Bee Yard Companions

My bees at Brookfield Farm have a few companions this year.  Some, like mice can be incredibly destructive.  \Happily, not all visitors are mice: snakes, amphibians, butterflies, and Percy, the llama, have all been visiting the hives.

“Common” garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) have moved into the farm bee yard.  I was hoping that their intention was to consume mice, but I find on doing a bit of research that they mainly eat the slugs.  Bigger garter snakes will eat mice.  Perhaps mine will grow large on a diet of our abundant slugs and move on to the equally abundant mouse population.

Common Garter Snake by Brookfield Farm Beehives

Garter Snake at Brookfield’s Hives

Common Garter Snake suns itself on concrete by Brookfield Farm hives

Common Garter Snake on beeyard art

Regardless it’s a pleasure to find them sunning themselves amid the hives or sliding quietly away into the undergrowth as I tend my hives.  One snake became more or less accustomed to me and remained, until I got out the camera.  She then demanded that I contact her agent, as she flipped her tail and vanished beneath the trailing blackberries.

A red-legged frog (Rana aurora) made an appearance the other morning.  This was surprising to me as they usually appear around water and my hives are up on a ridge.  Mind you, the ridge stands between two rapidly running creeks.  Perhaps the frog was just passing though, looking for a home, or another frog of the appropriate gender with which to create more frogs.

A Lorquin Admiral (Limenitis lorquini) was flittering about the front of

the hives.  S/he was dodging bees, who seemed not to care as long as she stayed out of their flight path.  She settled for a while on a yellow lid, her wings glinting in the summer sun.  Apparently these delicate beauties like cottonwoods, which grow just downhill from our farm, or perhaps s/he was in advance of the thistles, which will shortly be in bloom.  I simply hope that we’ll be seeing more of these fluttering joys in the bee yard.

Not all visitors are native.  I have a holding area for hives in the pasture next to where we park our trucks.  It’s not the best place in the world for a hive, but it’s a great place to put down hives that must stop in transit from one bee yard to another.  The field has become off-limits to most of the 4-legged livestock.  Not because of the bees, but because all except Percy,

Llama and beehives together in field

Percy the llama and beehives

the llama, are goats, and I have flowers growing in a small fenced area (silly, yes, but there you go). Percy loves the grass, clovers, and native plants that grow right where the hives rest.  He doesn’t bother the bees, and the bees take no notice of him.

So the hives at the farm can host a myriad of creatures other than bees, and except for the mice, all are welcome.  The mice?  There’s a whole forest they can live in, and I do enjoy seeing them there.  They should just stay away from my hives.

A great website to learn more about our native wildlife (including the deer mice) can be found at:

Check out all the wonderful native bees on the insect page.

The one irony of the site is that they state that deer mice are “perhaps one of the most numerous animals in our area, yet few people ever see them.” I would add: Unless those people are beekeepers….

(photos on this page are public domain – found on Wikipedia)

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