Friday, May 03, 2013

Lookin' good in there, and some great news for our farm

(If you're bee-phobic, whiz past the pics to the text at the end for the farm news!)

My friend and mentor Pierre came over today to go through my hives with me. I've been worrying about swarming, because three of the four hives are just busting with bees.

In this pic, you an see pollen (yellow stuffed in cells in the bottom left section), capped brood (top left, cells coverd in orangey-brown) and capped drone brood (bottom right corner, cells that stick out a bit like a bullet, capped in orangey-brown.) The drones are larger than the worker bees, so they stick out of the cells as the larvae grow! Some of the cells have nectar, too (shiny liquid.)

And here are girls with lots and lots of beautiful pollen!

Can you spot the queen? She has a yellow dot on her thorax and she's pretty obvious in this one! (Hint: she's bigger than the other bees although it doesn't especially show in this photo.)

 And here is what a beekeeper wants to see in her hive: a beautiful frame of tightly-packed, capped brood, ringed by pollen, and at the far edges, capped honey!

My hives have great queens who lay lots of eggs.

Here's another shot of that beautiful, multi-coloured pollen:

We have a lot of trees around here, and that's where most of the pollen is coming from right now. Pierre has fewer trees around him, and so is seeing less pollen in his hives right now.

Things are so nuts that we put honey supers on three of the four hives today! (The fourth hive is fine but not overflowing with bees.) This is a first for me, adding honey supers in early May. I don't usually put them on until June. We are giving the girls more space in hopes that they won't swarm (that's when they girls make a second queen and half the hive leaves!) But it's so great to have such happy, healthy bees in spring. I am thrilled they all survived the winter.

And here's the good farm news! A native grass project on our land has been funded and is going ahead! Ducks Unlimited and our local conservation authority are involved. A solar farm has to fund a Bobolink and Meadowlark habitat restoration project in exchange for their other land use. They are going to plant 21 acres of our land in native grasses and some wildflowers, to provide habitat for these birds. 

The Bobolink is a threatened species in Ontario. They like to nest in hayfields, but their nest, eggs and nestlings are often destroyed if hay is cut before the babies have fully fledged. Our 21 acres will give these birds (and meadowlarks) a safe place to reproduce.
Back in  2008, I found a Horned Lark nest in our fields. Luckily the babies all fledged before the field was planted for the season. Check out the cute photos here.

This is a 20-year project, which is fine with us. We will be paid rent on the land for the first three years. The planting and maintenance will be paid for by the solar company and administered by Ducks Unlimited and the conservation authority. There will be bird counts every year, and every third year, a prescribed burn, which should be VERY exciting! 

The fellow from Ducks Unlimited that we have been working with told us that the fields will look a bit crappy this year, better next year, and spectacular the third year. He sent me a list of some of the seeds he's putting in the planting mix:


Canada Wild Rye
Virginia Wild Rye
Little Bluestem
Sand Dropseed
Bluestem Broomsedge
Riverbank Wild Rye (depends on location)
Creeping Red Fescue (depending on site)
Big Bluestem (sparingly)


Black-eyed Susan
Bush clover
Showy tick trefoil
milkweeds (spcecies depends on location)
Penstemon digitalis (smooth beardtongue)
grey goldenrod
aster species (depends on location)
false sunflower
lanceleaf coreopsis
wild senna
fox sedge
blue vervain

He put in some milkweeds because he knows I love them. This will also be GREAT for my bees and other pollinators! When I split my hives this year, I am moving the new hives out to that field. There is a  honey outfit in western Ontario that is experimenting with tallgrass prairie honey. I'll be able to do the same, although this will be more "medium grass" than tall! 

We're so excited that this project is going ahead. We are hoping to get a two-acre duck pairing pond put in our back pasture soon too. Stay tuned for updates.

Happy weekend!


  1. I love bees, I find them fascinating. I also enjoy their honey :-)

    I hope you have a great weekend.

    1. THe more I learn about bees, the more I realize how little I know. :) Hope you had a great weekend too!

  2. I'm not bee-phobic. I like your posts on bees.
    I am very interested in your farm project where some land is being turned into native habitat. I belong to a naturalist club so we are very concerned about the loss of native habitat. So great that you will be part of setting up natural habitat.

    1. I'm really excited and happy! Next year we hope to get funding for a 9-acre duck pond. :)

  3. What a wonderful project to be involved in and it's great that it helps expand your bee keeping into a new area. I have friends who went into a project with Ducks Unlimited and they have been very happy with the results.

    1. THey are very professional and well-established so I have confidence in their ability to see things through! We are really looking forward to working with them. :)

  4. Nature does need a helping hand occasionally. Well done; you will be rewarded ten-fold.

    1. I can't wait to see what it looks like in three years!!

  5. Stewards of the land! That very old phrase goes to you with honors.

    1. Aw thank you! It's nice we are getting some financial help from various organizations!

  6. Wow, what an exciting project! I cannot wait to see photos of the progression.

  7. Fascinating tour of the hive Natalie, and great news indeed for the farm!

  8. How exciting that your land is involved in such a fantastic project. And it will also be good for the bees. And the ducks would love to have their own pond to splash in. Bonne chance with all those plans.

  9. What a great job you're doing in preserving the planet.

  10. That are indeed great news. Congratulations. We are very happy for you.

  11. What an amazing program and you have my respect and admiration for participating. Also, thanks for the warning about the bees. I really, really appreciate it.

  12. So awesome that your bees are doing well! I love all your up close photos, it really helps to see what's going on. We opened our hive yesterday and it looked good! Lots of multi-colored pollen - looked so neat. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I'm looking at when I see the frames, and your posts really help me out with that, so thanks!!!

    It's so exciting about that project as well! Congrats!

  13. Wow!!! How exciting!!!! That is really great news that your land will become a natural habitat for some cutie pie birdies! Good job :)

  14. So cute bees!!!!!
    I love honey!

  15. I'm so glad that you will be providing habitat for the bobolinks. Years ago my husband and I tented on a friend's property. Every morning, very early, we were awakened by the bobolinks. Sadly, now I rarely hear their crazy, bubbly song.


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!