2012-12-20 Ghostly bee rustlers

Our bees were no longer welcome in Northcote, a grumpy neighbour had approached me and made it clear that they were not welcome in these parts. After a few false starts, we eventually found a friend of Adrians who has a large property in Alphington, who was willing to take them on board. Moving bees can be tricky, you have to move them a long way, otherwise they return to the original location, hovering around wondering where their house and queen have gone. The rule of thumb is either move them a kilometre, or move them a metre. Just a metre and they work out where the hive is, Over a kilometre and they are disoriented, and make up a new map in their little bee brains. This makes it tricky if you want to, say, just move the hive from one side of the yard to another.

Anyway, Adrian came around and we found a great spot at Kates place, who is lending the girls her yard. And what a yard it is. A little bit sheltered, no evening sun, plenty of native trees and also lots of flower beds nearby, in a sloping garden bed full of grasses and native shrubs. Plenty of water nearby. I can confidently say that Metropolis and Other have one of the best views of any hive going.We cleared an area and flattened it, put down a couple of pavers as a base.

Moving the bees was quite difficult, the boxes are heavy, maybe 50 kilos, and we had to man-handle them through the garden bed in the dark. Best to move bees at night, when they are all tucked in bed. If you move them during the day, you lose a lot of bees, as a lot of them are out foraging, come home and the hive is gone. The euphemism for this is "moving the caravan while the kids are at the beach".

Anyway, all good, finished up around 11. I was stung a few times, nothing major. Adrian unscathed, but he is careful these days.

Jazmina took some long exposure photos at Northcote, below. Thanks!. Ghostly. Adrian in the full suit. No pictures of the new location yet, maybe next time.

Varroa threat thwarted in Sydney

I got onto this item a bit late. About a month ago, varroa mites were detected and destroyed in Sydney. Their progress is inevitable, and scary, for many reasons....

This article lifted from the ABC website:

Asian honeybees and Varroa mites detected and destroyed in Sydney

Thousands of Asian honey bees have been detected and destroyed on a ship at Kurnell in southern Sydney.
The swarm of 2000 bees was also carrying more than 150 Varroa mites, a pest that has decimated bee populations across the world.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry had targetted the bulk fuel carrier for inspection because of previous ports it had visited.
Tim Chapman, the Border Compliance Division's first assistant secretary, says it came from Singapore but before that it had been to ports in the Far East.
"One of the risks of this vessel is a thing called Asian gypsy moth which is in the Far East but we obviously will try to deal with another potential risks that we find and Asian honey bees is one of those," he said.
"The Asian gypsy moth has been responsible for large amounts of deforestation in North America as well as in Japan and the Far East."
There were no Asian gypsy moths found on the vessel.
Mr Chapman says the swarm of Asian honey bees probably boarded the vessel in Singapore but he can't be certain.
"The bees will just swarm and apparently Asian honey bees swarm a bit more readily than European honey bees and they'll just find a nice place to settle and it just seemed to be the vessel was the place."
There's concern that if the Varroa mite invaded Australia it could devastate the local honey bee industry.
The chairman of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council's quarantine committee, Trevor Weatherhead, says an incursion of Varroa mite would devastate the industry.
"The first thing I felt when I heard it, was that it was good that they'd found it, because if that particular swarm of Asian bees had got off the ship and got onto the mainland then we would have a situation where they would then multiply and we would then have those mites then within the environment, within Australia.
"We don't have those mites in Australia at the present time."
Mr Weatherhead says if they were to invade here they could have a significant impact on how a beekeeper cares for his livestock.
"Beekeepers would have to start treating their hives with acaricides to control this particular Varroa mite and that's fairly labour intensive and costly."
"The number of beekeepers would probably drop off initially and therefore you would have less hives in Australia to do pollination which is valued at between $4 billion and $6 billion."
"And the other major ramification, particularly seeing this was NSW, countries like Canada would probably immediately put a ban on live exports of bees from the eastern states of Australia to Canada."
DAFF's Tim Chapman says the Varroa mite found on the vessel isn't the more destructive of the species.
"It seems in this case it was the Varroa mite called jacobsoni which is less of an issue than the Varroa destructor," he said.
"I'm not an entomologist but my understanding is that the type of Varroa mite is one which does not usually affect European honey bees, it's not a natural host to this particular species of Varroa mite."
"If Varroa destructor got into Australia and got into the European honey bees,which are used for crop pollination and so forth, it is absolutely a significant potential problem and that's why we take the steps we do at the border."
He says they are confident no bees escaped for a number of reasons.
"First of all we identified the hive and had it destroyed, secondly the bees were all in a pretty weak state and that's no doubt because they'd had quite a period of time with nothing to eat."
"Thirdly, it was very windy on that day and bees tend not to fly in those sorts of windy conditions and last of all we have done surveillance around the water area and no further bees have been identified."
Asian honey bees were first detected in Cairns in 2007 and that region is now a restricted area to prevent the spread of the insect pest outside Far North Queensland.

2012-12-09 The craft side of beekeeping

One thing I hadn't really bargained for when I got into this game, is all the "craft" that goes with beekeeping.

  • Assembling boxes, nailing frames , fixing the foundation, etc.
  • Making labels for jars.
  • Washing jars.
  • Getting those bloody labels off.
  • Eating lots of pickled cukes, because the jars are the right size for honey.

So I needed some extra boxes (one for Albina, and one my boxes here has got a rot-hole in it, that the girls are using as an extra door)
Also frames, about 20 of them. A tedious job, but worth getting right.

I guess you can get all this stuff ready-made, but the cost is prohibitive.
Even if you assemble yourself, its around $60 per super, without any top or bottom.
(25 for the super, 15 for the frames, another 15 or so for foundation, plus wire, paint, nails, etc.)

Each triple decker owes us around $200, I reckon, just in materials.

There are cheaper places, but it depends on how far you want to travel. I've got a bee shop in Brunswick I go to. Exy, but close, I ride my bike.

  Frame assembly line
the shed.

In other breaking news, a neighbour from over the back fence came around and told me bees were attacking his kids, and he was afraid to go outside.
 i tried to calm him down, but it didn't work.
Even though I'm entitled to keep my bees here, am a registered beekeeper, and am following all the rules about setbacks from fences, etc, I'm looking at moving Metropolis and Other. 
It ain't gonna be easy to move triple decker hives full of honey.
I've found a place, an old friend of Adrians has a place not far away, but its not locked in yet. Stay tuned.