Ants in the Hive

I swear, if our bees make it through this winter, it'll be a miracle. First wax moths, then varroa, now an infestation of ants.

Today I've been outside working. We've had wet weather recently, so no chance to get outside and do some weeding and general clean-up. Today it's a sunny, chilly day, and we expect more rain tomorrow, so I knew I needed to get outside and take care of some things.

On one of my passes through the back garden, I stopped and watched the hive for a moment. I do this quite frequently. I just want to keep an eye on the amount of activity, and while it's greatly diminished this time of year, if I stood there for five minutes on a sunny day and saw nothing, I'd be worried. Today I noticed little things crawling, and in alarm, I lifted the lid. Ants everywhere.

So Tom and I immediately got out the smoker, the diatomaceous earth, the light bee brush, and the hive tool. I hate to open the hive when it's cold, but I had to see what was going on (and it is over 50 degrees today, so not horribly cold). We separated the bars and saw ants pretty much everywhere. I didn't get any good pictures, but here's a terribly out-of-focus one on the ants in the uncapped honey.

This pissed me off. We killed as many as we could, rubbed out the line of ants going up the hive leg, and went a little nuts with the diatomaceous earth. This is really all we can do.

Ants are opportunists, just like most of nature - you can't blame them for wanting an easy meal. And our bee colony is so diminished in numbers at the moment, they just don't have enough manpower (actually, that would be womanpower) to fight the battle. They're barely hanging on as it is.

Like I said, it'll be a miracle if our bees survive the winter.

We've had a few problems with animals here at Poppy Corners lately. Joe the dog has got a spinal injury, some sort of compressed disc in his neck. He's been in a great deal of pain and has required several trips to the vet. He's on muscle relaxers and steroids, and he's getting better. But he's not allowed to go on walks, so he's antsy and we're antsy too. It's been scary but I'm hoping that he'll heal. He's firmly middle-aged, which, as I know well, doesn't help matters.

A much less serious problem is Tasha the cat and her growing collection of dreadlocks. She's a very crepuscular creature, climbing the fences at dawn and dusk to meow forlornly. At what, we don't know. I'm not sure where she goes exactly, though we can certainly hear her. She comes home with terrible mats in her fur, which I then find and cut out. She's looking quite holey.

There's lots of stuff growing in the garden: Peas, kohlrabi, all kinds of greens and lettuces, broccoli, cabbage, fava beans, garlic, shallots, turnips, beets, carrots, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. The growth is just incremental, which is difficult for an impatient person like me. In the heat and bounty of summer, things germinate and grow so quickly, and one gets used to that. Winter is a different story. Everything creeps along. But as long as it's forward motion, I'm happy. The squirrels keep digging in my beds which is annoying and slows the process down further.

Only 10 more days till the solstice! These short days are hard for me and for the garden. But the sun is still shining right now, so I'd better get back out there!