Bees Are Bustin’ Out All Over

In the middle of a jam-packed weekend George got the kind of call that makes him drop everything and jump into the car: there’s a swarm of bees in a tree near where you live, do you want to get it? 99% of the time the answer is Hell yeah! So equipped with beekeeper suit and nuc box, a’ gathering we went, George singing: “June June June, and bees are bustin’ out all over!” Oh, a nuc box is a half-sized beehive with 5 frames instead of the regular 10, set up to catch and transport bees.

Zowie! The largest swarm I’ve ever seen was settled in a fig tree in the back garden of a house the next town over from us.Swarm of honeybees

George’s Plan: set the nuc box on top of the fence, and the leftover honey and wax on the frames in the box will lure the bees to move into their yummy new home.

Bee swarm

And in they went.

Honeybee swarm

At dusk, when all of the girls had found their way into the nuc box, George sealed it up and brought them to their new home in a friend’s large sunny garden. We checked on the hive yesterday and were overjoyed to see that these hard-working girls have in a week already built comb on 4 of the 5 frames!

Bee swarm

Take a look at the magnificent queen!

Queen Honeybee

George uploaded a short video he took of the bees marching into the nuc box.

This is my post about a swarm George caught earlier this year, using a bee vacuum.

And click here to read my post about the process George and our friend Joan went through to catch a swarm in her garden.

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Gathering O’ The Swarm

It’s spring-time warm here, and local bees with so much pollen and nectar to gather are thriving, which leads to … swarms! A friend directed a neighbor less than a mile away to beekeeper George to gather a swarm that settled on their house.

Bee swarm

The relatively flat roof was ideal for George to clamber onto by ladder, and it was a good situation to try out the new bee vacuum that Joan, our good friend and partner-in-bees, recently got.

Bee swarm

We onlookers down below couldn’t see the large portion of the swarm in the roof’s gutter. George vac’ed them up first.

Bee swarm

Moving on to the bees overhanging the roof, we watched as some of the swarm flew about, but most were drawn into the gentle pull of the vacuum.

Bee swarm

It was much quicker than what George would have had to do otherwise – scrape the bees from the side of the roof down into a box.

Bee swarm Since the bees will have their new home in Joan’s hive, we went to get one of her hive boxes with some frames that her old bees had built on.

Bee swarm The bees will be attracted to the leftover honey and wax on the frames, and migrate onto them from the vacuum. With the box on the roof, the bees that didn’t get vac’ed will sense the pheromones and re-join their queen and swarm. It’s a whole-day affair, mostly waiting around to make sure that as many bees as possible are gathered up. Any stragglers will likely go back to their old hive.

Click here to read my post about the process Joan and George went through to catch a swarm in her garden last year, I think that slow and laborious process was the impetus behind her ordering the bee vacuum!

Springtime in January

Good weather guilt has set-in big time. Sunny dry days are swoon-worthy in summer, but hard to enjoy in January because of our drought fears and Weather Channel warnings about snow storms in other parts of the country. But, as I showed you in my earlier post Cymbidiums in the Winter Garden, the garden sure is happy.

Here’s another cymbidium orchid to add to last week’s bouquet.  One barely-open Sussex Dawn Concolor peeks above multiple closed buds on the same stalk.

Cymbidium Sussex Dawn Concolor

What else is blooming? It is the right time of year for Scoliopus bigelovii , aka Slink Pod, Brownie or Fetid Adder’s Tongue (that’s a lot of names for a tiny plant), to come up. George and I always take a walk in Muir Woods around New Year’s to see the Slink Pods, but heard that because of the drought none had bloomed, and we thought it would be too sad to go. Click here to see photos of our last year’s walk, with many more Brownie photos. These Slink Pods are in a pot in the garden. George gave them just enough water so they’d come up.

Slink Pod

It’s definitely early for the brilliant pink puffs to appear on the ornamental plum tree in our front garden. The honeybees love the flowers.

Honeybee on Ornamental Plum Tree flower

Another small but wonderfully dramatic flower is open, this is Billbergia Nutans, a bromeliad.

Billbergia Nutans flower

And finally, a few stalks of paperwhite narcissus, also small but powerfully fragrant.

Paperwhite Narcissus

Is it blooming springtime or shivering winter where you are?

Happy National Honey Month

Imagine my delight to learn that September is National Honey Month! 

Honeycomb

You know we’re very fond of the golden elixir around our house, and we’re so proud that our honeybees have been happy and healthy enough to produce lots of it.

Honey and beeswax candle

Here are some honey highlights. First, worker bees (all female) visit flowers and plants to gather nectar.

Honeybee on flowerThey bring the nectar back to the beehive, transform it into honey, and pack it into the wax honeycomb that they built.

Honeycomb with bees

We leave most of the honey for the bees’ own use, but in good years there’s extra, and we take a bit. Recently we got a hand-crank extractor, which makes getting the honey out of the comb much easier than our old “crush” method.

Extracting honey

It also leaves the honeycomb intact, so we put it back into the hives for the bees to use again. In the photo George and our friend Joan are “scoring” the capped honey so it will spin out of the comb easily when we put it into the extractor.

Did you know that many people eat local honey to control allergies? The theory is that trace amounts of pollen from local plants to which people are allergic remain in the honey, and that eating it year-round can help the body cope with the allergens. Sweet medicine, for sure!

National Honeybee Day, 8/17/13

In honor of National Honeybee Day, here are a few of my favorite photos of our bees!

Honeybee on a passionflower.

Honeybee on passionflower

Honeybee on a lavender flower.

Honeybee on lavender

Honeybee on flower.

Honeybee on flower

Honeybee on poppy flower.

Honeybee on poppy flower

Queen honeybee and worker bees in the hive.

Queen bee

Swarm of honeybees in a tree.

Honeybee swarm

Even if you’re not able to have a hive, you can help out by planting flowers, trees, and bushes that provide nectar for bees and other pollinators. Click here to see a good wiki article on Northern American sources for honeybee nectar.

Bee Mine!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! This is the card I made for my Valentine, my wonderful husband George.

Bee swarm cardIt’s a photograph I took of a swarm of bees that was forming on a wall along the BART tracks. I was driving by, saw them, and called George. He rushed down and we watched them for an hour. It was a long time before we ever got our own bees, but I think that the seed was planted that day …

Hoping that your day is filled with sweetness and honey!

Tilden Botanic Garden

What to do for George’s birthday? We hadn’t taken a walk through the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park for a while, so we headed up there after birthday brunch. The Garden is amazing, ten acres of native plants, including many rare and endangered. We were welcomed by two red-tailed hawks, circling high above.

Red-tailed hawksOne dipped a bit lower, riding the warm air.
Red-tailed hawk

A dragonfly zipped by and rested on a branch for a moment.

Dragonfly

There have been some additions and changes to the Garden since we last visited. Or maybe we never noticed this stand of Darlingtonia californica, or California Pitcher Plant, a carnivorous plant.

Darlingtonia

The California Pipevine, or Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia californica) is resplendent in several places through the Garden. And although we didn’t see any mature Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, we saw several caterpillars. This one had just shed its skin.

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillar

This is a Dutchman’s Pipe seed pod.

Pipevine seedpod

On to an amazing display of Humboldt’s Lily. There were several towering up to about 6 feet high, just covered with flowers.

Humboldt lilies

A single Humboldt’s Lily flower.

Humboldt lily

The honeybees and bumblebees were out in full force. Here’s a honeybee, with a pollen pack on its leg, busy feeding from a flower on a flannelbush shrub.

Flannel bush flower with beeI couldn’t believe how many bees were on the many flowers of a Matilija Poppy plant. This one flower had at least ten bees coming and going for the half hour we sat and watched, amazed.

Matilija poppy

A wonderful birthday walk in the Garden, and now … a nap.

George restingHave you been to the Tilden Botanic Garden? Is there a Botanic Garden in your city? What’s your favorite plant or animal there?