It’s been a disappointing spring. The first two months being colder than usual, and November so far being hot and windy. Coupled with almost no rain, the result has been fewer than usual spring blooms. Native bees do not appreciate this sort of weather.
After two months of impatient waiting, I finally allowed myself to check the honey superon my native beehive – to discover no honey and a partially blocked hole. My local bee advisor suggests that they are not ready to fill the honey pot yet and that I need to wait impatiently for another couple of months.
In the meantime, just so there’s no doubt that I’m running a bee friendly garden, I’ve named my garden “maam dungaarrgundi” which means “place of bees” in the local indigenous Gumbaynggirr language. Native bees are welcome, stingless or otherwise.
A lack of flowers doesn’t stop the native bees from keeping up with the housekeeping – the Poo Patrol regularly brings out rubbish in the form of little pellets. So I decided to do some housekeeping of my own. Thinking that the Bee Motelthat I created several years ago had been all but abandoned, I moved it to a shadier spot and then decided to clean out the nest holes. Ooops – I very nearly killed a pretty Homalictus bee which emerged spluttering and covered in dust. Thankfully, the rest of the holes only contained little dead bodies.
Dust covered Homalictus
Poo Patrol – bringing out the rubbish
The European bees are busy in the pecan catkins, and hover flies are still around, but I’m not holding out much hope for a good native bee season unless we get some meaningful rain. All very disappointing.
Today is the first day of spring and I’ve put my native bees on notice.
They’ve had a lazy winter. Whilst their European relatives toiled daily, returning to their hives (wherever they are?) with loads of pollen, my bees snoozed, only venturing forth on warm days to clean out the poo and make a few half-hearted forays into the garden.
No more excuses. The weather is warmer, I’ve seen them out and about, and there are plenty of flowers in the garden … so now it’s time for them to provide me with some honey.
You might recall that twelve months ago, being a bit impatient, I attempted to fool my bees into giving me some honey by removing the top of the hive and placing a small container over the access hole . My bees promptly sealed it up and went back to the business of collecting pollen.
This time I’ve gone professional and ordered a proper Honey Super kit from Sydney Native Stingless Bees. The helpful Melissa sent me several honey pots, a honey super and two straps to secure the hive.
Adding the honey pot
Bees exploring the honey pot
Super and straps in place
I’ll have to wait 6-8 weeks before peeking, but as my Bee Beds are about to burst into flower, I have high hopes that by the beginning of November I’ll have a little native bee honey to drizzle on my morning yoghurt.
Well, the Bee Garden has been a huge success! Much more so than my ultimately unsatisfactory attempts to grow veggies in the same beds. And it’s not just bees that have been attracted to the garden, all sorts of beneficial insects like hover flies, butterflies, wasps, ants and many more previously unobserved bugs have arrived. Many of which have eluded my desperate attempts to photograph them.
I’ve gained a new respect for nasturtiums and their bee attracting powers, although I now know why it’s often considered a weed, and I’m about to replant with a less rampant variety.
Salvia, perennial basil, sweet basil, cosmos, mint and even parsley gone to seed have all performed well, but yarrow was a bit of a disappointment. The flowers are quite attractive, but not a single insect to be seen. I wonder if some yarrow varieties don’t attract bees?
My newly replanted beds include the best performers, plus a few experiments like cat’s whiskers, borage, bergamot and coleus which the Blue Banded bees seem particularly attracted to. Crossing my fingers and hoping for a repeat performance …
I had assumed that whilst I was in Sri Lanka I would miss most of the beautiful spring weather at home. But temperatures stayed low and 40mm of rain just before my return meant that I came back to a blooming garden and bees making themselves busy everywhere.
The nasturtiums in the bee garden are putting on a spectacular show and attracting hordes of native bees – sometimes three or four in just one bloom. And I’m appreciating their delicate scent as I wander around the garden.
Such wonderful value for a $4.00 packet of seeds. I’m collecting from this crop of flowers, so I should never have to buy another packet of seeds.
Encouraged by all this bee activity, I decided to risk removing the top layer of the roof of my native beehive, and to place a honey pot over the exposed hole. The idea is that the bees will fill it with honeycomb and then I can just keep replacing the pot for a modest but unending supply of honey. After an initial show of interest, the bees returned to their pollen collecting duties, and I’m optimistic that once they fill the main chamber with honeycomb, they’ll start filling my honeypot.
I also added a simple roof made from a sheet of propeller plate folded in the middle. Now I think we are ready for summer ….