Welcome - Explore my Blog

I've been keeping this blog for nine years and now 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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Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Winter Solstice - the Shortest Day of the Year

I try to post on this every year because I find it so phenomenal.  In the dark depths of the beehive, I hope my bees are alive and making it through what has already been an unusually cold winter in Atlanta.  On warmish days most of my hives are flying.  I've learned not to assume those who are not flying are dead-outs until later in the winter because if they have stores, sometimes they aren't flying and are still doing fine.

Today is a turn-around time for bees and all of us.  From now until the Summer Solstice on June 21st, the days begin to extend in length.  I don't know how the queen bee knows this in her life of darkness.  Inside the hive, she has no idea if the sun set early or late; if the day was short or long.  But somehow she senses it and on the Winter Solstice, her biology tells her that it is time to start her spring build-up.
From today, the queen will gradually start laying more eggs and begin to raise bees who will increase the hive numbers so that when the nectar flow begins, the hive is truly ready with the bee numbers needed to gather stores for the winter.

That's all the bee is really about, isn't it?  She lives to gather nectar and make honey so that her hive can survive the winter.  We beekeepers take what we deem to be the surplus honey and hope to have left the bees enough to feed themselves and the developing young through the winter.  But all we are doing with our honey harvest is interrupting a process of supply buildup that is the cycle of life in the beehive.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fun and Facts about Wax

Last week I was the speaker at my local bee club meeting.  I have given lots of talks and wanted to try something different so I talked about Fun and Facts about Wax!  I covered a lot of facts about wax and then talked about melting it, employing it in making candles, lip balm, lotion, swarm lure, etc., and ended with enjoying it.



I am giving the same talk at the Potato Creek Beekeepers Club in Griffin, GA on Thursday, November 20 at 7 PM - here's where they meet in case any of you are in the area and want to come:
Spalding County Extension Office, located at 835 Memorial Dr., Griffin, GA 30224

A few fun facts that I had such fun collecting!
  • Wax has been found in shipwrecks that is extremely old and still is a lovely product
  • Beeswax has always been valued because it burns slowly and without smoke
  • Back in 181 BC (a long, long, long time ago) the Romans conquered the Corsicans and then taxed the Corsicans 100,000 pounds of beeswax a year
  • Like honey from China is contaminated with things other than honey, wax in ancient times was often extended with things like sand so guilds developed to protect the purity of the product.  Some of those guilds are still in existence today
  • One pound of beeswax supports 22 pounds of honey - that means that in a medium ten frame box, which full of honey holds about 40 pounds (4 pounds/frame), the amount of beeswax in that same box would be a little less than 2 pounds.
I could go on and on.....so many fun facts to learn about wax.  

Of course one of the most important facts about wax is that if you are not going to use it right away, don't let the wax moths have a feast.  Store it in your freezer!



I get asked a lot to give talks but this was a particularly fun one - I think because often I am talking about topics that get controversial reactions - like foundationless frames, crush and strain honey harvesting, simple beekeeping.  

This topic was universally accepted and I think everyone there enjoyed the talk - or at least a lot of people came up afterward to tell me they did.

Potato Creek is a new bee club which I am proud to support.  GBA has a number of new bee clubs and this one was just welcomed into GBA at the fall meeting.  So if you are around, come to the meeting on November 20 and hear my talk about Fun and Facts about Wax!




(Bear Kelley, president of the Georgia Beekeepers Association and 2014 Beekeeper of the Year, is the speaker in October:  On the 16th)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Intown Jewish Preschool

For several years now, I have gone at the Jewish holidays to talk to the children at the Intown Jewish Preschool about bees and honey.  This year I took the observation hive that belongs to my local bee club.  It lives at my friend, Gina's, house, so I picked it up the night before on Wednesday.  I gave the talks (I did it three times) and then put the hive in the car and drove to Blue Heron Nature Preserve where Gina was also giving a talk and needed the observation hive.

Here I am opening the observation hive.

In this photo I've drafted kids to be the guard bees, the drones, etc.















This little guy is the housekeeping bee!























This was just one class, but I did the talk three times for three different age groups.

They always ask good questions when I go to this school.  And of course, they each have a sting story of when they were stung by a "bee."  I usually use that opportunity to talk about the difference in a bee and a yellow-jacket.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Moving Bees - Again

My daughter, Valerie, and beekeeping son-in-law, Jeff, have bought a house.  Jeff had two hives of bees at the house they were renting and these bees had to move.  Jeff's new house doesn't have a good space right now for bees, so we needed to put the bees elsewhere.

One hive we planned to put in my friend Tom's backyard, where we had bees this past year.  One of the two hives had died and we wanted to replace it with one of Jeff's.  We planned to move the smaller hive to Morningside Community Garden where I had lost another hive.  I'll talk about that loss in another post and link it here when I do.

I have had a posterior tibial ligament injury all year and carrying the heavy hive down the hill in Jeff's backyard is not something I need to be doing.  We enlisted one of Jeff's neighborhood friends to help him load the hives into the car.

Gary was a good sport.
He suited up and was all ready to go.  
The two of them looked like this in Jeff's former carport, before going up to the hives.  

We finished strapping the hives and closing the entrances.  The first hive was very small.  We got the hive from Buster's Bees very late in the nectar flow at the very end of April and they had not done well.  As we stapled the entrance closed, not a single bee poked her head out.  The hive felt very light.  It was only a deep and a medium.  We strapped it with no curious bee showing at the entrance.  
We determined that it must be an empty hive and that the bees had absconded.  We still had to move the equipment out of the yard so we put it into Jeff's car.

The second hive was one we installed at the same time, but they had made enough honey for us to harvest a single box.  The bees in this hive were not happy for us to block the entrance.  We found them flying out from under the telescoping cover when we went up to finish the strapping with Gary. 


As usual when I keep bees with Jeff, I was the only one stung during the whole operation.  Once I was stung at the front of this second hive and another time when I got a bee in my hair behind this hive and after I finally brushed her out of my hair, she stung me on my ankle.  


We drove the hive to Tom's house where Ella, his daughter, and his family all participated in our installing the hive.




Jeff returned to feed this hive a quart of honey in a rapid feeder the next day.

Then Jeff and I drove to my house to unload the empty hive and extra equipment.  As Jeff opened his tailgate, NOW there were bees at the hive entrance.  We carried the extremely light hive to my backyard and set it on bricks.  We freed the entrance and opened the telescoping cover.  Tons of bees were there.  

Since the hive is only a deep and medium and felt very light, we put a feeder on the top of the inner cover, filled it with honey, and closed up the hive.  They have been very happy in my backyard for the last ten days and seem to be adapting.  In spite of being light, they have not emptied the feeder which only held one quart of honey.




Thursday, October 09, 2014

My Grandson's Science Project

My grandson, Dylan, wanted to do something with bees for his third grade science project.  He likes that I melt wax on the sidewalk in front of my house all the time so he and I decided that he could do a project about wax melting.

He decided to compare filter materials in the solar wax melter.  I have three styrofoam box solar wax melters so he compared three filter materials - coffee filter, paper towel, and silk.



 He measured and weighed the wax shards so that there was a ball that weighed 2 ounces of wax on each plastic container.

Then on a hot but somewhat cloudy day in August, we put all three solar wax melters out on the sidewalk - one with coffee filters, one with paper towels and one with silk.  Dylan said in his report that "we left them out for three days, including nights."

At the end of the experiment, he discovered that his hypothesis (that paper towels would be the best because that is what his grandma used), was wrong.  The coffee filter resulted in the cleanest wax by subjective observation.  The silk, which took three full days to filter through completely, absorbed the least amount of wax, thus resulting in the most volume of wax filtered through.




He and I printed out and put captions on photo of everything he did.  Here he is in front of his board.


I was so proud of him and excited that he wanted me to do this with him.  I hope he'll choose a bee project next year also.


Crossword # 2 on Honey Harvest

This crossword is focused on Honey Harvest. Have fun and email me if you'd like to see a filled-out version to check your answers.  To work this crossword on line, click here.

Honey of a Dinner

For the last few years, I have offered a Honey of a Dinner at our fall bee club auction.  The promise is that the person who wins it can invite up to six people total to come to my house for a dinner in which honey is an ingredient in each of the courses.

In 2013 my friend Gina won the dinner, but we haven't fulfilled it previously because my kitchen was under renovation for a number of months.  Finally on Friday night we had the 2013 Honey of a Dinner (a year late!)

I set the table with my good china and it all looked really lovely:



The honey comb trivets in the center of the table were a gift from my friend and fellow beekeeper, Julia, in honor of my new kitchen.  The bee napkin rings came from my brother Barry.

First we had a delicious cocktail called the Bees Knees made with Hendricks Gin and lavender infused honey syrup (like simple syrup only with honey).   I forgot to take a photo of our drink.  With that we had an appetizer of a sunflower seed encrusted goat cheese log, served with raspberries and mint and drizzled with honey.

Then we had a soup:  Pumpkin Soup with honey and cloves.

The main dish was a pork loin marinated in a honey marinade and served with gremolata and a Canadian buttermilk honey yeast roll (sorry, the only photo is not in focus - maybe it was the bees knees or the wine!):

We had the salad after the entree, European style.  The salad was a Honey Roasted Pear salad with verjus dressing and bleu cheese.  




Then we had a dessert of homemade profiteroles with honey lavender ice cream (also I made the ice cream).


It was such a fun dinner party.  Now to get ready for the 2014 Honey of a Dinner!














Seriously Behind in Posting

Many apologies to all who read this blog.  I have fallen seriously behind in posting.  I've been out of town a lot and have been playing catch up in my business, with my house, etc.

I wanted to make this simple post to let you know I haven't forgotten you.  I thought of all of you as I gave a talk at my bee club last night on Adventures with Wax.  I had fun getting it together and all of the photos came from the years and years I have been keeping this blog.

So with that, I am going to end this post and do a few catch-up ones!

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