Bombus mixtus enjoying the sage blossoms and snowberry in our front yard
Honeybee collecting nectar=Sage Honey this fall
©Tracey Byrne 2017
Did you know that almost 90% of all flowering plants rely on animals, rather than the wind, for pollination? Over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. The vast majority of animal pollinators are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies and moths; of these, bees pollinate the largest number of plant species. About 1,000 species of pollinators are hummingbirds, bats and other small mammals (Pollinator Partnership, 2017).
Visit Pollinator Partnership and bee inspired with ways to support all our pollinators
Our Flow Hive has an observation window, which is SO cool.
I tried something new this year: I put TWO upper entrances on the Flow hive; this gives the girls two separate pathways straight into the Flow deep with their nectar and pollen and seems to be more efficient for everyone. We are just running one hive this year, as we lost a queen in early June and decided to just combine them rather than re-queen so late. They are going strong! Looking forward to our first Flow Hive harvest this summer.
Best review of the Flow Hive: by Hillary of Girl Next Door Honey
Our two new hives are thriving in spite of the rainy cool weather. We started them both with several frames of honey, and they have been bringing in pollen like crazy for the new brood. Pollen is coming in from many sources including epimedium, forget-me-not, and arugula.
Here you can see pollen stores for the larvae, as well as capped brood and new honey. We installed the bees on April 2, so the first batch of babees should be hatching this week. We are running one regular hive and one FLOW hive this year, so stay tuned.
I wanted to share with you the gentlest and most elegant way to install a package of bees into your beehive. If you have ever shaken honeybees out of their box, you know it is both exciting and a bit frightening, but it also is a little rough on the bees. We have been employing this new, improved strategy for the last several years, and hope you will give it a try.
First, we readied each hive by putting two frames of honey into each deep, along with the already built-out frames in our two empty hives. Then we just removed the can of syrup (no longer needed) and carefully placed the queen in her little cage and the open box of bees into each hive (having first removed the cork on the queen cage and replaced it with a bit of marshmallow). We then put the lid on and give the bee-girls a couple days to release the queen, and Voila! Happy Bees.
What a lazy way to load the hives. We loved it.
Package of bees, waiting to be installed
Package on its side; queen cage and syrup removed
Ready for the cover: let rest for two days
I am excited to report that we have our FLOW hive up and running. As you can see in the photo above, the bees are checking out the new system. We have four FLOW frames in the middle of the deep, with two cut-comb honey deeps on each side. Right on schedule, the bees are beginning to wax up the cracks and we look forward to seeing them fill the frames with honey.
We are trying out a couple new things this year: in addition to running one FLOW hive, we have purchased deeps from Denmark; our goal is to keep our bees more cozy through the damp winter.
Meanwhile, looking in the side peek-a-boo window, the bees are busy drawing out traditional comb, and loading it up with nectar. An unexpected perk: we now have an observation hive, and can watch the bees in action with minimal disturbance. In just two days the workers drew out the second comb and have almost filled both with nectar. We are simply entranced with the show.
The Difference Between Honeybees and Bumblebees
Did you know that there are more than 4500 species of bees that live in the US and Canada, and worldwide over 20,000 species have been identified?
Many urban dwellers have not had enough experience with backyard pollinators to easily tell the difference between bees and wasps. For me, it is similar to how you can tell a cat from a dog, or robin from a spotted towhee–not only do they look different, but their movements and habits are unique.
You can often ID your backyard bugs by where you find them and what activity they are engaged in. You will find medium-sized golden-brown to black honeybees (photos right) busy flying back and forth between flowers, loading up on pollen and nectar, and zipping back to their hive. Bumblebees (photos left) are generally larger and fuzzier that the honeybee, many with black, orange, or yellow stripes. I consider bumblebees to be the “teddy-bear” of bees, and the most photogenic. Honeybees tend to be sleeker and less hairy than the bumblebees, but both carry pollen on their back legs.
Swarming honeybees are docile; they have nothing to protect–as they are merely scoping out the real estate in your neighborhood. The honeybee swarm consists of a healthy queen and upwards of about 10,000 of her workers. Call your local poison-free bee-guy to come collect them, and they will be relocated to a good home.
Of all the bees, we know the most about our domesticated non-native European honeybees, not only for their pollination efforts but also for the food, candles, and medicinal products derived from their honey, pollen, wax, propolis, and venom. Honeybees are the outliers in the bee family. They, along with bumblebees, are social insects, which means that they work together in the hive to raise their young and make honey. Most other bees are solitary, do not care for their offspring, and a whopping 70% of all bees live in the ground.
Bumblebee nests can be found in the ground, in abandoned birdhouses, or in attics. Their nests are nothing like the honeybee's neat and tidy honeycomb (top); instead, they look really primitive, and a bit cobbled together (below). The bumblebee queen hibernates over the winter, so bumblebees need gather only enough nectar and pollen to raise the brood each season. Honeybees must store enough honey and pollen to allow the workers and queen to survive the winter.
Bee or Wasp?
Bees: fuzzy, friendly, busy-but not aggressive, flight patterns are direct. Variations in size and color from golden brown to green to black, thick legs with pollen baskets, nectar gatherers; nest in ground, woodpiles, hives, attics, and walls.
Wasps and hornets: often aggressive, many carnivorous, striking yellow-black or white-black pattern that shouts CAUTION! Shiny, long thin legs (no fuzz or pollen basket-), wasp-waist, annoying at picnics, zig-zag flight pattern, paper nests found in trees or under eaves.
poster by Alex Surcica
Narrated by Cedar Anderson, the inventor of the FLOW hive.
Bonus double-feature for you today :^) also from Flow.
Re-posted from the Center for Food Safety
Popcorn's Dirty Secret" won the 2015 Digital Edge award!
It’s no secret we love popcorn. We Americans consume more than 16 billion quarts of popcorn each year. But we’re getting more than we bargained for in all those bowls of popcorn: bee-toxic pesticides.
Bees are dying at alarming rates, and scientists have identified a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids (“neonics”) as a prime culprit in these drastic population losses. The largest single use of neonicotinoids is as a seed coating for field crops (like corn, soy, canola, and wheat). In fact, researchers estimate that 95-99% of all field corn grown in the U.S. comes from seed coated with bee-toxic neonic chemicals.
Neonics are the most widely used insecticides in the world. What makes them different from most pesticides is that they are systemic chemicals, meaning they are dispersed throughout the treated plant, rendering the whole plant toxic. Just as alarming, neonics are shown to last in the environment for years, harming species that the chemical was not designed to kill – like bees, butterflies, birds, and other helpful insects.
Unfortunately, the popcorn industry uses bee-killing chemicals on their seeds, too. That’s why we’re calling on Pop Secret, one of the biggest brands in the industry, to urge them to source their popcorn from seeds that are NOT coated in these harmful chemicals.
Pop Secret would not be alone in taking action against neonics:
The American Bird Conservancy reports that "a single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoud can kill a songbird", and the Center for Food Safety reports that they are polluting our water systems too.
It is ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. - Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
original collage by Maggie Taylor, with head replacement by me :^)
Several weeks ago I reported that one of our three hives had been infested with aerial yellowjackets. I had been hopeful, after a vigilant weekend of using my swarm-capture bee vacuum to suck them up, that they were finished for the summer, but this morning they were back in force...and so was I.
This is how they look after being caught in the act, as they leave the hive with their loot: MAD.
I do not normally have a charge for these little pollinators, but, it seems wasteful for them to demolish one of my hives as they themselves will be dying off for the winter soon. Only the yellowjacket queens winter-over, and emerge in the spring to start a new colony.
Our honeybees were abuzz on equinox, gathering pollen and nectar from the borage; I decided to gather borage blossoms as well, for our salad and tea. Not only beautiful, but good for you too.