Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bee Trees

Left to their own devices, bees do not live in wooden boxes.  They swarm, looking for a nice hollow tree.  When the Europeans first brought honey bees to North America, the native people would find that the "white man's flies" arrived a few miles ahead of the colonies of the white men themselves.  The swarming bees arrived first, with the swarming Europeans following behind.

Behind my friend Carl's house grows a majestic bee tree.  You can see the ladder propped behind the tree.  The ladder was useful in getting up close to the bee's main entrance.

Way up the trunk, where the branches all go in different directions, there is a large hole.  Bees come in and go out as they have for years.  Carl says one of his hives swarmed one day, and scout bees discovered a huge hollow in the tree.  They've been there ever since.

They come and go from a couple different places.  We debated for a while whether there is one colony of bees with two entrances, or two completely different colonies in different hollows of the tree.  The bees know.

These days the bee trees in our country have been largely wiped out by mites and disease.  But Carl's bees are perking along, year after year.  Perhaps the surviving bees will soon begin to spread again, bringing their powers of pollination with them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tree Plantin' Time

I hear that fall is an excellent time to plant new trees.  If you are thinking about adding some tallish trees to your land, you might consider that here in Western North Carolina, trees provide most of our nectar for honey.  In the spring you'll be wanting Black Locust trees and Tulip Poplars for June honey.  Sourwood trees provide the most sought out local August honey. 

Trees will also provide the bees with resin to make propolis, which the bees use as both glue and as an immune system for the hive. 

Finally, I've also heard that it helps to plant a smallish tree with low branches not far from the front of your hives.  That gives the girls a convenient low branch to land on when they swarm, making it easier for you to catch them and put them in a new hive.  I don't know if it works or not.  My bees seem to like to go to the very highest branch they can find.