Apr 20 2013

A Bunch of Buzz

Melissa Crytzer Fry

There’s been a whole lot of buzz in the desert lately. And if you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve got a bird’s-eye view of some of the zippity-doo-ing and buzzing going on at the hummingbird nest.

The camera that hubs set up has allowed me to peek right in the nest, using a fun little app on the iPhone. You can imagine my surprise when checking in on Humma Mumma, and I saw this on the other bird cam.

Inside the kestrel box. Click to enlarge.

Yep. Bees. Of the Africanized variety. Without our consent or nary a reservation, our kestrel box became a Bee Motel.

So many bees! Our Bee Motel needed a “No Vacancy” sign. Click to enlarge.

Within thirty minutes, this is the photo we got inside the Kestrel bee box:

Yes. Darkness. Total ... Because that box was filled with bees and, we later learned, honeycomb right over the camera lens.

When morning came, we saw this:

Jam-packed with bees. Nearly everyone inside now. Click to enlarge.

What to do? This might be a no-brainer to some, who might quickly conclude: exterminate them. But my science-writing background and nature-lovin’ ways have made me aware of just how important bees are to the ecosystem – even these Africanized hybrids that wipe out indigenous honeybees. I once wrote a story for Arizona Monthly about the craziest, most fascinating bee guy. (He removed about 50,000 Africanized bees from our property when we first purchased it. And yes, he did provoke a bee to sting him; he did eat one; and he did chomp on a piece of dirty honeycomb then excitedly searched for a rattler. “I heard a rattler out here. Mind if I look for him?” You know you want to read the story now, don’t you?)

I digress… that’s a different story. So, back to this one: I obviously experienced more than a tinge of guilt at the thought of destroying them (the solution offered by pest control companies). They’re pollinators and we need them. And could I fault these honey-makers for taking up residence? They simply found the best “house” they could… one that we’d inadvertently made available to them.

Enter the solution: “Honey Bear” Ray, who was ecstatic to take a swarm of bees home for his new avocation: beekeeping. (Thanks to neighbors Mark, Roxanne, Mel and Nan for hooking us up).

Ray in his new suit, only a week old. See the kestrel box – I mean, bee motel – in the background on the telephone pole? Click to enlarge.

Maybe it's just me, but this would be my least favorite scenario: wobbly ladder, bees in my face. Click to enlarge.

Emptying the bees from the removed kestrel box into his bee box (their new home). Look – in one day – they created the honeycomb attached to the camera. See them on Ray’s suit?

I’m happy to report that everything ended well. Ray came back for his bee box under the cover of darkness (when the bees had settled and all of the colony was inside). He enjoyed the experience so much – and the bees behaved so well – he asked if we’d put the kestrel box back up, in the hopes of attracting another swarm. Um. I’m not so sure about that.

I will forever be amazed by the geometrical precision of nature. Look at this one-day-old honeycomb. Click to enlarge.

For Writers, for Readers: Yes, there’s a writing lesson here! Over the past two days, it became apparent to me that I had two distinct plotlines running at once: 1) the bees themselves and the formulation of a game plan for their relocation; and 2) the activity at the hummingbird nest that prompted the bee discovery in the first place. Yes, one of our baby hummers made its way out of the shell on April 19! But that, too, is another story, one to be continued … (There just may be some fabulous one-day-old baby videos in a future blog post!)

What do you think about concurrent plot lines in the books you read or write? Do you like a subplot that is nearly as consuming as a plot? What books have you read lately that drew you in with their complex multi-plots? Or do you think too many storylines can get too confusing?

Apr 6 2013

My Backyard

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Yes, I’m still participating in EditPalooza (but inching closer to done – on this round, anyway), which is why you haven’t heard much from me in social media circles… Or here.

Even so, I thought I’d sneak in another photo journal of a few backyard sightings – in my real backyard (or should I say, breezeway), and the Arizona desert that is my backyard.

A mid-week, 8-mile hike in Aravaipa Canyon was just the editing break I needed (Loved seeing a black phoebe, who flew in front of us along the creek. Had never seen one before! And, yes, that is a cardinal in the desert.) Click to enlarge photos below, and tab through:

And look what’s happening under the breezeway! This year, we have a new Hummie Cam that allows us to take photos and video with the touch of a button to our iPhones!

We noticed some building going on two weeks ago (with mama testing various nesting spots along the string). New nest is above old, damaged nest. Click to enlarge.

On Wednesday, April 3, mama had laid an egg. Click to enlarge.

On Friday, April 5, mama had laid another egg. Click to enlarge.

Here's mama tending to her nest, two little eggs beneath her. Hatching should occur around April 19 or 20. Click to enlarge.

Check out HummieCam: photos refresh every 30 seconds. You just might see mama on her nest!

What spring sightings have you seen?