Posts Tagged ‘Wild pollinators’

4999 Turnip cover crop blooming, 4-21-17 copy

April 21…The turnips are blooming.  Why is that important?  Because the bees are getting the pollen.  Pollen that is high in protein, with all the essential amino acids, and is highly digestible.  Last October, we planted the turnips as a cover crop and intended the blossoms to mature early in spring, but we didn’t realize that the pollen was so nourishing.  Apparently, the bees do well on it, so well it can lead to swarming.  I just hope I can capture the swarm.

5003 Bee pollinating turnip flowers, 4-21-17.JPG+++

Pollen sacs full. (A lucky shot with an iPhone)

5001 Turnip flower bee,.JPG++++

4966 Pat's Warre Hive, bees outside, 4-18-17.JPG

For several days (when it’s not raining) the bees have appeared on the front of the hive.  I think they’re waiting for a sunny day.  “Be patient, little critters, good weather is coming soon.”

Read Full Post »

2830B Mason bee on Meadowfoam, 4-20-16 copy

Late April, for the first time ever, I start seeing Mason bees in the Meadowfoam.

3260 Mason bees + Guidance Mandala, 5-29-16

My sister is a watercolor artist. She gave me her Guidance Mandala because she knows I like bees. I realize Mason bees don’t fly too far from home, but bees need all the help they can get, so I hung it here near the Mason bee nesting blocks.

3257 Guidance Mandala, 5-29-16

A closer look at the Guidance Mandala. When Vikki paints a mandala she never knows where it will take her. During one of our weekly phone conversations she was inspired to add a circle of bees.

2503 Mason bees set up, 3-6-16, detailed

I set up the nesting blocks on March 6. Then I waited a good three weeks to see any activity. The cocoons had been in the refrigerator since October. You don’t want them emerging too soon because there won’t be enough to eat (or so I have read), but I always hold my breath hoping after five months of ‘chilling,’ they will emerge.

2587 Mason bee, long antenna-male 3-29-16 copy

Finally on March 28, I see a bee. This must be a male. Males have long antenna. They usually emerge first because they are laid last in the tubes (being expendable.) Predators will be able to reach them easily. 😦

2582 Mason bees emerging, 3-28-16 copy

I see them slowly ‘waking up.’ This could be a female. The antennae look shorter.

26 Mason bee tubes filled so far copy

May 19…I start to fill pretty smug. 26 tubes filled already…until I come across this post of Rusty Burlew (of Honeybeesuite) in Washington state.

mason-bee-housing

Rusty says one of these cans will fill up in about three days. I count the number of straws to realize there are close to 100 straws in each can. Either there are more Mason bees in her area or they like the straws in cans better. I’m gonna try this method next year. Photo reprinted with permission from Rusty Burlew.

3147A German wasp on nesting block copy

When I first saw this wasp go into a Mason bee nesting tube I was afraid it would start digging into the tubes. I asked Steve, of “In a beekeeper’s Garden” about this. His reply, “Your wasp is or has all the markings of a vespula germanica (german wasp) which lives in all the northern hemisphere, they are a social wasp so live in nests. they are great pest controllers eating caterpillars , insects and the odd bee (usually weak ones ) they won’t break into your bee tubes :)” In the video, I watch the German Wasp patrolling my garden. I watch until the wasp decides I haven’t gotten video permission from her and chases me away. 🙂

3274A Mason wasp? copy

I think this is a resting Potter Wasp. I’m not sure what it’s up to. While I was grabbing my camera it poked into the tube and then emerged for it’s camera debut.

3290 Plum tree loaded, 6-4-16JPG

Want some plums? It looks like the Mason bees have been busy. My Methley trees are loaded with plums. Here are some recipes from Glory Garden.

3260A Mason bees, late May

It’s late May…I haven’t seen any activity for awhile which probably means the Mason bees are finished pollinating for this year. The cocoons are in a very delicate stage right now. I’ll be storing them in a cool inside room to protect them from yellow jackets. In September or October, I’ll remove the tubes from the blocks to store in the frig until next March. (Maybe I’ll have some new housing by then.)

More about Mason bees

Read Full Post »

I love the May garden. Everything is so lush and and green.

3002 Garden looking SW, 5-8-16JPG

May 8…Looking over the garden to the southwest, Sue’s foxgloves (grown from seeds) provide the foreground colors, the volunteer Tower of Jewels (or echium Pininana) to the left, yellow turnip and kale flowers all attract the bees.

3007 Potatoes, peas, cultivator, 5-8-16

The potatoes are up.  I just tilled between the rows with the little cultivator below.

3009 Cultivator, 5-8-16

For several years, we tried to garden without using fossil fuel. We prided ourselves on the ability to spade the garden and then hoe out the weeds. But now we’re several years older. Last month when we were faced with the task of planting potatoes, my wife says, “Let’s get the old Troy-Bilt tiller out.” Yes, it started on the second pull, but it also is waaaay too big for the raised beds. Reverse doesn’t work on it anymore and plus…it uses fossil fuel!!! Enter the battery-powered Greenworks cultivator. It’s easy to use, works well in the raised beds, and USES NO FOSSIL FUELS!

2988 Peas growing outside, first time 20 yrs, 5-6-16

Peas planted outside…first time in about 25 years (because of the deer fence.)  I added a couple of rows of carrots in the middle after I tilled it one more time.

3005 Buckwheat, tomatoes, peas+carrots, potatoes, 5-8-16

Buckwheat is growing well, tomatoes need cages, peas and carrots, potatoes in far back.

2931 Sue plants corn, 5-2-16

May 2…..Sue plants some corn.

2941 Sue plants lettuce, 5-3-16

…and a second batch of lettuce.

2998 Tall lobelia transp. 5-8-16

Just for the fun of it, we bought some giant lobelia (Lobelia fistulosa) for the hummingbirds and bees. A daisy to the left and the Knockout dahlia in the center back. The dahlia has flowers that attract leaf cutter bees (at 1:18)  It’s fun to watch the leaf cutters in action.

3036 Creative drip watering, 5-10-16

II had to get creative with the drip water grid for the squash. I’ve been accused of planting the squash too close together in years past. This time, there are only 5 hills here, where I’ve planted 10 or more hills before. The idea is we will get more if we don’t crowd them. I left the turnip flowers for the bees (and for next year’s seeds)

3034 Drip watering Hubbard, 5-10-16JPG

Drip watering gets the water to the customer without wasting any.

3032 Drip watering squash, 5-10-16

Another look at it…I think these are Sugar Pie Pumpkins.

2944 Hubbard near, pumpkins far, 5-3-16

There’s never enough room for squash. We are trying some ‘container squash’ this year. It’ll trail down over the stump grinding experiment.

3023 Squash barrels, 5-10-16

These squash are up against the fence for a reason. They get the morning and afternoon sun. We might try using the fence to trellis them. The upside…more squash. The downside, I’ve got to water by hand unless I figure out a drip water solution.

Read Full Post »

Standing tall, Bee Beard Log hive is doing well since it was revived in August 2014. It swarmed at least once on May 11, but that swarmed moved on without us capturing it.

Standing tall, Bee Beard Log hive is doing well since it was revived in August 2014. It swarmed at least once on May 11 of this year, but that swarm moved on without us getting it.

Sept. 23...Lots of good orange pollen being carried into this hive. This hive will go into winter without me intervening in any way.

Sept. 23…Lots of good orange pollen being carried into this hive. This hive will go into winter without me intervening in any way.

Sept. 17...These birdhouse bees are doing so well, I'm starting to think that small bee hives are the way to go. This hive has no other openings other than the entrance. I don't understand how they can survive without much ventilation, but they are doing well, which is a good way to head into the winter shadow.

Sept. 17…These birdhouse bees are doing so well, I’m starting to think that small bee hives are the way to go. This hive has no other openings other than the entrance. I don’t understand how they can survive without much ventilation, but they are doing well, which is a good way to head into their second winter shadow.

Here's a closer look at the entrance showing how crowded they are.

Here’s a closer look at the entrance showing how crowded they are.

The video shows the amount of pollen flying in. This is at 125x (digital zoom) and not as sharp.

The video shows the amount of pollen flying in.

May 14...The day after the big swarm moved into the Grandkids Log hive, Bee-atrice went into swarm mode.

May 14…The day after the big swarm moved into the Grandkids Log hive, Bee-atrice log hive went into swarm mode.

May 14...Ron got this one. He lives just up the road. I'm happy to report that Ron says they are doing well. They are active and bringing lots of pollen. They can be seen flying well here... https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byp0gCTqCQ6rZjBJVmZOa0FJZzQ/view?usp=sharing

May 14…Ron got this one. He lives just up the road. I’m happy to report that Ron says they are doing well. They are active and bringing in lots of pollen.
They can be seen flying well here…

Sept. 23...I'm down to only one Warre hive now. It's doing well with lots of pollen coming in. You can see Bee-atrice Log hive 'shuttered' in the background. When the wasps were running rampant inside, I had to wrap it up. I'll clean it out (scorch it) come spring and try to attract another swarm.

Sept. 23…I’m down to only one Warre hive now. It’s doing well with lots of pollen coming in. You can see Bee-atrice Log hive ‘shuttered’ in the background. When the wasps were running rampant inside, I had to wrap it up. I’ll clean it out (scorch it) come spring and try to attract another swarm.

Bees head into the Warre loads of pollen. This hive is heavy. I haven't taken any honey from it. I think they will make it through the winter without me feeding.

Bees head into the Warre loaded with pollen. This hive is heavy. I haven’t taken any honey from it. I think they will make it through the winter without me feeding.

Sept. 23, 2015...Sad to say, this hive is not going to make it. The temperature started falling in mid July, and now I see wasps nosing around and drones flying out.

Sept. 23, 2015…Sad to say, the Grand Kids Log hive is not going to make it. The temperature started falling in mid July, and now I see wasps nosing around and drones flying out.  The Grand Kids are back.

Sept. 3...Temperature is down to 87F (30C)

Sept. 3…Temperature is down to 87F (30C)

Sept. 21...Looking up into the empty combs, this hive is clearly NOT going to make it. When the wasps start attacking, I'll plug up the entrances and wait until spring. Maybe I'll get lucky with another swarm...

Sept. 21…Looking up into the empty combs, I see a lack of bees.  Clearly the queen isn’t laying and I’ve seen a few drones exiting.   Footnote:  This hive must have superceded a queen, because there are not only new bees, but also new comb.  This is the only hive I can see from the house…from where I eat actually, and I gotta say, I’m so happy to see the bees flying to and from this hive when I sit down to eat!!!

Steve says his swarm 'is hanging in there,' but he's starting to feed again because they haven't built up enough comb to get them through the winter.

Steve says his swarm ‘is hanging in there,’ but he’s starting to feed again because they haven’t built up enough comb to get them through the winter.

We are headed into autumn with four hives, which is all I ever really wanted, but I had really hoped that Grand Kids Log hive would be among the survivors.  It begs the question…are smaller hives better?  I’m beginning to think so.  I’ve thought about partitioning off the big log hive, but then there might be air flow issues.  The birdhouse bees seem to deal with lack of air flow, so maybe it won’t be an issue.  Right now I’ll let nature take it’s course and hope I can attract another swarm in spring.

Read Full Post »

A frame from the video shows the bee covered with purple pollen.

A frame from the video shows the bee covered with purple pollen.

This bee fell from the poppy which was wet from the sprinkler.  I spotted it here before it took off.

This bee fell from the poppy which was wet from the sprinkler. I spotted it here before it took off.

June 19...Unidentified street performers provide the perfect background music for the bee gathering poppy pollen video.

June 19…Unidentified street performers provide the perfect background music for the bee gathering poppy pollen video.

Read Full Post »

Bee-atrice log hive is on the left.  The inner tube is a draft reducer, not what it looks like, so no snide remarks!

Bee-atrice log hive is on the left. The inner tube is a draft reducer, not what it looks like, so no snide remarks!

Here's a better shot of Bee-atrice.  The blue tarp in the background is protecting my Tower of Jewels echium plants and artichokes.  I'm hoping they will bloom this time around.

Here’s a better shot of Bee-atrice log hive. The blue tarp in the background is protecting my Tower of Jewels echium plants and artichokes. I’m hoping they will bloom this year because the nectar is so good for the bees and they’ll bloom all summer.

The outside temperature is a frosty 34˙F.  Barely above freezing.  It's no wonder the bees aren't flying today.

The outside temperature is a frosty 34˙F. Barely above freezing. It’s no wonder the bees aren’t flying today.

While the outside temperature is 35˙F (1.67˙C), the inside is 50˙F (10˙C).  Someone should have cleaned off the cob webs. :)

While the outside temperature is 34˙F (1˙C), the inside is 50˙F (10˙C), which means there is something warm inside.  Someone should have cleaned off the cob webs before he shot the photo. 🙂

Looking through the observation window of Bee-atrice Log Hive reveals lots of honey.  It's such an improvement over last year's status of 'no bees.'

Looking through the observation window of Bee-atrice Log Hive reveals lots of honey. It’s such an improvement over last year’s status of ‘no bees.’

Bee Beard Log hive is doing well with the August 9th swarm that chose to move in.

Bee Beard Log hive is doing well with the August 9th swarm that chose to move in.

This hive in the tree swarmed three times during summer.  Two went to Bob and one we transferred into Del's hive.

This hive in the tree swarmed three times during summer. Two went to Bob and one we transferred into Del’s Warre hive below.

Del's hive...the bees came from the green hive in the tree.  After hanging on the pine tree for about three days, I tried to get them to crawl into an inverted swarm catcher scented with lemon grass oil.  No luck.  They finally disappeared.  I thought, "Good, I've got enough hives," only to find them on a branch of this spruce tree.  After they had hung out for at least 6 days, I dropped them into this hive that I had planned to donate to the bee club.

Del’s Warre hive…the bees came from the green hive in the tree. After hanging on the pine tree for about three days, I tried to get them to crawl into an inverted swarm catcher scented with lemon grass oil. No luck. They finally disappeared. I thought, “Good, I’ve got enough hives,” only to find them on a branch of this spruce tree. After they had hung out for a total of 6 days, I dropped them into this hive that I had planned to donate to the bee club.  Lost it…see below.

This hive catches the afternoon sun.  Some bees responded to the warmth.

Del’s hive catches the afternoon sun. Some bees responded to the warmth and gathered outside.

12-31-14...Birdhouse bees.  These bees came from Mary's backyard birdhouse swarm.  When I couldn't get them to move into my new Warre, I 'posted' them here.  Today they are not flying.  Too cold.  You can see frost on the ground in front.

12-31-14…Birdhouse bees. These bees came from Mayor Mary’s backyard birdhouse swarm. When I couldn’t get them to move into my new Warre, I ‘posted’ them here. Today they are not flying. Too cold. You can see frost on the ground in front.  They are in the shade possibly until March.

A closer look at the birdhouse bees shows no bee activity.

A closer look at the birdhouse bees still shows no bee activity.  Guess I’ll have to wait til it warms up.  This hive is in the coldest part of the property.  If they make it, it’ll be because they are strong bees, not because I treated them.

Warre 3...The bees came from Warre 2, around May 10, 2014.  They built up fast but only in the top box.  This 'shelter' leaves something to be desired because every time we get a stiff wind, the sheets of fiberglass blow off.  Thus the reason for the tie down.

Warre 3…These bees came from Warre 2, May 10, 2014. They built up fast but only in the top box. This ‘shelter’ leaves something to be desired because every time we get a stiff wind, the sheets of fiberglass blow off, thus the reason for the tie down.  Lost it…see below.

 

So there it is…from three hives a year ago to eight hives this year.  As a third year natural beekeeper, I believe in letting my bees swarm.  I like the article written by British beekeeper John Haverson that “Swarming Bees are Healthy Bees,” so I don’t destroy the queen cells or otherwise try to thwart their natural tendency to swarm.

I go against the recommendations of my local bee association which advises to kill the varroa mites.   I know there are beneficial mites in the hive.  According to long time beekeeper Michael Bush, who wrote “The Practical Beekeeper,” there are over 30 kinds of mites in a typical hive.  If you are killing varroa mites, you are upsetting the ecology of the hive.  I think we should let the bees adapt to living with mites.  Conversely, if we poison the mites, they will eventually build up a resistance at the expense of the bees.

Since we have just started winter, I know that it’s possible that some hives won’t make it, especially if I choose not to feed them.  Those would be the weak hives.  As a fairly new beekeeper I’m constantly questioning whether I’m doing the right thing.  Right now, I am of the mindset that we should not be propping up weak hives because we will be passing on weak genetics.   In my humble opinion when you capture a swarm, you should not kill that queen,  but keep her with the swarm.  She has survived the winter and proven herself.  All my bees have come from swarms.

If my bees can make it to early February, the pussy willows will bloom and weather permitting, nectar and pollen will be available in a critical stage of winter.

Yesterday I noticed honeybees on the gorse blossoms down the road from me.  This was a happy surprise because I don’t usually see bees on gorse blossoms possibly because gorse is harder to work (or so I’m told), but if there’s nothing else available, the bees will be able to get nourishment.  Some individuals around here hate the gorse.  It’s spiny thorns make it impossible to walk near, it grows prolifically, and it’s blamed for burning the town in the big 1936 fire.

March 4th note…  We lost Del’s hive.  It’s not a surprise because it never really built up any ‘honey weight’  pre-winter.  I haven’t taken it apart yet, but when I do, I’ll clean it out, put in observation windows, and donate it back to the bee club.

We lost #3 Warré too.  I took it down last week after I saw robber bees visiting it.  There was still some capped honey in the combs.  About 125 bees were dead on the bottom.  Some of the combs were moldy, so I’m guessing it’s been dead for awhile.  Both hives were weak hives.  While I’m upset at having lost them, I’m thinking that maybe it’s for the best because if the bees can’t survive in our relatively mild winter, maybe they shouldn’t be in the gene pool.  I’m down to six hives now, but the willow tree has been blooming for about three weeks and I can see the bees bringing in orange pollen and that means nectar too!

 

Read Full Post »

November 5, 2014...On an unusually warm November day, I spotted these hebes growing in front of Bill Sweet Insurance Agency.  The bees were loving it.

November 5, 2014…On an unusually warm November day, I spotted these hebes growing in front of Bill Sweet Insurance Agency. The bees were loving it.  Thanks, Bill.

While the east coast is getting hammered by the polar vortex cold weather, the west coast is enjoying warm sunny days into early November. At this time of year there are very few sources of nectar, so it’s good that the honeybees are getting  a lot from the hebes.  Nectar provides an important energy source (carbohydrate) for the bees.

Many thanks to Steve Montana who has let me use his musical talents as background to the video.  “GaelaMae On The Bluffs” was written by Steve and the banjo music was written by Buell Kasey back in the late 1800’s.  Watch Steve Montana play banjo at the beginning of Sustainable World.  Click on “Soldier’s Joy.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »