Sunday, 18 September 2016


A couple of days ago I executed some seasonal beekeeping manoeuvers.

I performed a final sugar shake mite count sampling for the year on both hives and was satisfied that mite levels were low enough to forego treatment until next Spring. Also, I had to unstack the boxes from each hive to replace the summer's screened bottom boards with solid, winter ones. The empty vent boxes under the roofs were replaced with ones filled with insulating and moisture wicking wood shavings. By early November I'll envelope each hive in a winter wrap.

Each colony now contains about 50,000 honey bees. During the necessary invasion of their domicile, the usual content and peaceful hum turned into angry bee buzzing war cries. Nothing perturbing to a bee keeper clad in good old protective gear.

Some hive box disarray during my beehive winter preparations.

Not recommended without a protective beekeeping suit and veil.

This year's queen is painted with a white dot. She tooted her hunting horn for me.

But the interesting event (and the reason for the quirky title on this post) is that after I had smoked one of the boxes to encourage the bees to go from the top of the frames into the depths of them and avoid being accidentally crushed during box restacked was what I heard. The unmistakable sound of the queen tooting! I've heard some beekeepers refer to this queen call as 'quacking' but it reminds me very much of a distant call from a fox hunting horn.

Huntsman John Tabachka demonstrates the calls on the fox hunting horn in the following video.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Minor Damage

Wowee, did we ever get a storm here last night! High winds, heavy rain and almost continuous thunder and lightning. There were times the flashes were so bright and constant it looked like daylight outside. The television kept displaying public service warnings of possible tornadoes in this area and to seek immediate shelter. Scary stuff!!!

A walkabout survey this morning revealed no major damage but my lovely sweet pea vines were certainly brutalized. At least I had captured a few pics of them the previous day.

Sweet pea flowers make fragrant and colourful bouquets.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Smells Like Bacon

At this time of year there is a change in the air around my bee hives. I'm referring to the distinctive scent which I can only describe as being similar to that of raw bacon. In a way, it is raw meat for it emanates from the bodies of unborn drones being ripped from their cells and tossed outside the hive. Winter preparations by the worker bees include this practice of autumn drone eviction. The boys played no part in gathering honey or pollen for the colony and they will not be allowed to partake of their sisters' provisions. The ground in front of the hives is littered with drone bodies. During the night, my resident skunks will likely clean up. When winter is on the way, there is no social security for male honey bees.

Born and unborn, these honey bee drones were murdered by their sisters.

The area in front of my hives is littered with dead drones.

Worker honey bees harvesting licorice mint nectar.

Goldenrod flowers are one of the later of the nectar crops to bloom.

The honey bee drones may lack a social security safety net, but there are two animals in my neighbourhood that are covered. Feral tomcat, Ginger Tom and young red squirrel, Timmy, do get a pension of sorts.

Ginger Tom has been demoted in the pecking order of the feral tom cat community. The younger and stronger black and white cat I call "Chico" calls the shots now. Some weeks back I noticed that Ginger Tom was limping along with a forepaw held well off the ground. There was a fresh scar on his forehead and his thin frame made quite a pathetic picture. How could anyone deny the poor lad a war pension? He knows that if he waits on my deck in the early morning or early evening, a meal allowance will materialize. So far, he hasn't rewarded me with a friendly meow or a cat's version of a smile -- the upward tail. When I go outside with his meal tray, he hides under the deck and doesn't come out until he hears the door shut behind me after I go back into the house. But I don't begrudge him this simple fund. We all need a little help at times.
Ginger Tom nervously checks over his shoulder.

A more virile looking Ginger Tom in January, 2014.

Today with thinner cheeks and a lighter summer coat, the ear scars are the same.

Waiting for the soup kitchen to open.

His paw has obviously healed well enough to climb and peer into my window.

Young red squirrel, Timmy, is another matter entirely. His left hind foot is missing. There is only a short stump attached to that hip and it appears to have healed over from some injury. There is no sign of parent or sibling. I suspect he is his family's only survivor. He can't manage branch leaps with only one hind foot. When upset that a cat is nearby, he chatters and stamps both his real foot and his imaginary one. I suppose the sunflower seeds and peanuts he receives here will help, but I doubt that his long term chances of survival are good.

Young red squirrel, Timmy, is missing most of his left hind leg.

He will need good luck as well as a disability allowance to survive the winter.