Pollinators in my yard. 

I live in an ADU behind a house in the middle of North Portland.  The yard is nicely landscaped, with lots of flowering plants, and there are two plants in particular that have bees all over them all the time. So I borrowed Pete’s new camera and took some pics of all the species I saw.  One plant is from the genus Liatris, also known as blazing star, and the other is Penstemon.  Both are widely distributed across North America.  I found five different bee species in the first 5 minutes of watching them.  FIVE!!!  They were:
Melissodes or Eucera, possibly both.  Both are often called 'long-horned bees.’ I am having trouble telling them apart… both are in family Apidae
1. Melissodes or Eucera, possibly both. Both are often called ‘long-horned bees.’ I am having trouble telling them apart… both are in family Apidae
Bombus vesnesenskii-the yellow-faced bumble bee.  
2. Bombus vesnesenskii-the yellow-faced bumble bee. This is probably the most common bumble bee out here.
Anthidium-also called the wool carder bee, in the family Megachilidae
3. Anthidium-also called the wool carder bee, in the family Megachilidae.  The best shot I got…!
Agapostemon - a green metallic sweat bee in the family Halictidae
Agapostemon – a green metallic sweat bee in the family Halictidae
Apis mellifera-the honey bee
5. Apis mellifera-the honey bee
So the moral of the story is that planting pollinator-friendly plants really makes a difference, even in your tiny yard, and even buried in the middle of a large city.  So do it!!   (but first, make sure that they weren’t treated with neonicitinoids…)
One more pic.  I think the green sweat bee was trying to knock the long-horned bee off the flower??
DSC00172

New-bee

As many of you probably heard, I am trying my hand at beekeeping this year for the first time.  Back in January, I ordered my ‘nuc’ (short for nuclear unit), then I bought the pieces and assembled my hive, and painted it turquoise and yellow.

These are the 'deeps' in a Langstroth hive where the brood are kept.  The shallower 'supers' go on top of the deeps and contain only honey.  If your colony is growing, you can always add another deep to give them more space to have brood.
These are the ‘deeps’ in a Langstroth hive where the brood are kept. The shallower ‘supers’ go on top of the deeps and contain only honey. If your colony is growing, you can always add another deep to give them more space to have brood.

When my nuc arrived in April, I drove to the pick-up location and put the sketchily-secured container of 12,000 anxious bees, with a not-at-all-secured screened entrance into my subaru and very carefully and nervously drove 3 miles to the apiary where I am now keeping them.

 Since then, they have gone pretty-much gangbusters, filling up two brood boxes and nearly 2 supers with honey.  They also built comb for all 35 frames, since my equipment was brand spankin new.  Most beekeepers don’t get much honey in their first year, because building wax takes a lot more resources than honey- it takes approximately 8 pounds of nectar to produce one pound of wax, but my hive is doing exceptionally well.

I’ve been a pretty hands-off beekeeper so far-just enough to keep them happy.  I go there once every week or two, open up the hive to check the brood pattern and make sure the queen is still laying eggs. Since they have been doing so well, I have also been

A worker bee sitting on top of the queen excluder. The spaces are just large enough to let the workers pass through but not the queen. It is placed between the deeps and the supers, so that the queen doesn't start laying eggs in the honey supers.
A worker bee sitting on top of the queen excluder. The spaces are just large enough to let the workers pass through but not the queen. It is placed between the deeps and the supers, so that the queen doesn’t start laying eggs in the honey supers.

checking for queen cells and drone comb-signs that they are getting ready to swarm. I have been giving them extra space when necessary, by exchanging brood frames that were full of honey for empty ones so they can use them for brood, and by adding the honey supers.  In doing so, we got our first harvest of honey, and probably a pound of wax that I have been testing out lip balm recipes with.

It’s has all been really fun, to say the least.  I plan to write some more detailed posts about different aspects of beekeeping, and the projects I start with the wax, etc…, but I wanted to get you all up to speed with a quick, general explanation, and lots of nice photos (Pete is not deterred by such trivial hazards as bee allergies).
This is a queen cup, where an egg that will become a queen is layed.  If they start to fill them with future-queens, it is a sign they are getting ready to swarm.
This is a queen cup, where an egg that will become a queen is layed. If they start to fill these with future-queens, it is a sign they are getting ready to swarm.
Checking the brood pattern.  You can see some capped brood and some drone comb along the bottom edge. I'll have Pete get a picture of a good brood pattern without so many bees on it next time.
Checking the brood pattern. You can see some capped brood in the upper right corner and some drone comb along the bottom edge. I’ll have Pete get a picture of a good brood pattern without so many bees on it next time.
Cuties :)
Cuties 🙂
First honey harvest! It has a very light floral flavor, and it's delicious.
First honey harvest! It has a very light floral flavor, and it’s delicious.

New card designs

IMG_1533Hey all! I had a couple new card designs printed recently-the ladybug and the western thatching ant are brand new and I’m really happy with how they turned out.  I also found some fancy colored envelopes so each card has a matching envelope.
Here are a couple pics of the full set.  I started selling packs on Etsy if anyone is interested.  Next task: get Paxton Gate (arguably the coolest IMG_1562store in PDX) to sell them for me 😉