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Good morning, gardeners, and welcome to the Saturday Morning Garden Blog!

     "The little bee returns with evening's gloom,
     To join her comrades in the braided hive ..."
                                           ~ Tennyson

Some of you may remember a diary i shared this past Spring about the set up and installation of two backyard beehives (  Since then, the miraculous super-organism that is a colony of honeybees has proven to be an education, a challenge, and above all, a never-ending delight.

My husband and i always enjoyed watching honeybees in our garden, but it's especially thrilling when we know the foraging bees came out of our very own hives.  We never tire of watching one of our girls dart from flower to flower, eager to carry nectar or bloated baskets of pollen back to their respective colonies.  In recent weeks, they've been feasting on Agastache ...

Thistle ...

Tumbling in the magnolia flowers ...

And making full use of the ever-present clover, dandelions and goldenrod in the field ...

As exciting as it is to see them flitting around in the garden, the hives themselves are an absolute wonderment.  Each comb is a living, ever-changing work of art.
A thick band of capped honey ...

A circle of brood ...

Pollen in shades of red, orange, gray, brown, yellow ...

A secret tunnel ...

Once, they even made a heart!

All under the guidance of a hard-working and benevolent Queen ...

But in keeping with the vicissitudes of the natural world, we sometimes find ourselves walking the tightrope between triumph and potential tragedy.  Much to our chagrin, we recently discovered the presence of the dreaded varroa mite in our hives!  This mite can be a colony killer, and beekeepers, both commercial and otherwise, tend to sound the alarms at the first sign of an infestation.  Can you see the evil little succubus in the center of the below photo, under the wing of that poor baby bee?

Although many beekeepers treat chemically to rid their hives of mites, such intervention is not without its complexities and drawbacks.  At this point, my husband and i opted for a sweeter solution:  Powdered sugar!  It's not just for donuts anymore!  In an effort to be as thorough as possible, each comb of bees is dusted with powdered sugar and temporarily placed in a miniature hive called a nucleus.

Theoretically, the tiny crystals of powdered sugar clog up the mites' footpads, causing them to lose their grip on the bees and fall off.  It also causes the bees to groom one another, further dislodging the slippery mites in the process.  Here's what a comb of bees looks like after it's been drenched in a shower of sweet snow.

Right away, we could see that the technique is at least somewhat effective ...

But will it be enough to make a difference?  Only time will tell.  We'll repeat the procedure for four consecutive weeks to cover the mite's reproductive cycle (we've done three so far). Hopefully, the resulting mite count won't exceed what the bees can manage on their own.

And with that, our adventures in backyard beekeeping continue.  Knock wood, our hives will survive the winter, and next year, we can learn about honey harvesting and apiary expansion. Meanwhile, if any of you experienced beekeepers would like to share tips, tricks, or other words of wisdom, please feel free to post your advice in the comment section.  As always, i promise it won’t sting.

     "It's all i have to bring today,
     This, and my heart beside,
     This and my heart and all the fields,
     And all the meadows wide.
     Be sure you count, should i forget,
     Someone the sun could tell,
     This, and my heart, and all the bees,
     Which in the clover dwell."
                       ~ Emily Dickinson

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