Why Do Bees Just ‘Hang Out’?

9 10 2012

Bees are supposed to be busy. Always on the move. Foraging, scouting, collecting, helping the hive thrive. But sometimes, you see a bee just sort of hanging out. Not moving. Not doing much of anything.

There may be a few reasons for this. First, it might be too cold. Bees’ flight muscles need to be held at specific temperatures in order to work properly. When it gets too cold (especially when it is too cold for the insect to shiver and thus raise muscle temperatures), they are grounded.

Another reason might be that the bee is old and tired. This might especially be the case if you notice ragged wings on the bee and it is later in the season.

It could also be possible that the bee (especially males) has forgotten to fuel up by drinking nectar during all of its flying around. No fuel means no energy.

I had a photo submission from 100twenty out in Southern Quebec. A quiet bumble was found hanging off the wild aster in Gatineau Park. One thing about grounded bees – they make for excellent photo opportunities ;)

Dahlia coccinea Visitor

26 08 2012

This incredibly hairy bumble was spotted in downtown Vancouver, BC among the dahlia.

Dahlia coccinea and bumble bee visitor

Rosemary’s Bumble

15 08 2012

While visiting the Davie Village Community Garden in downtown Vancouver, BC, I caught up on some bumblebee action in the rosemary patch. I haven’t identified the bee as she was moving too quickly for my terrible little camera to capture adequately. Fuzzy critter, fuzzy photo. Appropriate?

Purple Rosemary Flower - Davie Village Community Gardens - Vancouver BC - August 2012

Bumblebee on a Purple Rosemary Flower - Davie Village Community Gardens - Vancouver BC - August 2012

Covered in Pollen: Buzzing in the Hibiscus syriacus

12 08 2012

After a dry spell in bee land – the result of seeing bees without a camera in hand, or having a camera, but uncooperative bees – I hit the jackpot yesterday on a busy Saturday in downtown Vancouver, Canada.

Downtown? Yes! In fact, I often have excellent luck with bees in heavily urbanized areas (for example, spectacular luck in Los Angeles: see Full Pollen Sacs on a Los Angeles Bee; and downtown Ottawa, Canada: see Bombus impatiens in Downtown Ottawa). So, why not Yaletown in the downtown Vancouver core???

Hibiscus Syriacus by Eric KounceI will be posting a few series of bee photos, starting with this one, that mark a brief visit to Vancouver. I am heading back to southern China in a week’s time. Leaving the Western honeybee behind and returning (for the third time) to the Eastern honeybee. I do have posts and photos about bees and flowers in China – take a look at Flower Photos and Photos of Insects to see the growing, permanent collection on this site.

Anyhow, in this post, I’m looking at visitors to the lovely Hibiscus syriacus or the Rose of Sharon. A gorgeous white flower with a dramatic spray of crimson radiating from its centre. These flowers are literally dripping (if pollen can drip…) pollen, and  every one of the many species of bee visiting these flowers ended up absolutely covered within seconds of landing.

I have several photos below. Clicking these already large photos will give you an even larger one – please feel free to download and use (giving a credit to Bees Alive! – except for the full flower photo – would be excellent ;) ). Note, the first photo has both a honeybee and a Bombus vosnesenskii visiting the same flower.

Bombus vosnesenskii and Western honeybee visiting an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - August 2012

Bombus vosnesenskii visiting an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - August 2012

A western honeybee lightly covered in pollen from an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - Yaletown - British Columbia Canada - August 2012

A western honeybee in profile lightly covered in pollen from an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - Yaletown - British Columbia Canada - August 2012

An unidentified hairy yellow bumblebee on an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - Yaletown - British Columbia Canada - August 2012

Bumblebee completely covered in pollen on an Hibiscus syriacus in downtown Vancouver - Yaletown - British Columbia Canada - August 2012

Tomato Plants Love Bumble Bees

1 08 2012

And there is evidence of that statement below, thanks to another 100twenty contribution from eastern central Canada! (click for high-rez, as per usual).

July 2012 - Bumble bees love tomato plants - Southern Quebec

July 2012 - Bumble bees love tomato plants - Southern Quebec

Bumble Hovering over Birdsfoot Trefoil

29 07 2012

Photographically capturing a bumble in flight, especially when you’re not hunkered down waiting for one, is a major accomplishment. Thanks to this guest photo contributor for being in the right place at the right time and for having a quick trigger finger ;)

Bumble hovering over the Birdsfoot trefoil in Ottawa, Ontario

Blackberries Are Coming – Thank You Honeybees!

27 07 2012

Nearly three years ago, I published a short rant – a blackberry season rant, no less – on the first incarnation of The Good Villager, my responsible living and travel blog (then known as Something to Chew On). The Good Villager was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and having travelled through Canada, the US and China, we are now back in Nanaimo, BC to celebrate our third birthday. I think it’s worth talking about blackberries again, and as this post does and will live on Bees Alive! for all eternity, let’s throw (or gently place) a few bees into the mix.

Come mid- to late August, Nanaimo is absolutely covered in blackberries. You can almost walk anywhere and have breakfast or a snack along the way. I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. But seriously, we couldn’t walk and snack without the bees. Honey bees are currently busy making that special period of time a reality.

I managed to get a few photos of our friends at work among the blackberry blossoms on Protection Island, a little island off the east coast of Vancouver Island at Nanaimo.

Honeybee pollinating blackberry blossom on Protection Island in Canada

Honey bee pollinating blackberry blossom on Protection Island in Canada

Bombus impatiens in the Onion Flowers

23 07 2012

Submitted by 100twenty from Southern Quebec. A Bombus impatiens hanging out in the onion flowers.

Bombus impatiens - July 2012 - southern Quebec

Bombus impatiens - July 2012 - Southern Quebec

Local Honey for Sale: Jane’s Honey Bees of Fraser Valley, BC

14 07 2012

Honey from Jane's Honey Bees of Fraser Valley, British ColumbiaLiz Graham is the Bee Master behind Jane’s Honey Bees located in Fraser Valley of BC. I met her while covering the Main Street Farmers’ Market in Vancouver where you can find her selling honey and value-added products.

Liz Graham of Jane's Honey Bees - Fraser Valley, BC CanadaThe company also offers pollination services, and because of this, crop-specific honeys are available (at my time of visit, blueberry honey was on offer!)


You can find this beekeeper at the

Vancouver Main Street Farmers’ Market.

.Jane's Honey Bees Business Card

Gorgeous Pale Orange Bumble in Quebec

8 07 2012

Bombus sylvicola and ternarius by bumblebee.org Yet more identification issues. I spotted a beautiful pale orange striped bumble bee in Southern Quebec recently. According to bumblebee dot org, it could be one of two North American bumbles  (see left). Bombus sylvicola or Bombus ternarius. They look to be a much brighter orange.

The trouble with bee guides that rely upon sketches rather than actual photographs is that the drawings seldom look much like reality.

Enjoy my photos below!

Bombus sylvicola - Southern Quebec - June 20

Bombus sylvicola - Southern Quebec - June 20

Bombus sylvicola - Southern Quebec - June 20

Bombus sylvicola - Southern Quebec - June 20

Jean-Marie Sempels: Local Honey in Quyon, Quebec

4 07 2012

Jean-Marie Semplels - BeekeeperLocal honey on offer through the Wakefield Farmers’ Market and the Old Chelsea Market in Southern Quebec.

On offer: Pure liquid honey, flavoured honey, creamed honey, honeycomb, and more. Very affordable prices.

for more information on products and shipping, and on other locations where this honey is sold.

If you have sampled products from this apiary, please feel free to include your comments below :)

Honey by the Bees of Jean-Marie Sempels


IKEA Furniture for Bees!

2 07 2012
[Repost of an old article from my earliest blog. This is a winter post, but it doesn't hurt to start thinking about what to do when the bees wind down for the season...]

What does a beekeeper do in the winter – the type of winter where cold, nasty winter exists? She prepares for spring, of course. And one of the many spring preparation tasks a beekeeper can take on is building frames to replace broken and unusable ones and to allow expansion of the number of existing hives. And for me, the beginning of 2010 marked open season for building frames – 2,700 of them.


Steps to building frames using pre-cut wood sections can go something like this:
  1. Fit the pieces of wood together and nail into place at corners.
  2. Feed wire through the holes along the short ends of the frame, keeping taut. Secure the ends.
  3. Insert a sheet of beeswax, and use a hairdryer on ‘low’ to melt the wax.
  4. Lightly press the melted wax into the wire.
Does one need any previous knowledge or experience to engage in a task like this? Well, a view of the big picture helps, as 2,700 frames is plenty of work given the steps involved in producing a ready-to-go frame. Also, experience putting together a piece or two of the infamous/notorious/often-cursed IKEA furniture is a bonus, at least for the initial hammer and nail assembly part of frame-building. You see, if you buy pre-cut frame pieces, you’ll find yourself in an IKEAesque dreamworld of cheap wood pre-cuts that split before the nail even makes contact with its surface and a puzzling end product where 90 degree angles are not allowed to come in pairs. Luckily, unlike with an IKEA chest of drawers, my frames will fit into the bee box despite trapezoidal tendencies.
One thing I’ve noticed in the process here is the usage of fine motor skills and small muscle strength – that of the hands, wrists and forearms. One of the steps in frame-building is stringing thin wire back and forth across the length of the frames. Extensive use of pliers is needed to manipulate the wire and keep it taut. Even with careful attention to muscle usage and regular break-taking, I’ve found a great deal of aggravation of my existing repetitive strain injury. I’ve tried to work on some techniques that will minimize the strain on my hands. Another chapter in the efficiency/long-term physical health balance.

Tiny, Aggressive, Bumble-like Bee

28 06 2012

One of my greatest frustrations is that there are no truly excellent sites that allow for easy bee (and bee look-alike) identification. There are a few very good bee sites, but like with plant and flower online resources, it is on the identification side of things that sites fall short.

My site is no exception. If I were independently wealthy and didn’t have to work, I would devote myself to the development of a truly excellent identification guide, but alas, it may become a retirement project years and years in the future ;)

Until then, I will continue to post the photos I take with my best guesses and pleas for greater knowledge to come my way through my visitors!

I found the following bee in southern Quebec in a woodsy home garden. Rather than frolicking amongst the flowers, it spent its time crawling along the ground and dive-bombing the bumblebees and honeybees that were busy visiting chive flowers. It was quite tiny, but furry, like a bumblebee. Black and yellow stripes.

June 6 - Unidentified Tiny Aggressive Bee in Southern Quebec

June 6 - Unidentified tiny fuzzy aggressive bumble-like bee - Southern Quebec

June 6 2012 - Unidentified tiny fuzzy aggressive bumble-like bee in Southern Quebec

Chives: Good for Humans, Bumbles, Honeybees & Swallowtails

24 06 2012

If you have some space in your garden and want to plant something that will benefit everyone (or at least many), then pick chives. They are quite pretty when they flower, humans can eat both the stem and the flowers, and the flowers will attract several different kinds of bee as well as butterflies. I’ve done two different posts on chives already – one on human use (on my other blog: The Good Villager), and one guest photo contribution of a bumblebee visitation in southern Ontario. See the links below for these posts and after that, some further photos from where I currently am in southern Quebec.

Honeybee on Chive Flower - southern Quebec - June 2012

Honey Bee on Chive Flower - southern Quebec - June 2012

Bumblebee on Chive Flower - southern Quebec -June 2012

Swallowtail Butterfly on Chive Flower - southern Quebec - June 2012

Start ‘em Young

18 06 2012

Injured Bumble in Victoria, BC

16 06 2012

bombus rufocinctus - Heinrich 1979Another wonderful guest contribution, although a) I am very amateur in my attempts at identification, and b) this poor bumble bee was injured (the right foreleg appears to be missing a segment).

The closest I can get to naming this bee is Bombus rufocinctus, which is found, among other places, in British Columbia. I am, of course, open to corrections or pointers to another possibility.

Top View of Injured Bombus rufocintus - Victoria BC

Front View of Injured Bombus rufocintus - Victoria BC

Flowering Chives Attract Bumble Bees

13 06 2012

A guest contribution! Thank you! This photo was taken in southwestern Ontario among the flowering chives. It’s that time of year…

Mystery Brown Bumble Bee

4 06 2012
Bombus humilis - Brown-Banded Carder Bee

Bombus humilis – Brown-Banded Carder Bee

At least it looks like a bumble bee with its round fuzzy body. It is mostly brown, a gingery-tan colour. Beautiful, actually. The problem I’m having is in identifying it.

It was spotted in the phlox in Southern Quebec. the closest species I’ve been able to find thus far is Bombus humilis – the Brown-Banded Carder bee (see drawing to the left) – but the problem is that it is only found in Southern England and is rather endangered. Hmmm.

I’m including two photos below of the mystery bee frolicking in the phlox (indicating a medium- to long-tongued bee) and would LOVE any suggestions.

Mystery Brown Insect in Quebec

Mystery Brown Insect in Quebec in the Phlox

Bombus impatiens in Downtown Ottawa

25 05 2012

Two not-too-bad shots of a Bombus impatiens frolicking in the apple blossoms in Downtown Ottawa, Canada.

Bombus impatiens among the apple blossoms in downtown Ottawa

Bombus impatiens on the Rideau Centre Roof in Ottawa

Honey at the Perth Farmers’ Market

18 04 2012

map Perth in OntarioLiving/travelling in Ontario, Canada? Visit the Perth Farmers’ Market, and check out the gorgeous local honey!

Honey at the Perth Farmers’ Market

Perth is located off of Highway 7 in Eastern Ontario, approximately equidistant to Ottawa and Kingston.


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