Bee Update!

I said we weren’t going to mess with the bees.

I lied.

Or rather, once I said we weren’t messing with them, we realized it had been a while since we had messed with them.

So today we messed with them. We went in for a checkup more than anything. We want to monitor their progress and get a sense of if and when we can do another honey harvest.

So we opened up the top honey box to see if the hive had made any progress. And I, through thick gloves and sunglasses and face netting, managed to snap this completely centered and focused bee in flight. How did I even do this?20150905_123353_HDRWe weren’t sure if they would have started storing in the new honey box or not. But they have! They’ve built the comb up in every frame and started storing honey in quite a few. These are the frames of the top hive body onto which they’ve built some little honey-filled burr comb extensions. Just like in those 2013 bottles, this late-season honey is noticeably much darker in color that the stuff we’ve already harvested. We tried a little bit, and I swear it tasted like elderflowers. Who knows. 20150905_123519_HDRAfter exploring the honey box, we delved into the top hive body. Production down here is also at full throttle. These bees are exceptional. If I have my own hive someday, I’m gearing myself up for some serious disappointment. The capped cells stretching into the distance are brood – each one contains an egg or larva that will eventually be a worker bee. In the foreground and running along the right edge of the frame are drone brood, identifiable by their bumpiness. The drones are the only males in the colony and kept around only for breeding with neighboring queens. I could say something wry about men here, but I won’t.20150905_123736_HDRInstead I’ll show you this picture of the miracle of birth! Most of the bees in this picture are workers going about their business with their heads in the cells. To the far left of the frame, however, halfway down, are two bees coming out of their cells headfirst. These are drones emerging for the first time from the cells they were laid in as eggs. About four cells northeast of them is another drone a little behind in the process, still breaking through his wax cap. All you can clearly see are his antennae. 20150905_123723_HDRIn a by-and-large positive checkup, there was one ill omen: propolis. The stuff acts as a sealant, and while it’s perfectly natural for it to be here, Kim says the fact that it’s so prevalent and so thick this early in the season means the bees think it’ll be an especially hard winter. This is bad news for me, because I still haven’t gotten over last winter. And it’s bad news for the bees, because they have a heck of a time surviving the cold. Our colony last year didn’t survive. Neither did something like 40% of the colonies in Rhode Island. We love these bees, though, so we’re going to do our best to keep them alive. If we do take another batch of honey, we’re only taking half at the most. And I’ll be cooking up fondant and hopping the fence to feed them when the snow’s too deep to open the garden gate. Hopefully they make it!20150905_123436_HDRBut for now the weather’s still warm and the bees are loving it. In fact, look who I found later in the flowers by my house! She’s not necessarily one of ours, but I’m choosing to believe she is. 20150905_133854_HDR


Guys in the Garden

We’re giving the bees a rest for a while. By “rest” I really mean time to frantically replace the honey we stole. Still, it’s a rest from our interfering with them.

That means no business posts for the time being. This post is pure pleasure: a happy little jaunt through the garden.

I was down today putting my baby melons in slings. I’m growing a single Kazakh melon vine from the seed exchange and I’m so excited that I might actually see what it tastes like before the frost hits! I slung them in knee high pantyhose tied to some strong screws so they don’t get too heavy and fall off the vine. I have been tending this melon since February, and I won’t let gravity get in my way!20150901_103044Anyway, as I sat hunkered down next to my trellis, I noticed the huge amount of activity around me. This one melon vine alone has dozens of flowers, and during the fifteen minutes I was there, I watched a constant procession of pollinators go by.

Here’s a bumblebee making a stop on melon blossom. I saw so many bees come through, and each one stopped on every flower. I may have a lot more melons before long.20150901_103400A bee? It’s way too small to be one of ours. I think it’s a hoverfly, a friendly little pollinator.

20150901_104403The bumblebees were loving someone’s Thai basil. If you look closely, you can see the full pollen baskets on the back legs of this one. Look for the light yellow half moons on either side of its black body.20150901_110342Either a wasp or a yellow jacket was drinking up the moisture on the woodchips around the hose spigot. It seemed to be the only one around, so hopefully this isn’t the sign of a nest!20150901_105430This cicada almost clocked me in the head in its excitement to get to this pole. 20150901_104050A bird was going to town on some poor soul’s sunflower. My picture taking scared him off, but I’m sure he’ll be back. Does anyone know their birds? I think he looks like a woodpecker, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. 20150901_105040And that’s it! Thank you for joining me on this tour of the fauna of Rhode Island. Thankfully no woodchucks made any appearances! For one last hurrah, here’s a truly tiny baby melon.20150901_103615