I went out for coffee on Sunday with my family again, and while we were visiting my aunt mentioned that her colony no longer had any activity to it. Almost 3 weeks ago the colony appeared very active and was hauling in lots of pollen, so I was surprised to hear things had taken a turn for the worse. Keeping an out apiary is tough, and I never really get the chance to go observe the bees like i would if they were in my own backyard. I’m sorry to have lost another colony, especially when they were so close to having made it through to spring. This year I will be starting two colonies of bees with two packages though, which I hope will make all the difference for next winter.
In other bee related news, I have started making a bug hotel. Utilizing my resources, I found a local recycling place that has wood pallets they’re giving away for free.
Despite being sick, I spent several hours on saturday clearing this space out to make way for the hotel. This space was going to be a composting area, but when we realized we didn’t have the proper spacing or setup for a hot compost bin, it became more of a weed haven. Two hours of weeding and 3 wheelbarrows of wood chips later, the area was ready for the pallets. My aunt was kind enough to pick them up and deliver them to me early last week. Now that these are in place I can start filling them up with twigs and logs with holes in them. This hotel will give earwigs, centipedes, beetles, lady bugs, snails, slugs, moths, and bees a place to live and overwinter. For fun ideas on how you can make a bug hotel in you yard, see http://www.inspirationgreen.com/insect-habitats.html
I also spent this morning drilling a series of holes in an old stump we have in the yard. I tried about 5 different drill sizes in the hopes of attracting a variety of different bee species. I hung a block for blue orchard mason bees a few weeks ago, and some bees have finally found it. A single hole had been filled when I left for work today, and when I got home a second hole had been occupied. I’m excited to see that they’re moving in. I attached the block of wood to a plank so that I could drill all the way through the block and give the bees the longest hole possible, but unfortunately I didn’t do a very good job, and part of the block lifts away from the board, exposing the back of the holes/block. Blue orchard mason bees like tunnels 4-6 inches long, and longer tunnels allow for more female eggs to be laid. Male eggs are always laid to the front of the tunnel so that if any predators find the hole, the males will be eaten first, and males also hatch earlier than females, so they leave the colony first. By drilling straight through the block, I hoped to provide long tunnels and encourage female bees, since those are the ones that really make a difference in creating a second generation. I’m really happy to see the block being used so quickly after I put it up. Even though its still early in the year, I’ve placed out a tray of water and put some dirt in it, to ensure the bees have a source of mud nearby so they can make the “doors” they need in the tube. Anyway, I’m going to get another nail, or maybe even a screw, and connect the back of the block to the board so that the entire block is usable. Hopefully the stump fills up too!