Fringe Box

Socialize

Twitter

Beekeeper’s Notes September 2016: Ghostly Bees

Published on: 1 Sep, 2016
Updated on: 1 Sep, 2016

Hugh Coakley, who keeps bees in Worplesdon, talks about observing the hive entrance for clues on what is going on inside and the strange sighting of ghostly bees around this time of year.

Beekeepers spend a lot of time observing the comings and goings of the bees at the hive entrance.

Hive at the bottom of my garden. It is very pleasant to wander down to look at the bees at the end of a day at work. The chickens were interested in the bees as a food source but learned it was not a good idea once they were stung.

Hive at the bottom of my garden. It is very pleasant to wander down to look at the bees at the end of a day at work. The chickens were interested in the bees as a food source initially but soon learned it was not a good idea once they were stung.

You can tell a lot about what is going on inside the hive without actually opening it up and disturbing the bees. High frequency take-offs and landings, like Heathrow, can point towards a busy, strong hive.

Clustering around the entrance could mean that it is too hot inside or not enough space for the number of bees.

Bees bringing in pollen are an indication that the queen is laying as she should be.

You can also get a feel for what plants the bees are visiting by the colour or the appearance on the bee of the pollen they are bringing back home.

Different pollen here - not sure what it is but it could be copper beech

Red – orange pollen here – not sure what it is but it could be copper beech. It needs to be viewed through a microscope to identify it with any certainty.

Different pollen, possibly Himalayan Balsam. Click to enlarge.

Different pollen, white to creamish, possibly thistle.

One of the most striking is Himalayan balsam which gives the bees a white coating. They look like a ghostly apparition as they float into the hive.

Ghostly bee coming in to land

Ghostly bee coming in to land. Strange sight of a white coloured bee. While it looks odd, it is only pollen from the Himalayan balsam. Click on the photo to enlarge it in a new window.

Himalayan Balsam can take over a river bank and very effectively out-compete other species. Probably not a good thing.

Himalayan balsam can take over a river bank and very effectively out-compete other species. A very pretty flower but probably not a good thing at large in this country.

Himalayan balsam is popular with bees but less so with people in the UK. It flowers through the summer and into the autumn so it is a welcome source of forage for the bees.

Not so welcome to other indigenous plants that get smothered out by it. It is prolific and can take over a river bank very quickly. You can see volunteer conservationists pulling it up on river banks each year.

Ghostly bee being greeted at the hive entrance.

Ghostly bee being greeted at the hive entrance. Click to enlarge.

The bees don’t know whether it is a local (good?) plant or an invasive (bad?) plant. They will go for anything within reach which will give them the protein (pollen) or carbohydrate (nectar) they need.

It’s also the time when the wasps are casting around looking for food. They will be fended off by a strong hive but, any weakness, and they will go in in great numbers and clear the hive out.

Wasp trying its luck

Wasp trying its luck to get in but without success here as it is a strong colony. Click to enlarge.

Wasp hovering around, looking for an opportunity to nip into the hive and steal some honey.

Wasp hovering around, looking for an opportunity to nip into the hive and steal some honey. Click to enlarge.

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.