New season health checks

We have lots of bee disease in Australia and one that is becoming quite common is AFB. Having had to kill hives because of AFB we are really aware of it, and in our beekeeping operation of only 100 hives or so, are able to run very good isolation of hive material.

AFB is a spore-based bacteria. The spores can live for 30 or more years and are very difficult to kill, which means that if you detect an infected hive, the only way to guarantee the AFB is gone is to kill the bees and then burn the hive and hive material or gamma irradiate it.

The spores are easily spread from hive to hive if you feed honey back to your bees (illegal in Australia) or put stickies back on a hive that came from a different one, so a barrier system that isolates hive material to a single hive is the best way to keep it out of your hives. With barrier control, if you’re unlucky enough to have a hive that is affected at least the spores will not have been spread to other hives.

When you inspect for AFB it’s important to shake the bees off each brood frame and carefully check for sunken cells. There’s a helpful resource here: http://www.afb.org.nz/

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We do this every six months; it shouldn’t be necessary to do it any more often than that.

The good news is so far no disease and a great variability of our hives in relation to swarming. We have found that many hives in the CBD are pretty much drone free which is a pretty good indicator of swarm preparedness, in contrast to the hives in Bondi which were packed with drones.

New factory and shop

Over at The Urban Beehive we’ve been busy getting our new honey-packing facility ready – and we’ve been building a shop.

We aim to provide beekeeping equipment for all styles of beekeeping so will have Warre hives and honey presses for sale along with Langstroth gear and more. We are aiming to stock as much Australian-made gear as is practical.

If you register at http://www.theurbanbeehive.com.au we’ll let you know when the shop is open.

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Byron Bay Writers Festival

I was lucky enough to be invited to be a panelist at the recent Byron Bay Writers Festival. This four-day event is an amazing gathering of 100 or so authors who speak on panels covering all sorts topics: from politics to fantasy. Inside seven white marquees there were conversations, panels, readings, lectures and book launches all running concurrently.

It was a truly inspiring event and one that I’d like to make a regular part of my diary.

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The Blog starts here!

So I started The Beevangelist blog a few years ago, which I’ve now updated to the version you’re reading now.  I’ve uploaded a lot of old posts from my original blog into this one.

It’s a timeline of my discovery of beekeeping, documenting lots of the fun and stings I’ve had along the way.

Wrapping up the season

Well the days are getting shorter, the daytime temp is starting to drop and the girls are much less active so it looks like our very long season this year is coming to a close.

It’s been a huge year of growth with some major new sites including The Botanic Gardens and Centennial Park apiaries to name a few. It looks like Sydney is finally getting the idea of saving bees – today there is much less complaining about bees and more support.

We have had a very mixed season with stop-start honey flows, very cranky bees, long hot days (even during winter) and everything flowering out of sequence. Despite that we’ve had a reasonable harvest this year (although my country colleagues have had very poor honey flows and have been resorting to feeding the bees during summer).

I have had a very busy year. In 2013 I was approached to write a book on backyard beekeeping and that has taken a huge amount of time but was a very interesting process and hopefully a big help to lots of budding beekeepers out there. So keep an eye out for Backyard Bees by Murdoch Books, released 1st August.

Time for me to brew a cup of tea and put my beekeeping feet up for a few months’ rest.

14/4/2014

A tale of two queens

A few weeks ago during a bee course we noticed a hive that appeared to be preparing to supercede their queen. Supercedure is where the hive decides the current queen is failing and gets ready to replace her with a brand new one. Usually a swarm is not produced.

The hive was apparently healthy, we could see no evidence of the queen failing and there was a good brood pattern. All seemed just fine to my eye so it was decided to re-queen the hive once the supercedure had happened.

The new queen arrived in the post, the hive was opened and the queen search began. There was evidence of a few queen cells that had been torn down and the supercedure cell was hatched… but hang on… the queen was marked so she must have been the old queen. A good laying pattern could be seen with lots of eggs but not a lot of capped brood. On a hunch the search continued and sure enough a second queen was located. She was a bit small and either a virgin or just mated. Both queens were dispatched and the new queen introduced in a cage.

So it is possible to have a hive with two queens. Who knows how long this would have continued before the old one was killed by the hive or the new queen… those bees really are tricky.

1/4/2014

A busy year ahead

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog over the last few months with a crazy season here in Sydney and a few projects taking up all of my spare time. But I am back and will hopefully be posting more often about what’s been happening.

We had a weird beginning to the season here with a very warm winter followed by not a lot of rain meaning that the expected swarms did not appear and in fact the honey flow was very slow. Some parts of the state are actually feeding their bees to keep them alive.

We then had solid rain that has brought on the flow and we now have solid honey flows in most of our apiaries.

6/1/2014