Archive | March 2014

A Bumbleebee Queen Stops In For A Chat

Since I don’t work until tomorrow, I took some time yesterday to call around and find bees. While I was on the phone with the person I’ve been trying to reach since last week, a bumblebee came up into my room. It was 68 yesterday, so honeybees were all over my grape hyacinth, and the occasional bumblebee was buzzing through the garden. I had all the doors and windows open downstairs to air out the house, and went inside to call about bees. I didn’t really know what to do, because bumblebees never come in our house. I told the guy I was talking to about it and he suggested that she came in on my shoulder. She flew around my room a little and investigated the pot that my ficus tree was in. While I was still on the phone I opened the blinds on my bay window and opened up both windows. The queen bumblebee found the windows no sooner than I had opened the second one and was outside in seconds. I’m taking this as good news for the year!

I also called another place about getting more wood chips delivered, and should have half a load (about 6-8 cubic yards) of those by friday. I have to say, having a free source of wood chips is really nice. My garden just feels happier having them down everywhere. There are certainly a lot more worms now. I’m going to try my best to make this year about all sort of bees in my garden. I talked my mom into letting me build an insect hotel (see: for ideas of what they look like). Essentially its an artificial habitat with lots of twigs and bits of wood pilled up together with the intention of attracting various insects to your garden. These insects are likely already here in smaller numbers, but this hotel provides even more places for them to breed/over winter.

The bumblebee queen seemed to really enjoy our house yesterday, because once it got dark I found her trying to crawl into the house underneath the door jam. I opened the door to let the dogs in and they refused to go any further because there was a very large black bumblebee sitting right in the middle of things, haha. I picked her up using a cup and moved her out into the garden. I put her in an over turned garden pot in the hopes she would be safe there, and potentially even like it so much she would nest there (though it was highly unlikely). I went to check on her again today and she was still under there. It was colder than I had thought it would’ve been under that pot. I quickly moved her onto a nice dry rock in the sun, and after a little bit she hopped over onto some hyacinth, which I didn’t know they enjoyed.





Here she is sunning herself on the rock. It had just finished raining and this rock was drying up the fastest, so thats where I put her.



You can see her tongue poking into one of the flowers. She’s about as big as my thumb. After a few minutes of hopping from flower cluster to flower cluster, she flew off in search of a better food source.

We get bumble bees in the garden every year, always looking for a place to nest in the rockery. I know that building hives for them to live in have extremely low success rates, but I still wouldn’t mind having one or two for them.



My Aunt’s Colony Is Still Alive

My family got together for coffee this morning and I ended up going over to my aunts house to check on her bees. She was certain the activity in/around her hive was just robber bees, so she wanted me to double check. After getting there all I needed to do was knock on the side of the hive to send a few guard bees shooting out to investigate. Remember that her hive is a Warre, and last year I left three boxes on instead of the recommended two. I take this to mean that the hive population is large if they’re able to crawl through one and a half to two boxes of empty comb to investigate a disturbance so quickly. Needless to say, my aunt and I were very excited to have bees survive the winter. She was concerned that her bees hadn’t made it, and so asked me to buy another colony for her. So once I reach someone who sells packages I’ll get one for her as well as one for me.

I’ll have to go over there again soon so I can check the hive’s stores. My aunt texted me after I had left to say that there were lots of bees coming in with pollen, which is excellent news. By the sound of things she wants these bees to kind of officially be hers. Which is fine with me; going to her house to keep bees is not convenient since I’m not working there any more. It’s a half hour from my house, but the hive location is nice because there are lots of open fields with flowers in them. She should get plenty of honey this year!

Another Colony Lost

It was a relatively warm day yesterday, and no bees of any kind were to be seen in my garden. Feeling brave, I decided to peek into the hive without a suit on. I found that despited the fondant I had given them, my bees had died.



This was all that was left of them. A little over a dozen bees and the queen.



I’m not sure why they decided to cluster here, given that just a few cells to the right there were eggs present.



Lots of eggs. I almost think the queen was so desperate to lay eggs she was putting more in the cells than she should’ve. They couldn’t have supported more than this space (obviously) because of their numbers, so there was no where else to put them. Some of the cells have 5+ eggs in them. The bees had pulled in pollen from outside and from around the hive to make that nice little pocket of pollen for those eggs.


There was lots of pollen here. And probably a frame and a half worth of honey in the colony, plus the fondant.

I took the queen out to bring her inside and show everyone in my house, most of whom have never seen a queen before, and as I was walking toward the house she seemed to perk up and start moving. It was really bizarre. The warmth from my hands was enough to revive her a bit, so I put her back on the hive to let her walk around. She couldn’t move one of her legs properly and her tongue refused to retract. She never really got up to full speed, but with the sun warming her up she made her way through the telescoping cover and back down into the cluster of other lifeless bees. It was kind of sad. I feel like I should’ve given them a burial or something.

Its a little late in the season to order bees now, as most places are sold out. The first day of Spring is today after all. I would like to get some, but they’re extremely expensive. Last year they were $90 for 3 pounds of bees, and this year they’ve gone up to $110. Things are definitely getting worse if there’s been a $20 price hike over the course of one year. And Nuc’s are even more expensive, at $150 a piece.  They guy I bought my first colony of bees from said that he’s already lost 50% of his colonies, and expects to be lucky if he makes it through with 1/3 of what he started the winter with.

I don’t know what else to be doing. I bring more flowers into my garden every year, and I spoke with hundreds of people last year at my internship about bees. I just don’t understand why people don’t see that there’s an issue worth solving here. Especially one that’s easily remedied. I just want to move to the middle of no where where I can keep several dozen hives and not be penalized for it, and where pesticides are less of an issue.