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 about 1250 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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Monday, July 20, 2015

New Take on the Solar Wax Melter - Trying Something Different

I've got a lot of wax to melt and have been feeling a little frustrated with the solar wax melter method I am currently using. I hate wasting all of those paper towels and you can only do a little at a time with the Tupperware, the paper towel, the rubberband, etc.

So wandering around Youtube, I found another solar wax melter, fancier than my version below, but based on the same idea. I quickly went past the video and haven't been able to find it again, but thanks to whoever provided this idea.

I went to the grocery store and bought aluminum 8X10 cake pans with about 2 inch sides. I took the handy awl I have in my toolkit - don't ask - it's the influence of my father in my childhood and his ideas of what one should have in a tool box. I may have never used it before. I used it to punch holes in the bottom of one end of the cake pan.

I also bought some plastic rectangular boxes and filled the boxes about one inch or so deep with water. I took my reliable on stand-by styrofoam beer coolers and placed a plastic water-filled box in each of them. The box was too large to go all the way down to the bottom but was large enough that it supported itself against the walls of the styrofoam cooler.

Then I put the aluminum pans at a slant in the cooler above the water filled plastic box. I made sure the end with the awl-punched holes was on the lower end of the slant.

I filled the aluminum pans with dry wax particles.

Then I covered the cooler with its pane of glass cover and left them to sit in the sun. Oh, and I lifted the high end up a little with an empty frame as support.

At the end of the day, the wax had melted and gone through the holes to float on the water below; the slum gum was all black and yucky, and I had lost no wax to a paper towel.

I have been using this for about a week now and have melted a lot of wax. Here's what I have gotten from my efforts so far.

Advantages of this melter:

1. Larger quantities of wax can be processed at a time.
2. No loss of wax to the paper towel filter.
3. The wax is quite clean and shows no need for a filter - all the slum gum stays in the aluminum pan. The water works beautifully as it did in my old melter for providing a surface on which the wax can float.
4. The wax is often in small bits from dripping through the holes - this will be easier to measure for soap and lip balm than having to melt the huge wax block before measuring (that's what's in the small plastic bags in the bucket - small bits of wax)

Disadvantages of this melter:

1. I believe the aluminum pans will have to be replaced after ten or twelve runs
2. At the end of the day, when the sun is no longer beating down, the slum gum hardens to the bottom of the aluminum pan. I've had to put the slum gum pans in the melter for a couple of hours the next day and then wipe them out with paper towels before they are available to use again.
3. The above task requires a pot holder because the pan is so hot and it's nasty to wipe out the slum gum...yuck.
4. Costs from scratch about $15 - $18 to make because the aluminum pans were not cheap...$6 for the styrofoam cooler, $5 for the aluminum pans, cost of glass pane will vary. The other solar wax melter cost about $10 total but melts much less wax and is more bother.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Growing a Greener World

Last year I spent a good bit of time driving up and back to Milton, Georgia, home of Joe Lamp'l, the producer and star of Growing a Greener World. The irony is that Joe's wonderful show is seen on PBS in almost all the states except Georgia and Alaska, but Joe lives here in Georgia on a beautiful organic farm north of Atlanta.

His sixth season started with the episode that I helped him with on becoming a beekeeper.

Here's a link to the episode.

He visited my beeyard earlier in the year.  That resulted in a small piece of another beekeeping show he did.

We had quite an adventure through the year and I was so honored to be asked to be a part of Joe's good work in the organic gardening that he does and the influence that he has.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Rabun County Bee Status Report

Since I am up here for the Fourth of July holiday, I went over to check on the bees at Robin's house. The sourwood is blooming up here.  It started early this year and is about in the middle of its bloom.  I fully expected the bees to be bringing in tons of nectar.

We are not planning to harvest from this hive this year. Starting so late, our best hope is that the bees can collect enough honey to make it through the winter.

There were plenty of bees coming in and out of the hive, but also asparagus greenery in front of the hive so it's hard to see any bees in this photo - trust me, they were there!

The first thing I did was to kill a black widow spider who had built her web and laid eggs inside the top cover.  I frequently have found black widows in the inside of the top cover - this is at least the fifth one in the last two years. (You can't see her in the photo but can see the remnants of her web.

Upon opening the hive, I found beautiful straight comb and the bees were making good use of what they had. In this comb they were storing nectar:

In these two shots the honeycomb is full of eggs - just look at how active this good queen is!

Since I live over 100 miles from this hive, I decided to leave them with a fourth box even though they had barely started using the third box. It is the height of the sourwood flow and if they don't use the box for nectar, it will help with ventilation. I did not put a ladder frame into the hive because there wasn't one available in the box below, so we'll just hope for the best.

Truly my car was not parked on top of the hive, but it does look rather strange!  I'll be back in a few weeks to check on this hive and probably to steal one frame of sourwood honey!

As I drove back to the mountain house, I was struck by the beauty of the roadside blooming weeds that serve the bees so well in the country.  There was an abundance of Queen Anne's lace, bright orange butterfly weed (a member of the milkweed family which bees love), and black-eyed Susans.

Aren't they lovely? The sad thing for bees today is that when you aren't in the country as I am now, the sides of the road are not full of flowering weeds. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Mark Winston's Manifesto

I was lucky enough to hear Mark Winston in the spring of 2014.  He is the author of the Biology of the Honey Bee that I and many others studied for Master Beekeeper.  He writes essays on his blog and his essay today just blew my mind.

Please go and read every single word of it.

I hope to have the opportunity to hear him in person again soon.  He has some good YouTube videos:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Now THIS is a Beard

This hive started from a package that I got from Jarrett Apiaries at the beginning of bee season.

I got home in the 90 degree June (??? - feels like August) Atlanta evening and found this hive looking like:

And when I went around to the back, there were even more bees consigned to the outside of the hive!

This is a HUGE hive and I have not opened up the screened bottom board.  I haven't done that for the last two summers.  But for this hive, I may have to.

I wanted to give them room to spread out inside the hive but it was 8 PM when I got home.  So I went out and put on two empty boxes - undrawn frames - just to give them some hangout room inside the hive.  (This hive has a slatted rack at the bottom.)

I carefully moved the top to avoid upsetting the bee beard at the back and gently put those girls on the inner cover.  Still it was hard to find a handhold.  I only got stung once in this whole maneuver, though, on the ball of my thumb.  I put the two empty boxes on and closed the hive up.

One bee seemed interested in the salty sweat on my hand:

However, as night fell, the beard was hardly disturbed and no bees appeared to go inside. I expect the space needs to be distributed throughout the hive for them to take advantage of the extra boxes I gave them. 

After a hot night, the beard was only slightly smaller this morning, but there were no bees bearding at the back of the hive.  I'll put some beer caps on the inner cover to lift it up a little and that might help as well.

The nectar flow is over and it's time to harvest and make splits. I'm not certain about this hive because at Jarrett Apiaries, they use oxalic acid, so this hive may not be able to deal with varroa mite on its own.  Still, it's such a strong hive that I will make some overwintering nucs from it for the winter.  

I'll have my work cut out for me for the next couple of weekends!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Deep Dilemma

My hive in Rabun county died. Robin Line with whom I play Words with Friends wrote me a note on our ongoing game to tell me that there had been a pesticide kill and all the bees were dead.  He told me he had removed a large pile of bees from in front of the hive and that there had been no activity. They had sprayed Roundup on part of their garden to get rid of weeds and the next day the bees were dead.

He was sick about it and got a late spring nuc to replace the bees so I went up to the farm and installed them. I took apart the dead hive and felt just ill to see the thousands of dead bees inside the hive on the screened bottom board:

So I dumped the bees out and started over.  As I drove from Atlanta (leaving all my equipment behind except for two medium boxes), I started to remember that the new hive would be housed in a deep nuc.

Oh, no.  I didn't bring a deep with me and I couldn't remember what had happened to the deep I had up in the mountains for one of the two hives I had last year.  Perhaps I had taken it back to Atlanta.  If I were lucky, maybe it would be in the basement in my house in Rabun county, but I didn't remember exactly storing it there.  Although as I thought about it, I began to convince myself that of course it would be in the mountain house basement.

Then I decided that it wasn't there and that I had taken it home to Atlanta.  Worried about this and unable to listen to my book on tape for the thoughts in my head, I called Julia to confer about what I might do.  Suppose I didn't have a deep?  There were two hives up at the farm last year and I had left a two box medium hive and a three box medium hive which was the one that survived the winter (then killed by Roundup).

We talked about maybe I could put two medium boxes (empty) one on top of the other and put the deep frames in the top of the two boxes.  The bees would build comb extending from the bottom of the deep frames into the remaining about 3 inches but that would be OK.  So that was what I decided to do...make a make-shift Warre hive.

I stopped at the mountain house and sure enough, no deep hive in the basement.  I arrived at Robin's farm about noon.  I stopped by the barn where I had left a box and lo and behold, it was the deep from last year.

Problem solved.

I installed the hive into the deep and put two medium boxes on top of that with some drawn comb in each one.

This hive will collect honey to make it through the winter but we will not harvest from it.  The sourwood hasn't started blooming yet in N Georgia (although it may have begun about now) and they can gather nectar from it for the winter.

Cross your fingers that this hive survives and thrives!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Video of a Queen Moving Around the Hive

This talented photographer/beekeeper, Anand Varma, has made this video of the queen moving around the hive. He attached a fluorescent marker to the queen's back and shot this in black light in the hive. On my computer, at first it looked like the video wasn't actually posted, so be patient if it takes a moment or two to load. Since Mr. Varma is allowing people to embed his video in their websites, I wanted all of you to see it:

I wanted to show how a queen bee moves around her hive so I attached a fluorescent marker to her back and made a time lapse of her walking around under black lights.

Posted by Anand Varma - Photographer on Friday, May 15, 2015

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.

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