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Assorted Wildlife, Beekeeping, Birds, Books, Articles, TV and/or Rants, Dunnocks, Honey Bees, Latin Literature, Queen Bees

How’s this for a Queen Bee, only it’s a bird!

De ramis cadunt folia,
nam viror totus periit,
iam calor liquit omnia
et abiit;
nam signa coeli ultima
sol petiit.

Iam nocet frigus teneris,
et avis bruma leditur.
(taken from a 13th century ms., and published in Mediaval Latin Lyrics, trans. Helen Waddell.  Norton 1977.  For translation, see below)

On the lookout for a little help

This is one bird that not only knows how to keep warm, but also knows how to get more than one male to help with the housekeeping!  These little dunnocks (photo provided by http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/) have been frequent visitors to the garden this summer and together with their sister bees provide some inspiration, albeit of a bird/insect type, after reading about the latest doings among humans, such as http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/nyregion/bus-segregation-of-jewish-women-prompts-review.html.   This along with the seeming relative absence of female involvement in evolution (see  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013gmh1  for ‘The Origins of Us’ with Dr Alice Roberts, a play-it-safe homage to the likes of ‘Hunter Man’, magnificent male lions etc.  Not too mention some pretty modern, idealised, light-skinned drawings of ape men–yes I am talking about you, Mr Homo Erectus January.  A deeply tediously predicatable view from a female scientist) and ‘in rut’ (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01697dq#synopsis Autumn Watch and the red deer rut on Exmoor.  Some of the ignored females had to resort to humping each other to get a little camera action.  Twas ever thus.)

If all this sexism in the science community gets you down like me (then we are the only two in the country for whom it is a problem), read more about our sister dunnocks here  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunnock.

And what about those bees?  Here’s the report:

We have been feeding both hives with sugar syrup solution for about a month now and they keep sucking it down, so we will keep feeding them until they stop.  Because I have been away (in the States partly where I was treated to bright red cardinals and neon blue jays, as well as chipmunks!), we’ve not had the time for a full examination of both hives until this past Sunday.   That doesn’t mean they haven’t been up to no good, as my husband, while trying to mow the lawn, got stung-you guessed it-on the head.  They just become total cranks in autumn when it comes to the lawn mower.

So Sunday.   Main Hive:  I don’t know if it’s just my imagination but this hive, which is working with the new queen, is stuffed to the gills with bees.  So a good-sized crew for going into winter.  Not to mention that the brood box is packed out with stores.  There must have been a bit of a food shortage since the last time we had a real look (probably accounting for some of their crankiness) as there is no honey left in the super. They are still bringing in pollen, though.  So, although they look relatively set, we’ll keep feeding them until they stop eating.

And I am tempted to stop right now, after their performance on Sunday.  For the most part they were good, but a combination of some drops of sugar syrup spilling and shaking a fair few frames to check for chalk brood (see previous post), they got got a bit tetchy during the end.  Our thanks for spoon feeding them is that they found that bit of exposed ankle flesh around my boot with the result that my foot has looked like the Michelin Man’s (does he have feet?) for the past day or so.  It would serve the madams right if we cut off the food supply.  Don’t worry and don’t report me for cruelty to animals, we’ll keep laying on the feed… (You will note that I am not one of those sentimental beekeepers.)

Other observations:  a smattering of brood on a few frames.  Also, we have to address over the next month when things quiet down the ventilated floor situation.  Our bee inspector pointed out that ours was not working properly.  So we will need to remove it from the hive and see what’s wrong with it.

Swarm Hive:  The immediate impression upon removing the roof and crown board was how much smaller a group this is.  I would hazard a guess and say it is smaller than the hive we went into last summer with.  And, although they have improved with building stores, it’s not enough to eliminate concern about their fate over winter.  They also continue to bring in pollen, but there are still four relatively empty frames in the brood box, a few not even drawn out.  Now, we did go into last winter with the same stores scenario, but the hive was bigger so I had a bit more confidence in their being able to take care of themselves with a little help from us.

I know what we should do, which is combine the hives, but I am reluctant to do that for various reasons.  So, as with last year’s hive, we’ll give them all the help we can and see what happens.


Down from the branches fall the leaves,
A wanness comes on all the trees,
The summer’s done;
Now goes the sun.

Sharp frost destroys the tender sprays,
Birds are a-cold in these short days.


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