Monday, 10 June 2019

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

-- mosquitoes, that is. These days the little buggers here are unbearable without a good repellent. But my choice of mosquito discouragement does not come from a pharmacy. It resides among my beekeeping equipment. The smoker works just dandy for chasing away biting insects. Back in the good old days, when we harvested firewood from our woodlot, dad always started a small fire to 'smudge away the mosquitoes'. Worked beautifully! When the chainsaw was started, it seemed to produce just enough smoke to keep the operator protected as well. I like to pass my hat and gloves through the smoke. The fuel I burn is wood shavings (the same bedding preferred by pampered ponies) and I must say it is not unpleasant. Fondly reminds me of campfires and fishing trips.

My trusty old smoker reliably deters mosquito attacks.

The 'off switch' is simply a few blades of grass stuffed into the spout.

For shorter term weeding/watering chores, the veil is the thing.

My jam feeder continues to be a hit with the sweet-toothed set. If I don't refill it quickly enough, a female Baltimore Oriole peers into my kitchen window as if to say, "Hey, where is my waitress?"

The alarm calls of this Gray Catbird sound much like a distressed young kitten.

Honey bees hover as a Baltimore Oriole takes a hearty helping of jam.

The abdomen of this honey bee is looking stretched pretty full.

Barn swallows were declined in recent years but I'm happy to see that last year and this year they are again constructing their mud nests. There is a pair nesting in the barn and a pair starting a nest on a rafter of my garage. They add mud and then let it dry for a bit before adding another layer. When they take little breaks from nesting and hunting mosquitoes (yay-y-y for Barn Swallows) they like to perch on my clothesline and burble sweet conversations with each other. In flight, they are acrobatic marvels! I absolutely love them!

A Barn Swallow's nest under construction in my garage.

Perched on my clothesline, a Barn Swallow burbles a message to it's mate.

Please, pretty please Ellie May, do not harm my bird friends!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

A Swarm Of Bees In May

A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July
Is not worth a fly!
(17th century bee-keeper's saying)

This morning I noticed masses of swirling, very plump honey bees in my bee yard. They filled the air and formed dense clusters on the hive stand and on the ground. They were quite plump because they had filled their crops with honey in preparation for a journey to parts unknown. I've heard that once a colony decides to leave, not much will alter it's plan. Anyhow, they had not yet decamped so I had to try something. I added an empty box of frames to the bottom of the swarming hive and moved it a few feet to the right. With a dust pan and bee brush, I gently swept the larger clusters onto the landing board at the new location. Typical of a swarm, they were completely docile -- perhaps owing to full tummies. Almost immediately dozens of bees started to fan nasonov gland pheromone to beckon their airborne sisters back into the box. An hour later, the swarm had moved into the slightly newer location. Whether or not they will stay home is questionable. Time will tell.

In the early part of May, I had split my one surviving colony into two. I moved one half to the East hive stand and gave it the overwintered queen. The remaining hive stayed at the old location on the north stand -- queenless but with plenty of brood, nurse bees and young eggs to make a new queen. It appears they have now made a new queen and were preparing to fly off with her, but leaving behind backup queen cells and a small workforce to carry on. In a day or two, I'll inspect both hives and make sure they have lots of wiggle room.

A swarm in progress at the North hive stand.

An empty box added to the hive seems to have curtailed the swarm.

The East hive stand houses the overwintered queen with a portion of her workers.

The tray leaning against the left hive is acting as a bee ladder.

On a happier note, about a dozen Baltimore Orioles are back here for their breeding season and demanding handouts of grape jam. By the end of each day, their feeder is empty but still being licked over by these beautiful songbirds. Each morning as I put out a fresh supply of their sugary treat, they give me a little song of appreciation. Or so I imagine.

A dazzling male Baltimore Oriole concentrates on his treat.

A female prefers to grip the hanger while feeding.

Both raspberry and grape jams were on offer here.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks also enjoy the jelly tray.

This green frog is welcome to all the mosquito larvae it can catch.