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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Endless bees most beautiful and most wonderful

Native bees have piqued my interest this year. There are so many varieties sharing the flowers with our honey bees. We had Sam Droege of the U.S. Geological Survey speak at a recent club meeting, and he advocated the benefits of bee watching as an alternative to butterfly or bird watching. There are more bee species than butterflies and birds combined, and bees are much more stationary than most birds. Perhaps this will become a pastime.

So I have been studying the biological taxonomic hierarchy of bees lately. It is all rather confusing, so this write-up will perhaps clarify this for myself as well as a couple readers.

I gathered much of the material here from Wikipedia, and also verified some information with other sources. You may complain that Wikipedia is not the best original source if you wish.

My honey bees (a hybrid of Apis mellifera carnica) at the entrance to my hive Saturn on October 28, 2017.

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Red skies are night, to a bee’s sight

Rose Campion

Rose campion from the site Cherry Gal

On a recent visit to George Washington’s house, we happened upon their annual plant sale. Not being one to pass up a pretty plant, especially one from President Washington’s very own garden, I picked up a couple Lychnis coronaria, commonly known as rose campion.

The plant intrigued me because the fuzzy leaves reminded me of the woolly leaves of lamb’s ear, a perennial we have around the yard. In early summer, the bumble bees are all over the lamb’s ear flowers, so I thought I would add the new plant to our little bee yard. Continue reading

CCBA Honeycomb: A Way That Appears to Bee Right

Honeybee DemocracyI posted a short summary of the CCBA Conference yesterday, so today I thought I would describe the advanced track presented by Tom Seeley and Michael Palmer. Even though they alternated, I thought a separate post for each of them would make sense. This post is about Tom Seeley’s three sessions on topics related to wild bees, honey production control systems, and water management. I was especially looking forward to seeing Tom Seeley, as I greatly enjoyed his book Honeybee Democracy about swarming. Continue reading

To Bee or Not To Bee

I finished reading Thomas D. Seeley’s excellent book Honeybee Democracy this past week, and it has me thinking about bee colonies as superorganisms. The idea is that a specialized colony of animals such as termites, coral, or bees behaves as a single organism, and can be treated as such. This had me wondering how a bee colony compares to our own special type of organism, the human body, which in turn led to this post.

Honeybee swarm

Honey bee swarm image from the site honeybeeswarmremoval.com

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The Unbearable Lightness of Beeing

There seem to be quite a lot of bees, over 20,000 species worldwide. Bees are part of the insect genus Apis, which (surprise!) is Latin for bee. This post discusses the bees generally available in North America, which is one of the seven different species of honey bees generally recognized. Continue reading