Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cicada Killer

We saw what we thought was a tiny baby bird hoping around in the grass….so I grabbed my camera.

It is a Cicada Killer wasp. She had a big Cicada that she was carrying back to her nest.


She is almost 2” long and the Cicada is much larger. She must have gotten tired and was struggling with it.


I had spotted her burrow earlier and just glancing at it thought it was a fire ant hill.

This gives you an idea how much larger it is.


She finally got it to the burrow and inside. She dug all that dirt out herself. I read that she uses one Cicada to lay a male egg in. The Cicada is paralyzed and becomes food for the larva that hatches. If she is laying a female egg, she might put 2 or 3 in. Females are larger and need more food.


She could have several nests in this one burrow so I wont mess with it.

They can be intimidating when you first see them since they are so large, but they normally do not sting unless stepped on or grabbed. Really quite beautiful.

Always something interesting around here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pepper Bush (Brazilian Pepper) is starting to bloom 9.16.13

I have been watching the buds on the Pepper Bush in the back yard. They only receive early morning sun. On Sat I decided to check the road coming in.


Lots of buds and I noticed a few look like they are opening.


I didn’t see any Honeybees but there are lots of Love Bugs and Mud Daubers.

I believe this is a Great Golden Digger Wasp. It is also a nectar eater.


Today, Monday, I rode my bike down and one bush was just humming…


Honeybees everywhere….


The pollen bees were loaded down with a nice bright orange pollen.


I was surprised to see how much they were getting.


They are still competing with Love Bugs and wasps of all kinds. I even saw some Lightening Bugs.


The ladies are so beautiful…..


Loaded down and still gathering.


I went back and watched my hive entrances for awhile. They were still bringing in some light pollen but also the orange.

I think these bees must bee feral or from another hive…most of my bees didn’t have the huge pollen sacs these bees do, but they are gathering more all the time.

When working they are constantly on the go. Here is a short video.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Flowering Vine 9.14.13

We noticed this flowering vine a month or so ago….tiny little flowers but it is taking over several bushes and one big tree.

This is looking up at a 60’ tree…you can see how it is covering parts of it.


Normally we try to get rid of vines that choke out other plants….I have no idea what it is….


Jim was out back one morning and could hear the hum of Honeybees…..guess we’ll keep it.

I’ve been wondering where they were getting the white pollen they’ve been bringing in.

This morning I found out. I went out back looking for a piece of wood and the vine was full of bees, so I ran back inside and got my camera.

See the pollen on her leg?


This gives you an idea how small the flowers are.


And it is only 80’ from the hives.


I guess everything has a purpose….you just need to find it.


This vine looks very invasive, but if it supplies the Honeybees with the pollen they need when other plants aren’t blooming….then I am glad to have it.

So now I have at least 3 invasive species around my yard. Pepperbush, Chinese Tallow and this pretty little vine.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Robber Screens

I purchased 2 packages of Honeybees from Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries (  www.anarchyapiaries.com). He works with natural cell and treatment free bees.

My hive did not have a Queen. Two swarms left the hive (on the L), and somehow the hive ended up Queen less….Virgin Queen may have been killed on a mating flight. I don’t know….the package has lots of young bees to help the new Queen get the hive going.

Each deep hive body only had 1 medium frame of capped honey and I have to feed the bees. Unfortunately….right now we are between flows of nectar. A “dearth” it is called. The Pepper Bush should bloom before much longer but right now all I have are a few blooms on the Bottlebrush and it is not keeping all the bees in the area happy.

What is the reason the one on the L is 2 deep boxes and one medium?…… The bottom box had the original bees. Between it and the one above, I put a sheet of newspaper…and dumped the package of bees in it…secured the Queen cage to a frame and then put an inner cover on. The newspaper has a few slits in it. The two or three days it takes them to chew their way through gives them a chance to become part of the hive and no fighting. The next box is smaller. ..called a “medium super”…I use that to feed them. There are two flat sticks with a quart jar of sugar and water mix ..upside down. The cap has holes in it…the bees can get under the jar to the “syrup”.


The “robber” bees come from other hives like these…or feral hives. According to the page I read about “robber” screens…the “robbers” are in such a hurry to get inside the hive they head straight to the entrance at the bottom…the screen stops them.  After awhile they get discouraged and leave…(after awhile could be days)

Right now I have the entrances reduced in size. I may be able to open them up a little later today.

The smell of honey in the hive and the sugar syrup draws them.


The board on the top has a “bee” space behind it for the resident bees to come and go.  This is looking down into the bee opening.


I guess they remember the way home….the “robbers” are so busy on the screen they don’t go up and over. If they do figure it out we can lay a board across the top and close off most of the entrance.

I also put out an open feeder to give the “robbers” something to eat and to pull their attention away from the hive. It is in the front yard….hives in the back.


I took 3 furring strips…stapled window screen to them for the bees to walk on. The sticks float. Otherwise, the bees would drown. I can see at least 2 that didn’t make it and a lot of red ants. Had to put vaseline on the plant hanger to keep them off.

They can go through a quart of syrup in a very short time.  It may have helped.


The number of bees on the “robber screens” is much less this afternoon. The open feeder is empty and has been cleaned out.  I’ll give them some syrup first thing in the morning.

I checked the hives yesterday…both Queen cages were empty. The reason they come in a cage? They may not have been in the hive the “package” of bees came from and it gives them a chance to get their scent (pheromones) through the hive and become accepted as the new Queen…other wise they might kill her.

So much to learn…I just hate doing it at their expense.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


We have many butterflies that hang out in the yard.

This one is probably my favorite. The Tiger Swallowtail. It can have a 5” wingspan.  The colors are so sharp on this one I don’t think it is very old.


This is a Zebra Longwing. It has definitely been around awhile. The colors are fading and there is a bit of hind wing missing.


I believe this is a Peacock Butterfly. It’s a small butterfly and we can have a dozen or more at once. There is a ground cover vine (that is impossible to get rid of) that has a yellow flower they seem to like. I keep hoping the bees will develop a taste for it…but no luck so far.


A Viceroy…similar to a Monarch but with the coloring of a Queen. A very deep rust color.


The only thing in the yard the bees and butterflies seem to agree on are the Bottlebrush bushes.  The butterflies like the Lantana and Jatropha….the Pagoda Plants and the Spanish Needle.  So Far, the bees don’t seem to go to any of them, other than one or two for pollen on the Jatropha.

We don’t see many of the Luna Moth since they like the night and their life span is so short. They mate, lay eggs and then die. Living only a week or two. The Sweet Gum tree is one of their host plants and we have several around us. I guess I’ll have to spend more time outside at night…..uhhhhh…..maybe not…mosquitos.