Category: Honey Bees


The summer has been going really well so far. I love interning at the garden. Sid and I have become good friends, and I love getting to talk to all sorts of new people on a daily basis. My social anxiety doesn’t seem to effect me very much when I’m working, which is a blessing. Saturdays I’m in the garden from 8-2, and I talk to well over a hundred people during that time. Falaah, the garden coordinator (and the only person paid to be there), lets me bring my beekeeping stuff on saturdays and have my own table to talk to people. I explain the inner workings of the hive to anyone who’s interested, and try to encourage people to plant more flowers for pollinators. I showed off for some kids once and pet a bumblebee, since their mom told me that their dad has been teaching the kids that all insects are bad, and sprays them with pesticide while they’re on his plants regularly. They liked the bumblebee demonstration a lot, and apparently have asked to come and see me specifically more than once.

Right now we’re doing a summer camp for kids ages 3-5 on Wednesday mornings. I’m in charge of the “Nature Play” area, and have the kids play in a teepee we made using bamboo sticks and tarp. They get to play with pine cones and dig in the dirt to find millepedes, ants and worms. Yesterday we also had a group of 25 kids ages 5-10 after the summer camp. It was fun but exhausting. Sid and I stayed for the normal 5-8 volunteer session as well, so he and I worked 11 hours yesterday. It was draining but fun. During the normal work party time he and I collected branches from the woods behind the barn and all but finished the hugelkultur we’re trying to make. Its basically wood that’s half buried under the ground, and then greens and compost are mounded on top of that to make a raised bed about 5 feet tall. See here for a full explanation of a hugelkultur: http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

I’m currently exhausted from yesterday’s long hours, so I’m spending today on my back patio enjoying the bees. We have a patch of succulents that has been covered in bumblebees for the last week. There’s more of them this year than there’s ever been I think, which I’m excited about. I’ve taken some borage from Pickering Barn, which is a big pollinator attractor. Hopefully next year we’ll have lots of it, because with this many bees around I feel responsible feeding them. My mom and I have already argued about the clover in the front lawn at least a dozen times this year, haha.

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After coming home and taking care of the bees (see my other blog for details on that), I got to sit and watch my yard for a bit. The air was full of bees over half of my yard. They were coming and going from all three colonies, and dozens of confused, lost girls floated around from tree to bin in search of the swarm I’d captured. This made lunch very easy for the 4 dragonflies my yard has acquired. We have 2 blue brown ones, the state-dragonfly which is a lovely iridescent green color, and a bright red one. I love the red one. I got to watch the red one pop up from its perch and snag a bee to eat every so often, but it was the state-dragonfly that was the most fascinating. It’s so big! I didn’t realize it was such a large dragonfly. It was probably only 4 inches long, but that’s still one big bug. It landed on one of our camellias and enjoyed a tasty honeybee. I really do not mind if they eat their fill. I have more bees than I know what to do with currently, and watching the dragonflies dash around the yard is great fun. Everyone has to eat something!

I really just wanted to post about that. Oh! And the thunder and lightning storm we had last night! I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep when a bright flash of light lit up my window. I didn’t think anything of it, but it happened repeatedly so I got up to look and saw a bright flash of lightning. I got dressed and went outside to watch for the next hour, despite it being 12:30 in the morning. I got a few pictures with my phone, but I’ll spare you the little blips of light and show you my best one.

This was the kind of storm that light up the entire sky with forked lightning and thunder that rolled on for minutes. It was great! I wish we had storms like this more often; they’re such a rarity in the northwest, despite the incessant rain. To quote Sleepless In Seattle, “it rains 9 months out of the year in Seattle!”.

Anyway, after watching the weather for a good portion of an hour it started raining and the majority of the lighting had moved down over puget sound. So I went back to bed. It was great fun though!

What My Garden Is To Me

I absolutely love spring and the early part of summer. The world fills with new life as bugs and birds alike become abundant in the garden. Although the purple finches stopped coming regularly once the turnips had been consumed completely, they still show up occasionally. We have the same three hummingbirds fighting over our yard as we do every year, and the same two blue dragonflies eating all the bugs they can catch. Although this year the infamous red dragonfly did appear early, which I’m taking to be a good sign. I’ve set a dish that should be under a large pot out in the garden and filled it with water and some rocks for the animals. It’s up on a stump so the dogs can’t reach it. When the finches were daily visitors they would come and drink out of on of the dogs bowls, lol. Oh, and the swallowtail butterfly that usually only visits us once or twice for the whole summer has been here over a dozen times in the last week or so. The same two white butterflies, with little eyes on their wings, whose name I cannot remember, are also back this year, as they are every year.

The only thing my yard needs is a pond for the dragonflies to breed in, and a fountain to invite them (they like the sound of running water), and it will be the epitome of tranquility. It’s dangerous to sit on my back porch, as once you’ve sat down all will to work leaves you and you’re stuck admiring the glow of the garden from the shade of my patio cover. The trill of birds, the hum of bees, the playing of dogs, the rustling of leaves; its enough to relieve any amount of tension, no matter how great.

Did I mention we have a pair of house-rens nesting in the grape-hyacinth patch in the front yard, not two feet from the sidewalk? They’re perfectly hidden in the tangled mess of dried stems and seed pods. I leave the stems of the hyacinth alone until they’ve gone to seed, because I like when the flowers spread, and because the finches like to eat them. I was cleaning out the area (because eventually it just becomes unseemly) and found the nest, filled with 5 light blue eggs with red bottoms. We also occasionally have chickadees, bush-tits, gold finches, and junkos running around the yard. The junkos eat my blueberries.

I’m amazed at the increase in life in the yard since I got my bees. There are more flowers, more birds, more bugs, and more life in general. Apparently dragonflies like to eat honeybees. They’re even considered a pest in apiaries because of their ability to eat their own body weight in 30 minutes. They’re supposedly able to noticeably reduce the population of a hive. No matter; I love them just the same!

I’m having an un-birthday party this sunday with my neighbors roommate; the one who helped me capture the first swarm some weeks ago. She and I also had a tea party yesterday because she wanted to come and enjoy the peace and quite of my yard with me, and because I had just gotten my first teapot in the mail. Its a Brown Betty, but I love it. I searched for weeks online for the right one, as I’m veeery particular about the shape a teapot should be, and finally found the brown betty! I bought it immediately. It arrived with a small history of its creation and a sticker saying “made in England” on its side! The bottom is embossed with its maker’s and ‘made in England’ as well, much to my delight.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll let you know how the tea party goes!

My memory is starting to fail again. I’ve been forgetting large portions of conversations, appointments, even the fact that I’ve got school to go to. I have class twice a day on Monday’s. I knew it was Monday; I planned on going to talk to my teacher about the transit of Venus happening tomorrow. Completely forgot I had class today. Despite it being Monday and my having plans for what I’d do in class ON MONDAY. Loosing ones memory is not fun.

Speaking of which, I can’t remember if I’ve ever done a proper post about my best friend M. In short: she is the Grace Adler to my Will Truman. We’re basically younger versions of Will and Grace. Anyway, we went for a walk together today. She’s a total fire sign, and constantly needs to be busy or she gets depressed (and being busy really does help me too I find). I got to her house and there was a purple finch hopping around on 1 foot, because the other looked like it had been slammed in a door or something. It was missing feathers on its wing too, so it couldn’t even fly. It was so sad. We put it in a shoebox and gave it some food and water, but eventually let it go again because watching it slowly die wasn’t something we’re capable of. Animals dying is really something I’m nooooot ok with watching. I really do need to be a vegetarian…

After the walk I went home and did a bunch of math homework, and then headed over to my aunts to put the roof and bottom board on the hive over there. My aunt and cousin invited me to stay the night for dinner, so I did. We talked a little about my sister, who had counseling tonight, which is why my mom was away for the evening (she likes to go down and have dinner with her before her session) and why I was free to eat dinner elsewhere. My aunt said “good for you” in regards to me telling my sister what my dad was really doing. She was glad I told my sister what was what, since no one else was going to. She’s the first person in the family to tell you if she thinks you’re being a complete idiot, and makes sure to make you feel like a complete idiot as a result. So- I’m just taking this praise with a pinch of salt, and acknowledging that it may not be coming from the most unbiased of sources. That said, its still nice to know that I’m not completely alone in thinking my sister is wrong in selling us out for fancy things and weekend getaways.

After I got home from all that, I did a bunch more homework and eventually my mom asked if I wanted to go to the King Tut exhibit at the science center. We’d been planning on going to this for months, but the fact that she asked me after just receiving a text alerted me to the possibility that this would involve my sister. Which, of course, it did. I refused to go with her, so now my mom is going to go with her instead of me. We’ve been planning on going for months, but my sister asks and suddenly I’m dropped like a hot potato. I love where I rank in this family. Never mind I’m the good kid. Never mind I’ve been taking care of my mother for the last however many weeks it’s been since she broke her foot. Never mind I keep up the house and do the yard work. It’s the pot and cigarette smoking, drug dealing, underage/illegal belly-ring-getting, drama addict daughter that gets all the attention. My motivation for being good is what again? Cause clearly being a train wreck of a person is the better route to go. Both the parents prefer you, you get to treat your family like shit and have it be overlooked because you’re “a 16 year old girl who isn’t concerned with anyone but herself”, as this excuses all your actions. All I’d have to do is forget my morals, treat everyone like dirt, and think of only myself and I’d be set for life.

And I suppose I’m a bitch for saying all that stuff, but oh well. In my group of friends I’m “the brutally honest bitch”. At least I’m honest.

I planted turnips last year, but I don’t like turnips so I never dug them up. Instead I decided to let them bloom, and found out that my honeybees love them. Which of course meant I now had to let them go to seed so I could plant them again. Unbeknownst to me, purple finches seem to enjoy turnips seeds. Which means I had two of them eating from my turnip stalks yesterday. It was so cute! After they flew off I had to go inspect the plants to see what they’d done. They had nibbled off a few pods and there was little bird poops on the rocks holding up that small section of the yard. With any luck we’ll get wild turnips around the area now.

 

Here’s a honeybee on a rhododendron. I didn’t know they liked them… actually, now that I think about it, wasn’t there a species of rhododendron that produced poisonous honey in Rome or Greece back in ‘ancient’ times? I feel like I remember reading about that somewhere…

Anyone know what kind of pollinator this is? I think its a species of bumble bee, but I’m not sure.

I don’t know what this plant is called, but honeybees LOVE it. We’ve got it scattered all over the yard, and unfortunately it hasn’t gotten to be a large enough population yet. It spreads like strawberries though, through plants the mother plants sends out on long runners, so the population should more than double by next spring. Which really is going to make weeding impossible…

This yellow jacket (? [I’m horrible at identifying between hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets]) was very interested in our peonies. She crawled over this bud for a while, as if looking for pollen or nectar or something. I know ants pollinate peonies, and we even have a ‘wild’ one that’s popped up in the yard, and because ants and yellow jackets are related, maybe yellow jackets pollinate them as well? I dunno, just a theory.

This quarter in school involves a really long break between classes. I’m taking Astronomy 201 and Math 98 (equivalent to 9th grade math). Unfortunately Astronomy is from 9:30 to 10:20 Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Math is every day from 1:30 to 2:20. Which means I’ve got a three-hour break, three days a week. I came home for lunch today. Its much too nice out (the weather report claims its only 57, but its definitely in the 70s where I’m sitting) to be stuck in a stuffy cafeteria. The dogs are glad to be out I think, except Sam. His dark fur makes him too hot almost instantly, so he’s inside. He’ll come lay on the cool concrete at my feet every so often, and when I first let him out he was rolling in the freshly mowed lawn, but for the most part he stays inside. Buttercup and Kira both play until they’re unable to breath, and then they take a break in the shade with me.

The bees are out of course. Every so often a flower will bob unexpectedly in the yard, and a little glowing orb of gold will streak away from it. The last couple days have been really nice, and flowers are popping up like crazy as a result. The blossoming cherry burst into bloom in under two days. All of the hyacinth are up, which is a big part of where the bees are getting their nectar from right now I think.

I’m really hoping I do well in Math this quarter. Math is my absolute worst subject. For some reason I just don’t understand it. I really need to figure it out though, because if I plan on being a botany major, I’m going to need a ton of chemistry classes. And Chemistry requires math. I hate both 😦