Saturday, December 3, 2016

Inspection Day

I left my hives alone for most of the summer, noting that they both were busy and humming. In September, I lifted the back of each hive. Both were almost too heavy for me to move, signaling they were full of bees and probably some honey. But what a difference a couple of months makes.

Today I went out to winterize the hives. With Atlanta's moderate climate, there isn't a lot of winterizing to do, unlike what beekeepers are tasked with in colder climates. Generally, I remove the extra supers from the top of a hive (those are usually empty), make sure the hive beetle trap is in place and doing its job, and insert an entrance reducer to cut down on the cold air flow.

Hive #2, which had not been named yet due to my superstition about waiting to be sure it's surviving, has been ravaged by wax moths. I won't document that in photos since I've shown it before, but suffice it to say that wax moths wreak a special, messy kind of havoc in a hive. There was a small cluster of honeybees left inside, but there is nothing I can do to save them. I took off two of the supers and then closed up the hive. On a warm winter day, I'll probably go out and dismantle everything. Most of that equipment will be unusable again.

On to Gloriana's Gold, which has a much happier, healthier story. The top super was empty, but clean. When I removed it, the super below began to hum and bees began moving up toward me to see what was going on. Good thing I'd checked the smoker and added some fuel before I started working on this one! This hive isn't exactly docile, but the smoke and the mid-50's temperature kept them quieter than usual.

The GG girls have been busy! They sealed off the hive beetle trap with propolis, so I removed it and made a mental note to order some more — as soon as they come, I'll install a fresh one. The bees have also made their own entrance reducer (see photo above) out of light-colored propolis! This is something I've never seen before, but have learned is common. Some bees just like to do their own winterizing.

Finally, the best news of all...Gloriana's Gold is chock full of honey in two supers. I'm debating whether to take out a few frames before the weather turns too cold for opening the hive. I may just leave it all in there for the girls to feed on until spring.

And yes, I will probably rebuild in the spring. After clearing out part of the side yard, there is more room and a level place for some hives, so I'm thinking of starting 2-3 more.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Gloriana's Gold is Thriving

This morning I went out to cut away some shrub and weed overgrowth around the hives and did a quick inspection of Gloriana's Gold (GG). This hive is composed of one deep with two medium supers on top of it. I was excited to lift the back of the hive and feel its weight — it is chock full of bees!

The top super has honey in the outer frames and baby bees being laid in the middle. The laying pattern is a little spotty. I think that may be because the queen is laying more in the middle super, which is definitely heavier with brood.

Last, I pulled out the IPM sheet for a check. The IPM (Integrated Pest Management) sheet fits below the screened bottom board and helps a beekeeper see and monitor a mite infestation. As far as I can see, there wasn't a mite problem, just heavily coated with pollen. Oh, and also a wax moth or two that the girls killed and mummified.

I'm excited about traveling to Temple, Ga. this weekend to pick up a nuc from Georgia Honey Bee Company. I've got an empty hive and it needs fillin'! Photos to come.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Gloriana's Gold

This, my friends, is a glorious sight after the last couple of years. My one surviving hive has made a super full of beautiful, golden HONEY! Thank you, sweet girls! In honor of their handiwork, we will name this hive Gloriana's Gold. Thank you, Richard Funderburke, for submitting the perfect name.

I will harvest some of this honey and leave the rest for a food source. Yesterday I could see the girls bringing in loads of bright yellow and orange pollen. So happy to see they are thriving in the warm March weather.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Nuc Day Dawns

This weekend marked a new bee-ginning in my life as a beekeeper and brought me a brand new experience.

In the past, I've installed package bees, which is a relatively simple process of dumping the bees into the hive box and making sure they have released their queen within a few days. This time, I'm installing bees from two nuc (nucleus) hives that I bought from a local master beekeeper, Cindy Hodges.

Last night, I went to pick up my bees at Cindy's house. She gave me verbal and written instructions on how to handle the installation process. Nuc hives come with five full deep frames of bees and a queen that is already part of the colony. The frames are full of comb, pollen, eggs and even some honey around the edges.

When I arrived home, I placed the nucs on top of the hives where they will be living, opened their entrances and left them for the night. As I walked away, the girls were already bubbling out of the entrances, happy to have access to some cooler air and to start exploring their new yard.

This morning, after gently smoking around the entrances, I opened the nucs one at a time. The nuc frames have to be placed in the center of and same exact order and position facing out in the new hive super, which helps orient the bees to their new surroundings. After placing the nuc frames in the center of super, I added three empty frames on the outer sides to fill in the box. Then, the inner and outer covers go on top. There are still some bees hanging out in the nuc boxes, which I left open and next to their respective new hives. The girls will find their way into their new homes within a day or two.

Once I had both hives fully assembled, I inserted feeders with sugar water. Cindy tells me that nectar flow is good in Atlanta right now, so I probably won't have to feed the girls for more than a week or two. They will be out and about, finding their own nectar sources and pollen from flowers and other plants in the neighborhood.

It's so nice to look out into the back yard and see honeybees buzzing around again!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Preparing for a new bee-ginning...

Although it's January, today is a relatively mild day in Roswell — yesterday's cold rain has given way to sunny skies and mid-40s. Looking out the kitchen window at the back yard is a little sad for me. There are no bees to worry about right now. However, this seemed the perfect day to do some clean up in preparation for what's coming in the spring.

I'm excited to say that I've ordered two nucleus hives or "nucs" from a nearby Master Beekeeper, Cindy Hodges, who also happens to be president of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association. A nuc is a small colony of a few thousand bees with a queen that has already produced brood on the frames being purchased. In the past, I have started hives from package bees, which, literally, come in a screened package with the queen in a separate cage. There are pros and cons to both nucs and package bees. Since nucs are locally produced, the bees and their queen are already acclimated to the climate. Additionally, nucs build up faster and are less prone to starvation, absconding or robbing by other bees. The nucs should be ready in mid-to-late April.

Here is a neat explanation of how to install a nuc from my favorite bee blog, Linda's Bees.

So, back to today's prep work. I took apart what was left of the old hives and threw away the parts that can't be salvaged. The rest of the hive components can be cleaned up with either a wire brush or a torch and the outsides repainted. Thanks to my good friend, Drea, and her donation of unused hive equipment in pristine condition, I have everything I need to set up two new hives this spring.

And speaking of two new hives, I'll be holding another contest to name them. Winners will receive a jar of honey when the bees provide it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sad. Just sad.

I have lost Apollo, my original (and only) hive. Upon opening it this afternoon, I saw only a few handfuls of very sluggish bees. There is a little evidence of wax moth activity, but the hive beetle trap had been doing its job. There are a few queen cells, one of which was partially hatched, but it appears poor Apollo has been queenless for a while.

Now I have to decide if I want to start this venture all over again next spring. I have a few weeks to ponder that question. Package bee orders must be placed in November/early December. Otherwise, I can order a couple of nucs from local sources early in the new year.

I did freeze a couple of frames that had drawn comb and a little honey in them. Maybe that will help a new colony next year.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sweet Harvest

After a summer of being a relatively bad bee mom, I lit the smoker, suited up and carried all my equipment out to check on Apollo. Apollo is my original and only hive.

Digressing for a moment here...I'd intended to start a second hive this summer and ordered a nuc from Pigeon Mountain Trading Company in Dalton, Ga. Due to the cold winter, the bees were much later in their production cycle this spring and delivery was delayed for many weeks. As the weeks passed by and I had travel plans during the summer, I decided to cancel my order. Let's just say customer service at Pigeon Mountain is extremely poor and their representatives are rude and make multiple excuses. I forfeited my deposit as expected, but Pigeon Mountain did nothing to try and retain my business. I will NEVER buy anything from them again. And yes, I did some research and found a bunch of complaints on file against them with the BBB. Live and learn. I'll stick with Brushy Mountain Beekeeping in N.C.

So, back to Apollo. The hive has three medium supers and a shallow honey super on top. I removed the shallow today and then was pleased to look down into the top two mediums to see that they are brood heavy and the queen is laying in a healthy pattern. Lifting the hive from the back, I could feel its weight. Heavy = full o' bees!

I took four frames of honey for harvest and left some for the bees. But now that nectar flow has tapered off with summer ending, the girls will need food. I'll start giving them simple syrup and then, when the weather turns colder, I'll make sure they have pollen patties and fondant for winter.

Linda Tillman, who writes an excellent blog on beekeeping, made a YouTube video of her "crush and strain" method of honey harvesting. This is a simple method for the backyard or beginning beekeeper.

First, using a serrated knife, I cut or scrape the honey from the frames into a pan. Then, I crush the honeycombs with a pestle.

Next, I pour the contents of the pan into a two-bucket strainer system. The top bucket is lined with a fine mesh bag with a metal strainer plate below.

The contents of the top bucket are strained and the filtered honey drips into the lower bucket, which is equipped with a gate. When the honey has finished filtering, I will fill individual bottles from the honey gate.

It's a hot and sticky process, but the results are so worth it! I love my girls and thank them for the hard work they do to help our environment and provide such a beautiful perfect food.