First Pollen(!!!) and a Mystery


Seen today on a Buzzer.

So, here’s the mystery: Why are these bees so interested in the stump from the (long) dead tree The Engineer cut down earlier this week? The girls were also rooting around in the sawdust below the stump.

There are many theories online about bees being attracted by fresh sawdust.

They think it’s pollen. I find it difficult to believe animals that depend on pollen as a primary source of food would confuse the two substances.

They are finding sap/resin to use for propolis. This might be true if the tree hadn’t been dead for so long. But we could literally see daylight through the woodpeckers’ holes.

Lastly, and most most intriguingly was this theory: The bees were finding fungi spores which have a high protein content similar to pollen. Since the dead trees in our yard often sport a variety of mushrooms and fungi, this one seems possible. Click through for a blog post about the idea.

Still, I really have no idea, so if you have other information on why bees might forage in sawdust, I’d love for you to share in a comment.

In other backyard developments, a raccoon apparently visited our suet feeder last night.

I glanced out of the window this morning as I drank my tea and saw a woodpecker calmly snacking on the suet in the feeder, which had been relocated to the roof. The intrepid nighttime thief hadn’t even knocked off the hook where the feeder normally hangs (yellow arrow).

We also went flying today. Sky was kind of bleah – not great for photos, but It brightened up briefly, and I shot this view of one of the islands.

And that’s all the news from The Byrd and the Bees. (And I use the term “news” in the loosest possible sense.)

Bee Report

There were lots of bees flying today – it was 50-ish and sunny. And it wasn’t just cleansing either; these girls were going places. We didn’t see any pollen(still early for that), but they were definitely flying out somewhere.

This is a good thing because the the hive lid is looking more and more like a very messy ladies’ room.Check out the propolis on the screen.

Then, it was a look under the hood of both hives.

First, it was Buzzers’ Roost.

Followed by FreeBees.

As you can see, neither hive has eaten much of the sugar patties we put in a few weeks ago.

Once the hives were closed again, a few girls consented to some closeups.

According to The Ohio State GDD calendar (, we have a while yet before the Silver Maples bloom, and the bees can get some pollen. Hive Beetles have been a continual problem this year, especially in FreeBees, so we’re reluctant to put in any pollen patties because the patties seem to really attract them.

Still, we are cautiously hopeful our girls will survive the rest of winter.

Road Trip! Bees! A Hawk! A Sort-of Photo Essay

The Engineer and I took a road trip to Knoxville a few weeks ago. 4b3c8236-9e61-47f8-a155-d82ea0cbe65c

Joe Jackson was playing at the beautifully restored Bijou Theatre (see above) — a great excuse to head south. Plus, it was around my birthday, and we got to stop off and see Darling Daughter on the way.

And, by the way, if you’re not familiar with Joe Jackson’s music, you’re missing out. It was a wonderful show — good enough that we plan to see him again soon.

Knoxville was a delight. For once, we managed to go somewhere when they were having good weather — 50s to nearly 70 while we were there — and the city itself was charming.

Small enough to walk just about everywhere we wanted, with free trolleys available for visitors who’d rather ride.

The buildings were lovely too, lots of old brick with beautiful details. 4de44ffc-21f7-4b6e-a5d6-f6e6feb9edf1

img_0963As you can see, I have a thing for brick. img_0969There were parks too. 2d15b3d7-8710-44f9-96c7-881b39ae8c84And public art strewn about the city.
I was particularly taken with this sculpture.6a2ff689-ef7e-4b9f-bd3f-891eae3a2b45
Knoxville also had a nice little (free) art museum. img_0973img_0974

I think the best part of the Art Museum was the Thorne Rooms, a series of miniature rooms created by Narcissa Niblack Thorne, exquisitely detailed down to the views out the windows. 4ae1fb0a-4319-4ecf-b8f7-a9e6002c7a49

While we’re on the subject of free (as in, trolleys and art museums), I must mention the free lunchtime concert held M-S at the Knoxville Visitor Center (with two hours free parking!) The “Blue Plate Special” is supported by several local businesses and features music in a variety of genres. img_0972
Of course, exploring a city’s food and drink is an important part of any trip. (Or maybe that’s just us?) Like my blueberry-grapefruit Mimosa from the Tupelo Honey Cafe.
We also ate at Stock and Barrel (where we split a delicious burger), Pete’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant (wonderful breakfast), and Jig and Reel (a Scottish restaurant where I indulged in a Steak and Ale pie, and we were able to buy some packets of Walker’s Crisps!)

I won’t detail the breweries except to say there were enough to keep The Engineer happy, one of which was deemed to have beer worthy enough of filling his growler. img_0968
Check out the sidewalk sign at Union Ave Books. Finding an indie bookstore made me as happy as my husband was with the breweries.

On the way home, we stopped at a Liquor Barn. Ohio is funny about alcohol laws, so seeing so much beer, wine, and liquor in one place was dizzying. Thanks to an excellent salesman, we ended up buying several(!) bottles of French wine to prepare our palates for our trip this summer.

If you ever get the chance, vist Knoxville. It’s great for a few days away and would also be a good stopover on a longer trip. The people were nice, the food and drink delicious, and the surroundings pleasant.


And now … the bees.

You may, or may not, remember that last fall and the one before, we put sugar patties on top of the frames before winterizing the hive(s).

When it warmed up enough last winter and spring, we checked on Buzzers’ Roost (we didn’t yet have FreeBees), to find they hadn’t touched the stuff. When it was finally warm enough for a complete hive check, we discovered they still had honey.

This year, things are different.

Dave checked under the hood a few weeks ago (I had to work on the only warm day available). Here’s what he found.IMG_2594
Buzzers had eaten over 3/4 the sugar, and FreeBees slightly less.IMG_2593

As usual, we’re not sure what this means. Do they have more bees in the hive than last year, and therefore have consumed more honey? Are they less frugal? Did they get stuck near the tops of the hives because the weather changed too fast for them to form a bee ball near the honey?

No idea.

We’re just glad we provided a safety net of sugar patties.

Both hives have had bees taking cleansing flights whenever it warms up. We’ve seen them out on some surprisingly cold (but sunny) days. And they seem to like being able to, ahem, relieve their bowels under cover as you can see by the state of the hive lids. (La Hacienda de las Apis goes over the hives, and we remove it to feed and look under the lids.)img_2592

This past weekend, before we treated them with Oxalic Acid (OA), The Engineer cleaned out the bottoms of both hives. img_1031
Lots of dead bees from Buzzers’ Roost.img_1030
And even more from FreeBees. There were also many dead beetles in the FreeBees pile, which isn’t good and may have contributed somehow to the bigger death toll.

The good news is: there were no queens wasn’t among the dead.

The next day, we checked under the lids again. Both had eaten about half the sugar, so we filled up again, and gave them some Super DFM Honeybee probiotic to help them recover from the OA treatment. img_1032
The FreeBees hive (above) still seems to have more bees than Buzzers’ (below).img_1033

We’re feeling cautiously optimistic about them surviving winter, but we won’t know anything more until the pollen starts kicking in. Silver Maples will be out soon, and we’re crossing fingers we can keep them alive until the spring flow.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have one hive (or even two!) healthy enough to benefit from the early flow?


The hawk.44f5ab86-0381-4a5e-af5d-abfe31837a90

He or she landed on our deck last weekend. No doubt s/he was eyeing the birdfeeder. This may explain the dearth of finches this year. Usually they sit at the feeders and gorge themselves, but we’ve seen very few.

Sorry about the fuzziness of the pictures. I took it with my phone through the window and didn’t want to scare away our hawk.

Initially we thought it was a Sharp-Shinned, but The Engineer did more research and discovered it was actually a Cooper’s Hawk. Turns out it’s mostly about size. Cooper’s Hawks are much bigger. Read more about them at