Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

What a very busy few weeks ..

Last year my patience was like a soft rubber band, ever stretching, becoming longer and longer. My wonderful bee NUC was delayed owing to a dreadfully long Winter spell and a damp and inclement Spring that extended itself well into a third of the year. Every book, every article I had read advised that a late brood of bees would not come close to swarming the year after receipt. I was therefore unprepared when my little colony exploded with growth and virtually tumbled out of the hive.

First course of action is apparently to checkerboard the main brood box. This meant the use of a second brood box. Half the colony was placed in the second brood box and new frames and wax were place in between on both brood compartments. I hadn’t the time to purchase a complete new hive and so the second box was placed above the three supers on the original hive. A new entrance was made by pulling back the mesh. Another entrance was also created in the supers. This action, I thought would be enough but the following week during inspection the queen had obviously lost a considerable amount of weight. Oh no! That must be a bad sign, I thought. And, of course, it was.

Bee - two brood boxes plus supers

Measures to prevent the swarming of honey bees – splitting the colony and checkerboarding the brood box

The Masons

Deep in the roots of mankind, embroiled in their history, secretive and seemingly solitary in their existence are the masons. It may be years before you come to recognise their presence but once you do and the spark ignites the fire of inquisitive yearnings of the desire to know more you will never turn away from them. This is such a lovely solitary saviour that you need to encourage.

We have both the Red Mason Bee (Osmia rufa) and the Blue Mason Bee (Osmia caerulescens) in our garden. We had an unusual Winter in that there was no snow just rain, plenty of water which led to an early Spring. This weather pattern appears to have confused all of the insects as they are all behaving quite differently to normal. We usually see the Red Mason Bee nest first, followed by the Blue Mason Bee and Leaf-cutter bee which usually build their nests in June. This year the Red Mason Bees arrived in late March. They were still squirrelling away at their nest sites, clearing out the chambers ready to lay this year’s eggs when they were met with the early arrival of both the Blue Mason Bees, and the slightly larger and perhaps a little more aggressive (at least when it comes to the arrangement of their nesting sites), Leaf-cutter bees. There are arguments breaking out constantly and I have never witnessed this pattern of behaviour before.

A new secret crusade trying to find enough laying space all in the same time frame and not over the several months which is the normal pattern of behaviour of these beautiful solitary bees.

Mason bees fighting for a place to lay their eggs

Red Mason Bee Osmia rufa and a Blue Mason Bee Osmia caerulescens

Mason bees fighting

A Red Mason Bee Osmia rufa chasing off a Blue Mason Bee Osmia caerulescens trying to prevent the use of a communal insect house in the holy grail quest of finding the perfect and safe place to lay this year’s eggs for the new brood.

The Moon

Where would we be without the Moon? It lights our way on dark nights, pulls at the waves and creates the tides, encourages plants to grow, in fact it rules our very lives. The Moon is gradually leaving the Earth and one day our planet will have no Moon. It will take a very long time before this happens but when it does, the people who are living on our planet will have a very different life to that which we live today. Imagine a sea without any tides, without any waves! We have been brought up with a Moon. It is there and it is familiar; it is part of our lives and although we may not realise it we all have an affection for the ball of rock that rolls across our sky.

Sharing some pictures that I have taken of our wonderful, dusty, rocky Moon – carry on rolling for us all to look at!

The Moon by Day

 

The Moon by Day 2

Luck lies here

As I may have mentioned before, I grew up in a very small village in Worcestershire. There were residents that had always lived either in the village or fairly near by and had lovely melodic dialects. Others had travelled from various places and quite a few of those had grown up in Birmingham and so had a sing-song accent that made them into what was called ‘Brummies.’ This meant that youngsters such as myself used a variety of dialects and word pronunciation became a jumble of village and town.

For instance a flowering bush that everyone called lie-l’c (lilac) was pronounced lie-luck by many of the youngsters (others would say lie-lock or even lie-lurk) – we were always told that it obtained its name because it was a lucky plant and the luck lay with it, or luck lies when it is taken into the home. Perhaps it is the only hard wood that country folk actually take in the house as many believe that no woody plants should be cut and placed in a vase because it releases bad luck from the ground and into the home when displayed indoors. A superstition, of course, along with the many others that people worry about.

Here is a little verse that I wrote as a youngster about the lilac bush:

Luck lies beneath the lie-luck tree
  That’s where you stole a kiss from me;
The lie-luck sealed it in your heart
  Which meant that we would never part!

Lilac - purple - the lie-luck bush

Lilac -white - lie-luck bush

Forget-you-not’s

 

Forget-you-nots copy

 

Where would humanity be -
Without charity
And philanthropy?

                                                                                               

Forget-you-nots copy

 

When I was a little child, my mother would frequently remind me how lucky I was to be me. None of us have the power to decide where we are going to be born, who are going to be our parents, what country we will grow up in or what our young lives have in store for us. We should never be quick to judge those who haven’t walked the safe paths that we have been fortunate to tread!

St George–slayer of dragons

23rd of April, a day of celebrating the Patron Saint of England, St George. He was born in Lydda around the year 280 AD, some believe it to have been on 23rd April. He most certainly died on 23rd April in the year 303 AD. His father was Greek but George was born in Palestine when it was still under the flag of Rome. He became a Roman soldier and he was both brave and ferocious, which is why his reputation now includes that he was the slayer of dragons, for nothing ‘afeared’ him! Like many others preceding him he was in the end executed for his beliefs.

St George

St George saying, toast, words inspiring love of the Patron Saint of England:

“May your sails be made of fine spun silk, your dreams be sweet and light but most of all may your life be free of dragons and if by chance it isn't, then the ghost of St George rise up and slay them all! No one should have dragons in their life! ♥♥♥”  Anon

I can almost smell Summer

I don’t know why but I have always loved how once April has arrived, so does a wealth of early flowers and the clouds of bloom on the fruit trees. One of my favourite tiny flowers that makes the pathways smell almost like ‘dolly mixtures,’ a sort of heady and very sugary sweet perfume, is Little Dorrit. Pretty, tiny four-petal parcels of syrupy florets which explodes with scent in every direction. They are a remarkable plant and will grow just about anywhere. Simply scatter the seeds wherever there is just a suggestion of a scrap or crumb of soil and they will sprout into the healthiest of plants within a few weeks. They self-seed so once you have them you have a flower-friend for life! 

Little Dorrit - Alyssum

Little Dorrit, Sweet Allysum, Alyssum maritimum, Lobularia maritima. This wonderful cottage garden plant is often called other names depending on which region of the world you are from. Other names include Alison, Allysum, Dorrit, Rockery Allysum, Sugar Allysum, House Maids ..

Little Dorrit - Alyssum, House Maids

If you look very closely you should be able to see an almost microscopic creature that is on one of the small petals.

Bee embryo

Although being an insect bees do not have a form of embryo like those in mammals, they do have a stage betwixt the egg and the grub which is the nearest the insect world has to the embryo. I was very fortunate when I was able to capture this stage of bee development.

Bee embryo

Bee embryo (the stage between the egg and the grub)

 

Bee embryo - small picture

First stage of the honey bee grub

 

Honey bee eggs - first stage of life

Honey bee eggs laid in the wax cells of the comb

Tadpole hatchlings–the first baby frogs are swimming

Some of the frogspawn in the pond has now developed into baby hatchlings (tiny tadpoles). All life from the egg to the new being is wondrous and amazing. So many variations and every one of them is just breath-taking.

tadpole

Tadpoles hatchlings circling the remainder of the frogspawn

Tadpole hatchlings

Tadpoles

Tadpoles hatchlings

The frogs in our area are extremely beautiful and very varied in colour and size. These are the first hatchlings (tadpoles) of the season of the Common Frog, often known as the European Common Frog, Rana temporaria. The tadpoles feed mainly as herbivores though when they are slightly larger they begin taking invertebrates ready for their final change into the parent frog.

The sun daisy

One of the most cheerful plants on the Earth is the humble sun daisy. It has edible leaves, roots and flowers and if you really look into its mane of petals has the power to improve the mood and bring cheer to the most grumpiest of persons. Today, the sun daisy opened her optimistic face in our garden border and here she is:

Dandelion 31.03.2014

Dandelion

A beautiful sun daisy, the dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, wild and wonderful and ever perennial

Bee eggs–honey bee first lay

The warmer spell of Spring weather has energised the honey bees and the Queen has begun laying new brood in earnest. Here are two of her eggs. It is the first time that I have seen bee eggs and I don’t know why but I found their shape and tiny size quite surprising.

 

Honey bee eggs

Buckfast honey bee eggs, just laid

Mothering Sunday–Mother’s Day

It is Mother’s Day today. Full of love and tradition, it is the day when children honour their mothers. From days of long ago, this has been traditionally done by the giving of flowers.

Mothers years ago would receive a posy of wild flowers picked from the roadsides, fields and hedgerows. Nowadays it is more usual for children to purchase their flowers or a little surprise from the shops . . .

 

a gift of a rose posy for you

 

A special gift – this is a little flower posy picture for you – *right click and save as a png and you will have a posy of roses without any background as a picture to add wherever you please*

Rambling roses

Here is the full picture if you would prefer the roses left on the plant – a wonderful sweet smelling floribunda rambling rose with the most enormous blooms. Each flower is a perfect rose.

Happy Mother’s Day, one and all.

May your day be bright and happy. Full of bird song, sweet perfume and soft breezes. Happy voices, love and laughter with plenty of joy and merriment. Enjoy each moment – our lives are like a fabulous novel. We do not know how each chapter will begin, what we will find when we turn over a page. Sometimes we have no idea of the storyline – who are the heroines and the heroes – who may be the villains. We all seek our happy endings and strive every day to make sure that our particular best sellers will be everything we had always dreamed and hoped for.

Faux hemp–a cautionary tale

A couple of years ago, whether you picked up a newspaper, magazine, health book, etc it seemed the whole world was recommending the health benefits of hemp oil and hemp seeds. I bought into this notion as well. We are all wanting when it comes to bountiful good health and life giving treasures.

I was shopping one day when I came across some of these ‘health-giving’ hemp seeds – they were hard and full (obviously packed full of their precious oil and nutrients). Some even labelled them as ‘seeds of gold’ so how could I go wrong. All I needed to do according to article after article was to crush them, perhaps with a food processor or coffee grinder, the helpful articles indicated.

Well I got my precious hemp seeds home and I tried grinding them up .. but they felt like crushed gravel, really brittle and hard. Could I really risk sprinkling them onto my breakfast or lunch? What about my teeth? The thought of cracked teeth and tooth crumbs immediately took away their health giving properties. So I put them at the back of the cupboard and forgot about them.

Last year when cleaning out the cupboard I came across them and thought to myself that I might as well throw them outside for the birds to eat. One sprouted and before I knew it began to grow. It was bound to die for the weather had turned quite chilly. It didn’t die and the other day I noticed that it was flowering. These were not hemp flowers though. So my healthy hemp seeds were not hemp seeds at all. When I realised what they were I was really thankful that I hadn’t eaten any because these were the seeds of a deadly poisonous plant!

The plant that I am referring to and came from the seed which I purchased is called a Stinking Hellebore. It is also known as Bear’s Foot and Dung Wart. It’s Latin name is: Helleborus Foetidus.

Yeasts are attracted to the plant which linger around its flower heads and helps to raise its temperature. Perhaps this is what increases its poisonous properties. It is one of those plants that require instant hand washing after touching because it leads to volatile bouts of sickness and violent and projectile vomiting and delirium.. so best enjoyed at a distance!

Helleborus Foetidus 1

Helleborus Foetidus 2

Helleborus Foetidus 3

Helleborus Foetidus 5

Helleborus Foetidus 6

Stinking Hellebore - Helleborus Foetidus – Bear’s Foot or Dung Wart

 

Pet bees

It is surprising just how easily a person becomes quite attached to their honey bees. I wouldn’t have thought it possible but once the bees are established and you get over the initial wariness of the possibility of getting stung then you experience the pleasure of entering the wonderful world of the insect.

I have always loved honey and usually have a little every single day, so whether my skin oozes a small amount of its smell or not I am unsure. What I do know is that the beautiful lady worker bees land on my skin and dip their tongues onto it and appear to lick me. This tickles just a little but after a short while they take off and go about their business. They do appear to like strolling about on bare skin. The variety of these bees is called Buckfast. They are noted for their gentleness and their ease of establishing themselves in the average garden.

When they leave the hive, they do not fly straight across the garden but always go upwards and then choose a particular direction that they wish to take. So they are up and away from both yourself and your neighbours. As with any other pet you must make sure that you supply fresh water for your bees. This is often best placed into a bird bath or earthenware dish that is filled with large pebbles before adding any water. This ensures that the bees are able to drink without drowning. The next important thing to remember is that there are no flowers during the early part of the year and unless you know that your bees have ample honey stores to eat then you do need to feed them. They do fairly well on inverted sugar syrup and honey which you can easily make yourself.

Basic recipes involve white cane sugar, water, a small squirt of freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice and a pinch of food grade citric acid. It is the orange, lemon and/or citric acid which inverts the sugar mixture and this helps the bees to digest it easily. In real emergencies then sugar may be given straight from the packet – it is better to feed instantly than leave the bees to starve.

Buckfast worker bee face

Buckfast worker bees March

Buckfast honey bees

Our beautiful lady Buckfast honey bees

Award and front page from Pixabay

Although I have only been a member of Pixabay for one month I was delighted today to find one of my pictures had not only received an award from them but also prime position on the front page of their website. I hope that you don’t mind but I wanted to share my pleasure with you all.

The picture is of my beautiful Buckfast Honey Bees and was taken yesterday during the Spring cleaning of our beehive

Pxabay award

 

Buckfast Honey Bees on the First Day of Spring 2014

This is the actual photograph and it was taken on the first day of Spring, 21 March 2014

The variety of bee are Buckfast Honey Bees – they are extremely placid and very gentle, which is why they make an excellent garden bee. They are very good for New Beekeepers to have for their first pets whilst learning all about the art of beekeeping.