backyard beekeeping

Honeybee Nectar Plants along the Gulf Coast

Well, since the weather has warmed back up, the honeybees have been in a frenzy.  Saturday and Sunday, there were energetic waggle dances on the landing board, indicating there was something good nearby.  On one of our neighborhood walks, I closely observed trees in the landscape.  Sure enough, looks like the maple has begun to bloom!  In our area, maple (red/swamp maple) is one of the earliest sources of nectar.  If you’re in a swampy area, you may also have willow available to you.  Ti-ti, willow and red maple all bloom in a range of January to March, making a good nectar flow that is perfect for sustaining the spring build-up of honey bee larvae.

Our cherry laurel is loaded with buds, meaning that it will be a huge attractant when those blooms pop open.  In years past, the tree has been alive with their buzzing.  The first major source of nectar that will also provide surplus honey in your hives is the well known Ilex Glabra, or Gallberry.  Gallberry is a type of holly native to our Gulf Coast highways and by-ways.  In fact, most hollies provide nectar for honeybees.  Last year, someone called me about a potential swarm near the entrance to their home.  When I arrived, there was a large and heavenly smelling holly bush.  The honeybees had all gone home but several solitary bees and wasps were still feasting on the sweet nectar.

Some smaller plants that will attract honeybees are: coral vine (year round blooms), redbud, abelia, ligustrum and yaupon.  If you’re on the Gulf Coast, these sources probably already thrive near your home or in your landscaping.  One trait that makes each of these plants desirable for honeybees is a mass quantity of blooms.  Honeybees favor trees and shrubs for nectar sources because they can gather a large amount of nectar or pollen without leaving the source.  One plant with thousands of blooms is better than a thousand plants spaced around with single blooms.  Our apis mellifera are efficient creatures!

If you don’t have any of the plants I’ve mentioned in your yard, don’t despair.  One reason that honeybees do so well in the urban landscape is because there is such a large variety of nectar sources.  You’re far less likely to get what is known as a “mono-source” honey, but far more likely to get a deliciously floral and fragrant blend that’s made up of the goodness that surrounds you.

If you’d like to see more nectar sources, here are some links I have gathered.  Enjoy!

http://www.fisherhoneybees.com/nectarflows.html

http://archive.org/stream/americanhoneypla00pell/americanhoneypla00pell_djvu.txt

http://www.themelissagarden.com/TMG_Vetaley031608.htm

http://honeybeenet.gsfc.nasa.gov/Honeybees/ForageRegion.php?StReg=FL_12

https://archive.org/details/beekeepinginsout00hawk

A sensory view of pollination.  How do flowers attract pollinators?

http://www2.mcdaniel.edu/Biology/botf99/flowernew/pollination.htm

Since pollinators see differently than we do, take a look at how different blooms look to the flying creatures in your landscape: http://www.naturfotograf.com/UV_flowers_list.html

The Pleasant Occupation of Tending Bees

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This lovely essay was shared by Doc Bullard, the founder of the Escarosa Beekeepers. Doc has 40+ years of beekeeping experience and has forgotten more than most of us can ever hope to learn!

THE PLEASANT OCCUPATION OF TENDING BEES

In the May number of the Cosmopolitan there is an interesting article by Mr. W. Z. Hutchinson, on “The Pleasant Occupation of Tending Bees,” to which we should like to call the attention of our readers. Mr. Hutchinson gives a very complete account of the honey-bee, his home, his migrations, his habits of life, his business methods. his storehouses, his food, and his communal life: and in a second article the same writer has given an equally charming account of the management of swarms, the arrangement of hives and apiaries, and the details of the interesting occupation of apiculture, which he commends particularly to women.

There is no doubt that the keeping of bees might be made a very profit able industry. A story is told of a venerable Italian priest who had long waited for promotion, and at last was presented to a benefice the emoluments of which were barely sufficient to keep the body and soul of the incumbent together. After a while he was visited by one of his superiors, who expected to find him living in penury, and intended to afford him some necessary relief. To his surprise he found the priest living in perfect contentment, surrounded with all ordinary comforts, and even enjoying a few modest luxuries. On inquiring how this had come about, his host smilingly led him into a garden where there were more beehives than he had ever before seen in his life; and it was from these that the worthy priest derived an income which was much greater than the emolument of his benefice!

The care of bees might be made an easy and profitable occupation by many clergymen and by many women living in the country. It would require some time and a good deal of attention, but it would be rewarded both by the profit which might be made from it, and by the constant and varied interest of the occupation itself. We can see no good reason why “the pleasant occupation of tending bees” might not become much more general in this country than it ever has been. We should be very glad if it could be made so, for every occupation which brings men and women into close and kindly relations with their humbler fellow-creatures is an education in humanity. Many persons are deterred from undertaking bee culture by the dread of the insect’s sting.

Doubtless the sting is unpleasant, but it ought always to be remembered that the bee is not disposed to sting on slight occasion, and can sting only at the cost of its own life. The social instinct of the little creature is so strong as to cause it to sacrifice its life in defence of the community to which it belongs; but it will not sting unless in what it imagines to be self-defence. It naturally supposes violent movements to be indicative of an intention to injure; and hence the bee-keeper must learn to move slowly and gently among his hives.

Again, the bee is one of the cleanliest of animals: foul odors make it furious: and hence the bee-keeper must be fastidiously cleanly, or he may expect some time to have an unpleasantly warm reception. But bees, like other animals, soon learn to recognize persons who are often among them, and, after a little time, the beekeeper may approach, and even handle, his small kine with perfect impunity. We commend the interesting articles to which we have referred to the careful attention of our readers who live in the country, and we hope that the industry of bee· keeping may be greatly extended. It would, undoubtedly, be profitable; it would also be morally educational.

Our Animal Friends: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine (1896 Vol. 23).

New Macro Lens and Honeybees

Well, I got a nice starter macro lens (28-90mm) so I can get some super close bee photos.  I put it to work immediately.  Some of the honeybees were more willing to be photographed than others!

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This bee is totally giving me the stink-eye.

cleaning the comb

cleaning the comb

gathering wax

gathering wax

 

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hanging out

hanging out

honeybee heaven

honeybee heaven

James says this bee has personality!

James says this bee has personality!

 

 

Oh my! This situation sounds all too familiar!

themisbeehaven

Six days after our first inspection, we noticed some changes in the bee’s behavior. They had developed an attitude. There seemed to be a lot less pollen coming into the hive, they were noisy (a loud roar from the hive rather than a nice even hum), and they seem rather put out (read “pissed off!”). Also, I had been told (after the fact of course) that I had manipulated the frames incorrectly during the inspection. Not knowing any better, I had lifted the frames out vertically, and replaced them before pulling the next frame. Apparently, one common end result of this is “rolling the queen” which is a nicer way to say “crushing the queen because she was near a pinch point between frames, or was in the process of laying, and her large abdomen got caught between the moving combs. Having already heard what must be the most dreaded…

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