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  1. The group's long CoVid lock-down has been punctuated with Web-hosted virtual meetings for those able to join. This month it was out of the web-world and back to the wide-world with the group's first Honey Show. The BOP group exists to facilitate shared knowledge and experience, in a social setting where potentially everyone has something to contribute, including people that have never (or never intend to), keep their own honeybees. Keeping bees, as a hobby or a business, benefits from good information about many things, for example information about biology and horticulture, carpentry, engineering, business, to legal, employment, and compliance matters. It’s valuable then, that the group appeals to a wide range of people with different life interests. With beekeeping at the core of what we do, providing opportunities to lift the skill of beekeepers beyond proficient to real expertise is an essential process. Rather than teach, our collective role is to provide opportunities to learn, and to learn by doing, by participating, communicating, and by seeing what is possible. Honey Shows are supposed to be a test of some essential beekeeping skills. They examine the ability to harvest and pack honey and other bee products while maintaining the highest standards for quality and hygiene. They should also be aspirational and provide examples of the best that can be achieved. Some of the more peripheral talents, like brewing, making polishes and cosmetics, and cooking with honey, provide an opening for more diverse interests and supply ideas for innovative revenue streams. Creative arts exhibits celebrate novel perspectives on what we do and broaden our horizon. These are all things that provide opportunities to grow, learn, and improve. We are aware that some members are not confident about being 'tested'; about the competitive nature of such 'Shows', but that needn't be so. Yes, larger Shows can seem merciless, and pedantic, to the uninitiated. In our event you are meeting the standards we explain in advance, testing only yourself. For some classes of entry there may be guidelines or no standards. If you think you have created something that merits sharing and discussion amongst our social group then display it, it need go no further. If you wish to 'practice' or test or exhibits for larger Shows you can do that too. The BOP event is intended to be a greater test of the group than of its members. This month's test produced a range of outcomes. I can confidently say that none of the many entries in the honey class could have been prize winners in any Show so you have nothing to beat! However, every one had something to teach us, (like the use of a torch!) and all of them were available for tasting, so even bystanders got tips and a taste. The wax exhibits however included one or two entries of a high standard (potential 'winners' elsewhere) as well as some 'tutorials'. The mead section too overwhelmed us with varieties. We used a lot of lolly-sticks and tasting glasses. The DIY entries were all versions of robbing guards (!), and the 'Crafty' people supplied a decorated hive, photos, a photomontage, and pieces of wool and needlework and so on. We had more than we could comment on in the two hours-odd we had available, and more than we expected given the short notice exhibitors had to prepare.
  2. March 29. The BoP Group had its first online meeting today. We used goto meeting software for phone tablet computer access. About 24 members attended. We went through a hive, looked at some new robbing guards and our first batch of mead ready to bottle. Then at end of meeting we switched on all the webcams and had a cup of tea and a chat. We finished on time and there was no lost time travelling
  3. The Group's website https://bopbee.weebly.com/ has been updated for the new swarm season and collectors google map. Meetings (last Sunday of month at 2pm) are going back into summer mode; at the apiary of a member each month instead of meeting at TECT park. Anyone (member or non-member) in the region or just visiting (between Katikati, Rotorua and Paengaroa) on last Sunday of the month, that might want to attend a meeting is welcome to make contact via the website to get current newsletter and meeting details.
  4. We have another two samples ready for composite test, but need 5 for the minimum $20 club rate. I thought we were done for the season, but now have 3 empty slots if anyone interested. But you need to be able to get the sample to me in Tauranga.
  5. We had some early rain that might have put some people off and Maungatapu bridge closed overnight due to a fatal, but the turnout was probably more than 30 people because the urn ran out of water and we got more underway. We started off looking at my own solar wax melters, these are poly fish bins with a polycarbonate window and using cotton paint strainer bags on a metal roof tile. Discussed dealing with old dark brood comb in a bag, under hot water with a brick. Looked at the spectrum of different wax cleaning methods from single hive hobby level to the more expensive wax melters that commercials might use to try to put it all into context. Then the weather cleared and members from Waihi/Katikati direction said they had a clear run, so we opened three hives. Silvana opened the front hive with half the group, and I opened the back top bar, followed by a Lang. We found colonies in good health with plenty of stores, these hives contained the tail end of the single stitching OAG strips (Phil Haycock). We had some quad stitched ones on hand but they were not needed. The Lang was nearly ready to squash down from two into one FD. The Top Bar had 10 combs of brood. The OAG strips were fairly dry but mostly still intact, they were left in place and none were replaced. I'm certainly not tasting them. Top bar was closed down a bit for winter with 9 bars/combs removed to make a smaller volume, but essentially the same volume of 2xFD was left in the hive. A long while ago the OAG strips had dealt to the finger tips of an old pair of leather gloves I had been using for strip placement, so I cut off all the finger tips at the first or second knuckle so there were "fingerless". From Blackwoods I had some gloves with rubber palms and a mesh back (originally purchased for concreting). I put on the rubber gloves first and the fingerless bee gloves second. This gives me rubber finger tips for the OAG strips and beekeeping gauntlets over the top. I find it very comfortable even to the point I might use then even when I am not placing OAG strips. Bee gloves only ever wear out in the finger tips (in my experience) and I hate throwing away disposable gloves and the sweaty nature of most of the disposables too. So, I had those gloves on show too in case anyone was interested. Actually I hate throwing away anything.. We had a bit of discussion about ants, cinnamon, bay leaves, DE, cut grass and moats. This was followed by cockroaches, chickens ducks and the storing of empty dry combs and discussing that wax moth do not like sunshine, cold and ventilation. Some members who had trouble with wax moths in previous seasons discussed that they would change their strategy on this where they had them stored in the dark, close spaced frames and fully wrapped up with zero ventilation; in other words creating a heaving mess of moth maggots. Dennis Crowley dropped in and just for our info, showed us the bee iq hive gate which looked pretty good; I'd describe it as a horizontal periscope or tunnel. The Lang in question already had a reduced entrance (no wasps around here) but we discussed that, vertical periscope mesh wasp guards and also landing boards generally (a.k.a. dining plates for wasps as Dave Black has described previously). We observed that some people put landing boards on flush hives and some people choose to cut off the landing boards on landing board hives: proof if it were needed, that you can't ever please all the people all the time. Then it was back around the front for tea/coffee/biscuits/baking and a bit of a chin wag. One of the Tutin test samples was poured into a specimen container and so on. Tutin testing demand has dropped off so I think we are done for the season.
  6. We have one slot remaining and four confirmed for next 5x composite tutin test. $20. Suitable for low Tutin risk confirmation. The extractors are both in use this weekend but there are now no forwards bookings, so most people seem to be all finished now. However if any members need use of a small manual extractor they're currently available from Apr 12th. $20. contact information for testing and extractors is on the group's BopBee website.
  7. Monthly meeting for March was held at Barry Kneebone's place in Katikati. It was a pretty wet day that reduced turnout to about 30 people. We had a bit of a chin wag in the shed. Looked at various feeders and bases and their merits or otherwise. Arataki propolis mats were viewed and discussed. We looked at Barry's home made entrance reducers and so on. Various questions came up so quite a lot of good background knowledge was shared. We spent a bit of time on harvesting, discussing blowers, brushes, bee-gone fume boards and more. Nobody was complaining about the rain, it was nice to have some. However, eventually the rain eased off so we went to have a look at a couple of Barry's hives that he duly took apart and put back together. Then it was off to the house for a cup of tea/coffee and the shared plates brought along by all. Sorry never thought to take a photo.
  8. The group's second extractor is a manual four frame that joins the three frame unit that has been in service for two seasons now. At the current time both units are booked and in use with members, but they appear to be the last bookings of the year with demand now tailed off. As most know the whole gubbins comes out for cleaning if you spin off two wing nuts. It will be fun to see if we can invent a top bar hive extractor that mounts with the same two wing nuts. Thus it could become somewhat ambidextrous for hobbyists.
  9. Hello, Please excuse the interruption. You should all now have been invited to join the new facilities within the clubs feature of NZBees. https://www.nzbees.net/2/clubs/ If you haven't seen your invite, please just request to join. Upon arrival you will have your own forums, gallery and calendar, which can be run as you see fit, giving you more autonomy within the NZ Beekeepers umbrella.
  10. The group's map has had a layer added for Tutin Test Results. The map now contains blue markers for swarm collectors, green markers for passed Tutin Tests and red markers for failed Tutin Tests. Anyone with a Tutin Test result from any site in the BoP region is welcome to forwards a copy of their test certificate from any year. These are placed on the map so as not to identify any individual nor an apiary site. Members and non-members are welcome to contribute and there is no fee nor block for non-members to view. There are not actually a great deal of test results to see, however, there are two red markers so far and anyone harvesting honey from those two catchments might be on high alert. Composite sample testing can be done from areas with a long green history. Individual testing is recommended in red areas. If you do access the map, it is suggested you make it "full screen" and toggle between collectors and tutin test results according to whichever layer you want to look at. https://bopbee.weebly.com/tutin.html
  11. I'm not sure if it has been mentioned but we also have a group webpage. It is a free one, so the url isn't flash. https://bopbee.weebly.com/ The Tauranga City Council webpage on bees externally links to this website for swarm collection in the BoP area. Members of other recognised clubs, branches and groups in the BoP are welcome to join the collector list; there is no fee. The website contains a map of collectors that can be taken full screen and zoomed in to locate nearest. https://bopbee.weebly.com/collection.html There is also a page on the group's extractor that can be booked & borrowed by group members for $20. There is a link to the facebook group and a link to this forum and details about meetings and newsletters.
  12. The first meeting of the winter programme was on Sunday. Besides the coffee, tea and feel-goodness we are going to try a little piece of structure this year to try and give everyone an opportunity to join in. For each meeting well have some pre-arranged discussion points. One will be of the ‘would you believe it/I never knew that /cunning devils’ variety, from me probably. For example, one random one might be “Is it likely Honey bees have clocks in their antennae?” Fun, not a lecture. The other will be much more open-ended and general, something where anyone regardless of their experience, might contribute and learn. This weekend we talked about “What do we have to do to ensure the health of our bees?”, and built a Wordcloud. If you haven’t come across Wordclouds there are just a graphic that displays and emphasises some text depending on some measure of it’s significance; the number of time a word appears or how important the word is for example. They are sometimes quite good at conveying the sense of a complex document, not that we said anything complex. Anyway, here is our first attempt at a Wordcloud.
  13. Our October meeting was joined by the BOP Branch of the New Zealand Tree Crops Association (NZTCA) which is a voluntary organisation promoting interest in 'useful' trees. The Association had its beginnings in 1974 and, in its own words, thought that; "If farmers could be persuaded to establish a gentle landscape of shelter and windbreaks, woodlots, orchards, fodder crops and mixed associations of all kinds of trees and useful plants, then those farmers would benefit from enhanced pasture production through the combined effect of leaf litter, shelter and nitrogen provided by the judicious use of nitrogen-fixing tree species. As well, the combined effects of soil and water conservation, increased bird and bee population, and the revitalizing of our much-polluted atmosphere would vitally enrich the land. Other benefits would be an increase in the quality and diversity of fruits, nuts and timbers and their many useful by-products — in sum, an enrichment of all our lives by pursuing our tree crops goals." It's a vision that beekeepers must have some sympathy with, and I know that the organisation we are more familiar with as far as bee forage goes, 'Trees For Bees' ("smart planting for healthy bees"), have involved Treecrops in some of their work. The organisation now has a wide range of members, farmers and life-stylers, scientists and gardeners. Like us, the Association holds monthly gatherings, and recent topics have included planting tips, growing hazel nut trees, rongoa Maori with Rob McGowan, and a guided visit to McLaren Falls Park. I'm not sure either of us were quite sure what to expect on this occasion. I didn't think the weather was on our side, I left home in misty 40 - 50m visibility and continuous light rain, but by the time I got to Katikati an hour away it had dried out a bit, but it was still a surprise to find over hundred people gathering in and around a double garage listening to the host introduce the day, and me! The anticipated topic was 'Pollination' so I talked about the season, the main tree crops for the Bay, some of the difficulty there is in achieving, and knowing we have achieved, cross-pollination. My own interests in pollination encompass more than just honey bees, so the scope of the discussion included other bees and pollinators, how we can tell what is going on in terms of behaviours, and some of the sheer complexity involved, from nectar variability to bee attractants, to spays and chemicals. Interestingly beekeepers responding to the "what if I wanted to keep bees" question were on the whole quite guarded and cautious rather than encouraging! How times change. Nevertheless Seaside Bees were on hand with an empty hive to demonstrate, and that prompted an another slew of questions. The weather had given us an opportunity to go an open up some of the hosts hives for the visitors to see. I've really no idea what they saw as I was kept busy responding and advising the Treecropers that hadn't managed to speak earlier. There were a lot of bees flying around the garden, but no reports of any trouble over tea! Membership of the NZTCA costs just $50 a year, including the quarterly magazine, and promotes a range of interests closely aligned with many beekeeper's passions. I rather hope we can meet up again sometime.
  14. For our first apiary visit of the year the weather was reasonably kind to us, the temperature somewhere in the 15-17C range, a gentle breeze rising on a sunny but increasingly overcast afternoon. Our host had one hive to look at, the biggest problem so far being wasps, responsible for the loss of two others in the past and worrying at this one. The hive had three full depth boxes, and had an entrance screen doing a passable job of defending against the constant presence of wasps, although they were elsewhere today. The top box was full of unused combs, pretty well devoid of bees, so we put that to one side. The next box was clearly being used so we took that off too and stood it off on the up-turned lid. Going through that box on the hive is unwise; it just drives bees down into the other box. Far better to stand it off, check the undisturbed lower box first, and then return to our box. It helps that flying bees are leaving this to return to the hive-stand, making it easier to check. If you intend to inspect the whole hive starting at the bottom makes life a lot easier. The bottom box, with the entrance to the hive, was empty, the comb old and, in many areas, damp and mouldy. This is not at all unusual. The bees tend to work up through the winter into their stored honey and when colonies are small the bottom box gets abandoned. If the comb was in better condition one option is to simply ‘reverse’ the position of the two boxes putting the empty one on top to be used, but it is also an opportunity to get rid of old comb, melt it down and give the bees new. The only combs that will be kept in good condition are the ones that can be covered by bees. Now is the best time to check and replace or repair the equipment you will be working with for the rest of the year. In this case we removed the box, emptied out the frames, scraped the floor clear and put it back. Then we transferred all the combs from the second box, a pair at a time, into our empty bottom box. That was just because of the physical condition of the equipment; usually we’d just swap the whole box. For my spring inspections I keep a spare floor (or floors) with me, rather than clean up a floor in-situ. Spring inspections are best done briskly, minimising brood chill and robbers. By putting all the bees back on the floor we also improve the defence of the nest considerably; the empty box with an entrance was an open invitation to robbers. So our hive is now a single box and we turned to assessing the condition of the colony. For me there are two important things at this time of year, I want to know what food stores are like, and I want to check the brood. Here we had sealed brood in small patches over (I think) five frame-sides, and a high proportion of open brood (eggs and larvae) compared to sealed brood. We shook the bees off every brood frame so that the condition of the brood could be examined very carefully. Call it a foul brood (AFB) check if you like, looking for signs trouble especially with the sealed cells. While the pattern of sealed cells was very sporadic there was nothing actually wrong and it’s quite likely that was a reflection of the awful season so far; a reflection of the equally sporadic foraging conditions. The high proportion of open brood (without getting too clever) just tells you that the queen hasn’t been laying long, and that the laying rate is increasing. If we had more sealed brood than open, we’d assume the opposite, laying would be decreasing or may have ceased. If the brood pattern continued to be erratic we’d have to think about the condition of the queen. The hive was collecting a lot of pollen, many of the foragers we could see were laden with a good assortment pollen loads and there was some stored. In this location the pollen supply can be brilliant. Nectar too was present, but actually, by imagining it all collated, it probably amounted to one frame. Let’s think about that ‘nectar’. Whether it came from a sugar feed or direct from flowers it’s likely that it’s less than 30% sugars – it’s not honey. We can say honey is at least 80% sugars. In very rough numbers, finger in the air style, we know an average colony (20,000 – 30,000 bees) in the absence of foraging would use 2kgs of honey a week doing very little, and that’s about a frame’s worth. So if bees can’t successfully forage for some reason you will want more than twice that volume if the sugar concentration is less than half, so shall we say three frames of ‘nectar’? Minimum. And the space to put it in. Every week. Envisaging all the brood gathered together, sealed and open, we’d probably occupy the equivalent of two full frames. We can also estimate how many bees we have. Maybe I’ll explain it another time, but in a full-depth hive every seam of bees (by ‘seam’ we mean the space between frames) will contain 2,500-3000 bees IF it’s full from the bottom bar to the top bar. Here my guess was that at most only three frames could have been fully covered (by counting four full ‘seams’). As a complete unit then, we have about 10,000 bees or less occupying four frames, with two frames of brood and limited pollen and nectar stores. While it appears to be perfectly healthy the limited food supply is a cause for concern, particularly when the foraging conditions are so poor and considering that most of the bees are likely to be quite old. What we have is a nuc. in a big box. In practice we had condensed the hive down to one box that could be defended, conserved heat, and improved sisterly love. The next thing to do was to supplement its food supply. Without going through all the possibilities the best solution for this hive was to start giving it some pollen supplement – a flat patty over the brood, and feed it sugar syrup in a contact feeder just above the nest. The bees will use these as they need to, but my guess is we have another month of tricky conditions, so we’ll just keep them always on hand. With only half the frames being used there would be plenty of room to grow and store food between now and the next visit. Before tea we had a look and chat about some varroa management equipment – a professional and a DIY vapouriser, and the famous ‘Crowley cup’ for monitoring mite levels (presented by the ‘inventor’). I considered checking mites on the hive we opened but decided against it. First, I think it was a mistake having too many things to focus on – better to look another time, specifically at mites. Second; with such a small amount of brood the mites were hardly going to expand their number much before a second visit. Third; with a high proportion of open brood, and with young bees so important at this time, in my opinion it's pretty silly to use oxalic and risk the open brood without good reason. There is a time and a place for everything. Now I wonder if @Judy K took any pictures?
  15. Guest

    BOP August/September meeting

    @ TECT park. Arrival Centre, Whataroa Road, Tauranga. We will discuss swarming and AFB checks, Certificate of Inspection and DECA. Please bring something to share for afternoon tea and a gold coin donation for the club.
  16. @Dave Black you are listed as owner at the moment @Judy K you are listed as a leader Now you may need to bear with me but I think an owner and a leader can create options under management So in topics, I've re-created your forum and called it BOP Bee Interest Group Forums. You can create a gallery, your own group calender, your own downloads and classified adverts. Also please ad a club profile picture and a cover photo, you make it look nice.
  17. Invites to all previous members of the BOP Bee Interest Group have gone out to join and test the new "club features".
  18. Our garden visit this month was in Tauranga, with Seaside Bees. This top-bar hive was kept in a local communal vege garden, sitting slightly exposed on a ridge that kept the flight paths over the heads of the reapers and tillers. It hasn't done particularly well, with a poor queen that has been changed and a bout of chalk brood. We have talked about chalk brood before; if you want to cause chalkbrood (and some people do) chill brood the day before its sealed down to 19C, and then keep it cool-ish (25C) for the next three days. Other combinations of time and temperature will cause some chalk, but the above apparently comes with an 85%+ guarantee. Your mileage may vary. For the disease enthusiast you can see some rather old and dirty 'mummies' in one of the pictures. We were also able to have a close look at a the latest toy, a new oxalic acid vapouriser. The 'Sublimox' vapouriser is powered from a small generator or inverter and designed with commercial use in mind. The tool is preheated and charged while inverted. Turning it over dumps (in this case) 2.5g of acid crystals into the hot chamber which instantly turn into a gas. The resulting increase in pressure in the chamber drives the vapour out of the nozzle and into the hive. Looking through a glass window into the hive we could see that the actual 'charge' was instantly and evenly distributed through all the frames. We 'treated' a small empty hive and examined the frames, and there was no obvious 'impact site' or any noticeable deposits anywhere. By having a series of 'cups' pre-filled by a helper the tool can deliver consecutive doses every twenty-five seconds or so, ideal for a large apiary where all the hives are within a few steps. It certainly is pretty efficient and I have little doubt that it is capable of dealing with large blocks of hives held in a Continental winter apiary very quickly. New Zealand apiaries tend to be smaller, and kilometres apart. More often than not we are also treating hives with brood too, where more than one dose might be required, and this is where it gets a bit tricky. You'll have to make your own mind up about humping a generator around, with a buddy to fill the dose-cups ahead of you, and about repeating that dose within a few weeks. In another account of the tool the dose was said to be 1g, with three repetitions 5 days apart. I haven't studied the matter but you might be getting into territory in which you are damaging your wintering bees with repeated treatments, so you need to determine an appropriate dose. While it looks beautifully efficient, its also in a price category that might be larger than the incremental cost of replacing your losses, even if you already have the generator and the buddy is free!
  19. 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.
  20. We have been visiting the (TECT) All-Terrain Park for a while, but only for ‘non-beekeeping’ meetings. This weekend was first time the group was to see the apiary at the Park. We met up at the Visitor Centre as arranged, and car-pooled for the five minute drive through the park to the apiary. The apiary is currently being operated, with the help of a local beekeeping business, for teaching students on a tertiary-level Apiculture course and has about ten FD Langstroth hives. Often, the back-yard hives we meet on our apiary visits are not particularly well populated; the colonies, by commercial standards, are small. I think that’s mostly because hobbyists (and sub-urban ones in particular) are less keen to walk the cliff-edge that separates strength from swarms. These hives were all reasonably strong, nothing remarkable but a pleasant surprise given the weather this year; all double-broods, although the supers above were little used. We split the visitor into two groups so people could get a better view and hear what was said. A student member took one, I took the other and we had a look inside. There were two main things I was interested in, how well were they foraging, and what tips can I pass on for handling larger hives. Commercial stands are typically fours (a pallet) which can limit your manoeuverability. The site is about 30km from any urban centre, elevated (@450m asl.) and exposed to the north. Most hives are moved into this area for a crop, and then moved away to somewhere more benign. There are no year-round commercial apairies. It’s a fairly typical mix of wooded gullies, cleared pine slash, native tawa/rimu bush and drystock grazing. All the usual bush nectar sources, like rewarewa, tawari, kamahi, are finished and nectar sources are now usually pasture or scrub plants, like blackberry (mostly gone), lotus, clovers, and the asteraceae. The switch to shallow-rooted plants makes nectar flows much more ephemeral, and the strong winds we’ve been having don’t help. These hives had some store combs, but were also bringing nectar and pollen in. One count found five different pollen colours. The nectar was mostly in the brood boxes, which is what I’d expect if it’s opportunist or interrupted collection of dilute nectars. Six-to eight weeks ago, if I recall, some of these hives were close to starving, so that was comforting. The queens were laying and the larvae were fed. In this late summer period here working hives can spark robbing, and hot thundery days covered in convective cloud and defensive hives make manipulations miserable. These hives were busy foraging but at this time of year caution is worthwhile. Bigger hives anyway take more skill and expose sloppy practice. I like to work with a plan, and don’t advise tourism. There is very little to be learned from supers above an excluder (the weight tells you what you want to know) so I take them off and stand them on the lid. I like to stack the boxes off-set on each other so I have eight small contact points and not all four sides. They don’t stick together when I pick them up and I don’t squash too many bees. I keep the crown board/hive mat on top of the stack and that keeps the bees calmer. If I think robbing is on the cards I’ll stack normally and limit exposing the combs any way I can. When I get to the excluder the quickest thing to do is take it off, turn it over, and add it to the stack. Now, you turn it over because the queen might be on it’s underside, especially if you’ve driven her up by pouring smoke into the entrance, and by turning it over you don’t transfer her into your stack of supers. You’re supposed to check she isn’t, but… The thing to understand is that as soon as you expose the queen to the light she heads for a dark place – that’s how they’re wired. If she is now on the top of your inverted excluder she can’t go down into the supers but she can walk to the edge and down the outside of the boxes. If that isn’t exciting enough for you when you take the first brood box off (if you have two) and put it on your stack you can squash her using the bottom of the frames, or on the edge. While it isn’t as thrilling my preferred method is to pick off the excluder, hold it over the box, and strike the hand holding it with my free hand to jar the bees off into the box below. I do not jar it on the edge of the box because banging on the hive sides is a really successful way of drawing attention to yourself (but not in a good way), and because you’ll put plenty of bees (and your queen) on the ground and not in the box. If I’m doing a full inspection I’ll always examine from the bottom box on the floor UPWARDS. If I work down to the bottom box the tendency is to drive bees down into the dark. By the time you get down to the bottom box these bees have been reinforced by flying bees, and by those from any of the equipment you are taking off and it will be so full and active bees will be boiling over the sides and you’ll never see anything. On the other hand, if you go straight to the bottom box you’ll get there before it gets busy, it will be much easier to find the frame ends to pick up and you’ll have a much better view of what is going on. As well, when you go back to the box on the stack you set aside, the bees will be leaving and flying home, easing your inspection of that box. Look at that box BEFORE you put it back. The second box is usually the trickiest to put back. If my stack is off-set I can quickly smoke the bottom of the box (to chase clustering bees out of the way), then the top of the receiving box. Wait until the bees have mostly run down into the frame gaps and then move the top box over. If you can, put it down on an slight angle, and rotate it into line, otherwise put it down on one edge and then lower it slowly jiggling it up and down to give the bees in the edges a chance to move out of the way. You will find your own way, and judge the result next time you pick up the box! By not squashing loads of bees every time you put a box down you will limit the amount of alarming sting venom in the air and your life will be sweeter. Of course all the other tips for working bees still apply. Learn your smoker skills (most people are poor because they don’t pay attention to how it works), pick your weather, stand in the right place, don’t pass the ‘tool between hands over the top of the box, ease out frames vertically without tilting or twisting, create plenty of working space, handle frames sensitively, and work confidently, calmly, without jarring or dropping anything. I thought about it for a bit, and the best single word to describe it was ‘mindful’. Big colonies of bees will test you. Be mindful.
  21. On Sunday we visited the Seaside Bees home apiary in Papamoa that we saw at Christmas last year. The turnout for the occasion was great; I'd have thought more than 40, maybe 50 people. Some new, some young starting out (teenagers), and some old friends. It must of made it hard to see and hear everything that was going on. We worked on the same two hives, a large Top-Bar, and a hybrid TBH/Langstroth. We seemed inundated with photographers but unfortunately none of the output has come my way yet! Com'on you people, share! Four caged queens had been obtained, and the plan was to use the hybrid's top-bar boxes to set up three nucs, leaving the old queen in her original Langstroth home, and to take another nuc from the other Top- Bar. The hybrid boxes had to be separated with a long (salmon) knife to cut any brace between the boxes, although I didn't think there was much. I suppose any brace comb was likely to put some strain on the bar-comb junction and could tear the comb off the supporting bar. As these were all boxes of brood there was always the frisson of risking the queen! I remember I have seen a similar thing done with honey boxes. Boxes above the excluder were frameless, or minimally framed, and they were removed using a large 'cheese-wire'. The whole box was extracted, none of this frame by frame nonsense. Anyway, for the job In hand it may have made things a little trickier. Maybe it was the short hailstorm just before, or that the colony had been smoked a while, and the box separation did excite the bees a bit (just a bit), so finding the queen could have turned into a marathon. We expected her to be in the bottom box, which we looked at first, but of course she was in the top box, the last one we checked. At least we didn't have to go through twice. She was the same queen I had marked (orange!) last year. With her caged we could safely share all the brood and food combs among the three new nucs and only release her when the job was done. The TBH queen also turned up on the last few combs. (The entrance was in the end, like it should be.) The combs were nice, big and regular, and the hive was clearly being worked frequently so there were no attachments or cross combing to worry about. They were two or three play cups about, one with an egg. I don't get too excited about that sort of thing; when the cups have new wax, and a larva being fed jelly, then I pay attention. Eggs don't mean much. A good number of combs of brood and store were collected for the nuc (five or six I think) and everything reassembled once some extra bees had been brushed into the nuc. All the nucs were being moved to new sites so bees were not going to be drifting back to the parent hive. The cages (with escorts) were simply hung from an empty bar level with the brood on the combs either side. While this seems to work it was clear that the bees were not that impressed by the caged queens or escorts - quite aggressive 'arched back' stances on the outside of the cage. Let's hope a good bumpy ride to the new home and a 'queenless', cool night will change that attitude. I think these cheap new cages that everyone seems to use are rather nasty too - the hard plastic, two halves sliding sort. Ugh. Over a fine large tea (we ran out of cups - sorry!) people chatted bees before they drifted away. Someone making boxes had come along, I talked to @dansar, and @Phil46; I sure there were others. We got to talking about requeening. Seaside have used cells, virgins, and mated queens. The favoured method for re-queening a hive uses a mated queen, and relies on the rearing operation to do all the work. Which you pay for. Another popular method is to use a developing cell (found or produced), and this has the advantages that you needn't find the queen and it works well for hives with laying workers. You take all the risk, accept the necessary time limitations, benefit from the reduced cost, and, it terms of quality, get whatever turns up. Although not popular, opting to use virgins in preference to cells or mated queens is not an irrational choice. For a start: They're cheap. Tested, mated queens are expensive for a reason; you have to provide a suitable home, and time, and budget for the 'sparrow factor'. Add in the cost of the fathers and their upkeep, and all the 'support colonies you need (in several separate apiaries) to provide the bees and combs you will need to mate queens and the price soon escalates Virgins are quicker to bring a hive back into production, albeit not much, and poor weather can negate the advantage. You can evaluate them for defects. Although you can candle cells, you can be even more selective with virgins. A small piece of wing or hair can provide DNA to check lineage, or you can weigh her and breed heavier queens. (On balance, size matters for queens.) You can 'bank' them for a while, making the timing of their installation more flexible. For some types of research, you can mark ( or number) a virgin The reason smaller beekeepers in other parts of the world rear virgins for their hives is that they take advantage of co-operative schemes to run mating apiaries. It's one way of keeping what we might think of as a 'heritage strain'. A collective running a mating apiary (isolated and with its own drone line) receives virgins from many, many beekeepers, gets them mated, and sends them home again. These islands have not reached such giddy, sophistication, for several reasons, but not because it's impossible.
  22. The mixed weather continued this weekend for our visit to Aongatete. A blustery wind tempered what sun there was, and we just got a look in the hives before the heavens opened. Two hives had been set up to be 'flow' hives, and another had been fitted out with a super full of Ross Rounds. There has been quite a bit of discussion of Flow hives and frames on the Forum already, and there isn't much to add to that. They still generate a bit of interest, often sceptical, and equally, incredulity at the cost. Some group members come across these from time to time but as yet none in ...(ahem)... full 'flow'. These were no different, all as yet unused. The crowd was three deep, so I didn't have a close look at the hives, but my guess would be that it was a bit early to have these on; I wouldn't add them unless you had a strong hive starting to store. The hive used to try out the Ross Rounds had been a swarm from one of the other hives. It had been recaptured and in place for about a month, a single deep box with an excluder and the super. A handful of bees were up in the super but didn't seem to be achieving anything; none of the foundation discs had been started. A swarm would certainly be a good candidate for the job. I have never used this product, although I know a little bit about the 'father', the 'sections' popular in the late 1800s to about 1930, largely before extractors became commonplace. The main difference is that the new ones are round, the old ones were square. In effect, rather than cutting up and packaging a large frame, the idea was to get the bees to produce comb honey actually in the retail pack. The beekeeper was trying to get 24 or 36 or 48 servings of comb honey that all looked and weighed the same without the laborious and wasteful process of cutting and packing it. As you will know looking at your own frames bees often don't draw and fill right into the corners and edges of the frame, and that's a problem when a series of small boxes multiplies the number of edges by a lot. By having no corners the idea was that the individual unit would be filled more evenly, and that seems to be true. The other fundamental problems with this kind of set-up remain. To draw wax bees have to from a dense curtain to keep the temperature up and this is more difficult to do in lots of separate little boxes. Old section crates were built to go in double-walled hives and they were packed with insulation to keep the chamber warm. They also have a tendency, having started off a comb section, to continue to draw it and fill it, rather than move to another. To stop one compartment being too full, and the opposite one being half empty, a set of metal (or nowadays plastic) plates had to be used to constrain the length of the drawn cells. Nor can you have the 'section rack' as it was known, on for too long. After a while the bees' dirty feet would cause an unsightly 'travel stain' to discolour the pure white cap, lowering the price. Honey sections are a real art, a real test of a beekeeper's skill, and deserve their place in the more traditional Honey Shows. There are many more nuances to using sections than I can write about here. One dodge for getting the best 'show' quality' sections was to extract the honey from ordinary frames and then feed it back to the hive once the section rack had gone on and all other supers had been removed. Another was to get the combs drawn on a previous flow, so it just had to filled and capped. Because bees don't like working in that kind of space to get this to work you have to give them no other choice. You want bees boiling out of the box and hanging out of the front; stringy bees with a real drive to construct comb and gather nectar so they will quickly occupy and fill every and any available space with comb. This hive hadn't reached that stage, and few bees ventured up above the excluder. Going through the frames revealed a laying queen but little nectar, and sparse pollen deposits. That hasn't been too unusual around here, many hives needing feed, and I hear plenty of pollination units are failing to make the grade. If this hive was going to do anything with the super it would need stimulating with syrup, and as it was available, a slice of pollen patty with Agrisea. The bees certainly moved on to that very quickly! I suggested the super stayed off in the meantime, it could go back on once the hive was moving again. I would add the super without the excluder in the first instance, but slip the excluder in once the bees were working on the foundation. At that point the rain arrived. A good time to retire for some refreshment. As these bees were in an orchard full of pollination hives feeding syrup should be postponed until the evening to avoid sharing it with all the visitors, so the rain was actually a good thing. With the right care we can hope to see some good 'rounds later in the year.
  23. If this weather keeps up I’ll sell my chickens and buy ducks. The winter ‘talk-fest’ meetings are over, or so we thought. This weekend the first of the apiary meetings kicked off at one of the member’s home apiary in Katikati. A good number made the trip out, despite continuous rain and mist, so we retired to the shed and sat around on the hive boxes. Luckily even with all the equipment there was still enough room for the thirty or so in attendance. Our host had a number of unusual bits of equipment to keep us all amused, and about 100 hives around the Bay to try it all out on. Half of the hives were to be converted to Hive Doctor floors, and Barry was going to try out queen excluders fitted to provide a second entrance into the honey supers above the excluder. A new ventilated roof for the hives was also up for trial. It was neatly made, but would depend on having the right arrangement of crown-board and feeder to prevent robbing. If you have followed some of my posts here lately you might know why the last thing I wanted to see was a dead-out. In one apiary with twelve hives two had succumbed to something-or-other and Barry had brought one as an example to look at. Of course, it was a useful thing to do. The single hive box had been a normally developing colony; was clean and the new floor still bright white. The internal woodwork was clean and in good condition. Several honey frames, at least half full, were present, and the honey was sweet smelling, not granulated, and still tasty! The combs were clearly being robbed, they were torn and wax and caps litter the frames and floor. What at first sight looked a bit like varroa poo was actually part of the detritus from the robbing. There were still good-sized areas of pollen, both dry and wet, in the frames. The only brood consisted of small patches, perhaps six or seven centimetre diameter, with number of sealed cells (@30) containing dead but whole pupae with no obvious disease, just as you would see in an uncared-for frame. Nothing less than 21 days old and no drone brood. Some were very close to emerging and had started to break though the capping. When I removed the cap and pulled some of the pupae they came out whole leaving a clean empty cell. The floor was covered with bits of wax and 200-300 adult dead bees, most of them lying below the occupied brood frames, and no pupae or newly emerged bees. No varroa. As I sifted through the workers I came across the lifeless queen, intact and in reasonable condition, but strangely with the last abdominal segments parted to expose the sting duct and vaginal fold. The bees had no deformities; wings were un-hooked as normal but otherwise fine, their colouration was, as far as I could tell, normal. A few had gone a bit mouldy where they had been piled up and about 1/3 lay with their tongues (and, in some cases, hind legs) extended. So, what do I think? With apparently palatable food and no faecal staining anywhere nosema and dysentery ought to be ruled out. I found no evidence that implicated varroa, and we were told it had been treated with Apivar and Bayvarol. The hive was still well provisioned with plenty of palatable pollen and nectar, so I’d rule out starvation The small brood area, and the age of brood, suggest to me the queen had not been laying for several weeks. The open brood was not being cannibalised The number of dead bees was very small; I think the hive had been in a state of decline for a while. Nothing suggested a virus. There was a queen. It’s possible she stopped laying when there were not enough bees to warm and care for brood. She was not drone-laying, neither were the workers. I don’t think it’s queen failure, and I don’t think she met with an accident. If I’m right about the size of the colony it would not have survived the several cold nights we have had lately. That was probably the last straw. Extended proboscis and hind legs accompany poisonings, both natural and agrochemical. I can’t think what could cause the former in spring, and it’s surprising only two hives would succumb to the later. It can also signify starvation, which I ruled out. It’s possible some spray drift started the population collapse. The robbing was post-mortem, limited in scale and not completed. No evidence there were wasps. We didn’t manage to consult Barry’s extensive hive notes , and didn’t know enough about the hive site to understand the potential for spray damage. It was time for tea, and unfair to keep the catering staff waiting. Tea is of course when all the real business gets done. We were all delighted to have some visitors from the Kumeu Beekeeping Group at the meeting. It’s a pity they had to bear a long drive in nasty weather, so we’ll try to improve that next time. Like the BOP group my impression that their membership was independent, sociable, communal and supportive, and we will try and keep in touch. I hope they had a worthwhile day.
  24. Mornin, Looking at options for small time extracting of honey,if need be this coming season and if there is a facility to do this in the BOP? ie registered kitchen,shed , that can be hired etc. I do have access to extraction for end of the season from a known commercial,however, from the info I have gathered,heard and read about kanuka/pohutukawa honey,that there could be a problem with this honey crystallizing and the sooner its extracted ,the better. So,without removing comb by scraping/crush strain methods ,I thought better to extract and then have frames back on hive sooner. Any info greatly appreciated....mauri ora! Phil.
  25. So called because they are in close contact with the bees these are great for feeding small nucs. They can be made out of nothing for no money. Here are two examples, on a nuc, and used in a commercial pollination setting (in a kiwifruit orchard). More often they are invisible, protected inside an empty box. Any air-tight bucket, jar, or sandwich-box will do - a few ball-point sized holes in the lid (10-20) and you're good to go. Or you can make it nicely - like these.
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