Saturday, August 31, 2013

September 2013 Newsletter

September 2013 Newsletter

Editors:  Gina Gallucci and Linda Tillman

Randy Ingram, Supervisor, Jimmy Carter's Farm National Park and DeWayne Pitts, Heart of Georgia beekeeper who is providing bees for the park   Photo by Bear Kelley

Message from the President

It's National Honey Month so let's all honor our passion for bees and beekeeping by attending the state beekeeping meeting in Gwinnett County.  

Scheduled for the state meeting are the annual Honey Show, in which the winners receive monetary awards, and the election of state officers.  One of the highlights of the event is recognition of Beekeeper of the Year, an honor given to one of our deserving members.  Fourteen vendors have registered to sell beekeeping related items at the meeting. 

Later this fall in October an additional honey judging event is scheduled for the Georgia National Fair in Perry .  Please encourage your fellow bee keepers to join our organization and attend the state meeting as we continue to grow.

Jerry Edwards,  President


National Honey Bee Day
by Bear Kelley, VP GBA

Saturday, August 17 was National Honey Bee Day and many places around the country celebrated the day with honey shows and bee presentations.  Not to be outdone, the management of the Jimmy Carter National Historic site put on a show as well with the Heart of Georgia Beekeeping Association at President Jimmy Carter's boyhood farm, now a national park.  Bryan Payne, President of Heart of Georgia Beekeepers Association along with several other members, set up displays, an observation hive and a Power Point presentation in the old barn.  Visitors were treated to two presentations by Bryan, Jesse McCurdy and Dewayne Pitts on the importance and benefits of beekeeping and how to  get started.

Jesse McCurdy teaching about bees at the Jimmy Carter National Historic site on August 17.

Jimmy Carter's Farm is a National Park and one of the parks in Georgia that now has a beekeeping program.  The public education available through this program is invaluable.  We should all be pushing and supporting the program to have beekeeping in your local national park.  If your club has not contacted your local park, form a committee and go to work!


Finally, the theory and practice of beekeeping is dynamic, not static.  Our knowledge of bee biology and management grows exponentially with the passing years.  Read, attend bee meetings, share your knowledge and strive to be a good citizen in the fraternity of beekeepers. “

Dr. Keith Delaplane
First Lessons in Beekeeping

Street Cred:  

Sunday, 04 August 2013 08:30
Written by Analia Manriquez

In the study, 25 men took a drink of four tablespoons of honey in a 16 ounce glass of water daily for five weeks. This made the levels of antioxidants in their blood increase dramatically. Other research from this lab has shown that the darker the honey, the better it was at increasing antioxidant levels.


Ask 10 Beekeepers a Question…..

A Non-invasive Technique for Monitoring Colonies
by Tom Rearick

It would be nice to have a device that could tell you about the health of any honey bee colony in your bee yard. The perfect device has not been invented yet, but there is a non-invasive, hand-held device that you can build for less than $50 that can tell you quite a lot:
  • which colonies are thriving and which are not
  • which colonies require feeding and how much - Note: more colonies perish from starvation than CCD.
  • when major nectar flows start and stop
  • when to add supers during a nectar flow
  • how colonies & seasons compare from one year to the next
  • the population of the swarm that just flew away
By understanding the processes that account for weight gain and loss and knowing that 3500 bees weight roughly a pound, a hive scale can provide objective evidence of what is going on in your colonies.
I purchased a cast iron platform scale from Craigslist a few years ago, refinished it, and placed a hive on it. It is great for taking lots of measurements in one day but the platform scale is expensive and only practical for weighing a single hive. Over time, mud dabber wasps, rust, and critters reduce the accuracy and precision of platform scales. I like to put my hives on screened bottom boards and on stands that lift them off of the ground – but you can't do that easily with a platform scale.

Then I discovered a $16 electronic luggage scale on eBay and wondered if I could use it to weigh a hive. The result is my original pry scale design – a contraption that would make Rube Goldberg proud. It is basically a 3 prong fork that is inserted into a slot in the back of a hive. The outermost two prongs push down while the middle prong lifts and tilts the back of hive upward perhaps half an inch. That lifting force is measured by the luggage scale and is approximately one half the total weight of the hive. That enables my luggage scale with its normal maximum load of 125 lbs to weigh a 250 lb. hive.

Calibration of the pry scale shows precision to be within 1.4 lbs. of the correct weight 68% of the time. It may not be as accurate as a newly calibrated platform scale but it does not loose accuracy over time and is accurate enough that plotting the relative change in daily hive weigh provides valuable insights.

The pry scale was built for $47.22 and weighs about the same as a bathroom scale. The luggage scale came from eBay and just about everything is found in Home Depot or Lowes. The parts list and building instructions are available online at my BeeHacker blog, or at Beekeepers have used these plans to build pry scales from as far away as France.

To use the pry scale, I approach a hive from the rear.  I don't wear a veil because this is an entirely non-invasive, non-intrusive event.  I insert the three prongs into a slot in the back of the hive, zero out the luggage scale, then push down on the lever. A bubble level and a set screw insure that my measurements are made the same way each time – this improves precision from measurement to measurement. I then write down the gross weight which is entered into a spreadsheet later. The operation takes about 20 seconds and the bees are no wiser. I try to take measurements at the same time every day. This is because a hive in the evening can weigh several pounds more than it did in the morning.

Also on the BeeHacker blog is an interactive and annotated timeline of hive net weights throughout the year ( To calculate net weights, woodenware is weighed before it is stacked on the hive and then that weight is subtracted from the gross weight. A spreadsheet makes this easy.  However, what counts is change in weight so you can make really good use of the pry scale even without having the weights of the equipment before bees, wax, honey, etc. were added.


Dear Aunt Bee,

My bees have run away from home.  They were happy one minute with honey and brood.  Then the next time I looked at my hive, they had packed up everything and gone completely away.  I mean they didn't leave a single thing - no dead bodies on the bottom, no honey,  only three or four capped brood cells in the whole hive - gone, gone, gone.  Was I a bad bee mama?  What should I have done?

Signed,    Gone but Not Forgotten

Dear Gone but Not Forgotten,

Sometimes bees abscond.  This is different from swarming.  They completely leave the hive and take as much in their honey stomachs as they can carry.  We can't ask them but the assumptions are that they might leave for different reasons.  Sometimes if the hive is overrun with small hive beetles, the bees will leave.  Sometimes if the nectar flow has dried up and they can't find any stores anywhere, they will leave.  In most cases absconding takes place when there is no nectar flow and the bees just go somewhere and die…instead of dying at home.

Signed,  Your Sad Aunt Bee     (contributed by Linda Tillman)


Interview with Linda Tillman, Julia Mahood, and Noah Macey, all Master Beekeepers, on their Beekeeping Trip to Lithuania

Done with Gina Gallucci by email and phone

Linda, what made you say, "Yes" to this emailed travel advertisement?
Going to Lithuania on a beekeeping tour sounded like a great adventure.  And I love doing just about anything with Julia and Noah, so when they wanted to do it, I was all in.  We had no idea until we got to the country how significant bees and beekeeping are to the Lithuanian culture.  

Julia, were you interested in going right away and did you have any reservations about have your son Noah join you?
I thought it sounded a little off the beaten path, which always interests! No reservations about Noah going, quite the opposite in fact!

Noah, had you traveled internationally and if so where?  Have you been to any former Soviet block countries?
I’d traveled internationally a few times before, but never to Europe and never to any former Soviet countries.

All three, please tell us anything you were expecting from Lithuania in terms of beekeeping practices or honey production?
Linda: I assumed they kept bees pretty much like we do but we found the traditional boxes they use are not Langstroth boxes but instead are like huge trunks to hold the beehive and keep it warm during the winter.  On top of the colony inside the trunk-like hive box, they keep a stuffed pillow like you’d find on a sofa.  I asked if they picked these up on the side of the road and they said they made them just for the “family” which is what they call the bee colony.  
Julia: In addition to the old fashioned hives, they had more US like Langstroth hives, but they were built with thick walls and insulated to help with the harsh winter. They also put food grade plastic wrap over the top of the top box, before the top goes on.  In most ways, though,  it was pretty much like the US way of beekeeping. 


Linda, tell us about what kind of Lithuanian food you had and if you got any recipes?
The food in Lithuania wasn't remarkable.  They eat a lot of potatoes and fatty meat.  But I loved a "beetroot soup" that we had several times - it was like a cold cucumber soup with beets in it and was PINK!  I came home to the US, found a recipe for it online, and made it for myself within a day or two of coming back.

Noah, how were you received regarding your being a 16 year old Master Beekeeper? 
Our credentials didn’t impress anyone much--the people we spoke with assumed anyone who would embark on a beekeeping tour of a country only slightly larger than West Virginia would already have ample bee knowledge.  Also, I’m crotchety far beyond my years, so they probably thought I was older.

Linda, how many apiaries did you visit and what was your biggest surprise or impressions?
We visited three apiaries and a beekeeping museum with live hives.  The most interesting apiary was set up in an historical park to demonstrate ancient beekeeping.  The beekeeper there shinnied up trees using a hand-braided rope and a homemade wooden seat and pulley apparatus so that he could inspect beehives that were fifteen feet up.  We also visited two beekeepers - one commercial with apiaries near Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, and the other, a sideliner with hives near the Latvian border.  Both of these different beekeepers invited us into their homes at the end of our apiary tour and fed us Lithuanian cheese, honey, mead and other treats.  The beekeepers in Lithuania face the same issues of varroa that we do, and the issue of safe nectar sources for their bees.  

Julia, what is their treatment approach?  Did you speak to anyone regarding your thoughts regarding chemical free beekeeping and if so, what was the response?
The beekeepers we visited treated for Varroa. One used oxalic acid and drone foundation to cull the mite population. The other used something in a fogger, Amitraz,  I think. Lucky Lithuanians don’t have small hive beetles!  The first beekeeper we met seemed indignant that we didn’t use chemicals in our hives.

Noah, what did you think about this exchange?
I think words like "spirited" and "lively" are the politically correct terms.  It was a conversation between a very traditional beekeeper and a very non-traditional beekeeper, and I assume that both parties must have sounded more hostile post-translation.

Noah, what can you tell us about Lithuanian beekeeping history and  culture?
           People have been beekeeping in Lithuania since prehistory. As in most areas, honey hunters slowly coaxed the bees down from the trees over thousands of years as technology improved, first in the form of carved-out logs and then in the more modern box hive. At one point, Lithuania was the biggest producer of beeswax in all of Europe.
           Lithuanians had two bee gods, Babilas and Austeja, whom they worshipped for thousands of years before the country converted to Christianity. For many years, the beekeeper served as the village mediator as he was assumed to have the most calm, patient demeanor, and during that same time period, it was customary for villagers to take off their hats as they passed an apiary.

Julia, are you able to see more similarities or differences  between U.S. and Lithuania Beekeepers?  
Beekeeping in general is more prevalent and respected in Lithuania. We traveled the country from North to South and saw beehives everywhere.

All three, could you envision hosting beekeepers from around the world for a Georgia area beekeeping tour - you know, in your spare time?
Part of the reason the tour was so interesting and so much fun was that the countryside was just gorgeous in Lithuania.  Every village had a pair of storks, for example and there were wildflowers everywhere.  We just don’t have that to show people, although I think visiting beekeepers might be interested in how we manage bees in an urban area.

All three, what is the most important or interesting thing you learned because you said yes to this opportunity? 
Linda:  I loved learning about how beekeeping affected the culture and language of Lithuania and I loved communicating with the local beekeepers.  One night in a spa town, Julia and I each had a honey massage!  With real honey!  That was a first for me.

Noah:  I found learning about the methods of early honey-hunters to be especially fascinating.

Julia:  It was interesting to visit a country that had been occupied by the Soviets, and to learn about their history.  Seeing a different way of life, living with beekeeping as an important part of the community, was really nice. 

{Note from Gina:  For those who don't know, Linda Tillman keeps Linda T’s Bees Blog and has several pages devoted to this experience.  Just search Lithuania on her blog.}


“The Biology of the honeybee is constructed around using energy and material from the environment, and organizing these to ensure the propagation daughter colonies of the highest quality.  This insight is the key to understanding the amazing achievement and performance of honeybees.

Dr. Jürgen Tautz


Upcoming Honey Shows
Ordered by Date

Metro Atlanta Beekeepers:  Picnic, Auction, and Honey Show on September 15.  Details here.

GBA Honey show at GBA Fall Meeting at Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center in Buford, GA Sept 20 - 21.  Details here.

South Carolina Foothills Heritage Fair, Oct 1 - 5 in Westminster, SC.  Honey entries due 9/28 or 9/29.  Details Contact Jeff Blackwell

WELSHfest and Honey Show, March 15, 2014.  Rockmart, GA

Bee Club of the Month

Because everyone should come to GBA's Fall Meeting in Gwinnett, we are not featuring a club of the month.  All of our Georgia clubs are the clubs of this month and should be represented in Gwinnett at the fall meeting.

Survey Results from August

We wanted to know how you learned to keep bees.  21 of you answered our survey.  Of those who answered:

63.2% of you read a lot of books and articles
47.4% of you took a short course
42.1% of you studied web sites, blogs and forum sites on the Internet
21.1% of you found a mentor
10.5% of you learned from a family member who is a beekeeper
5.3% of you took a certified beekeeping course

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Please have fun and participate in this monthly one question survey by clicking on the link in blue.


Recipe of the Month

The featured recipe this month can be entered into the Honey Contest at the fall meeting of GBA.  It must be made by this recipe and submitted by noon on the first day of the meeting (Sept 20):

Plain Honey Cake

2 cups self-rising flour
8 oz honey by weight
9 ½ Tablespoons butter
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
Cream together butter and honey. Beat eggs well and add alternately with sifted flour and salt to 
the honey/butter mixture. If needed add a little milk.
Bake in a greased 8 inch round cake pan at 325 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until a tooth pick 
comes out clean. 

No additions to the Honey Cake Recipe Please!


Beekeeper Bytes

Georgia Beekeeper Christine Fahrnbauer was featured in Enjoy! Cherokee.  You can read the article about her here.
Steve Page sent us this very interesting link explaining the long shelf life of honey (think Egyptian tombs!).  Thanks, Steve, for your ongoing contributions to this newsletter!
The Final Buzz

This newsletter is at its best when we get lots of contributions.  Please send us your stories, your photos, your beekeeping news.  We love to share your material with beekeepers all over the state.  We also publish this newsletter online here.  People are coming from other places to read it.  Since Gina and I began editing it, there have been 3344 visits to our web publication of Spilling the Honey!  Although most people who visit our page are from Georgia, we've had visitors from Virginia, Alabama, California and even Australia in the last month.  We'd love to put your news and information in the newsletter to share with others as well.  Let us hear from you.

                                                      Linda and Gina  

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