Bee Hotel: How you can help our wild bees

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Image: About Flickr.com by Jürgen Mangelsdorf

 

Beekeeper General

Unlike honeybees, most wild bees are solitary loners. Only bumblebees and a few other bee species live in a social community, as people commune together. Wild bees make the most significant contribution to pollination, but the population of animals depends on the food and nesting availability. In recent years, horticulture has changed, the supply of flowering plants is dwindling, and suitable nesting sites are becoming scarce.

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Urban and suburbs are expanding rapidly, which, destroys habitat, leading to the endangerment of an ever-growing number of bee species. Fortunately, the discussion about bee mortality is leading to many people to rethinking the issue, more and more gardeners are providing the wild pollinators with flowering plants and even building nesting sites – the so-called “wild bee hotel.”

Hotel, Sweet Home

Actually, the term “hotel” is a misnomer, because in a hotel most guests stays are brief, do not change anything then leave soon. Wild bees, however, cleanse their future nest before moving in, build dividing walls between the brood cells and provide food stores for offspring. Depending on the species, a larva can spend up to a year or more in such an enclosure before it hatches from its cocoon. Few hotel guests clean the room, renovate it and lay down food stores in their rooms. However, the popularity of wild bee hotels is increasing to the benefit of the wild pollinator community.

The nesting site depends on food supplies

A wild bee hotel can be placed in any garden, on any balcony. However, it depends on the local food supply, this determines whether or not wild bees will settle in the bee hotel. Garden owners are often disappointed when they have established a nesting a, and no wild bees can be found to have moved in later. Maybe the food supply in the immediate vicinity of the bee hotel is insufficient? Wild bees use nesting sites only if sufficient plants are found within a radius of around 335 yards (0.2 miles) that are suitable as food sources.

Also, most wild bees are true to their birthplace, so they find a nesting site near their birthplace. If all conditions are met, the animals accept the offer after one to two years.

Building a wild bee hotel – the conditions

 

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Image: About Flickr.com from science year

 

All bee species are similar in that they like it warm and dry. Especially dry. A nesting spot should always be placed in a dry place. Penetrating rainwater can, for example, result in a fungal infestation, so particular attention should be paid to the choice of location. The entrance should always be clear, and the location should be at least a foot above the ground level. The entrance to the nest should get some direct sunlight to ware the nest in the morning or by noon if possible.

A simple bee hotel consists of a wooden box filled with hollow plant stems. For protection against birds, a simple wire mesh can be suspended over the front, so the predator can’t reach the nest.

Simple nesting aids for balcony, carport, and terrace

The University of Nebraska presents simple ways to make a wild bee hotel in a few simple steps, http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2256.pdf

All you need is bamboo, an empty tin can – alternatively a small wooden box – and some cotton wool. The bamboo tubes are sawed so that they are longer than the can. It is crucial that no sharp edges are left over, so if necessary, once again with a file smooth the edges. One side of the bamboo is closed with cotton wool – this side comes down into the can. The bamboo should fill the tin can bulging and the can will at best find a full sun. However, here it must be ensured that it is absolutely firm and cannot fall even in strong winds, at best, it is buried in a flower box.

Another possibility is a stored tree trunk, which is equipped with various large holes.

Important in the selection of simple materials

The basic requirement for a species-appropriate and functioning wild bee hotel are the materials used. In no case should glass tubes be used, even if this would allow events to be observed inside. It almost always promotes fungal infection, which destroys the brood.

The use of wood must be wood that has been deposited, and there should be no formation of cracks in the hole – this is one reason why wild bees would avoid such nesting aids. After drilling, no wood fibers should adorn the holes. Therefore, bamboo tubes should be checked carefully before they are used, as they often have splintered edges. If necessary, you must smooth out with sandpaper.

Pine cones are just as suitable as straw or perforated bricks. Ash, for example, is well suited for the construction of a nesting box. As a natural nesting aide, rotten deadwood can be used wonderfully. Simply placed on the balcony or on the terrace and the animals use the existing holes.

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Beginning Beekeeping the Reading List

Want to start beekeeping? Or, want to be an armchair beekeeper as I was for 18 years? Where should you start? In my humble opinion (IMHO), this post is about what you should start reading. Hopefully, it is fall or early winter, and the local beekeeper association will offer classes you can take starting in January if you are going to do the hands-on beekeeping. You really should take a class, it fills in a ton of stuff, and there will be experts to answer all your questions. Plus, there is the little bit about how to handle the bees, the hive, proper use of the safety equipment, and how to examine the frames of brood, you know the experience part. Really, there is nothing like actually doing the handling of bees, you need someone to walk you through it. Books though are full of knowledge that you can apply when you are actually experiencing the bees.

Okay, you’re one of the other people, and you want to read the material before you show up to class, or you just kinda want to know what you’re getting into, well here is the recommended reading list in order of depth and importance. You should start by reading… wait, wait, what kind of beekeeper do you want to be Organic/Natural or Common Practice? To my mind, you really need to read both schools currently because we are ALL in a battle to SAVE the honey bee. Though personally, the preference is to be totally natural, most people agree that is a difficult path nowadays. Those people that are having success seem to be isolated in some way mostly geographically.

Let’s say you want the common approach and you want an intro to the hobby stem to stern. Then what was recommended to me, it seems to be the handbook, is Beekeeping for Dummies 4th Edition (2017) or later by Howland Blackiston. I have read it cover to cover and reverence it often. Warning: Get the most recent published edition, beekeeping is quickly evolving to battle varroa mites and hive beetles, and you want to be up to date on your information. Yes, saving money is great, but trust me once you drop hundreds of dollar on equipment, hive, and bees you don’t want to miss out on the best current information that could help you be successful keeping the bees alive.

What about if you are a fan of the Idiot’s Guide series of books? I read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping (2010) too, and though it came out in 2010, it is already a little dated. It does advocate a treatment-free/organic/natural beekeeping approach and even in that it is already behind new trends. Certainly, recommend you read it to understand the debates that are raging in the bee industry and hobby. Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer do focus on the care and feeding of the bees as the focus of stewarding bees. For me, it brought up a lot of question about why common practice is doing things a certain way. Supposedly there are a bunch of web resources for this book, but the sites aren’t focused on the book anymore. You should use this as a reference book, for now, I am looking for a good natural path beekeeping book to read this winter. Any suggestions?

Those are the basics, and one is optional, and you could stop there, and if you’re like me, that will just have wetted your appetite for knowledge. I would say you are ready for a beekeeping class. What if you have the urge to go one?

There were two more books recommended to me, and IMHO make a lot of sense, the next book came from the library, and it is highly informative. The Beekeeper’s Handbook by Diana Sammataro covers a lot of Hoe_To’s and whys with a ton of drawings. I have only read sections that interested me, but this winter it will be read cover to cover.

Finally, we enter the realm of the textbook, this volume is used to train master beekeepers, biologist, and anyone that wants to understand the bee in depth, and I can’t wait to find a copy at a good prices, textbooks are expensive, thus Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, Revised Edition by Dewey M. Caron is no exception. Though I have not seen it yet, I will assume the revised edition would be more useful in that it hopefully covers the current threats to the honey bee. I will know soon because I just requested it from my library.

So, that is the list of the books that were recommended to me. I might just recommend an additional book I found in the books store out of England, that has a lot of summarised lists to help you plan when working with your bees. Try to take a look at it, The Beekeeper’s Field Guide (How to) Revised, Updated Edition by David Cramp it’s the size of other field guide and fits into a pocket. Don’t the English just have the greatest names, Cramp, oh my! It is a really useful book of bullet points covering a myriad of situations. I think Mr. Cramp is a teacher of beekeeping since the book is available in spiral-bound form this just screams “Instructor!” The only downside is it’s all in metrics system so you will have to convert the units where needed, but it had instructions in the back for that. Many of these books are designed for the beekeeper novice, and the volumes get more serious as you go on.  Plus, there are other popular books for the small-scale beekeeper that I have not gotten to read yet.

Happy Beekeeping!

References


 

A Curated Collection of Beehive Cams

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Honey Bee Hive – Inside Hive

As part of an obsession with beekeeping, the question came to my addled brain “Are there any video streams watching beehives?”  Good question, and there are!  This is a “Curated” list of the more interesting streaming Cams I have found.

This collection of links will grow over time so check back.  Happy beekeeping!

Honey Bee Hive, Waal, Bavaria, Germany

Features: 2 LIVECAMs, sound, and some zoom views

Downer:  Not always running, but highlights reel plays instead.

This hive of Carniolan honey bees is located in a log in the Bavarian forest and offers an inside and an outside view.  Once if of the landing board of the hive, and the other camera is infrared located inside the hive.  Fascinating!

Inside the Hive –  The infrared camera watches the bees in the dark hive.  This will prove to you the bees are busy 24/7.  Even when the foragers aren’t out at night work continues in the hive, see title image.

Landing board of the Hive –  It is amazing to see how busy the little bees are just at the entrance of the hive.

 

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Honey Bee Hive Landing Board

The Schwarmbörse – is the website that offers these enjoyable views into hive life.  This group is part of a German organization called Mellifera e. V., which since 1985, we have been committed to ecological-natural beekeeping and the protection of bees.; the only issue the videos are all in German.

Live Bee Cam of an Apiary, Washington DC, USA

Features:  User controls the camera to pan, zoom on any number of hives.

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Live Bee Cam of an Apiary

This camera is located in an apiary in Washington DC.  The camera can be directed by the viewer to focus on and hive entrance you want.  It is fun and as long as you don’t need to share the camera control.  The website is Live Bee Cam and when you get their just click on the image under the description, and it will pop a new window with the feed from the camera.  Then just click on the view or outline a frame on the image to zoom in and move the view around.

Bryant Park Bee Cam, NYC, NY, USA

Look it’s two hive entrances with lots of activity in Bryant Park Bee Cam.  One of the hives looks weaker than the other, but who knows.

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Bryant Park Bee Cam

 

Bee Cam @ Mount Auburn Cemetary, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Mount Auburn Cemetery is the first rural and arboretum cemetery in the United States. It is the burial site of many prominent members of the Boston Brahmins, as well being a National Historic Landmark.

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Bee Cam @ Mount Auburn Cemetary

Dedicated in 1831 and set with classical monuments in a rolling landscaped terrain on 174-acre (70 ha) cemetery is important both for its historical aspects and for its role as an arboretum. It is Watertown’s largest contiguous open space and extends into Cambridge to the east, adjacent to the Cambridge City Cemetery and Sand Banks Cemetery. It was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2003 for its pioneering role in 19th-century cemetery development.

The Bee Cam @ Mount Auburn Cemetery tends to be down at night.  Used the MID or LOW resolution and the cam will behave better.  I spoke with the beekeeper, and they are working on upgrading this cam sometime in 2019.

 

Honey Bee Livestream, Germany

This cam was set up to show the activity around a beehive in Winter, and it is still running.  Great sound and video speed and clarity are okay.   Not sure how the cam looks at night, but check it out on YouTube:  Honey Bee Livestream.

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Honey Bee Livestream


The evaluation of the live stream cams is based on clarity, sound, and then features.  A feature is can viewer control the camera, or does the camera pan on its own.

Happy Beekeeping from BernieBe!