The little bits here and there add up

Getting a hive ready for honeybees by recycled empty combs, nothing smells like home like the smell of beeswax. At least, that’s what the girls seem to think!
The empty ends of honey combs are reclaimed, then tied onto bars – the bees reattach them – and this natural wax ‘foundation’ acts as a guide, keeping combs straight.
A new package of bees will benefit the most from having empty combs to work and cluster on during those first few days. Unlike a swarm, packages do not have bellies full of honey to begin working right away. I have to be aware of what’s in bloom – if the dandelions blooms are gone, then the main flow is over and that pre-made colony will have a tough time building up.
They have no resources but what you give them, and what they can find around them. Foraging is hard work, and the population may dwindle very fast, so be prepared to support the colony, until they have regained their little feet.

Not just Honeybees

For the backyard homesteader, creating habitats that encourage bumblebees, carpenter and mason bees to visit will help with higher yields with their superior small space pollination services when compared to honey bees.

Bumblebees colonies can number in the hundreds, so they do not need the forage acreage that honey bees search out.  Carpenter and mason bees will stay in one area, and visit the same small patches of flowers consistently, making them and bumbles a highly desired visitor.

Where they go for the nectar flow

Honey Bee colonies, in the height of summer can reach numbers of 40’000 to 100’000 and sometimes even higher numbers depending on resources.  Because there are such large numbers of foragers leaving the hive to return with nectar and pollen, that the scouts will try to find and report locations of large fields of flowers as close as possible to home.

Honey Bees will travel up to 4 miles to gather forage, if they need to travel further, the bees loose more than they gain.  Shorter distances to nectar sources will increase productivity and health of the hive, especially when it’s uncontaminated with pesticides.

To produce 473ml (16oz) of honey
1’152 bees travel approximately
180246 kilometers (112’000 miles)
and visit 4.5 million flowers

I personally, have no idea where my honey bees go as they fly up and over the trees; without investing in RFID tracking, I won’t know until the spring if my bees have been affected by neighbouring corn and soy plantings.

Only when it’s raining

My beehive is set back among the trees; watching the entrance reveals that the foragers and scouts head out and up above the trees in search of nectar and pollen.

Where they go, I cannot see
How far they fly, I cannot tell
but once rains start that do not cease
All the bees come home to dwell

But I do know that when it rains, the bees come home to wait it out.   There are times where the number of bees may exceed the allowable room of the hive or temperatures inside need regulating, so they will simply hang out.

Fascinating, intelligent creatures.

Less Grass, More Gardens

I had noticed that in the past years, there were no honey bees in the gardens.

There was a marked decline in pollinators and predators, and it’s taken years to turn it around.   This year, we saw a larger variety of bumbles, carpenter and mason bees.  Dragonflies returned by the hundreds, wasps, hornets and ladybugs have flourished in the changes we have made to our green spaces.

It was an easy choice to make, and even simpler to implement:

Less grass, more gardens.

Saving the Monarchs

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen monarchs in our backyard, but they are making a comeback, thanks to caring people planting milkweed.  We need to keep it up and ensure the migration path and breeding grounds are full of flowers to ensure their numbers increase.

Milkweeds are perennials, so once you establish the flower garden, they will return for years to come!

It’s been almost ten years

Since I moved to a home with a backyard and once again have the ability to commune directly with nature.  The size of our flower gardens has grown, propagating the spread of native flora by seed and transplant.  We purchased potted plants from greenhouses that employ sustainable practices, such as Integrated Pest Management.

We started with a small garden, over the years, quadrupling in size and changing into permaculture growing beds.   Weeds, or as they are called in my garden, “Plants Formerly Known As Weeds” are allowed to grow alongside vegetables, seeded and planted flowers.

Pollinator Specialist

Bumblebees are some of the few that are capable of pollinating tomatoes.
The pollen is securely attached with the flower and needs vibration to successfully dislodge and pollinate.  Many growers and greenhouses rely of human hand/vibration to pollinate increasing numbers of crops, however they are neither as successful nor as fruitful as the bumblebees are.