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This month's meeting was not too far out of Katikati, on a warm and sultry afternoon. Herman and Natalie have roughly half a dozen hives they keeps for pollination in an avocado orchard on a lifestyle block, and intends to split some to increase the count slightly. While the main hives are double broods this year has not been particularly kind and the hives are not particularly strong or well provisioned. Taken together, it should be possible to take a couple of nucs out, but it's getting a bit last minute and there could be a cost trying to take them though the winter. There could be quite a bit of 'intervention' required to see them through.

 

All the main hives are fitted with plastic queen excluders that have an entrance-way integrated. I have come across these more often lately, and I struggle to find advantages that out-way the disadvantages. Fitted to conventional wooden hives they appear to be a pending disaster if you are moving hives, because there is hardly any friction preventing the boxes from slipping - even when quite heavily propolised. Like other plastic designs they are prone to distortion, mess with the bee-space producing bur-comb and more distortion, and peeling them away from whichever box they are half attached to doesn't make friends with your bees. If you are making splits, making a Demaree, or blanketed in snow I can see a top entrance might matter, otherwise I have them in my book of pointless fads. You're welcome to try and change my mind.

 

One consequence of the second entrance is that exposes the hive to robbing, and recruits extra guards to defend it. Neither of these things are good. At this time of year I wouldn't have been surprised to have experienced some robbing as we worked through the hives, but actually there was none even when working through quite slowly and handing frames around. We looked through one small hive very closely, sparked by people telling me they could see the eggs when there were none in the frame! The bees were all well behaved, and the day hot enough to make doing without a bee-suit a really good idea. :)

 

I am always very cautious about initiating robbing, at this time of year especially - it can get very nasty. I make sure the smoker works, all the time, I carry hessian sacks to cover boxes, I expect to need a full suit and veil, and have gloves handy somewhere. When you arrive look around the hives for bees investigating box joints, screens, lids and they like; if they are you need to be cautious. You might expect flight activity to be lower, and less 'purposeful'. Bees are robbing because there is nothing to gather and they are not occupied foraging. I smoke all the hives, not just the one I am working on, and go in with a plan and no nonsense. Don't leave boxes or combs lying around, cover them, and if you must drip honey make sure you drip it into the hive not all over the grass. Either way, it is not a good idea. For some jobs a water mist can be very useful, and helps to keep the bees on the comb rather than driving them to fly. If it turns out to be a nice day you can throw back the veil and enjoy it, if you create a battle you need to call it a day quickly. Close everybody down and go home, it's not a time to grin and bear it.

 

The meeting wrapped up with tea and cake, and an offer to go and watch the harvesting of some honey from Flow frames just along the road. Hopefully we will hear how that went. Next month's meeting will be at the Open Day for the TECT activity park so perhaps we'll catch up then.

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