Saturday, 12 July 2014

Neighbourhood Buzz

Almost overnight a new subdivision has sprung up on the property beside ours. Well, when I say 'subdivision' I'm not really talking about dwellings for humans. It's actually a new honey bee yard of hives from a local honey producer. I'm guesstimating there is about thirty colonies in this one. The banquet of nectar and pollen forage that I've planted over the years for my bees will now suddenly have to be shared. And after all, my bees have gone far beyond their owner's real estate boundary themselves over the years. They will happily fly within a two mile radius of their hive if a sweet scent beckons or if a sister passes on the grocery tip with a sample and a directional dance.

A few days ago I bought a honey bee nuc from local bee breeder, honey producer and provincial honey bee inspector, Brent Halsall. He mentioned that in one of his mating yards, only one of eighteen queens returned from her mating flight. He suspects that king birds known to be in that particular area scoffed down the others. Queen rearing is a bit like spinning a roulette wheel!

When I brought the bees home and moved the four frames from their little nuc box to a permanent wooden hive, they were wonderfully quiet and docile. Not a hint of the usual confused and angry hum of bees being uprooted and forced into new digs. I think the reason for their good humour was that their young queen had time to acquaint with her entourage and they were nicely bonded as a unit.

The next day, I took an hour and half drive to the beautiful Rideau Lakes district to collect two more nucs from fifth generation bee breeder, Debbie Hutchings. Debbie said that this year was extremely challenging for her honey bee operation. Last winter was the coldest on record in Eastern Ontario in about sixty years and didn't moderate until very late into Spring. And as if cold, rain and strong winds weren't bad enough, her bees also suffered from vandals, agricultural pesticides and dragonfly predation. Apiculture anyone?

My hollyhocks are pumping out lots of protein rich pollen.

An Italian honey bee from the neighbouring bee yard.

Another Italian visitor. She is golden and larger than my honey bee stock.

Debbie Hutchings, a 5th generation honey bee breeder also teaches beekeeping,
raises sheep and drives a township snowplow.

Young bees take their first orientation flight before becoming foragers.

The sunbonnets on these hives were once part of my sister's privacy fence.

A new beeyard installed nearby.


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