Tag Archives: bees


Honey Bee Swarm on a Maple Tree. Inset shows the position and size of the swarm in the tree.

On my two-mile walking route in my Kansas City suburban neighborhood, I’ve seen a lot of interesting sights, including a bobcat, foxes, deer, a stealth bomber overhead, local pilots flying their planes in formation, plenty of golfers on the golf course and children fishing in a small lake, where mallard ducks, herons, Canadian geese, turtles and muskrats have visited or made a home.

This week I was treated to a new sight — a huge swarm of honey bees.

I heard them before I saw them — a huge buzzing sound like something out of a science fiction movie. The bees were swarming around a maple tree, which you can see in the video above. Which reminds me of how beautiful are the changes in the seasons on this walk with so many flowers and colorful leaves appearing in succession throughout the year.

They had taken up temporary residence in a maple tree near a yard full of flowering shrubs, including masses of lilacs now in bloom. When I first moved to my current house fifteen years ago, honey bees were frequently seen in the Spring working the flowers of the crab apple trees that line the sidewalk on my street. But there were fewer each year. This year I didn’t see any on the crab apple flowers!

I returned the day after I took the video and saw all of the bees were quietly clustered on the tree. Only one or two were buzzing around. I read that this is normal behavior as the bees await their scouts returning with news of a new nest location in a tree hollow or other cavity, which could be up to a mile away. On the third day’s walk, the bees were gone with no sign they’d ever been there. A lone bee flew around as if to ask “Where did everyone go?”

Swarming is a honey bee colony’s way of reproduction. In the process of swarming, the original colony splits into two or more colonies. Honey Bees are non-aggressive when they swarm, since they have no hive to protect. They didn’t seem to notice me. In most climates, western honey bees (apis mellifera) swarm in the spring and early summer, when there is an abundance of blooming flowers from which to collect nectar and pollen. When these favorable conditions occur, the hive creates one to two dozen new queens. Just as the pupal stages of these “daughter queens” are nearly complete, the old queen and about half to two-thirds of the adult workers leave the colony in a swarm. Successful scouts will return to the swarm to report the location of suitable nesting sites to the other bees.

In the temporary location, the bees decide on the final nest site based on the level of excitement of the dances of the scout bees, which will lead the swarm to its new home. It’s unusual if a swarm clusters for more than three days at an intermediate stop.

In the old colony, the emerging daughter queens will fight one another until there is only one surviving queen.

One of my first blog posts here was about saving bees and their importance to pollination: Saving Bees.

“Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce.” Pollinator Partnership.

What is Pollination?

Honeybee Visiting a Sunflower Photo Print

Honeybee visits a sunflower.

Click on the photo to see the full-size photo.


Filed under Animals, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Kansas City, Natural History, Nature, Photography

Apple Blossoms

Apple Blossom and Honey Bee Postcard zazzle_postcard
I took about 300 photos of apple blossoms this weekend.  My favorite shots feature a honey bee like this one.

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year — the week when the crab apples bloom in the neighborhood. The fragrance is heavenly. I nearly swoon. You can hear the thrum of bees as they visit the blossoms. A few wasps and flies joined the party, too. Last year, winter was much colder than usual, and when the apple trees finally bloomed, a big wind storm blew through and knocked all of the blossoms from the trees. This year I’m spending a lot of time smelling the flowers since I got cheated last year.


Filed under Nature

Saving Bees

These honey bees are finding nectar on wildflowers in a park.  Bess find fewer places to find food as more areas are developed and mowed.  These wildflowers were mowed a few days later, leaving no flowers for the bees.

These honey bees are foraging for nectar on wildflowers in a park. Bees are finding fewer flowers for food as more areas are developed and mowed. These wildflowers were mowed a few days later, leaving no flowers for the bees.

My garden is a hang-out for bees of all kinds — honey bees, native bees, carpenter bees.  I love watching them going about their business and am glad to help out keeping them fed.  Bees are important pollinators.  Pollination is essential for most of our food crops. 

The honey bee population has dropped dramatically in recent years, and scientists are trying to find the causes.   They’ve discovered a number of reasons.  Below is a link to a New York Times article with comments about the bee situation from entomologists and beekeepers.   (There haven’t been many butterflies this year in the Midwest, which I’ll write about later. )

Room for Debate: Saving Bees: What We Know Now. — Lessons from the battle against colony collapse disorder, which is still decimating hives. Also check out Monarch Watch and Pollinator Partnership in my blogroll.


Filed under Agriculture, Biology, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Insects, Life, Nature, Science

Leaf Cutter Bees

A leaf cutter bee enters its home drilled in a cedar plank. Leaf cutter bees are solitary but don't mind living close to other leaf cutters.

A leaf cutter bee enters its nest drilled in a cedar plank. Leaf cutter bees are solitary but don't mind living close to other leaf cutters. Leaf cutter bees are important pollinators.

 Old cedar planks drilled with rows of small holes lean against Jackie G.’s garage in a Kansas City suburb.  Leaf cutter bees come and go from the holes, where they have built nests using bits of leaves and petals they have cut from nearby plants. 

“I smile when I see the lacey edges,” Jackie says.  “It means leaf cutter bees are in the garden.”

Despite the busy bee activity in the planks, very few of the nearby leaves and petals exhibit cut edges and none seem to be damaged very much.  Mild-mannered leaf cutter bees are important pollinators, which is one reason Jackie, a master gardener, provides the drilled planks.  Drill holes in untreated soft scrap or salvaged wood to make the bee condos. Jackie also volunteers with Monarch Watch, which is dedicated to education about and  conservation and research of the Monarch butterfly and other pollinators. The link is in my blogroll on the right.

   From Pollinator Partnership, link is in my blogroll on the right.

Pollinators need protection NOW

Declines in the health and population of pollinators in North America and globally pose what could be a significant threat to the integrity of biodiversity, to global food webs, and to human health. A number of pollinator species are at risk.

Pollinators are ESSENTIAL TO LIFE

At least 80% of our world’s crop plant species require pollination. Estimates as high as 1 out of every 3rd bite of food comes to us through the work of animal pollinators. Birds, bees, butterflies, and also bats, beetles and even mosquitos are among the myriad creatures which transfer pollen between seed plants.  This function is vital for plant reproduction and food production.


One person who makes bee condos or nest blocks, etc., from reclaimed wood is  “Andrew’s Reclaimed.”  He makes Mason bee blocks, leaf cutter bee nest blocks, bat houses, elevated pet feeders, planter boxes and more, all from reclaimed wood.  He found me on twitter.  Somehow he knew I was a bee and butterfly nerd.  Here’s a link to his shop: Andrew’s Reclaimed.  He lives in the Seattle area, but the shipping costs don’t seem that bad.  Even if you aren’t in the market for any of these items, it’s worth checking out his store, because he provides a lot of information.

These lacey edges show that leaf cutter bees have harvested part of the leaves to line their nests.

These lacey edges show that leaf cutter bees have harvested part of the leaves to line their nests.

“Anna’s Bee World” post about Bee engineers. 

Information about the Leaf Cutter Bee. 

More information about Leaf Cutter bees.

Artsy Homes for Leaf Cutter Bees.

Old planks of untreated wood drilled with holes make great homes for leaf cutter bees.

Old planks of untreated wood drilled with holes make great homes for leaf cutter bees.


Filed under Entomology, Gardening, Insects, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal

Six Random Things

I was tagged by Anna' Bee World.  In her honor, I'm posting this photo of a bee that I took this fall at a nearby nursery.

I was tagged by "Anna's Bee World." In her honor, I'm posting this photo I took of a honey bee at a nearby nursery in October.

 Anna’s Bee World tagged me.   Anna says it’s time to play the “six random things” meme.
1. Link to the person who tagged you. (Click on Anna’s Bee World above.)
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.  (I’ve written about some of these on my blog.)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (You can use the same ones as other blogging friends.)
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is published.

So here we go…six random things about me:

1.) I take my camera almost everywhere with me. I’m considered a menace. Symphony in the Flint Hills.

2.) I save news clippings, some of which I try to force on people who might be vaguely interested in the topic.  I also do the same thing with plants I’ve started from seed.  Confessions of a Savoholic.

3.) I love Star Trek, especially the original series. From any thirty in the original series, I probably can tell you which episode it is.

4.) I love road trips, especially if I don’t have to drive and am just in charge of the map. I love maps. I collect maps. I love google maps, too. Awesome Utah.

5.) I love my cat, Malcolm, who’s 16.  Malcolm, Old Friend. 



6.) I’m the happiest when both of my adult children are asleep under my roof.  It doesn’t happen very often.

Here are the links to the blogs. They touch on a wide range of interests:  humor, teaching, organic farming in England, sports, photography, book and movie reviews, poetry and daily life — and much more. 

Check them out.  Yes, I know there are seven, not six.   I’ll focus on some other notable blogs later.  Anna introduced me to some great new blogs, including Photographic Haiku.


Filed under Biology, Communication, Education, Entertainment, Entomology, Friendship, Humor, Insects, Internet, Life, Nature, Personal


A bee works on a basil blossom.

A bee works on a basil blossom.

A hard freeze is forecast for tonight so I’ve been washing off my outdoor potted plants and rolling them indoors in my decrepit little red wagon.  I’ll worry later about finding them sunshine in the walkout basement. 

I just cut the last of the basil to make pesto.  Basil is the first to die when the temperature hits freezing, so I couldn’t dawdle any longer.  Making pesto is a pain in the posterior, but I’ll be sorry if a freeze kills my basil.   The bees love the basil flowers, so I hope they can find hardier flowers tomorrow. Eventually, they’ll tuck themselves in for the winter.  Where, I wonder?

My pesto recipe is to throw all of washed leaves (picking off the leaves is tedious) into a cuisinart with some olive oil and pine nuts and then whirl until it’s finely chopped into a paste.  Form into balls on a plate and freeze. (My fingernails turn green….)  Remove the frozen balls from the plate (sometimes I have to hack them off) and put into a bag to store in your freezer.  You can toss onto hot pasta or into a marinara sauce later when you want a taste of summer time.  You can add garlic and Parmesan cheese, if you want. Salt to taste.


Filed under Biology, Environment, Food, Gardening, Homemaking, Humor, Insects, Kansas, Life, Nature, Personal, Random, Recipes

Welcome, Bees

A male carpenter bee visits a basil blossom in my 2007 garden. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

Humming Praises for the Wild Bee  (Link to New York Times article.)

 I was excited to see carpenter bees buzzing around my yard yesterday.  It was like seeing old friends, although some of these bees hadn’t lived through the winter but were the offspring of last year’s bees.  They live in holes they’ve drilled in the support beam of my deck. I’ve been assured that this won’t damage the deck.  Hmmmm.

They swoop, chase and divebomb each other.  Sometimes they pause, hovering back and forth, up and down, spoiling for another round with each other. Most of the sparring partners seem to be males.  Figures, huh. You can tell the males by the white bulls-eye on their faces.

I was sorry I didn’t have much for them to eat yet this season.  Last year, a trio of carpenter bees regularly visited my basil flowers. I’m glad something got a use out of my basil.  I didn’t do much cooking with it.  I did make some pesto, which is still in the freezer.

We’re busily digging up more lawn to enlarge our garden.  Last year, I realized I didn’t have enough bees when my squash plants didn’t produce any fruit. I had to hand pollinate — I learned a lot about the sex life of acorn squash.  This year, I’m choosing plants that bloom throughout the whole growing season to feed the bees and other pollinators.  Hopefully, we might even harvest a few crops for ourselves.  


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Filed under Gardening