May 23

Make Sure Inspect Your Hives Every Two Weeks

Lena’s hive two weeks ago.

Lena Rocks – Discovers Missing Queen and Replaces

Yep folks, it is true.  A brand new set of bees and when Lena inspected her hive this past Saturday she New there was a problem….she had listened closely, read her book, and knew what to look for.  Her inspection showed less bees, no eggs or larva, and just a bit of capped brood.  When she reported this to me I was in the mountains and asked Erin, (now in her third year of beekeeping with me) to have a look and she confirmed what I suspected.  Sheknew what had to be done and who to contact (she had accompanied me to pick up our bees this year) and helped Lena locate a new queen before they even contacted me.

Yesterday I observed as Lena properly inserted her new queen.  She will be going back this Saturday to see if her girls have released her.  All this to remind you all that the number one cause of hive failure with new bee keepers is not completing inspections and knowing how to determine if their Queen was healthy and present.  Lena has done her homework.  How about you?  We all need to be doing inspections every two weeks to determine the health of our hives and making sure we have a queen who is producing.  I suggest we all go back and read in our Backyard Beekeeper text, especially the sections on hive inspections and how to determine if our queens are present and doing their job.  Hats off to Erin Denison for her help and guidance.  I am now back in town and if anyone needs me to help with a hive inspection, please do not hesitate to call.

With all the rain we definitely need to consider putting feeders back on new bees as the nectar will be quite diluted.  My new bees are really taking in the sugar water and so are The Blacks and Lena’s girls!

Bee the best Beekeeper you can Bee!

When something needs to be done for your bees, do it right away.  Lena did and she will succeed because she has already proven herself a very serious student of beekeeping!

Erin Denison celebrates the replenishment of bees in the Smith Educational Apiary with her instructor Mr. G!

May 14

May 14 – New Bees Update

Week 1

We have completed week one with our new bees and reports are that they are doing very well.  Some have found their bees are taking sugar water well, others have found they are ignoring it.  If the are ignoring the sugar water, they have found plenty of sources of nectar.  For now, stop feeding.  If they are taking the sugar water, please continue feeding as long as they are taking it well.

The addition of Honeybee healthy is a great product to add to your sugar water.  You can save some money and make your own using the recipe I have given near the top of the lesson assignments.  Use good essential oils.  If you need a source for this I have a good friend, Carol Golden, who sells essential oils and I have found them to be superior to those you can get on the internet.  Just let me know if you need her contact information.  She also reads our blog, so you could just give her a shout here on our blog in the comments section.

Please send me a weekly update on how your bees are doing.  One of the best ways is through the comment section here on our blog so all may learn and share their wisdom with one another.

Bee safe and bee happy!


May 10

First Native American Honeybee


An article posted on the ScienceNews Web site today indicates that North America did, too, have a honey bee.

For nearly 400 years, we’ve been told that the honey bee (genus Apis) did not exist on this continent until 1622. That’s when the colonists brought it over from Europe.The Native Americans dubbed it “the white man’s fly.”

But wait!

Honey bees existed at least 14 million years ago in North America, according to a fossil record recently identified by paleontologist-entomologist Michael Engle of the University of Kansas, Lawrence. The fossilized female worker bee, now at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, was unearthed in paper shale from Stewart Valley, west-central Nevada. The geological epoch: Middle Miocene.

Engle, the lead author of research published in the May 7th edition of the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, says the bee is definitely a honey bee. It has the distinctive hairy eyes, wing patterns and barbs on the stinger.

Unfortunately, this ancient bee–which Engle and his colleagues have named Apis nearctica–no longer exists. The researchers say it’s most similar to the extinct species, Apis armbrusteri Zeuner from the Miocene epoch of southwestern Germany.

Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976 and a noted authority on honey bees, tells us that “hairy eyes” is a distinctive feature of the honey bee. “All honey bees,” he said, “have hairy eyes.”

The Nevada bee certainly isn’t the oldest known record of a fossilized bee. The oldest known bee is 100 million years old, found embedded in amber in Burma back in 2006.

But Apis nearctica is proof that North America was a native range of the honey bee. In the journal article, Engle says that “honey bees were likely truly absent” from North America duirng the Pliocense and Pleistocene, “not becoming reintroduced until the major European colonization of the New World in the early 17th century.”

Fact is, the honey bee lived here, but it did not survive.

Which begs the question–OK, we have to ask–Was it some kind of a colony collapse disorder (CCD)?

This 14-million-old fossil, unearthed in Nevada, is a honey bee, proving that North America did have a honey bee before colonists brought the European honey bee here in 1622. (Photo courtesy of Michael Engle)
American Bee
May 7

Turning Failure Into SUCCESS…Our New Bees Arrive!

Erin Denison (3rd Year Beekeeper) and Mr. G (Apiary Manager and Instructor) celebrate the arrival of our new BEES!

On Saturday, May 6, a new chapter began in our beloved Smith Educational Apiary. This past winter we all suffered devastating losses in our apiaries…and this was a national trend as well. I lost 10 of 12 hives while most of my students lost all of their hives. What to do? What to do? No question, we must repopulate and begin in earnest to learn from last year and become better bee Sustainers. This photolog is dedicated to this renewal which began this past Saturday…

Erin and Scott arrive safely in Albemarle at 10:30 AM. This shop is owned by RL Whitley and he is quite the beekeeper. His store is called the Albemarle Bee Company.

RL builds a good bit of his woodenware in his shop attached to his store. He has a complete line of bee supplies, and most importantly he raises and sells his own bees and queens.

This particular apiary is located directly behind his shop on US 52. He also has apiaries on a number of Stanly County Farms as well as his own home.

Time to load up the van with our new bees. These are 5 frame “Nucs”, complete with queen, bees, brood, eggs, honey, and nectar. It is a mini hive ready to become a big hive. This is the best way for new Beekeepers to begin . You can read more about this on our blog in the Lessons section.

On our way back I happened to pass right by my old neighborhood and School…just had to drive by and see the old place and was amazed at the additions and how well the old neighborhood was doing.  Yep…the childhood home of Mr. G!

We had planned to get to the Apiary a bit early, but then we ran into some wonderful Stanly County Strawberries just outside Locust. We stopped and purchased 5 gallons!

Finally arrived right on time…1:00 PM, as our fellow Beekeepers cheered us on. Note the beautiful new Apaiary fence!

I forgot, we stopped for lunch as well. This is Whispering Pines BBQ, just 5 miles down the road from the Albemarle Bee Company. They have been in business since 1945 and are one of the premiere Eastern BBQ places in the state. Yes, there is a Big Ol woodpile out back…first sign that this place is the real deal. There was a sandwich calling my name and hush puppies grabbed hold of Erin. We got everything to go and ate happily all the way back to Mount Holly!

Once we arrived we set to work with a new Apiary design so Mrs. Smith could view and enjoy our bees more easily.  Getting hives stable and properly pitched is just a small part of setting up new hives.

Now the real work begins as 2nd and 3rd year students work together to teach our newest bee Sustainer, Lena Chatman. Thanks to my experience with the Gaston County Bee Association I knew my job was now one of support and staying in the background as our veterans began to share and teach our new student. There is no better way to reinforce and learn than by teaching. I was very proud of them and they did a magnificent job!

Lena shows she is adept and unafraid to handle her bees!  We found these nucs of bees to be the best bees we have had yet.  Shelly Felder of the Honey Hole in West Jefferson has been trying to get me to slow down and order the late bees of Spring.  Looking at the fullness and strength of these 5 frame hives (we call nucs for a “nucleus”of bees)…I now have understanding of why she wanted me to do this.  Thank you Shelly!.

Except for placement of her telescoping top, Lena has completed her first installation of bees.

Each year Erin has carved out time to be with me on this yearly Spring journey to fetch bees for our students.  This year she felt confident enough to become an instructor.  She was absolutely superb and as I listened in, found nothing I would change or could add.  In the end, this is what we most desire….passionate Beekeepers who are willing to share with others and help create another generation of Beekeepers.

Before we left our Smith Apiary, we made a quick check of the demo hive to make sure the new queen had been accepted and incorporated into the hive.  Note how we set the medium down so as to keep the bottom and top cłean.  The burr cone sticking out was safely removed before re-installing the hive.  We keep a small bucket handy for disposal of  beeswax as it is highly valued and can be made into many wonderful,products…just ask Burt’s Bees!

Here is the now empty queen cage which is exactly how we had hoped to find it.

Meet Queen Nora II.  She is the larger, browner bee almost in the center of the above photo.  She is a beauty and has quickly filled our top bar hive with capped brood.  New bees will soon be emerging and this hive will be at full capacity with workers again.


Another look at Queen Nora II in top right of photo .

Big thumbs up as we leave the Smith Educational Apiary and head a few blocks away to the Bobby and Melanie Black Backyard Apiary.  Lena is all smiles in this last photo and why not?  She has installed her first hive of bees.

As soon as we arrived, Bobby and I went to work on his first hive which is one of only three that survived this last winter.  Unfortunately, last week we determined there was no queen.  Dandelion Apiary in the Concord countryside provided a new queen and we wanted to check and be sure the queen had been accepted by the hive.

Good news, bees clinging to the outside, but the inside had been vacated by the queen and her subjects.  This is a positive sign she has been accepted.

Melanie and Bobby pose by Queen Estella II before beginning the population of two more brand new hives.

Again, look at all the new brood going into this new hive.  We were also pleased with the gentle nature of every Nuc we opened up and installed today…9 in all.

Bobby demonstrates good form here as he moves slowly and gently with each frame he installs.

Melanie  just loves their bees and shows no fear as she gently removes and installs frames of bees in another new hive.

A small application of smoke calms the bees as installation continues.

Even after all the frames were removed our boxes were still loaded with bees.  Bobby is about to tap the box here, and in the next photo you can see all the additional bees added  to the hive.

Bobby and Melanie are beginning their second year as Beekeepers and no longer wear the badge of novice as they gain knowledge, confidence, and experience.

I think Bobby was surprised at how quickly this install went and is now ready to add the cover to their third hive of bees.

We are ALL SMILES…and well we should be.  Erin hung right in with me and really neither of us had to do much teaching with these two.  Once this photo was completed I was off to Alexis to install my one Nuc of bees on the Sisk Farm.  This brings me back up to two hives there.  I am hopeful I will catch another swarm and add one more hive there before summer is over.

By the time I returned home, I had completed 12 hours of work toward our efforts to establish new hives and repopulate failed hives.  All in all this beekeeper was very tired, and very happy!

Your questions and comments are most welcome.

April 27

QUEENS! QUEENS! QUEENS! Where Are My Queens?

One main reason Beekeepers in early spring and spring can lose their hives is they lose their queen and do not discover it due to lack of Good hive inspections done often enough.  While I have not lost a hive yet this year, I have certainly had issues with my queens.

I am providing the following links for you to use and study to gain understanding of  hive inspections, loss, of your Queen, and how to requeen your hive.  My next lesson will be on hive splits.  Yep, you can save a lot of money and make your own hives if you can gain understanding of how this is done.  I am not an expert, but have my first successful split in my Alexis Apiary.  Watching and learning about your Queen is essential to becoming a good beekeeper.

Beginning Beekeepers:  Lost Queen?  New Queen

Honey Bees When and How to Re Queen a Hive with a new Queen Bee, Queen Replacement

How to tell if hive will accept new mated queen: I demonstrate how

How are queens made reproduced we explain

Bee Hive Inspection – New Queens!


April 25

Gaston County Beekeepers Association Meeting -April 24

Good Evening Fellow Beekeepers and supporters of our beloved honeybees.  I have finally made it to another GCBA meeting and I always like to bring you along with me.   I will be putting my rough notes here for you to enjoy.

Carolina Lavender Farm is here and offering to let us set our hives there.  Interesting, but I am not sure how far away it is.  They have a Facebook page and it might be interesting to read up on them.

Carolina Lavender Farm

Tonight’s Meeting is about good pollinator plants for your gardens and yards.  Before the program begins I recall NC State publish a list of the top 25 native pollinators in North Carolina.  The link is below as well as one for Carolina Pollinator Garden:

Top 25 Native Pollinator Plants for North Carolina

Carolina Pollinator Garden

Ron Thompson is our speaker for tonight and I just now remembered that he presented last year which means I have already taken notes on this session and you can find them in the April or May blog.




April 23

Spring 2018 Has Arrived!

New Hives ready to paint!


Good Morning Bee Team Members and Friends of the Frances Smith Apiary.

We would like to welcome Lena Chatman as our newest Bee Sustainer.   Our current class of Bee Sustainers continuing with us, number of hives, and current hive locations include:

Lena Chatman – 1 new hive at Apiary

Erin and Chris Denison – Establishing 2 new hives at Apiary

Bobby and Melanie Black – 1 STRONG Surviving hive and establishing two more hives – all at home.

Leigh Brinkley – Reestablish a new hive at home

Sean Moore – Establishing new hive at Apiary and a new hive at home

Andy Latham – 1 surviving hive at Apaiary, 2 hives at home

Joe, Irene, and Rachel Pharr – Planning to reestablish their hive at the Apiary with a swarm.

Scott Griffin – 3 hives at Apiary (possibly adding a 4th), , 5  hives at my Alexis Apiary.

If any of this is incorrect , please let me know.  

I will be establishing an evening meeting in my home in the near future.  If you have dates during the week that you cannot come during April 30 to May 11….please let me know via email or text.  This will help me establish our meeting  date.  I may consider the coffee shop as our place to meet as well.  Our major discussion topic will concern the number of failed hives this year and what we can do to give our bees a better chance of survival.

By now you should have completed several hive inspections on your existing bees and cleaned out your failed hives so you can receive your new bees in May.  If you are reestablishing your hive at the Apiary, be sure to clean out and if you took the hive home, bring it back to the Apiary.  If you need a new location, I need to be there to show you what is available.  I am always ready to schedule a joint hive inspection with you.  I walk a new member through the entire process, hands on the first year.  After this I continue to be your mentor as long as you want me to do so.  Just remember to ask when you need help or have a question.  When you are at the Apiary with fellow Beekeepers, help each other and do some “bee talking”!  This is one of the BEST ways to learn.

Chris Denison is designing double hive benches for placement of hives.  We hope to build these soon so that you can begin to make use of them and will make our Apiary more beautiful….more uniform.

Thanks to all!  Bee Sustainers let me know when you have read this blog!



February 17

Many Bees Lost This Year

Have you been checking your bees?  Yesterday was a wonderful opportunity to do so.  Sadly, I checked all of my hives last week and have lost 7 hives.  I know that three of our bee Sustainers still have good bee populations including Bobby and Melanie Black and Shawn.  Lost hives include: Scott – 7, Keli – 1, Irene – 1, Erin – 2.  I am unsure of Andy’s hives as of this writing.  If any of you want to reorder bees I need to know ASAP…like this weekend.

Cause of death includes cold and starvation (even if you have plenty of honey in the hive, cold weather prevents the cluster from moving up.  You must open the hive and move honey stores down to them.  This was a dillima as the weather so cold for so long we could not open our hives.

Right now I have an order for the Blacks that includes a second hive setup and bees.

January 22

Cold Weather and our Bees – I Have Lost 2 Hives!

Though there is little you can do, checking on your hive on days when temperature is above the mid 50 range is important.  You should see activity as bees come outside to rid their body of waste, stretch their wings, and as always….look for food sources.  So far I have lost 2 hives due to this cold, both strong hives going in.  Interestingly, the 2 weaker hives (swarms I caught in late fall) are surviving.  I did find opportunity before the cold hit in December to add pollen paddies to my hives as an extra food source.  I have lost one hive in Alexis and one hive at my house.  All of my hives are still alive at the Smith Apiary.  Unfortunately, some of you appear to have lost your hives at the Apiary based on the last check I made.  I plan to go out again today and take another look.

When winter rolls around, bears hibernate and birds fly south, but what about the bees? Like every other creature on earth, bees have their own unique ways of coping with cold temperatures during the winter season. One way bees prepare for the winter is by gathering a winter reserve of honey.

Honeybees head to the hive when temperatures drop into the 50s. As the weather becomes cool, the honeybees gather in a central area of the hive and form a “winter cluster.” A winter cluster is much like a huddle you may have seen at a football game — except it lasts all winter!

Bees have one main job in the winter — to take care of the queen bee. This means they must keep her safe and warm.

In order to do so, worker bees surround the queen and form a cluster with their bodies. The worker bees then flutter their wings and shiver. This constant motion and continuous use of energy is how the bees keep the inside temperature of the hive warm.

In order to keep shivering, the bees must have enough honey. This is how they get their energy. One of the most important jobs of the beekeeper in the winter is to make sure the honey supply stays full so the bees can keep shivering.

Though the queen is always at the center of the cluster, worker bees rotate from the outside to the inside of the cluster, so no individual worker bee gets too cold. The temperature of the cluster ranges from 46 degrees at the exterior to 80 degrees at the interior. The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes.

In order to produce body heat and stay alive, honeybees must rely on honey for energy. Some studies have found that hives of honeybees will consume up to 30 pounds of stored honey over the course of a single winter. On warmer days, bees will leave the cluster briefly in order to eliminate body waste outside the hive.