Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

-C.S. Lewis

Stream In January

Stream In January

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bees In The Garden - Honey and Mason

I spent last Saturday morning at the Appalachian Growers Fair with my daughter and granddaughter. It's a unique fair celebrating local farmers and growers. There was an open-air plant and produce market and crafters and artisans were also demonstrating and selling their wares. A local band entertained with bluegrass music and storytellers were on hand to delight the children. I had a chance to visit with my friends, Kelley and Quintin, who own Balltown Bee Farm. They've had 2 swarms already this year. They were able to catch one, but the other was too high and was lost. I was delighted when my granddaughter, 20 month old Savanna, went to their observation hive, pointed and exclaimed "BEES." I also had good visits with my friend and local county extension agent, Christy, and also Ellen my friend I gardened with at The Community Garden for the previous 2 years. I miss the Community Garden, but with my involvement in the Harvest Project, it was just more than I could do this year. Maybe next year I'll go back.

The Mountain Heritage Center had a display on Mason Bees. Mason bees are solitary, sting-less bees that make their nests in small holes. They don't make the holes themselves, but use holes made by woodpeckers and other insects. Mason bees collect pollen when they visit flowers and make a ball of pollen to put in the nest. They lay an egg on the ball of pollen and seal it with mud and then continue this same procedure until the hole is filled. Masons have been pollinating my garden for the past several years, so I thought I'd give them a home in which to nest. The box is just a simple block of untreated wood into which holes are drilled at a depth of 5/16 and at least 3/4 apart. (Those are inches.) Cover with a roofing shingle and hang it at a height of about 3 feet off the ground. It should, like a bee hive, face the southeast to catch morning sun. Mason bees would be a great alternative for people who want bees in the garden but cannot raise honeybees. If the masons do nest, it will be interesting to see what interaction they have with my bees.

Honeybees love dandelions and mine are working them heavily. I love the color of the bands on this girl. Make sure to click-on to see all the lovely details.

Her pollen baskets are loaded and all the fine hairs on her body are covered with pollen.

Look at that beautiful orange pollen.

Again, I love the color.

There is not much going on in the garden right now. Our nights are still very cold - 35 for the past two mornings. We are supposed to have very warm weather beginning tomorrow and I suspect with the amount of rain we've had everything will finally start to bloom. I won't plant summer vegetables until the middle of May. Our average last frost date is May 15 and sometimes even that is iffy. The tulip poplar should be out soon. That will be our first major honeyflow.


Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Thanks for the info on Mason bees. I can't keep honey bees on my property because it's too small for the bylaw of 50'... but Mason bees would be okay. I know I have bumble bees under the dog house - I'm thrilled about that.

Your dandelion pictures are so nice I can almost smell the blooms.

Lynn said...

Mason and bumblebees do a great job of pollinating so you're lucky to have the bumblebees. With your knowledge of bees, you will be an awesome beekeeper wherever you put your hive.

Kat said...

How I would love to have Honey Bees. They have to be here somewhere! We have these big bees that pollinate for us. We too have tons of dandelions, also the honeysuckle and blackberry bushes will be blooming soon. Isn't life wonderful when you can spend time doing things that really matter? Nature is so entertaining for me!

vicree said...

You are right, the colors are wonderful, but I had never thought of honey bees loving dandelions. And Mason bees? When I read the post, my first reaction was, "say what?". Well,I guess it's never too late to learn if the subject is interesting and the teacher is good. Know anything good about carpenter bees?