Emerging Bees and Monster Squash

It was hot today but certainly not as hot as it has been. It was in the mid-90’s when we did the hive inspections. I also went around and took some pictures of our garden. We have had a devil of a time with squash bugs, those things have completely decimated our cucumbers, zucchini and tried to take down our winter squash. Our zucchini plant put out only a few squash before it died, overnight! You have to be so careful, one day the plant is fine, the next the leaves have completely wilted and turned brown. After that there is no hope.

We replanted a new zucchini plant a couple of weeks ago and since the demise of the 1st one we have been very diligent about patrolling the remaining squash plants. We use masking tape to pull off the eggs we find under the leaves and just by doing this a few times a week, we’ve prevented the hatching of at least (and trust me, I am NOT exaggerating) several hundred squash bugs. I would guess close to a thousand since the clusters are about a dozen eggs each and we each find at least ten or more each time we patrol. Even better is finding the pairs of bugs while they’re mating–I seriously enjoy squishing them even if they smell like stink bugs.

We only have 6 squash plants, can you imagine what you would have to do if you were a farmer growing these for market? We asked Gregg, one of the farmers we buy from, what he does about squash bugs, he said “Suffer.”

What’s effective to kill them (Permethrin) also kills bees. So you’re supposed to spray the plant in the evening after bees have gone home. I had no idea how much bees liked squash flowers. We planted Sakata’s Sweet and Petit Gris de Rennes melons and there are bees CONSTANTLY on those flowers in addition to the winter squash. What I’ve noticed is that bumblebees seem to be out later that honeybees, so you still have to wait to spray until it’s close to dark. So I’ve only sprayed a few times but the greatest control has been from the repeated patrolling of the plant.

This is the result, a healthy squash plant that takes a long time to patrol for squash bugs:

Monster Squash--it spreads out at least 30 feet in each direction. And there are 4 of them.

Squash fruit:

There are at least 13 of these--each one is a foot to 18" long at least.

Sakata’s Sweet and Petit Gris de Rennes:

I think this is Sakata's Sweet

These are wonderfully small melons- one to 2 pounds each. Just right for a small family.To avoid jinxing the plant, I’ll refrain from making comments about squash bugs and these melons.

On my way to take more bee pictures I came upon a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on our Joe-Pye weed.

Drinking nectar on Joe-Pye Weed

This is too cool, I can’t believe I got this picture!

Onto the hives:

Melissa

  •      Set-up: One deep
  •      Number of frames being worked: 5
  •      Queen spotted: yes
  •      Frames of brood:3 with 2 having small areas (larvae present)
  •      Type of brood: eggs, larvae, capped
  •      Frames of bees: 4 without the foragers
  •      Food: Quart jar was empty, added a new one. Same pollen patty.

Overall Impression: Same as last week with a little more brood. All of the open areas had larvae or eggs in them. No stores and they didn’t seem to be building out much of the frames that were next to them. Those were plastic frames, so I moved a wax frame closer to the brood hoping they would build it out.

Plan: Keep moving frames closer to them and encouraging them to build them out. Keep feeding. I may ask Peter if I can take a couple of frames of brood and bees from his parent hive but I just don’t know.

Can you see the bee on the left toward the bottom? You see its head coming out of a cell but not the body...she has just cut her brood capping and is crawling her way out. It's a new bee!

This frame has a few bees just starting to cut the capping:

Look just to the right and left of the center. Some more bees being "born."

Demeter

  •      Set-up: Two deeps, one is built out
  •      Number of frames being worked: 8.5/9
  •      Queen spotted: yes
  •      Frames of brood:4 with large areas
  •      Type of brood: eggs, larvae, capped
  •      Frames of bees: 7 without the foragers
  •      Food: Hive top was empty on one side due to the slope. Added more and a polllen patty.

Overall impression: Still doing well, I want them to build out more frames and store more. Saw something interesting in one of the brood frames: they had honey among the larvae. I couldn’t figure out if it was honey going into the brood cells or brood going into the honey cells (as they use the honey or move it, it opens more room for the queen to lay). Since I wanted them to start moving into the top box and the bottom one was at least 80% built out, I moved a frame of brood up into the top deep. I hope it wasn’t a mistake!

Plan: Keep feeding. I’ll check on the pollen patty in a few days. Keep moving frames if necessary. I may ask Peter if I can take a few frames of honey since he won’t be harvesting.

This picture does not portray the sheer volume of bees in this hive. It's still a growing nuc but substabtially stronger than Melissa.

Building out the 5.1mm foundation:

I’m not sure if they were festooning or not:

Queen Penelope:

Much better marking job the 2nd time around

Though I like the size of the top hive feeder (holds 2 gallons) I don’t like having to move so many things to check on them and it doesn’t provide any space for a pollen patty. I prefer the quart jars at this point but once the population gets big enough I may come to appreciate the hive top feeders more!

I have some more neat pictures but I’ll save them for the next post.

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3 comments

  1. I’d love to be able to have my own hive one of these days. Were you nervous the first time you had all of those bees on you?

    I used pyrethrin on my cucumbers and melons not too long ago and applied it like you said when it was very close to being dark out. In my opinion, it’s not worth it and I haven’t noticed a major decrease in pests (in my case, cucumber beetles). Pyrethrin is a contact pesticide so you actually have to hit the bug with the spray in order for it to be affective. Most of the times, the bugs just fly away before enough spray hits them to be affective.

    • The first time I saw a real life beehive was in May and I couldn’t believe I was going to be near them! But they were so gentle and I was even standing in their flight path. I got one stuck under my shirt and she didn’t sting–most impressive. I’ll post pics of my 6yo after the next hive inspection. He handles the frames and likes to look at the “bee butts.”
      I just ordered predatory nematodes and ladybugs to help with the pest population. The nematodes attack any insect that has a larval stage in the soil: cucumber beetles, japanese beetles, colorado potato beetle, flea beetle, various borers, etc. The japanese beetles have completely devastated a new raspberry planting and my renovated strawberry plants.
      I use organic sprays as much as I can–but picking the squash bugs and eggs by hand has been the most effective, no doubt.

  2. I’m considering ordering nematodes for next year as well. The plants seem to be holding up while but I believe the second generation of cucumber beetles hit in August. Soooo annoying.

    That’s so awesome about the bees. I’ll have to looking for a bee-keeping class or demonstration in our area. Sometimes I’m surrounded by honeybees in the garden and they are too busy collecting pollen to be bothered by me. I was however stung on the face by a yellow jacket the other day. Those I can live without.

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