Bees that attack honey bees

Earlier this week, Lisa from Oregon wrote to say that some really aggressive black and yellow bees were injuring the honey bees that came to her yard. She likes the honey bees and wanted to know what would attack them.

At first I thought they were probably wasps or hornets of some sort, but then I had another idea: wool carder bees. It was the right modus operandi, the right physical description, and the right time of year. I told her my thoughts and said it would help to have a photo. Truthfully, I never expected to hear from her again, but in no time she sent a pic: a European wool carder, indeed. Read more

Her bees are so refined

Earlier this week, beekeeper Debbe Krape of Delaware was called upon to make an unusual bee rescue. The colony, shown below, was building its new home at the Sunoco Refinery in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. On Monday, Debbe sent me a short message along with the photos:

We were able to cut the leaves of wax off and bring them home. Holding the leaves in frames with rubber bands. Lots of brood. Saw the queen and got her, too. All going in a hive now.

The next day, she followed up with an account of the entire event: Read more

How to recognize a nectar dearth

“How can I recognize a nectar death?” is a common newbee question and a hard one to answer. I think most experienced beekeepers know which plants are in flower in any season, which bloom follows another, and how long each lasts. They are attuned to variations in the weather from year to year, and they know if things are early or late.

Here in the coastal Pacific Northwest, we can expect the summer dearth to follow the blackberry bloom—an event that coincides with the beginning of the dry season. But if you dropped me in the middle of Texas, Alberta, or Kentucky tomorrow afternoon, I wouldn’t know the plants, the weather patterns, or the rhythm of the seasons. Read more

Dropping in for a visit

This morning I hiked into the Capitol Forest to photograph bees. I found a few, but nothing I didn’t expect. Several species of Bombus and one species of Melissodes frolicked in the bull thistles; a few honey bees sampled the cat’s-ear.

I was heading home along an old logging road that is steep and graveled—marbles on a sliding board—when suddenly my feet flew out from under me. Instead of trying to catch myself, I instinctively cradled my camera in my arms and let my body land where it would, which happened to be on my tailbone. Damn, that hurt. Read more