January 06, 2014 · By Doug ·
Well I have been a bit quiet on the blog over the last few months with a carzy season here in Sydney and a few projects taking up all of my spare time but I am back and will hopefully be posting more often about whats been happening.
We had a weird beginning to the season here with a very warm winter followed by not a lot of rain meaning that the expected swarms did not appear and in fact the honey flow was very slow and some parts of the state are actually feeding their bees to keep them alive, we than had solid rain that has brought on the flow and we now have solid honey flows in most of our apiarys.
October 09, 2013 · By Doug ·
So I decided to try my hand a queen breeding using a jenter style queen kit this year as the quality of the queens we received last year was questionable. Basically its a no graft kit where you place the queen into a special box and she lays into little cups that can be placed into a queen raising bar. I followed the instructions leaving the unit in place for a few days to inherit the hive odor then placed the queen into the box for three days and then releasing her, I then proceeded to check the cells looking for the larvae but there was none, I then noticed larvae on the frame I have put in which was impossible...except the bees had been removing the eggs and placing them on the frame, cunning little devils.
Luckily there were enough eggs in enough cells that I was ok, the next step was to place the cups back into a queen less hive so the girls would raise these eggs as queens. So I checked carefully each frame to make sure no queen cells were present otherwise the new queen will hatch early and kill my queens. No queen cells found I inserted the queen rasing bar...fast forward 10 days and all the queens should be capped. With eager anticipation I checked on my queen cell bar only to find that all the queen cells had been destroyed...damm girls were to clever and there was a hidden queen cell so its back to square one. Bees 2 Beekeeper 0
September 06, 2013 · By Doug · No Comments
Ok so you have checked you bee hive and there are heaps and heaps of bees and nectar comming in and a full brood box..there is a good chance they will swarm so what do you do ?
We have tried just about every method you read about and noine of them seem to work with any sort of accuracy the best thing you can do is split the colony, there is despite what you read no need to buy a queen if you do this the girls are quite good at raising a new queen all by themselves.
The way you do this is open the hive and put a new base and brood box beside the donor hive there is no need to locate it away from the donor hive, remove half the brood frames from the donor hive and put them in split dont shake off the bees you want bees of all ages in both hives, there is no need to look for the queen just make sure that both hives have eggs so a queen can be raised. You then fill the gaps on either side of the brood with either stickies drawn or undrawn frames put an excluder on each box...if you use them.
Do the same with the honey super so you have effectively split the hive in two with both halves having half the brood and half the honey. Check back in a week and carefully check each brood frame the hive with the queen will be happily filling those empty frames, the queenless hive should have some queen cells. I usually pick the biggest most advanced queen cell and destroy the others to prevent after swarms.
If after 40 days there is no sign of a laying queen in the queenless hive you can recombine it with the donor using the newspaper method or use a purchased queen...but make sure there is no queen they sometimes take quite a while to become fertile laying queens.
September 03, 2013 · By Doug · 1 Comment
So with the warm winter spring has come early and we have bees swarming and life is good if your a bee.
Last year we tried checker boarding to reduce swarming a technique where you insert undrawn frames into the brood nest moving the other frames up and into the middle of the box..it didnt work.
This year we moved all our queen excluders up before winter to create two brood boxes in effect knowing that the honey stores as they come in will push the brood back down into the bottom box, and we are trying a method of checkboarding that alternates empty and honey filled frames above the brood..so far I think having the excluder up is the best method and is making a difference, I'm not sure about the checkerboarding.
The next month or so will tell, its the busy time with very frequent hive checks as nothing strikes more fear into a bystanders heart that a bee swarm, especially one in the city.
August 27, 2013 · By Doug · No Comments
Well things have been a little quiet here at the beevangelist as I have been taking a winter break from bees, except the weather has been really warm with many 20c days. The bees, birds and plants think its Spring and we have already had a swarm and a few swarm calls. I for one will miss my winter hibernate but I am also really concerned about this unseasonably hot weather and what it means for a climate and the world.
There is a big chance that if we have a cold snap many of the baby birds and new plant shoots will die and the bees which will have huge summer populations will starve, a really horrible outcome.
Before I became a beekeeper I used to think wow what a lovely warm winter isn't it nice....now I worry about my bees.
May 29, 2013 · By Doug · No Comments
Well I have finally got over the shock of having caught the beekeepers equivalent of an STD and instead of not telling anybody I am shouting out loud. I have learnt quite a lot in the last two weeks about AFB and how its spread and how to control it, done a fair bit of analysis of our systems and more than a bit of soul searching.
Last week I head off to the apiary petrol in hand to suffocate the infected hive before it died out and infected the ones nearby, or the drift of worker bees spread it. I sealed the bees in and poured about a cup of petrol in, the bees roared as soon as the vapour hit them trying in vain to disperse it before they died. Death was quick about 2 minutes but it felt like a life time and was a horrible feeling, something I do not want to repeat any time soon.
So what now ? We are inspecting all our hives and I mean really looking at each brood frame (its a slow process) we will destroy any hive with symptoms as a precaution. We have to quarantine all possibly infected equipment and will melt down any combs that are more than a season old as a precaution, any hive bodies frames excluders etc will be irradiated.
We have good records with all hives tracked via software and so know what has happened to the infected hive since we obtained it, we will either burn or irradiate all equipment that has come into contact with the hive..and are looking closely at our management practices with a view to minimising any cross contamination.
One thing we have already done this year is moved our queen excluders up at the end of winter we will rotate the bottom two boxes over put the excluder back down and when the old honey frames are robbed melt them down. I think this will become standard practice and will allow us to keep all frames in the brood no older than 12 months....and eliminate AFB spore build up. We had always replaced half the brood frames but this will replace them all.
Because we have a large number of distributed apiaries keeping equipment segregated from our apiaries is difficult but we ae going to have to invent a system that makes sure all frames go back to the hive they have come from, difficult but not impossible.
So its a waiting game and everything is crossed that we caught this before it spread to our other hives...time will tell.
May 13, 2013 · By Doug · No Comments
So we went thru the hives in Randwick as part of the Sydney Bee club field day doing our inspections leading up to Winter. One of the hives was looking a bit slow despite being requeened recently and deserved a close look. I always tell people to look and listen to your hives before you open them as lots can be learned using your senses. We cracked the hive open found two full supers of honey were rubbing our hands together with excitement when the brood looked a bit off closer inspection revealed American Foul Brood. AFB as its called is a bacterial spore infection that affects larvae and causes it to die in the cell.
It has a dsitinctive pattern and can be tested with a rope test (poking a stick into a capped cell and seeing if the mush ropes out) there are plenty of online resources here http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/honey-bees/pests-diseases/videos .
Its easily spread by contaminated frames and honey and is usually spread by an infected hive that is robbed and the robbing bees take the infected honey back to their hive and the cycle continues. We plan to destry the hive in the next few days by burning it and will irradiate the supers and frames that may have come into contact with it.
May 09, 2013 · By Doug · No Comments
Well we moved the hive out of the gardens last night, its been a huge success and appears to have put on a lot of honey in the time its been there. I think we can declare the test a success and look forward to putting some permanent hives in there for a full blown Botanic Gardens honey variety.
April 10, 2013 · By Doug · No Comments
TedX asked us to provide some honey for the meal being prepared by Matt Moran as a showcase for local produce. We already have hives in the area but thought: wouldn't it be great to get a hive really close - as in really, really close to the Opera House. And so the mission began for a location.
The TedX people found a spot in the Royal Botanic Gardens so I did a viewing yesterday and we're moving the hive in on Friday. It's rather exciting I have to say.
Hives go here.
April 08, 2013 · By Doug · 1 Comment
This week we moved some hives from Marrickville to our Randwick apiary sites - we're talking big hives full of lots of healthy bees and quite heavy.
I have a hive cradle that makes things easy; it's a design that gives you a large handle on the front and back of the hive and makes it quite easy to carry a heavy hive, without having to bend to pick it up from the bottom and having your fingers slip off the bottom board.
Anyway it all went well with the new hives installed and happy in their new location.
Next came a move in the Hunter Valley, ostensibly a much easier move of two 8-frame hives about 5 kms. I got up there and checked the destination location first. We decided on a good spot a little elevated up a bank to keep them out of the fog.
I waited until dark and headed to the hives. I have a moving screen that fits on the front of 8- or 10-frame boxes and allows the bees to ventilate the hive. So the first step was to walk up to the first hive and whack it on with a bit of gaffer tape and a ratchet strap.
I went to to do the same thing with the second hive but it had a handle on the front that blocked the screen and by now the bees were onto me and started investigating who was banging on the hive... time to leave them alone for a bit.
So I put on the bee gear I had brought with me which was a face veil. I zipped up my polar fleece to keep the bees out and went in with a smoker and some gaffer tape to tape them in. Most went inside and I taped them up.
The hives were three boxes high and didn't fit in my car so they were going into the recipients' jeep. We loaded them in but there wasn't anything to strap them to. They'll be fine, I said... I was to regret that decision.
Off we headed and it was apparent pretty quickly that the rough road was going to cause some problems. At the first big bump the hives rocked and the screen popped off releasing the bees into the jeep. I marched in in my polar fleece and tried to strap them down while my friends got their gear sorted - they were going to be driving a car full of bees. A number of stings later we headed off at a very slow pace and after a few tense moments arrived at the destination.
It was then that the folly of clambering up a cliff face in the dark hauling bee hives became fully apparent. We did our best with the first hive - thankfully it was the fully sealed one and the heaviest of the two.
The next one was a) lighter, but b) covered in annoyed bees so it was a much more difficult operation to get it up there without screaming "the bees, the bees!" and running away. But we succeeded. I discovered that you should always wear loose jeans as a number of bees worked out that my jeans were tight in unpleasant places where you should never get stung.
I suggested that they leave the jeep's door open and sure enough, in the morning many escaped bees had found the hive. There was also a handful of cold ones that once they got a bit of sun headed for their new home.
So the lesson learnt was moving bees is always full of surprises and always take all your gear with you. A polar fleece is no substitute for a bee suit.