Friday, March 19, 2010

Bugs, bugs, bugs!

Bees are the only bugs I expect to see at the hives so I was quite surprised to see that the hives are a buzz with all kinds of insect activity in addition to bees.

There are a ton of flies everywhere. I they were just flying around, not really hanging out on anything so I am wondering if there is ... well a body of a mouse or something near by. I didn't smell anything other than the musky scent of the bees so any more is just a guess.

I saw my first wasp of the season. She was just basking in the sun and was a solitary wasp, not the nest making kind. Solitary wasps are often fairly gentle. They lay one to a handful of eggs in one spot, then move anther spot and do the same. Without a single nest to defend, these creatures are fairly non-aggressive.

The most fun find was a butterfly! Usually my first butterfly of the season is a Spring Azure.

But not today! Keep in mind I am a beekeeper, not a butterfly keeper. I THINK the butterfly I saw was a Question Mark. They generally fly first in April, but with the nice weather it is possible it is out earlier. It was too fast for me to get a good picture and only held still in positions that were unphotographable!

The photos are from the Butterfly Atlas - a great project from Massachusetts Audubon Society. Check out the entire atlas and the great pictures here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Checkin' in...

The girls are doing GREAT! I checked my notebooks from last year at this time and I was a very sad beekeeper: one hive had died and the other (Red's) looked like it wasn't going to make it. Well Red made it and was replaced by her daughter Pink.

Sun's hive is the weakest, they are using about 3-4 frames up top. They had sugar and pollen left. They were quite active and bringing back plenty of pollen and the only reason for pollen is BABIES! I still had three jars of honey from last year, so I gave them honey. The little rectangle in the middle is the opening to the hive. The honey is on risers so the bees can get under the lid and drink the honey from the holes. I put their outer lid over the top of this empty box.
Joy's girls were occupying about 5 frames in the upper box and that is great. They were pretty active when I opened the hive. Since my sweetheart and I had already moved frames this weekend, I didn't muck about too much, mostly just said hello and put the honey on them.

Pink's hive made my heart happy. I dug in to see where the empty frames were in the top box and found BROOD. Yep, I saw babies {happy dance}. It was a small patch but they were about ready to hatch out. Mazel tov Pink.

Since it was such a beautiful day, I just hung out at the end of all this and just enjoyed the bees. I got this picture of a bee with pollen. If you look carefully you can see a light line on her back between her wings. That is also pollen that her sisters will clean off her when she goes into the hive. The pollen is a weird green color too and comes from skunk cabbage. Skunk cabbage has its pollen inside the spathe. The odd shape often gets pollen on the bee's back. Check out a picture here.
Next pollen should be pussy willows and red maple - start looking for them soon. Spring is here!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I was greeted by a beautiful sight when I came home today. This bee hovered around me until I just had to go in. She's still out there - flying around and landing on the rug. It is rare that I get to interact with an individual bee like that - lovely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

got honey?

I am working on bee school tee shirts this year. As soon as I get a sample, I'll post a picture. In the mean time, here is the logo:

got honey? will be on the back. EM Screen Systems in Millbury is doing the shirts and they are fabulous to work with. It is especially nice to work with Bernard, the office dog!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


My wonderful sweetheart and I donned our bee suits and checked on Joy's girls Sunday. We have been concerned that our strongest hive going into winter just didn't have that many bees flying in and out. So we checked on them.

They are doing fine. We opened the hive and found that the cluster of bees are hanging out on the sunny side of the hive - no surprise - and cover about 5 1/2 frames. That is just peachy for this time of year. Whew! and Whew again!

We decided that now is not the time to clean out the hive because it really is a bit chilly. The bees keep the hive a balmy 92' to keep the baby larvae at the right temperature for proper bee development. If we left the hive open too long, they might get chilly. We did move some frames of honey closer to the cluster so the bees didn't have to work so hard.

Then I couldn't get all the frames back in! {blush} I worked to cram that last frame in and finally gave up. Until I can clean the box properly, it ain't goin' back in. It is an empty frame, the bees ate all the honey out of it anyway.

I am helping with Beekeeper School. I've taken it two times and now it is my turn to give back. I helped with registrations and we had over 100 walk in registrants. In total we have over 160 registrations - with many of them families. The room is packed!

I was put in charge of tee shirts too. I love my shirt from last year but it is a bit dark. People have to get kinda close to see what is on it and I'd rather keep my personal space... well personal. So I am going with only light colors. Interviewing printers has been a hoot so far. One more to go and then I will decide. I am amazed where ever I go, I find people who love the bees. Makes me smile.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The girls are flying!

I got buzzed around noon today and thought it might be a stray girl, but I just checked and there are LOTS of bees out and about from all three hives. It was a bit concerning that Joy's hive, my strongest going into the winter, had the fewest bees out. I am just hoping it is because the were all out already or that they were using the upper entrance to the hive.

So what are they looking for you wonder....

Skunk Cabbage is my guess. I haven't checked the wetlands behind the house in the last few days, but often the SK is out early in the spring.

HUGE SIGH! Many hives lost last year were lost in March, so my fingers are still crossed, but my toes can relax.

Bee School starts Thursday and rather than participate as a student, I am helping as a volunteer. I would love to say it is because I know it all {wink!}, but it would feel a bit odd saying I was a beginner when I am... well an experienced beginner now. It is more that is my turn to give back to the community that continually nurtures me and my bees.