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

-C.S. Lewis

Stream In January

Stream In January

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Joe-Pye and Drones

One of my favorite people in the whole world had some comments, questions about Joe-Pye Weed and drones yesterday. I decided to devote this post to those two subjects.

Joe-Pye is indigenous to the Eastern US. It likes moist soil so is perfect for the mountain area. (I live in a designated rain forest. It's not unusual for us to have 80 - 100 inches of rain each year.) I don't know that I had ever seen Joe-Pye until I moved to the mountains, but I'm also much more aware of what's blooming around me since I've become a beekeeper. Although I see some honeybees on the blooms, the bumblebees and butterflies are much more numerous. I think it's a must for a butterfly garden. At the back of the border, please, because it can get quite tall. I have 3 different types of Joe-Pye Weed in the garden. I think it's a shame to call it a weed. I much prefer wildflower.

This is a cultivar I planted last fall. The bloom is quite small compared to the others, but the foliage is red and I like that about it. It's just beginning to bloom and should last well into the fall. This plant is about 4' tall. This is another cultivar I planted a couple of years ago. It has been blooming for a couple of weeks and this is the one the butterflies and bumblebees really like. It, too, is about 4' tall. When this was first planted it was a very small clump but has more than doubled in size since then.

The 3 tall spikes are our native Joe-Pye. These stalks are easily 9' tall. They have been blooming for several weeks now and are well past their prime. I will leave them until the first frost as they self-seed and I like having them in the garden. My garden is full of native wildflowers and sometimes I have to work around them when planting, but I don't mind. If I never planted another flower in the garden, the bees, butterflies and birds would have plenty of forage.

Alas, the poor drone. The drone bee is the male in the hive and his story is short. He has one purpose - to mate with the queen. After he mates he dies. The drones that don't mate basically just lay around the hive and do nothing. They don't bring in pollen or nectar. They don't build comb or make honey. So when fall arrives the workers start driving them out. The colony reduces in number to survive the winter and will not tolerate drones eating the honey stores. They've done nothing all summer so they have to go. I've simplified, but that's the story of a drone.

In recent days our weather has turned almost fall-like and I'm seeing lots of drones being escorted out or either not allowed back in. This big fellow had been hanging on the entrance board and seemed hesitant to even try to get back in the hive. As soon as he made his attempt he was followed by this worker bee.

Here there are more workers "escorting" him out. He didn't make it back into the hive on this try. Maybe later, but not this time.

It's been almost 4 weeks since I've checked the hives, but from the outside things look good. I can see that the colonies are getting somewhat smaller, but the workers are still quite busy bringing in lots of golden yellow pollen. I think it must be goldenrod. I had hoped to do a good hive inspection yesterday, but I've come down with a nasty cold and will wait until the weekend.


PhilipH said...

I read something about these poor drones being evicted on another bee blog. Seems so sad in a way, but that's the way it goes I guess.

On Sunday evening 8 o'clock, on our BBC4 tv, there is an hour long documentary (or maybe a horror story in the offing) entitled "Who Killed the Honey Bee?"

Martha Kearney examines the decline in bee colonies and the implications that the extinction of the insect would have on the world's food supply. The world's crops of apples, berries, cucumbers, nuts and cotton could be under threat if the colonies continue to struggle at their current rate.

I'll be watching this with much interest, and a not little foreboding.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lynn!

Great post! I found drone caps in my hive today..but I didn't see one anywhere. I heard one, he was buzzing like crazy inside the hive, but like my evasive queen, I didn't see him. I guess he's hanging out as long as he can before the girls shove him out the door soon. Thanks for the post and I'm glad my queen is back to normal too, least for now. Her fickle nature confounds me though...but I won't say that too loud as to offend her. I think she might be a little touchy about her nature.

By the way, about the eyes and the glasses. 47 next month. Shhhh.. Don't tell anybody! :)


vicree said...

The opening paragraph in today's post was the loveliest gift I have received in a long time.

You need say no more, the fig preserves with your name on them were just pulled from the canner!

Cliff W said...

Wow! Jeez, that's some amount of rain. I hadn't appreciated the climate there.

The photos with your commentary on the lads being shown the door made me smile :)

I agree that keeping bees switches you onto nature and what is coming into and going out of flower.

Hope the cold clears up soon - plenty of honey and lemon!

PhilipH said...

Don't forget (if you can get BBC4 tv) that a documentary about the decline of bee colonies is being shown at 8 p.m. (Greenwich Mean Time)tomorrow (Sunday 30 Aug 09).

This is of concern to all of mankind, not just bee fanciers and apiarists of course.

vicree said...

I seriously doubt that this area of NE Georgia is a designated rain forest like your beautiful mountains, but it sure seemed so the last few days. Rain and more rain! What an amazing difference a little sunshine makes in one's energy level.

According to the information that I have dug up, Joe-Pye can be easily grown from seed and can be planted anytime. Does that sound right to you?

Poor drones...well, I guess if they don't work they don't get to eat.