Another honey bee friendly flower that grows abundantly on the island of Newfoundland is Showy Mountain Ash, Sorbus decora, or as it’s commonly known, Dogberry.
Dogberry blossoms in St. John’s, NL (June 23, 2015).
Again, a big reminder to wannabe beekeepers in St. John’s that your honey bees would be all over these flowers, collecting pollen and sucking up nectar to make their honey. There is no shortage of nectar for honey bees in St. John’s.
Honey bee landing on Dogberry blossoms in Flatrock, NL (June 27, 2015).
These blossoms turn into hard bunches of bright red berries that stay on the trees well into winter and provide a food source for wintering birds. Continue reading →
I was informed today that the plant is called Sorrel and the leaves are edible, kind of the tangy side, though not so delectable for humans once they’ve gone to seed. (It’s also possible to grow it.) Continue reading →
One of my cats killed a shrew near my hives today.
Dead shrew. (June 27, 2015.)
I lost three quarters of my honey bee colonies to shrew predation last winter. No one ever warned me about them and I never noticed much written about them. You can expect me to write a Masters thesis on them by the end of the year, though.
I’ve seen honey bees explore blueberry blossoms around my house and quickly move on to something else. They don’t seem too interested in blueberries. But seeing how honey bees are used to pollinate blueberries, I’ll add blueberries to the list of honey bee friendly flowers in Newfoundland.
Blue Berry blossoms in Flatrock, Newfoundland (June 26, 2015.)
Not the greatest photo of a blueberry bush, I know. I’ll replace it with something better if I can remember to take a better photo some day.
Well, I’ll be damned. Someone gave me a plum tree as a housewarming gift. I like it and so do the bees (though I couldn’t manage to get a shot of a bee on the blossoms). It’s an unnatural plum tree, a hybrid, so I’ll just skip the scientific name and go with the Wikipedia entry for Plum.
Out of focus cell phone photo of plum blossoms in Flatrock, NL. (June 17, 2015.)
This is Part 2 of some hive inspections I did yesterday. It’s a 3-minute video that, among a few other things, shows what frames of pollen and nectar look like. Again, this may not seem like the most scintillating thing on the planet, but it would have been helpful had I viewed videos like this when I started. By the end of my first summer, I needed to know the difference between frames of pollen, nectar, honey, worker brood and drone brood, and there was no one around to show me what was what. Knowing that I was on my own partially motivated me to write this blog. Before I post anything, I usually ask, “What would I have liked to have known when I did this for the first time?” (Even if the first time was only two days ago.)
Here’s a 6-minute video from an inspection I did yesterday that shows me spotting the queen, adding a frame of drawn comb to give the queen more space to lay, and there’s a shot of the bees cleaning up a mouldy frame of pollen taken from one of my dead colonies — and you’ll hear me talking about my plans for inspecting all my hives and how I’m going to manage them. That part sounds boring, but it might give new beekeepers a sense of how to go about inspecting their hives, that is, having a plan and knowing that most plans are a joke. The bees tell me what they need, not the other way around.
1:46 — The first look at the bees inside the hive, before removing frames. 2:05 — A frame of moldy pollen. 2:18 — A close-up shot of the queen laying an egg. 3:53 — Inserting a frame of empty drawn comb to make room for the queen to lay.
I mention in the video that I plan to add another deep to the hive, which is what I did, though it’s not in the video. It’s in this 1-minute time-lapse behind-the-scenes video where I explain why the hive has a moisture quilt and a few other things.
I recently noticed honey bees on these Chuckley Pear blossoms…
Chuckley Pear blossoms in Flatrock, Newfoundland (June 10, 2015).
…so I’m adding Chuckley Pears to my list of honey bee friendly flowers (in eastern Newfoundland, at least). As with most wild berries, it goes by several names: shadbush, serviceberry, juneberry, saskatoon berry, etc.
Chuckley Pear blossoms in Flatrock, Newfoundland (June 10, 2015).
My 60-second Wikipedia research tells me the Chuckley Pear is called Amelanchier, though the particular species in these here parts is probably Amelanchier Canadensis.
Thanks to everyone who identified the blossoms for me.
I wasn’t able to spot the queen until my second summer of beekeeping, not until an experienced beekeeper showed up one day and pointed her out to me. “That’s what she looks like?” — was pretty much my reaction. I had no problem spotting her after that. Once you get a good look at the queen, you never forget her. She stands out like a giant compared to the other bees, kind of like the queen alien in the Aliens movie. Anyway, here’s a quick video of a queen bee I spotted today — and I caught her laying a few eggs. (Though I suppose they’re not really eggs once they’re laid, but for simplicity, I’ll stick with eggs for now.) This video is a good test for new beekeepers. The test is called, Can You Spot The Queen?
See how hard it is spot the queen in the deluge of bees that surround her? But then once you spot her, see how hard it is to not see her? You get the hang of it after a while. A video like this would have gone a long way to helping me spot the queen when I was starting out.
Notice, too, that the queen carefully inspects every cell and will only lay in cells that are immaculate. (It’s in the video. Watch it again if you missed it.) The worker bees do some serious cleaning long before the queen ever shows up. If a frame or comb isn’t clean, the queen won’t even look at it.
I’ve already written about my switch to rubber bee gloves. I wear them because they’re more tactical than goat skin gloves, but boy oh boy do they ever fill up with sweat in no time. Here’s what my fingers looked like after about an hour of beekeeping in the sun today:
Wrinkled fingers after sweating in rubber gloves. (June 10, 2015.)
And my hands stink like rubber. I still prefer them over goat skin. I’ll wear goat skin when I want extra protection from bees that I know I’m going to upset, or in the winter for warmth. But I think I’ll invest in several pairs of rubber gloves so I can strip them off, dry my hands and put on a fresh pair every 30 minutes or so. It wouldn’t hurt. By the time I was finished with the bees today, I could feel the sweat trapped inside the fingers of the gloves squirting around every time I gripped onto something.
June 2019 Introduction: I have read several accounts of honey bees making an early spring honey from Red Maple blossoms, usually on the west coast of North America. I don’t see many of those trees where I live on the east coast of Newfoundland, but regular maple trees, whatever you want to call them, are abundant in urban areas of the island. This post was written on the assumption if honey bees collect Red Maple nectar, they must be able to collection nectar from regular maples trees too.
The city of St. John’s may be one of the best places to keep honey bees on the island of Newfoundland because it’s full of maple trees and a large variety of flowering plants that offer honey bees a bonanza of nectar and pollen from June well into October. Walk around the city today and you will see flowering maple trees everywhere with little flowers that look like this.
A maple tree flower in St. John’s, NL (June 09, 2015.)
I took that photo on my cell phone and I know it’s not the greatest, but if St. John’s had more beekeepers, honey bees would be all over those flowers — and honey made from maple nectar is spectacular.
The quantity, diversity and consistency of honey bee forage makes the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland, an excellent place to keep bees. (Just make sure your neighbours don’t mind.)
March 6th, 2016: I found this photo from 2011 that shows flowers on a maple tree, the kind of flowers that hang down in long bunch. The bees supposedly go for these too.
Maple blossoms in St. John’s, Newfoundland. (June 19, 2011.)
Not the greatest photo but good enough.
May 27th, 2016: The maple tree flowers show up as early as May. Nice.
Maple blossoms in St. John’s, Newfoundland (May 26, 2016.)
There’s not much to see here except some honey bees messing around on some dandelions.
I’m just using the bees I saw in my front yard today as an excuse to spread this message again: Dandelions provide honey bees and other pollinators with a much needed boost in the spring, especially in seasonally delayed places like Newfoundland where dandelions and other wild flowers don’t begin to bloom in large numbers until June. If all dandelions were mowed into mulch or destroyed by pesticides, some honey bees and native pollinators in Newfoundland would be in pretty hard shape. Strawberries and a variety of fruit trees that benefit from honey bee pollination would lose out too.