Backyard Bees Seek Shade

Bees massed on shady, back side of hive. Doesn't it look like a map of Texas?!

Bees massed on shady, back side of hive. Doesn't it look like a map of Texas?!

It hit 90 degrees F in San Francisco today. And it wasn’t just people who got hot.

The bees, the garden, the people, none of us were ready for this sudden heat. I doubt it’s been above the low 60s in 8 weeks. In the afternoon heat, the bees nearly stopped flying and the squash vine and lettuce cringed. Bachelor buttons bowed their heads and nasturtium flowers dried up.

Robert MacKimmie, the bee man of City Bees, came by and opened the hive to see what was what inside. The bees swarmed up, over, and down the back of the hive into the shade. And they stayed there–sensible beasts that they are–until it got cooler. Meanwhile, Robert installed a honey box above the brood box and promised to bring by another brood box. That is, just as soon as he builds one.

Robert had promised the bees would be fascinating to watch. And they are. Most evenings they form clumps on their front stoop, crawling over each other. And then the clump moves first this way and then that. When the bees get hot, their arch their bodies and beat their wings so fast they are just a blur. They will line up on their front stoop, tails toward the door, and fan like mad, forcing fresh air into the hive. Today, I watched some do this as they clung to the sunny side of the hive. By tonight, they should be some tired bees.

Sometimes we just watch the bees as they leave their hive, vaguely noting their flight paths. Watching is trance inducing. At first they flew over our garden, but now they’ve discovered it as well as the patch of calendulas I have next door. Now when I harvest, I’ve learned to check for bees before picking.

We have also acquired a new job–rescuing bees from inside the house and the dog’s water bowl. I also change out the sucked-dry bottle of sugar water in the bees’ feeder for a fresh one very early in the morning before the bees wake up or after dark when they have all gone back inside.┬áRobert hopes to build population in this new hive. The sugar water supplements the pollen the bees gather and allows them to care for more baby bees. (I’m just learning; sorry for the less than scientifically correct description.) Next time Robert visits, I’ll try and remember to photograph him opening the hive. It was amazing today to see the frames holding honey and brood cells of baby bees.

nobody out front

While most of the bees hang out back in the shade, no one's out front.

bees enjoy the air circulation creating by propping up the roof on one side with a pebble

bees enjoy the air circulation created by propping up the roof on one side with a pebble

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