Bee Kind

In July I received a call from a resident who discovered she had some unwanted residents living under her deck.  I asked her the color of her residents, and was able to confirm they were honeybees.  They had likely swarmed last year and found the opening under her deck quite perfect for their new home.  The only problem was, it was inside the structure, and could become quite a nightmare to remove as time went on.  I decided to pay her a visit, and sure enough, there the bee-line was, going in and out of an opening in the stucco under her deck.  They were very friendly and paid us no attention as we looked closer, but I knew this wasn’t a job I could do alone.

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I felt in over my head, as I am skilled at collecting swarms, but not comfortable with cutting into any structures to remove comb and all.  So, we decided to look for someone who might be willing and able to tackle this, potentially huge, project.  Months went by, schedules got very busy, and we lost track of things.  However, I was lucky enough to come across a local business, Colorado Bee Rescue, at the Parker Honeybee Festival in August, and called their number.

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Guy answered, and I told him about the bees, and he agreed to call the resident and assess the situation.  He agreed to help her along with my help.  I was very excited, as you all can imagine, being the bee hugger that I am.

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When I showed up, Guy had already begun, and was using a bee vacuum he designed specifically for this purpose.  Guy has kept bees for 12 years, and has owned two contracting companies before this endeavor, so he knows how to cut into structures with minimal damage, which is then easily repaired.  What a complete package of skills he has for what he does now!

The space the bees had filled was roughly two feet deep by two feet high by 3 feet long rectangles under the deck.

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The comb was beautifully symmetrical; amazing that honeybees can draw such perfect comb every time!

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I helped where I could, collecting bees with the vacuum.  Before we could finish, some neighborhood robber bees started showing up, sucking down piles of honey left on the concrete, and many even piled up onto the cut comb.  It became challenging to determine which bees belonged where! So, we stopped vacuuming, as Guy said that usually collecting all the colony doesn’t typically take that long.

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When Guy opened up the screened vacuum box, thousands of little faces peered out at us, and a few stragglers started to cling to the outside of it, exchanging pheromones through the screen, and even fanning to help any other stragglers to find their way home.

The top picture shows a daughter bee faithfully fanning her wings to emit the queen’s pheromones to guide sisters to her. 

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Here a group of sisters are exchanging pheromones via proboscis contact.  It also looked like they were caring for a younger sister, maybe feeding her too.IMG_7514

The volume of bees in a hive is so amazing, and to hear them all together in such a small space makes you realize just how many there are! I placed my gloved hand on the screen, and the vibration was exhilarating.  This took me back to swarm season, and that amazing feeling of thousands of bees sitting on my hand as I guide them into the rescue box.  What amazing little creatures honeybees are!

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I love what I do, and knowing that this resident’s connection with me helped to save these bees from extermination, is exactly why I do what I do.

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Here’s a face to go with the name, Guy Shingleton.  Thank you, Guy, for the sweet treat, and for all you do!

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Check out this sweet treat I scored for helping out today! So delicious straight out of the comb!

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Some things to keep in mind, if you find yourself in a situation like this one are as follows:

  1. If it is fall when you find the colony, please consider letting them be until spring.  It is very hard for a colony to survive the winter when they are moved in the fall.  They have spent all the warm months making honey stores for winter, and moving them destroys much of that work.  This colony will need to be fed sugar syrup through the winter, which doesn’t contain the same nutrients as honey, so not ideal, but necessary.  
  2. Exterminating them is pointless, aside from unethical at this day in age, as we need them for so many reason.  Killing all the bees leaves all the honeycomb in your walls, or whatever structure they have decided to occupy.  This serves as bate, leading another colony into that space, and you are faced with this fate all over again.  The best way to cure this situation is to have a professional remove the comb and the bees, and then fill the space with insulation so there isn’t an open cavity begging to be occupied again.
  3. Leave it to the professionals to get this done properly.  Attempting to remove a honeybee colony without proper equipment and protective gear is very risky, even if you aren’t allergic to stings.  
  4. If you see a swarm in the spring, call the swarm hotline, or call me, and we can find them a proper home so they don’t move where they aren’t wanted.

Thank you for joining the movement to save our bees!
Jessica

Wanna Keep Honeybees?

I have compiled a short list of things you will need to get started.  I will warn you that this is a big undertaking, as you will be responsible for up to 50,000 lives inside a little wooden box!  I hope this proves useful to you, and I do wish you the best of luck.  One more thing I should mention, please plant more flowers before you add more bees.  You have native bees living in your yard who will be forced to share the nectar resources with thousands more bees when you add a honeybee hive.  Don’t forget about our native bee superheroes!

As always, I thank you for joining the movement to save our bees!

Jessica

Download the PDF HERE

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Sunflowers: Good for Bees and Birds

This article is applicable every year, and sunflowers never get old!

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Photo taken by: Jessica Goldstrohm

Sunflowers are an icon of summer, and sometimes a beautiful centerpiece in a fall bouquet.  Our eyes are captivated by their varieties and astonishing heights they can reach in a growing season. We enjoy their seeds at baseball games, and their oil in salad dressing, but there is more to the story of the sunflower that includes the lives of bees, and birds.

The sunflower blooms do not appear until the middle of summer, and will continue to bloom into the fall months.  Each flower is host to as many as 2000 individual flowers called florets.  Sunflowers are adorned with copious amounts of pollen, and deep within each floret is a tasty drink of nectar for any interested visitors.  If you look closely at the photo above, you will see yellow dust all over the bottom petals!

Pollen is half of the reproductive equation in flowers, and is produced on the male part of the flower, the anthers.  The other half is the egg, which lies deep within the female part of the flower, the ovary at the base of the stigma.  Interestingly, the sunflower has evolved to display anthers with pollen on them first, sans the stigma of the flower.  Oh, and let’s not forget that this “one” sunflower contains up to 2000 individual flowers, each containing both male and female parts.  So, each floret stands the chance of becoming an individual seed capable of growing into another sunflower with 2000 more florets!  This is a seed producing machine!

Who is responsible for transferring the pollen to the right place at the right time? Bees!

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Photos taken by: Jessica Goldstrohm

Bees are after a vegan meal consisting of nectar, first and foremost, and then pollen.  As they traverse across the sunflower bees transfer pollen from florets with pollen baring anthers to florets baring open stigmatic structures ready to pick up pollen.  If you look closely at the top photo of the sunflower with a pollen-caked bumblebee snacking the nectar in each floret, you can easily recognize that the bee is very effective at picking up pollen and transferring it to just the right spot.  The bees do not know that their visits to flowers results in the plant’s replication; they are really only there to feed.  The middle photo shows a green sweat bee feeding on the florets of the sunflower, and you can really see where the anthers (yellow dots) are, and where the stigmatic structures are (on the periphery of the yellow dots).  The anthers are the first to appear in this process, while the stigmatic structures show up after, and this order of events prevents self-pollination of the plant, which results in fewer seeds and oil of lesser quality.

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Photo taken by: Jessica Goldstrohm

So, the bees spend their time traversing and reveling in the nectar provisions of the sunflower from mid-summer into the fall, and then something remarkable happens.  The flower goes from this beautiful, bright bloom like the one above, to this…

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And what was once covered in pollen and filled with nectar becomes a seed-filled delight for birds! Each seed is full of protein and fat for birds, and other interested visitors.

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All photos taken by: Jessica Goldstrohm

What started out as a wonderful provision for bees became a delicious meal for birds, because each piece fed the other. The flower fed the bees, the bees transformed the flowers into seeds, and the birds enjoyed their feeds!  What a lesson of interconnectedness this is.

Sunflowers are native to North America and grow well everywhere! Consider adding them to your yard next spring so you can feed both bees and birds, and maybe you’d like a taste of the sunflower seeds too!

Here are some wonderful resources on all things Sunflower:

History of the Sunflower

Following the SUN

Plant Them

Sunflowers

Thank you for joining the movement to save our bees!  What’s good for the bees is also good for the birds!

 

 

 

Two Logs, Two Colonies, 8 Bee Loving People

August 24th began as any other day would. I woke up, got me kids ready for school (which is a day in and of itself), and checked my email and all social media outlets.  Upon opening my Facebook page, there was the message that gave my heart a little jolt of “I must do this!”

It was a message from a tree company working in Denver on South Grant street. They had begun cutting a tree down, and discovered two different honeybee colonies in two completely different locations of the tree.  So, as you can imagine, this tree was HUGE!  I called Kevin, the tree guy in charge of this project, and asked if anyone had contacted him about moving these honeybee hives (at this point I had NO idea how BIG these logs were), and no one had.  I told him to please give me time to assemble a team of people to help move these logs.

Now, in most instances, I leave it to the experts, as long as they are available when we need them.  I called Bees and Trees of Longmont, because I know Liana from being on the board of Bee Safe Boulder, and I knew her business did this kind of thing all the time.  The trouble was, she was out of town and her husband was slammed with a number of other jobs up north.  I quickly realized that this would be one of those moments that I would just have to dive in and hope for the best.

I called my good swarm collecting buddy, BrandyJo Fontenot LeBlanc Miller, and asked if she knew anyone with a trailer and maybe even a piece of equipment we could use to lift these logs onto the trailer.  She began reaching out to her “people”, and I made my way down to South Grant street to see these logs for myself.  This is what I found…

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log-at-grant-1This is one, and the other extends past the edge of the photo by about 3 feet! When Kevin said logs, he meant trees!

I took a huge breath and contacted Brandy, expressing my concerns about the sizes of these logs.  This wasn’t going to be easy without a lot of people involved, and maybe we should push for more time to allow for Bees and Trees to make it down to help us.  It is important to leave the log intact for the best chances of survival for the winter. If this had happened in the spring, it would be better to try and transfer both hives to managed systems (Langstroth, Top Bar, or Warre).

Thursday morning rolled around; I called Kevin and told him we were concerned about the size of these logs, and we would like to reach out to Bees and Trees to see how soon they could make it down to complete the task. He agreed, and I must say right here, tree companies are not obligated to rescue bee hives, so I thanked Kevin repeatedly for sharing our concern for these very important insects.

Brandy, Billy, Roman, and myself all traveled down to the logs to secure the openings and direct the “bee-lines” in safe directions so people could co-exist with them without fear of getting stung.  We diverted the traffic away from the sidewalk using a tarp, and away from the resident’s front door using another tarp.  It is very important for honeybees to get in and out of their hive to forage and to go to the bathroom. They don’t pee or poop inside the hive; that’s dirty! If they are trapped inside the hive, things can go sour very quickly!

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Looks pretty secure to me.

I had the chance to briefly talk to one of the residents at the South Grant Street location about the bees.  I told him they are not aggressive unless you are reaching into their hive posing a threat.  And they truly were very peaceful, as we had all been out working on the entrances for a few hours, some of us with zero protective gear (myself included), and none of us were stung or threatened by the bees.  The resident seemed somewhat agreeable, but threw this comment out as he headed inside, “we just want them gone.” At the time I thought nothing of it, and chalked it up to one more person who doesn’t understand that bees are not out to get us.

At the end of the day on Thursday, all seemed well in the kingdom of South Grant Street.  We were all on board to wait until the following week to help transfer those logs to a safe place alongside Bees and Trees of Longmont. I was feeling great about the plan, and I rested very well that night, but something evil was brewing on South Grant Street.

Early Friday morning I received a voice message that made my heart sink, and my stomach sick. It was Kevin, the tree guy, saying the landlord of that property was threatening to exterminate the two honeybee hives, if we didn’t get them out of there that day!  WHAT?!?!?  As you can imagine (even more so if you know me), I was very upset, I was furious.  I wasn’t furious with Kevin, the middle man, tree guy, but at the resident who seemed, at least to my face, to understand that the logs would soon be gone, and they were secured at the time, thus posing zero threat to their surroundings.  His comment, “we just want the bees gone,” was his way of saying he wasn’t interested in saving these bees and would stop at nothing to do away with them.

It was back to “the mattresses”! I began calling and messaging everyone once more, to hopefully get everyone back on board to make this happen that very night!  I wasn’t sure we could pull it together with such short notice.  However, I was pleasantly blown away by everyone’s response!  Who am I kidding, we are after all bee lovers…I think we really are bee heroes ready to throw on our capes when duty calls, and so was the case Friday night!

Roman, Billy, John, Brandy, and myself jumped to the task! I am so grateful for this team of amazing, selfless people!  We made no gains from this effort, other than the joy of knowing we saved two doomed hives.

Five of us showed up to South Grant street at 5:30 pm on Friday night.  We suited up in our bee suits and began securing all the entrances of the logs, then we all began a cross fit workout of rolling and pushing the logs onto the trailer that John and Brandy brought to the scene.  All of us were dripping sweat, all bundled in our sting-protective gear.  Once the logs were loaded, we drove them over to Billy’s auto repair shop for the next phase.

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One log loaded, one more to go!

We had debated extensively about what to do with the larger of the two logs, as it had a very large, and vulnerable opening on the bottom.  We decided to try transferring these bees to a top bar hive, as we figured they would have a better shot at survival this way.   Well, this became a sticky mess faster than you can spell HONEY!

I began by pouring piles of bees into the top bar hive, in hopes of capturing the queen in one of those piles. Next we began carefully slicing pieces of comb and tying them to top bar racks. The bees would need all the resources they can get from the original hive.  This whole process was only a good idea on paper, as honey got all over everything!  We discovered a pool of honey at the bottom of the log, which may have developed during the loading and transport over from South Grant Street (vibrating maybe disrupted the comb a bit), and wasn’t helped by our cutting of the comb.  Many bees were caught and drowned in the honey (we believe this is when we lost the queen to this colony).  We then thought it wise to discontinue, as nightfall had come, and we were only making matters worse.  So, we covered the logs, and agreed to return in the morning to see how things were.

Upon arrival Saturday morning, bees were flying everywhere. It looked like Bee-magedon! Bees were fighting each other, and there were many on the ground dead from the battle.  It was gut wrenching, as we really couldn’t move the logs until nightfall (to ensure most bees were nestled in the logs for the night).  I felt sick at the sight, but I was quickly reminded by my husband and kids that these bees would’ve been sprayed and killed if we hadn’t jumped in to save them, even if the rescue mission was chaos at that moment, it wasn’t in vain.

My youngest daughter had her birthday party that day, and I had to be a good host, ignoring the bee mission until 7:30pm.   The only problem with that idea was that the bees wouldn’t be ignored, and I ended up juggling all of it all at once, and yes I did sign up for this, but man alive was that a challenge!

Billy messaged me with a great idea to try getting a queen for the larger log, as it seemed that they had lost their queen by the way they were flying around without purpose, and very agitated.  So, I picked up a lovely queen and her attendants (attendants are bees there to feed the queen from inside her small cage) at To Bee or Not to Bee in Littleton, on the way to the birthday party.  The queen rested inside a plastic Solo cup with foil on top, inside my purse for the duration of the birthday party…no one ever knew.  Is there a concealed bees law?

7:30 rolled around, and it was time for all of us to reconvene and get these logs to safety.  Where was safety?  Well, I have two very good bee loving friends in Sedalia, CO, who had some land on which they were willing to place the logs!  Zach and Meghan Watts were the adoptive parents, ready for us to arrive at 9pm to get the logs to safety, but we had some organizing to do before we left the auto repair shop parking lot.

We checked inside the top bar hive and the bees we had transferred the night before were fewer, but there were lots of bees inside the log.  We thought it would be good to vacuum them up (with a bee vac) for safe transport, but the suction on that vacuum was minimal, thus making it impossible to efficiently contain the bees.

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Here I am vacuuming bees, and yes, this is the outfit I wore driving up to Sedalia.

Given the circumstances, we stopped vacuuming, and began stapling screen all around the openings of both logs, this way the bees wouldn’t get lost during the travel to Sedalia.

I secured all the holes I could see on the top bar hive, and placed it in my Prius. I figured it would be best to stay suited up for the drive to Sedalia, and I figured right, because every time we pulled up to a stop light I could see bees flying in the headlights behind me…inside my car! Yikes!  It was a sight to be seen. I was all geared up with my full body bee suit, head gear and all, driving my Prius filled with flying bees!  Pretty funny actually.

We made it to Sedalia, and Zach had his tractor fitted with a forklift, and boy did that make a WORLD of difference in transferring the logs!!  I don’t think we could’ve used it on South Grant Street because the yard was raised on a brick wall; we probably would’ve damaged that wall with a tractor involved, plus we would have missed our cross fit workout (or should I say bee fit workout).  It was pitch black up there by this time, so all of us were carrying flashlights…it reminded us of ET, you know the suited scientists?

The relocation ended at midnight Saturday night, and I traveled back to Highlands Ranch with a few bees flying in my Prius…this took my reputation as the “Bee Lady” to a whole new level…in fact we were finding more bees in the Prius all the way until Sunday evening!

The log we left intact is doing great in Sedalia.  The bees are doing what they do, foraging all day,tending to the queen, building comb and raising more bees.  Here’s a video of this log on the Monday after the rescue.

img_4701img_4700img_4696img_4702img_4703All above images are of the fully intact log. They are happy, and pretty, little bees.

The log we cut into to attempt a transfer to the top bar hive was introduced to the new queen.  A small group of bees began feeding her on Monday, and a few days later (Thursday after the rescue), the colony took flight with her.  We did not witness this, but have deduced this, because there are very few bees left  (robber bees, taking from the log’s supplies), and the queen had been released from her cage.  Queen bee decided the existing palace wasn’t good enough for her new colony, and instructed her new scouts to find a new home.

It is my hope that they didn’t venture too far from their log filled with resources, and that they will live on, happily ever after in Sedalia.  Here’s a video of large log on Monday after the rescue.  Take note of the crazy flight patterns of this log versus the other.

img_4714These two bees were of the log that took flight with their new queen. They were feeding each other just before this picture was taken on the Monday after the rescue.  It was refreshing to see such care and concern amidst the trauma.

This adventure was filled with all sorts of challenges, but I can say I am happy with the outcome.  Two colonies were spared because 8 people cared enough to rally and get the job done!

me-and-log-1-last-checkThe fully intact log hive, happily living out it’s existence in Sedalia!  Look Mom! No stings!!

Thank you Kevin, Meghan, Zach, Brandy, Billy, Roman, and John!  You all rock for bees!

Cheers to joining the movement to save our bees, all of our bees, honey and native.

 

Bees of Summer

Spring and summer bee populations overlap in some regards, but there are newcomers once the month of June arrives.  This is not a complete list of bees for the summer months, but I think it gives you an idea of how many different varieties you can find while enjoying the outdoors!  This list only includes bees, but there are a wide variety of moths, butterflies, flies, and even wasps out and about doing their job for the circle of life.

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Peponapis, or squash bees, begin flying as soon as there are squash blooms, as they are specialists, and rely solely on squash resources.  You’ll find them nestled inside squash flowers early in the morning, so don’t forget to take a peek on your way to work or school!

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Bumble bees persist throughout the summer, and you will recognize them by their loud buzz as they fly by, as well as their very furry coat.  There are 40 species of bumble bees, with all sorts of banding patterns on the backs of their abdomens.

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Anthidium, or wool carder, bees are also present throughout the summer.  You will identify them by their hover-like flying technique around mint plants as well as Lamb’s ear. The males are very territorial, and will chase even bumblebees off the plant they are guarding!

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Honey bees are among the summer flyers as well! They are the most recognizable of all bees, because we know them best.

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Ceratina is a petite black bee who joins the forces in the summer months. If you are not paying close attention, you will miss this tiny flying insect.

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Here is a leafcutter bee. They join the pollinating forces in May, but persist all summer.  They have a very furry abdomen, which is where they carry pollen, so it is often dusted with orange or yellow powder.

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Osmia, or mason bee, made her appearance in March, but will carry on until late May, and sometimes may even have a second generation of bees mid-summer!  They are very dark and easily mistaken for a fly, but when you look closely, you can see they are black bees with a hue of blue in the sunlight.  They also carry pollen on their abdomen, so may even see a yellow dusting underneath.

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Andrena, or mining bee, is another spring riser, but will be around all summer too.  There are many colors and sizes of mining bees, but here’s one brown example, and this one is rather small too.

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This large black flyer is likely a carpenter bee who will begin flying in the summer months.

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This is a halictus bee who flies during the summer months as well.  They can be petite bees, but larger than Ceratina, with baskets on their legs, and usually a grayish color.

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Here are some more Carpenter bees emerging early June.  Look at all that sawdust!

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This is a metallic green sweat bee, who is highly active in the summer months as well!  Females are all green while males have the combo of stripes and green.

Cheers to observing and joining the movement!

Jessica