The Ladybirds and the Bees 

* Click here; You can help by submitting any  invader Harlequin ladybug sightings via this link

Identifying Ladybirds

There are many different species of ladybirds, often named according to the number of spots on their flamboyant wing casings. As in the twin-spot ladybird, lucky seven-spot ladybird, the 14-spot, and the seriously funky-looking 22-spot ladybird!

Look out for the distinctive M/W marking on the Harlequin's head and remove these invaders on sight. You can report your sightings to the link above. A small act that can help those that are doing the good work monitoring this problem Globally. *The Ladybird Project

Think about it - When last did you see a Ladybird in your garden?

~Key Auto Hives offer a window into the world of your Queen Bee ~

The Matriarchy of these little gems of Nature, is a compelling curiosity. Purpose designed, these honey homes offer Super and Brood chamber observation windows. Enabling you to watch your bees with ease. You can experience the collective organism that is the Colony, reigned over by their resident Queen .

Careful consideration and informed decisions, have influenced the design principles of these Observation Key Auto Hives. The applied creative input of sculptor and designer Helena Vogelzang and the expertise of  seasoned local Beekeeper and fabricator, Dave Bowden of Bowden Beekeeping, makes for a premium product and an interactive experience. Beneficial to you and your bees. Offering the opportunity to do some Queen spotting, brood watching and general monitoring of hive activity. Allowing for pleasant, non invasive peeks into the secret life of your Bees...and ultimately, the ease of harvesting your own raw honey, directly from the flow frames, with a simple twist of the wrist. 

Communication can be seen within the Colony...

  • Watch as Scout Bees do  'waggle dances' on their return reconnaissance trips from a 'source'. 
  • Co-ordinates or GPS are translated to the Foragers, the female work force are tasked with collection of either nectar or pollen, never both.
  • Pollen bearers can often  be seen, crash landing at the Hive entrance, laden with resources equivalent to their own body weight.
  • Watch them waddling in with their 'pollen pants' full. See how they are screened by Guard Bee's, who frisk them on entering the hive. Eager young Hive Bee's await their arrival, assisting them to hove the load.
  • On average a Honeybee will make up to ten trips from her hive a day. Her return trips, guided by the pheromones of her Queen.
  • The idiom 'The Bees Knees' alludes to the nourishing pollen powder, packed around their furry back legs or corbicula. A symbiotic gift, transferred from the flowers to their pollinators. Dispersed like gold dust on the fine hairs on their bodies.
  • Bees are completely covered in fuzzy fur, even having fine hairs on their eyes to this purpose.
  • Nectar foragers carry, either sweet reserves or water in their honey tummy or crop, to be dispersed where needed within the hive. These liquid resource's provide sustaining energy for Pollen foraging, their primary source of protein.
  • Pollen patties or Bee bread, packed in varied colour pellets, can be seen stored in the cells. Fed by Nurse bees to emerging larvae. Pollen is vital to growing the organism, that is the Colony.
  • On emerging each New Bee immediately, cleans and polishes her own hexagonal wax cell.
  • Bees are not born with the ability to make honey. Converting nectar reserves into honey is a learned skill, passed on within the hive hierarchy. 
  • Once cured their golden bounty is capped and optimally stored, in masterfully engineered wax combs, at a temperate 32-36 degrees.
  • Honey is naturally warm when harvested.
  • Younger Bees have the ability to expel wax deposits from their abdomens, these white slithers are further processed by chewing, producing a specific formula for comb building. 
  • Bees are the only insects that provide humans with food. Their excess reserves gathered during the summer flow, are an ancient and sacred gift, we have revered and found nourishment from for centuries.

'Look deep into Nature and then you will understand everything better' ~ Albert  Einstein 

This was a sterile blank wall on my rooftop Apiary. Being mindful of the small things, this simple project has become a refuge for pollinators. Evidence of Cellophane and Carpenter Bees can be seen. The installation has become a safe haven for breeding and hibernating. My  'Hotel' collection is a combination of store bought and self made housing, comprised of found objects. It started as a Covid19 Lockdown Project in 2020 and continues to grow...

<< These two buddies are true ladybirds

Converting a decorative birdhouse and transforming it into a useful ladybird house, will hopefully encourage these useful insects to find shelter and  hibernation in my garden space. I have yet to see any ladybirds in or around  my property, a somewhat concerning trend,as my property and Apiary adjoin the Krantzkloof  Nature Reserve in KwaZulu Natal. 

*Click here and check out this article in SA Garden and Home magazine from 3 May 2019 

Above is the good kind of Ladybird , a new visitor to my garden, encouraged by my 'insect hotels' . Become aware of the many guises of the invasive (Harmonia axyridis) also aptly referred to as the Harlequin or Halloween bug 

Help look out for the Jokers in the pack!

The *Harlequin ladybug is an invasive beetle, problematic globally and we have them affecting the numbers of our indigenous ladybirds in South Africa too. They are voracious feeders and indiscriminately eat the eggs and larvae and our local species of ladybirds. There is a world wide movement to get the balance back and control this invader species of ladybug. Introduced as a biological means of pest control in America, the species has become a Global problem.

Ladybirds have always been our best friends, they are under threat and its time to tuck them under our wing.

Why install a Bee/Insect hotel?

Supporting our beneficial insects is a small but significant act of kindness, providing a safe place for you and the insects to escape to in the garden is beneficial. I'm all about getting creative!

Encouraging More Ladybirds Into Your Garden Also Helps The Bees

Avoid spraying pesticides, which will have a knock-on effect on predators such as ladybirds. It’s tempting to panic at the first sign of aphids, but a little restraint often pays off with a visit from these hungry bugs. Besides, a burst of water from your hose will knock their socks off and still provide our Ladybirds with a feast.

Bees and Ladybirds can also be attracted into your garden with pollen-rich blooms. Flat-topped flowers such as yarrow, angelica, fennel and dill are great, along with common companion plants like calendula, sweet alyssum and marigold.

Offer ladybirds somewhere to overwinter too. They usually hibernate in hollow stems and other nooks and crannies, so delay cutting back old stems till spring. Or why not make your own ladybird hotel by stuffing straw and a bundle of wide bamboo sections into an old pot, tied together to keep them all in place. Stuff more straw around the sides for insulation, and position the ladybird house one to three feet above the ground, in a sheltered, sunny spot.

A healthy, organic vegetable garden should be alive with activity, buzzing with bees, butterflies, spiders, hoverflies and wasps. The more of these beneficial insects you have, the healthier the garden, and the less work there is to do. To invite them and make them stay, offer them accommodation in an insect hotel.

We are all about the Planet and supporting our Pollinator's. Beneficial insects found in our gardens outweigh garden pests, so it pays to adopt a nature-friendly approach to gardening. Explore the bushes, look among the vegetables or dig down into the soil and you’ll discover a myriad of beneficial critters. One of my favorite visitors is the delightful ladybird, with their defensive retro markings, they are always a joy to discover in the garden.

A stingless bee foraging on the Borage flowers in my vegetable garden, these unsung heroes are essential and overlooked pollinators  

Below are some useful excerpts from this interesting article in SA Garden and Home Magazine, 3 May 2019 *Click on the above link for full article


Jane Griffiths shows us how and why to make beneficial insects at home in the garden

A healthy, organic vegetable garden should be alive with activity, buzzing with bees, butterflies, spiders, hoverflies and wasps. The more of these beneficial insects you have, the healthier the garden, and the less work there is to do. To invite them and make them stay, offer them accommodation in an insect hotel.

What is an insect hotel?

It’s both a work of art and a warm, inviting space for beneficial insects. Made from recycled and found objects, it provides an array of nooks and crannies where various insects can shelter, hibernate and lay their eggs. It’s a wonderful project for the whole family, plus you create a unique garden sculpture.

Attracting the right guests

The cleaners that move into larger Hotels

This group includes beetles, millipedes, woodlice and worms. Known as detritivores, they are literally the ones who eat up the debris. They are the 'trending' recyclers, taking nutrients from decomposing organic matter and breaking it down as part of the process.

>A point of interest; The Hive beetle is a detritivore, found within our Colonies. Originating from sub Saharan Africa, these pesky hive critters, give Beekeepers the world over a run for their money. Presenting maintenance issues, they can decimate a weak colony, or prompt the Queen to abscond. They prove problematic only when there is an imbalance found in our Beehives. They and the wax moth are actually a natural phenomena, and have co existed with our wild bees in their natural habitat, since bees started making honey.

Some pointers on how to build an insect Hotel

Insect hotels can range in size from a shoebox to a 2m-high mansion. For shelving and walls, use logs and bricks, recycled pallets or wooden boxes piled on top of one another. Ideally an insect hotel should receive morning sun only, warming it up, but not baking it. It must stay dry, so it needs to be under shelter or have a roof. Instead of creating one large hotel, you can make a few, placing them in different sections of the garden. Solitary bees prefer a sunnier, warmer spot – especially in winter – rather than the cooler spot a lizard might choose for its eggs. You have to start thinking like an insect!

~ A Good Luck Charm ~

This familiar traditional rhyme, dates to at least 1744; l can recall wishing on a Ladybird for luck when it landed on me as a child, and gently blowing it away while holding thoughts of my wish, and singing this verse. 

"Ladybird, ladybird fly away home, your house is on fire and your children are gone, all except one, and her name is Ann, she cleverly hid under the baking pan.

Folk lore holds, that if you see a ladybird, it means good weather is near or that a person will soon have luck with love (Love Bug) or money. If a ladybird  lands on you make a wish, whatever direction it flies away is where good luck will come from. The name "ladybird" originated in Britain where the insects became known as "Our Lady's bird" Mary (Our Lady) was often depicted wearing a read cloak in early paintings, and the seven -spot ladybird depicts her seven joys and sorrows.

© Copyright The Bee's Knees ZA