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From the time of the first hard frost in fall 2010 until Jan 6 2011 (when a big cold front come through), we had honey bees coming to our back porch hanging around to be fed. During that time I mixed up for them (and they put away) over 2 gallons of apple juice, 5 lbs of sugar and one big jar of honey, It was diluted with some warm water of course so that the sugar would dissolve.
I always try to have lots of blooming plants for the bees during the warm months so the bees like my yard. But this time they kept coming even when the freeze had killed all the plants. Does that mean that they didn't have enough food to get them through the winter so they kept going out searching for flowers/food?
We still don't know who the bees belong to or if they are wild.
I am curious to know if anyone else has had this happen (the honey bees show up on your porch expecting to be fed.) If so, what did you feed them? If this happens next year I want to be more prepared. We have fruit trees so of course I want to help the bees make it through the winters if they need the help.
Are you sure they were originally coming to hang around and wait to be fed? That seems sort of abstract for a bee brain. Maybe they came for some other reason (water?), but then when you started giving them free food, they came back and brought all their colleagues.
Well it seemed to me that the reason a bunch of bees would hang around my porch was limited to food because like you say, they have limited reasoning ability. Before the freeze there were lots of flowers and basil for them to gather from the garden near the porch. After the freeze, they came as usual, but the flowers were all dead. Yep, they are certainly quick to tell their friends! Since I don't know much about bee behavior, I am wondering if foraging during the winter is normal. I guess I thought bees hibernate in the winter.
Somebody in the neighbourhood might be getting some really yummy honey all year round now that you do that. Anyway for whatever reason it seems like the right thing to do. Maybe you should start up your own bee hive too as you seem to have an affinity with them.
They (the honey bees) were back last week (end of January) to be fed. Yep, Fruity, I would like to start up a bee hive, but don't have time for it this year. I still wish I could find out where those bees are coming from.
We are in the middle of a winter storm (the high today was -10 C and we'll have a low of -13 C tonight). Tomorrow and Thursday will be about the same. Guess that means the snow will be around a while and the bees won't.
I much prefer the bees...
Lady pearl, glad to see some one from home on here, I'm from WF. Lived off of Sunset dr. I know there was a guy over by the base that had a lot of hives spread out through wichita county, maybe it was some of his.
Yep, my husband works out at the base. He took me to see that guy that you are talking about a few years ago to see what is involved with bee keeping. I don't remember his name right now but he made it sound like it was only worth doing if you had a LOT of hives and I am just not able to do that. If I ever have a hive it would because I'm first and foremost a gardener and need my flowers pollinated. He was/is a nice guy and very knowledgeable. If I ever do have a hive he would be able to teach me about caring for it. However, we live nine or ten miles from him so I don't think the bees coming to my house are his.
So what took you away from beautiful (snicker) Wichita Falls?
We PCS'd to Ft. Campbell, Ky and now here. Check out top bar bee hives, they are supper simple to build. And if all you want them for is for pollination, I would think that would cut out alot of the things that beekeepers normaly do.
Depending on what part of Iowa Park your in they could be Paul's from Wichita Valley Nursery, he lives out that way off of river rd I think, out there just past Burnett park.
Those top bar bee hives look like they would work just right for us -thanks for mentioning them. I went to Paul Dowlearn's site (Wichita Valley Nursery) and read some of his newsletters. Very interesting and informative. I didn't figure out where he lives, though, so don't know if the bees could be his. I'll try to do more research when have more time. Thanks for the info.
I have a wild hive in a hickery tree on some land I have outside Ft Campbell, Ky, I used to love to watch them working. I could get right up next to the hive and they never got agressive. I'm looking forwaed to being able to catch the swarm one of these days and start my own hives. But for now, just knowing that they are there and doing well, waiting for my return, keeps a smile on my face.
Yep, it's good to know there are wild bees that are doing well since "colony collapse disorder" began a couple years ago (many hives have died out). Hopefully more people will become organic gardeners and plant plenty of bee friendly crops and flowers. Here is a picture my daughter took of a wild hive in a tree that was blown over during a recent storm along the trail where she and her friends ride their mountain bikes. The colony has since moved from the fallen tree. She said it looked like they were dismantling the combs (to reuse the wax maybe? Do they do that?)
Always nice to find a wild hive, if not afracanized. To bad you did'nt have a swarm trapp handy for the bee's to move into. could have had your own hive then. I'm down here in Wichita this week, man it's kinda cool here, it was in the 80's when I left Tucson. Cant wait to get back, but I'll miss family when I go back home. Nice to visit, but ready to get back to my gardening.
I have not been on here for a while so just now read your post. It was pretty chili today but we have had some unseasonably warm weather recently which is making the trees think it's spring. : (
Don't know about the wild hive my daughter found on the bike trail but the bees that are still coming to my back porch are very sweet. They have not been aggressive at all but do find me no matter where I am in the yard and buzz around to tell me they need more food. Once I fill their dishes up again, they mind their own business. Guess I am going to end up feeding them till the flowers bloom around here.
Yep, it is already time to start planting the cool weather stuff and I haven't even started yet. Two weeks ago we had snow on the ground. The weather sure flip flops here. So you have family in Wichita Falls?
Yeah my sister still lives there, and I still have a lot of my cousins there. Came down to help my sister out. Planted 7 grapvines yesterday and an oak tree. New house on a bull dozzed lot and did'nt leave any trees. Wanted to plant some fruit trees for her but just ran out of time. Oh well, it'll give me something to do for the next time I come out to visit. I cant believe it started out raining then getting hot, and by the time I started planting the oak it was blowing cold. Welcome back to Tx, right!
Yes. This place has wacky weather; which makes gardening a challenge (understatement.) I'm not brave enough to try grape vines yet. Peach trees do okay though so we planted some right after moving here; they bore fruit for the first time in 2010. Can't think of anything yummier than a ripe peach right off the tree. When spring finally gets here at least I know there will be bees to take care of the blooms (since I have been feeding them all winter)( on warm days only, of course). We noticed that they show up to be fed only when the temp is around 50 degrees F (or higher.) Today I was filling the plates every 30 minutes and noticed that some of them are flying off toward the northwest and some of them are flying off to the east. We may actually have two hives mooching off us! : D
Kudos for helping your sister with her new home/yard/garden. Mighty nice of ya!
Gotta take care of family, sounds like I'll be coming back shortly, to plant lots of fruit trees. Gotta go home and tend to my own for a while though. Sounds like you might have several hives near by. I dont think they travel far. The grap vines are easy, keep ther roots semi dry and prune heavily in Jan. if you want fruit. Oh, and dont fertilize much.
Yep, there are more bees everyday; hover flies too. Are you going to plant a pecan tree for your sister? If so, what kind is good for this area? We planted two pecan trees in 2008 but it was a hot dry year, and even though I watered them they died. Don't think I'm ready for grapes because I've heard the birds are hard to keep off and they get diseases. Would like to grow muscadines or scuppernongs, though.
No, just an oak tree. The birds do bother the graps but they make netting that you can cover them with, to keep them from eating them. When I lived there we had a paper shell growing in our yard, and it produced heavily. As to what kind does the best there, that would be a good question for Smith's Garden center. I'm going to try to come back to Wichita some time this summer and plant some fruit trees for her also. I think she wants a Granny Smith apple, and a Santa Rosa plum tree. And maybe some tame blackberry bushes.
I have a long post from my daughter that might be of interest:
It makes sense that they would come back if she was putting out sugar water and honey and fruit juice, why forage for berries when you can go to Walmart? Her giving them honey is the worst, because the honey can be imported from other countries and carry with it fungus and diseases that don't make people sick, but can wreck a colony. There's one virus that was a problem in Alaska, and if your hive shows symptoms, you're required to quarantine your bees, burn everything inside, and bury it more than 18 inches below ground. You can keep the wooden boxes, but if you do you have to take a blow torch and darken every exposed surface. Alaska has banned the import of comb due to this virus, as it lives in the larva and nurse bees.
A worker bee lives about 6 weeks, and what burns out on them are the flight muscles. If I were to winter the bees (which I probably will, but I would take the hive to Big Lake for storage.) I would keep a jar of sugar water on the top of the super so they wouldn't have to fly anywhere, giving them the longest life possible after they wake up next spring. Also, you give them sugar water as it produces the least amount of waste product, which is a killer for the bees since they don't poop for the winter. (At least up here. In other places they may take cleansing flights during the occasional warm spells.) It's better than honey for them. Once the weather turns cold, I think like late August? (I wrote it down in my notes) You load them up with sugar water, going through 30-50 pounds of sugar, and they should have no reason to leave the hive except for cleansing flights. Also it insures that they have a store for spring since they'll wake up before most of the flowers.
Greetings Mstella! Thank you for the info from your daughter. I'm not sure if she understood that I am not a bee keeper, just a gardener who happens to have a lot of bees coming to my yard (during warmer months) and to my back porch (during the winter.) The honey I fed them at first is from just across the border in Oklahoma so hopefully no diseases were spread. At the time, I didn't know what to do, just wanted to find out who the bees belonged to (but I still don't know.) After they ate that first jar of honey, I have been giving them a mix of sugar, water, and apple juice. They like it a lot - I have lost count of how many gallons of apple juice and pounds of sugar they have eaten (but it is quite a bit.)
I wish people would leave the bees some of their own honey to overwinter with (isn't that why they make it?) so they would have something to eat and not have to forage in the winter. I don't really want to feed these bees, (and soon won't have to because spring flowers will be blooming) but since I don't know where they are coming from, I don't know if they have food to last till there are flowers to support them.
If the sugar water is in jars, won't the bees drown? I have found that they do drown if the dish and juice mixture is deeper than a saucer. I have to fill he saucers up pretty often but don't mind doing it if it will keep them from drowning.
that is really nice of you. You would wonder if all their honey WAS taken away. And I agree, how do the 'owners' think the poor bees will survive. Sounds like you re providing 'someone' with big healthy bees for their summer honey production. I always thought they went to sleep in the winter but daughter says no.
Yep, I kind of thought bees hibernate through the winter too since they had stored up honey and there aren't any flowers to go to anyway. But everyday that is above 50 degrees, they are out there buzzing around waiting to be fed. No one has been stung so it isn't a problem except when I run out of apple juice or sugar - somebody has to go to the store. I hope to have a hive someday just so that I can be sure my garden is pollinated.
I talked with Laura about this again. She can be so --- militant some times. Daughters. Can't live with them (or they with you) and sure wouldn't want to live without them. She asked if they were honey bees. I don't know. She said sugar water was okay, but not honey. If they camp out on your door step then they probably aren't wearing out their little wing muscles. This is a totally foreign topic to me. I still think you are helping the poor bees survive the winter. That is what counts. Laura can be such a putz! lol
Mstella, Somehow I missed answering this. Yes these were honey bees. As the spring progressed I stopped feeding them and they quit coming (as I expected). The sad thing is that we are in a very serious drought now and there are very few honeybees around since there's not many flowers (they are not blooming from lack of rain.)
I neglected to thank you for passing on the information from your daughter. It was helpful and I appreciate it very much! (Guess I got busy and forgot to come back to this thread.)
Hopefully the honeybees are going to survive this heat and dry weather and make a good comeback next year. If they come in the winter we'll feed them sugar water again.
LadyPearl, So kind of you to feed the bees. I have tons of flowers and a hive in my yard which my beekeeper neighbor tends, but every bit of help counts so I may follow your fine example and put up "bee feeders."
Hi IIIig1, You are very fortunate/blessed to have the flowers and a helpful neighbor that knows about bees! We have had a brutal summer (very hot and dry) so we have not had many bees (since very few plants are surviving this weather). During the summer, and this one is no exception, we have a lot of wasps building nests under the eaves of the house. They also like sugar water so I have not put out any for the honey bees because I don't want to attract the wasps - they need to hunt for their food in the yard/wild. I sure hope there are flowers somewhere around here for the bees.
LadyPearl, I am studying to be a beekeeper and I get my first bees next month. From what I've read, I think they need to be fed a mix of sugar water (2:1 ratio) until the plant nectar is present. This will help them survive the months without plant blossoms.
I don't think you want to feed them year round because then their honey is just going to be from your sugar syrup (and not from the foliage around your area). One of the great qualities of local honey is the ability to help with alergies to local plants. By feeding them only sugar water I think this is defeated. But then again, I'm new to this and hope I'm not spreading false info.
It is very neat when you have friendly bees visiting.
Glad to hear that the bees are doing well there in Charleston (nice pictures!)
I only feed the bees that one winter (Nov. 2010 -March 2011) because so many off them came and were searching for flowers or something to eat. I was happy to do it because bees are so important (for gardens/fruit trees) and because they are so cute and interesting. Last summer was a drought and we didn't have many bees come around. And this winter I haven't seen many either.
I recently went to the Wichita Valley Bee Keeper Association meeting so I can begin learning about bee keeping. They told me that the book "Bee Keeping For Dummies" actually has a lot of very helpful information for a beginner so I'll probably buy that soon. So glad to hear that you are also studying to be a bee keeper. It should be interesting for us both! Have you heard of the kind of hive called "Top Bar Hive?" I'm thinking of getting that kind. They seem easy to care for.