So this year we're trying something new. E is doing some bee research at a lab at the university, under the supervision of a researcher who has been invaluable in her assistance to get us started. Basically, we're raising a bumblebee colony. Bad. Ass.
... The process is surprisingly sensitive. We ran around with nets and pill bottles early in the season, capturing bumblebees (bombus impatiens), because early in the spring all the bumblebees are queens; the queen comes out of hibernation and flies around collecting pollen and nectar and looking for a suitable nest site, then eventually starts laying eggs. Actually, there's a rather low success rate for b. impatiens colonies, so it was necessary to capture multiple queens in hopes that one would reproduce, so I should say that only some of them eventually start laying eggs.
So. We caught some bees. Watched and waited. Finally, one of them appears to be incubating eggs. The rest have been released, and Gardenia (that's the name we gave the successful queen) has been moved outside and we've opened up the incubator for her in case she wants to forage. We've supplied her with nectar and pollen, as well as cotton to use in forming the initial nest, so she doesn't actually have to leave. Eventually her workers will leave the hive to forage. And then they will pollinate our garden goodies and I won't have to run around with a paintbrush anymore.
|Peeking into the nest|
|Location of the incubator|
We'll be moving the nest into its proper box soon so that the hive has the chance to grow and spread.
But of course, social bees aren't the only bees who pollinate the garden. Far from it; solitary bees (bees who do not form colonies, but rather forage & reproduce individually) are extremely common and also very important for pollination. Fortunately, keeping solitary bees is considerably less time-consuming and difficult than trying to establish a colony. Solitary bees just need to be provided with a suitable nest site, and they'll move right on in!
This is where my dad kicks ass. I was doing some research on solitary bees (I'm less familiar with them), and found out exactly how to set up for solitary bees. My father, once I explained the process to him, pulled out his drill bits and got some wood and helped me set up some solitary bee space.
I'm not really expecting to get any solitary bees this year (it's a little late for nesting), but at the very least we should get some next year. Since we have an apple tree in the back yard, that's to the good.
|Close-up of part of the bee house|
|One of the bee houses from a distance|
So there we have it. My dad rocks. So do bees.
Of course, this blog just wouldn't be what I've always envisioned it to be if I didn't take a moment to also share a photo of something I thought was particularly beautiful today. Enjoy.