Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Flaming Maples

Ahhhh.... honey and daisies.

My second hive finally arrived! Due to the cold and seemingly never ending winter, bee losses were very high this year and the apiary in Pennsylvania where Chris gets his nucs was no exception. Nucs usually arrive mid May, but this one did not made its way to New Paltz until June 4th. A nuc is a mini hive, consisting of five frames. This nuc was amazing; two frames of capped brood, pollen, larvae, and one full frame of capped honey, which gives the girls a terrific head start for wax building and feeding brood. Their temperament was calm and gentle. In a word, a box of dreamy bees. I studied the frames carefully as I moved each frame into their new home, sure that this was my chance to spot the queen, but once again, she alluded me.

A top view of the nuc

Sam got the honor of naming this hive and after much deliberation he chose The Flaming Maples.

One of the first things a new hive goes in search of is water, and given the extreme heat of last week, I wanted to have something to offer them. This bird bath has been frequented pretty steadily all week and I love standing by and watching them.

Do you like my new veil? (see Go Dog Go for point of reference). It's the little things in life, like finally finding a veil system that works just right. Mann Lake sells the black veil and it works perfectly with my new flat brimmed straw hat. I had to alter the veil by adding elastic loops to go under my arms. With this veil/hat combo., I can see much more clearly what is going on in the hive, and I can flip the veil up over the hat when it is not needed. It is also great in the garden when the gnats find me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Friends the Mason Bees

Every spring I am visited by Mason Bees. On a mission of utmost importance, they investigate the nail holes on the side of my house, the small holes on the underside of the table on the deck, the hollow legs on the old bird cage that hangs above our patio, and anything else they can find that might suit their egg laying needs. Mason Bees are small, fuzzy bees that lay their eggs in holes that are approximately 5/16ths of an inch in diameter. Once they have filled the hole with eggs, they pack it with mud. Over the years, they have found the strangest places for doing this. Above is one such example, the fuel hole on Sam's Fischer Price garage. A few years ago they filled every hole on a multi-plug extension cord that had been left outside.

This year, they discovered the oh so convenient empty frames of comb that were stacked in boxes in front of the house. I was so confused when I discovered that they had started laying eggs in this comb. Here I am, trying to raise honeybees, and another, equally wonderful creature moves in and co opts the equipment. There was no way I could choose one over the other, but I could not stand by and just let the Mason Bees spread the word about what they had found.

So I decided to sacrifice a handful of frames for the Mason Bee cause and quickly constructed an improvised Mason Bee home on the opposite side of the house from where the honeybee equipment is stored.

If you are interested in providing a cheap and easy home for the Mason Bees, take a log and drill rows and rows of 5/16 inch holes in it. Hang it from a tree or on the side of your house and see what happens. Unlike Carpenter Bees, Mason Bees don't make holes in wood, they just use existing ones, so you don't have to worry about them damaging your house.