Disaster — in the form of weak hives invaded by wax moths — awaited, I was certain. So certain that I called in a veteran beekeeper to help me open my hives. True, bees were flying in and out of both hives but this summer challenged my sub par beekeeping skills more than ever. First, I got a late start in releasing new bees into the hives, Then, another two weeks passed before I discovered that the bees in the northern most hive had not freed the queen from the cage in which she travels when the bees are in transit. The worker bees are supposed to chew through a small plug of “candy” to release the queen once everyone is used to her pheromones. The queen was still alive, so I dug out the candy, managing also to let her fly away! If she did not come right back, the hive would have to make a new queen, and get an even slower start on establishing itself. I did not see her come back.
This summer was shortened on the closing end by a six week sojourn in Berlin that prevented me from feeding the bees again until this weekend — further reason to imagine unhealthy hives. “Your bees are probably starving,” said the veteran. “Such a dry summer. No nectar.”
I was completely unprepared for his next assessment: “This hive might make it though the winter.” He was commenting on the possibly queenless hive, where he found a busy Italian queen. We saw no capped honey, however, supporting his theory of starvation. We added 2:1 syrup.
In the second hive, he was even more positive: “Lots of healthy bees.” We saw normal hive behavior, including an active queen, and no mites. And we found frames with capped honey. The scene was picture perfect. Too bad I did not have a camera!
There’s still ample time for these hives to fail, but I’m mighty proud of those gals right now.
For the record, the White-throated Sparrows, singing “Oh Sam, peabody, peabody,” have started coming back as have the Dark-eyed Juncos. Shortly after I returned from Berlin, a flock of Purple Finches came in to the feeders. By the third week in September, the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were gone. Four pairs of Northern Cardinals continue in residence. Two males are different enough in appearance that I can tell them apart from the others.
The House Sparrow population returned in force this summer after a three year absence. Wily creatures that are know to be, I hope by the next breeding season they will have decamped to a less hostile habitat.
I have not spied the rabbits in some time, but the albino groundhog is ever present. In fact s/he’s helped herself to the 3 parsley plants I just moved from the herb to the veggie garden so that they would get more sun. I have to reread Michael Pollan’s essay, “Nature Abhors a Garden,” in Second Nature on his struggle with a groundhog to keep my perspective and sense of humor.
We have two squirrels and innumerable chipmunks who, so far, have committed no crimes. I saw the albino White-tailed deer for the first time in many months. S/he was grazing on the mowed, cool-season grasses of the neighboring property. In general, deer don’t seem to like the meadow as much anymore. They will eat the leaves of the bittersweet, but (whoopee) there is much less of that than in the past.
We had 11 Wild Turkey poults mid summer.
The Red Foxes are noticeably absent, and have been for the past two summers.
That’s the fall fauna update from the Kennel House.