Friday, June 25, 2010

A Garden of Jewels

I just love this garden with its jewel toned flowers. It's a good grouping of plants for a bee garden, especially at this time of the year. It's about a block west of Burrard along the railway track.

What do we have? Mallow, cornlflowers, poppies,

lychnis (not really a bee plant),

lemon balm,
and I'm not sure what the pink flowers are--maybe a geranium.

Mo' Bees

Here is a photo-tour of community gardens along the railway track: Kitsilano, Cypress, and Maple.

A bumble bee in a stunning delphinium.

A fly disguised as a bee.

I like this technique of extending the gardening space into the lawn.

An artful garden sign.

Potatoes in a trug!

City Farmer Bees

I always enjoy a stroll through the City Farmer garden in Kits. It's a little oasis in the city.

It's interesting how far away the stamens are from the nectar source of this geranium.

You wouldn't expect such a heavy pollinator as a Bombus on the delicate blossoms of a heuchera.

These white flowers were a mystery to me. They were very fragrant--giving off a perfume that reminded me of lilacs.

I love this Celtic garden design.

A Corked Queen

Our last queen didn't make it, so we can assume that she was not accepted by the hive and perhaps balled to death. When I was out at UBC Farm, Beekeeper B said to cork the queen up in the hive for a few days so the colony gets used to her. He said four days would be good. Peter drilled a hole in a block of wood that would fit between frames so we could leave her in there. We put her in Sunday and I took the block out on Wednesday, so they should be used to her by then. Hopefully she is accepted and hopefully she has performed her nuptial flight. This time we also have a marked queen to make it easier to see her. Long live the queen!

Colony Farm on Sunday

I will be appearing at Colony Farm on Sunday as Madame Beespeaker. Here is a message from the event's creator and director:

Hi There,
You and yours are personally invited to Public Dreams newest Community Art event A Midsummer Fete - A celebration of Art Environment and Organic Gardening, on Sunday 27th June 1:pm - 5:pm at Colony Farm Regional Park in Coquitlem

We are excited to present an Echo-Art-Mash-Up, where you can spend a lovely afternoon do such things as - writing notes to the bee's (our sacred pollinators) - walking the Labyrinth - learning to band a birds leg - seeing visual art made from invasive plants - listening to the fairy harpist - and having tea with Isolde N Barron (my favourite drag queen) - plus much more...!!!

There's a free shuttle bus from Lougheed skytrain station from 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm ( it's super easy to come out and join us....)

“We like to think of A Midsummer fete as sort of 'soft activism' – introducing people to ideas of sustainability, art and beauty in the environment we live in.”

“This event represents an exciting new direction for us, It’s wonderful to be working with Metro Vancouver, who are such strong supporters of community art. These partnerships are vital, in the wake of drastic cuts to arts funding in this Province.”

There is an event link on Facebook, so go there to check out the photos and details.

Really looking forward to seeing you there - hope you will be able to come and support us (and have a lovely time doing so)!

Lv Marina x
(Creative Director of A Midsummer Fete)

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Queen Bee Appearance Tonight

You are invited to drop by The Secret Lantern Society's Solstice Celebration tonight in Yaletown. I hear the Queen Bee will be there.

The Shaggy Bee

Maybe I'm just noticing a wider variety of bees, but this seems to be a good year for bee biodiversity in Vancouver. I was in my neighbor's fantastic garden and her tiny climbing roses were chalk a block with bumble bees and leaf cutters. This bee (a megachilid, I think) didn't look too healthy--it was all tuckered out, which meant I could take these photos. I've never seen a leaf cutter bee (if that's what it is) with such a bald back and REALLY hairy legs. I am assuming it is male pattern baldness. Anyone out there know if this is true? Usually I see leaf cutters with more delicate legs and they are really hairy under their abdomens.

You can see the scale here as it is perched on the top handle of a shovel. It's a bit larger than a honey bee and smaller than a large bumble bee.

These are the roses with their surprisingly dark pollen. The bumble bees were absolutely loaded down with the rust-colored pollen. This one is up to her elbows in it!

Swarm at UBC Farm

A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon, which is none too shabby. On Saturday I volunteered to give hive tours during the UBC Farm market, which was a real blast. I though I'd be calmly sitting on my butt between tours, but a beekeeper who has a hive on the farm hailed me and asked to help capture a swarm. We grabbed a ladder and some large clippers and because I'd seen our neighbor capture a swarm in a very similar situation I knew exactly what we needed to do and we had it down and in a box in about ten minutes. Would that they were all that easy!!!! The people on the first hive tour were given the unique opportunity to see the bees settling themselves into their new home. Then B loaded up as observation hive with a frame and everyone in the subsequent tours got a close up look at the bees without fear of being stung.

I found this guy wandering in the grass close to the chickens. Just the kind of bug they'd love to chomp down, although the red and black coloration probably warns them it wouldn't taste too good.

Sunshine and loveliness. Curious toddlers with their noses pressed up to the glass in the visible hive, and the sound of roosters asserting their masculinity in the background. Eagles circling, blessing the circles of conversation. The familiar fresh odors of forest and earth overlaid with the aromas of warm bannock and coffee. I am so filled to the brim with love for UBC Farm. The students change from year to year, but the spirit remains hopeful and restorative.

The Beat Goes On

Everybody's got aphids this year and everybody wants ladybugs. Fortunately the little ladies love our hops vine and it seems to inspire some amorous behavior. You go girls!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Zotter Chocolate

Our favorite chocolate bars are Zotter from Austria. We're lucky because they are for sale here in Vancouver at Xoxolat, across from the Fifth Avenue Cinema. I bought one today that had honey, honey crisps and honey jelly inside, Honig Trio. It is amazing, with a real rich taste of a fall honey. Their bars are organic and fair trade as well, which makes us very happy bees.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

Campanula medium

Campanulas, mallow, and other flowers I don't really like grow in the garden behind our house and I am always trying to pull them up because I want the garden to be of MY creation, instead of something I inherited from someone else. However many I pull, they still come up year after year, spreading their seeds far and wide. On Saturday I saw a megachilid bee inside the bell of one of the campanulas happily covered in its white pollen, so my heart was moved to think differently. Any flower that has a morphology that protects its pollen and nectar from dilution by the rain is very important in Vancouver. The next thing you know I saw my first leaf cutter bee of the year looking in the same flowers and then a honey bee, so maybe there is a reason all those cottage gardens have a good stand of campanula in them. Today I saw two other kinds of native bees, including one that looked like a tiny wasp with pollen pockets and one similar to a mason bee, but smaller, with a bright blue abdomen. One small bee even knocked a larger bee out of a bell, roller-derby style. The campanulas will stay. In fact, now I wish I had not pulled any out at all.

I have tried to grow sweet peas in this garden, as they remind me so much of mom's garden back home in Saskatchewan where she grows them chock a block in candy store colours, but I haven't had much luck. This garden remains a Vancouver garden, inherited from the women who used to own the house, one of whom was driven from it by her abusive husband. Did she plant the Canterbury bells, having a better knowledge of what would thrive here in this ecosystem? Did the garden give her some pleasure and solace while she raised her children here under the shadow of her violent husband?

The other woman was the mistress who came into the house and stayed, having built up a barrier between her and the crazy man so that she could survive here as long as he kept to his side of the house. She nourished the roses and drank beer and watched tv on an outdoor balcony while admiring them. After she sold the house to us and moved she found out that her lover's wife was still alive and was owed half the proceeds. This didn't leave her enough to retire on so it is suspected she committed suicide. This is all cobbled together from rumor and hearsay, but it's part of the mythology of our house and garden. Part of the campanulas, rugosas and mallow.

Meanwhile, the lush life of the garden grows on. The strawberries are starting to blush, and the sunflowers that haven't been farmed out to aphids by tiny ants are almost blooming.

Those tiny ants are a real problem this year. I see their aphids are also destroying my bitter melon plants and the ants are getting into the beehive. I read about putting Tanglefoot on the structure that holds up the hive as a protective barrier, so I felt this was what I needed to do. In fact I was feeling so much anxiety about ants getting into the hive I dreamed that I got Tanglefoot in my hair while trying to apply it. It's darned sticky and it smells awful. I hope that once it's exposed to air the odor will dissipate. I didn't put much down under the front of the hive because I didn't want bees getting stuck in it, but the ants are no longer crawling up the side of the hive and the bees seem to be ignoring it for now.

I also saw a honey bee with its pollen pockets absolutely full of black pollen wallowing around in my neighbor's giant boudoir poppies so its no wonder we see black pollen packed into our hive.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Black Pollen

Here are some photos of our hive check from yesterday. We were a bit alarmed at the black cell on one frame but it has since occurred to me that the poppies are blooming, so it is likely a cell of papaver pollen. I was looking at a bottle of pollen that had black pellets in it and thought it may be the same thing. We've got plenty of honey, pollen, and workers just waiting for a queen to start laying some eggs.

Here's a frame from the original hive with old wax in it. Notice the robbing bumble bee we discovered in the hive, just sucking away at the frame. The pollen in this frame has a reddish tinge--could be the wax that makes it look that way. Again, it looks like this frame is just waiting for brood.

We put paper down between the two hives and I left the top open a bit. There were a few lost bees buzzing around and asking, "Dude, where's my hive?" When they tried to get in at the bottom, the guard bees were very defensive. This is why in the end I used smoke to try to mask some of that odor so they'd let the foreign bees in. They are still pretty defensive today I noticed, which in some ways is good--a strong defense means there is hope for our hive. The other hive was starting to let in robbers, so it was time to combine.

Here is our new formation. Not every level is chock full of pollen and honey, but we wanted to give them plenty of room for now.

I don't find it so relaxing to watch the bees when they are upset, so I stuffed the smoker with green grass and let them settle down on their own. By the time it was dusk, everyone was back inside the hive making new friends, I hope.