Archive for the Bees & Hummingbirds Category

Update: Don’t Worry, Bee Happy

Posted in Bees & Hummingbirds with tags , , , on March 31, 2010 by PickMeYard

We couldn’t believe our eyes today.   Loring and I were outside having a picnic lunch  in our newly planted butterfly garden when we heard a loud buzzing noise.  We noticed a massive swarm of bees that looked like a black tornado swirling around over the top of our empty bee box.  The bees that were  in this box died suddenly a few weeks ago and the box has been sitting empty. (I never got around to moving it).  The swarm of bees swirled and swirled over the box until every single one of them was in the box.  It was amazing!  I had my camera sitting right next to me but I decided to  grab-up my 3-year-old and watch from a safer distance instead.  However, the swarm probably would have been harmless because the honeybees would be full of honey and looking for a new home.  Usually they won’t sting when they don’t have a home to defend. 

This picture was taken just minutes after a swarm of thousands of bees moved into this empty bee box in our yard.

 

Within just a couple of minutes, every bee in the massive swarm was in this box.  I believe they have found their new home.  I immediately called a beekeeper friend and he told me this was great news.  He said if they are still around in a week, then they will probably stay for good.  He also said there is a good chance that the new bees are European honeybees   (Apis mellifera) and not Africanized honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata).   The new bees might have a strong queen that is a survivor.  We’ll leave them alone for about a month and then we will open up the box to find the queen and investigate (to see if she is laying eggs).  

My beekeeper friend told me that beekeepers usually keep an empty bee box in their yard with high hopes that a swarm will move in.  He said it is fairly common for a swarm to do this.  

A great place for information about honeybees and related events for Southwest Florida is the beekeepers association of southwest florida website.    

Most gardeners are seeing less and less bees in their garden due to the huge decrease in the honeybee population. We are so excited about our new colony of honeybees.  We hope they stay. 

Come grow with us! 

Don’t Worry, Bee Happy

Posted in Bees & Hummingbirds with tags , , , , on March 11, 2010 by PickMeYard

 

Grayson and I took a beekeeping class at the Lee County agricultural extension office last summer.  As a result, we have become avid backyard beekeepers.  The picture above is Grayson with an Apis mellifera (honeybee) on his thumb. 

 

We have two boxes of honeybees and we absolutely adore them.  We tend to their needs and we do our best to protect them from harm.  Florida has become a difficult place to keep bees alive.  Florida’s beekeeping rules are different from the rest of the country.  I am eagerly waiting for somebody to write the book on Florida beekeeping.  There is so much to discuss when it comes to bees and their keeping.  I couldn’t do it in one post.  But I will write about our bees frequently as we  desperately try to keep our bees alive. 

 

 Our bee boxes on stands. 

We lost an entire box of  bees several days ago.  I believe they were poisoned while out working for the day.  There were dead bees everywhere.  We are very, very sad about the entire event.  I’ve heard people say they were sad when they lost their bees, but I didn’t truly understand the emotion until it happened to us.  It’s becoming difficult to keep bees alive if you live near a golf course or a citrus grove.  The poisons get them eventually.  Are you now wondering what those poisons are doing to us?  Me too.  Our other box of bees are lethargic and barely hanging in there.  We’re feeding them sugar-water prepared a special way for feeding bees and saying a prayer for them. 

 

This is one of our girls on our lime blossoms.  Our garden has been buzzzzing with activity.  These worker bees are out collecting pollen, nectar, water and propolis.  Propolis has wonderful antimicrobial properties.  Bees use it to sterilize the hive and fill in cracks. 

 

During the bees active season, a colony usually has one queen, several hundred drones (males), and many thousands of workers (females).  In the above picture, the queen is marked with a green dot.  This is an international queen color code to determine her age.  She is also marked so that she is easy to spot when tending the bees.  The color green indicates that she is a queen from a year ending with a 4 or 9.  Each year has a different color.  The queen can still be spotted without a colored dot on her as  she is larger than the other bees. 

My colony, in the above picture, is not doing well.  If they were, you would see capped brood in the picture.   The term brood is used to refer to the embryo or egg, the larva and the pupa stages in the life of holometabolous insects. The brood of honeybees develops within a bee hive box.  

some capped brood cells here

If all goes well, this is the honey harvest you can expect at the end of the season.  Most backyard beekeepers get much, much more than this.  

 

This is a local honey stand, at the end of the beekeeper’s driveway, that is not far from us.  

 

We bought our honey here for years before we became beekeepers.  They use the honor system.  You choose your honey and put the proper amount into the money slot. 

Unfortunately, for the first time in history, beekeepers everywhere are giving up… at an alarming rate .  They are not able to keep their bees alive.  Since beekeeping is not our livelihood and only a backyard hobby for us, we will not give up…yet. 

Come grow with us!

If you plant it…they will come, Part II

Posted in Bees & Hummingbirds with tags , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by PickMeYard

This is Florida’s beloved firespike plant (odontonema strictum).  It is one of my favorite plants. It isn’t edible for people, but it sure feeds the hummingbirds.  They really, really love it.  We  had a hummingbird hanging out at this plant all day, every day,  for many months.  I have this planted in front of all our windows.  My son does his homeschooling at a table in front of a huge window with this plant as his view.  He watches the hummingbird while he works.  My son said a new hummingbird appeared yesterday while he was working. 

I  tell everyone I know to plant this if they want hummingbirds in their yard.  I  planted this at a house we used to live in that was completely covered under an oak hammock.  The entire yard was in dense shade.  This firespike plant still bloomed profusely most of the year and the hummingbirds were all over it all the time.  When we moved from that house I dug up some small seedlings and carried them with me to the new house.  When the firespike bloomed, the hummingbirds arrived. 

We’ve had many nights of freezing temperatures in zone 9b this year.  My firespike isn’t as green as it usually is, but it hardly looks damaged.  I believe the overhang on the side of the house protected it.  If it does freeze back to the ground, it will usually grow back.  In the ten years I’ve  grown this plant in my yard I have never seen it harbor any pests.  Firespike grows to a height of about six feet.  There are many other plants that attract hummingbirds, but this one is a must have for a Florida yard.

Come grow with us!