Greens, Bees, Bears & Frogs
Late winters’ bite into spring (013) was prolonged. Plantings were delayed, needed bee work delayed too: both dependent upon warm weather.
For western North Carolina, last year (012) was tough on honeybee survival. Normal nectar flows were much less than normal. The late summer flow was almost non-existent, resulting in no late summer egg laying. This affected hives dramatically by sending the bees into winter with old bees (normally, its the stress free young bee populations that carry the hive’s survival).
As a result, WNC’s general hive loss rate was 40-70%.
At Barefoot Permaculture, we lost our second hive in 6 years.
The cold, wet spring delayed our being able to make a split (taking frames of brood, fresh eggs, honey, pollen and worker bees from our two remaining hives, placing them in the empty hive, and allowing the workers to raise a new queen) thus creating a new hive.
With warmer temperatures late in spring, we made the split successfully. Our new hive is thriving!
With the copious spring nectar and pollen flow, our gangbuster hive quickly increased in size and was headed into swarm mode. (This is nature’s way of creating more hives).
Within 3 weeks, we witnessed 3 swarms from the same hive. Two were too high up and too far out at the end of slender branches (too dangerous for us to attempt to capture). After the first swarm, we called good friends living nearby, who kept bees for a few years, and were now beeless. They scrambled to return their hive bodies to bee-readiness.
The third swarm settled much more civilly (about 12 feet above the ground). Gently we shook them into a vented 5 gallon bucket, transferred them into a “nuc” box (a smaller 5 frame box), and gifted our friends with this swarm.
Within a few days, a large swarm from elsewhere settled into one of our apple trees. We shook it into the bucket, repositioned our 3 hives to allow room in the bee yard for one more, and gently poured the new swarm into their new home. At this point, all is well!
Mama bear and her 3 three year olds continue to appear regularly. Their ritual includes going over to where the bird feeder normally is, come onto our side porch, stroll over to our small permaculture (carpet sandwich) pond, and pull up (and eat) a few Calamus roots, then stroll over through our garden and orchard.
With the last daylight visit, I grabbed my camera and moved out towards the garden. One cub was a few feet up a fence-line Elm, another disappearing at the far end of our orchard. Mama appeared 60 feet to my right, and upon seeing me, bounced-charged 4 steps towards me, huffing and clicking her teeth.
“Mama”, I said “I got the message”! and turned away and moved slowly back towards the house.
Three woodchucks plagued us for 3 weeks before moving on. One even climbed onto our planting table and consumed 2 trays of foot tall, heritage, from seed, ready for the garden plants. Previous years woodchucks have eaten young grafted fruit trees and decimated garden beds.
Ecological orcharding continues to be challenging: this spring’s wet, humid, cool weather created prime conditions for Fireblight; affecting certain apples (heritage varieties we’ve grafted onto either rootstock or other bearing trees) and a beloved Asian Pear (Chojoro) that previously seemed immune.
I had to cut out a large portion of the Chojoro, as well as 2 other, smaller apples. Heartbreak!
An American Toad (Bufo americanus) whose tadpole (toadpole) form I brought in several years past, made himself known (oh joy! It’s been an ongoing struggle to re-toad our hilltop habitat).
Our grandchildren (Hyla versicolor) Cope’s Gray Tree frogs, whose parents we imported years past as tadpoles (frogawogs) have appeared and delighted us with their green to gray to lichen-colored selves.
As we approach mid-summer, life is good, sweet, plentiful, and joy-filled…