Saturday, November 28, 2009

First Frost

The temperature dropped below the freezing point last night for the first frost of the fall. With very normal seasonal weather, the air had warmed considerably by mid-morning; and the honey bees were flying. A number of the bees were eagerly foraging evening primrose plants that were slightly wilted by the overnight frost. This is the first day that I have noticed honey bees foraging evening primrose in any numbers. More often, I have found moths, butterflies, blue orchard bees, and other solitary bees foraging this hearty native plant. The evening primroses have been in continuous bloom for several months. During the summer I observed luna moths the size of small birds pollinating the evening primrose flowers at night. The change in the honey bees’ foraging behavior seems to have followed the change in the weather. The frost may have caused the plants that the bees were foraging the previous day to stop producing nectar. Honey bees will forage a species of plants as long as the nectar is reliable, then, they will scout for a different nectar source.

With the season’s first frost foretelling more cool and cold weather to come, the honey bees are reacting to a scarcity of available nectar. They are searching for new sources. Many bees are flying around the wood shop where I am cleaning hive frames. There is also much activity on the landing boards of bee hives where the guard bees are checking all returning bees to prevent robbers from entering. Each hive’s winter stores of honey are vulnerable to robbing bees. Evening primrose is a medicinal herb that was a staple food for many Native American tribes. The colorful and long-blooming evening primrose is often planted as a hearty summer flower along fencerows and in meadows.

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