Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

Photo of a hummingbird in flight.

Photo courtesy of pixabay – skeeze

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is one of the most commonly recognized hummingbirds in North America, especially in the eastern half of the country where they spend their summers. They are the only hummingbird to breed east of the Great Plains. Commonly found in open woods, forest edges, parks, gardens and yards their familiar green and red plumage, make them easy to identify.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are 3-3.75 inches in length and weigh around 10-13 ounces with a life span of about 4-6 years. These speedy little birds flap their wings 53 times per second, can hover in mid-air and fly upside down and backward. The males have a striking bright red or red-orange iridescent throat. The males’ upperparts and head are bright green. The female’s underparts are plain white and upperparts green, but they lack the brilliant red throat of the male.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feed mostly on nectar and insects. They are strongly attracted to red and orange flowers, like those of trumpet vine, red columbine, bee balm, scarlet sage and many Penstemon varieties. They happily feed from nectar feeders too.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are solitary birds that only come together to mate. The female builds her cup-shaped nest about 10-20 feet above ground in a well-camouflaged area of a shrub or tree.  Here she will commonly produce 1-2 broods of 2 white eggs per year. The incubation period is 10-16 days. The female, alone, will care for the young for 2-3 weeks before they are mature enough to leave the nest.

In early fall, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird will begin its migration to Mexico & Central America crossing over 500 miles of water in their nonstop journey across the Gulf of Mexico. They can become a little more aggressive near food sources in late summer as they begin preparing for the journey.

To attract more of these lovely birds to your yard keep a clean and full nectar feeder, plant more nectar-rich flowers in their favorite colors of orange and red, limit insecticide use and provide a water source such as a mister or shallow fountain for these birds bathe and preen in.

Let us help you plant more nectar-rich hummingbird attracting flowers with our Wildflowers for Hummingbirds Mix.

 

THE COMPLETE MILKWEED BUYING GUIDE

Photo of a colorful Monarch catapiller feeding on a milkweed leaf.

By Sam Doll

Monarch Butterflies are amazing North American animals! Their iconic, colorful wings are actually warnings for potential predators. Those spots and strips are big caution signs saying: STOP; I TASTE BAD!

Every year, the Monarchs embark on one of nature’s most astonishing mass migrations. This incredible journey takes four generations and covers over 3000 miles through the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Monarch mothers will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants (genus Asclepias) and, once hatched, their caterpillars exclusively live on and eat the leaves of those same plants. They cannot survive without them.

The problem is that milkweed has gotten a bad rap over the years. Allergies and perceptions of the wildflower as a weed have caused it to be wiped out throughout large portions of North America. The prevalence of pesticides has not helped and the loss of milkweed, wildflowers, and other floral resources has devastated the monarch butterfly’s population.

It’s not without hope, though! Everyone can do their part to help. The most important thing you can do is to plant more milkweed on your property and in your community. This buying guide will help you figure out which species of milkweed is best for you, and you can help Monarch Butterflies!

Oh, and while you’re at it, check out our Monarch Rescue Wildflower Mix. It has Butterfly Milkweed and a mix of other wildflower seeds to provide a nectar-rich place for Monarch Butterflies to fuel up and raise their young! Find it here!

1.     Common MilkweedClose-up of the Common Milkweed flower.

The Common Milkweed is a hardy perennial with fragrant, terminal blossoms made up of tiny dusty-pink blossoms on hairy stems.  This milkweed is found throughout the Great Plains and is tough enough to tolerate most soil conditions. It does well in soils that are clay, sandy or rocky calcareous (high in calcium carbonate). These conditions occur naturally along stream banks, ponds, lakes, forest margins, and roadsides. Common Milkweed grows 2′ – 6′ tall and like areas with full sun. They bloom from June through September and will germinate between 65° and 85° F.

This milkweed is also a favorite of other butterflies, native bees and hummingbirds. The seeds will grow easily and do well when planted in the fall or when cold-treated for three months prior to planting.  Common Milkweed will spread both through seed normal distribution and as well as through underground shoots. Common milkweed spread readily and may need to be controlled. Common milkweed is particularly good for wetland rehabilitation and as a component in wildlife seed mixtures.

2.     Showy MilkweedThe fluffy seeds of the Showy Milkweed plant.

Similar to the Common Milkweed, this hardy perennial is a favorite of butterflies.  This species has traditionally provided food, medicine and fiber to indigenous peoples. The clusters of star-shaped flowers will range from dark-rose to white. The plant has tall woody stems with milky sap and with alternate, oval leaves that are velvety underneath. Showy Milkweed grows 24” – 36” tall and like areas with full sun. They bloom from May through July and will germinate between 65° and 85° F.

These plants grow well in a variety of locations from prairies and open woodlands to roadsides.  The seeds are very easy to grow and do well when planted in the fall or when cold-treated for three months prior to planting.  Showy Milkweed will spread through seed distribution and underground shoots

3.     Butterfly MilkweedClose-up photo of the blossoms of the Butterflyweed.

Also known as Butterflyweed, this hardy perennial. Unlike their cousins, this species lacks the milky sap that gives milkweed their namesake. The clusters of flowers will range from dark orange to white on tall woody stems with smooth shiny leaves that are velvety underneath.  The blooms begin in May and will last through July. These plants will grow between 12”-24” and perform well in a variety of locations; from prairies and open woodlands to roadsides.

Butterfly Milkweed is only pollinated by large insects. This trait is common among fall wildflowers, many of which depend on specific pollinators to survive. Butterfly Milkweed pollen is contained in a heavy, sticky structure called pollinium. Since these pollinium structures are so large and sticky, only larger insect pollinators can fly with them. There are several nectaries per flower and multiple flowers per bloom, which makes these flowers great pollen and nectar resources

The seeds will grow well when planted in the fall or when cold-treated for three months prior to planting in the Spring. Butterfly Milkweed will spread through seed distribution and underground shoots.

4.     Swamp MilkweedThe pink blossoms of the Swamp Milkweed with a visiting wasp.

 

The Swamp Milkweed is widely distributed across the U.S. and Canada; from Quebec and Maine south to Florida and Texas and west to Nevada and Idaho. This species prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil, although it will tolerate a pH up to 8.0. It has high moisture requirements, and it is usually found in wet habitats such as meadows, riverbanks, pond shores, stream banks, wet woods, swamps, and marshes, although it will also grow in drier areas such as prairies, fields, and roadsides. Swamp milkweed needs full sun or partial shade to flourish.

The plant grows into a two=foot tall perennial with fragrant, terminal blossoms made up of tiny rosy-purple blossoms.  This milkweed prefers average to very moist soils, will tolerate heavy clay soils and is easy to start from seed and deer resistant.  Like most milkweed, Swamp Milkweed seeds are easy to grow and do well when planted in the fall or when cold-treated for three months prior to planting.  Swamp Milkweed will spread through seed distribution and underground shoots.

Like the Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed is great for wetland rehabilitation and as a component in wildlife seed mixtures.

 

5.     Bloodflower MilkweedThe varigated orange and yellow blossoms of the Bloodflower Milkweed.

Bloodflower Milkweed, also known as Tropical Milkweed, is winter hardy in zones 9-11 and is easily grown from seed each year as an annual.  It is great for attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and a wide variety of pollinators.  Showy red-orange flowers with yellow hoods in rounded clusters grow on upright stems with medium-green, glossy, pointed leaves.  Attractive foliage and flowers for beds, borders, cottage gardens, meadows and butterfly gardens. It is also a good cut flower. Dried seed pods are attractive in arrangements.  Monarch Butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves and the larvae feed on the plants. Plant in rich, well-drained soil.  These have a longer blooming period than most other milkweeds, ranging from June through October.

This milkweed is not native to North America and can potentially be invasive in warmer climates. If you’re one of our Southern friends, monitor your plantings and keep out of wild lands and ranches and cut the foliage to the ground in the winter to avoid luring Monarchs away from their migratory paths.

*Note that all milkweed contains cardiac glycosides, chemicals that are toxic when eaten. These chemicals, in turn, make the Monarch Butterflies toxic to any would-be predators. Avoid letting livestock and small children eat milkweed and wash any skin that comes in contact with the sap to avoid irritation.

Learn more about the Monarch Butterfly Migration by checking out this Blog post!

Monarch graphic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHY ARE NATIVE PLANTS IMPORTANT?

by Engrid WinslowNative Purple Coneflower seed packet.

Honey bees are not native to the United States but were imported in the 1600s by colonists from Europe. Already here when honey bees arrived were 50 species of bumblebees and over 4,400 species of native bees. Bumblebees are especially efficient at buzz pollination. (Check out this blog for more information on bumblebees: www.bbbseed.com/its-bumblebee-bonanza-time). Native bees specialize in pollinating native species of plants – including food – while honey bees are best described as generalists. Native plants evolved alongside the native bees and have a special relationship with them. Native bees do not have pollen bags on their legs but are often covered with a lot of bushy hairs on their bodies which gather and distribute pollen in a most excellent way. Also, native bees (bumblebees are the exception) live only about 6 weeks and their lives coincide with the bloom time of certain plants that they are specialists in pollinating. They are extremely docile and non-aggressive with some of them having a stinger that doesn’t even penetrate the skin.  Their sting also contains a different type of toxin which will not cause anaphylaxis in people who are allergic to honey bee stings.

The label for the Colorado Tansy Aster seed packet.

Alkali bees are essential for pollinating alfalfa. Alfalfa is a member of the pea family and the flowers have a lower lip which will snap closed and whack honeybees on the butt but Alkali bees have figured out how to get in and out of the flowers quickly and efficiently. Sunflower bees hatch late in the season to coincide with the bloom of sunflowers as do Long Horned bees which love asters as well as sunflowers. Mason bees are also commonly referred to as ‘orchard bees’ because they are so good at pollinating apples and stone fruits such as cherries. Sunflower bees hatch late in the season to coincide with the bloom of sunflowers as do Long Horned bees which love asters as well as sunflowers.  The tiny Mining bees which nest in bare spots in lawns are the first to wake up and pollinate maples and willows which bloom in spring.

 

Wild Sunflower

 

How do you know if a plant is a native? Well, if it’s a color (like bluish hybrid tea roses) or shape (lots of petals on the rose) that is unusual it is most likely a hybrid. Look for old-thyme classics like native roses (rosa woodsii or rosa glauca https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_woodsii) to support the natives in your garden.

Also remember to plant such natives as liatris, asters, sunflowers, penstemons, rabbitbrush and native bee plant. Anything with tubular flowers is always a good choice for the native bees and many of them bloom in should seasons when nothing else is available.

 

Liatris tag with photo of tall spikes of pink flowers

 

IT’S BUMBLEBEE BONANZA TIME

 

By: Engrid Winslow

Bumblebees pollinate many of our food crops and garden flowers which means the conservation of the species is vital to our ecology. Some species of Bumblebees are true American natives and are most commonly found in northern climates and higher elevations. Nearly all of the estimated 250 species live in the Northern Hemisphere although there are a few species that pollinate flowers in tropical rainforests in warmer climates. They are social insects that form colonies of around 50 bees with one Queen although only the Queen survives the winter. They commonly build their nest in the ground or in crevices of rocks and are quite good at hiding their entrance.

They are capable of flying (and pollinating) at cooler temperatures and lower light conditions than other bees which makes them important pollinators for plants growing in higher elevations and colder climates that are beyond the reach of other bees. Their plump, fuzzy bodies are a welcome sight that spring is on its way at last. It’s usually the super-sized Queen out and about in early spring as she starts to build a nest and raise brood.

Bumblebees are peaceful insects and will only sting when they feel cornered or when their hive is disturbed. When a bumblebee stings, it injects a venom but unlike a honeybee sting, the bumblebee sting has no barbs. This means that a bumblebee can pull back its sting without the sting detaching from its abdomen and can sting several times. Only female bumblebees (queens and workers) have a sting; male bumblebees (drones) do not. Justin O. Schmidt, author of The Sting of the Wild and the creator of The Schmidt Pain Index rates a bumblebee’s sting at a 2 on the index which starts at 0 and ends at 4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schmidt_sting_pain_index.com.

Here at BBB, we specialize in pollinator mixes and our newest one is designed with bumblebees in mind. It is our mission to help you provide nectar and pollen because “the more flowers a garden can offer throughout the year, the greater the number of bees and other pollinating insects it will attract and support.”

Bumblebee Bonanza includes Siberian Wallflower, Rocket Larkspur, Balsam, Yellow Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Purple Coneflower, Dahlia-flowered Zinnia Mix, Dwarf Mixed Cosmos, Gayfeather, Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Blue Sage, Northern Lights Snapdragon, Purple Prairie Clover, Lacy Phacelia and Beebalm.

Bumblebees are unique because their long tongues can reach the nectar in flowers that other bees avoid, such as penstemons, lupines, larkspur and snapdragons. They collect large amounts of pollen because they have so many hairs covering their little bodies and thrive on daisy-type flowers such as Zinnias, wallflower, cosmos and coneflower. There is a wealth of information available about bumblebees and what you can do to help them. Some of our favorites are [email protected] and https://xerces.org/bumblebees/.

Remember that the use of synthetic insecticides, particularly the ones that contain neonicotinoids are harmful to all bees. Please avoid using them in your garden, lawns and talk to your neighbors and friends about the perils of using these chemicals.  Neonicotinoids are sold under many different  names such as:

  • Acetamiprid
  • Clothianidin
  • Dinotefuran
  • Imidacloprid
  • Nitenpyram
  • Thiacloprid
  • Thiamethoxam
 

Anise Hyssop- Herb of the Year

By Heather Stone

Photo of a yellow bird sitting on an anise hyssop blossom.

photo courtesy of pixabay

Every year since 1995 the International Herb Association has named an Herb of the Year. This year’s selection is Anise hyssop, Agastache foeniculum. This North American native wildflower has a lot to offer in the garden, the kitchen, the medicine chest and to the pollinators.

 

Anise hyssop is native to the Upper Midwest, Great Plains and into Canada. It’s found growing in prairies, dry upland forests, plains and fields from Northern Colorado to Wisconsin in the US and from Ontario to British Columbia in Canada. Anise hyssop is a member of the mint family. It grows best in full sun to part shade in dry to moderately moist soils with good drainage. This low maintenance perennial thrives in zones 4-9 reaching heights on average of 1-3’ tall by 1-3’ wide. Beautiful lavender flower spikes bloom in summer and with regular deadheading will continue until fall. The flowers are edible and make for a nice cut and dried flower. Both the flowers and the leaves can be added to baked goods or salads. My favorite way to use them is finely chopped in a fruit salad.

 

Anise hyssop is easily grown from seed and established plants will spread by rhizomes or will self-seed in the right growing conditions. It also transplants easily. Deer tend to leave this plant alone, but the same can’t be said for rabbits. Anise hyssop works well in the middle or back of the border and is at home in native, wildflower and herb gardens as well as in prairies and meadows. Great companions for anise hyssop include Black-eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower, Bee Balm and native grasses. Anise hyssop also looks fantastic in pots mixed with flowering annuals.

 

While the flowers of this plant have no scent, the leaves of anise hyssop smell and taste like licorice with notes of lemon, pine and sage. Native Americans found the scent uplifting and used the leaves to help treat depression. This was but one of many uses the Native Americans had for Anise Hyssop. It was also used externally as a poultice to treat wounds and burns and as a wash for itchy skin irritations such as poison ivy. Internally, it was used for treating diarrhea, fevers and coughs. Anise hyssops’ antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties make it an excellent herb for soothing coughs and relieving chest congestion. I find it to be especially effective in children. The best time to harvest leaves for use is just past full bloom when the oil content in the leaves is at the highest.

 

Anise hyssop is also a favorite plant of many pollinators. The lavender flowers are a good nectar source and highly attractive to bumblebees, native bees, honey bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and beetles. Goldfinches love to feed on the seed so make sure to leave some flowers standing in the garden at the season. So let’s celebrate 2019 by adding a plant or two of Anise Hyssop to the garden this year.

 

BBB Seed’s Wildflowers to Attract Butterflies and Birds

by Heather Stone

Photo of two birds on a birdbath.

Photo courtesy of pixabay

It brings great pleasure to see more birds and butterflies about the garden and we as gardeners can do a lot to attract and protect the birds and butterflies that visit our garden. These critters simply need a safe place to live and healthy food to eat.

Wildflowers to attract butterfly and birds seed packet.

Butterflies

For butterflies, providing food (host plants) for caterpillars, nectar sources for adult butterflies and a safe place to overwinter can all be accomplished in a small area. Caterpillars of some species of butterflies have very specific larval host plants, while some will eat a wide range of species. Nectar is the primary food source for most adult butterflies. Planting nectar-rich plants in the garden is sure to attract more butterflies. Depending on the species, butterflies overwinter in all stages of life from egg to adult. Some places they overwinter include leaf litter, the bases of bunch grasses, rock piles, brush or wood piles, behind loose tree bark and near their host plants.

 

Birds

Just like butterflies birds need healthy food to eat and shelter. Start by planting native plants in your garden that provide seeds, berries, nuts and nectar. Shrubs and trees, especially evergreen species, provide excellent shelter and nesting sites for birds. Birds also need a year-round water source such as a bird bath. Providing nesting boxes and offering food in feeders will attract even more birds.

Photo of an orange and yellow butterfly on a marigold bloom.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Try planting our Birds and Butterflies mix to attract more birds and butterflies to your landscape. The mixture of annuals, perennials, introduced and native wildflowers is designed to attract butterflies over a long season of bloom from spring until fall and a variety of birds to the seeds come autumn.

 

Sources:  Gardening for Butterflies, The Xerces Society

https://www.nwf.org/sitecore/content/Home/Garden-for-Wildlife/Wildlife/Attracting-Birds

 

The Secret Life of a Queen Bee

by Engrid Winslow

Photo of a queen bee on honeycomb.

photo courtesy of pixabay – maggydurch

 

A Queen Bee begins her life in a vaguely peanut-shaped cell that is larger than the one a worker bee or drone comes to life in. It takes three days for the egg to hatch and no matter what type of bee is being raised, it will be fed royal jelly for the first three days. If the larvae is intended to become a queen, the royal jelly feedings will continue for three more days when the cell is capped and the larvae pupates. The entire cycle lasts for 16 days. Once the queen emerges she needs another week to continue to develop before she leaves the hive on her nuptial flight. Drone bees hang out in an area above tree line where she will mate with about 10 to 20 different drones. She returns to her hive and begins her mission in life – laying up to 20,000 eggs per day. She will never leave the hive (unless it swarms) and will spend her life in the dark being fed and tended to by her daughters. There can be no colony without her.

The beekeeper can recognize the queen because her body is longer, reaching past the length of her wings and legs, and she has a pointed abdomen. Since she is built for egg laying, she has no pollen sacs on her legs and her tongue is short. She also has no glands to produce wax and takes no part in building combs. The color of the Queen can vary from deep gold, to reddish brown and even a brown so deep it looks black. Color has no bearing on whether the Queen is a good one.

A good queen is one that lays a lot of eggs in a very tight pattern referred to as “the brood pattern”. The queen works her way in a circular pattern around the comb in ever wider circles. When checking on the hive the pattern should be densely covered with eggs, larvae and capped brood. This is repeated thorough out the hive and it is up to the beekeeper to make sure that there is always plenty of room for the queen to continuously lay eggs. Lake of space for her to continue her mission is one of the chief reasons for swarming.

You can read more about swarming here: https://www.bbbseed.com/19613-2/ and here: https://www.bbbseed.com/honey-bee-swarms/

 

What’s Happening in the Honeybee Hive as Winter Starts to Close In

Photo of an open shed on a foggy heath housing several honeybee hives.

by Engrid Winslow

This part 2 of a series on what happens in beehives, what beekeepers do to manage their beehives and how you can also help to sustain honeybees and other pollinators.

Winter in a hive of honey bees is tough. Honey bees are the only bees who overwinter as a colony (more about the lifecycle of bumblebees and native bees will follow in later articles) which makes them much more vulnerable to the vagaries of winter weather. Here’s what is happening in the hive as fall changes into early winter.

Honey bees are amazingly resourceful at helping to winter-proofing their hives. They use a special substance called propyls to seal up all the cracks and crannies that could let in wind and moisture during the cold rainy months. Whenever the beekeeper checks on the hives (temperatures must be above 50 degrees and sunny) the bees do an admirable job of sealing everything back up again.

Honeybees are not warm-blooded and depend on clustering in order to combat the winter temperatures. The worker bees who are left in the colony after the drones (male bees) have been evicted are all daughters of the Queen Bee and are devoted to protecting her and whatever small amounts of brood remain in the hive. As winter settles in, days darken and temperatures really drop, the Queen lays fewer and fewer eggs until stopping completely. The remaining cluster of bees is made of those who hatched late in the fall and these few daughters center around the Queen. They rotate from the center, where the Queen is protected from the elements to the outside of the bee cluster.  They create warmth in the cluster by unhinging their wings at the shoulder muscle and vibrating them (also referred to as “shivering”). No foraging takes place (well, after all, what flowers are blooming in the winter anyway?) and the hive is dependent on the stores of honey and pollen that has been stored from the summer. The bees on the outside of the cluster are usually able to feed off the pollen and honey which is stored on the outside of the frame around the brood. When temperatures are warm enough the bees will venture out for “cleansing flights” – yes, that’s a delicate name for what they need to do! But otherwise, they are “socked in” for the winter months.

Beekeepers will continue to supplement food for their hives, depending on temperatures, as they hope and pray the bees will survive to expand their colonies next spring and summer.  Check out this youtube video to hear the amazing sound created by the bees in this winter hive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yqr40loMhJw

 

 

 

Honey Bee Swarms

HONEYBEE SWARMS: CA– USE FOR CONCERN?

Swarm of Honeybees on tree branch

Swarming is a large cluster of honeybees (tens of thousands!) hanging in a ball from a surface, and it begins in the spring.  It is reproduction of honeybee colonies. How, you ask?

The hive is considered a super organism, which means all parts are uniquely necessary to the survival of the colony as a whole. Not a single honeybee can survive without the hive. The colony grows and eventually needs to split to reproduce more super organisms at additional nesting sites. This is where swarming comes in.

The “old queen” is programmed in her second year of ruling the hive, to prepare for swarming. This means she will leave, along with tens of thousands of her worker bees, including foragers and house bees alike. Some of the colony will be left behind with a virgin queen bee. The queen is very heavy whilst living in the hive fulfilling her egg-laying duties, and is unable to fly. Thus, she must go on a diet when she knows it is time to swarm. The house bees cease to feed her and she stops laying eggs. Once she is slim and trim enough to take flight, all the bees gorge themselves on honey for the exhausting task ahead.

How does the hive decide to swarm?

Pheromones, otherwise known as chemical messages. Bees use many pheromones to communicate different messages throughout the colony. The queen releases pheromones from mandibular glands (adjacent to the jaw line), which are passed to her worker bees through feeding. Her pheromone “cocktails” can instruct worker bees to collect food, create swarming cohesion, and prevent the maturation of eggs in other female worker bees. This form of communication unifies the colonies survival tactics. One mode of survival is reproducing the hive, and this happens when the colony has become so large that some of the worker bees are not feeding the queen and thus not receiving her pheromones. Such a population believes there is no queen, and begins raising a queen of their own. The existing queen must leave before the virgin queen emerges from her cup.

Meanwhile, the “old queen” is trimming down and sending out scouts to find a location to cluster. A cluster is a ball of bees hanging in strange places.  It could happen on a stroller, car, tree, house, pretty much any surface!  The cluster location isn’t far from the hive, and the swarm will only cluster as long as it takes to find a new nest, which is very brief. So, if you happen upon one, you are one lucky individual to be witnessing such an important part of a hive’s life cycle. Enjoy the view!

During the cluster some of the best foraging bees are sent out as scouts to find the next nesting site. Upon returning to the cluster, the scouts will do a waggle dance. The degree of enthusiasm the bee is waggling will encourage other scouts to verify the nesting site is indeed a good one. Finally, the entire swarm will leave together to begin building their new home.

What should you do if you see a swarm?

Please do not be afraid, but do show respect.Bees are not in the mood to attack at this very vulnerable moment in their life cycle. Stand back, give them space, and watch and listen (the hum of a buzzing colony is music!).  If you are concerned, contact your local beekeeping association for a list of bee rescue contacts.  Do not spray or exterminate honeybees, or any bees for that matter, they are critical to our survival!  1 in 3 bites of the food we eat comes from bee pollination!

I hope you enjoyed learning something new today!   Thank you for joining the movement to save our bees!
Jessica

 

 

 

HIVE HAPPENINGS IN SEPTEMBER

Two beekeepers in bee suits inspecting a hive.

photo courtesy of pixabay – topp-digital-foto

By Engrid Winslow

Have you ever wondered what beekeepers actually do? Did you think that they just put hives in fields and then visit to collect honey every once in a while? Well, we are going to take you inside the duties of a beekeeper in the first of a series of articles explaining what the bees are up to and how a beekeeper helps them to survive and thrive.

Two jars of golden honey with a honey dipper.

photo courtesy of pixabay – fancycrave1

Honeybees are the only bees that overwinter as a colony and cold weather can be stressful enough that many colonies will not survive without some help from a beekeeper. Even with that help, a hive that is weak or doesn’t have enough food stored or suffers from a mite infestation will not make it through.  Each colony has worked very hard all spring and summer collecting honey and pollen to feed the new brood that the queen spends all day (and night!) laying. They are also storing extra honey and pollen to make it through the winter when there is very little forage (in most parts of the country).  Every colony needs 60-90 pounds of honey to survive the cold season. A responsible beekeeper only harvests whatever extra honey has been stored by the hive. Beekeepers watch their hives grow during the season and add “honey supers” on top of a two-deep hive colony with a “queen excluder” between the hive and the supers. Some hives will produce many of these supers that hold the excess honey – it varies by the colony and by the amount of forage available during the season. The excluder ensures that no brood is laid in the supers. In the early fall, beekeepers check to make sure that the honey stores are capped with wax and proceed to harvest the honey in a variety of ways ranging from using a “capping scratcher” with the frames set over a bucket to using electric or manual extracting machines.

Honey is a marvelous thing to have for personal use, to sell or to give to friends and family as gifts. The National Honey Board website has numerous recipes for all types of dishes using honey as an ingredient.  Check them out at National Honey Board.

There are many other duties for the beekeeper to take care of as the weather cools and, concurrently, the hive is also preparing itself for winter. The queen slows down her egg laying, drones are evicted from the hive and the colony shrinks to a size that can huddle together when it’s cold outside. I’ll share more of this information in my next blog about honeybees.