Thursday, February 24, 2011

Crocus Bees, Bats and Insect Mysteries

Honey Bee in Snow Crocus February 23, 2011

It is a chilly and rainy day in the Appalachians with temperatures in the 40s. Still, it has been unseasonably warm and dry. The rain is welcome as the fire danger has been very high with over 4000 wild fires reported in Virginia.

The honey bees have been foraging pollen in the past week. They get a little pollen from the few crocuses I have been blooming. From what I learned from local beekeepers, they are also foraging on willow and alder which generally grows near waterways--over a mile away.

Honey Bee on Yellow Crocus February 23, 2011

This yellow crocus bloomed yesterday while the snow crocuses pictured at the top have been blooming for a week. Now that I know bees like crocuses, I will buy a bunch next fall. I don't want them to have to fly a mile away to the willows if they can forage right near their hive.

Hive Inspection--journal entry
February 17, 2011

I inspected the beehive last Thursday (I noticed my journal date was wrong!)--first time since last fall. My main task was to see if they had enough winter stores of honey. They appeared to have plenty--many frames still uneaten. There was some pollen stores but since I have been seeing them bring in pollen, that might be alright. I did a varroa mite check--leaving the mite board in for a week and only saw a couple of mites so that's good. I did not see any signs of other problems like nosema. It's hard to estimate the number of bees but it's over 10,000. That should be alright if the queen has been laying eggs.

I did find the queen in the second box because she is still marked from my mentor last summer. She might have been laying eggs but I wasn't about to brush away bees to see. I carefully put that frame back into the box. I just lifted the bottom box (light probably no honey but with lots of bees) and put the whole hive back together.

Back at the house, I wrote notes in my journal right away. The journal page you see above is very different from what some beekeepers do. It is not super detailed but it has enough information for me. I also am very visual so drawing the hive components lets me put notes right where I found something to note. Doing my notes afterwards allows for a quick inspection, probably no more than 20 minutes.

Dutch iris bloomed yesterday for the first time. These little bulbs only last a few days but are appreciated because they bloom so early when a week of warm weather comes around.

Bat Mystery

As I was walking in the woods, I saw a bat fly very low from the direction of our house into the woods. This is way too early for bats to come out of hibernation. I have learned that the fungus (another nosema) that is killing the bats in the east makes them come early out of hibernation and the bats perish from starvation. I hope that bat I saw doesn't die.

Insect Mystery

What is this growth on this small American Beech tree?

It's about 5 inches long and papery with something inside. I think it is some type of pupae that is overwintering. Does anyone have any ideas?

My cat, Sophie, loves to walk in the woods with me where she can climb up as high as she can get.

With days like these, spring cannot be far behind!


  1. WE see bats here all months of the year in the Piedmont of NC. WE have a pond and on a warm summer night you might see them. After a recent warm spell we had lots of honey bees in the bird seed feeders, nothing was flowering.

  2. Randy--your comment makes me hopeful that there's nothing wrong with that bat. It's been very warm the past few weeks. Thanks for your observation.

  3. Interesting post, beautiful shots.. Loved your nice blog :)
    Take care
    Marinela x

  4. Ohh..I love mysteries...sorry I cant help you out and solve any of them...
    Your kittie is adorable..

  5. Thanks for sharing your flower photos. They are beautiful. At the moment, we only have daffodils in bloom, but others will soon follow.

    I think you are right about the "growth" being a pupae case. More specifically, I think it is the cocoon of a Cecropia Moth. There's an enlargeable photo on the site I linked. If you do a search, there are a lot of other photos and even videos online that I cannot easily access due to my dial up. You might want to check a few of those out and see if you agree with my ID.

  6. Thanks everyone for the comments.

    Marvin--I hope it is a Cecropia Moth. Thanks for the link--the pupae certainly looks similar. I will keep an eye on it.