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Posts Tagged ‘honeybees’

Readers of this blog will know that OBE stands for Overcome By Events.   It is a term used when what you planned to do did not happen because the Great Bird of the Galaxy decided to change your plans.

Just two days ago, Jim was looking at his List of Planned Jobs for the next few weeks.  It contain such varied items as “Mend chair,” “Fix shed door” (an entry occasioned by the gnawing through the door achieved by a squirrel who wanted to move up in the world), and “Mow” (a constant entry on the list, actually).  I am not sure why mowing gets put on the list as it is a perpetual event around here.   You can do it, cross it off, and put it right back on, all summer long.

That was the primary job on his agenda for this week.  The grass has gotten happy what with all the precipitation and the slow warming trend.

One of the items on the list was “hive body”, which was a shorthand reference to cleaning out a hive body and preparing it with new frames and wax foundation.   We are anticipating that our bees might want to swarm this year, and it is always better if you are ready for the event when it happens.

At any rate, Jim was contemplating his list (which I am not allowed to add things to) and looked at me and said, “I don’t think I need to worry about preparing the hive body for a few weeks.  It has been so cold I don’t think the bees are going to swarm any time soon.”  I did not disagree with him.

Yesterday I was taking Ruby for her morning excursion about the yard.  I went back behind the vegetable garden to see how the hazelnuts were faring and whether any birds were making nests in the sumac grove,  and I observed that the service berry bush looked sort of odd.   Closer inspection revealed this:

DSCF6622

Yes indeed, that is a swarm of bees.   Not our bees, who are still very much at home in their cozy hive, but a group from one of the wild hives that exist “out there” in the woods.  It does seem odd that the wild bees tend to bring their swarms to our property.  Or I guess it would seem odd if we didn’t assiduously avoid sprays and other poisons and encourage all kinds of pollen producing plants.

I cut the dog walking short and hustled into the house, interrupting the morning coffee ritual by saying to my mate, “Guess what we have?”

He had no earthly idea, so I illuminated him.  “We have a swarm of bees!”

“Oh?,” he replied.  “Where is it?”

“Out behind the vegetable garden on the service berry bush.”

He put some shoes on and we went out and investigated the situation.   Well, OF COURSE there was no hive body ready, since we just agreed the day before that we didn’t need to rush to spend the time, energy and money on that just yet.

Ha ha.

Off he went to the farm supply store to acquire a hive body, frames, foundation and a hive floor.   At least we had a hive lid on hand.   And an extra super, which was fully equipped with frames.

I retired to the massage room to give a massage, and he put the super frames into the new hive body, and then introduced the swarm to their new digs.  While they sort of settled in, he went into the shop and installed the foundation in the new frames.   Right about the time I finished up with my client, he was ready to install the large frames in the hive body.

This is a shot of the process of one of the super frames being divested of the bees clinging to it after the large frame was slipped into the hive body.

DSCF6627The bees were pretty excited about the process, but since they were in swarm mode they were very mellow and I was able to get up fairly close to the operation.

After the proper frames were put into the hive body, Jim put the super frames back into the super and put that on top of the hive body to give the new hive plenty of space.

Now, here is a little tidbit that amazed me rather a lot.   Those bees had only been in the new hive for less than an hour when we took the lid off.  The following picture is of the underside of the hive lid.

DSCF6624They had already created that much beeswax, in less than an hour.   I am not sure why they decided to put it on the hive lid…

At any rate, when you hear the phrase “Busy as a bee” you can think about that clump of beeswax and how much work went into forming it.

Today the new hive seems to be quite happy and adjusted.  They have already found the pond and are busy bringing nectar and pollen back to their new digs.

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We took Jim off to the airport in St. Louis on Wednesday so he could catch a more or less early flight to Wisconsin on Thursday morning.

I drove home in the rain on Thursday morning and it proceeded to continue raining off and on until today.  This beautiful Sunday dawned crystal clear and frosty, but now the sun is shining, the bees are out foraging and the crocuses are blooming.

All told we received over 7 inches of rain in those three days, and that made the yard impressively wet.  Ruby really didn’t see any reason she should go Out There in All That Mud, but I knew that her bladder and bowels needed to empty, and so I insisted, much to her dismay, I might add.

I did go out and take a few pictures in the rain.  I’m sure it must have been an amusing sight if anyone had seen me juggling my  umbrella and the camera in the downpour.  The wonderful Fuji digital that I use may be old and starting to have wonky switches, but it still works and I did not see any good coming out of drenching it in the name of documenting the deluge.

Yesterday afternoon, the labyrinth looked like this:

DSCF6580

Today, less than 24 hours later, it presents a very different mien.

DSCF6588

I did zero in on one very wet clump of crocuses that was courageously trying to convince everyone that it really is spring, even though we have yet to cross the vernal equinox.

DSCF6583Those game little flowers are a whole lot happier today.  And amazingly enough, they did not drown.

DSCF6586

In case you are wondering what the bees are finding to forage for, there are crocuses (obviously).  But there are also bluets up, and the henbit is going to be in full bloom by tomorrow.  The witch hazel is in full bloom too, and so the honeybees are busy replenishing their stores.

 

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Sweet potatoes

We are basking in the humidity left behind after the remnants of hurricane Isaac passed through our area.   We were blessed by 2 1/2 inches of badly needed rain.  The soil is soft, the grass is growing.  The Texas blue sage is blooming out in the Petite Prairie.   The honey bees are visiting it right now.

Out in the garden, one can hardly tell how stressful the weeks of drought and heat were.  The real evidence of that was my $150+ water bill….

You can tell there was stress when you get close up to the beans and the tomatoes.  If I wasn’t involved in watching the Giants play the Cubs, I’d be out there pulling the beans out.  They were pretty much a bust this year.   I may try bush beans next year, they seem to tolerate heat and drought better than pole beans.

However, the bed right in the front of that picture is where the potato patch that the ants decimated used to be.  I planted it to a green manure crop of buckwheat, which is ready to be turned in.  I’m not doing that just yet because the blooming buckwheat is a food resource for my honeybees, who haven’t had a lot of great nectar and pollen sources available lately.   Right at the very front is the sweet potato bed, which apparently is not nearly so attractive to the ants, as it is doing quite well.   Or one of the patches, I should say.   I sort of stick them in wherever there is space, so in addition to having them in the bed by the gate, there are three plants stuck in behind the carrots and beets.  In the photo they are hiding behind the asparagus patch.  In addition to not being ant food, at least not yet, the sweet potatoes are very heat and drought tolerant, probably because they really are a tropical plant, native to Central and South America.

If you go over behind the asparagus, you discover that the vines have gotten large enough and old enough that they are blooming.   Sweet potatoes are members of the genus Ipomoea, which is also the family that contains morning glories.   You can really tell they are related when you look at the blossom.

The vegetable garden is not the only place that I have sweet potatoes planted.   I also have them in the whiskey barrels next to the pergola.  Rather than plant the ornamental sweet potato vines sold at the garden centers, I prefer to have something that will also provide me with something to eat.  I find the “plain” sweet potatos to be quite ornamental as they drape themselves over the edge of the barrels.   They share that space with a purple hyacinth bean, which climbs the pergola and disports itself amongst the wisteria vines, much to the joy of the hummingbirds, who seem to prefer the bean blossoms above everything else except possibly the canna lilies.

It makes a great view from my kitchen sink, where I spend a certain amount of time washing dishes now that I have relegated my dishwasher to the status of under-counter storage.   Of course, that is another story for another time.

 

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I was supposed to be canning pickles (both dill and my sweet gherkins), plus I had apple sauce that was hot and waiting for the canner to heat up.  But before I got started packing the pint jars, I thought I would run out to the garden once more to look through the cucumber vines and see if I missed any.   I had.  So I picked them, and noticed that there were some tomatoes that also needed to be picked.   I needed a basket for that, so I started back to the house to get it.

As I scurried past the pond, I noticed that the apple mint was in full bloom.   It is taking full advantage of the lapse in memory I had a few weeks ago when I started the water running into the pond to fill it up, went inside and promptly forgot all about it.  In the morning as I was waiting for my teapot to fill so I could make coffee, I thought idly to myself,  “Gosh, the water pressure sure doesn’t seem to be as high as usual … OH SHOOT (expurgated for the blog)!!!  Whereupon I crashed out of the house, scaring the dog away from her breakfast, ran out to the garden to turn the spigot off and observed that the pond was approximately 5 inches over flood stage.  Further investigation showed that the water had flowed all the way down to the Petite Prairie, watering the day lily bed quite throughly.  The drain pipe at the other side of the vineyard was also trying to deal with the overflow.   I still have a green circle down there, where everything else is sere and brown.

But I digress.   The apple mint was blooming furiously, having been so well watered previously.   I just deviated from my course a bit to see if perhaps my honey bees were availing themselves of the pollen source.  They were.

The honeybees had lots of company out there.    I forgot all about pickles and apple sauce and went to get my camera.  I spent quite a while out there, standing quietly just inside the border of the mint patch.  When I first arrived with my camera, everyone got very excited and nervous about the big thing that had just disturbed the feeding frenzy.   But as I stood quietly, things settled down.   Here is a group of four different sorts of wasps, all intent on their food source.

 

The variety of pollinators present was impressive.

There were yellow jackets, of course.

 

 

Several different types of wasps were in attendance.

 

That big black wasp was at the large end of the size spectrum.   But there were teensy wasps too.

 

Some of the wasps were overcome with optimism for the future by the large quantity of food available.   The sudden onset of a good energy source put them in the mood, I guess.

The female went about the business of flying and eating as if the male wasn’t even present.

There were also several female bumblebees at the buffet.

 

A tachnid fly — one of several different varieties flitting about.

 

Butterflies –a buckeye and a little blue.   The little blue has a mud dauber wasp sharing the frame with her.

 

I saw a beautiful bright green sweat bee, but it didn’t stick around long enough to get photographed.   You can see what it looked like here.

There was an interesting beetle.

I’m not positive, but that may be an assassin bug, which means it isn’t strictly a pollinator, but more a pollinator eater.   They wait in flowers for the pollinators to come along, grab them and then suck the juices out of them.

Here’s another predator.   Probably not big enough to be a danger to anyone other than that tiny wasp above, or possibly a gnat or aphid.

That’s my finger holding the flower apart because the little crab spider wasn’t anxious to be photographed and kept hiding from me.   No escape from the paparazzi, I’m afraid.

There were a couple of dragonflies around too.   This is a rather small red one.

Just a few feet away is the pond, and this big blue dragonfly was hovering around there.

It was heartening to see all that life burgeoning in the yard, since it has been scorchingly hot for three weeks.    I mean really hot, too.   The temperatures have been over 100°F every day for three weeks, only cooling off into the low 80s at night.   (That would be 38° C for all the rest of the world.)   This heat has been accompanied by a complete absence of rain of any measurable amount.   We had a respite today, a line of storms came across the plains.   We got about 1mm of moisture out of that, enough to settle the dust (barely) and raise the humidity to about 90%.   Ergh.

This is what the garden along the back of the house looks like.   All those burned hostas are not dead, they are just conserving their energy and protecting their roots.   Still, it is a little depressing.   The Hosta Dell exhibits similar damage.

Please notice the lawn to the right of the path.   Our whole place looks just like that except around the landscape shrubs and trees, which we have been pampering with regular water.   This also encourages the grass, which gives the rabbits something other to eat than the fruit tree bark.   The rabbits out browsing gives the owls something to eat.

There is a note of hope in the middle of all that devastation.    The naked ladies have made their appearance.   I just love them, their combination of hardiness and delicacy is inspirational.

The pickles have been put through the canner and are cooling on the counter.   They are accompanied by 6 pints of apple sauce.

Now I believe I’ll get that basket and go out and investigate the tomato situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Oasis

We have had record breaking heat in the Ozarks the last few days.  Several times the temperature has risen to 109ºF (42.8°C) in the middle of the day.  The humidity has been so low that the heat index has actually been negative, which I suppose is a blessing of sorts.

Needless to say, we have been watering the gardens assiduously in order to help them stay happy during this heat wave.   We are so blessed that our community is served by wells that run deep into an aquifer that is readily replenished during the spring rains (since we live in a karst limestone area).   There are lots of places here in the Ozarks that get their water from reservoirs, and when it is hot and dry they do not have the luxury of watering gardens as the water must be conserved for essentials like drinking and bathing.   But the water is not free, and I await my next month’s water bill with a certain amount of dread.

Still, the mature trees around here are worth quite a lot; according to some studies mature trees add approximately 2% to the value of a property.  I have also read studies that claim that each tree is worth around $1500.   Whatever they are actually worth, I am willing to spend a few dollars to keep them alive.   Of course, I love my day lilies and hostas too, so I willingly water them.   The trees get water peripherally while I water the landscape plantings.

One of the side benefits of running the sprinkler is the amusement I get from watching the birds.   When it is so hot, they flock to the spray from the sprinklers, and disport themselves gaily, obviously completely enjoying the cool shower.   The cardinals sit in the shrubs and bathe, the robins just stand in the spray and meditate.   The grackles hunt for the bugs that are disturbed by the water, occasionally shaking the cooling drops off their gleaming iridescent bodies.   Right now we have baby grackles that are following their parents around, begging for morsels.  The small birds also enjoy cooling effects of the water.

Yesterday when we were sitting in our pool cooling off, one of the male gold finches stopped by and scolded us severely.   Apparently the lack of niger seed in the finch feeder was the problem.   So, after I was done bathing, I filled the feeder.   The finches are really enjoying it today.   It hangs in the shade, and I’m sure it is much more pleasant to land on a full feeder and feast in the shade of the elm tree rather than rummage around for seeds out in the hot sun.

The pond is quite popular right now too.  The  frogs are utilizing the water along with the dragon flies; the water source in the waterfall is used by all the resident birds.   However, there are some of them who prefer the bird bath, and I like it too as it is the view from my dining room window.   My favorite time is when the young fledglings are taking bathing lessons, but I enjoy watching it all the time.

The birds are not the only denizens of the yard that use the bird bath.    Our bees need a lot of water right now, as they drink large quantities of water and then fly off to the hive and use its evaporative properties to keep the hive cool.

Usually bees are a little camera shy, but this one was so intent on the water that I was able to put the lens right up next to her and use my super macro function to capture her proboscis extended for her drink.

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