Maybe I’ve been watching too much Outlander.  I’ve let thistles colonize a section of the garden.

Granted, it’s an underutilized site at the moment. Last year I tore out about 8 Ilex glabra that were supposed to be ‘Shamrock’, which only grow 3-4 ft, but were in fact the genus which grow to at least 5 ft wide and 8 ft high and were too wide, too tall and too diseased so out they came. I am planning on a replanting this fall. In the meantime, it remains unplanted, but not non-planted. No unplanted area in a garden remains unplanted for long…some plant will recognize the opportunity and move in, and so far it has been the  thistles.


I don’t mind them having moved in. I’ve always liked thistles. They have rugged personalities and are often featured in fairy tales, two traits I like. And there is the fact that many species of butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and moths feed on them. The other fact is that Arkansas and Iowa list the entire  Cirsium genus as noxious weeds. But Massachusetts is far away from both of those states, so maybe here thistle is just a regular weed, not a noxious one.

Either way, the thistles are here to stay for this year. They’ve gotten so big – over 6 feet tall! – and thorny I would need a hazmat suit to get rid of them. And they are an interesting bloom. I’m all about pretty in the garden.

Neonicotinoid Banned in the EU

Once again, Europe has acted before the USA on an environmental issue. The EU has banned neonicotinoids, the pesticide believed to harm bees and cause CCD (colony collapse disorder). The discussion of just how harmful neonicotinoids are continues with this article in the BBC (

The EU believes the science exists to ban the neonicotinoids, but the US and the UK takes the stance that there isn’t enough scientific evidence available to ban the substance. I first blogged about this issue in March (see March 29, 2013). Join the debate. What’s your opinion of neonicotinoids? Do you have any scientific or circumstantial evidence they are harmful?

Bees Beware

An article in today’s New York Times discusses last year’s enormous loss of so many beehives to colon collapse disorder, or CCD .  Although CCD has been recognized since 2005 something new has been identified as causing bee colony deaths: neonicotinoids. Although identified in Europe as a cause of CCD, neonicotinoids are approved for use in the USA. Here is the link to the article:


It’s been a long time in coming, but the bees are here. I first wanted to start keeping bees more than 7 years ago, which is when I first went to Bee School. But, as can happen, other events intervened and it wasn’t until today that I was able to go pick up my nucs and transfer them to my hive. I have some photos to show you. The photos are taken at the beginning and one at the end of the transfer, it was much too busy during the transfer to take any photos.

My husband is wearing my beesuit. Being the good sport that he is, he agreed to do the hands-on-bees work. I wore jeans, a couple of cotton shirts, remembered to tuck my pants into my boots because bees crawl upward, and topped off the outfit with  a hat and a scarf. I was in charge of the smoker so anytime I became uncomfortable with the proximity of any bees I started puffing vigorously.

The transfer went remarkably smoothly. The bees responded well to the smoke, i.e. they become docile, clung to their frames and allowed my husband to move their frames from the NUC box into the hive. There were a handful of adventurous bees who flew around but the majority stayed put on the frames. We didn’t spot the queen, but we didn’t really look as we didn’t  have a lot of opportunity to look during the transfer process as it takes concentration.


The bees are hybrids – breed to be half Italian bees and half Carlonian. This is done to promote health and to prevent Varroa mites as much as possible. I am obviously brand new to this so I will learn as I go. In the meantime, I am thrilled to have my bees, and a little anxious as to their well-being.