Sunday, August 2, 2009


This is an alfalfa field south of town. You can see the Pryor Mountains in the background. I am pretty sure that these fields provide the main nectar source for the area.

On the left you can see big blue boxes that house cutter bees- the main pollinators for alfalfa. Honeybees get nectar from alfalfa but do not pollinate it.

Here is a close up view of some alfalfa blossoms from the field. The fields are jammed full of these little things.

Here we have a bee working the blossoms on the broccoli in our garden. Last years broccoli gave us nice big tight heads of broccoli. We must have grabbed a different variety this year because the heads were loose and sparse so we decided to just let it go to seed and see what the bees could do with it. They love it!

We have quite a lot of clover in our lawn. The bees had been ignoring it for the first part of the summer. They are paying more attention to it now.

Pretty good profile of the bee here sucking the nectar out of the clover.

The wings really reflect the sunlight. When the sun is shining during mid-morning the bees reflect the sunlight as they take of and come in to the hives. It looks like little points of light zipping through the air.

Straight head-on view here. Too bad it doesn't have it's proboscis out to stick down into the clover.

Honeybee in a red hollyhock. I thought that bees would only use hollyhocks for pollen- they have so much of it. But as you can see this bee is going past the pollen and I assume is sucking nectar from the center of the flower.

The bees were ignoring our hollyhocks as well until a couple of weeks ago.

Finally, a honeybee in a pink hollyhock. This one is dusted in pollen.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Confessions Of A Confused Beekeeper

Well, I have a lot of catching up to do- it has been a while.

As you might recall, back on the post dated Juy 12th I had reported that the bees were doing a poor job of drawing comb in the medium super I had placed on top of Virginia's hive a couple of weeks earlier. During that same inspection I found that Georgia had filled in her deep hive bodies with comb and so placed a super on top of her as well. Well, a week later I inspected the hives again only to find that there were very few bees in the supers and they were still making very little progress up there. Besides that, as I was inspecting Virginia I discovered what appeared to be a supercedure cell. I freaked out a little and destroyed the supercedure cell- I am not sure why I did that, but I did. I guess I felt like if there was a supercedure cell then there was something wrong. No supercedure cell, nothing wrong- so I wiped it out. I asked about the situation with other beekeepers on and got scolded just a little for destroying a new queen cell that the bees probably needed. Always trust the bees! They know best!

There were still eggs in Virginia when I destroyed the supercedure cell, so I thought I would give it a few days and reinspect. I figured that if they really did need a new queen they might still have time to make a new supercedure cell from one of the remaining eggs. If there was not time I thought I would steal a frame full of eggs from Georgia and give it to Virginia so there would be plenty of eggs for a new queen cell. Once I got into Virginia for this second time I spotted the queen and lots of eggs but no supercedure cell. Since the queen was still there and there were eggs with which the bees could supercede if they needed to, I left everything the way it was. Yes- I decided to trust the bees. If there are any more experienced beekeepers reading this and are shaking their heads wondering what this newbie thinks he is doing- Please comment and tell me what is really going on and what I should be doing. Thanks!

While I was down in the brood nest the bees got pretty ticked off. I was glad to be wearing my veil and gloves. I couldn't believe how many bees were in the bottom box- they just kept boiling out. Anyway, my seven year old was out playing in the yard (this had never been a problem before), and the bees decided to go after him. He ended up with 3 stings before he made it in the house. I was talking to another beekeeper in town about it and asked why they were so mad this time. He said that if you mess around in the brood nest in the middle of summer they will always get ticked off. I will leave the brood nest alone for the rest of the summer.

Now back to the problem of the bees not making progress drawing comb up in the supers- Some of the other beeks on Beesource don't use queen excluders. They say that bees don't like to cross the excluder and it puts a damper on honey production up in the supers. I decided to pull the queen excluder off Virginia and leave it on Georgia. About 5 days later I went back and just looked through the supers. I found that the super on each hive was full of bees and that both hives were making significant progress- there was some comb on nearly every frame and the center frames had quite a bit. There was even some nectar being stored. From this I have concluded that, at least in our two hives, a queen excluder may not be necessary as the bees in Virginia were storing nectar and there were not eggs, but that the presence of a queen excluder does not hinder anything since both hives seem to be making equal progress. Maybe there was just a lull in the nectar flow which picked back up last week?

I was not expecting the bees to have made this much progress in this their first year so I do not have extra supers and frames on hand. I can see that I will need to provide more space for the bees. I have ordered two more supers and ten frames for each from Mann Lake Ltd. They should be arriving sometime next week. I think I still have time before they run out of space.

The alfalfa fields are still in bloom. I am surprised that the alfalfa to be used for seed is still blooming- this has gone on for quite a while. The other alfalfa fields used for hay have been cut once, are in bloom for the second time, and are just about ready for their second cutting. I had never noticed how pretty alfalfa blossoms are and how many there are. All summer the bees had pretty much ignored the nectar and pollen in our yard but are now all over the hollyhocks, clover growing in the grass, and the broccoli plants we let go to seed. Most of the bees do still take off for parts unknown but I have been able to catch a few photos of the bees on blossoms in our own yard. I will post those photos in the next post either tonight or tomorrow- the next post chronologically but the first post as it appears on this page.

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