Less Noise, More Green: Busy Bees

Friday, July 25, 2014

Busy Bees

Honey Bee on Batchelor's Button, pollinators,urban farming
Since taking both Beginner and Intermediate Beekeeping Classes and helping to take care of a hive of bees that are part of a URI Master Gardener project, I have become much more aware of pollinators in my own garden. As I do my tasks in the beds, I'm noticing which plants are attracting pollinating insects and admiring their amazing work ethic. I have at least three kinds of bees in my garden: bumble; honey and a tiny bee that is unknown to me, as well as other pollinating insects. I even saw a humming bird checking out my edible flowers. The highlight of my week, for sure!

Honey Bee on Milkweed, pollinators, Urban Farming
Honey Bee on Milkweed

As my herbs and lettuces begin to flower, I am waiting to pull them up to give the pollinators a chance to forage. A study out of Bristol University in the UK is finding that wild flowers provide the best pollen and nectar for bees. I am trying to be mindful of that, especially in my traditional vegetable beds, leaving flowering weeds growing longer than I usually would.

Honey Bee on Batchelor's Button, pollinators, Urban Farming
Honey Bee on Batchelor's Button

Honey Bee on Batchelor's Button, Pollinators, Urban Farming
Honey Bee

Honey Bee on Cilantro Flower, pollinator, Urban Farming
Honey Bee on Cilantro Flower

Bumble Bee on Broccoli Flower
Bumble Bee on Broccoli Flower

 Bumble Bee in flight, pollinators, urban farming
The bees seem especially excited by cilantro flowers and my yellow broccoli flowers are also causing quite the stir. The Batchelor's Buttons I have planted in my edible landscape are by far the favorite bee destination. Early in the morning the activity is at fever pitch with bees moving like buzzing streaks of lightning between the purple, blue and pink flowers. Their hum is both peaceful and meditative.

Honey Bee on Rudbeckia, pollinators, urban farming
Honey Bee on Rudbeckia
Beeon Rudbeckia, pollinators, urban farming
This is the tiny bee that loves the Rudbeckia. Look at all the pollen on her legs!

The activity at the hive I help care for as part of the Edible Forest Garden Project is anything but peaceful, right now. For the last two weeks the bees have been very aggressive, to the point where checking the frames has been impossible. Up until now the hive has been quite passive and we have been debating what has brought about this change.

Bee Hive with frame removed, URI Master Gardeners, Edible Forest Garden
This is the hive with a frame removed.  There is no room at the Inn!
Hive frame with capped honey and brood, URI Master Gardeners, Edible Forest Garden
Frame with capped honey and brood.

The hive has multiplied many times over since it's beginning as a NUC and is now fully occupying both of the supers we installed. At our last inspection we added another super to give them more space with the hope that will calm them down. The other change is we stopped giving them sugar water as they seemed not to need it any more. This time of year in this area there can be a lack of nectar flow as most of the trees are no longer in bloom. Hungry bees can get aggressive! We will place another sugar water bottle in the hive in case that is the issue.

Uncapped brood and honey, URI Master Gardeners, Edible Forest Garden
Uncapped brood and honey

Adding a new super to the hive, URI Master Gardener, Edible Forest Garden
Adding a new super to the hive.

Hancock Shaker Village Bee Hives
Bee Hives at Hancock Shaker Village. The hive on the left has a NUC box on top which is a way to try to catch a swarm.
I am concerned that with the hive so full we are in danger of the bees swarming but with the bees being so aggressive it has been impossible to check the frames for swarm cells. Swarm cells are queen cells the bees start to make when the hive plans to split - half staying with a new queen and half leaving with the old queen. It might be time to be proactive and split the hive ourselves, adding another hive to the apiary. We will check the hive on Sunday and I'm hoping we can really assess what is going on!

Honey Bee on Batchelor's Button, pollinators, urban farming

How is pollinator activity  in your garden, this year?


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