Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hot Hives

I finally got around to taking some pictures today when I did an inspection. I managed to snap the Queen in Hive #1 (left photo w/white dot). The other pictures is of a brood frame from Hive #1. The inspection of the 1st hive went smoothly and all seems well in this colony. I did see a few small hive beetles, but no big deal. They are expected to be present in most hives. That was the end of my good fortune, all 3 of the remaining hives were "hot" say the least! Hive #4 which is by far the biggest was really "hot". So much so that I didn't get to do a thorough inspection. As soon as I cracked the lid and hit them with the smoker all hell broke loose! Immediately they began flying into my veil and bouncing off. They just kept coming. Within the first 60 seconds I took a sting through my shirt...right in my stomach. That was 5 hours ago and I can't feel any pain/discomfort. The area is only slightly red and isn't swollen. I don't know if the rainy weather has them upset or I need to replace the Queen in order to change the temperment of the hive. I fear the latter as this is the 2nd or 3rd time this hive has stung me. They always seem a lot meaner than the others. I'll wait and see but I will most likely re-Queen sometime in the near future.
Sting Count:
Chris - 6
Brian - 2

Weather, Hive activity & The Farmers' Almanac

It started raining Tuesday 9/12 in the late afternoon and continued until Wednesday 9/12 at 12/noon. During that time my rain gauge recorded about 1.25" of rainfall. This is great, since we've been in drought conditions for most of the Summer months. Just two weeks ago the average temperature was in the 90's for most of the day. Recently the temps have been in the mid-80's which is a much welcomed relief. Today the current temperature, as of 12:15 is a nice, cool & breezy 77 degrees (yeep-eeee). The overall trend has been a lot cooler with more rain in the past few weeks than we've had since early Spring.

All 4 colonies are extremely busy since the rain stopped. The area around the hive looks like a major airport with all the traffic in/out. I spent some time today just observing and I'm surprised that most bees returning from foraging are loaded down with pollen. I wonder if large pollen loads = large amounts of nectar? I sure hope so! The population of the colonies seem to be holding steady, if not increasing. I've decided to do an inspection later today and take some pictures which I will post later.

I can remember as a young child that my Grandmother used the Farmer's Almanac religiously. Since I've become more "in tune" with the weather, rain fall, etc.. I decided to grab the 2007 Farmers' Almanac. I'm going to use the calendars for planting nectar producing plants in the Spring for the bees & also a small vegetable garden. Additionally, I'm going to use the weather forecasts to plan outdoor events, etc.... According to the Farmers' Almanac their weather predictions are > 80% accurate. I would highly recommend everyone getting the 2007 edition of the almanac.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sting Count

Earlier this week I received an invitation from Billy "Bad Boy" Pate to come watch the UGA football game at his house. Billy has an awesome "Man Room" in his basement for hosting such events. This was an invite that I couldn't pass up! So, I made plans to travel to Cumming, Georgia on Saturday, September 9th to watch the UGA vs South Carolina football game. I last inspected the hives 1 week ago and all was well. I couldn't resist "taking a quick peek" prior to our departure for Billy's. Since I was only going to take a peek, I didn't feel the need for the smoker or "getting geared up". I went into the Apiary wearing shorts, t-shirt & flip-flops. I lifted the outer & inner covers on hive #1 and peered down into the top super. I killed 6 small hive beetles that were on the inner cover, all looked good so I carefully placed the covers back on. I almost started to walk off and head to Billy's when, in my infinite wisdom I decided to take a look at one more hive. Hive #2 wasn't as forgiving as the first. As soon as I removed the inner cover, 3 angry bees immediately came after me. The 1st sting was to the inside of my right forearm and the 2nd was to the inside of my right bicep. I quickly removed the stingers and carefully replaced the covers. This took several attempts as the colony was rather "pissed off" at the moment! The initial pain of the stings wore off within a few minutes and we started off on the 1.5 hour drive to Billy's house. By the time we arrived, the area around the 1st sting was swollen considerably. 24 hours later it's still very swollen and is very sore. I expect by tomorrow (Monday) or Tuesday the soreness will be gone and everything will be fine. I can only imagine what the neighbors thought when/if they saw me dancing in the Apiary trying to avoid getting stung. I knew the instant they came out of the hive at full speed I was doomed. The odd thing is that the 2nd sting site didn't swell at all and is not sore today. I wonder why that is? I would have thought it would be the worse of the two stings. I guess I learned a valuable lesson on Saturday. Use your smoker and wear the appropriate protective gear when going into the Apiary, even if it is for a "quick peek".

Sting Count:

Chris - 5
Brian - 2

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bees reared in cities are "healthier"

Originally published by BBC News Corp.

Bees reared in cities are healthier and more productive than their country cousins, a study by French beekeepers' association Unaf has found.

Urban bees enjoy higher temperatures and a wider variety of plant life for pollination, while avoiding ill-effects of pesticides, the study said.

Read the entire article here:

Why London's beekeepers are a growing band

Laura Barnett finds out what beekeepers get out of it - and why shops are clamouring for their honey.

Published: 04 May 2006

The first summer that Nicky Faith kept bees in her back garden, she built a pyramid 15 jars wide with the honey they made. Now, 10 years on, her three beehives take pride of place in her garden, and the labels on her jars of Willesden Green Honey picture a bucolic scene far from this crowded corner of north-west London.

Read the entire article here:

Gloves or a lack thereof

As a 1st year "beek", I've been a little timid when it comes to stings. Prior to Saturday I had only been stung twice. The 1st time was at the Beekeeping Institute during the practical exam portion of the Certified Beekeeping course. This sting was located in my "ear hole". Yes! You read that correctly. My right ear was bright red, I could feel my heart beating in my ear & it had a fever. This lasted for 3 days ! ! ! If that wasn't enough, Dr. Keith Delaplane was giving me the exam and had to remove the stinger. Dr. Delaplane is very well known for his honeybee work at the University of Georgia and I was a little embarrased by the whole incident. The 2nd time was when I moved the 3 new hives I acquired from Mike Sorensen to my apiary. I forgot to zip up my pants after tucking in my shirt and got stung on the inside of my upper right thigh. Needless to say that hurt a helluva lot more than the sting to my ear! My wife got a good laugh out of that, right up to the point that I told her I needed her to help "ice me down". All of the sudden it wasn't so funny to her!....LOL

Yesterday, I received the 3rd honeybee sting of my life. I have noticed that it's difficult to work in the hives while wearing leather gloves and have been contemplating not wearing them anymore. Brian has been stung twice while working in my beeyard so when I shared my thoughts about foregoing the gloves, he was all for it. He thought that was the greatest idea ever. I wonder why? I made it as far as the 3rd hive and was reaching for the outer cover to put it back on when...............BAM! Outta nowhere I got nailed on my index finger. I quickly removed the stinger and within 3-5 minutes the shearing pain & throbbing went away completely. I didn't think anything about it until a couple of hours later when I noticed my whole left hand was very swollen. I mean SWOLLEN! It's still a little swollen today (about 24 hours later), and it's very sore.

I've been a little eager to get stung I guess you could say. I just haven't been able to allow myself to actually get stung. I even thought seriously about intentionally placing a bee on me in hopes it would sting me. With more stings comes the benefit of becoming immune to the sting and I will not have any symptoms (so they say. Although I haven't identified who "they" are). It's not the pain so much as not knowing when it will happen and being able to mentally prepare yourself for the sting.

Sting count:

Chris = 3
Brian = 2

Brian's Urban Apiary

The picture posted above is of an area Brian recently set up in his backyard. Brian lives 30 miles South of me, in an area very similar to mine. He lives "in town" and the area also has lots of ornamental & decorative plants, bushes, trees and shrubs that are beneficial to the honeybee and the production of honey. We don't intend to actually put any hives @ Brian's until the Spring. But....just in case I have any "issues" with my current location we can quickly relocate my hives to his house (that's called a backup plan!....LOL). I have some green mesh cloth that I will give to Brian to use as a barrier along the chain link fence and also obscure the view from any "nosey" neighbors. I know he's very excited about becoming a "Beek" and can't wait for Spring. I'm going to attempt to split a couple of my colonies and give them to him. He'll need to purchase a couple of Queens and some additional woodenware.

In an attempt to supplement his income, Brian is a distributor for XS Energy Drinks. A couple of weeks ago Brian asked me to place a link on my blog to his website. I didn't think my blog would generate traffic much less any sales. Well.........I was wrong! Someone purchased $387 worth of energy drinks and the traffic originated from my website. Brian works in commercial HVAC and like many Americans he needs to generate additional income to pay the bills, support his family and "just get by". If you have a need or know of anyone that has a need for sports drinks, energy bars and supplements... please direct them to his website. You can click on XS Energy Drinks in the link section of this blog or go directly to

Game Day Inspection

Brian stopped by with my nephew to watch the UGA football game on Saturday. I haven't been in the hives in more than 2 weeks, so we decided to do an inspection. Trenton got an up close & personal look at the inside of a hive (pictured above). I was really surprised to see that in all 4 hives there were at least 3-4 full frames of brood. The brood was in various stages: eggs, larvae, pupae & capped brood. Most hives had 2 full frames (both sides) of capped brood. Usually the Queen will begin to decrease the population of the colony this time of year. I'm hoping this is a sign that we will get a Fall nectar flow and the Queen is increasing her population to ensure they take advantage of that flow. The remaining 6-7 frames were full of capped honey, nectar & pollen. I'm starting to feel a lot better about the chances of the hives to make it through winter. 3 of 4 hives consist of 2 deep brood boxes and at least 1 honey super. Overall, I'm very pleased with all 4 hives. They seem to be thriving and are looking good. I did notice the population of the Small Hive Beetles seems to have increased significantly. I will treat for them in a few weeks. The packaged colony has 1 full deep and I just added a honey super. Hopefully they will fill the super with the Fall flow. This will be their food for winter!

In the past few weeks we've seen an increase in the amount of rain. For most of the Summer it really didn't rain at all. The recent rains have turned everything very green and I'm hoping for a Fall nectar flow. I don't know if we'll get one, we'll just have to wait and see.

As a side note: Brian and I attempted to equalize the populations of the hives several weeks ago. That seems to have worked as my packaged hive has really increased in population and the strongest hive has less bees.

I've posted some pics of the most recent inspection Brian and I completed yesterday. Take a look:

Friday, September 01, 2006

Football Saturday in the South

Yup. That's right! The college football season is upon us once again. I have to admit I wait impatiently for this time of year beginning just after the college bowl season is over in January. 8 months of wandering aimlessly through the weekends, begging & praying for the Summer to end so I can follow my beloved Georgia Bulldogs. The typical Summer temperatures in Georgia hover in the mid 90's from late May through August. The real killer is the humidy...typically 90% or higher. The college football season will bring cooler temperatures that are a much welcomed relief to the area. I know the bees will appreciate it as well.

I have a ritual that I like to follow, it usually begins on Friday afternoon. I start by cleaning the deck & grill, icing down the Bud Light, getting the plasma tv & satellite hooked up outside and starting some boiled peanuts.

Boiled Peanuts? This is an obvious Southern favorite that I've enjoyed since I was a kid. I can remember stopping at roadside fruit/vegetable stands and getting fresh boiled peanuts. They are usually served hot, right off the fire! I use a turkey fryer that I purchased at Wal-Mart to cook them in. I use 8lbs. of raw peanuts in the shell, one container of table salt and fill the pot 3/4 full with water. I will boil them for 6-8 hours on Friday and I let them sit overnight to absorb the salt and allow for the nuts/shells to soften. I fire them up again about 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, add another container of salt, more water and leave them on a "rolling" boil for most of the day. By noon on Saturday they are close enough to being finished that I can start munching. They are best served hot, so I usually dip them right out of the boiling water and start eating them immediately. Making boiled peanuts is not a quick process. It usually takes a good 12-18 hours of cooking to get the perfect taste. I've been experimenting with this process for a couple of years and have just gotten it down to perfection (atleast I think so!)

Note: The keys to great tasting boiled peanuts are salt (lots of it!) and time, time & more time. Anyone on a low salt diet should not eat boiled peanuts! ! !

"The Beekeeper" vs ? ? ?

When I decided to establish an Apiary in my backyard, I wanted to protect the bees as well as my neighbors. I placed the hives at the rear of my property line in a fenced area. The property line has about 10' of overgrowth (bush, plants, weeds, etc...). I felt this was an adequate barrier and would prevent any unwanted attention from the neighbors.

I purchased UV rated green nylon mesh cloth (seen behind the hives in this picture) and "hung" it on the chain link fence. This would further obscure the hives from the casual onlooker and ensure the flight paths of the bees are immediately elevated above eye/head level. This will prevent inadvertent collisions between humans and bees.

I used zip ties to attach the nylon mesh to the chain link fence. When I installed it, I secured it over the top rail of the fence. Within a few days I noticed that a couple of the zip ties had "broken" and the mesh was now hanging away from the fence. I thought it was odd but didn't think much of it, I just replaced the zip ties. To date, I have replaced about 50 zip ties! I've now become obsessed with finding out what is causing these to "break". At first I thought maybe the zip ties were brittle due to heat exposure. I used a pack that had been inside my truck for a couple of years. I purchased new ones and guess what........they are still breaking! Next thought was perhaps some of the neighborhood kids were playing games with me. I have never seen any kids near my backyard, so that wasn't a reasonable explanation.

I noticed squirrels use the top rail as sort of a "highway" across my yard. The area I live in has an enormous population of squirrels and I love seeing them in the yard. I have to admit it never occurred to me the squirrels were chewing through the zip ties. I asked my brother (Brian) his thoughts on who/what may be the culprit. He's convinced it's the squirrels and suggested attaching the mesh fencing but not draping it over the top rail. Brian seems to think they don't like walking across the mesh. I'm not totally convinced the squirrels are the root cause, but decided to taken Brian's advice and adjust the mesh so that it's not over the top rail of the fence. It's been 3 days and not a single broken zip tie. It would appear Brian was correct and my 5 month mystery is now solved.