Friday, May 2, 2014

If You Build It, They Will Come

So last year we had two hives of bees, both started from packages installed in the spring. Neither colony made it through the winter. We decided not to buy packages this year, and Trish said offhand that maybe some bees would find our hives and move in. Guess what happened yesterday? A swarm moved into one of our hives. Neither of us were home when it happened, but our housemate reported seeing a huge column of bees around noon. Now there is a lot of activity in the hive with bees going in and out.

Trish never cleared the honey and comb out of the hives, so we imagine that the bees are busy cleaning things up to their satisfaction. We don't think the old colony was diseased or anything, so there shouldn't be an issue with the new colony taking up residence. These bees are the first natural swarm we've had.

By the way, if anyone is interested in keeping bees this year in the Seattle area and is looking for a Warre hive, Trish does build them, so feel free to drop us a line.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bees and Wasps Far and Near

The honeybees at Edmonds Community College (where I teach English) have their own Facebook page now. While looking at some recent posts, I found a link to Facebook page for another honeybee program at a Seattle-area school, Green River Community College.

The Edmonds CC page also offered a link to a recent Seattle Times story about the large amount of wasps people have spotted in the area lately. While wasps are also pollinators, they unfortunately will attack honeybees (as well as people, as we all know too well!).

If you ever are seeing a lot of yellow/black/gold insects and aren't sure what they are, this page from Colorado State University has some useful information about distinguishing types of wasps and bees.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Looking Good

Our bees still seem to be happy and healthy. We see them in the yard enjoying the flowering herbs especially. They like our fennel plants quite a lot.

We realized this year that we want to start planting more flowers that bloom later into the summer/fall. Maybe some mums and asters? Please let me know if you have suggestions.

Last year the nectar flow dried out at this time of year, so I know Trish is keeping an eye out this year to see if she wants to supplement their diet with some bee tea.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Buzzing Along

Both of the hives are doing well! We see bees in the flowers and flowering herbs in our yard every day. The bees enjoy lavender and borage, of course, and we also see them in the oregano. If you aren't already planting borage, I would encourage you to plant some if you want to attract pollinators; here's some good info about borage. It has pretty, star-like flowers, and it's also believed to have medicinal benefits.

The other plant our bees love is Crocosmia, or "Lucifer" flowers. Here's a photo from Wikipedia--and it's perfect because we have had hummingbirds visiting ours quite a lot, too (or maybe just one hummingbird who returns quite a lot).

We have been seeing butterflies in the yard a lot, too. It's been nice to see so much activity. Trish's close attention to gardening shows a lot of rewards!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Meanwhile in the Garden: Peas!

We've been enjoying fresh peas from the garden lately. Here are a couple pics I took when the peas were in blossom. Trish stakes them with bamboo.

I think simple preparation is best for peas. I like them raw, or just lightly steamed. Of course they are always good in a salad or stir-fry, too. How do you like to cook peas?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Hive in a Hurry

This week Trish hurried to finish a hive for our friends Yun and Jade because their hive split. The swarm of bees took up residence in their neighbor's yard, and they called a local bee expert to collect the swarm. The bees waited for a couple days in a screened (ventilated) box (courtesy of the bee expert) while Trish finished up building a hive. Then yesterday she went over and helped install the bees in their new home.

Meanwhile the two hives in our yard are very active, and both seem to be growing every day. Trish thinks the hive by the garden may split/swarm, too, so she is going to add a fourth box to the hive soon.

Remember that if you're in the Seattle area and interested in a Warre hive, let us know as Trish would love to build you one. You might very well be able to get a swarm for your hive as this is a great season for bees so far, and I would think that many local hives will split/swarm.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bees in Lavender

I snapped some photos in our garden today, and I happened to catch a couple of bees enjoying the lavender on the south side of the house. Bear in mind that I have a point and shoot digital camera, so these are not the best quality photos!

First off, here's a honeybee in the lower left corner of the first shot. Of course I can't know for sure that this bee lives in one of our hives, I'd bet that she does.

Then here's another kind of bee toward the center of this second shot. Not sure what kind of bee this is. It's a black color with a bit of yellow and white. We think of these as bumblebees, but they aren't the big kind. If you happen to know what kind of bee this might be, please do leave a comment on this post and let me know.

There are so many varieties of bees out in the world, enjoying the different blooms they find. It's a pleasure to see both in our yard.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Warm May Weather, Active Bees

I've lived in the Seattle area my whole life, and I can't remember such a long streak of summer-like weather in May. Well, apparently this is the longest rain-free streak in May since 1946 and 1958.

The bees are super-active, as you might guess. Here are two pictures I snapped today, both showing the hive in the backyard. The other hive is located in the side yard, and it's also been plenty busy.

It's been interesting to have two hives to be able to compare and contrast. The bees in the side yard have always seemed more boisterous, something we noticed the day we picked them up. We heard them buzzing as we drove home from Beez Neez, while the other bees were silent. Trish thinks that possibly the side yard bees are sometimes going into the hive of the backyard bees to rob them of some honey, but we can't be sure.

In other bee news, Trish had a look through the observation windows of the backyard hive this morning and was pretty sure she saw some brood emerging from cells of comb. The timing sounds about right: I read that it takes 21 days for a worker bee to hatch.

I wish I could get a picture that shows how you can look up into the air near the hives and watch the bees heading back and forth. They're pretty high up, like 10-12 feet or more, I'd say. There are so many of them flying so quickly on their looping paths. I've compared them to bottle rockets before in a poem, and today they reminded me of stunt pilots.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Bees Are Settling In

Last Wednesday (April 17) we were lucky to have a sunny day for our drive to Snohomish to pick up two packages of honeybees. Even better, the sunny weather made for a perfect afternoon to install the packages into the hives. This is our first year having two hives instead of just one.

Trish has become quite the pro as far as the bee installation goes. My job is more to make sure our two cats stay inside during the process because they're very curious and want to interfere (I think if we could ask them, they would say they're "helping"). Right when we got home, one of the cats sort of leapt/charged at the package that was waiting near one of the hives. Anyway, the cat wrangling is the easy part.

The more complicated part, of course, is Trish's role as the bee-installer. Over time, she's come up with a lot of ways to make this easier. For example, she lays out all her tools on a bench she puts near the hive so that everything she needs is just at hand (smoker, pliers, bee brush, etc). She also has learned that it works best to cut away more of the screen from the bee package rather than to try to force all the bees out of the small hole at the top (the first year, we'd watched a YouTube video where the beekeeper shook the package until all the bees came out the hole, and most of them do come out, but many of them linger in the package, and it's easier to get those bees out by just cutting away one of the walls of the package). Well, I'll have to ask Trish for a list of tips she's put together. This was her third time installing packages of bees.

From an observer's perspective, the process went pretty quickly, but I'm sure it felt longer for Trish inside her protective gear. The bees have been very busy and active in their first week here, even over the weekend when the weather was on the rainy side. Go, bees!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bees Coming This Wednesday

This Wednesday is our bee pick-up day at Beez Neez in Snohomish. Unfortunately, the bees in our backyard didn't make it through the winter, so Trish is installing a new package of bees. Also, she's decided to start a second hive in the yard. We'll have one hive in the backyard and another in the side yard. We have a nice wide space in the side yard where the bees can live, with ample space between the hive and the neighbor's yard.

Did your bees winter over? Are you getting new bees this year? Are you just starting a hive? We'd love to know if you have a moment to share!