Monday, April 21, 2008

It finally happened. We finally were invaded by killer bees. "Killer" is something of a misnomer for Africanized bees, which can and do kill humans and other animals, but it's not as if they're going out looking for other beings to slaughter; rather, they will attack when they feel their hive is threatened. Thus, it's not dangerous to do stuff while the bees are foraging (buzzing flowers or my pond), but it can be dangerous to do pretty much of anything near the hive.

Anyway, our handyman was here this morning fixing the cooler baffle when he noticed a few bees going in and out through a crack at the top of our house just below the roof. I immediately called a bee exterminator, and they said they'd be here in a couple of hours. About two and a half hours later, Rocko heard a very loud sound of buzzing outside his office. I came in to look, then over to my office, and the air outside the windows was literally thick with bees milling around. It was like something from a horror movie.

I thought it was probably just a swarm, getting ready to move in, which wouldn't have been dangerous (till after they moved in), but I wasn't sure enough of my natural history knowledge to go outside and see what was up. About five minutes later, the bee guy arrived. When I told him the sequence of events, he said that it was probably a swarm, and went to take a look. He came back and said that the bees milling around were drones, and that the main part of the hive was already inside. He said the guys we saw this morning were probably advance scouts, who had decided that this was indeed a lovely place to set up the new hive. I took a picture of the swarm as it proceeded inside the crack. (I've seen swarms on trees, and they look like very strange, constantly wriggling, buzzing footballs.)

Bee guy put on his bee suit and went back to the swarm. He told us that the whole thing was inside now, and we should get out of the way. So we went inside. I watched as much as I could see from the window, which wasn't much, except that suddenly the air was thick with bees again, only this time they were dropping out of the air as they died. They began to pile up on top of the cooler, and he brushed them to the ground.

Five minutes later he was finished, except for plugging up the hole. He's coming back Sunday to bee-proof the whole house and the shed. He used pyrethrine, which does dissipate, but smells awful. He said that ants will probably eat the dead bees.

A couple of hours later, after doing some errands in the neighborhood, I went back to the bee area to change a hummingbird feeder. There were practically no dead bees around (they had already been eaten or blown away, I guess), but there were about a dozen live bees, buzzing around in seeming puzzlement. They could smell the Queen's pheromone, I guess, but had no way to get to it. I'm assuming they were stragglers, or scouts who had checked out another location or something.

And that's my bee story.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

As Anonymous noted, that turkey has been up here for a long time. And the desert, indeed, is very beautiful. The brittle bush in our neighborhood was in exuberant bloom for weeks, as yellow and vibrant as forsythia back east. Cactus are starting to bloom; prickly pads are ringed with young new pads and in some cases buds. Some of the mammalia are starting to put out blossoms.

Nevertheless, I have no gorgeous desert photos today, though there will be some soon. Instead, I offer a distant, blurry photo of a phaenopepla, perhaps the same individual that I saw drinking out of my pond the other day, and two photos from a fairly recent full moon over the garden just before dawn.

Quail update: For some time now, we only see them in pairs, though large groups still gather at the quail block. I don't know if any roosting is going on in the citrus tree beside the porch. About a month ago I saw ONE female jump up into the tree to roost, but from the lack of clucking, I think she may have been alone. I'm hoping for some baby quail soon. We have no dove nests in the carport so far this year, but there's a lot of bird sex going on out by the pond. This is such a wonderful time of year!