Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, and being close to my birthday, we’ve taken a family day out to Healesville Sanctuary. Of course, the boys managed to find a creek to play in!

Healesville paddle.JPG

Being a gorgeous day, we managed to inspect the hive, see how the Ladies are going after the new boxes were added last week.

There are heaps of flowers in the Hills, and heaps of gums flowering around us. Nobody warned us that bee-keeping was dangerous to your health! As we drive around the area now, we’re looking at trees to see what’s flowering 🙂

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The boxes are going well, each one is almost full and ready for the bees to cap. Which means that we need to get more boxes ready! We have the boxes made up, but no frames. We’re estimating that at this point in the season, end of January, we have more honey this year than we did last year in April. Yay!

It really is beautiful, walking down the nature strip on our property, and smelling the honey come across on the breeze.

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Mid-January

or What are those bees doing?

At the moment, we’re experimenting a bit. I tried to split my hive earlier, in November, but the split just didn’t take. So we’ve still only the four hives.

In the Hills there are a lot of different trees flowering. The gums are gorgeous with their strong reds and whites, while the wattles have finished for the most part. Agapanthus is flowering strongly, and the bees do love the purple flowers.

The bees have been productive now the nectar has started to flow. Let’s meet the ladies.
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New years musing

Over spring, it’s a waiting game. Wait for the temperature to be high enough to open the hives.

Wait for the flowers to open.

Wait for the pollen.

Wait for the bees to gain strength.

Wait for the swarm.

All the while, we’re feeding the bees, and checking on them. Hoping they are doing well.

After spring, there’s the wait for the nectar to start flowing. Strangely, in the Hills here, we typically have a nectar dearth in November and December … so the bees need to be fed. Now I’m looking around and seeing the trees in flower.

I’ve taken one hive over to a friends place for the summer. Why?

Welll … to move a hive, it’s either 1 metre a week, or take them on a holiday greater than 3km away for 5-6 weeks (the lifecycle of a flying bee). It’s about resetting the bee’s GPS system 😉

In other news, we now have 4 hives in total.

  • Queen Anne
  • Queen Beatrice
  • Camilla; and
  • Diana

Camilla was an unexpected swarm who pushed through while we were waiting patiently for our new queen to be integrated into a nucleus – hence Diana 😉

Don’t forget, it’s OK to be nice to bees.

Bee nice by not using pesticides on flowering plants. Remove the flowers manually before using any poison. Or use organic methods, like boiling water.

Things we do

Today’s a nice day,  just not quite warm enough to get into the hives. Yet. So into the workshop for some preparation. 
First up, making sure our hives are all clearly marked with our identification number. 

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I made up the stencil from an old plastic cutting mat,  and am using leftover paint samples.  So that’s done.
Trev’s making a stand for the new hive.

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Next I’m stringing the frames with wire. Trev and Dad made me a jig to streamline this – it really is great and it takes about half the time now. 

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And then Seraph the cat came for some company. 

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Now to go and set out an old paint tray for the goslings to swim in…

Little balls of fluff

Spring means more than just bees in the trees.
Our geese are also enjoying the warmth by introducing new life to the farm. 

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This is Donna. She’s sitting on 4 eggs and has 4 goslings already hatched.

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And this is Missy. She’s hatched 11 goslings. 

Now our plans are for the geese to be table birds..  Just have to steel our hearts for the act when the time comes. But, as they say-
Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat

The Swarm

Last week, our bees swarmed.

Something I’d been looking forward to happening, to watch our bees be healthy and happy. The previous week I’d seen a few queen cells, so hoped it’d happen soon. Of course, one of the worries about a swarm is when it doesn’t move to your own land. The role of a beekeeper is to manage swarms from our bees.

When the bees swarm, the workers will fill their tummies with lots of honey for the journey. The (old) queen will leave the hive with her workers, and go to what is effectively a staging area. The swarm will hang around there while scout bees go and find a nice new home. The swarm will stay on the staging area anywhere between a few hours, or a few days.

So as my first swarm, I did a pile of research. I was confident on collecting a swarm from low branches. Collecting from high branches. Or collecting from tricky spots, like a a post.

Where do you think my bees swarmed to?

  1. low branches
  2. high branches
  3. post
  4. other.

Absolutely spot-on.

Swarm location - the base of a Yukka. In long grass. Now all the books and websites said that all you need to do is take a box, tap the branch the bees are on gently, and let them fall into the box. Leave the box there until dark, then take to their new home.

Nothing about how to collect from long grass.

Turns out that a bee vacuum is the easiest way (yes! It is a thing!).

Or you can put the box near them on the ground, and let them just walk on in.

That’s what we chose to do.

I was a litle impatient, and ended up collecting a pile of bees and dumping them in. Then the rest of the bees started to move into the box. By putting a ceramic tile down, the bees could leave a scent trail for the rest to follow.

A little bit of a tidy-up, and ready to move to their new home.

A little tidy-up

And now in their new home.

Needs some carpet love ...

After moving the hive to the new spot (that night, don’t want the bees to think the Yukka is a nice home!)

I put a cardboard box over the remaining mound in the grass. By mid-morning, the bees had climbed into the box and were filling it out nicely. I was able to carry them to join their Queen, and then return the box back for any stragglers.

What would I do differently? I’d put the box up on a brick or something, so it was higher than the grass / yukka stem the bees were on. That way they’d be more likely to enter the hive themselves.

Follow-up visit has shown the queen is laying – I’m seeing brood cells, and some eggs. Well done Beatrice!

Spring Inspection

Finally, the days have warmed up enough to open up the hive and see how the bees have wintered. As a “first time beek mummy” I was a little anxious for my Beatrice, even though the presence of bees around the garden was reassuring. 

So we begin the preparation.

  • Hive tool – check
  • Bee brush – check
  • Suit – errrrr where is it? Ahhh, in the ironing pile. 
  • Mesh helmet – check
  • Gloves – check. 
  • Trev’s mesh – check. With a hat, double check.
  • Trev’s gloves – check.
  • Smoker – smoker – smoker – YAY! Smoker – check!
  1. Light the smoker. I like to put some newspaper into the smoker, then after that has a layer of ash down the bottom, I put in pine needles. I keep pumping the air through until there’s a good smolder with the pine needles.
    We use pine needles as they provide a nice, thick, cool smoke. The bees won’t get burnt and the smoke will settle low. 
    I would like to experiment with using sugar syrup instead of smoke!
  2. Check the BOM report and radar. Not good for the bees to get wet. 
  3. While the smoker is getting sorted, I get dressed. One key element is ensuring the velcro covering the zipper end is very clean – when a guard bee gets grumpy, she will push through the velcro to get inside the bee veil. And then bite you on the throat. (Ask me how I know this…)

So. 

Overalls, hood, gumboots. Elastic overall legs over the gumboots which I’ve tucked my jeans into. Hold the sleeves while pulling over the gloves / gauntlets.  

Give the smoker some more puffs of air. Push in a bit more pine needles, puff. Ready. 

A puff of smoke to calm the bees before we begin.

We approach the bees from the side, or the back. They don’t feel threatened then.

A few puffs of smoke around the hive, the air intakes, and the bees start sucking up the honey, ready to evacuate from a bushfire.

Pulling the frame out for inspection

Looking at the frame in detail.

When I’m looking at the frames, I’m checking for a good pattern. I’m looking for brood (baby bees), honey, and also to make sure there’s no disease. 

This arch pattern is really nice – the centre is brood, and the rainbow around is full of nectar. 

I’m really happy. The bees look happy, and what I’m seeing deeper into the hive are queen cells. That means that the old queen (Beatrice) is getting ready to swarm and leave this hive to her babies. 

Bring on spring!

 

† beek – beekeeper