Among the many jaw-dropping things we learned in Holland was a strong push worldwide to study and to support wild bees. Many, many of the attendees were using alternative hive structures, and a lot of attention was placed on homing bees in trees.
Not one to sit on my hands, I contacted my local NextDoor email group and asked if anyone had any hollow log rounds they would like to part with. Well, ask and you shall receive!
We were contacted by two neighbors who had a maple tree go down, and there were many hollow 2-3-foot sections of stump. I made a call to our bee club friends and in short order, two trucks and many sets of hands were on the way.
We’re hoping these lovely rounds (and more to come) will be bee homes for club members who would like them. We would hope to sell them for a small fee that would go directly to Preservation Beekeeping Council.
In another direction, we also learned in Holland about the benefits of keeping book scorpions (pseudo-scorpions) in hives. Bees and book scorpions have been nest mates for millions of years. These tiny creatures eat mites, hive beetle larvae, wax moths, and also ride on bees and groom them.
Thanks to our present methods of conventional beekeeping, these beneficial creatures are considered extinct in bee hives now. Our flimsy, tidy, cold bee boxes cannot support them. We learned how these little animals live now in old barns and in old homes, where they eat dust mites, book lice, and probably flea eggs.
Bee researcher Torben Schiffer gave a presentation at the Learning From the Bees conference that honestly had me—and this is no exaggeration—hyperventilating with excitement. I downloaded his book on finding and breeding book scorpions, then got our Resources Officer, Thea Hayes, as excited as I was.
Long story short, we plan on breeding these little arthropods this spring, and we came up with the idea to make breeding “boxes” for them out of some of our hollow logs. Our plan is to cut some of the rounds into 6-8-inch slabs, put on a bottom and top, and begin populating them with book scorpions that we intend to locate and capture in our worm bins (Thea says they are the top predator in worm bins—who knew?), and in Jacqueline’s old barn. Then, we can use these rounds beneath our hives and the book scorpions can set about doing what they’ve been doing for millions of years—helping our bees!
In a surprising coincidence, both Thomas Seeley, and European researchers Tautz and Schiffer will be publishing books in the next year detailing how bees live in trees, with much research presented on why/how the tree cavity benefits bees. Including information on the beneficial insects and organisms who live with bees in trees.
Not surprisingly, PBC is already ahead of the curve: We recommend and teach how to create bee hives and dwelling spaces that mimic trees: Skeps with log eco floors, log rounds, and our Bee Haven box that Barry Malmanger developed for us are perfect for housing bees and their little scorpion friends. We’ve also picked up new ideas for insulating and reconfiguring our wooden hives to work like tree cavities, which we’ll be sharing at our monthly club meetings in the exciting months to come.
But first, we need to gather lots of logs…
Lovely logs, some with large open centers, many simply “punky” centers we can easily carve out. In all, we gathered nearly a dozen logs, and another neighbor is contacting me about more logs. Hopefully we can collect enough to offer them to any club member who wants them, and who is interested in our book scorpion project.