Learning By Bee-ing
Chatham University Falk School of Sustainability students Bethany Luttrell & Bradley Barrow inspect colonies to check for swarm cells with me. It's important to make sure hives in urban and suburban environments are checked for disease and split to prevent swarms in the local neighborhood.
Secret Hive Garden
Many of my urban & suburban bee yards are surrounded by trees and shrubs that keep the hives somewhat concealed. There are ten hives in this triple urban lot, which is landscaped with a small orchard (apples, pears, cherries), and many native perennials. In the center of this picture is a bee pond, built specifically for bees to easily drink without drowning.
Water and Nutrient Flows
Composting to help cultivate native bee-beneficial plants and rainwater harvesting are important considerations of running a sustainable apiary. Our bees have their own pond but they seem to sometimes prefer drinking from the rain barrel drain valve.
Lotsa Dandies Make Strong Hives
All the dandelion puffs behind me show that the spring dandelion bloom was strong at this bee yard in 2019. The hives here looked vibrant and definitely benefitted from the large amount of unsprayed dandelion in mid-April. dandelion can provide some good forag early in the beekeeping season in western PA as long as the bees can find diverse pollen sources so they have full nutrition.
Bee Tools of the Trade
Smoker, grip, frame lifter/scraper, and queen clip keep me productive to make it most efficiently through spring beekeeping season.
Bumbling through the Catmint
Both bees and cats love ornamental catnip, Nepeta mussinii. Plants in the mint family can be used to attract bumblebees, honey bees and other native bees to urban garden plots to provide pollination. In particular, attracting bumblebees can mean a much better tomato crop!
"My 10 year old niece, Ellie Neumann, keeps an eye on the queen (can you see her?) and her attendants that are clipped while I work on the hive. Keeping a queen in a protective clip helps to prevent damaging a queen while moving frames to inspect a hive.
A Bee-Friendly Lawn
Unsprayed dandelions can provide a key source of food for honey bee colonies building up in the spring. I don’t think these neighbors that kept so many beautiful dandies in their lawn had any intention of feeding my bees but I saw they were quite active on this patch of flowers. Untreated lawns with a mix of bee forage such as clover, violets, ground ivy, deadnettle and dandies can really provide nutrition for bees.
Straight Up Carbs and Protein
Dark fall fallopia wildflower honey with walnuts is my go-to for healthy snacking that keeps me going long hours. Since beekeeping requires quite a lot of concentration, it’s important the beekeepers stayed hydrated and keep hunger away to stay focused.
Honey bees hook their appendages together to create a natural scaffolding in the hive when making beeswax comb, the inner structure of their home. This behavior is called “festooning."
Seed Bombing 412
Those little brown balls in the picture are seed bombs. They are made of clay, compost and native perennial seeds (in this case, Liatris spicata) so are a great way to “bomb” urban lots with seeds of native flowering plants. Yet another strategy to help bring more diverse nutrition to urban bees.
Moving, bending and lifting to maintain hives can mean a temporary bed of leaves on the ground can feel like a down comforter. After a long day, once you lay down, it’s not all that easy to get up and load the truck to head home.