Archive for the ‘dividing’ Category

2013 Mesquite comb honey

Above photo: Every time I see comb like this, I simply want to glob a big fat piece of it into my mouth. Yuuuum.

Ever feel like there’s so much going on that you don’t even know which way to turn. And then the next thing you know, it’s bed time. And then you the alarm goes off and you are at it again. LOL that’s us right about now. We still try and make time here and there to just sit or to visit with friends or to go hunting down historical STUFF…but it’s a crazy time for GBR and most other beekeepers are in the same boat, we’re sure. It’s harvest and dividing time so that’s what we’re all about. The weird spring turned weird summer means it’s totally different from last year, when EVERYTHING was pulled at the same time and we killed ourselves trying to extract before the honey went bad on us. This year it’s more like a little here is ready and then maybe a little somewhere else might be ready. Crazy year for sure.

Okay, here are some of the highlights as of late:
1. We got more queens in, this time from Ebert out in Iowa. Mark’s already used six of them.
2. With dividing of hives in progress, he now has 30 new hives, quite a few in our backyard awaiting queen introductions.
3. Went to the Marriott yard today in SA and pulled a few supers. Sponsored hives are looking pretty good and I got some shots of the activities in order to send out an update to our sponsors.
4. We’re still working on getting the word out about the Southtown Farmers & Ranchers Market down at the Bluestar Art Complex (Saturdays 9-1p) so help us out if you can. Sonia and Danny are working it for us and doing a GREAT job. Sure appreciate them!
5. Belinda’s rejoined us and we’re happy to have her help and her smile back.

Here’s the second queen bank Mark built for the 20 Ebert queens. They came in plastic cages.

New queen bank for the 14 Ebert queens left, 6 introduced.

Finally, I wanted to just tell you about how happy I have been to put all the blazing heat to good use out here in Texas! 🙂 It’s in the 3-digits these days and the sun is hot enough to fry eggs on the ground. Really. I saw a little egg drop from above onto our pavement and though it was not of the eat-me-with-a-biscuit quality or quantity, it was cooked. Poor baby birdy. Anyway, a friend of ours (hi Pete!) asked me about decrystalizing a bottle of honey he had gotten a while ago. I explained the typical hot water in a pan technique and then I said, you know what – just go set it on a table outside for a couple of days and it’ll do the trick. I have had our various crystalized jars out there (Remember my cabinet full of honey? Some of it had crystalized and while I like it, it’s hard to get the honey out of the plastic squeeze bottles.) and most of them have been successfully decrystalized now. Free. Easy. Pretty fast. Done. And so am I. Goodnight, friends.

Solar heating


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The Cali queens have arrived in Seguin! Time to divide some hives.

Yesterday we got our twenty new queens from Olivarez out in California. They’ve been good queens for us and the company has been a good one to work with so we gave them a call last week now that Mark’s ready to make a few divides with hives that seem to be done making any more honey this season.

This is how the post office receives the queens and they will either call us or bring them by the Bee Ranch. Inside, the queen cages are stacked. Sometimes, each queen will come with their own attendant bees inside the cage with her. These bees take care of her. Other times, we may receive them like this – attendants on the outside of the cages so they can care for all the queens together. Pretty neat. (I recall one time when the box was left open in the house and I came home to several attendant bees buzzing about – just have to be careful about opening the box.)

20 Olivarez queens all arrived alive and well.

Since he can’t install all twenty queens at one time or in one day with everything else he has to do, he has built his own Queen Bank (I call it the QB) so that the queens can be cared for in an efficient manner. This little frame has worked well in the past and the bar across the front can be easily moved out of the way so he can remove any number of queen cages needed.

The queen bank: temporary housing for the Olivarez queens

The frame is inserted into a small hive that he found at Big Oaks when we went out there early evening yesterday. Now begins the process of identifying hives that are strong enough (have a lot of bees) to be split/divided. And out of one strong hive, you can make two! And sometimes, when we have a super strong hive, we have even been known to make three hives from one. Crazy, isn’t it? And that, in a nutshell, is one way in which you can increase your hives. When I went home for lunch today, he already had four new hives out of the Big Oaks hives. I think he mentioned there could be more out of that yard. Then he proceeds to other bee yards and just goes down the list. Up to this point, he’s been monitoring the yards and the hives in each yard, taking notes and keeping track of who’s doing well in terms of number of bees as well as honey production. There are other factors to consider as well but that’s the jist of it. Okay, I need to go check on my beekeper. Y’all have a good one!

Big Oaks bee Yard  July 10, 2013

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The British Invasion queen

I am determined to write this before I hit the sack since we have a long day tomorrow. Remember that new approach to queen installation/introduction I mentioned? This was the hive that we got from Jester Bees in Florida but they had lost their Jester queen and had made their own, which we didn’t want. Mark put the Big Island queen in and did the heavy smoke and release approach. Well, Mark went back in today and it has only been three days…and there she was! Still alive and well AND laying eggs. Amazing! He was quite pleased and will continue to monitor her and the hive. He said he may also try a few more to see how it goes. Sure would save time and energy if it works consistently. We’ll keep you posted.

Rattlesnake hole

In other news, Smokey found (or ran across) a rattlesnake in the back area of our yard where the candles shop and our supplies and equipment are! Yikes. I didn’t have a zoom lens so that pic of the den is all you get. I was on watch while Mark went to find the gun and ammunition. The den is a little close to home. It appears the den is along the tree line and Smokey was between the snake and its den. Fortunately he got Mark’s attention somehow and did not move from the area until Mark came over (cautiously, for he heard that awful rattling sound). We are pretty proud of that cat of ours and we are glad he didn’t get hurt. I’m really glad Mark didn’t happen upon him unsuspectingly – it’s an area we venture into to look at what’s blooming in the field. Now we know to watch our step. I have never heard a rattlesnake before in real life and it is somewhat creepy. Mark’s right – you can’t really tell exactly where it’s at when you hear it! 😦

Danielle helping Mark make up some nucs

Back to bee news – that’s our friend and former student, Danielle, helping out at Big Oaks bee yard today. She and Mark prepared enough nucleus hives (nucs) for our students and customers tomorrow. It got a little warm and Danielle wasn’t feeling so great by the end of the day so we sure hope she feels better soon!

While I was working, Mark also sent this great shot of the bees carrying some beautiful pollen – we certainly love to see this!

That's some nice pollen they're carrying in today.

Okay, I had better say goodnight and see you tomorrow. Remember, Mark’s in class here. I’m downtown on the Seguin square for Seguin Trade Days (9-4p) and Lan will be celebrating her LAST DAY AT THE PEARL (!!) with Sonia and Danny. 😦 Be sure to swing by there and wish her well as she’s moving soon! We sure are going to miss one of our top sales guru. Thank you for all you’ve done for us Lan!

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Big Island Queen in a Cage

Thanks go out to Emily of the UK for putting the idea of introducing a queen to a new hive without the cage – an aggressive approach compared to our seven-day slow introduction method with a caged queen that has proven to work quite well in our hives. I came home today and when Mark got home, he surprised me with news that he and Danielle requeened a hive using the cageless introduction technique. Cool! He said while they were out in the bee yard feeding, doing mite treatments and dividing when they came across one of our new Jester Bees hive. That hive had lost its queen and the girls made their own, which Mark does not want here in Texas. So, he decided this was an opportunity to try the more aggressive approach – doesn’t hurt to try and I guess his curiosity had been piqued. First things first, he found and killed that queen the girls made for themselves. In the following picture, he is clearing off the attendant bees from the Big Island queen, as best he can.

Getting bees off the cage

After that, he put a very heavy smoke on the hive itself to really sedate them. Don’t worry, it won’t harm the bees.

Smoking the bee hive

Here he is pushing apart a couple of frames to make sure that when he releases her, she’ll be near or on the brood nest.

Releasing the queen

And there she goes when he pulls back the wire protective screen.

There she goes

After all that, he put some feed into the box for them and now we wait and hope. He will go back and check on them next week some time.

Feeding the bees

I want to thank the wonderful Danielle for taking these pictures for us – we wouldn’t have them if she wasn’t with Mark. Sounds like she had a better out in the yards with Mark, which makes me happy to hear. 🙂

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All set up and ready to sell

Hello everyone and sorry I am just now getting to post. Our days and evenings are so packed and instead of posting last night, I made a little time to snuggle Smokey instead. I think I was on the move from the moment I left work – groceries, honey curry chicken, laundry, bills and checkbook work, and so on. All the routine stuff in life in addition to work and GBR. We love being able to do the bee work, though, so we just plug along. 🙂

Okay…so we made it through our BIG double event weekend. Not just any double event but the three-day event also known as Come & Take It. It didn’t disappoint overall though the crowds were thinner than in years past we noticed. We talked to other vendors and they agreed. We did, however, manage to do good business there. Some new things for us include the very new, very nice, surprisingly easy to put up and take down canopy from Academy. Weighing in at 65 pounds each, these have an extended awning that provides much needed shade from the Texas sun, both for our customers as well as our candles. In the four years we’ve been doing this whole market thing, we have learned a lot and we continue to with each event. Our neighbors have helped by providing feedback and suggestions on everything – from how to place products on tables for optimal appeal to how to set up the various canopies we’ve had (and some have even helped us put up that dreaded double canopy that didn’t last long). We sure appreciate the advice and help.

Speaking of help, the Pearl market was Saturday as well and Mark worked that event with Lan and Cathy, who was so sweet – she brought fresh eggs again and a tin of honey cookies! Thanks, Cathy! You are the bomb, as kids say. They do still say that, don’t they? Anyway, the cookies even made it to Gonzales and Jess and I got to enjoy them as well. I am notorious for savoring my special treats so guess what – I have some cookie left I’m going to enjoy tonight with a cup of hot tea after my blog post. That’ll be my reward. Who cares if I have to brush my teeth again. 😀

Cathy's Mesquite Honey Cookies

Finally, I want to catch you up on Mark’s work in the bee yards – it’s not all dividing and requeening right now. I think we need to clone him. Just a thought. Anyway, he is treating for mites! Yes, the dreaded mites. You really have to stay on top of them and he has yet to find a treatment that he is satisfied with but for now, he’s reading up on Randy Oliver’s site about Mite Away and trying some suggested methods of dealing with them. Randy does a lot of great research on all things bees and their well-being. We really appreciate his efforts as well as those of the groups with which he works. We had a chance to hear his presentation at last year’s beekeeping conference and it was fascinating. So, if you’re keeping bees, then be sure to do what Mark is constantly doing – reading, experimenting, reading, reading and more reading. And you’ve got to check your bees to stay on top of any potential problems, particularly at the height of activity (summer time). Right now we’ve got to get them ready for winter and that means helping them kick the mites off and out. So as I mentioned, Mark’s using Mite Away, a white strip of formic acid (don’t worry, this is considered to be an organic treatment). It sure smells better than Hopguard. Just my opinion.

Mite count fall 2012

Seven days ago, Mark treated six hives with the Mite Away. Today, he dusted each of those hives with powdered sugar in order to do a mite count. In past posts, we’ve written about the bees grooming that sugar off each other and in the process they knock the mites off. With the white board at the bottom of the hives as well as a screen bottom board, you can then do a count of mites over the whole white board. He found less than one percent infestation in the hives. YAY! Mark is very satisfied with this result and will continue this treatment for the rest of the hives. My poor honey bee – he’s going to be out of commission for a while, folks. Between this mite treatment and the dividing activities, he’s not going to be around the Honey House much. If you need honey or candles, please call me at 830-305-7925 and I’ll set up a time to meet you at the HH either during lunch or after 5p when I’m off work. Thanks for your understanding! And thank you, love, for contributing to the post. 🙂

Okay, now I’m off for tea and my honey cookie! Ciao!

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Troy and Mark

This is our friend and awesome web designer, Troy! He owns Stratagem Technical Services and has really helped us create a beautiful site for our growing little bee biz. We are thrilled that Troy got to stop in to see us at the Bee Ranch this week – even got to visit a couple of bee yards with Mark while I worked. I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on his first visit with bees – sometimes we are with them so much, you miss out on the newness of experiences. I have two favorites that Troy shared with me and I will tell you briefly here what they are.

Troy and the queen bank

Troy got to see the queen bank and install a queen cage into a hive. Remember, Mark has those 50 Heitkam queens he needs to install. Well I think my favorite thing about Troys’s description of the experience is the feeling of all those little wings touching his bare hands as he slide the cage between two frames full of bees. How lovely it sounded – I have never done that before so see what I’m missing out on there? I liked hearing about it, however. It was so poetic.


Funny shot, rigth? I love that donkey because from day 1 at Deadman Creek bee yard, he has been a real character. The first time we “met” him, he was trotting stalkingly behind and beside us in the ATV we were riding to check out the property with Craig. Hilarious little fella. Well apparently he treat Mark and Troy to a real show while they were working bees. About ten feet away from the hives, Donkey decided to stop, drop and roll around in the dirt! Troy’s phone was inside his bee suit and by the time Mark got his phone out and camera on, Donkey had finished and jumped straight up as if nothing unusual had just happened. Ugh! I miss all the fun! If I had seen that in person, I seriously think I would have laughed my head off. What a silly donkey he is.

After all that excitment of the day, no visit would be complete without a real south Texas meal so we took Troy to Clear Springs and the food was yummy. And abundant. 🙂 We thoroughly enjoyed the visit and getting to know Troy better. Can’t wait for his next visit already.

I think we were up till about 1:00am to finish as much prep as possible for the Pearl market and the Gonzales Come & Take It Festival. We’re learning about doubling up on everything from products to supplies to staffing. But we are ready! So come by and visit us at either or both events!! Come & Take It is always a fun event to do – people are wonderful and there’s music, food, vendors, a carnival with rides, a Saturday parade and so much more. We always love doing that event. It starts tonight and Mark and Stan are there setting up – we’ll be ready with local and specialty honeys by 5:00pm today and it runs to midnight (yes!). Jess and I will be manning the double booth all day tomorrow and we’ll be in our usual spot hear the fire house, on the side where you can see the old theatre. Great spot. Then Sunday Mark and I will wrap it up together so do stop by and visit. Lan and Cathy will be helping Mark at the Pearl tomorrow and our CrepeLandia friends are back so that will be a treat for Mark – we missed them last week as rain and crepes apparently do not mix. lol Crowds are expected to be full since a lot of folks need to pick up goods they missed out on last weekend thanks to all that water everywhere. So if you want your honey and candles, be sure to get there early!

Okay friends – we are out of here! Y’all have a wonderful and safe weekend. We hope to run into you somewhere along the beeventure trails. Love, Thien

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Bee box

And sending packages and talking to people about bees and picking a picture to represent our year (for a commemorative offering project) and packing and planning and talking to surveyors who are staking out land for our new Honey House and making sure Smokey is okay in a cat fight with a country cat and eating a great dinner together after a long day of work for each of us. And now we’re both on our computers with the Packers/Seahawks game on the TV. Oh, and restocking at Maldonado’s. Phew. Covered almost everything we did today. 🙂

The above shot is one that Mark took of a new hive he built from a healthy existing hive out at the Farm bee yard. Another Heitkam queen was installed in between all the other work Mark had going on today. He noticed for several days now that bees were swarming around his door handle and we’re not really sure why. Perhaps in handling the queens, he got their scents on his hands and then onto the door handle and that attracted the bees. Funny sight for sure. Those funny girls.

Sticky handle maybe

Speaking of funny, I wanted to share two funny things – first off, did you know it is dove season. I think that’s a funny way to put it because it actually means it’s the season for shooting doves! haha, to me, saying it’s dove season sounds like it should be a time when the doves are free to fly about without fear of being shot down. But no, it’s the opposite. ‘Tis dove season so that means Mark now has to be mindful of when he enters some of the bee yards since many of them are leased out for hunting. Poor man, he said it was really LOUD at Deadman Creek yard Sunday at dusk. When he called me to touch base on the way home, he said he was lucky to be alive and I had no idea what he meant at first. Then when he reminded me it was dove season, I had a moment of panic, picturing crazed dove hunters just shooting whatever moved. 😦 I need to find out when it’s over. lol. Never thought about that aspect of keeping bees on prime hunting properties.

Here’s the other funny thing to share – the wick and burn testing continued after dinner! It is the third round of wick testing to find the right size that will burn cleanly and not drip. This one is not it but it does make a wonderful wax art piece. 🙂 The other one is burning more slowly with the smallest wick Mark has in stock yet it is still dripping. Interesting. There’s no draft in there as far we can see – flames are burning smoothly. Hmm…a mystery. We won’t be able to sell it until we figure out which wick works (say that 10 times straight) best. We’ll keep you posted!

Taper candle wick test - Take 3

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Installations of the Heitkam queens from Cali

Today Mark finally had a chance to start installing a few of the fifty queens he recently received from Heitkam Honey Bees out of California. In between administrative work, errands and candle making, he headed out to Big Oaks where the queen bank is located. He said that one of the hives was very strong but also on the aggressive side. A great reason to requeen, I’d say. He only got stung a few times but none after donning the Ultra Breeze. The challenges of working with a suit on include not being able to easily have a water break without opening up the suit and it’s hot. But we’re in Texas, so it’s pretty much hot in any suit (in my opinion). The UB does help because it has great ventilation (though I sort of prefer the soft cotton suits because they are lighter).

In the picture above, you see one of the queens in her cage. Mark has taped the opening end and will leave the cage in the newly divided hive for two days so that the bees may begin getting used to the new queen’s scent. He will then return to that yard and remove the tape on those hives he did today. Within seven days, the bees and the queen will eat through the sugar cork that is in the end of the cage. Once they eat through that cork, the queen will be able to move out of the cage – by that time, hopefully everyone’s been seduced by their new queen’s scent and they will simply go about doing their bee assignments. That’s ultimately what you hope for when you install queens. Mark told me that he once had to requeen a hive five times before the bees accepted their queen. That’s a lot of poor queens that the bees did away with for some reason. At about $20 a pop, it sounds like a lot of money but when you start thinking about how critical the queen is to the well-being of a hive, then it puts it in perspective, right? $20 for an awesome queen with a healthy, strong, abundantly populated hive sounds like a great deal. I wonder if queen breeders ever have a BOGO deal. Wouldn’t that be funny? 🙂 BOGO stands for buy-one, get-one in case you didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue the first few times I saw it. There’s your retail trivia for the day.

Wonder what tracks these are...

I always love hearing what Mark did during his day with the bees and the bee business. I never know what he’ll tell me or what picture he’ll show me. When I saw this one of the tracks, I asked if it was the longhorns out at Deadman Creek on the Lazy U Ranch. No, he said. They’re probably tracks of the CHUPACABRA. In case you don’t know what that animal is, take a minute to Google it since I don’t have an actual picture of the rarely-seen, questionably-real creature. That beekeeper of mine is funny.

And here’s a lovely shot he got of one of the bees working the Broomweed, which is now blooming all about the area. This makes a bitter honey that we leave on the hives for the bees to winter on and perhaps we won’t have to feed them until next spring. With the rain we’ve been getting, it’s been wonderful for the bees. We hope there will continue to be enough out there for our newly divided hives to strengthen themselves on in preparation for the South Texas winter.

Bee in the broomweed

Finally, we want to thank our friends and family who have helped us move over to the new Bee Ranch. We are officially moved in though things are of course not yet in all their right spots. The Honey House on Krezdorn is still in use as we don’t have a new HH yet so if you see a vehicle over there, feel free to stop in as we always love visitors. Wish us luck in cleaning things up and getting some little fixes completed on our sweet little original Bee Ranch. That home was a good home to us and we hope the next owners will love it as much as we loved it. It’s just time for us to move on. Speaking of which, my sweet little baby Smokey is out and about exploring his new territory. We haven’t seen him back in about 24 hours so I’m an anxious momma. I hope that crazy cat comes home soon. Mark said he LOVED class last Saturday and I can’t imagine class without him. Send him home if you see him please! Goodnight.

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50 Queens from Cali

Heitkam queen

There’s got to be a good song to go with that title I think. Well guess what came via the UPS delivery this morning? Fifty Heitkam queens from California! Mark has started his fall dividing of our hives and we hope to increase the total number a bit for next year. This batch of queens came in their own little plastic cages with the attendants outside, tending to each queen. This is not always MY favorite way to receive them because I don’t get to handle them unless I am suited up and gloved. I remember the first time we received bees in such a way and Mark had brought them inside the house to keep them cool (brutal Texas summer heat) and the box lid was not on completely so I came home from work with bees flying around the house. I believe I made a dash for the bedroom, determined they were not in there and holed up there till Mark got home. I didn’t have a bee suit handy. Anyway, back to our current set of queens.

I asked Mark which cage he preferred – these plastic ones where the queen’s attendants are outside or the wooden cages where the attendants are inside with their queen. I didn’t know if it mattered. Well, he told me he preferred these smaller plastic cages because they are easier to insert into the hives during the slow introduction process he uses. Interesting! I learned something new! I never thought about that aspect of it, actually. Glad I asked. I also wondered and asked him if the attendants tend to just one queen or if they tended all of them and if there was any fighting among the bees. He said he wasn’t sure if they tended just one queen but there never seems to be a problem with queen care so perhaps they do just go from queen to queen as needed. He also said he’d not seen fighting among the bees, which is nice to know. I just wondered, what with all the different scents and all. They are so fascinating, right?

Mark's bank of Heitkam queens

The bank is back in business – this is a modified frame Mark made in order to house the cages until he can get them all introduced into the newly split hives. I find it quite clever – the queens are tucked safely into the slots and the attendants are free to continue caring for their queens. They last quite well in that bank, allowing Mark to work at dividing hives without rushing through the process. I wonder how many hives we’ll grow to this coming divide. We shall see.

Tomorrow’s Friday so that means we’ll be prepping for the Pearl Farmers Market again. I will work the market with Lan and Cathy while Mark holds down the Bee Ranch – classes are starting up again! He has nine students schedule (cool!) and he’ll have Smokey to assist (greeter, bee suit sniffer, ice-breaker extraordinaire). Wish us luck – we also plan to move Sunday! Eeks! Exciting but still…eeks!

Guess what? As soon as I finish doing my social media duties, we get to watch an episode of black-and-white Perry Mason! We love Perry and I have a full DVR recorded off the ME channel. Talk about excited. 😀

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Mark gets to work pulling supers

You wouldn’t think this is August really if you look at that picture, would you? It’s been hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry. Yet I was so pleased to see all the little flowers blooming in the fields both at Big Oaks and the Pizza yards. However, when we got a closer look at Pizza yard, we did see a sign of the dry ground – a hive was down. 😦 Luckily, Mark was able to right the boxes but they sure weren’t too happy. Not horribly mean but I sure was happy I was covered up. I had about five irritated girls poking at my veil. Interesting behavior and I was fascinated. Mark said they were trying to intimidate me. Hmmm.

Looks like the ground gave way

By the way, we were ONE degree off the record temperature today, I just heard the weatherman say. It was 101 degrees! Yikes. So far, I think this is one of the hottest weeks so far this year. Booooo. Tomorrow will be 101 again. Sigh. I need a pool.

We are busy and we are thankful but you know what? I can’t wait for the beekeeper to get back to beekeeping full time! We have so much going on it’s hard to keep up with everything! He works long hours but we’re hoping that will be finished soon. I try to run errands for home and GBR during lunch hours and post work but even then we have a long list still. Speaking of which, we still haven’t finished extracting and we need to be thinking about splitting hives as well. Better than being bored I suppose. I think I’ve said it before but I don’t know how anyone could possibly be bored with life. There sure is a lot to do.

We’re gearing for Pearl again. We’re getting pretty good at it and it is going so smoothly we can hardly believe it! We’re having a good time and it’s been great for the business. Sure are happy we got accepted!

Before I leave you, I want to show you some other hazards the bees are facing again this summer…drought brings out some funny creatures. There are spiders galore!

Lurking Spider at Big Oaks

The above spider can be found all over the countryside. Around the Big Oaks yard we saw at least three big webs and many little bees caught up in them. Very smart of the spiders to build near the hives. Here’s another type of spider we saw at the Pizza yard.

Unidentified spider

Finally, despite this not being a great picture because it’s hard to focus an iPhone on a flying insect buzzing around preying another flying insect…

Robber fly & predator

Something that chases the robber fly! Remember them? I blogged about them last summer when they were abundant during the drought and they preyed on our poor little bees, catching them and draining the liquid out of our girls. Fascinating how nature works. Well I do not know what the black creature is to the left in the picture but it followed the robber fly around, zipping here and there. Then when the brown robber fly (on right and landed on a weed) would land somewhere, that black thing would hover near the fly, two appendages (not sure if they are legs or what) pop out in front and then charge it. It was pretty neat. The black thing looked like a creature out of a science fiction flick. Anyway, I find those things interesting and I love it when I get to accompany Mark to bee yards. Always seeing something new and learning. 🙂

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