Thursday, 28 August 2014

Fields Of Gold

These days uncultivated, open areas are awash with gold. Goldenrod flowers.

Although scorned by dairy and cash crop farmers as a weed, this showy perennial is cherished by beekeepers as a late season nectar and pollen bonanza.

A late summer banquet for pollinators.
Plumes more lovely than nuggets of gold.

Honey bees harvesting the bounty.

A young honey bee drinking up nectar.

This flat-topped specimen is a Lance-leaved goldenrod.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Look Up!

And I don't mean just take a glance up. I mean, really look up and have a good gander! Gaze deeply into the sky and take time to watch the show parading across the blue expanse. There are birds migrating south and birds hawking for insects. I saw a turkey vulture soar over as if riding an invisible conveyor belt. Tree swallows with their young are feeding heavily to gain energies needed for their fall migration. They wheel and stall to snatch prey items with very impressive acrobatics. Seagulls glide very high overhead, their white feathers looking spectacular against the deep blue background.

The sky is constantly changing colour and mood. Clouds form and then dismember. For me, sky gazing is somehow akin to watching the ocean waves or the flames of a campfire. It all has a calming effect and the feeling that life goes on as it should.

Last night my sister was enjoying the warm evening out on her deck when she wondered if the space station was transiting across our area. She looked up and sure enough, there it was. How marvelous to know that people are up there, orbiting the earth in an object the size of a football field. Earthbound folk can see the sun rise every 24 hours. The International Space Station crew can watch the sun rise every 92 minutes. (A rooster on board would drive them crazy.)

So, find a spot that offers a good viewing expanse of sky. Recline yourself on a comfortable chair. Place a small pillow or folded towel behind your neck. Use sunglasses to avoid eye strain. Have binoculars and a drink handy. Enjoy!

Tree swallows hunting insects high overhead.

My 'stay-cation' sight seeing chair.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Field Day

Yesterday the Lanark County Beekeeper's Association in partnership with The Ontario Beekeeper's Association held a field day at the home of beekeeper, Paul Lacelle near Carleton Place, Ontario. Despite threatening rain clouds, there was a nice turn out for the event.

Brent Halsall, provincial bee inspector, demonstrates a hive evaluation.

Removing the queen excluder to access the brood frames.

Displaying an excellent brood pattern.

Paul Lacelle's bees are lovely and docile.

Ontario's Provincial Apiarist, Paul Kozak considers a response to a question on pesticides.

Auctioning caged queens.

Beekeepers, Elizabeth and Bernard explore the merchandise table.

And of course, I couldn't resist buying this T-shirt!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Poppy Appreciation

My honey bees are a bit like spoiled cats. Sometimes food they previously went crazy for are now met with 'ho-hum' instead of 'buzz-buzz'.

At a shopping centre recently, I saw honey bees mobbing Russian Sage. So, I bought a pot of it in bloom and waited for my little ladies to dig in. But no-o-o-o, they mostly snubbed it in favour of other blossoms like borage and white clover. A few years back my honey bees raved over my licorice mint. So I planted hedges of it. This year they are ignoring that and storming the globe thistles. And so, my learned beekeeper cousin, Peter, is again proved right in his prediction that whatever nectar has the highest sugar ratio will win the day.

One thing is consistent though. My bees always, without fail, love to gather the pollen from poppies. Even on windy days when the blooms are hard to land on, they stick with the tricky landing flights and slippery petals to gather the pollen. Then they frolic and roll about the anthers with abandon. (I get the same, but thankfully suppressed, urge when I encounter the intoxicating scent of fresh cilantro in a grocery store produce department.)

Two little ladies gathering poppy pollen.

Hovering in for a landing.

My garden's poppy isle.

Friday, 8 August 2014

It's An Ambush!

Several years ago I was at first perplexed when I noticed that a honey bee that was on a flower was not moving -- at all. Then I noticed that a little creature had it grappled underneath by two front legs that were reminiscent of a praying mantis. The unfortunate bee had become a meal for an ambush bug (Phymata). Since then I've seen a lot of these little predators, especially on goldenrod at this time of year. Cleverly disguised, they wait in ambush on a nectar source and can capture victims several times their size. Hey, we all have to make a living, right?

Goldenrod plants are now offering a feast of nectar and pollen.

Disguised as debris, an ambush bug awaits a pollinator victim.

Looking a bit like a science fiction alien.

Nice mimic on the goldenrod colour in it's break-up pattern.

Check out those grappling hooks!

Not everyone will make it safely home tonight.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Sunflower Appreciation

Each year I plant two or three rows of sunflowers. They add cheerful sunny colour to the garden. Their seeds are much appreciated by wildlife and they produce lots of pollen for insects. My honey bees are presently spoiled for choice, but a certain type of native bee seems to be the number one sunflower customer. It's common name is, surprise, surprise, "Sunflower Bee". I believe the scientific name is Svastra obliqua. This little cutie has brushy legs that at first glance look like a champion weightlifter's hefty arms. As it scuttles over the sunflower, it stops for very brief intervals to scrape the pollen from it's underside and on to it's leg hairs. This makes for a wiggle, waggle sort of locomotion -- something you would expect to see near the end of a very long and tired watusi dance marathon.

2Sunflwr from Out To Pasture on Vimeo.

If you would like a quick primer on North America's native bees, I recommend the following site:

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Garden Harvest

This morning I walked out to my garden patch to harvest some Swiss chard for lunch. Evidently someone else had the same idea last night.  Fresh deer tracks suggested the resident doe enjoyed a buffet. Beside the garden I have a stock tank which I use for watering the plants. I can just imagine her sauntering over to it and washing down her big meal.

Munched Swiss Chard.

Munched bean tops.

Now I certainly don't begrudge the deer having this tasty meal but I really don't want my asparagus seedlings trampled to smitherines. So-o-o, this evening I'll drizzle some of my personal scent (urine) around the garden perimeter -- a duty formerly performed by my dog, Henry. Sadly, he passed away a few months ago at the age of fifteen -- a generous life span for a sheltie. No, I don't intend to take over his barking duties as well.

August, 2013. Munching soybeans in a neighbouring field.

So take a picture, why don'cha!

Can't see me now!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Sleeping Beauties

I grow cosmos flowers for two reasons. Reason One: They make colourful, long lasting bouquets. Reason Two: They pump out lots of pollen which is much appreciated by pollinating insects and in autumn the seeds are relished by birds.

So, very early yesterday morning I headed for the garden to cut some of them for flower arrangements. I quietly entered the garden hoping to surprise and shoot (with a camera only) the deer that has been hanging out there lately. No deer. But what I did see was many little sleeping native bees. They were anchored to cosmos petals with their mandibles and waiting for the day to warm up before breaking their naps. I think they were mostly long-horned bees but I am certainly no expert. 

Sleeping face down in cosmos pollen.

Hanging tight with mandibles and tarsal claws.

Covered with cold dew and specks of pollen.

Almost time to awake and greet the day.

Another sleeping beauty!

One reward from visiting the garden very early is that I get the occasional blackberry snack before the robins and cat birds find them.

Cosmos bouquets ready to go.