Bees, GIS Planning, Silvopasture and Agroforestry

Trees for Bees 6: GIS Map and honorable mention

Other posts in this series:

Trees for Bees introduction

Trees for Bees 2: Planning

Trees for Bees 3: Sumac

Trees for Bees 4: Sourwood

Trees for Bees 5 : Basswood


You may notice one species mentioned in the first post is absent: Liriodendron tulipifera aka Tulip Poplar.

“Liriodendron tulipifera tulip close” by Dcrjsr – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons –

This species is an abundant nectar producer early in the season helping colonies build up food stores and population numbers. While other bee gardeners are full encouraged to consider this tree, it will not be planted on the farm for a few reasons. Tulip poplars require loose, fertile soils as their roots systems are small, fleshy, soft and to put it succinctly: weak. It is also susceptible to numerous pests and diseases. Combining these attributes with its huge form and full sun requirements, the decision was made to plant the more valuable (regarding bees) Basswood in the vacant locations despite the beautiful blooms that resemble tulips, thus the common name.

Final Plans and Map

Putting everything together, there will be sumacs planted on the hill that raises the farm entrance from the pasture as well as below the powerlines. Sourwoods will be planted between the farm entrance track and the main road as well as along the fenceline in the pasture. Lastly, Basswoods will occupy the areas where they have room to spread.

Note: I apologize for the low res imagery. It is used for faster processing as well as the only aerial image saved offline for when I work on maps at the farm where my cellular data is the only access to internet!

That concludes this series…I hope you aren’t sick of bee talk!


Accidental but still beneficial cover crop mistake

My brain works in mysterious ways. I even wrote about this exact subject on my post regarding native pollinators. I stated that New Zealand was faced with the choice of importing Red Clover seed every year, or importing a bumblebee from the United Kingdom to pollinate the flowers to produce their own crop of seed.

Yet somehow I failed to make the connection that my choice in Red Clover cover cropping in the garden would not provide much nourishment my own honeybees. Even so, I am happy to feed the native bees all the same!

The flowers of red clover are too small for the short mouthparts of honeybees to access freely so it is not a reliable nectar source. Or so the old sources say!

Now if you search any beekeeping forum for recommendations on the best clover, the answers are varied. It really seems like all the varieties work to some degree while the one I picked for my food plots is falling out of favor (yellow sweet clover). Regardless, they all fix nitrogen and contain good protein for grazing and nourish either my bees or the native pollinators.

Oh well, I am just going to use the shotgun approach and try to observe my bees. There is lots of Dutch white clover that I’ve seen my bees working in early spring that is growing in the small areas of the barnyard that I mow. In fact mowing white clover will cause it to continuously bloom extending the nectar flow indefinitely until frost. I plan to overseed the turf with more white clover this fall.

I recently planted a wildlife plot in the back of the pasture where my goals are to nourish my four legged wild cohabitants as well as my bees. The plot was disked then broadcast very sparsely with buckwheat as a nurse and more densely with rapeseed and forage turnips. After disking again I broadcast some sweet, crimson and red clover on top before mulching lightly with straw.

Now growing in tandem with buckwheat as a garden cover crop, one bed contains sweet clover while the rest contain red clover. To make my life easier by removing one extra decision, I hope a pattern emerges regarding which clover grows best in the general pasture, and which variety my bees prefer. A post will be made if such a revelation is made!

Bees, Garden


I caught a few of my ladies in my blooming buckwheat!



Look at the pollen pants!

I thought my bees disliked the buckwheat or were maybe more attracted to the neighbors soybeans. Up until this point, I’ve seen carpenter bees 5 different species of wasps and 21 different butterflies (assuming males and females look alike in each species) but no honeybees!

I’ve been taking pictures of many of the native pollinators I find in the buckwheat and will consolidate them into a single post.

Bees, Garden

My wild Wine Raspberry harvest thanks to the bees: Rubus phoenicolasius

I’ve been organizing my thoughts on our classification of “Invasive” species. This plant is one that has spurred that train of thought.

I’ve also had a series of very short posts written off-line at my farm regarding the natural(ized) nectar and pollen sources for the bees. Those posts were subsequently forgotten on my computer hard drive. Now I can publish those thoughts along with an update!

1 month ago I had written:

The naturalized, invasive by the definition of others, wine raspberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) are blooming in impressive quantity. The bees are crawling all over these plants and many of the flowers have already developed into burrs which will become raspberries in the next few weeks:


As of yesterday, I have to say that I have never in the life of using this property had such an abundance of wine raspberries. A hunch says that my 2 honeybee hives are to thank:




Picking commenced at 6:30 pm and concluded when the bowl was full at 7:45. The final haul:


I want to again gush over my love of that kitchen scale. Now that I have used and abused the stainless steel bowl including weighting homebrewed beer ingredients, food preparation and even baking it at 500 degrees to contain steam around loaves of sourdough, I can fully endorse it! Amazon prices fluctuate quite a bit. The scale is currently at $50 but I bought it not long ago for $37. Either way, it was worth every penny!

The berries are just now beginning to ripen. For most of the bundles of berries, only one in the group was ripe (the beehive picture demonstrates this) so I will be able to harvest a huge amount in the coming weeks!

However not all non-native plants are as worthy of shedding the invasive label as this one. My current ecological dilemma is the subject of tomorrow’s post.


Leonurus cardiac aka motherwort: Bee Sustenance

Last week I noticed this plant with a tall stock growing in the shady areas of the farm. The very numerous and tiny flowers that were developing made me think of the potential nectar sources for bees. Thus I posted on a plant ID forum and almost immediately had the genus and species: Leonurus cardiac, commonly known as motherwort. Currently, these stands of motherwort are crawling with bees, wasps, butterflies and some strange bugs I’ve never seen that look like a cross between wasps and mosquitos.

Native Carpenter Bee:




One of my ladies excelling at her job duties (Honeybee):



And these bugs are can be found everywhere that has drawn in the pollinators. Anyone know what it is?



The power of observation

I’ve been researching the best plants to include that either sustain or create habitat for native pollinators. While the documentation on the subject is valuable and will certainly be the subject of some future posts, by getting out there and observing, I have learned quite a bit.

Trees are my thing. Wild grasses, flowers, etc. are not but I’m doing my best to learn what is out there. I’ve decided to prioritize my learning on those plants which the pollinators demonstrate an affinity. I’ll venture out with my phone or camera later today and try to capture some pollinators in action!


Bee Update: Both colonies established and what to expect in the early days

As a followup to Establishing a Bee Colony, both of my bee colonies have freed and accepted their queens, are busy building brood comb and foraging.


The last point is evidenced by wanning feeder consumption. In my Feeding Syrup Recipe post, I failed to recognize that the bees would be uncharacteristically hungry after their long journey and thus overestimate how much they would be feeding on artificial syrup. After that initial gorging feast, the bees have not fed nearly as much. I edited the linked post to reflect this.

Feeding amounts

Here is what I observed from record keeping on the hives:

On the first night, each colony consumed half of the 2 gallons of feed I supplied meaning they ate about 7 pounds of sugar each!

Over day 2 each colony consumed about a half gallon of feed, or 4 pounds each

Over day 3, each colony consumed about a third of a gallon of feed, or about 3 pounds of sugar each.

Over days 4-7, each colony consumed a half gallon or 4 pounds of sugar each.


I should note that around day 3 was when my eyes and sinuses informed me that plants have started blooming and thus the bees may be out feeding on foraging adventures opposed to consuming the artificial feed. The night connecting day 3 to day 4 was brutally cold and I fear it may have killed the colonies if they had not had a chance to build up feed from the sugar syrup. Also, the cold probably limited the amount of feeding the bees performed.

Lots and lots of bee poop

One of my hives immediately had a bad case of diarrhea, probably a case of dysentery as the bees had been cooped up longer than their internal storage could hold the fecal waste which feeds into my next point.

Bees, like pigs, will not poop in their home if given a choice. Once a new package is installed, expect your hive and surrounding areas to be covered in what looks like little drops of mustard as they have been trapped for the duration of shipping to you or from wherever the package was retrieved. This is a good sign that the bees are cleansing their systems in a healthy manner.

However one of my hives was spattered in what looked like yellow paint flung randomly at the hive. This indicates the bees had diarrhea. It passed after a day. Whether my feeding of thicker syrup was responsible or the condition cleared up on its own is not discernable. I mention the former as too much water in feed in early spring is a known culprit of bee diarrhea.

Installing the package and the queen

As I dedicated a post to this topic (Establishing a Bee Colony), I’ll only provide a summary here. The bee package must be opened and left in the hive so bees can exit the package at their leisure. The queen cage must be suspended between two frames and the cork guarding the candy cell in the cage must be removed which allows the bees to eat through the candy over a time period that all but ensures they will accept the queen.

On day 2, the package is removed from the hive and left in front of it so stragglers can wander in.

I take a more hands off approach to managing living organisms so I do not know how long the workers took to free the queen. By day 4 in the hives, both queens had been freed and accepted.

In the event they haven’t freed the queen after 5 days, the other cork can be removed allowing the queen to exit freely within the hive. Be careful to not let her fly away!


Beekeeping so far has been fun and way less intimidating than I initially thought. Feel free to ask questions! As beekeeping is a new adventure for me, I know of at least 1 reader (Brian) who is far more experienced than myself. If I don’t have an answer, I can defer to my readers or check my stockpiled reference materials!


Siting the First Beehive

An unintended use for the LiDAR data has been made apparent. During my research for beginning beekeeping, I found the consensus among beekeepers was to locate hives where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. I have not found a scientific source for this so I won’t go into the justifications just yet.

Using the LiDAR data in GIS software, I can create hillshades that show where sun reaches the ground at various points in the day as well as aspect maps. Aspect is the direction the land faces. Using hillshades and verifying with aspect, I found a good spot for the first hive plus solid locations for other hives!

Morning Sun:


Afternoon Sun:


Aspect Map with 3D Trees


Note that the trees will cast shadows to the NorthEast in the afternoons!

For the initial hive, I chose a small, SouthEast facing clearing in the woods. The sun exposure factors are correct and they will have peace from livestock, laboring farmer and equipment back in the forest. My plan is to grow a perennial, spring food plot in the clearing to give nursing Doe nutrition for their fawns. Clover and Chicory will be the most likely seed (and the only seed I will plant outside of gardens) so hopefully the bees can find enough food year-round with the forest, pasture, vegetable gardens and food plots!

Decision is made!