Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cherries delight; it's a bee safari!

It's spring!,... at long last.  We have now had four above 70 degree F days and my girls are loving it!  Actually, the humans are, too.  Convertibles and shortsleeves abound.  This is a good day to peak inside the hives. But, first, I see the girls making beelines to and from the cherry trees and other various flower sources in my yard and back to their hives.

A closer walk by the  cherry tree blossoms reveals both a lovely fragrance and the fact that my girls are not alone.  My front yard cherry tree has become a veritable entomological safari for a hymenopterist (someone who studies bees, wasps and ants).  The tree is literally buzzing with tiny sweat bees, several kinds of bumble bees, mason bees, leaf cutter bees, paper wasps of two types, and carpenter bees all happily buzzing within the blooms.  They don't even notice me.  (As a beekeeper and an entomologists, I keep track of all the native pollinators as well as my honeybees, and I try and encourage their existence.)

Mason bees are actually the super pollinator workers of this region.  They are not a social bee.  They live singly in holes, but as a group.  They work a longer day than honeybees (up before sunrise and down after sunset) and pollinate lots more than any other native bee.  They look something like a honeybee, but are less yellow and smaller.  One can buy a mason bee house (a collection of bamboo cross sections) and hang it on a Southeastern wall to encourage them.  Soon the bees will find it.  It is extremely active today.

I walk to the backyard and see that various bees and wasps are also on the peach blossoms that have opened.  It too seems popular with the bumblebees and wasps as well as my girls.

I crank up the smoker.  Smoke is used to calm the bees.  Although very little smoke is needed on a day like today.  Sunny, and most workers are out and happy; stings are unlikely.
The smoke makes the bees think their hive is on fire and they engorge themselves with honey in case they must take off and make a new hive somewhere.  This seems a little cruel to me.  But, it does benefit me in the long run.  Their distended little abdomens are then in no shape (literally) to sting! So I can work as long as I need. A puff is all they need.  You don't want to give them emphysema!

I crack open the lid, and the sound is a lowered pitch and happy humming noise this time!  In tune with the happy spring day and universe.  Yes!  This is a good sign.  Everyone who is able to fly is out and about checking out all the recent blooms that have seemingly opened overnight.  I move some frames and see what I've been waiting eagerly to see; there are capped egg cells.  They are gorgeous.  They look just like a perfect tan pie crust grandma used to make!  Someone has been laying eggs!  There are also eggs in open cells and various stage C-shaped larvae in others.  The hive is increasing in numbers.  Hooray!  And, there she is!  She's beautiful.  The queen is alive! I rejoice in my own little Easter event!  The old beekeeper was right!


No comments: