So, what’s been up in August? Well, I last left you with, “we need to wait”. Well, I’ve been waiting, and watching from a distance. No big inspections, as I didn’t want to disturb things too much. After adding the queen, things seemed pretty much the same, which to be honest, was expected for a while.
The news, I think, is good, however. Lately I’ve noticed more bees in the hive (I have been peeking in the window!). And from the outside, there is evidence of rejuvenation hidden inside. There has been a good amount of pollen moving in. This is a good sign as pollen is fed to developing larvae. Although I haven’t been inside for a while, the seemingly more numerous residents and the pollen going in tells me I probably have a queen. I also have not seen many drones. This is important because if the hive were queenless too long, a worker bee might develop egg laying capabilities. The eggs she would lay would be unfertilized, however, and the results would be a lot of drones. So, all together, things are looking up.
As for the pollen, I’m not sure what they are finding. There was a lot of this, a gray colored pollen, going in, but I have no idea what it is. Some bright orange pollen too.
On other fronts, some have asked about the garden and the infamous tomato trellises. I’m happy to report that the garden is doing spectacular this year and the tomatoes are outdoing themselves. I am using an A-frame type design with pole stretched between them. There are strings running up and down between the top pole and a bottom one, to which the tomatoes are intertwined. Lots of green tomatoes, so, if the weather holds, we’ll see some good eats soon. The peas are shot (2 gallon bags frozen for winter), and many carrots and potatoes waiting in the ground. Some of the flowers finally turned on, although the bees have completely ignored them.
Oh, and the raspberries have been great, although a certain Wendy dog likes to steal them. She even taught Griz and Meadow the art of berry picking. Seriously, they just stand out there stealing berries!
I also finally got started on the extension to the wood oven, a counter bar for enjoying the back with a nice seat and view. A lot of work! 3 yards of dirt dug out by hand (did I mention it hasn’t rained in a month and a half. We are finally catching up on the heat that the rest of you have been enduring!). The hole was filled in with 2 tons of concrete and gravel. No, seriously, two tons of each! Fortunately, Beth, Kara and Trevor helped with all that.
And then …, there these! This is a bald faced hornet. They are big, black hornets (about twice the size of a bee) with greenish blue tails and faces. There seem to be a lot of them around this year. We have had them before when they stripped the bark off a birch tree in front, but this year, they abound. I caught this one searching around the hive, probably looking to raid the honey stores or grab a victim for its nest and larvae. This time, it couldn’t find the entrance.
This evening, however, I had the window on the hive open, just quickly checking things out. I heard the low buzzing that the hornets make behind me, and turned to see one cruising in, over to the hive. I didn’t think much of it, but the next thing I know, it pops into the entrance and begins to check around inside the hive. The response didn’t take long. Several bees immediately jumped it, and a battle began. The hornet had the advantage of size and a very powerful sting (they are extremely painful and can sting multiple times). The bees, however, had the advantage of home turf and large numbers. Their response, though, was not what you would expect. Unlike some Hollywood script, they did not try to sting it to death. Rather they quickly surrounded it, hundreds of bees, and began to smother it. They hung in a very tight clump from the top of the hive for 20-30 minutes, covering the hapless hornet in a layer of bees 4-5 deep. Their aim was probably to cook the attacker to death. Insects are temperature sensitive and eventually they simply got it so hot that it died. It was a smart defense as they had little hope of over powering their foe or out stinging it. I saw only one defender drop to the bottom of the hive dead, so the losses were minimal. So, invaders beware!
I guess that about wraps up August for now. Positive things that are a good portend for the fall and winter to come.