February 01, 3000

My Colorado Beekeeping Calendar: A sticky post

A Phenological Calendar for Colorado Beekeepers

By undergoing VIT, I successfully reduced my sensitivity to honeybee venom to safe levels! After taking several years off, my interest in beekeeping has not waned, and I'm anxious to restock our hives. I'm just not sure how to proceed since we're still planning to move out of Colorado. Should I restock and run the hives but then give them to someone if we move? Would someone buy fully stocked hives? What about the fact that one's a Top Bar Hive and one's a Warré? Should I run just one, with plans to leave it behind and take the other with? Which one to run? Which one to take? Should I run the one I prefer or the one I won't mind leaving behind? Which one do I prefer?! The mind wobbles.

What about you? What are your plans for this season? If you're in the Denver metro, maybe my bloom calendar will help you think them through. Just keep in mind that the dates can shift a couple of weeks in either direction depending on weather conditions. For example, the excessively warm 2017/2018 winter had elm trees blooming well before Valentine's Day. The snow storm on President's Day, though, cut short its blooming period. You can click on any of the events for more details and additional reading. I hope you find it useful.

Blue = honeybee, yellow = mason bee, green = what's blooming. And don't forget, Marty Hardison's booklet, "The Appropriate Beehive" is available at right. If you like The List he wrote for when to do what for one's bees, please consider making a donation. It'll ensure "The Appropriate Beehive" remains available through this website.

May your hives be humming. — BB & HB

Blogger Tip: create a "pinned" or "sticky post" by publishing it with a date in the future, like in the year 3000. It'll stay at the top of your page as long as the date hasn't passed.

August 16, 2019

How to kill bees with soapy water

With all of the news about colony collapse and bees dying off or disappearing, you're probably wondering why I'd post how to kill bees. I'm not. Instead of calling this post "How to kill insects that you don't want around you with soapy water" writing "bees" was easier (and ranks higher with Google).

When I became allergic to bee, wasp and hornet stings (all with a single sting), I began to keep a spray bottle filled with soap water handy to the patio. European paper wasps were constantly nesting under the deck, and one summer a colony of ground nesting wasps established themselves under the stone path leading from deck to patio. They didn't mind us stepping over them and never showed any aggressive behavior, but I couldn't risk one accidentally flying up my pant leg and getting upset there. Instead of spraying insecticides, we opted for soap water, which is a very effective control that doesn't have deleterious environmental effects. A solution of soapy water breaks down barriers and gets water into the offending insect. It drowns them from the inside out.

Even now that I'm no longer allergic, I keep the bottle handy and shoot to kill. Just not at bees and wasps. Most of them are beneficial. Yellowjackets, yes. Maybe I am guilty of stereotyping, maybe it's their loud buzzing and aggressive flying pattern. I hate those things as much as I hate the grasshoppers that shred my garden (worse than the hail) every summer. For the record, I never soaked a honeybee, the bee that I was most allergic to. I'm not talking about wholesale killing like The Terminator systematically killing every Sarah Conner, or advocating indiscriminate killing of anything with an exoskeleton. I'm talking about control.

The "spray" setting works well if you're controlling flea beetles, which are small and numerous. But be careful with the "spray" setting. It isn't targeted, especially on a breezy day, and we don't want the soap water getting on insects willy nilly. Soap water will kill a beneficial insect as quick as it'll kill a Japanese beetle. I'm sorry to report that it's not a quick death for grasshoppers, even if you soak them with the bottle set on "stream." Like Neem oil, the soap solution will change the look of glaucus leaves, e.g., nasturtium and rosemary so instead of a spray bottle, you can drop offenders into a container of soapy water. I don't happen to like that method because it means first handpicking, followed by discarding a lot of solution or straining out the bodies.

According the thedenverchannel, Japanese Beetles started showing up in Colorado in 2006. Last year, we spotted the beetles in the backyard for the first time. It was just once but we can't just cross our fingers that it was an isolated incident. Japanese Beetles are invasive and they decimate gardens very quickly. If your garden is the target of a horde of Japanese Beetles and you try the soap water solution, let me know if it worked for  you.
A favorite plant, Japanese beetles love to eat the wide, smooth leaves and petals of cannas.
Surround Yourself with Positivity
The impetus for this post was a question about Japanese Beetles raised in the Rocky Mountain Native Bees Facebook Group. With no natural predator here to control them, someone mentioned soapy water and made a guess on how it works. Back in 2012, Rusty Burlew over at Honey Bee Suite explained it in a post, also titled How to kill bees with soapy water. Of course I shared a link to the post, unfortunately out of context, and a high blood pressure discourse ensued. In the end, I wrote a mea culpa and deleted the whole thread that a couple members found so offensive.

One suggested that I, as a person experienced with allergy to bee stings, take the opportunity in this world full of negativity and shoot-to-kill attitude to educate people on why we shouldn't be stereotyping insects and killing "willy nilly." Basically, she wanted me to speak to racial profiling in bee lingo. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't… you tell me.

The other, so upset that I would post in a group dedicated to bees (which she stated are endangered while emphasizing that the original post was about a non-native insect*), remained unwilling to read and is the reason why I removed myself from the group. I choose to surround myself with open-minded, not quick to judge, doesn't-fall-for-the-hype of "bees dying off", did-their-homework kind of people. If you're a friend there, all I can say is, we'll always have Insta.

*At risk of sounding pedantic, I need to point out that honey bees are neither endangered nor native to the US. Here's a good article that all who spout the #savethebees rhetoric should read. https://www.agdaily.com/crops/are-honey-bees-endangered/