There were maybe 100 bees buzzing around the two hanging feeders on the deck. I assumed they were yellow jackets because we’ve had a lot of trouble here with hornets and wasps — and especially yellow jackets who have nested in several places on this property, including in and around the electric metering box. It’s a nice cubbyhole for bad-tempered yellow jackets.
I remember while looking at those bees thinking that for yellow jackets, these guys didn’t have those sharp black stripes on a bright yellow body. They were almost solid yellow down their thorax. Also, I didn’t get stung even though I stuck my hands in to remove the feeders which, for yellow jackets, was unusual. Yellow jackets are aggressive and unlike bees, they can sting you many times and won’t die.
Bees, on the other hand, are peaceful and won’t sting unless their lives are threatened. I put a mental note to look up honeybees versus yellow jackets and see if perchance, those weren’t yellow jackets, but bees.
Honeybees. To be entirely accurate, Italian honeybees — Apis mellifera ligustica — which are the most frequently kept bees on farms where honey is produced. They are quite passive and easy to manage, probably the easiest of all the bees to raise. They aren’t the most prolific honey producers, but they are mellow. If you are just starting to raise bees, these are likely to be your first choice.
They are not native to North America having been introduced from Italy in 1859.
Slightly smaller than Northern European bees, they can be found all across Europe and North America. Almost of our honey producing bees were imported from various places in Europe. The first of them (the Northern European group) came over on the Mayflower.
How, you ask, did Italian bees wind up on our deck? We have beekeepers nearby. If you ignore roads and fly straight through the woods, you’d wind up on the farms that line the Blackstone River. They all sell their own honey. I think these were “lost” bees. If I knew where they came from, I’d have returned them. But really? I haven’t seen any signs on poles saying:
Lost, two bee swarms seeking new hives.
If found, please call…
Our hanging cage feeders are hive shaped and it was the first warm day of the season. I’m guessing the bees had a new queen and were looking to build a hive. Italian bees are also famous for “getting lost.” It snowed the next day, so I don’t think they’d have had much luck on our deck, nor are the bird feeders big enough for more than a few bees. They hung around for awhile. I think they were confused by the loss of their intended new hives. Eventually they flew back into the woods. I hope they found another place to live.