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Posts tagged ‘bees’

Bees So Close You Can See Their Hairs

How about a whole Flickr photo page dedicated to awesome up close shots of bees and other insects?

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“From Anne Arundel County, in Maryland, this is one of but a few Andrena that come out in the Fall. Brooke Alexander was the photographer.” -Sam Droege

      Check out the Flickr page of the USGS Bee Monitoring and Inventory Lab moderated by Sam Droege. For some up close looks of many types of bees including bumblebees, honeybees, and those that can be found in our National Parks or Puerto Rico this is the place. There is even a whole album of bee heads, an insect identifiers paradise.

This is one of those things that you happen upon and say “I can’t believe this exists.” and then, “I’m so glad this exists.”

 

Summer Hive Update

Many of you have been asking (thank you) how the bees are doing. Here is a little summer time update. We have not been inside the box in over a month. The weather has been weird here. It’s either too cold, too hot or too windy for it to be good conditions to look inside during the middle of the day (when the most bees are foraging). So, alas, we have been observing from the outside.

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To prevent robbing behavior you can block the hive entrance with grass. Make sure you unblock it once the robber bees leave or it starts to cool down so your bees can go home for the night.I love this photo because you can see the bee in the top left corner in action with her huge orange pollen stash.

 

This has come with it’s fair share of worry and concern. We had another robber bee scare. While I was out of town my boyfriend notice a bunch of bees larger and furrier than ours hanging around. He witnessed fighting at the entrance and these larger bees flying sluggishly away from the hive (a sign they are full of robbed honey). We worked together to find a robbing solution- plug the entrance with grass so no bees can come or go and hopefully the robbing bees will leave while our bees congregate outside the hive. I also read you can place a wet bed sheet over the box, the robber bees have a hard time getting under and out from the sheet while our bees have no issue. We did both. The next day they were back. And the next day. Plugging the entrance is of concern because it means the bees cannot continue with their daily work. I took a trip to the local bee store.

I brought in specimens of the ‘robber’ bees and the regular bees. I was told you cannot tell if they are robber bees just by looking at their bodies because all bees in the hive will look different since they are all half sisters. But we do think the larger bees are the drones. The male bees. These bees are responsible for mating with the queen. They represent the smallest number of bees in the hive. They are fed and cared for by the workers bees. Once the mating season is over the drones are kicked out of the hive. They have no stinger and are larger and fuzzier than the workers. I think we have a match. So the colony marches on, robber free, and I can take a break from worry.

More on drone bees.

Bikes and Bees, Bikes and Bees

This week has been all about bikes and bees.

I have taken a super fast crash course on both, because it was really crunch time.

This weekend I was to compete in my second triathlon (more on that later). Upon completing my first triathlon I discovered that I needed a real road bike. Or at least something a little more updated than my steel, late 70’s Centurion with down tube shifters, (I can say that now) that I affectionately call Rusty Red.

I spent months on Craigslist looking for that perfect used bike within reasonable driving distance and price range. I went to six different bike stores. I rode at least 20 different bikes. I stood over another 25 to check sizing. I heard all about the benefits of carbon, the drawbacks of aluminum, how Shimano gears work and the different levels they have, seat shapes, and fork materials.

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I never realized how much there is to know about bikes! I got a book called Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen, that helped me a lot. All I really want to do is ride. And be safe. This book tells it like it is. Why you don’t need clip in shoes and an aero helmet to race, how to not get car doored, and what makes a good saddle, etc.

Three days before the race I was still bikeless. And as soon as I felt I knew a lot about bikes (at least volumes more than I did just the week before) then I found that perfect Craigslist add, a bike in my small size, lightweight, affordable, and only an hour drive away (to a city I never mind going to visit). It was a match! And she performed great for my race.

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Upon coming home from buying my new bike I checked out the bee hive and noticed I had robber bees. Robber bees are bees of another kind, generally, that prey on weak hives and steal whatever sustenance they can. Unsure of what to do I consulted my books and learned I needed some more equipment to better secure the sugar water I am feeding my bees. Off to the bee store to talk with the experts and purchase some tools. (I am so lucky to have a bee store in my town!) Crisis averted and I think the hive is doing just fine.

On Friday, I had to go in for the first time since they had been active and release the queen. I was so nervous. First time lighting the smoker, using it, lifting the hive lid, and separating the frames filled with active bees. I found the queen box, brushed off her attendants, sprayed her cage with sugar water (so she won’t fly off), and took out the cork keeping her in the cage. Then I put her back in the box and closed it all up. No stings! I hope they are all feeling happy and will become stronger in the days ahead.

The bees are coming! The bees are coming!

I have been saying this for weeks.

And they are finally here.

Local Honey Bees ready to be installed in their hive

Local Honey Bees ready to be installed in their hive

All 10,000 little souls that I ever so carefully drove home from the bee shop, stored in our cool cellar for this 88 degree day, and then (with great hesitation and full body coverage) released the queen and lowered the group into their new home.

Almost all of us made it out alive.

Now I leave the hive to adjust to their new residence for a few days before I do my first inspection. Which, honestly, I am already nervous about.

To prepare for the bees arrival I took a class at the local community college, from a known expert in the field. And I checked some books out from the library. So far Homegrown Honey Bees has been a good read. I took great solace in the chapter titled What Am I Getting Into? I have thought that very thing many times. It’s always one thing to read and study up on a subject, but another thing entirely when you’re standing out there holding foreign tools, wearing a bulky hat and veil with angry creatures swirling around your head.

So, why am I doing all this?

For adventure. For sustainability. For an awesome garden this year. For honey. And most importantly for the bees. (I hear it’s fun too!)

Unless you really don’t read any news, you must have heard about the plight of our honey bee in recent years. Colony Collapse Disorder, pesticides, cell phones, mites, die-off. These are all words associated with bees these days. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what is causing the great die-off of the bees worldwide but they sure have some theories. And I have mine, that I know its a man made problem.

Today, the EU announced a ban on a pesticide thought to be linked to the killing of bees. This is huge news and a great step forward. And fitting for the day that I venture into the world of bees, officially. I hope this is our answer, or maybe one of our answers to why we are losing our bees at such a rapid rate.

Most of us never stop to think about all the bee does for us. But without bees you could not have that juicy apple for lunch, broccoli for dinner, almonds for a snack, honey on toast, or stop to smell any roses. One mouthful out of three in our diets is directly or indirectly related to honey bee pollination. It is estimated that honey bees provide $15 billion worth of crop production each year. And they do it all for free, with gusto.

So my small contribution to the solution is to use a piece of my property and some of my time to care for a colony that will hopefully remain healthy and in return give so much of themselves. They will provide so many benefits for my health and enjoyment and for the land at large.

Hope I'm ready for this...

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