Sunday, November 5, 2017

tradescantia pallida - three petals and six yellow anthers

While waiting for the light to change on a busy Atlanta street, I saw lots of bees on a patch of tradescantia pallida, also known as purple-heart or purple secretia.  These plants are growing from east facing gaps of a sidewalk wall. 

The bee weight folds the filament at right angle.  Click on the image, it's hard to distinguish between bee's pollen load and the three anthers in her grasp.  Does the recent warm November rain make the filament more flexible? Perhaps these are extra long filaments, I don't know.  In the process of counting petals and anthers I discovered on Wikipedia that this New World plant is part of same genus as my bee friendly plant favorite, spiderwort.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

CO2, staple food and goldenrod pollen

A Living on Earth radio article draws a connection between atmospheric carbon and the nutritional value of staple food.  Staple foods grown in elevated concentrations of CO2 result in a decrease of iron, zinc and protein.   These results are reproduced in an experiment where staple foods are grown in a CO2 controlled environment.

This time of year, the hives have a stinky smell.  Imagine the smell of hiking boots or dirty gym socks.  Strong un-sweet notes can be found in pockets around the hives.  I have goldenrod to thank for this smell.  Goldenrod is a vital late summer forage for honey bees.  I was surprised to see that this radio article also speaks to how goldenrod protein decreases as CO2 increases.  Goldenrod pollen samples taken now have 30% less protein than samples from 1850's.  In the same way, these results are reproduced in an experiment where goldenrod is grown in a CO2 controlled environment.

Have a look at the graph showing the CO2 increase since the 1850's.  I expect a further decline of staple foods and goldenrod nutrition in the future.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

wax moth larvae cleanup

Lazy beekeeping has a few downsides. This summer, two tall stacks of boxes with drawn comb and no bees attracted wax moths.  Next, the wax moth larvae ate the drawn comb...all the comb.    Larvae chewed the wood too, compromising some frames and boxes.  What was I thinking - to busy with other things, to hot to wear the beekeeping hoodie.   The not so lazy cleanup went on and on.  I'm a philosophical contradiction.

The chickens enjoyed live snacks and a few wasps helped with the crushed larvae.  I'm grateful that the problem was not small hive beetles. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

off-label use of cloake board

I purchased the cloake board with an intention to raise emergency queens, but I've drifted into off-label territory.  My success with two swarm traps catches and limited bee yard space encouraged me to combine the swarms with the cloake board.  Both entrances face in the same direction and the movable floor is removed.   For several weeks, these swarms have been connected by way of the queen excluder which is integrated into the cloake board.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

2nd swarm trapping

This morning it's not clear whether I'm observing active scouting or a move-in at the hanging swarm trap.   After a few more hours, I looked again and now convinced there's a move-in - see the large lump of bees attached to the bottom of the box that was not previously present.  Tomorrow the forecast calls for rain - so, I'm glad they'll stay dry.  This is my 2nd successful swarm trapping this spring.

This is my largest swarm ever, I always say that.  In a few days, I'll transfer the frames and can really judge the size of this swarm.

This hanging 8-frame deep contains 1 frame of brood comb, 7 frames with foundation and a swarm lure.   A hole saw was used to create two entrances - one that you can see and another on the bottom side.

Hanging swarm trap advantages:
  • no ladder climbing required with this rope hanging scheme
  • large volume created by 8 deep frames
  • movable frames can be transferred into other deep boxes without cutting comb 
  • bottom entrance encourages complete move-in and discourages comb building beneath the box
  • sustainable alternative to splitting
Hanging swarm trap disadvantages:
  • requires foundation as the swarm trap is not left-right level
The best element of the hanging swarm trap scheme is the safety of no ladder climbing. My next steps include using window screen and duct tape to cover the bottom entrance and to gradually move the trap to its final location.  I'll move small distances every day or every other day to minimize bee entrance confusion.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017 nectar flow


Bee cooperative weather is supporting a strong nectar flow of holly bushes, white clover, spiderwort and tulip poplar. Native mining bees and carpenter bees are extremely active too.

This year, I started to checkerboard the honey cap of over-wintered hives on March 6th. Since then, I check the honey cap every three weeks. My version of checkerboarding uses foundation-less frames with no drawn comb. Yesterday, I added another medium box to each hive. I don't know how long this nectar flow will last, but I have monstrously tall hives.

My swarm capture is drawing comb and growing in size too, but at a much slower pace than over-wintered hives.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Swarm Trap - March 25th '17

Active scouting quickly changed into a mid-afternoon move-in.   Bees appear to be pouring sideways into the swarm trap entrance. This hanging 8-frame deep contains 1 frame of brood comb, 7 frames with foundation and a swarm lure.   A hole saw was used to create two entrances - one that you can see and another on the bottom side.  I don't want to use foundation, but the non-level box is not suitable for foundation-less frames.   It's too good to be true, this swarm did not demonstrate any comb building behavior beneath the box.   After an hour, everyone was inside.   It rained last night. I'm glad they stayed dry and are presumably busy drawing comb.