Spotted my first Honey Bee of the year on the sidewalk by the bus stop, on the sunny side of the street. (Shadow provided by me for better definition in the photo.)
Crocuses are out and willows have cracked open their buds to reveal the fur within. You don’t need a Farmer’s Almanac to tell it’s an early spring.
In August of 2010 I found a feral honeybee hive here. In 2011 and 2012, I didn’t notice any activity here at all, although I have to say my checking in was sporadic at best — Green-Wood is a big place and my routes didn’t always go past this tree — but still, I don’t think that original colony made it. But there’s a colony here now.
Yesterday, I came upon the first honeybees I’ve seen this year. They were working the ornamental cherries at the Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park. One landed on my shirt. Remember, bees are not aggressive unless you go after them, or their hive. So don’t panic. Close your eyes and think of England if you’re afraid… but you shouldn’t be. I just let her crawl around me for a bit before she was satisfied my linen was long past its flowering stage. Note those pollen bundles on her rear legs. She packs pollen — and a perhaps a little regurgitated honey to moisten it — into these little bundles which she sticks on her pollen baskets, or corbicula. The pollen, which collects on her hairs via static, is combed together before packing. Some of it nonetheless gets transfered to other flowers, of course, and thus the bee is a little vector of plant genetics, or, as the poets would have it — and where better to be a poet then under a flowering cherry tree in the spring? — a messenger of love…
Published November 15, 2011
Tags: Climate, honey bees
I’m as guilty as the next person: I’ve been reveling in this unseasonable weather. (It was 60 degrees here a few minutes ago.) But I’m reminded, by those canaries of the insect world, the honeybees, that something is amiss. You see, these warm days keep honeybees active. They’ve been flying out from the hive, but they aren’t finding much in bloom. Plants are still playing catch-up with our warmer autumns. So the bees return with little nectar and less pollen. But, working hard, they still need food. So they eat the honey they’ve produced earlier in the season. But this is the stuff that’s supposed to see them through the winter. I got an email yesterday from a local beekeeping group, noting that the city’s honeybees are diving into their winter supplies now. Beekeepers were being urged, if they needed the impetus, to add supplemental feeding to keep that honey stockpiled; since this is usually sugar water, even with added vitamins, it’s poor stuff compared to the wonders of nectar.
In winter, honeybees cluster in a dense clump inside the hive, surrounding the queen and vibrating to keep warm. Honey, essentially a super energy, is what gets the hive through the cold. Workers on the outside of the clump circulate towards the center to warm up, and vice versa. When temperatures rise above 60 or so in the early spring, they can fly out on cleansing runs, dropping all their stored wastes outside the hive. Life’s a balance between the amount of honey and the length of winter – complicated, of course, by the semi-domestication of this naturalized species, since an amount of honey has been harvested by the beekeeper – with disease, predators, etc. factors as well. The winter hive is an all-female operation: male bees, the drones, are driven out to die in the fall. Big eaters, but little contributors, male bees have no place in the political economy of the winter hive.
Published April 3, 2011
Tags: Brooklyn, honey bees
There’s still a dearth of nectar & pollen bearing flowers, but a small plot of fancy tulips was being worked over by some bees Saturday. I’ve recently checked in with both the feral honey bee nests I know of in Brooklyn, and both show no signs of activity. I hope it’s just the cold.Further down State St., which has several times been awarded the best dressed, or “Greenest Block” plaque of honor. This pile looks like a real fixer-upper. Click on the image to get the big version. (You’ll notice I’m not posting any pictures of the wasteland that is the Back 40 right now.)