Posts Tagged ‘warre’

Batbox conversion to Warre: the final frontier

The journey continues …

Once again I set up a warre hive box and baseboard (luckily I had a spare), hauled out the adapter board, and settled the batbox settled on top. I taped up cracks in the batbox, the joins between the batbox and adaptor board.

Now what? I got into this beekeeping game wanting only one beehive, which has already given me 30kgs of honey in their first season, and that far exceeded my (and anyone elses’) expectations. Now I’m at 2.5, shortly to become 3.

On one of the natural beekeeping online groups that I follow, I saw that someone had recently lost their hive. It was quite late in the season (autumn), and their chances of catching a swarm and it surviving the winter were very slim. In the 2015 winter, I knew of 5 late-caught swarms that had failed, generally due to the autumn storms. As an alternative I offered them the batbox 2.5 hive to re-home.

This beekeeper was less of a sook that I was, and after giving it a week with the escape board, had no compunction in pulling the batbox apart (in fact, it “fell apart” on her). Her description of the event:


There wasn’t any brood in the bat box just capped and uncapped honey and a few cells of bee bread. I harvested all the honey because that have almost 2 full boxes and starting on the third. Such a lot of work but fun. We lost about 50 bees who drowned in honey when the comb I was lifting feel breaking open into the box. I shook them onto a cloth, smoked and brushed a lot of them but finally around 7pm they had all gone in!

Batbox bees, rehomed

Phew. Glad that’s over. From this family of bees, I’ve had the original batbox colony (this lot), the inadvertant hive split from when I first tried to convert the batbox to warre, and <a href="http://” target=”_blank”>the swarm from when I was too lazy to actually do any thing about them. Aww, I’m getting the warm fuzzies.

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Bat box conversion to Warre

I meant to write about this last week (a year ago). Then… the bees actually swarmed, putting my conversion plans off for a little bit. Then life happened, and this post is gathering dust.

In the warre beekeeping system, you “nadir” by adding extra space in the form of extra warre boxes below the currently occupied beehive box. This mimics what bees do in the wild: they find a tree hollow, and start building a home and the comb by connecting it to the top of the hollow of the tree, and building the comb downwards. This contrasts with the langstroth style in which the beekeeper “supers”, by adding the extra boxes on top of the existing occupied beehive box. So a langstroth style beekeeper makes the bees go upwards, and the warre style beekeeper lets the bees go downwards.

Here’s the bat box:

batbox

As you can see, the roof is hinged, and it slopes. The floor is flat, but the back of the bat box sticks out a bit, so it is not flush with the rest of the floor. This helps with mounting the batbox on a tree (or a post), but is not so good for me. The batbox itself is actually a smaller footprint than the warre box.

My original thought had been to nadir the batbox: that is, stick the smaller footprint batbox on top of a warre box, and let the bees move downwards. But the screws holding the floor up look like they had been painted in.

Then the second thought had been to super the batbox; supposedly this would be easier because there is already a removable lid. But then this would create more challenges, because I would need to work out some way to “hold up” the larger warre box. Would I then be creating yet another rod for my back by first asking the bees to move upwards, and then a month or two later asking them to move downwards? I also had a another problem with how to create a new “temporary” entrance, in between the batbox and the new warre box, once the bees had moved upstairs, but in such a way that I could use the one way bee escape.

So it’s back to the downward path we go.

We unscrewed and then levered off the base of the batbox. It was actually surprisingly easy. I made an adapter board by getting some marine grade plywood, painting one coat of white paint over it, and then drilling two access holes with a circle drill bit.

We then placed the the batbox atop this adaptor board, and then atop a warre beehive and a baseboard. I taped up the circular entrance to force the girls to use the entry downstairs.

Batbox to warre conversion

It took me a week to work out that they were so attached to upstairs, they were using this attachment screwhole as an entry. That got tapped up too, and finally they were using the proper downstairs entrance.

About six weeks later, I put in the excluder between the adaptor board and the warre box. By now, Queenie should be downstairs and laying in the new white honeycomb. The next day, I pulled off the batbox, put it to oneside, and put on a quilt box and gabled roof.

Hurray, we are now at 100% Warre!

100% Warre

Being the lazy something or other, I left the bat box hanging around in the backyard for the next week, rather than tossing it out like any other sensible person.

This was a sight that I didn’t want to see:

New tenants?

Oh dear. Either a swarm has moved into this nice, recently up for lease batbox home, or brood which was left behind has started to hatch.

I can’t just throw these girls into the bin to make the problem ‘go away’ (for me) and cause a headache for the garbageman. They’re my little fighters!

What would you have done?

Harvest Monday, 3 October 2016

I’ve been a little quiet on the Monday Harvest posts. Firstly because I’m such a lazy gardener, hardly anything gets planted, thus hardly anything gets harvested.

Right now, I have been “harvesting” bindi. You have to admire the tenacity of the weed. The seeds have a seven year life, and if you accidentally let them get to maturity, the 10+ seeds scatter if you try and dig them out, or they attach themselves to the bottom of your bike tyre/shoe/foot, resulting in the “bindi dance”, as you leap from one ouch to another.

So actual edibles harvest harvest. Mulberries:

Mulberries

Foraged/scrumped from a tree down the road. This brings back memories of turning up late to early morning uni (college) lectures, because I had detoured past the ripening mulberry tree. My hands, of course, were dyed purple as evidence of my dalliance with the fruit tree.

About 4 spears of asparagus.

Parsley and mint. I have a lot of parsley, from when it seeded a few years ago. I have been using a lot of fresh parsley and mint in salads. I have a parsley “lawn”, and every time he trims the lawn, we get tabouli.

Honey!!

Honeycomb

This is the first honey of the season. I only managed to harvest one frame from the batbox bee hive, and this yielded about 5 boxes of honey comb (approx 2.4kg) and one jar of honey with “bits” (approx 500g). This was taken in early September, and only today did I cut the honeycomb up and place it into boxes, mainly to get the plastic crate holding the one frame of honey out of the kitchen.

Planted.
Pepino Melon. Got this one from a cutting during the sustainable house day event at Moss House. Silly me didn’t plant this for about a week after I got it (refer lazy gardener above), and then I chucked it into the south facing bed and forgot to water it.

Sweet pea. It’s getting a bit late in the season for peas, but I had to try. These went into the sunny (relocated) garden bed, with the brussels sprouts and potatoes that I can’t get rid of. A young lady was selling plants at the Moss House open garden to help get herself to Vietnam for some volunteerism (volunteer tourism), and a punnet of pea seedlings was my contribution.

Kohlrabi. My neighbour gave me some seedlings at the beginning of winter. I waited until the end of winter to plant about half of them. I really need to make more time for this gardening business

Native Australian Raspberry.
Probably Rubus rosafolius or maybe Rubus moluccanus. I got this from a crop and swap group, where I swapped a jar of honey, and got some native raspberry canes. I again didn’t plant for a few days. And then didn’t read the instructions about planting with stinky manure in the bottom of the trench. Whoops. I planted it along a north facing metal fence, where the rosebush, oregano, asparagus and rhubarb live.

Battled:

Aphids, aphids, aphids. I got them in my brussels sprouts, kale (cavolo nero), rosebushes and spring onions (scallions). It’s horrendous. I’ve been trying to battle them by squashing them, but the ants keep putting them back. It’s also really hard with the brussels sprouts trying to develop, but I’m tearing the young nodules apart trying to get to the aphids which are hiding inside. I don’t think I’m going to be getting brussels sprouts this year.

Life in a bee-ocracy

Bzzt. We’ve been in this bat box for over 8 months. I’m bored, and there’s not enough room.

batbox

Conditions look good out there – it’s warming up, there’s lots of flowers* in bloom.

flowering

Let’s move.

The escape

Hey, I can see Russia from this branch.

Russia

I think this place looks pretty good.

shook swarm

Aw bzzt. This place looks really familiar.

Three hive flock

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!

Checking on a beehive

One of my friends who had moved to the blue mountains had started keeping bees. The swarm had been captured by a ‘mad uncle’, and delivered in the boot of a car by a nervous relative. Six months later, it appears that the hive had been established and settled in, so it was time to crack open the boxes and check on their progress.

On the first weekend chosen, it was hammering down with rain. Not good bee inspecting conditions.

The next weekend was gorgeous. Lovely, sunny and warm. Perfect!

Those beekeepers who have been keeping for a while have a full white overall suit with a netted box around the head. You can also just wear the jacket with the netted box – but then you have the vulnerable gap around your middle.

First you need to light the pine needles in the smoker box. This is quite hard to do, so a gas powered torch like thing with a sustained flame is the way to go:

Starting up the smoker

You smoke around the entry point to quieten the guard bees down. You need to release the strapping metal tape from its clamp and then use your ‘hive tool’ to separate the give boxes from each other. Apparently the bees use propolis to glue the seams of the boxes together and keep the warmth in.

We were looking to see if the bees had started to ‘move down’ from one box to another and if there was plenty of honey: some for us to thieve, some for the bees over winter.

This is the top box:

honeycomb top box

You can see the bees have started to build honeycomb on top of the hivebox and the frames that have been set up for them. This needs to be ‘cleaned up’ as part of the maintenance.

Here are the resident beekeepers checking in the status of a frame:

honeycomb frame

I couldn’t get too close because although I had a veil, I had dark clothing on. Did you know that deep in their DNA, bees don’t like dark coloured figures because it reminds them of a black bear stealing their honey?

It all looked good, so we put a new hive box at the bottom, and stacked the existing boxes on top. The bees had started to build honey comb atop of the cover sheet and underneath the lid of the top box, so this was was cleaned off and put away for safe keeping.

Everything was out back together again, and we left out the honeycomb wax that we had scraped off next to the hive. Perhaps when they calmed down the bees could use it as an input for the next set of honeycomb.

I, beehive

We had to retreat inside to taste the fruits of their labours. Otherwise, they would come investigating that sweet smell.

Here is the honeycomb, pooh bear:

Honeycomb

It was an incredibly sweet explosion of sherbet in your mouth. Almost too sweet.

I’m now a thinking that I to would like some honeybees in my garden. I wonder if someone nearby has a hive, because I certainly have a lot of bees buzzing around my basil. Perhaps I can use an empty hive and some kind of ‘lure’ to attract them. Hmm.