This has been New Jersey's hottest and 10th driest Summer since records started being kept in 1895! And while the honey bees were not able to produce any honey for us, they did manage to fill out the two brood supers for themselves. Only time will tell whether this will be enough to get them through our cold and snowy Winter...
But before heading into Winter, let's see what's been going on around the pond starting from late Summer and into Fall!
Thanks to a garden hose, the pond remains a constant source of water, even when nearby puddles and streams dry up. This frog showed up sometime in August and spent the remainder of the Summer here. Over time, it got used to us walking around and became rather tame.
And it sure didn't take long for the honeybees to find the pond... it's better that they quench their thirst here than at a neighbors pool! :-)
This year, we finally had some luck drawing hummingbirds to our feeder! We mounted the feeder on a pole above some Lobelia cardinalis growing next to the pond. Long after the flowers were gone, the hummingbirds kept coming to visit.
And the Monarch Caterpillars returned to the milkweed plants yielding another beautiful crop of butterflies. This year though, rather than restrict their diet to only milkweed leaves, we found some caterpillars munching on carrot tops and parsley growing nearby in the garden... until they were hand-relocated back to the milkweed!
And here I am, explaining to a friend visiting from England, how I prune a White Pine. Interesting? Perhaps. Picture-worthy? I wouldn't think so, yet we do have this picture... :-)
In the Fall, because of the drought, our bee hive came under attack by... Robber Bees!! As resources dwindle, honey bees searching for food invaded our new colony and began to steal from it. We noticed the ensuing war pretty quickly and, over a week or so, my father-in-law and I crafted the temporary robber-bee-preventer you see above.
The way it works is, robber bees follow the scent of honey wafting through the screen mesh. But no bees can go through that wire screen. The actual hive entrance is known only by the honeybees who live here, so unable to reach the honey, the robber bees soon give up and move on.
I think that's me! We stacked a medium honey super on top just in case there was to be a strong Fall honey flow. This would have been honey for us to enjoy. Alas, due to the robber bees and the drought (notice that the surrounding lawn is yellow), the bees never got much going here. Maybe we'll have better luck in the Spring!
I thought it would be nice to have a place to sit under the pear tree that's located along the path in the landscaped area next to the pond. I thought a stump seat would be perfect here, but when my wife and I checked out the local nurseries, we were rather surprised to find prices in the $150 range! About this time, we had a tree removed in the front yard and, upon seeing it fall, I got to thinking... "I bet I can make a stump-seat!"
So, I asked one of the tree guys to leave me a 4 foot log. I rolled it into the back yard where my father-in-law dug it into the ground. I used a belt sander to smooth out the top, put on a coat of stain on it to bring out the grain, and then layered on 3 coats of Spar Urethane to protect it.
Look at that... it's exactly what I wanted there!
But now, Winter is upon us. It's a cold one, with plenty of snow!
And what's become of the bees? That's hard to say. For the most part, they just stay inside their hive clustered around the queen to keep her warm. You're not really supposed to open the hive in cold weather, so you just wait and hope that they have enough food to get through the Winter.
On January 19, 2011, the temperature shot up to 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7C) and the bees came out to stretch their wings. That was a welcome sign! They also took advantage of the warm weather to do some house cleaning. Can you see all those bees on the concrete slab in front of the hive? They are all dead! The worker bees spent the afternoon carrying them out.
Here's a picture that shows the location of the bee hive in relation to the pond. The night before this picture was taken, the temperature dipped to 7 degrees Fahrenheit (-14C). That pond deicer is working hard to keep the water intake from freezing up, and the water is still flowing. Good thing too, since birds are always stopping by for a drink!
One last picture to conclude this installment... I took this one standing next to the pond on a cold January night.
I'm reminded of Goodnight Moon, a book given to our children by Jay Lepreau. It quickly became a favorite bedtime story here.
"Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere."