Some people take longer to learn beekeeping than others. Some seem to be naturals at spotting the queen and deciphering the difference between sealed brood and capped honey. I try to help students figure out how to make it work in their minds so that it "clicks". Bobby was struggling. Couldn't see the difference between worker bees and the queen or even the queen compared to a drone. Reading the comb was just as difficult, if not more. It was frustrating for him, and me.
One day while helping him with an inspection, I spotted the queen and showed him. Big fat queen. "She's on this frame", I said. Nope, he couldn't see here. I tried to move the frame to dead center as she walked on the frame I kept moving to put her directly in front of Bobby's noise. Nope. This had been going on for months. A I took the frame with the queen on it and we moved away from the colony. I asked him if he was comfortable removing his veil. He was. He did. AND then eureka! We figured it out. It wasn't that Bobby wasn't grasping the differences it was that he couldn't SEE the differences. The mesh of the veil was blurring his vision. I see the queen! Oh look at that drone! That's a brood frame! We both were so relieved and so excited but then.......Bobby put his veil back on.
The next time I helped with an inspection I arrived to find the new and improved veil Bobby made. He took a $50 veil and cut it. But a window in it! VIOLA!
When a colony uses up all their resources and have nothing left in their own "pantry" to eat, they go "shopping" to find a full pantry.....
Actually, this is a nice way of saying it. The more correct way would be to say "hostile take-over". This usually occurs during dearth periods. A common trait in Africanized bees is to continue rearing young until they have used up all their food then search for a hive with resources to take over. Many times this is not Africanized taking over an European hive but a more aggressive colony overtaking a weaker one. Sometimes even a strong healthy one....what do the bees have to loose!
The photo below shows an Africanized Usurpation Swarm taking over a small Africanized colony that I removed a few months prior. The established colony was recovering from the removal and being fed supplements of sugar syrup and protein patty. The starving group of bees decided to take over what they had. We were out in the bee-yard working with this happened. We searched for the queen in the group of bees hanging on the outside of the box and didn't find her. We opened the established colony and found two queens on separate frames, both being balled. Since the Africanized queens were unmarked and not knowing who would win the battle out of the worker bees, we caged both queens. The queen whose workers won fed their queen while the other queen was ignored, and starved in her cage.
IF the hive being taken over was European, the marked queen would have been grabbed and put in a cage, the intruder queen killed. At this point since so many of the intruder worker bees had entered there was no separating the bees back. The European queen would need to stay in the cage as if she was being introduced to the colony. So always remember to keep your European queens marked.
As a beekeeper, you tend to collect "Bee things" so what to do with all the awesome bee pins? An idea is to use a frame and fabric like many do in the antique jewelry world. We have used a floral tapestry and stuck the bees on the flowers like they were pollinating the field and hung it on the wall. So many great ideas floating around on Pinterest as well! What I decided to go with is a fabric that looks like bee bread (pollen) and hexagon shaped embroidery hoops. I could not find these in our local craft stores and in fact I did not know they even existed until I ran across them on Amazon. Sadly they are not wood, however they are easy to use. Just cut the fabric out allowing space around the larger of the hoops then put over the smaller hoop and press together and twist the screw. You don't even need to iron the fabric! the tension pulls the creases out!
The newest addition to the collection is this adorable 1960s Trifari Enamel Pin, apparently a well known and very sought after costume jewelry line. I didn't know this until running across this bee at an antique mall.
Sterling Silver bees / wasp and a fat little Mexican Alpaca Pin.
My favorite one......a costume jewelry double bee made in the 1920s to be worn with fur stoles.
Just some misc. more contemporary pieces. I have more but am thinking the way I would like to display these is by date ranges, so I ordered another package of hoops. If you would like to make these for yourself...I am even thinking of displaying some of my favorite bee fabrics with them, below is a link to follow.
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Purchased 2 from Tractor Supply for $14.99 minus 20% discount. DeGroot growers, a Veteran owned company. Started them in 5 gallon planters to establish root system during the winter. Transferred them outside and planted April 2023.
Harvest: Early to Mid-June
Water Use: Water Regularly during first growing season to establish deep root system.
Pollinator: Required. Recommended include Golden Dorsett or Red Delicious.
My social media feed is full of "Save the Bees" posts. Many so called "non-profits" and businesses are jumping on the band wagon and tooting their own horns as being the only ones "saving the bees". When in fact, much of the money donated goes to other things....
The title in itself is irritating to some naturalists. When the public thinks of bees they automatically picture the Honeybee (apis millifera). But our Honeybee is not truly the one in danger. I am not saying beekeepers do not take a drastic hit in colony collapses every year, but here is what I am saying:
The honeybee is the poster child. Beekeepers, especially commercial ones, can look inside their hives and immediately know something is seriously wrong. They get on their phones to other beekeepers, across the nation and the world, contact the researchers, the USDA and more. One thing is for certain, their bottom dollar, their money to feed their kids, put them through college, or feed their bees, or even put gas into their run down trucks with balding tires is at stake!
Many try to claim that it is hobbyists that will "save the bees".......well, majority of hobbyists only have one or two backyard hives, are not familiar with all reasons for colony collapses and cannot even diagnose their loss due to lack of experiences. It is not due to lack of compassion. ALL beekeepers have that. After all, you would have to in order to endure the possible stings, heat and labor intensive, back breaking work means you love what you do. Beekeeping, especially on a commercial level, is not 9-5 work. It is sun up to sun down and then some!
By seeing problems inside the hives, the beekeepers sound the alarm! If a commercial beekeeper looses 80% of his/her colonies in an area then something is affecting the ecosystem. If our honeybees are affected how badly affected are the native bees, butterflies, moths and other beneficial insects? What is causing it? How can we stop it?
It is about qualifications. This reminds me of the Native American Hopi potter, Nampeyo, she was not the only great potter of her time, but she was the most outspoken and flamboyant, willing to step outside her comfort zone and promote Hopi pottery at different events, this brought her fame and though many pots are made by other potters, they are "attributed" to Nampeyo. Why do I mention this? It is because the same goes for beekeeping. Those, including myself, that are on social media, youtube, etc. are not the best beekeepers. The best beekeepers are so busy taking care of their bees they don't have time for anything else. The best beekeepers are the ones that have been in business running countless hives year to year. I recently realized that some "third generation" beekeepers just really mean my grandpa had a hive, my dad had two hives and I have 4 hives", so on youtube it will say "learn from a third generation beekeeper" ok, that's not a lie, but it is really stretching your credibility!
So where am I going with this? Many "save the bees" organizations are not even beekeepers. Yes, they might love bees, but they also love money. Money is the driving point and even though they might think they are doing good......what actually are they accomplishing and where is your money going? Are you sending in $20 to get a trinket back in the mail? Think about the cost of the trinket, and the cost of shipping!!! Then the administrative costs. Then the marketing costs.....it just goes on and on. So here is a tip from my dad on how to separate the good from the bad. Dig. Who are they. Who is behind the curtain. Check the Board of Directors, where did they work? Where is the money coming from? FOLLOW THE MONEY! Shockingly some of the searching you will find behind the "save the bee" non-profits leads you to big ag and chem corporations!
So who do I currently support that not only supports honeybees but all pollinators?
Also called Desert Milkweed. (Asclepias erosa) Yellowish to white flowers with large gray-green leaves that are often covered in fine cream colored hairs. Contains a milky sap. Native Americans were known to boil the latex until hard and use as a chewing gum. The seedpods resemble to Milkweeds from the East and Midwest. Incredibly hardy, these milkweeds grow wild on our homestead.
Perennial Spring thru Summer Blooms Full Sun Low Water
(Asclepias linaria) A native to the Southwest, named due to its narrow pine needle like leaves. In addition to butterflies, a variety of other pollinators also feed on the nectar. A friend, Michael, sent me a photo of his honeybees working the creamy-white flowers and so I had to add this to our pollinator gardens. If you are planting for monarchs, this is not a great milkweed for them.
Perenial Blooms Spring thru Fall Full to partial sun Low water
Finished creating Dan's end of year Blue Ray of all the wildlife he has filmed this year and started working on his YouTube Channel. We have so many fun projects that will be coming to surface instead of lurking around in the shadows! I can't wait to share them all with you!
Today it practically rained all day! It was really lovely and cold! LOL I am not complaining. We really need the rain. I stayed in working on photo files and organizing (one of my New Year's resolutions!). Got quite a bit done but was not as successful on the diet....isn't that one of everyone's next year's goals? Refrigerator is getting bare and I have hopes to becoming more sustainable in the next year. Lots of dreaming, I know! Dream BIG!