Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Corbicula Tuesday

Yes folks, it's CORBICULA TUESDAY! What's a corbicula?  Well, it's the pollen "basket" either hind leg of a honey bee! It's a smooth spot surrounded by hairs. The bee packs pollen into the corbicula on each leg, and when she has a full load, she flies home.

Now this poor soul...

...had a nice load of pollen but never made it home. I found her dead on the ground outside her hive, pollen still clinging to her legs. Worker bees do many jobs in the hive, and their last one is to be a field bee, the time when she goes out to forage for pollen and nectar. Many bees simply drop dead while out on a foraging trip; by this time in their lives, they are quite old. Their wings are often tattered, their thorax worn smooth and hairless from work.

She worked hard until the very end.


Pollen also clings to the hair on the bees body. Sometimes you'll see a honey bee completely coated in yellow! But not all pollen is yellow. It comes in a range of colours. The other day I saw a bee bringing in blue pollen, likely from the Scilla Siberica in our garden! These are the flowers you see around here in spring that are reminiscent of English bluebells.

Poor little bee! But that's the way life is for the girls of apis mellifera.

I hope she wouldn't have minded me sticking her under my microscope...


As you can see, even the bees eyeball is hairy! Honey bees have two large compound eyes, and three small eyes (called ocelli) on top of her head. The ocelli only sense light,

Here's the reverse side of the leg packed with pollen. As you can see, there is a lot of that yellow gold stuck to her leg! 

The other leg had less pollen. I suspect most of the load fell off when she hit the ground.

There's something a little sad about a honey bee working so hard for her hive, only to drop dead before she can bring home her bounty. Lucky for the hive, there are thousands more bees where this one came from!

Today's Alex offering:

Monday, April 29, 2013

And some more of Alex the internet sensation!

I'm trying to do one of these a day! These are from the last few days...

If you'd like to sponsor us, click here!

We came, we ran, we went out for lunch afterwards

On Saturday, Gordon and I ran our first-ever race, 5K in the Cornwall Run to End MS!

My bib. I can't tell you how cool it was to have a bib!

Our friend Sigrun was there running the 10K (she won for her age group!) She was giving us some helpful advice just before the start of the race. She started running about two years ago and is my inspiration! I'm not sure what Gordon was pondering in this photo. The competition?

There's my handsome hairy-legged running companion!

A few minutes before the start. We were excited!

Since it was our first race, we each bought one of the professional photos shot at the finish line. That guy behind Gordon is 81 years old!! I hope I'm still running at that age. Gordon did really well. He finished with a time of 26:41:4,  65th place out of 241, and  46/96 in the men's group.

As you can tell, I was pretty happy! Neither of us had been running outside a lot before the race, so I knew I'd be a bit slower than inside (running track with flat surface), plus I seem to have developed a shin splint. My goal was to finish in under 30 minutes, and I did: 29:51:9. I placed 116/241, and 51/144 in the women's group, and 11/28 out of my age group (which I was at the top of!) so I was pretty darn pleased.  

I really wanted to run a race within our first year of running, and I'm so glad we did this. We are both looking forward to the next one. It felt great running across the finish line. I've always been reasonably fit and active, but I never, ever thought I would be a runner.

Here's our friend Sigrun receiving her medal.

Sigrun's hubby Dave took some pics of us down by the St. Lawrence River after the race.

We were all feeling great! After this, we had a nice lunch together.

Next goal? 10k! And we're going to work on running faster now.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Apologies to the bee-phobic!

I know some of you have bee-sting allergies and bee phobias, so now is your time to check out another blog! :)

For the rest of you....

I inspected all four of my hives yesterday. When you crack open a hive after a long winter, this is a good thing to see...

So many bees! So many, in fact, that I am going to have to make sure they don't swarm in May!

And look at this beautiful frame of capped honey they have for themselves...

And I soon found the queen. Do you see her below? She's marked. And how about the eggs in those open cells? Hint: they look like grains of  rice.

That is my strongest colony. Lots of bees, lots of eggs and capped brood and a healthy laying queen. My beekeeper friend Pierre  will help me split this hive into two hives in a few weeks or so!

Beautiful bees! Can you see the girl in the lower right quadrant with pollen packed onto the "baskets" on her legs?

This is an excellent thing to see in April!

There was a queen in this hive too. Can you see her? She's marked but a bit trickier to spot!

I circled her to help you out!

 But waaaaait a minute. On the other side of that frame, I found ANOTHER queen! Two queens in one hive is NOT the norm. Can you spot the queen below? She's not marked but she's bigger, with a darker thorax (back)...

Here's a hint:

I think she's pretty obvious here:

So why two queens? Well, the hive has decided the old queen is past her best-before date, so they've made a new queen (the unmarked one above.) But she's still a virgin! Once she's gone out on her mating flight and returned after getting hot and heavy with many drones, the worker bees will KILL the old queen.

Long live the new queen! That's how it works in the hive.

Can you see the old queen in this pic?

There she is...

The poor dear. She's worked hard, but she's doomed. This hive is my weakest of the four, but there are eggs and larvae and enough bees that they should be able to keep going and become stronger with the new queen laying future generations.

So far, so good. Four hives have made it through the winter. We'll see how this whacky, two-queened one does, but the rest all look strong and I found queens and eggs in all of them, as well as ample bees and some honey stores, so I can breathe a bit more easily now.

And here is today's Alex-plea for donations for our OSPCA Friends for Life Walk-a-thon!

Hope you had a good day!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Alex wants to go viral

You're going to be seeing a fair bit of Alex on my blog for the next couple of weeks.

Gordon and I are doing the Ontario SPCA Friends For Life Walk-a-thon again this year, on May 25th at Gray's Creek Conservation Area in Cornwall, Ontario.  (Here is the page for our shelter.) In an attempt to beat our donations for last year, I'm working on a special "Alex" campaign. Alex is an OSPCA kitty.


Yep, that was Alex's story in a nutshell. Every day I post a different photo of him on our Facebook page and on my Twitter feed. This year, I made a Facebook page for us, to generate a little buzz! If you're on Facebook, please like the page. I will be a happy camper. :)

Every day, I've been putting up a different photo of Alex. I'm up to ten so far. More coming in future blog posts.


We keep hoping Alex will go viral! Maybe Justin Bieber will do a retweet of one of the pics. Or not. Actually, I'm more of a Patrick Stewart fan!



I did get a hefty donation from a total stranger the other day. She had "liked" Gordon's law page, then she "liked" our OSPCA page, then she gave me a big fat donation. I was very touched by her generosity. A total stranger! That's the power of the internet I would like to harness.



Plus who can resist a three-legged cat? He sure sucked us in!



Feel free to share any of these! At the very least, you'll make Alex feel important!



Yes, Alex can be a bit risqué!"





We had donations from other strangers too, people who had found out about our walk via Facebook. There's still a lot of kindness in this world.



If you would like to sponsor one of us, click here for my page and here for Gordon's page.
The OSPCA issues tax receipts for donations over $10.

Last year, I won the award for being our shelters top first-time fundraiser, which was quite a thrill! This year I'm aiming for $1200 in donations. We'll see how that goes!

I know economic times are tough right now, so don't worry if you can't donate.  But you can spread Alex's pics around for free. :)

Next post: cool bee pics from my beehive inspections yesterday.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beautiful spring evening for a run

Gordon and I are running our first race ever this Saturday, the Run for MS 5K in Cornwall. My goal is to finish, ha ha. That should be doable as we've been running 5k at least three times a week lately

Tonight we ran along a quiet road by nearby Loch Garry (where we kayak in the summer.) It was a gorgeous night, and best of all, the mosquitoes and blackflies aren't out yet.

This was at the end of the run. We were sweatier than we look. Be glad you can't smell photos!

My runnin' man!

Me and my new Garmin Forerunner 310 XT watch, which I love. I really need to finish reading the manual.

The moon was coming out. It was just gorgeous. We heard loons tonight! I have a video of all this that Ineed to edit and post.

He likes to live dangerously! Don't worry, he wasn't in the forbidden bit of the dam. :)

Livin' on the edge, that Gordon.

Lots of little fish jumping, birds singing, and a chorus of Spring Peepers starting up.

I just love it here. And it's a five-minute drive from our house!

A boy and his marsh

We thought this was a Least Bittern, but I'm waiting for my birder friend to confirm that.

What a spectacular evening!