There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. --- Henry David Thoreau

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do,
there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. -- The House at Pooh Corner

Friday, January 28, 2011

Everbody's Prepping for Spring ....

The Bee Girls are awake. Although the temps dip below freezing on many nights, still, the daytime temps are reaching up into the 50's. Things are warming up! The rain is not so incessant, so there are more and longer sun-breaks.(strange for Jan in the Willamette Valley, but I am not gonna rant about Planetary Heating in this post.) Enough so that the forager ladies are out and about most late mornings, bringing in loads of pastel yellow pollen from plants unknown. (Aspen? Maple? Willow? ... Calendula???) I set up a couple of Boardman feeders just in case my two most at-risk colonies need some short-term nutritional assistance. The liquid is disappearing from both feeders at the rate of about a quart per week.

Today I took a trip to Glory Bee and got some stuff to make another Biodynamic Lang - this one for Jenny and Mitch. And I'm going to add another 'Western Super' to my own BDL. I got the garage cleared out enough to operate the table saw and set up my brand new compressor and brad gun. (Thanks, Santa Molly!!!) I'll make my wonderful patented Lang/Warré hive-stand-bottom-board, a telescoping top, and a set of top bars for the Redwood Warré's last new box. I've decided it's not making any difference whether the bottom boards are screened or solid. I'll do either style as the mood strikes me and the Goddess commands .... I'd make my own deeps and supers for more Biodynamc Lang hives, but I don't have the jig to do the fine rabbets (hint hint).

Anyway, Glory Bee usually has the cheaper unassembled boxes on sale so that it's hardly worth the extra labor to build them from scratch. If I were a commercial guy instead of a newbeek "hobby" beekeeper, it would prolly make even more sense to buy the precut supers, no doubt.

This weekend I guess I better print out some more swarm-attracting flyers to hang up on the community bulletin boards. (Got Bees? ....) Wouldn't hurt to go by and remind the Fire Dept, the DOT Highway guys, and the hardware store that I'm here and ready to deal with swarms and maybe some cut-outs this year. I've got the local nursery guys ordering me some more of those cardboard fiber pots so I can continue to assemble more swarm trap/baithives and get them placed before too much longer. I'm going to try some smaller eight-inch pots as well as my twelve-inch beauties. (Yes, I'll let you know ...)

I guess I ought to go over to the Keeper of the Bee Tree Grove and remind him too, unless I can get Karen to do it. (hint hint) I wonder ... should I get some little business cards printed up offering to come get bees, mention my Warré/ Lang/TBH hive-building skills and my wise fool (sophomore) advice on setting up for beekeeping, etc?

Hmmmm ... yeah, you're right ... maybe not.

Oh, hey,  .... check out Adam Schreiber's Bee Blog - For the Time Beeing. He has lots of pictures, great words, and he's a city beek! Makes a nice contrast to our rural Cascade Foothills location. It's also linked over there <---- on the blog list.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mason Bee Houses

There was this larger-than-ever growth in beekeeping starting in about 2006, when the first hubris over the Death Of All The Honeybees In The Universe began, along with subsequent publicity over CCD, Bayer pesticides and all of that. Well, now that all of us Newbeeks have kinda got our "feet on the ground" about the fundamentals of honey beekeeping, our attention has been expanding to include concern for all the pollinators in general -- from bats to birds, to other non-honeybee insects. I've noticed a growing interest in Mason Bees among all my fellow beeks here in the Willamette Valley. Lots of us are promoting their best interests here lately. It's not hard to raise and manage some. Look at our friend The Luddite's blog: her latest post has just a whole buncha really good stuff about Orchard Mason Bees. (You can also click on her blog over there to the left in our Bee Blog List to keep up with her thoughts.)

I actually started building Mason Bee houses before I began this odyssey into honey beekeeping. I give the bee blocks away whenever I can find any takers. This was because there was a year there when all of us noticed a distinct dearth of honeybees and seemed to observe a subsequent lack of blooms in our gardens. It seemed prudent to begin to do something about it. My oldest Mason Bee house is usually populated with several cocoons in the little holes. Here's a current picture of it, complete with bird-poop roof shingling:

 A close look reveals at least a half dozen full Orchard Mason Bee cocoons in the cylindrical holes I drilled. (There is a smaller set of holes below them for another variety of mason bee that I dunno the exact name of. The Leaf Cutter bees use 'em too. There are some full cocoons of theirs in this bee block as well.)

The Mason Bee nesting blocks or houses are really easy to build (don't worry I'm not gonna post another long set of instructions, just go here - or here -  if you wanna build some, or you can buy them in many garden stores and nurseries, or online).
The owner of the secretly-located feral bee grove puts me and most of the other bee house builders to shame. He has an absolutely amazing number of different shapes sizes and woods for Mason Bee houses, hung all over his garage, shed and behind his house. I'm hoping to get some good pictures this spring of all of them. It seems to work for us all, the Mason Bee population seems to be growing around here.

Seque: Since he asked very nicely, I promised Amy Leigh's boyfriend, Danny, that I would mention his article, 21 Things You Didn't Know About Honey Bees. The blog has been added to our Bee Blog List, as well. (I'm kinda hoping he'll link to us on their blog as well ....)

[May 2012 update: For a really informative, recent, discussion of solitary bee living quarters as well as a great tutorial on building nesting blocks go here to our friend The Luddite's blog.]