Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Elderberry Wine

These days my elderberry groves are in glorious bloom. They are also abuzz with thousands of honey bees, harvesting the butter coloured pollen. In a few weeks the blooms will turn into sweet berries and robins and cedar waxwings will gorge on them. But presently, those delicate blooms remind me of lace collars and I imagine ladies wearing those pretty collars and enjoying winter evenings over card games and elderberry wine.

A honey bee harvesting elderberry pollen.

This bee is aiming her antenna directly at a blossom.

This one has almost a full cargo of pollen.

She must be tempted to linger on this luxurious bed.

Then I happened upon what I first assumed to be a bumble bee. But it didn't quite act like a normal bee. It wasn't foraging for pollen or nectar but just crouched there on an elderberry leaf. I assumed it was unwell. It was only later, when I examined the photo that all was revealed. Those eyes are not bee's eyes. The antenna is not a bee's antenna. Those feet are definitely not those of a bee. In fact, it is not a bee at all, but a bee-mimicking robber fly, Laphria. And it was not interested in pollen, but in other creatures such as my honey bees. Waiting in ambush, this carnivore with it's heavily bristled front legs was waiting to grab an insect victim. It would inject the prey with a poison and digestive enzymes and then suck it dry. Hey, we all have to make a living, right?

A bee-mimicking robber fly crouches in ambush, ready to seize a victim.

Meanwhile, back at the hives:


  1. Busy days for them all, superb close-up, that is a real beauty.

  2. You have a top entrance and a bottom entrance? I should consider that for the summer...but it might make it harder for them to cool when the air temp is 100.
    Love the bee video

  3. Carol ...

    Wow, you get up to 100 degrees? Awesome!

    I use both top and bottom entrances as well as vent boxes over screened inner covers. In spring, summer and fall I use screened bottom boards. The sun bonnets are an experiment to add shade as well as protecting the top entrance from rain. In the fall I reduce the bottom entrances to discourage robbing. For winter the vent boxes under the outer cover are filled with wood shavings. I never use a queen excluder and all my boxes are medium supers. Over the years we all seem to gravitate to what works best for us.

    I'm so glad for your honey gathering box tip. No more sticky drips on my kitchen table. Yay-y-y!!!


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