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Ode to a Honeybee In Late Autumn

We are having a warm autumn this year.  The daytime temperature is still hovering above 50° F on most days but drops back to slightly above 30° F at night.  We had frost for a couple of days early on in the season which killed off most of the garden.  So there is not much left for the bees.

Honeybees being honeybees, they still come out looking for food when the temperature is above 50° F and to relieve themselves as well.  We had fed them in mid-October but now we still worry that their food storage may not be enough for a winter that has not yet come.  Since they spend more energy flying around instead of semi-hybernating in the hive during this time of year, they probably have gone through more of their storage than usual.  So we are putting sugar syrup out on warm days.   They know exactly where the feeder is and zoom right to it.   They still go for any flowers they find blooming at this time of year: Alyssum, Chinese broccoli, Broccoli raab and…Saffron.

Alyssum, despite being tiny and low to the ground, they weather a light frost quite well. They smell like honey too.
Alyssum, despite being tiny and low to the ground, they weather a light frost quite well. They smell like honey too.
I let some broccoli raab flower and it turned out to be a good thing.
I let some broccoli raab flower and it turned out to be a good thing.
Honeybee collecting pollen from saffron flower
Honeybee collecting pollen from saffron flower

I should have grown more saffron but I always start small with any newbies.  If it fails I haven’t wasted much.  My fellow blogger suggested that I may be able to leave them outside since they are hardy to zone 6.  I will leave one pot out as an experiment.  If they are like other crocuses that bloom in spring (which I grow in the ground) they should be fine.  Then I can have plenty of saffron for tea and cooking, and plenty of food for honeybees in late autumn.

This girl didn't even wait for the Chinese broccoli to open fully
This girl didn’t even wait for the Chinese broccoli to open fully
They also go for the water at the heated birdbath
They also go for the water at the heated birdbath

Late Autumn

Back to Blogging

It has been five months since I posted last.  Aside from busy with work and garden, my doctor advised me to spend less time in front of the computer.  Bursitis and pinched nerve have been giving me aches and pain in my shoulders and arms.  So after a long day of sitting in front of a computer at work, sitting in front of one at home is not recommended.  Surprisingly enough, doing garden chores helps to ease the discomfort and after some routine exercise I’m back.

Autumn is almost gone and we are ready for winter.  All the tropical plants are down in their basement winter camp and the beehives are wrapped up to keep the girls snug.  All the leaves are gone but there are some flowers left in our garden and the Saffron is one of them. We are growing Saffron (Crocus sativus) for the first time and they are blooming.

Sprouting up after a few weeks in the ground
Sprouting up after a few weeks in the ground
Unfurling flower
Unfurling flower
Blooming one after another
Blooming one after another

I’ve been collecting their threads (stigmas) almost daily and dry them on a paper towel for a couple of days before preserving them in the vial.  They have such a subtle scent.

Full bloom with three bright orange stigmas
Full bloom with three bright orange stigmas
Close up
Close up

I’m not sure I can leave them outside during winter.  Winter here can be brutally cold (down to -4F last winter).  They’re in pots now and I plan to put them in the garage once the temperature drops below the freezing point.  Hopefully they’ll grow back and bloom next autumn so I don’t have to pay a hefty amount for just a few threads.

Drying threads on paper towel
Drying threads on paper towel