Happy Birthday Anton Janša (1734-1773), the first teacher of modern beekeeping by Ron Miksha

More information on World Bee Day.

Beekeeping365

World Bee Day was initiated in Slovenia, Europe, and has been quickly catching around the world. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel concluded a major speech Wednesday with a rousing endorsement of World Bee Day, telling members of the Bundestag to do something good for the bees:

“I want to finish with something that some may consider insignificant but is actually very important: on May 20 is the first World Bee Day. On this day we should really think about biodiversity and do something good for the bees.”

World Bee Day became World Bee Day after a successful campaign by the country of Slovenia (Anton Janša’s birthplace) to promulgate the message. Their petition to the United Nations was accepted in December 2017, so this year marks the first official World Bee Day.  I’ve been following (and promoting World Bee Day) ever since I heard the effort was…

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World Bee Day

Time To Recognize Our Little Friends

The United Nation has designated May 20 as World Bee Day and this year is the first observance of this day.  I’m so happy that the importance of these little pollinators is finally and officially recognized globally.  Hopefully it will bring a change in the rules and regulations to help make the environment safer for them, protecting them.  You can read more about World Bee Day here.

We keep a couple of honeybee hives in our garden but we don’t just put up hives for our honeybees.  We also put some structures up for native bees as well.  There is a good variety of native bees in our garden and they are avid pollinators, especially Bumblebees.  Some are an annoyance like Carpenter bees which love to drill holes in our patio beams to put their larvae in.

In honor of the World Bee Day, here are some of the little, hardworking friends in our garden.

Two native bees working together on Echinacea
Bumblebee on Borage
Sweat bee on Echinacea
Wool Carder bee on Thai basil
Bee on Goldenrod. I’m not sure what it is. It’s too hairy to be our common Bumble bee.
Mason bee on Yarrow
Bees on Onion flower. I think the one on the left is a young Bumble bee.
Cuckoo bee on Dill
A male Carpenter bee on Butterfly bush. Male has white marking on the face.
Honeybee on Common Milkweed

More information about bees:

  • Bees in your backyard: A guide to North America’s Bees by Joseph S. Wilson & Olivia Messinger Carril, ISBN 978-0691-160771
  • Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich, ISBN 978-0691-161358
  • Bumblebees: Behaviour, ecology, and conservation by Dave Goulson, ISBN 978-0199-553075
  • Bumble bees of North America by Paul Williams, Robbin Thorp, Leif Richardson & Sheila Colla, ISBN 978-0691-152226
  • Mason Bee Revolution: How the hardest working bee can save the world one backyard at a time by Dave Hunter & Jill Lightner, ISBN 978-1594-859632
  • Our Native Bees: North America’s endangered pollinators and the fight to save them by Paige Embry, ISBN 978-1604-697698
  • Bees of the world by Charles D. Michener, ISBN 978-0801-885730.  This is more like a text book.

Update On Bird Families

Busy Raising Families

This is a busy time of the year for us as well as the birds.  We are busy with garden chores-cleaning up, pruning, feeding and planting.  The birds are busy building their new families.  The Bluebird’s eggs have hatched and the parents have been making endless trips feeding five chicks.  They are growing up really fast.  It will take around 15-20 days for them to fledge after hatching.

May 6- four eggs have hatched
May 10-All five eggs have hatched
May 13-Fine down & feathers and sleeping soundly

A pair of Tree Swallows have finished building their nest and started to lay eggs. The second pair was chased out of the garden by the first pair every time they checked that nest box.

May 10- Tree Swallow first egg
May 13- Four eggs or five (lower left corner behind feather)?

While the House Wrens are still picking, choosing and building decoy nests in any empty boxes they find, two pairs of Chickadees have already laid eggs.  One on each side of the yard.

May 11- The first pair of Chickadees have four eggs since May 7, not yet hatched.
May 14- The second pair of Chickadees have three eggs or four?

Having made the destructive & nasty house sparrows unwelcome in the yard, we’ve become home to the colorful & friendly.  Now the yard lights up daily in a delightful symphony.

 

Spring Colors

Getting Vibrant Again

Spring is finally here or should I say summer is finally here.  The temperature was over 90°F for a couple of days which broke the record.  I’m not complaining after months of snow and freezing temperature.  The plants in our garden are not complaining either.  They’re pushing out shoots and buds all over the garden.  Dragging on as winter did, spring is still giving us a very promising new life especially after the recent rain.

After we successfully fended off the deer for the last two years, and relocated the last rabbit last year, we decided to grow tulips in the garden again.  I’ve been planting tulip bulbs I rescued for years but only a few of them survive the animal raiding parties.  But as I didn’t spend a penny on them, it didn’t feel very wasteful.  Last autumn, I picked tulip bulbs from the catalogs for the first time and they’re looking good so far.   Hopefully these beautiful flowers will come back up next spring.

Mixed color tulips accompany our ‘Pollinator Habitat’ sign.  By early summer this area will be filled with variety of flowers especially the ones that have plenty of pollen and nectar

We cannot be certified a ‘Wildlife Habitat’ since we’ve fenced off most of the four-legged locals around here: deer, rabbit, woodchuck, raccoon, skunk, fox and coyote.  We would’ve welcomed fox and coyote but once the deer net went up, that was it.  Access to the garden is limited to birds, insects and small rodents.  Any gardeners who have a problem with deer, I would recommend a deer net.  It’s the only thing that works.  I no longer have to spray a mixture of garlic and rotten eggs in the garden or use other methods only to find that they aren’t effective.  The fact is there aren’t any plants that the deer will not eat.

Anyway, we have colors and the scent of perfume in our garden again after a long wait.

Primrose after rain
Bleeding heart is another indicator of the Hummingbirds arrival
Hellebore is one of the flowers I grow as an early spring food source for bees
Common blue violet, a beautiful weed soaked in rain

It’s nice to see colors again.  It’s even nicer to see not just our honeybees but many local bees getting busy looking for pollen and nectar.

 

 

 

Spring Vegetables

A Good Head Start

We installed a cold frame in our vegetable garden in order to have some fresh vegetables in winter.  We did get some cold loving vegetables like Chinese Broccoli, Swiss chard, kale, carrots and mustard greens.   Several times the vegetables inside wilted from the cold when we couldn’t get access.  In the middle of winter when snow piled two feet up the frame, we couldn’t get the door open without a lot of digging.  But it still gave us a good head start for spring vegetables and we get to have fresh vegetables early in the season despite the seesaw weather.

The seeds I sow in November like spinach, Bok choi and mustard greens, sprouted early and became our first salad crops.

Inside our cold frame, the taller spinach are the one I sow in November last year

Then I sow more cool weather vegetables like Mizuna, Shungiku (Tang Oh), Chinese broccoli, Corn salad, arugula and more of spinach and mustard greens in March when I got access to the inside. These will become our second crop.

I sow this patch of Mizuna in March. It ‘s great for salad and soup
Mustard greens from seed in winter grow among arugula
I usually thin the Bok choi so they will have room to grow bigger. I use the ones I pull out in salad
Shungiku or Tang Oh or Edible Chrysanthemum love the cooler temperatures. I prefer them in soups

Since the cold frame has no ventilation, early spring is when we have to be careful.  We need to leave the door open on hot days otherwise the vegetables in there will be cooked.  I devote this patch under the cold frame for growing leafy vegetables because it provides shade during the summer months.  Once the plastic is cover removed, I grow Bitter melon and beans and let them climb up the frame as they provide shade for the vegetables below.

With a couple days of heavy rain other vegetables in the garden double their size.  Asparagus shot up a few inches a day with rain.  We were supposed to cut them when they reached six inches high but…

We didn’t have time to cut the asparagus when they should have, but they still were delicious
Siberian garlic

After it was fed and with plenty of rain, our garlic, both Siberian and Rocambol garlic, got much bigger very fast.  We had a good garlic crop last year and still have some left in the basement.  So far this year should be good too.

 

 

Back From Wintering

Almost A Full House 

The temperature is still seesawing, but most of the migrating birds have reached us on their usual schedule.  The Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have finally settled in one of the bird boxes and have started building their nest despite harassment from the House sparrows.  We really have to keep an eye on this one to make sure that the sparrows don’t rout them.

A pair of Tree Swallows settling down

The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) came back as soon as the flowering fruit trees like cherry and pear here blossomed.  One of them was waiting patiently at the feeder station for the welcome mat.  We promptly cut a few oranges and put them on a tray for them.  It didn’t take them long to dive in for the juice, they must be hungry from their long flight.

Male Baltimore Oriole
Enjoying the welcome mat of fresh Tangerines which is what we had on hand when they  arrived.

Gray Catbirds, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Chipping sparrows are also here.  The first two still play hide and seek with us; every time we took the cameras out they flew off.  The Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina), the smallest sparrow around here, are not camera shy.  The Ruby-throated Hummingbird haven’t reached here yet.  Only the Bleeding heart flowers have start to bud and the Columbine still have a long way to go.  We use the blooming of these flowers as an indication of the arrival of the Hummingbirds.  The Columbine is a more reliable reference.

Chipping Sparrow and Goldfinch share a feeder

In the mean time, the resident Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) took no time in starting their family.  So far she has laid five eggs and any day now we’ll will see the first chick.

Eastern Bluebird family. She’s back with building material.
Five beautiful blue eggs of the Bluebird family.

The Black-capped Chickadees (Parus atricapillus)  have almost completed their nest construction.  It looks very comfortable with moss and a fine hair lining.  It will be a couple of days before we see the first egg.

Chickadee nest: lining the bottom with moss and the top with fine hair

We are only missing the Ruby-throated Hummingbird but they should reach our garden soon.  A flight from down south on their tiny wings takes a little longer than the others.

 

Spring Birds

Molting & Paring

As much as Mother Nature doesn’t want to let go of winter weather, birds in our garden don’t want any part of it.  Their songs are much louder now and they chase each other around in the garden a lot more too.  There are a couple of things indicating spring has arrived: American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) are molting and the arrival of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor).

American Goldfinches are gregarious birds.  They flock together and never stop chirping. Sometimes we have 20 or 30 of them crowding around the feeders.  A male Goldfinch has very bright yellow feathers with black and white stripes on the wings in summer but he’ll molt to a greenish brown in winter.  He’ll put on his brown winter coat in autumn.  Many of them have that ‘rolled in the soot’ look now.

American Goldfinch
This male Goldfinch is in the middle of molting which gives an impression of a dirty bird. He’ll turn bright yellow with a black cap in a few weeks.

Many birds like the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) and the House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) have already paired up.  The Northern Cardinals are still chasing one another around, claiming territory and mates.

Mourning Dove
I can’t tell which is male, which is female. This pair of Mourning Doves cozy up next to each other and then…
Mourning Dove
The one on the left kept grooming the other for quite a while. The recipient seemed to enjoy the service.
House finch
There was a snow storm on April 2nd and this House Finch couple waited for their turn at the feeder.
Eastern Bluebird
The Eastern Bluebird also is house shopping now. Last year they were the first to build their nest in a nest box.
A pair  of Tree swallows were checking the nest box. This photo is from last April. They’re on time this year though the weather is not quite on their side.

We heard and saw Tree swallows that flew back from the Carolinas and only to be hit by snow the next day.   They haven’t come down to check on the nest boxes yet.  Hopefully they nest early enough and will not to be chased out of their usual nest box by the Bluebirds.

Spring At Last

Some Colors In The Garden

I see the spring light at the end of the tunnel, a little dim but still a cheerful light of hope.  Snow still covers the majority of the garden but in the bare specks there are colors.  Crocuses in the front yard bloomed nicely this year.  Last year they became deer food.  At least deer left the bulbs alone so they came up with a variety of colors.  We planted a lot of crocuses in the previous two autumns to provide early spring food for our honeybees.  Many of them became food for squirrels, chipmunks, deer and rabbits but the survivors continue to come up in spring before disappearing underground again.

This deep purple crocus was planted by a squirrel. It’s in the middle of the iris plot by the garage. I know I didn’t put it there.
Light purple crocus in the front yard
Pale yellow with beige coloration under the petals
Deep yellow with brown stripes under petals
White

Our back yard is still covered with snow but it’s melting fast with high daytime temperatures.  Some tulips and daffodils braved the cold pushing themselves up above it.

Daffodil pushing up through the snow
A clump of tulips I rescued years ago enjoying the cold spring

And, look at the busy girls.  Yes, we call them girls because the worker bees are all female and they’re like our children.  The weather is warm enough for them to go out foraging and most of them came back with baskets full of pollen.  They’ve also taken in water from the birdbaths.

The majority of honeybees that flew back in carried big loads of pollen. I’ll have to check on them this weekend to see if I have to give them more sugar or not. It’s still too cold to feed them syrup.

Spring is here after all.  Thank you Mother Nature for giving us a break from the Nor’easter in the last few weeks.

Spring

It’s ‘Officially’ Here

Today is ‘officially’ the first day of spring.  That’s what it says on the calendar but in reality our garden is still snowed in.  The temperature is hovering a little bit above 30°F and there will be more snow coming down tonight and continuing until Wednesday night. We expect a foot of wet snow accumulation added to what we already have on the ground.  That’s why I say ‘officially the first day of spring on the calendar‘ only.

Plants in the little plot right next to the house have started to come up.  Daffodils and irises the previous owner planted next to the garage are sprouting leaves.  The Siberian garlic are braving themselves in the cold next to melting snow and will be buried again tonight.  But they are Siberian, they should be fine.  Rocambole garlic that I’ve been growing for many years are still staying comfortable underground.

Daffodil & Iris
I’ve been trying to dig this clump of daffodil out from the corner many times but what’s left underground keeps coming up every spring.  It’s always the first to come up since it’s so close to the warm house.
Siberian garlic
Siberian garlic started up in late February but was covered with snow, now the snow has melted away and they still look healthy.

Inside the house is another story.  Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ that one of my colleagues gave me many years ago welcomed spring with its bright red flowers.  Still one more set of flowers from this bulb is just about to bloom.  I moved them up from the basement as soon as the flower buds came up.

Amaryllis-Red Lion
Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ bloom with deep velvet red, four huge flowers on one stem. One more stem coming up on the left.

Hibiscus ‘The Path’ also senses the warmth of spring and welcomes it with a bright yellow flower.  I found that the color is paler than when the plant is outside but it’s still beautiful and cheerful as all hibiscus are.  I left it in the basement though, since it’s too big to be in the bay window with the other plants.

Hibiscus-The Path
‘The Path’ hibiscus always blooms through summer, providing that it is well-fed. This one probably sensed the spring warmth and is itching to get outside so it flowered really early, probably as a hint.  The red color in the middle is much deeper when it is outside.

But, …darn, We’re still waiting for reality spring.

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