The Bee Army and My Goats

There must be several wild bee trees out in the woods because there are lots of honeybees around. Lately the bee army is humming up a storm.

Long ago there were two commercial bee hives here. The beekeeper died and the new one wasn’t interested in two hives. When the varola mites moved in, the bees moved out into the woods.

All summer my goats have been reluctant to go out because of horseflies. Having been bitten before I can’t blame them for wanting to avoid these pests.

goat herd at the gate

The gate is open. The pasture beckons. The goat herd stands under the hackberry tree waiting for the horseflies to attack.

I open the pasture gate and drive the herd out. they stand around outside the gate until the horseflies move in. Then they run out to pasture preferably in deep shade to discourage the flies.

A signature of the horseflies is their loud humming buzz as they zero in. It is a signal to the goats to crowd up trying to make sure the neighbor is the victim.

Now that buzz is everywhere.

In the milk room the bald-faced hornets are busy catching flies. Their buzz is very similar so the goats are jumpy making kung fu milking imperative.

Outside the bee army is humming over the giant ragweed. This is a wind pollinated plant with no nectar. Why are the bees moving in?

Adult bees and hornets drink nectar for food. This diet supplies lots of sugary energy but little protein. Their young require protein.

The bald-faced hornets solve this by catching flies to feed their young. Bees use pollen. Giant ragweed produces lots of pollen.

The goats ate the giant ragweed in their barn lot but, being a persistent weed, it regrouped and sent up new branches. Every new branch is tipped with tall towers lined with pollen pockets.

Walking through the ragweed patch leaves long yellow streaks on the jeans. Breathing deeply activates the hay fever.

bee army member on ragweed

Pollen sacs bulging a member of the bee army works her way up a giant ragweed tower stuffing more pollen in.

Every member of the bee army has bulging pollen baskets on their back legs. They land near the base of a tower and crawl upward stuffing more in until the basket is close to bursting.

The basket is unloaded at the hive. The bee returns with empty baskets to fill. The bees are welcome to all the pollen they can gather plus some.

Unfortunately for the goats the path out of the barn lot goes through the giant ragweed humming with bees. They think it is a horsefly army and refuse to go past.

Eventually hunger wins out. The goats go out.