Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Exotics = Late Summer Food

It is getting harder to find flowers that attract the girls this time of year.  There are a few exotic and native flowers that are going strong right now if you are in the right areas.  The food they find this time of year is mostly used to sustain themselves and any extra is used to back-fill the brood nest.  This back-filled food will be used in early spring to raise the bees that will build the colony up again after a long winter.

Passion fruit vines with their spectacular flowers have been blooming for a few weeks now.  The vines won't get a chance to produce ripe fruit, but they can usually survive our mild winters to produce flowers again year after year.  Dahlias are also blooming in abundance around gardens right now.  Like roses not all varieties of dahlias have pollen/nectar that the bees can get to.  Pollinator friendly plants are typically the heirloom varieties that are smaller with simple flower structures as opposed to the hybrids you often find in the stores that are more showy but nectar or pollen poor.

The girls are liking the Passion fruit flowers.

Fall blooming Heather.

The Asters are still going strong.

Some Dahlia flowers have simple enough petals to be attractive to bees.

The spiders around the house are all looking very well fed this year with the abundance of bees they have been catching.  I even saw a yellow jacket trying to steal a bee mummy from a spiderweb.  However by some unforeseen event she got knocked into the web to become another meal herself for the hungry spider.

Sweet revenge (yeah that's a normal sized yellow jacket).

I am noticing a decent drop in the yellow jackets lurking around the hives since taking out the hive I found in the front yard.  I'm pretty sure there is another one near by, but it is probably in the green belt across the street.  On my way back from checking the Sand & Surf hives I walked by the hive at the P-Patch and saw 50-60 yellow jackets just circling inches away from the entrance waiting for any opportunity to overtake it.  A line of bees was on guard and holding their own for the moment, and hopefully the beekeeper that maintains that hive gets an entrance reducer on it soon to help the girls security force out.

There is a little Knotweed left near the P-Patch.

This is a busy time of year for beekeepers with harvesting and the different fairs and festivals going on.  This last week I was busy with bee education events at the Seattle Tilth Harvest Festival and the Starbucks Pet Fair.  It is great talking to people eager to help the bees by planting pollinator gardens or not using pesticides on their lawns.  As removed as people are from where their food comes from they still understand the importance of bees.  It also helps to have a couple thousand of them behind glass to watch.

Observation hive or bee TV.

Hive Checks (9/15/2012)

Queen Castle 1 - Slot 3
The nuc is building up and the queen is a good layer.

Queen Castle 2 - Slot 1
Added sugar slush to help them out.  They get robbed if I give them anything else and a few persistent girls still come to rob the slush.  The queen hasn't started laying yet.

Engineer Hive
This has a daughter queen from the Icon hive.  She is small, but signs are pointing to a good laying pattern.  Not many bees left so hoping they can build up for winter.  Considering swapping places with the Northgate swarm to boost the foragers.

Nuc 3
This hive has been sucking down the syrup and has put on a lot of weight.  They are getting to the point where the brood nest is starting to get honey/syrup bound.

Engineer Queens Nuc
They appear to have a good amount of brood and the rest is now stores.  They stopped taking syrup about two weeks ago so I gave them an empty frame to see if they will fill it for winter.  This is a second year queen and they went into winter last year a bit too light but survived.  I had to give them frames with sugar to sustain them and am trying to get them to store more this time around.

A girl collecting water from the fountain.

Nuc 2
This hive has built up and they are storing the syrup I gave them.  Hopefully they use it to finish capping frames.

Lots of healthy looking bees but no signs of the queen and I'm not sure if she returned from her mating flight. Will check again in a few days and then decide what to do.

Hive Checks (9/16/2012)

This hive has built up nicely and is in good shape for winter.  Most of the girls are darker bees and they are super docile (at least today) and look very healthy.   Also noticed a fair amount of pollen stored and they really didn't need the syrup I brought for them.  I pulled an empty frame from the Sand hive for them to fill with the syrup anyway.  Better to have extra than not enough.

Nurse bees around their queen.

This hive hit it's peak about 3 weeks ago and are showing signs that they are cutting back on raising brood.  The honey arches on the frames look good and overall there is a lot of honey in the hive, but it's spread out more than I would like to see and I'm not seeing much back filling in the core of the brood nest yet.  I am considering taking them feed next visit for them to back fill with if things look the same.  I also noticed a few capped cells on the old brood frames in the back of the hive that didn't emerge.  I'm guessing that with their size there just wasn't enough food out there for them to keep up the strong pace they were at.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff

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