Seasonal Transitions


~ Grassy Roads Farm Life ~

 

A common buckeye nectaring on goldenrod at the farm. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

The wetter than normal summer has created a beautiful display of fall wildflowers on the farm. Goldenrod, thoroughwort, asters, ironweed, and many others are in full bloom and many different species of bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, and other insects are putting the wildflowers to good use. Caterpillars are also very abundant right now. I’m constantly finding either caterpillars or signs of their presence both out on the farm and in the nursery.

Although the last couple of weeks have felt more like August than September, there is no denying that fall is rapidly approaching. And the changing seasons brings many changes to life on the farm. I used to think that those changes meant slowing down, but I’ve learned that things don’t really slow down as much as they shift from one direction to another.

 

Busy Bee Nursery

One of our native bees on the native wildflower, elephant’s foot. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

Between the shorter days triggering some of the plants to start going dormant and hungry caterpillars eating other plants, my nursery season is quickly winding down. I still have quite a few really healthy plants, but fewer and fewer look nice enough to sale. I’m also out or nearly out of some species. If there are specific plants that you are interested in, please let me know. I can tell you whether I still have ones that are actively growing, whether I have some that are perfectly healthy and will come back strong next season but don’t look great right now, or whether I’m out of that species for the year.

As we transition out of the active growing season for the nursery, my thoughts and activities are moving towards preparations for next year. I’ve started harvesting seed from some of the earlier blooming species that I plan to grow for next year. I’m also marking some of the fall wildflowers for seed harvest later in the season. Believe it or not, for some species I’ve already started some of the specialized treatments that their seeds need in order to germinate.

A gulf fritilary caterpillar munching on a passionflower leaf. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

In addition to collecting and preparing seeds for next year, I’ve been researching some different growing methods. One of those methods includes experimenting with a few species to see if I can start them in the late summer, overwinter them, and then have more mature plants earlier in the spring. I’m also considering a possible fundraising option for groups who want to put in a bulk order this winter for delivery in April. I’m still trying to figure out the logistics for how this might work, and I’ll send out more information later if I decide to give this a try. (If you’re part of a group and think something like this sounds intriguing, then feel free to let me know and I’ll make sure to keep you updated.)

 

Ducks

The ducks are still laying, but egg production has been down for the last few weeks. Part of it has to do with the heat. They always slow down when it gets really hot. Part of it also has to do with the time of year. As the days get shorter, the ducks molt their old feathers and grow new ones. When they are molting, they often stop laying.

Sometimes they’ll start back up again after molting, and sometimes they take a break until late winter / early spring. Last year one of my breeds laid all winter long, and I’m hoping they’ll do that again after they finish molting. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll have duck eggs for holiday baking this winter. Lately, the number of eggs collected each day seem to be trending back up, which I hope is a good sign. Some of the eggs have also been relatively small which means that some of this year’s hens may be starting to lay too. I keep the small eggs for us to eat, and take the rest to sell at the farmers market.

 

Honey Bees

The honey bees are busily storing nectar and turning it into honey for their winter food supply. This past week I’ve also been busy checking on their stores and doing this month’s mite counts. The varroa mite is basically a tick for honey bees, except that it can be much more destructive than a tick because of the way it feeds. It can also spread viruses and diseases that infected honey bees can spread to other bees in the colony and to some of our native bees. So keeping mite numbers in check is extremely important to me. Fall is when the mite populations in the hive tend to peak and I try to do monthly mite counts throughout the fall so I’ll know if and when I need to take action.

A varroa mite. Photo credit: USDA, public domain

If you’re a beekeeper, I also encourage you to do mite counts this week and submit them to the Bee Informed Partnership’s Mite-A-Thon website. The Mite-A-Thon helps researchers gain a snapshot of mite populations across the continent. The data are also compiled into a freely accessible map that shows average mite levels per county so you can get an idea of what is happening in other nearby apiaries as well. Obviously, this data is much more accurate and useful if more beekeepers participate.

 

Farmers Market

I plan to continue bringing plants, honey, and duck eggs to the farmers market every Saturday through the end of September. After the plants are done for the season, I will likely reduce the number of days I am at the market. I just don’t have enough honey and duck eggs to make it worth going to the market every week. My current plan is drop back to only attending the market on the first Saturday of the month beginning in October. However, if the ducks start laying again after they finish molting, I may come twice a month. If that happens, it will likely be on the first and third Saturdays. On the other hand, if the ducks stop laying completely after they molt, then I may have to call it quits until next spring. It really all depends on the ducks. I’ll post updates on my Facebook page and you can always send me an email to see if I’ll be at the market on any given Saturday.

 

Speaking Engagements

Speaking engagements are picking up again, and I’m already getting inquiries for next year. Below are some of the talks and events I have coming up over the few months.

Upcoming events:

September 23, 2019: I will be speaking at the regular monthly meeting of the Barren County Beekeepers Association. My topic will be Planting for Honey Bees.

October 8, 2019: I will be participating in the Kentucky Pollinators Stakeholder meeting and the Kentucky Monarch Working Group meeting.

October 12, 2019: I will be participating in the annual Adair County Book Fair and will have copies of my book, Plants Honey Bees Use in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, for sale.

October 21, 2019: I will be speaking at the regular monthly meeting of the Southern Illinois Beekeepers Association and will have copies of my book available.

November 2, 2019: I will be teaching two classes at the Ohio State Beekeepers Association’s Fall Meeting. I will also be a vendor and have my book available for purchase there. My two classes will be Introduction to Botany for Beekeepers and Nectar Flows: What are they and when do they occur?

 

 



Shannon Trimboli is a beekeeper, farmer, wildlife biologist, and author. She owns Grassy Roads Farm and Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting. Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting specializes in plants and habitat consulting services for honey bees, native pollinators, and wildlife conservation. In 2018, her first book, Plants Honey Bees Use in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, was published. Shannon also writes a weekly blog called Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife. The blog features profiles of pollinators and wildlife, tips for attracting pollinators and wildlife, highlights of different plants for pollinators and wildlife, and life on the farm and nursery. You can sign up to have her blog emailed to you.

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