Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bad Time for Boys

This could be a post about society and whether schools are set up so that boys have a more difficult time, or it could be about bees!

All three hives are active now, even with only a bit of honey on top. I see workers coming in loaded with pollen -- they look like ladies wearing jodphurs of bright colors. And they fly like lumbering cargo planes, fully loaded. Pollen is usually a sign that there are babies to feed -- and there are, but not many. Despite the mild weather, the hives are shutting down for the winter. Workers will live longer than summer foragers -- even though there is year-round forage here. Fewer babies will be born, and stored honey and pollen will be eaten to keep warm and fed while the days are short.

Any hive which tried swarming now would face overwhelmingly bad odds. Spring is the time for expansion and mating, with lengthening days, abundant forage, and increasingly warm weather. That's when new queens go on mating flights and start new colonies. That's when hives rear drones to make sure their queens and other queens have plenty of choice in mates.

In fall? Drones are just a drag on the colony. Bees have a pretty direct way of dealing with it. I watched one of my hives hauling out a drone as in this video (which isn't mine). I wish I knew how the bees got rid of the drones. Do they sting them? Their wings are intact, but they don't seem able (or willing) to fly. And yet there weren't piles of unneeded drones all over. What could be happening? I knew ants cleaned up in front of the hives, but I also had seen some other predators around.

The yellow jackets are feasting:

I think the second bee body is a headless drone, and they're surrounding another, probably fresher, one.

They tugged at it like hyenas.

Some wasps moved in and out, perhaps with bits of bees cut off, or perhaps doing some other activity. I know I watched a wasp carefully cut up and carry off a butterfly, so pieces make sense.

As long as they're staying out of the hive, I suppose I can't begrudge them a meal, although it would be easier if drones weren't so benign and yellow jackets so feisty.


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

I hate the sight of yellow-jackets this time of year. I know I shouldn't, but last year they knocked out one of our hives. They even learned to defeat the robbing screens we put on in the fall, and deftly flew over them with bee pupae in their clutches. Ugh. Makes me shudder. It is interesting to watch them though, providing they're not lurking at the hive entrance!

I always thought that drones were just pushed out, and then refused reentry to the hive by the guards, but I can't say I've ever actually seen it happen myself. Our hives seem to boot the drones early though. Most of our drones are usually gone by the end of July, but that seems to be tied very closely with our native bloom cycles, as manicured gardens up here are relatively few and far between! Did you get any late summer honey this year?

Michelle said...

Ah, such drama in the garden - spurned lovers and mayhem! It's worthy of an HBO series. It is fascinating to watch the critters doing their thing in the garden. I've been watching the tits feast on the scale that is infesting my Meyer lemon tree. They are doing a good job of cleaning it up.

Stefaneener said...

CVS, I confess I am a little nervous, watching them right in front of the hives. So far they seem satisfied with the ejected. . .

We get honey in the summer, not a huge amount, but irrigation and dense city planting helps. I tried to harvest early and fairly lightly this year.

Sorry for the wasp trauma.

Michelle, it really is constant. I would love scale-eating birds!