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WebKiwiNZ

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About WebKiwiNZ

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    Beginner Beekeeper

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    Bishopdale / Christchurch

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  1. It turns out I not only suck at Where's Wally (my kids beat me every time) but that it also extends to 'Find That Queen'. How is it that I have heard so many disaster stories of people killing their queen but when you want to find her she is as elusive as truthfulness at an impeachment hearing. Having decided the hive is aggressive, and having @CHCHPaul help me source a calm queen (thanks -for that and the advice - really appreciated) I ventured out to find and replace my current queen. So I donned my bee suit, gumboots, my new leather gloves, put on a hat to keep the net away from my ears and went forth to find the queen. Smoker loaded, kids warned to stay away and off I went. After taking off the tin cover and lifting the lid I knew I was in for an epic and any doubt these girls are aggressive was dispelled. The top box is a lightly populated honey box above the Queen Excluder. More activity than previously but as soon as I took off the lid a wave of bees starting pinging my face and ears. Apply smoke, put them to one side, cover them and look at box two with the queen excluder on. Wow - I didn't even get a chance to touch them and what felt like half a frame of bees lifted off and I had my own mini swarm. Smoke, loosen the box, put it to one side, cover it and attend to the base box first. Double Wow - I thought the second box was aggressive - I get close and another wave of bees. My daughter (who was watching from a safe distance with a bee net on - abandoned me at this point - even she could hear the noise level change...again!!). After smoking them I put my hand towards the frames and got wave two. Loosened the first frame and got wave three. Lifted it - wave four. I must have looked like that kid Pig Pen from Charley Brown cartoons ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig-Pen ) I never knew bees could growl - wow!!! I have to confess this was the moment I asked myself if I really really really wanted to keep bees. I could either close the lid, turn away and find someone to sell them too or suck it up and move forward, knowing that I was likely in for multiple stings and a lot of sucky work. It turns out my wife is right (again) - I am just too dumb to know when to quit. Either that or adrenaline, fear and large doses of masochism are really my thing. I removed two outside frames (light barrier method) peered in - but that was pretty much a waste of time. The frames were heaving, bees flying and moving in all directions, so lifted out the frames and started checking - a quick look on both sides (outside of edge to inwards) then a slower inch by inch inspection of both sides. Nothing..nada...zip. I can spot drones, but not queens. Lots of brood, less honey and nectar than I would like - two bumble bees (one in not so good condition) occasional drone cone but not much (I think that's expected coming towards winter) no swarm cone, larvae on three frames at least but no eggs spotted. Finish off the frames, put it back together, resist the temptation to put the second box on top (it would have been a better height to work with) , cover it and on to box two. Lots of honey, lots of nectar, a few brood frames (but not many) a repeat of the bombing runs of box one - but interestingly less so than box 1. Someone had told me to hit box one first as it means you have less returning workers to join the fray. Box twos bees were still awful but less so than box one. Good advice I think. No queen found. Pretty sure she is in box one - where there is more larvae and brood - but possibly was on the floor or walls - or hey - as I said I suck at Where's Wally - and these girls are all wearing stripes. I will revisit them on Thursday - and try again. I had heard of a process of putting a QE on the base of the hive, adding the boxes above and tipping all the bees in front of the door step to re-enter the hive. @CHCHPaul told me about the bee sieve method - empty box on top, with QE below, tip bees into that and smoke gently downwards leaving the queen and drones. If I fail to find them on Thursday will do a bee sieve. Looking at the bees in the hive - still lots of nectar, saw a number with orange pollen in box one so there is still pollen coming in, saw 2-3 bumble bees inside and a couple try to enter the hive. So some bumblebees robbing at least box one. Box one less honey than expected - but box two absolutely heaving with it - so not worried about feeding or starvation. Lessons learned: 1 - Leather gloves rock. I will have to pull out a number of bee stings stuck in there, but with just nitrile gloves this wouldn't have been a good outcome. 2 - Check your gumboots before visiting the hive - mine had a split in the back I hadn't noticed. Saw it in time - thanks gaffer tape. 3 - A brimmed / floppy hat inside the net really keeps the ears protected. 4 - Staying still, moving slow, does help - mostly helped me get more confident in my gear. Being in a mini swarm of angry bees is freaky - but good gear works. 5 - Hive work is sweaty - and even the 'ventilated' bee suits will keep you sweating. 6 - Details. Check the details - like the last few millimetres of zip are done up, or the velcro is clipped down. Bees will find a way if you let them. 7 - Bees rock. This was not a pleasant trip to the hive but watching them communicate is cool (less cool if they were passing info on about where I forgot to do up a zip or something) , seeing the pollen on their legs, different colours of brood cap, the progression of honey, the work they do cleaning, building, feeding, how amazingly strong propolis is, their fanning, bearding, activities .... plus all the things i am learning along the way. In the long run I think they are worth the effort. Last thing learned - You can say to your bees - you're beautiful when you're angry - but it turns out that's not a good line to say to your wife. Another lesson learned. Click to choose files Hi @Paul Beer - thanks for the offer - but I'll decline. Its not about honey for us (that's just a bonus) but if you are trying to divest of some, I know of some community houses / projects that would gratefully accept. ... or I know a school that would possibly appreciate some - as part of their food process. It might make a good session getting people to extract their own honey Again thanks for the offer. Shane
  2. Well it's been a while so heres a progress update. 1. I'm pretty sure my bees are aggressive with the new queen. They lift off and ping my face net when I go near after even the top box is off. Running a hand over the top gets them stirred up and investigating. I'm now wearing gloves .. gardening gloves have material strips .. which bees exploit so now I've got proper leather gloves. Also gum boots. The little beggars can find that gap where a suit rides up even with boots and thick socks. Gumboots are excellent ankle protectors. In exploring if it's me or the bees I tried opening up in the evening (more workers bees back home so more pinging me) , middle of the day .. still an unpleasant experience and on a cooler day ... they were annoyed but then one wind gusts and suddenly a wave of 20 or so lifted off and came to get me. The final confirmation for me was when there were bees on the ground one morning. Normally I can pick them up with no issues but these had their butts in the air as soon as I put my hand near them. Very defensive. So it's new queen time. It's possible my new queen cross mated with a black bee. I've seen some jet black ones around. Things I've learned. Put your cover on a box you have taken off as it keeps them settled. It means there is one less annoyed bunch of bees that can fly at you. If you have 2 or 3 boxes ... take the top two off and do the bottom one first. It means you can get a cover on it quicker and its exposed for less time so there are less annoyed workers returning to bulk up the bombing runs. Bees can sting through suits. But not too often. Keep your net away from your ears. Bees sting through nets touching your ears. Bee suits rock!! If I'd worked this hive suitless I hate to think what state this newbie would have ended up in. If you have annoyed bees ... sometimes staying still and forcing yourself to be in their presence is good. It teaches you to trust your suit. It looks like this first season I'll be honeyless. The girls have the second box full so that is good for winter. I did stripe my third box with frames from box two so more brood cells in box two ... but I have a feeling they may have taken honey from box three, above the queen excluder, and moved it down. There were a lot of bees drinking even before I used smoke. Next week its treatment time... I've used baverol(spelling) previously so will use apivar?? The one different to baverol and that means I will not be able to use honey as it's got withholding periods. So no honey this year ... well maybe one frame. Considering their rough start .. chewed wing two weeks after getting them .. and the queen issues ... I'm pretty happy they have two boxes with brood and lots of honey so it should be a good start to next season. That and a new queen...hopefully not aggressive. Photo taken tonight... a heavy beard. It's not just my wife finding the weather hot.
  3. I've got to give a thumbs up to Ekrotek - if it is the same lady who (wo)mans the store - have found her to be helpful with advice - and encouragement. how are the hives going?
  4. White flowered - thats manuka isn't it? No - jsut checked and I'm wrong - Kanuka can be white too ... Ma (Maori) - White - but its not the case However the bushes we saw had dense white flowers - where as I understand Kanuka is more sparse - not as clumped. It looked like the bushes had light greyish snow all over them. Like the photo below. Up near View Hill / Oxford Forest I see there is a big bee farm - 2,500,000 bees according to the gate sign. They were flying over 1km away at the view hill car park and getting into the Manuka?? bushes there.
  5. The weather in Chch got slightly cooler last week....not by much but a little. I opened my back door one morning to find about 100 to 150 bees all around it. Most were clumped around an outside light we keep on for my son who lives in a sleep out. They stayed there until the sun started to reach the back door then flew off one by one. An unexpected welcome to the day. We were in Arthur's Pass Park last week. Lots of manuka blooming. All through Cragieburn and Oxford as well. Bee keepers near lake Pearson area moving hives so they are busy. In Oxford forest lots of bee flight lines visible when looking across the valleys. So its manuka time in Canterbury.
  6. We made a salve with bees wax and olive oil. Add in infused oil or essentials as required. Tea tree for grapes etc. Tried a cocoa butter and coconut butter and olive oil lotion mix. Slightly grainy but rubs in well. Hyper alkeginic wife loves it ... except for the way my head swings around and 'mmmm chocolate ' comments follow her .
  7. Looks like wind might be keeping them closer to home. We have majarum(sp) at home and the bumblebees have been at it for a couple weeks but no bees. Today lots of bees too.
  8. Im really greatful to this forum. Having access to this resource is a real help and the experience offered much appreciated. Im not sure how you got through a year isolated..thats a tough way to start. The NZ beekeeping book is a great help and having been shown the site resources am looking forward to watching. A course was a good start but so much was theory until you get hands on then it all comes home. Im almost tempted to redo the course with experience under the belt ... would retain more thats for sure. Im considering blogging a list of resources for newbies .. there are some great youtubers as well. I think you have hit the key ... relaxation. Relaxed with the bees. Relaxed about the keys. Bees are a survivor species with lots of strategies we learn from .. so as long as i dont drop a box, watch for verroa and help feed as required they should do okay. Kids are like that too ... except for the veroa .. but its so easy to get stressed when a life bump hits you. Surprisingly looking back 6 months the crisis of then arent an issue now. Have relaxed and Merry Christmas. Thanks for the advice. Crown board on top...will do. I used my lid to keep stuff together but didnt to the board. Ill reopen them on a nice day. Interesting you say to do it during the day. Much advice says early morning or evening when they are calm but looking back ive had it open middle of the day with less aggro. Queen temperament ... will look at that. Its been a not straight forward run. The nuc had veroa when i got it as chewed wings showed 16 days or so after getting them. Then it swarmed 2 to 3 months ago during a strong pollen flow. Both thi gs im told can reflect on the queen. Continued aggression will have me looking for another. Thanks for the advice. Merry Christmas Shane
  9. @yesbut and @mummzie Thanks for the advice. I went into the hive this evening around 7.30pm. 14 degrees with 34km/h wind. Wanted to get it done before Christmas and although it was more windy than I normally open them up in thought they should be okay / sheltered. Was I wrong!! I fully geared up - so I would take my time, got the smoker working, opened the top box up. Nothing going on again. So went to the second box. Second box (which is under the queen excluder) is chocker full of honey and bees but no brood - except a little in the very middle frames. No change there since two weeks ago so went to the bottom box. The bottom box was absolutely heaving with bees. Its worth noting I had already had a couple of bees getting a bit investigative around my head gear, and also my daughters who was standing about 2m away. I lifted a frame from the bottom box - capped brood, some uncapped larvae (small) and nectar / pollen and honey around the edges. At this point the visit went southward. The girls decided they weren't happy (not sure why) and suddenly had bees pinging off my head gear, hitting my hands (no gloves) and generally being niggly. The noise also went up. I got my daughter to go inside and walked away for a minute to let them calm down. They followed for about 5 -10 metres - pinging off my head gear. I got some leather gloves, put them on and went back. When I got within about 2-3 metres of the hive a group of 10-20 or more bees lifted off and started pinging my head gear again. They were seriously ticked off. I backed away, went inside (after they finally left me alone) and got a brimmed hat to push out the head gear. One ear was feeling too close to the mesh for my comfort. I gave them 5 minutes to calm down - went back. Again a wave of bees up and went for me when I was about 2m or so away from the hive. They were seriously ticked off. To cut a long story short - I inserted a new frame into he bottom box to fill the gap I had left with the one frame out, put the brood filled frame from the bottom in box two, slapped on the queen excluder (to stop the bees attacking me from there - both boxes having a go at me) and Got the smoker working (they go out at just the wrong time don't they) and smoked the bees off the bottom box, placed box two with the QE on the boxes (slowed them down getting at me) and put the honey filled frame from box two into the top box (above the QE). I was going to take the advice of swapping them out - every second one - but will work on the top two boxes on another day when the bees aren't so cantankerous. Lessons learned: Wearing a bee suit was a great idea. I still dont know enough to go gung ho. Even wearing a bee suit wont keep a newbie like me calm if they are pinging off the hood and really trying to get at you. I stayed slow and careful but my t-shirt was definitely a little sweatier than normal. Once I had got the brimmed hat under the hood I spent some time standing still near the hive, even though they were going for me. It helped get me more confident in my gear. I'm not suggesting newbies annoy their bees then stand in the resultant barrage to get experience - but I think taking time to experience being among annoyed bees in a suit is a good thing. I'm more confident in my gear now. The suit has some yellow spots on the hood and other parts that werent there before. Thankfully there was no brown spots where my undies are .. but when they first lit up it was a spooky experience. I don't know what set them off. I had removed the frame well before they lit up and hadn't done another frame. My theories are: The wind. Possibly an open hive with gusts of wind up to 34km/h was enough to upset them I am wearing a new deodorant based on tee tree oil. Normally I don't wear anything I can smell when working the bees - I can smell this stuff. Maybe it was the tea tree, maybe the smell. Something completely different. 5. Your smoker will go out when you least want it to. I was trying some pine shavings but I think they were too fine. I think I'll stick with sacking - it has never failed me yet. I'll get some photos up soon - after I go talk to them tomorrow - see what the story was I read somewhere a lot of new bee keepers don't make it past 1 year, little less two. I think days like today might be part of that - it is off putting - but that's why getting along side some old hands is probably a good idea. I'm planning on going up to the Cashmere group next month if I can or drop into the Kaiapoi group. Possibly will try to find a commercial bee keeper that needs a hand for a day or two - get used to what bees being worked more vigorously than I do as a novice looks like. Gain some skills and insight. The things we go through to get honey hey ...
  10. Wow a follower...my first...thank you @cBank The girls are doing well. I opened them up last week and had a look. The bottom box is full of brood and honey around the edges, the second box is absolutely heaving with honey, but no brood to speak of and the third box above the queen excluder has absolutely nothing happening in it. I was wondering if the Queen excluder was doing it's job too effectively but some bees are getting through so I suspect that it's something else. Over the last month or so there has been a lack of pollen coming in as I've been watching them. There was some robbing attempts last week and the girls did really well, lots of scraps on the doorstep, and they seem to be winning so that's awesome. In the last couple of days I've seen pollen it again (orange, white, yellow) and so I'm thinking it might start to flow again and if that's the case they may start building into the third box. Looking into this other people have done several things. Some of them have sprayed sugar water onto the frames, some of them move frames between Box 3 and box 2, some of them have added a feeder into the top box to draw the bees up. I think I'm going to go down the track of putting a feeder into the top box, in line with what at @CHCHPaul suggested. Hopefully that will draw them up as well as giving them a little boost to get started on drawing out comb and honey into the top box. As Paul says there is no rush and the hive looks like it's really really healthy. Up until now I've kept the front door 30% closed as the bees were still growing the hive. The way they are taking care of robbers and the amount of bees that are in the two boxes I think it's now going to be safe to open up the door a little bit further and let them have full access. Watching them last week the little ######s are very good at looking out for themselves which is lovely to see. If I had any thoughts or worries of going forward it's if they don't start coming up into the third box, with the amount of bees that are on the bottom frames, maybe that look at swarming again. But that would be really unusual for them to ignore empty space and not go through the Queen excluder so we'll give it some time and see what happens. I'm hoping to open up the box next week and I'll take some photos and see how they're going I ran into a new website which has some interesting ideas about natural beekeeping. It's called girl-next-door beekeeping. She's very into natural keeping and has some really interesting ideas re not using foundation, the size of bees, resistance to diseases, and the potential problems of pesticide build up by using foundation on your frames. I'm not ready to go down the line that she suggesting but she does make a really good read and references some interesting works along the way, with some decent research as well. I've put a link below. As a beekeeper I got my first sting at the last week going into the boxes. A bee hit me in the head got trapped between my glasses and stung me in the temple. My recommendation is don't get stung there as it really hurts One of the things that the beekeeping next door girl says is this new Keepers like me often emulate more experienced Keepers by going into their hives without gear on and that actually make us worse beekeepers in the long run. She suggests that wearing a suit as a new beekeeper, even if the bees are quite friendly and calm, means that we are more relaxed as new beekeepers and so will do a better job of inspection , will get into the hive more often, and will actually handle the hive better because we won't be as tense if we wearing a bee suit. I think it's actually some really good advice for a new beekeeper so I'm not going to be going into The Hives is often without gear, and hopefully a more relaxed me will actually be a better beekeeper, and then as I get more experienced will then be able to go without gear. I like working with out gear .. it feels more connected .. but suspect I'm less focused on the frames and more focused on the bees around me. So am suiting up even for small explores. I'll see how it affects my keeping. Anyway thanks for the following and I'm going to upload some photos next week when I go back do another inspection. Cheers Merry Christmas Shane. http://beekeepinglikeagirl.com/
  11. I cant stress talking to your neighbors enough. Get ahead of this. As said above ... give them a date. Educate about the difficulty of moving hives even a small distance..etc People can be reasonable if they understand .. and if they aren't.. my commiserations... stroppy neighbors moving in have ruined many a happy home and neighborhood. People who move in and complain about prior stuff are rife in nz
  12. Yes. They lost a queen earlier so a new virgin queen started 3 weeks ago. Only 2 to 3 frames of brood. Put 10 frames on 4 weeks ago but will do another 10 as much of that is nectar and honey. About 20 plus kgs in weight.
  13. @CHCHPaul thanks. Will do that. Cant believe how quickly they filled the previous 10. If you need muscle .. let me know. Happy to help and gain experience
  14. Thanks for that. They were a new hive in mid autumn so blocked the hole to be a small one as we had a lot of robbing attempts. Its now open to about 1/3 the bottom but will open it up fully. They look strong enough again.
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