Broke Black Beetle

I found this critter, or rather what’s left of it, in the lawn but placed it in the wheelbarrow for photographing. Looks like someone enjoyed a snack of the majority of its body. Wings are just over one inch long.


A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.

I have been working in the yard a lot lately. On Sunday, I figure I deserve a little break so off I go to drink a pint. Then, I get a phone call from Phil.

“We have a bee problem,” he informs me. Gasp! A branch laying on the lawn is absolutely covered with bees. It seems that the honey bees from the Big Tree are swarming!  

“Take pictures!” is my first response. Instictively I guess that they won’t be around for long. And sure enough, by the time I make it home, there are just a few bees hanging around the branch.

That’ll teach me to leave the property!!

Luckily, Phil got some good documentation of the incident.

By Phil

My father theorized that the bees were splitting the colony. Research backs him entirely. It seems that this is the method of colony reproduction.

The University of Nebraska answered a lot of my questions:

What makes a honey bee colony swarm?

 Overcrowding and congestion in the nest are factors which predispose colonies to swarm. The presence of an old queen and a mild winter also contribute to the development of the swarming impulse. Swarming can be controlled by a skilled beekeeper; however, not all colonies live in hives and have a human caretaker.

 When do honey bees swarm?

The tendency to swarm is usually greatest when bees increase their population rapidly in late spring and early summer. [May and June]

Iowa State University offers this information:

Honey bee swarms may contain several hundred to several thousand worker bees, a few drones and one queen. Swarming bees fly around briefly and then cluster on a tree limb, shrub or other object. Clusters usually remain stationary for an hour to a few days, depending on weather and the time needed to find a new nest site by scouting bees. When a suitable location for the new colony, such as a hollow tree, is found the cluster breaks up and flies to it.

All sources stated that swarming bees are not dangerous, for a couple of reasons. One is that while they’re swarming, the bees don’t have a home that they feel like defending. Also, while swarming they don’t have any access to food stores, so they eat right before leaving, thus their ability to sting is reduced.

Since our bees moved on in a couple of hours (or less!) I assume the scout bees found a suitable location for the new colony, but I don’t know where that is. And there are still bees in the Big Tree.


Here’s a little bird sharing Charlie’s water bowl. I believe it to be a House Sparrow.

According to Wikipedia, this bird was once known as a “Phillip Sparrow” because of its song.

Further, Animal Diversity Web informs us that it is, in fact, not a sparrow but rather a member of the Weaver Finch family, originally from Africa.

Rockin’ Robin

As always, ol’ Hawkeye Phil has kept me abreast of news in the yard while I run around like a chicken with its head cut off. This time, he has discovered an American Robin‘s nest built on the downspout of one of our decrepit gutters. I got a shot of her sitting in it on May 13.

Also, here’s a short video of the robin in the process of making the nest. You can see her using her breast and legs to shape the inside of the nest.

Our robin comes and goes, sitting on the nest for two days straight and then disappearing for days. One day when the robin was gone, I saw a squirrel come down from the roof and sniff around the nest. We thought she wouldn’t come back. But she did. Here she is on May 21:

By Phil

At the time of this post, she has been gone again for 2 days and there are still no eggs in the nest.


May is here and the yard is teeming with life (and visited by an occasional death).

The Big Tree got a good pruning over the winter, and it’s shaping up fabulously. Our honey bees have been very active already, and we’ve already seen a couple more baby squirrels there.

I’ve turned my attention to trying to document some of the bird species we have here, which has only met with mediocre photographs. I’ll share some anyway.

Here’s a Common Grackle posing in one of our apple trees. I’d really like to catch one in the act of anting, but here it’s just checking out the landscape.

And here’s a European Starling in the Big Tree, calling as you can see by its throat feathers. I found it interesting to read that this bird was introduced to Central Park in the 1890s by a fellow who wanted to establish in the US all the birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare.

Check back soon for news on Phil’s latest discovery: a robin building her nest!

Urban Fox sighting

Sitting in our dining room in late December, I caught a glimpse of something moving outside. We’ve had a couple of good snowstorms here, so the red fur of a fox stood out starkly against the snow-packed streets. I’ve seen foxes in our neighborhood before, but never in broad daylight and never strolling so leisurely as to be photographed.
I’ve found that this could plausibly be the same red fox seen near our previous residence located just over a mile away from the Big Tree. A red fox’s territory in good areas could be as large as 5 square miles, or up to 19 square miles in poorer habitats. I’m guessing that our Park Hill neighborhood is a pretty good habitat, bordered by large parks and known as Denver’s Urban Forest!

Fresh Tomato Treat


  • fresh-picked, vine-ripened Roma tomatoes from the veggie garden
  • fresh-picked, tender basil leaves from the veggie garden


  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 t. salt

Thinly slice tomatoes crosswise so you have nice circles and top each with a basil leaf.

In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients together with a small whisk or fork, they will thicken and blend nicely. Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes and serve immediately.