Finally! Some Southern Chinese Honey Bees!!!

22 08 2014

It has been ages since I posted here on Bees Alive! and I sincerely apologize for that. Part of the problem is that I relocated to Southern China once again, and as with all of my experiences in this part of the country, I have a hard time finding bees. I’m not sure why. There are tons of other flying lovelies – wasps galore, dragon flies, butterflies, moths, argh – mosquitoes. But bees? Two summers in Hainan and a year in Guangzhou yielded not a single sighting. It is a sad state of affairs, alas.

But then! A few months ago. I was, for some reason, looking out the sliding glass door leading on to my balcony, and my eyes detected action. There is a very tall tree growing beside my balcony, a few of the branches of which overhang. The tree was flowering (I’m not sure what kind of tree it is yet, but after some investigation and once I figure it out, I’ll update the post), and it had managed to attract some friends of the winged variety. I grabbed my camera, and popped outside for a closer look.

Honey bees!!! As well as some wasps and other critters. Unfortunately, the flowers are small, and when that happens, bees move frequently and quickly instead of staying for a photo opportunity. But I managed to get a few average shots which I’ve included below. My delay in posting has been the result of losing my camera cord as well as access to an SD card reader, but I’m equipped once more.

honey bee in guangzhou, china


Notice the half-full pollen sacs in this next photo. Yes, I have a soft spot for pollen sacs…

pollen sac on southern Chinese honey bee


Pittosporum and Honeybee in Nanjing, China

29 04 2013

Let’s celebrate. Bee season is off to a running start in central China, and I caught a few photos today. I’ve identified one of the flowering bushes so far (this is a Pittosporum), so I’ll start by posting two photos of the plant, one with a honeybee deeply engrossed.

Pittosporum and Honeybee - Nanjing China - April 28 2013

Pittosporum - Nanjing China - April 28 2013

November Bees in Nanjing

13 11 2012

One thing that I was excited about in coming back to China was catching some bee action. There is a different species of honeybee here – the Eastern honeybee or Apis cerana. I keep a photo gallery of bees from my travels as well as contributions from site visitors. I have a few from my time in Hunan province. Sadly, in the 5 months in 2011 and the 2 months in 2012 I spent in China’s tropical Hainan, I only saw bees once, and I didn’t have my camera with me. But today on a walk in northern Nanjing, I not only came across a massive and impressive spread of urban community gardens, but I spotted a honeybee picking up some autumn nectar as well as some pollen. Check her out below:

Apis cerana in mid-November in Nanjing China

Apis cerana in mid-November in Nanjing China

Apis cerana in mid-November in Nanjing China

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

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

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

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.

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

Jerusalem Bee and Some Fantastic Flowers

20 06 2012

I’m blessed by another guest contribution. Thank you! and keep them coming. I can only travel so much.

Sadly, I have not been able to get an identification on the flower (if anyone can tell me or give me a lead on a spectacular flower guide, please leave me a comment below). The location is the garden behind the Anglican Christ Church in Jerusalem’s Old City.

[June 14, 2013 Update: Thanks to a helpful guest to this site, I think we can safely identify this tree as a lemon tree.]


Christ Church Garden - Jerusalem Old Town - April 2012 - E. Reo

Putting Mini-Hives in Your Home Garden

20 04 2012

Selby ApiariesSelby Apiaries in the Chico area in Northern California has started an interesting little project, literally off the back of a truck. They, of course, demo the project, but if you want a quick peek, you can talk to the very pleasant beekeeper truck-side. And I did just that in March of this year.

Mr. Selby, the BeekeeperThere had been an ad in the local paper about a little workshop event, but there was also some active in-person marketing at the Chico Farmers’ Market (one of my favourite markets) the day of.

Community and food system activist, Richard Roth, and I trundled down to check things out.

A Bee-Styled Mini-HiveSo what was the project, you might ask? Well, with the aim of getting more home garden action going, you can buy ‘nucs’ – a queen bee and a small entourage of workers. Normally, people buy nucs to start up a normal-sized hive, which can range from 20,000 to 100,000 bees. Bees multiply very quickly once they are housed safely in a place they feel comfortable.

With this project, however, the aim is not to create full-sized hives. You buy the tiny bee box (basically a crafted, styrofoam container with 3 appropriate mini-frames, queen excluder, and bee entrance), hang it up in a tree out of harm’s way, and let the pollination begin. Safe and educational for kids.Inside the Mini Bee-Box

While an admirable endeavour, I have three major issues.

1) The materials. Styrofoam. I just can’t get on board with that for all the obvious reasons.

2) The swarm factor. Honey bees don’t cluster in small groups for long. Their tendency is to build in size, and once they become over-crowded, they leave to find a new home. How long will you have a sweet little nuc in your backyard?

3) The most serious concern for me, actually, was the one-season-only approach. Before even going out to see the set-up, I asked the person marketing at the farmers’ market a few key questions. When I asked about over-wintering mortality rates, she made it clear that there was no over-wintering attitude/attempt. She said, “We’re commercial beekeepers.” My answer was, “Yeah, so? There is no reason not to over-winter as a commercial beekeeper.” End of season doesn’t have to mean death to all your lovely bees. If you don’t completely deplete the hive of honey stores, you can have a strong hive come spring. Saves money (although this apiary believed it cost them more), and more importantly, it saves thousands of lives.

Anyhow, while I approve of the movement to bring bees into backyards and community gardens, I think there are some issues to be worked out with this set-up.

Local Honey for Sale

13 04 2012

Studio City Market - Honey for Sale

Local honey for sale at the Studio City, CA farmers’ market.

The Pavement Is a Lonely Place to Die

12 04 2012

The Pavement Is a Lonely Place to Die

An injured bee I found hobbling around on the sidewalk in an L.A. suburb.

Full Pollen Sacs on a Los Angeles Bee

10 04 2012

Full pollen sacs on a Los Angeles honey bee

All photos posted on the blog live in permanence on this site’s Insect Photo Gallery.


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