Archive for November, 2013

PULLING GORSE

PULLING GORSE…That’s a weed wrench my wife is holding.  Since the gorse is so thorny, I cut the branches with the chainsaw and she pulls the stumps out with the weed wrench.  It’s much easier than using the pick and shovel method.

Since both sets of grandchildren were occupied by both sets of inlaws and the weather was great, we decided to spend time with the gorse.  What is gorse?  A noxious nuisance with spiny thorns, introduced by an Irishman in 1873.

No fighting traffic, no camping out at stores, and no taking part in the consumerism circus.

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Oregon Grape-Holly

Oregon Grape-Holly blooming in late November

Most visitors to the post office go to get their mail.  These visitors go to get nectar.  The Oregon Grape Holly is in full bloom, offering nectar and nectar is what they got.  Honeybees, bumblebees, even a couple of green hummingbirds partake in the feast.

What is the importance of nectar?   My Biodiversity Garden states “Nectar is the fuel for our pollinators such as solitary bees, bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, moths and bats. It is the only source of energy and without it, the pollinators cannot fly. Nectar is secreted by nectaries within the flower.”

According to Dave’s Gardens  Mahonia Aquifolium blooms in mid spring.  This is late November!  The plant is growing against a brick wall, facing south, during an unseasonably dry autumn.  In any case, the wild pollinators love it.

November 24th...This honeybee is getting nectar from an early blooming Oregon Grape Holly

November 24th…This honeybee is getting nectar from an early blooming Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia Aquifolium)

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March 23, 2013 ...mounted  on solar wall awaiting the hatching.

March 23, 2013…mounted on solar wall awaiting the hatching.  Home made wooden nesting boxes on bottom, purchased plastic box on top.

May 6, 2013...10 tubes filled so far.

May 6, 2013…10 tubes filled so far.

Mid June...18 Tubes are filled.  I should take them down carefully and place them in the house.  It looks like some predation is taking place.

Mid June…18 Tubes are filled.   It looks like some predation is taking place,  I should move them carefully to the house, standing them in the same orientation so they can finish their metamorphisis.

Mason bees are solitary bees but they also prefer to live close to each other.  The females each nest in their own tubes and do not help each other.  They only raise one generation a year.

The life cycle of a Mason bee according to Our Native Bees, A day or two after mating the females begin searching for new nest sites, such as insect holes bored in wood, plant canes, gaps in siding, masonry weep holes and, of course, Plan Bee Houses, if they’re lucky enough to find one!

Each female constructs her own brood cells using mud (Orchard Mason Bees) or leaf pieces (Leafcutter Bees) to partition each brood cell.  She forages for pollen and nectar, and makes a pollen-nectar loaf upon which she deposits one egg.  She then seals the cell with either mud or leaf pieces, and begins the process again, normally making 6 – 7 brood cells in a 6″ deep hole or nesting straw.  About one week later the eggs hatch and the larvae feed until they’ve eaten all their food supply, which takes approximately six weeks. By late June the larvae spin cocoons around themselves and have developed into pupae, or fully-formed adult bees, by late summer.  From September to April they remain dormant in a state of ‘diapause’ until the warm spring temps awaken them and the amazing cycle repeats itself.

By comparison, honeybee worker development is 21 days, egg to adult.

Fun facts from Kym Pokorny of The Oregonian…

Females decide whether to lay a female or male egg. A female lays about three to four male eggs for every two females because males emerge from the nest first and are more likely to end up as dinner for a predator. Since the males have no other job except to fertilize the females, they stick around the entry waiting for a female to emerge.

It takes the female about 15 to 35 trips — with 75 flower visits per trip — to collect enough pollen and nectar to feed one larva. She lays approximately 30 eggs in her lifetime.

Keeping mason bees is one of the easiest method of beekeeping.  What is so amazing about them?  200 mason bees will out-pollinate 2000 honey bees, they will fly at cooler temperatures than honeybees, and rain doesn’t bother them.  Mason bees rarely sting.

How do Mason bees pollinate so well?  Their pollen is gathered ‘dry’ on  the underside of their abdomen.   It’s more easily transferred than the wet pollen of the honeybee.

It’s November now.  The adult bee is fully formed and it’s the time of year to inspect for  Chaetodactylus mites, (not Varroa mites, common on honeybees).  Some people advise to wash the cocoons in a sieve with warm water.  I hesitate to do that, it seems like it might be too rough.  I opt to unroll the tube and gently brush off the debris.

PPulling out a tube, 11-17-13

November 17, 2013…we pull out a tube to inspect for mites.

November 17, 2013...adults are inside these cocoons.  Mud partitions clearly visible.

November 17, 2013…adults are inside these cocoons. Mud partitions clearly visible.

Parchment tubes frame the cocoons which have been brushed clean, no mites seen.

Parchment tubes frame the cocoons which have been brushed clean, no mites seen.

108 Adults this year, smlr11-17-13

108 adults this year.  They look good as compared to last year when we didn’t inspect until just prior to putting out the cocoons in late March.  We have found in this moist area,  the bees seem to prefer the wood nesting blocks as opposed to plastic homes.  They nested in 21 holes and only one in the plastic box.   Last year when I only used the plastic box there was mold in the tubes.  I’m not sure if it was due to the plastic or the length of time that I waited.

The start of the Mason bees this year.

Launching Mason bees in 2014 (from these cocoons)

Dave’s Bees

OSU Extension

Crown Bees

WSU Mason Bee Facts

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Some of the bulbs being planted for the bees

Some of the bulbs being planted for the bees.  I was able to purchase these locally from my favorite nursery, 101 Plants and Gifts.

It’s possible that everyone already knows certain bulbs provide an early nectar source for bees.  I might be new to the game because, well, I’ve never really been overly appreciative of growing flowers.  “They take up space and use precious water.”  Being on a shallow well makes you a water miser.  But these grow during the rainy season.  Some can even be planted in the front lawn, not taking up space or using extra water as in the Siberian Squill.  Being a beekeeper has changed my attitude towards flowers.  Now my motto is, ” You can never have too many (bee-loving) flowers.”

Since I recently broke up a new patch of ground for the Towers of Jewel ‘trees’, I have some extra space I can dedicate to bulbs.  Che Guebuddha,  a blogger from Sweden,  mentioned even more bulbs like the white Snow Drops and the yellow Eranthis.  A quick call to find out I can’t get them locally, but I CAN get them from John Scheepers on the east coast.  I order another 150 more.  Looks like I’ll have to break more ground.  As an after thought I wonder if I have to worry about poisons on the bulbs.  Alicia at the customer service desk of John Scheepers, Inc. assures me “there are no sprays, poisons, or toxins associated with these bulbs.”  Good!  They are going in next weekend.

With the addition of bulbs, we'll provide early nectar as well as summer food.

Newly planted “Tower of Jewel ‘trees.  I’m counting on these plants to grow about 10 feet (3 meters) this spring.  With the addition of bulbs, we’ll be able to provide an early nectar source as well as mid summer nourishment for the honeybees and bumblebees.

12-26-13...Persian Blue Alliums are up already.  I don't know if that's a good thing or not!  I'm protecting this patch because the sub freezing temps are bad for the echium...something I didn't think about when I planted the bulbs. :-(

12-26-13…Drumstick Alliums are up already. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not! I’m protecting this patch because the sub freezing temps are bad for the echium (Tower of Jewels)…something I didn’t think about when I planted the bulbs. 😦

February 5, 2014...Grape Hyacinth and 15 Drumstick Allium are up.  Giant Snowdrops just breaking.

February 5, 2014…Grape Hyacinth and 15 Drumstick Allium are up. Giant Snowdrops just breaking.

February 5, 2-14...close up of Grape Hyacinth.  My wife says I planted them too close together.  She might be right.

February 5, 2014…close up of Grape Hyacinth. My wife says I planted them too close together. She might be right.

 

 

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November 14...I finished her 'bird house' bonnet.  I hope she likes it.

November 14…I finished her ‘bird house’ bonnet and set it on her head last night after all the foragers were in.   I hope she likes it.

A closer look reveals the latest in the twigs and moss fashion.

A closer look reveals the latest in the twigs and moss fashion.

The bonnet fits on this quilt box filled with myrtlewood shavings.

The bonnet fits on this quilt box filled with myrtlewood shavings.  The quilt box keeps the ‘hive scent.’  The sides of the bonnet block the wind from entering the top crack between the quilt box and the top of the hive…the place the bees use to enter and leave the hive at this time.

It was not 'her style' and she was not afraid to complain about it.  "It's too plain," she says.  "I want something unique, like I am."

I had tried to go the ‘easy way,’ by using a Warre cover, but it wasn’t  ‘her style’ and she wasn’t afraid to complain about it. “It’s too plain,” she says. “I want something unique, like I am.”

This was the only way I could think of to cut off the

Since the bees were not using this mouth entrance, I wanted to reduce the amount of cold winter air blowing  into the hive.  My wife says I’m not allowed to make any snide comments about it.

Meet Bee-atrice…

The inside info on Bee-atrice

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But they ARE echium ‘trees’;  more specifically, Towers of Jewels.

I spaded the this patch of turf, then kept finding more and more transplants to put in.

I spaded the this patch of turf, then kept finding more and more transplants to put in.

Last year the only one I had grew 10 feet (3 meters) in a single year.  The bumblebees loved it.  They worked it mid May til mid September.  I kept thinking about collecting seeds, then forgot.  Not to worry, I’ve got plenty of ‘upstarts’ now.

If I ever had any doubts that the Tower of Jewels would throw seeds, those doubts have vanished.  Self-seeded echium in garlic bed.

If I ever had any doubts that the Tower of Jewels would throw seeds, those doubts have vanished.      I’ve got to get these out of here to plant garlic.  If I don’t transplant them, my wife has threatened to ‘toss’ them.  Why?  We have so many.

The plants don't have big root balls.   Hope they take.

The plants don’t have big root balls. Hope they take.

These look a little wilty.

October 20, hummm, they look a little wilty.  I better water them.

November 9, 2013...They are starting to look better after I trimmed the lower leaves. What are the tires for?  They are to hold up the tarp to protect them from freezing.  Not too hard to cover them when they are this short.

November 9, 2013…They are starting to look better after I trimmed the lower leaves.
What are the tires for? They are to hold up a tarp to protect them from freezing.

November 13...Echium in the sun, looks good.

November 13…Echium in the sun, looks good.  This will be the area I’ll plant some of my “Bulbs for the Bees,”  Snowdrops, Winter Aconite, and Siberian Scilla.

According to Palmbob, at Dave’s garden, trying to transplant it, ends up killing it, but these are still growing almost a month after transplanting.    The Tower of Jewels is a member of the Boraginaceae family which includes borage (grows all year here) and comfrey which I planted 40 years ago and is still coming back.  I’m hoping these will grow to be tall nectar sources for bees and butterflies.

11-24-13...I've had to take drastic action for the cold weather.  Bags of leaves hold up the tarp, tires hold it down.

11-24-13…I’ve had to take drastic action for the cold weather. Bags of leaves hold up the tarp, tires hold it down.

12-26-13...These echium have definitely taken a hit from the sub freezing temps we've been experiencing for a couple of weeks.  I hope they make it.

12-26-13…These echium have definitely taken a hit from the sub freezing temps we’ve been experiencing for a couple of weeks. I hope they make it.

February 5, 2014...Five out of six have survived so far.  These sub freezing nights are NOT helping.  I cover them with blankets and a plastic tarp every night.

February 5, 2014…Five out of six have survived so far. These sub freezing nights are NOT helping. I cover them with blankets and a plastic tarp every night.

February 5, 2014...new growth means it's still alive!  More cold nights forecast so I've got to keep them protected.

February 5, 2014…new growth means it’s still alive! More cold nights forecast so I’ve got to keep them protected.

Feb. 5, 2014...These four echium are more slightly more protected.  They were put here as a back up (Plan Bee)

Feb. 5, 2014…These four echium in the backyard are slightly more protected. They were put here as a back up (Plan Bee).  I didn’t think it was a very good spot because of the shade, but they are doing the best of the bunch.

12-29-14...I shot these  back yard echium to show the progress they have made.  No blossoms in 2014 means they will blossom in 2015 (if they make it through the winter without frost damage.

12-29-14…I shot these backyard echium to show the progress they have made. No blossoms in 2014 means they will blossom in 2015 (if they make it through the winter without frost damage.)

March 9, 2015...Is this the year the echium will bloom?  I sure hope so.  It's putting on a spurt of growth.

March 9, 2015…Is this the year the echium will bloom? I sure hope so. It’s putting on a spurt of growth.

February 23, 2014...five echium still hanging on, barely.

February 23, 2014…five echium still hanging on, barely.

February 23, 2014...This poor echium plant suffered in the cold temps, but it's still showing signs of life.

February 23, 2014…This poor echium plant suffered in the cold temps, but it’s still showing signs of life.  Footnote…it didn’t make it.

June 16, 2014...Three echiums made it through the winter, but it looks like they are not going to bloom this year.  Sometimes it's the second year and sometimes it's the third year.  It looks like I'm going to have to wait a year.

June 16, 2014…Three echiums made it through the winter, but it looks like they are not going to bloom this year. Sometimes it’s the second year and sometimes it’s the third year. I guess I’m going to have to wait a year.  😦

12-29-14...There are still 3 echium plants going into winter, although one looks a little sick.  I wanted to shoot a photo before I covered them up with tarps prior to the big freeze this week.

12-29-14…There are still 3 echium plants going into winter, although one looks a little sick. I wanted to shoot a photo before I covered them up with tarps prior to the big freeze this week.

March 9...This echium also has been adding height.  I notice it most when I try to pull the tarp over the top to protect it from frost.

March 9…This echium has also been adding height.  I started noticing it when I tried to pull the tarp over the top to protect it from frost.  We haven’t seen any bud starts yet.

March 19...I just noticed the tallest echium (in the picture above) is starting to send out blossoms.  Hooray!

March 19…I just noticed the tallest echium (in the picture above) is starting to send out bud starts. Hooray!

July 14, 2015...In the spring, we enlarged this bed and planted some bee-loving plants along with the echium.

July 14, 2015…In the spring, we enlarged this bed and planted some bee-loving plants along with the Towers of Jewels echium plants shown in the background.

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Sweet Thunder provides the delightful musical background for this video of hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies at work in my garden on the Oregon Coast.

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