Just a quick post. Went to the countryside to witness the emergence of my bees – it’s been a long wait. I am pleased but I have had to rush to try and sort out my fresh mason bee habitats, check on the state of the blossoms, and decide when I would put out my stored 400 cocoons.
The bees were spotted on Friday, and on Saturday 20th March – when I got back – the temperatures were finally up to 17°C – I saw at least 3 males scanning and one female busy in the bricks. Will update the post tomorrow…
Update: Well it took a little while to update (apologies Omie!), partly a busy week, partly because all of the other preparations to get habitats in place and make videos that I want to put on line. So I decided to update in pictures…
The first thing I did on Saturday was to look out in the garden.
The buds on the cherry blossom are at least a couple of weeks away from opening. However, the primrose and daffodils are starting to show their glory.
So the next thing I did was to pull my shoebox out of its relatively cold storage place in the cellar – wondering if it had been wise to have put all my cocoons in one shoe box – and have a look at what was inside.
Just as a quick aside: at the end of 2009 just before I opened up the tunnels, counted the exact number of cocoons, cleaned away the pollen-mite-infested cells and placed them in the shoe-box I took this picture of my end of the 2009 season results (below).
So months after the ‘harvest’, looking into the shoe-box of stored cocoons, I noticed a male bee had emerged. I placed him on the sunny wall where there was already other activity in between the bricks. Having found no other immediate activity in the shoe-box, and knowing there was no real chance of the fruit blossoms (or dandelions) opening for at least a week, I placed it back in the dark in the cellar. The timing wasn’t right.
So I turned my thoughts turned to a more urgent problem:- of getting fresh habitats prepared (and trying to sort out some videos for people who didn’t know how to create them). Therefore I won’t write much more about this process right now as there’s a lot to be said (but on video), so I will just leave you with almost an enigmatic image.
Before I finish this post, I did get up to one more thing…
Last year I convinced a few people around me to consider putting in place solitary bee habitats. Sylvain’s project was the most successful. His living a few hundred metres away from my bees with the same style of old wood and brick buildings, made it likely it was likely that he was going to have some around himself. Happily at the end of the season, we discovered that 20 nest cells had been created in the very simple brown-paper-tubes-in-beer-can set-up that I had offered him.
On Saturday night as we watched the France-England rugby match together, he told me that he had discovered bees against the inside window of the house (which he was renovating and generally not fully heated), so we decided to investigate what was developing. In fact with my babbling on about the bee passion in my French, I believe he hadn’t understood exactly where he should store the tubes. So it was good timing that we checked on the tubes of cocoons in the chocolate box.
I had put a tissue paper bung in the tubes (which I had forgotten about) to stop them falling out after the front seal had come loose. Five bees had already emerged and gone past the tissue paper – which must have been a struggle for them. The fact that they were emerging a little early was no drama. However when we removed the bung on the last tube, a male (white tuft between the eyes) crawled out onto my finger, cleaned his wings slowly and did his poop. Less than a minute later flew up into the kitchen light.
Sylvain seemed astonished, as he stared at the remaining cocoons and repeated several times that he couldn’t believe that such creatures could come out of what looked like little lumps of mud. I think that the instant after seeing this first flight for the first time, he found the answers to why I had been talking so passionately about these bees. It was a golden moment for all three of us.
We let the bee out of the kitchen widow to fly into the night.
It was not ideal, but one bump against a wall and a crawl to safety was much better than bumping all night like a moth on the kitchen light. Plus as I realised from experiences in 2008, once the bees were out – early or not – you couldn’t really keep them inside a house. This was not because they sting (which these gentle lot don’t), it’s just they just wear themselves out crawling and bumping around. The only option would have been to put him in a box with a hole in it, hoping that he’d stay there until the outside temperature cooled his ardour. However with all the emotion that had been flying about and 9 months in a cocoon thinking about female bees, the little guy was not going to calm down soon. We toasted his health.