Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Flowers Arriving for Thanksgiving

This year I did all my winter prep back in August and early September and as a result there hasn't been much to update or write about.  The heavy rains and the occasional freezing nights have put the late summer and fall flowers to bed for the season.  However just as the landscape is starting to look dreary mother nature surprises us with winter blooming flowers.  While it is hard to see what gains could be made by the bees venturing out to collect pollen/nectar during these brief windows of sunshine that is exactly what they are doing. 

Collecting pollen from this winter blooming Camilla.

Grace Ward Lithodora have a few blooms now but it hardly compares to its spring display.

Some Rosemary bushes bloom in winter as well.

 Winter Daphne is just starting to bloom.  A little sun and you can smell their sweet fragrance in the air.

Winter Heather can add color and versatility to your winter gardens as well as supply food for pollinators on those occasional nice winter days.  Heather comes in several colors and depending on the variety can grow as a ground-cover or upright in mounds.  They do particularly well in rock gardens with acidic soils and like full sun but can tolerate some shade.  A common problem with Heather is they can get lanky and for winter varieties they need early summer pruning to keep their shape.

Winter Heather is a great nectar source.

Viburnum tinus is an evergreen shrub that is starting to bloom.

Choisya ternata or Mexican Orange provides pollen.  Typically they bloom in spring but every year I see them blooming in late fall as well.

Some Hebe varieties bloom in winter.

Most of my Asters have turned into corpses by now, but I'm really happy with this variety that is still going strong and putting out fresh flowers.

I have some inspection notes from October that I never posted below.  Today's inspection was a visual activity inspection which mainly tells me if they are alive but little else.  The only hive that had no activity was the Surf hive that was showing the worst signs of disease and wasn't building up at all.  This was one of the hives I expected to not make it.  The other at risk hives are the Sand, Luna, Solis, and Architect.

Hive checks (11/25/2013)

I suspect the numbers dwindled to the point that even with a single entrance hole they could no long defend the baseball sized cluster that was left.  Sometime in the last couple weeks and yellow jackets cleaned up anyone still alive before the recent freezing nights could kill them.  Any uncapped nectar had been depleted but capped honey and pollen remained and I transferred it to the back of the Sand hive.  The yellow jackets did not kill this hive but rather brood disease spread around by varroa back in late August.

The picture below if all that was left at the bottom of the hive and is the result of yellow jackets picking through the remains of the hive.

Sick brood they never pulled out of cells. 

They had good activity and I saw pollen coming in. I saw this little dead bee with pollen just inches away form the door.  A sad reminder that this isn't the best time of year to be foraging but her warning seemed to go unnoticed as her sisters zipped by.

Activity in this hive looked weak.  This is the sister queen to the Surf hive.

Had good activity and was doing much better than her neighboring hive.

This hive looked weak as well.  This is another queen from a similar genetic line to the Surf hive.

Rebels, Geeks, Geek daughter, Icon Grand daughter, Rosemary Swarm, Ballard Swarm
All of these hives have good activity.

...older hive checks below.

Hive checks (10/5/2013)

So so, they haven't been able to build up much and are still showing signs that DWV is an issue.  The queen is trying hard though.

No improvement.  Unlikely to have enough bees to cluster.

Not doing well and they still have signs of DWV.  Same queen line as Sand and Surf. Added sugar.

There is a little DWV but they have built up and look to have a good sized cluster for winter.  Added sugar.

Hive checks (10/6/2013)

Not looking good.  DWV is getting ahead.

Icon granddaughter
I saw DWV but not too bad, healthy brood. This genetic line seems to be able to keep DWV in check even if it doesn't go away.  Added raw sugar.

Rosemary Swarm
They were light so I added raw sugar.

Ballard Swarm
They were light so I added raw sugar.

On that note it's Thanksgiving this week and so here's a picture I took last month of an old summer forager with tattered wings collecting nectar for the next generation of bees that she would never meet.  Now that's something to be thankful for.  Perhaps it will motivate someone to tear up some grass to plant flowers.

Caryopteris x clandonensis, or Blue Mist Shru is a great late summer nectar plant.

Back to the bees.

- Jeff