Friday, August 7, 2009

Bees in my bonnet

"You've got bees in your bonnet," my Dad would say. He'd say it to Mom a lot too. Our family often enjoys projects that we have a tendency to work on with a singleness of mind that's kind of scary. And Dad, he can get bees in his bonnet too.

This photo is of a bumble bee flying to my Oriole feeder (sugar water feeder). It's the first time I've ever seen bumble bees sip nectar from a feeder. In the past the visitors would always be ants, yellow jacket wasps, hummingbirds, finches and Orioles that drop by to sip from these feeders. The fact that bumble bees came to this source of nectar is a sign of how bad our summer has been.

There must be a dearth of nectar in my neighbourhood. That's not surprising considering how cold and rainy it has been this summer. I've read that many flowers will bloom but unless the temperature reaches a certain high, they won't put out nectar.

Last week our family vacationed in Tobermory, Ontario. It's about a 2 hour drive north of Toronto (4 hours from my home south of Toronto). We go every year because we love it so much. It's the scuba diving capital of Canada - crystal clear waters and about 30 shipwrecks to dive on as well as giant interesting geological rocks.

We also love hiking the trails of the Bruce Peninsula. Our favourite trail leads up to the top of cliffs that open out into a huge rocky grotto. These are smooth flat rocks that are great to sunbathe or picnic on.

So I had a week away from my bees. It was hard to be away from them. The last I had been in the hive was during my friend Henry's inspection and we found queen cells.

But I found I still had bees in my bonnet. I just couldn't stop thinking about them. I looked for them everywhere I went in Tobermory. I didn't have to look very hard. Milkweeds and Queen Anne's Lace were in bloom on the edges of the camp site and the bees were happily swarming all over them. I could smell the sweet intoxicating scent of the milkweed from several feet away.

Of course there were also predators on the milkweed as well, trying to take advantage of a meal that might fly within their reach. I saw a dragonfly and a crab spider, poised to snatch a meal if the opportunity presented itself.
While entering the dive shop in town I looked down at the steps and there was a worker bumble bee. I could tell right away that something wasn't right with her. People had stepped over her to enter the shop but I knew it was only a matter of time before someone stepped on her.
I picked her up by her wings and placed her on a leaf. I learned the trick of picking up honey bees by their wings from my beekeeping friend Paul. He assured me that honey bees can't twist around to sting you.
I wasn't so sure if the bumble bee could twist around to sting but I decided to risk it. As it turned out, the little creature was too preoccupied with its own issues to sting me.
I placed her on a potted purple annual flower that looked like a daisy. I hope she was okay.
We'd called home a couple times during the week and found out that the weather was fair and sunny which is a real boon from all the overcast cold days and rain.
The weather in Tobermory was fine and fair as well, just one day with rain in the morning but then it cleared and the sun came out.
And on the long ride home a week later I was still thinking about my bees and planning my next hive inspection.
There's no question, I definitely have bees, several thousand bees, buzzing around in my bonnet.
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