Posts Tagged ‘natural beekeeping’

Harvest Monday, April 2018

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

From my crops, you would be thinking that I’m coming out of winter, going into spring. Nope, I’ve just been such a lazy gardener, I haven’t actually harvested crops from last winter. Why the sudden rush to harvest (probably woody) crops? Because if I don’t get the garlic in the ground LIKE NOW, then I won’t get a good crop.

Last year I got out as many cloves of garlic as I planted. Sad.

Parsnips:
Parsnips

Poor things. My hard rocky ground (clay) meant that they grew up and out and sideways and all twisted. I think that this helps break up the clay, right?

Daikon:

Daikon

I planted about 5 seedlings, obtained via a crop swap. I have one daikon survive, and it’s about the size of a carrot. Hmm. The force is not strong with this one.

One spear asparagus.

Blue jasper tomatoes. Nearly the last of the season.

Cucuamelons

Still going. Every day is a surprise. I can see how you get ‘volunteers’ the following year, as I was getting little cucamelons dropping onto the ground that took me a while to spot. A cucamelon vine is not for one season, I think it’s for life.

Honey:

Honey Bucket

This is almost old news. I harvested yet another two boxes off of a warre hive. This was from the third hive (Lilli pilli hive), the most recent swarm cast – pretty sure from one of the other two hives in the yard. That makes five boxes (60kg approx) of honey in the last month, 72 kg in the current season. About five combs were chopped up to make 30 boxes of honeycomb. The bucket of honey shown above is pressed out of the other 11 frames. I think I need to downsize my apiary.

Rockmelon:
Rockmelon

Australia has just been rocked by a rockmelon scandal, where five people have died and nineteen people have been made sick. Lucky I grew my own teeny tiny rockmelon. About the size of an orange. 160g. I think the seedling/vine (obtained via crop swap) was planted a bit too late in the season, south facing, and competing with an adjoining cucamelon vine.

Fig:
Fig

I told you last month about looking after the neighbour’s fig tree because they can’t be bothered (or they don’t realise that real food grows on trees) . So this morning, when I was putting on extra fruit fly exclusion bags/netting around the figs… I collected one fig. Sweet sweet nectar.

So dear reader, what have you grown or harvested this month?

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And on the 67th day….

… they swarmed. I must’ve done something right. My bees swarmed 67 days after I collected them as a swarm. Look who’s counting?

The weather in Sydney has turned tropical: every day is hot and humid. Then an afternoon storm rolls through. This then contributes to the humidity of the next day. I feel like I’m living in the tropics.

Bearding bees

The bees have been ‘bearding’ madly every day for the past three weeks*. They filled two warre boxes full of comb and brood (baby bees) in two weeks, so I nadired (added an extra bee box) with one box , to make a three box hive, but their mind was made up. Apparently, they decide about a month before they swarm that they’re gonna do it.

A few days later I had this sms conversation whilst away from home:

“The bzz r looking 4a place 2swarm like uder the house”
“Wtf??? Do I need to get another box?
“we’l c whr they go”
“Foooooook”

I put a call out for an emergency hive box, and managed to collect it on my way home. I set it up as a bait hive to try and lure the hive, but the girls had already made their mind up.

They swarmed the next day whilst I was at work.

I’m not supposed to feel it personally, but I feel abandoned.

I have helped the bees achieve their purpose, which is reproduce the bee colony.

But the statistic that 80% of swarms don’t make it doesn’t make me feel better. The fact that the monsoonal type weather is still ongoing has me a bit concerned, because Queenie needs to take a mating flight, and she might not make it back before the storm hits.

Fingers Crossed.

* established beekeepers will know that this is a swarm warning sign. I just thought it was bloody hot!

Caution: Bees on Board

I told you about inspecting a friend’s beehive earlier in the year. After that I then decided that I really wanted some bees of my own.

I ordered my hive, and then ‘painted’ the boxes with a 1:10 combination of beeswax and raw linseed oil.

Painting the hive box

It does get really hot in western Sydney, and after investigating natural paint options, I decided to paint the roof with a white “non-stinky” water based paint, to try and deflect the heat out of the hive. It was actually really surprising the number of hardware shop staff who didn’t know what a “low VOC” or “low volatile organic compound” paint was, only when I said the words “non-stinky” did they understand what I meant.

I tried baiting my warre hive by sticking it on the roof of the shed, and using a tissue with a few drops of lemongrass oil as bait. I’ve had bees amongst my rangy basil (going to seed) all winter, so I thought that I was in with a chance.

Here swarmy, swarmy, swarm....

Not a sniff, not a whiff, the local bees just weren’t interested.

Then I got a call via an established beekeeper who is on the Australian Beekeepers Association list to collect swarms. It was a bit too late in the day to collect on the day that I got the call, but we turned up at 8am the next morning. It was due to be a hot day*.

Their royal swarminess:

Spot the swarm

The swarm was about the size of a small rockmelon/cantelope/large grapefruit. It was ideal in terms of collection, about 1.5m off the ground, with fairly level ground underneath.

Peekaboo swarm!

After fetching the bait box out of the car and placing on the ground nearby, the scout bees were over in a flash having a good look around. We cleared the branches around the swarm cluster, and then the actual branch upon which the swarm was perched. One good shake into the hive box to get most of the bees inside, and then cover the frames with the flyscreen, and place the branch in front of the entry for the leftover bees to find their way. It’s a fine balancing act between waiting for the bees to find their way inside and waiting too long such that the day gets warm enough for the bees to go out foraging.

The bees go marching one by one:

The bees go matching in

After the majority of the bees had relocated, you could see some of the more organised ones at the entry way ‘fanning’ their wings. They were fanning out the scent of the swarm, so that any bee who was still stuck on the outside could work out where they had relocated to. I am especially amused by the fact that they used the duct tape as a ‘ramp’ to get up into the box.

I drove home gingerly, carefully, chauffeur driving. There were about five bees who hadn’t made it into the hive box, but had followed the scent into the car. Because the sun was on the back window, they were gently tapping on the window, trying to get out. I wonder if anyone else stuck behind me in traffic noticed?

I’m sooo excited.

Inside the hive:
Inside the hive

I had a quick peek into the hive box after I put the hive box into its new home, and just before I put the permanent roof on. The bees had clustered on the frames under the fly screen, just waiting for me to go away so that they could *get on with it already*.

About four days after I picked up the swarm, they seem to be going strong. I’ve now noticed about 50% of the bees are returning home with their pollen sacs birght yellow and full. The small hive beetle trap underneath of the hive floor is now being filled with discarded bit of wax and sticky clumps of pollen. Even bees have their waste products.


Bees!

Hive at home

*It was a hot day. The garden thermometer reported a maximum temperature that day of 43 degrees Celsius in the sun.