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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beediverse at the Saltspring Island Annual Apple Festival October 2, 2011

Beediverse will be at the Saltspring Apple Festival with Beediverse products and show and tell items.

If you live or are visiting British Columbia,Canada in October 2011 come and visit Saltspring Island.  This is a great opportunity to meet the growers of apples and other local foods, taste many different apple varieties, try the tasty apple pies and meet some of the vendors at the Hall.  Dr. Margriet Dogterom
Here is the information from Harry Burton, the organizer.
"We'd like to let you know about a very special little Apple Festival that happens every fall on Salt Spring Island.   It will give you an "apple experience" like you have never imagined.  It is purposely kept non-commercial and farm related.  Where else can you 
-find over 350 varieties of apples, all grown organically, 
-connect with all the farms that grow those apples, 
-taste about 100 varieties of apples at just one of the farms,
-see a labeled display of over 300 apple varieties.
-taste labeled apple pies baked with 15 apple varieties.  The Pie Ladies baked about 150 apple pies in 2010.
-experience an apple history going back to 1860
-get to enjoy a tremendous varieties of lunches right at the farms - a culinary adventure.
-taste fresh apple juice made from specific apple varieties.
-experience over 20 varieties of red flesh apples.  That is why we call Salt Spring "APPLE HEAVEN."      Sunday, OCT 2, 2011
Harry Burton, 250 653 2007 Salt Spring Island, BC V8K-1W5

See past highlights at

Vladimir from Calgary discusses the Belle de Boskoop.

Fallen fruit tree uprighted

Even though we have had an extended cold spring, apple trees are loaded and there have been several reports of trees falling over.  Here is a video clip of uprighting a fallen tree.

Up-righting a fallen apple tree

Monday, August 29, 2011

Colourful flowers feed an array of bumble bees.

Today I stopped by a Oliver Woods Recreation centre in Nanaimo (BC Canada).  It is a beautiful facility.

What really took my fancy were the beautiful raised flowerbeds at the entrance to the building.  Very welcoming.  The colours were stunning.  On closer inspection, bumble bees liked this array of flowers too.

At the end of summer bumble bee colonies stop growing and the colony begins to produce queens and males.  Queens mate with the males or drones and then hibernate over the winter until the following spring.  It is important to have well fed drones so they can fly and mate with the queens.  Flowers that provide nectar for bumble bees are a must.  The flowers in these photos are great nectar producers as the presence of these bumble bees indicate.

Most of these bumble bees are males.  Males usually have yellow heads.

This bumble bee is Bombus vosnechenskii

Grow flowers and they will come.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blackberries- great eating or a pest?

In July/August blackberries bloom and flowers provide great food for bees.  Blackberry flowers are great providers for bees.  They provide both nectar and pollen to bees.  For us, Blackberries are great eating and make tasty jams and jellies.

Blackberries- ready to eat
But watch out!  Blackberries will easily take over and are tough to get rid of because of their extensive root system.

If the hot weather holds, I will be picking more blackberries soon.
More on Himalayan blackberry

A farming experience!

We baby sat a home with some farm animals last week.  An easy task, I'd say.

I was warned a bout the ram.
I don't know this fellow's name....

A nice looking fellow.

 I was warned not to go into the pen, because I would very quickly be on my butt.  He looked pretty calm to me.
This morning, I gave him fresh water, through the fence, but the bowl for his oats were a little distance from the fence- but close to the gate.  Protected by a fence board from any onslaughts, I held the board at his head level and against my legs. I meekly entered the gate.  I had not stepped into the pen before he head butted the board, cracked the board and off course I made my escape.  Phew, that was close!

I have re-named him "Stew"

You may be wondering what this story has to do with mason bees.  Since all the mason bees are in their cocoons and are awaiting fall cleaning, I am enjoyed a few days away on a farm on Vancouver Island.

Wild fruit and pollination

On Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada) there are all kinds of wild and native fruit that are edible.

When I see fruit on native trees and shrubs, I straight away think that when these plants were in bloom, there were lots of bees in the area.  It is always fun for me to have a closer look.

These photos were taken under a Douglas fir/Pine canopy.  Filtered sunlight and sunlight available along trails and roads allows these plants to grow profusely.

Salal berries. Ready to eat!

Some of these Salal berries are shriveling up from the drying sun.

Red Huckelberries- few, but great tangy morsels for eating

Thimble berry.  A real treat!

A profuse number of Salal berries.  Ready for eating.

Thimble berry flowers are about as big as a bumble bee.  If a smaller bee visits
a Thimbleberry flower and if this smaller bee does not move around the flower, only part of the flower will be pollinated- as in this flower.  95 percent of the flower in this photo is pollinated, but a small strip was not pollinated (seen as a band of unpollinated ovaries). 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Travelling beautiful British Columbia

Northern Arrow Lake,BC,Canada

Ferry crossing of northern Arrow Lakes

We often forget how beautiful a place is, and often it is the region where we live.  While travelling this summer we travelled north from Castlegar to Revelstoke (British Columbia, Canada)  We crossed the northern Arrow Lakes with a ferry and the views were awesome.  We camped at a Provincial campsite adjacent to the lake that night, had a nice campfire with other campers and had a very pleasant evening.

Have a great summer!

Natural patterns-trembling Aspen

We visited our family during the kid's summer holidays and on our return from Prince George the aspen trees caught my attention.

Between Prince George (northern British Columbia) and Quesnel, the majority of aspen trees looked grey.  During the summer and early autumn, the foliage of aspen trees is a deep green, not quite as dark as the evergreen trees in the area.  The trees looked oddly ghostly, not normal at all.  I first thought it might be a mildew infestation.  Then I thought, it might be possible that an early frost had hit the trees.  But this did not seem right because a frost would hit the top branches and not necessary the inner branches.

I finally stopped to have a closer look.  I soon realized it was an insect infestation. Insect larvae had eaten through the very thin layers of a leaf and exited at the far end of the leaf.  The reason why leaves appeared grey was because the green chlorophyll layer had been eaten by the insect larvae.  The patterns created by these insects were beautiful.
A further look at the Aspen leaf miner, see link at the end of this article.
Beautiful patterns in a aspen leaf.

A pathway of an insect

Ghostly looking trembling aspen

Along the Prince George Highway BC grey aspen were the norm.

A grey forest!

Grey aspen in the foreground.  Green fir in the background.

During the summer months, aspen are similar in colour
to other green plants below the aspen.
The grey was startling against a backdrop of green fir and close to pale
green herbaceous plants.

The whole aspen tree canopy was consumed by these insects.
In nature, you never know what there is to see.

Aspen infestation in the news.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Protect your mason bees from the tiny parasitic wasps

This is the time when parasitic wasps can produce another generation every week.  During the summer months, when temperatures  are higher than in spring and fall, these pesky little critters come out of the nest and search for new mason bee cocoons to parasitize.  I don't know how, but these tiny adult wasps can make a tiny pin hole in the tube and crawl out and parasitize more bees.

Every July, when most bee eggs have turned into adult bees inside their cocoons, I gather all nests, set them under a veranda- where the ambient temperature is still warm.  I place two Highrises per net-bag (see wasp proof bags on my web site  They sit stacked against the wall of my home until the end of September when harvesting takes place.

I find  that net bags are successful and keep out wasp parasites.  Percent parasitism is usually not more than 5%.  If you have had trouble with these parasites, you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wild Honey bee colonies In Australia's Centre

Walking trails in the Center

The Australian outback is an amazing world of contrast:  red and black cliffs, dry desert landscape with water-filled gorges, prickly spiky plants with  soft colourful flowers, beautiful birds and their loud calls.  I was lucky enough to call Australia my home when I was a child and always look forward to going back, seeing my family and having another look at the land.  This year, I spent quite a bit of my holidays in Australia's Center.  I wanted to check out more of the land and walking is a great way of doing it.  We bought our food and water from the town of Alice Spring and went walking along a number of different trails.

Depending on the light, cliffs are either red, burnt orange
purple or varying co.lours in between.

Honey bee colony on a cliff in the Center.
We saw quite a bit of wild life including kangaroos and lots of birds.  There were very few insects around because night time temperatures were around freezing a lot of the nights.  I was pleasantly surprised though  when Matt showed me a honey bee colony.  Matt told me he had seen them at this location before.  It  was about 30 feet up on a cliff.  Honey bee comb attached to an open cliff would be a rare sight in Canada, but in Desert country it is the perfect place.  There is very little rain to speak of so a colony does not need protection from the rain.    Since it had rained recently, trees and shrubs were showing off their bloom.  This of course means food for  honey bees.

Gum tree flowers with a foraging honey bee.

Hakia flowers provide lots of nectar for birds called Honey-eaters

River beds and cliffs provide great habitat for all kinds
of wildlife including lizards, cliff dwelling birds and hawks.

In the next little while, I will be adding a few more blogs of my trip.  You can imagine the number of photos I took!  Have a great summer!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I have added my YouTube videos under "VIDEO BAR" as a clickable icon above "ABOUT ME".  Simply click on the video picture and watch bees at work. 

In the video of bees at the nest, watch how bees mould mud to plug up their nest holes.

In the video with bees visiting flowers, look closely at bees taking up nectar from flowers.