with lots of honey to harvest, but we stuck to just this one.  We took two full boxes of honey off of this hive.  We crushed and strained the honey with Bear's wonderful present.  It is so mammoth that it is the Paul Bunyan of crushers.

Jeff wielded it first.  You can see in the photo that it crushes much more real estate than any other pestle we have.  What a wonderful gift!  Thank you so much, Bear.


Then I took a turn - great fun to crush with this southern pecan crusher.

We will harvest the rest soon, but it was fun to get a start on the season.


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Lovely Greens Article

Tanya, a beekeeper, gardener, soap maker and nice person, from Lovely Greens asked me to write a guest post on how to get started keeping honeybees.  If you'd like to read the post, here's the link.

I was out of town at a conference when it appeared a week ago, but wanted you all to know about it.  I certainly appreciated Tanya featuring my beekeeping and my blog.

Friday, June 27, 2014

And About the Neighbors.......

The house next door to me has been on the market and vacant for about a year.  Other houses in my area of Atlanta sell the minute they are put on the MLS, but not this one.  It's a really pretty house, but needs updating and has an odd floor plan that doesn't work well for children - at least that's why the realtor told me it has taken so long to sell.

I'm currently renovating my kitchen and since my house is very tiny, I've moved to the finished attic to live for the forever number of weeks it is taking to finish the job.  So a few days ago, I was sitting on my upstairs bed, talking to my friend Gina on the phone, and gazing out the window at the roof peak at the side of my house.  As I am watching the exterior of the house next door, I realized I was looking at what may be honey bees flying in and out above a second floor dryer vent.



The dryer vent looks like it is on the second floor and as you can see is rather high up since the house has a basement, a first floor and then the dryer vent.

I don't have a powerful enough zoom on my camera to get a clear picture of the insects flying in and out, but they do act like honey bees.















When we were little my Daddy used to say a poem to us:

"Daddy!"
"Whatcha' want?"
"I see a bear..."
"Big bear or a little bear?"
"Little biddy bear."
"Eat grass and watch him"
"Daddy!"
"Whatcha' want?"
"I see a bear..."
"Big bear or a little bear?"
"GREAT BIG BEAR!"
"Run for your life, run for your life!!!!!"

I keep thinking about this as I watch the bees flying in and out of the hole entry above the dryer vent.  Do I eat grass and watch 'em or do I call the realtor and tell her the news.  You can see the hole entry above and to the left of the center of the dryer vent.



I have tried to photograph the insects with both my phone and my camera but neither have the necessary zoom capacity.

So a couple of days ago, I called the realtor.  I told her I thought there might be honey bees living above the dryer vent.  I told her that there are five beekeepers within a block of my house and although I thought they were honey bees, they were not likely to be my honey bees since bees when they swarm to a new home, generally go at least a mile away if they can.  I gave her the names and numbers of three master beekeepers I know who do bee removals.  I also offered my phone number for the owner (whom I don't know - the house was rented when I moved in next door) in case he had questions.  I hung up relieved but still a little wary.

Finally this morning I decided to take a pair of binoculars upstairs and look out of the window.  I think these might NOT be honey bees but rather yellow jackets.  One view through the binoculars looked like their bodies were more yellow than orange and more pointed at the end than the bee.  I am giving you a blurry photo which is the best I can do so you can see what YOU think!




When I talked to the realtor, she told me the house was pending contract, waiting on the inspection and the loan.  She commented that the inspection had already happened and the inspector did not notice the insect activity.

At least it has me thinking about the new neighbors and I will certainly take them honey when they move in and possibly (as one of my friends suggested) my Canadian honey buttermilk rolls!




Thursday, June 26, 2014

Good Use for the Boardman Feeder

At this time of year, feeding the bees is not something anyone needs to do.  The bees in Atlanta are at the end of the nectar flow, but there is still some nectar to be had.  I haven't fed any bees this year in 2014.  All of my new hives were either nucs and were installed while we were having a nectar flow or the hives had overwintered and were just fine and not starving.

The Boardman feeder is particularly dangerous to use because it is like a billboard on the front of the hive screaming, "EAT HERE.  FREE FOOD!"

It's an invitation to robbing and that is a disheartening thing to happen to a beehive.

Last year at the Morningside Community Garden, we got complaints that my bees were showing up to take a swim at the neighbors' swimming pool.  They have a pool just over the fence from the beehives.  It's like Mr. McGregor's Garden - the bees feel tempted by the chlorinated water and are determined to visit the pool for a treat.  Only instead of going through a hole in the fence like Peter Rabbit, they fly right over it!

So to solve the problem last year, I put Boardman feeders on the front of both hives.  I filled the feeders with water, each with a drop of Clorox in it.  The bees got their water happily from the Boardman's and the neighbor complaints disappeared.

Since that worked so well last year, I've done it again on the Morningside hives.


So far, we haven't heard from the neighbors.  I was away a couple of weeks ago and as I drove home I noticed that the top was off of the hive with the blue markings.  I walked up to check and found the top on the ground at the bottom of the hill.  The hives look in this photo as if they are on flat ground, but actually they are at the top of a hill, the dropoff for which is right by the blackberry bushes on the back left.  

The top was lying face down at the foot of the hill about 15 feet below.  The hive was intact with the inner cover still tightly propolized.  I expect a storm blew the top off, but it seemed weird that it was located where the wheelbarrow and other equipment is kept and not directly below the hive on the ground.  

So far it hasn't happened again, so I feel sure it was the wind.  Maybe someone saw the top and just moved it with the rest of the equipment????

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