Life is for each queen a solitary cell

I spent some time in the apiary yesterday with some nice weather. Not too hot and very sunny. The bees were happy, as far as I could tell. Foragers are all over our cherry trees, and I saw them working the holly, dandelions, and viburnum this weekend as well. The nectar flow has definitely arrived, so an update on my hives seems appropriate.

The cherry trees just outside my apiary (the flowering bushes inside the fence are viburnum). The trees are in full bloom, with the smell the flowers and the buzzing of bees when you walk beneath. ©Erik Brown

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A bee is a dandelion in her own cause

Dandelions in our yard on March 31, 2018. ©Erik Brown

March was colder than February here in Virginia. Our favorite weatherman said tonight that this is only the second year this has happened. The first time was last year, when we had a very warm February and a cold March. This year we had a cool February and a cooler March.

Needless to say, the flowers are off to a slow start this year, with the bees alternating between huddling for warmth and flying for joy. It seems a short post to welcome some spring and flowers into our world is in order. Continue reading

You can’t get honey from a mason bee

We had our biggest snowfall of the winter today. Actually, it was the only significant snowfall this winter. We’ve had stretches of very cold weather, without any snow. Two days ago it was sunny and warm (60 F /15 C) out and the bees were very happy. Today is the first day of spring, and they are clustered in the hive.

As such, a good time for another post on a native bee species: mason bees. These hard working bees are smaller than honey bees and prolific pollinators. My friend Tammy gave me a book on these bees for Christmas, and it inspired me to put a Mason Bee House on my birthday list.

My top bar hives in the cold this morning (March 21, 2018). ©Erik Brown

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Flight of the bumble bee

A male bumble bee in 2015 on a Purple Salvia plant. ©Erik Brown

I just finished a wonderful book about on bumble bees. Given the flowers and the bees are both holding out for some warmer weather, I thought a post might be in order. As described in my post Endless bees most beautiful and most wonderful, bumblebees are classified in the same Family as honey bees, the Family Apidea. They have their own Genus, the Genus Bombus, distinct from the Genus Apis where the honey bee is found. The word Bombus comes from the Greek bombos for “a buzzing sound” which is certainly characteristic of these bees. Continue reading

What doesn’t kill your bees makes them stronger

There is a saying in beekeeping circles to “be a bee keeper, not a bee haver.” It expresses the notion that we should intervene with our bees when necessary to keep them alive, as a farmer typically does with any other livestock. The measurement of success for “keeping” your bees is for them to live through the winter and into spring. It is easy to have bees and then watch them die over the winter due to lack of food or varroa infestation; it is much harder to keep them healthy until the spring nectar flow begins. Be a bee keeper, not a bee haver.

I seem to be skirting the line between having and keeping bees lately.

180131a Mars Bees

Dead bees between the frames of Mars. ©Erik Brown

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All the President’s Bees

PWRBA Logo A brief update on some recent happenings with our local bee club and my hives. We had weather in the high 60’s F, almost 20 C, on Friday. A great time for the bees to catch some relief from our sub-freezing temperatures. It was a brief respite, as Saturday’s temperature dropped into the 30’s F, near 0 C. Continue reading