Oh no, we have AFB!

So we went through the hives in Randwick as part of the Sydney Bee Club field day, doing our inspections leading up to winter. One of the hives was looking a bit slow despite being re-queened recently and deserved a look. I always tell people to look and listen to your hives before you open them as lots can be learned using your senses. We cracked the hive open, found two full supers of honey and were rubbing our hands together with excitement before we noticed the brood looked a bit off. Closer inspection revealed American Foul Brood. AFB as it’s called is a bacterial spore infection that affects larvae and causes it to die in the cell.

It has a distinctive pattern and can be tested with a rope test (poking a stick into a capped cell and seeing if the mush ropes out). There are plenty of online resources about AFB including this one: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/livestock/honey-bees/pests-diseases/videos.

It’s easily spread by contaminated frames and honey. Usually it’s spread by an infected hive that is robbed and the robbing bees take the infected honey back to their hive and the cycle continues. We plan to destroy the hive in the next few days by burning it and will irradiate the supers and frames that may have come into contact with it.


Botanic Gardens hive

We moved the hive out of the Gardens last night. It’s been a huge success and appears to have put on a lot of honey in the time it’s been there. I think we can declare the test a success and look forward to putting some permanent hives in there for a full-blown Botanic Gardens honey variety.

hive view


A bee hive for TedX

TedX asked us to provide some honey for the meal being prepared by Matt Moran as a showcase for local produce.  We already have hives in the area but thought: wouldn’t it be great to get a hive really close – as in really, really close to the Opera House.  And so the mission began for a location.

The TedX people found a spot in the Royal Botanic Gardens so I did a viewing yesterday and we’re moving the hive in on Friday.  It’s rather exciting I have to say.


Hives go here.


Hive moving: usually it goes well

This week we moved some hives from Marrickville to our Randwick apiary sites – we’re talking big hives full of lots of healthy bees and quite heavy.

I have a hive cradle that makes things easy; it’s a design that gives you a large handle on the front and back of the hive and makes it quite easy to carry a heavy hive, without having to bend to pick it up from the bottom and having your fingers slip off the bottom board.

Anyway it all went well with the new hives installed and happy in their new location.

Next came a move in the Hunter Valley, ostensibly a much easier move of two 8-frame hives about 5 kms. I got up there and checked the destination location first. We decided on a good spot a little elevated up a bank to keep them out of the fog.

I waited until dark and headed to the hives.  I have a moving screen that fits on the front of 8- or 10-frame boxes and allows the bees to ventilate the hive.  So the first step was to walk up to the first hive and whack it on with a bit of gaffer tape and a ratchet strap.

I went to to do the same thing with the second hive but it had a handle on the front that blocked the screen and by now the bees were onto me and started investigating who was banging on the hive… time to leave them alone for a bit.

So I put on the bee gear I had brought with me which was a face veil. I zipped up my polar fleece to keep the bees out and went in with a smoker and some gaffer tape to tape them in.  Most went inside and I taped them up.

The hives were three boxes high and didn’t fit in my car so they were going into the recipients’ jeep. We loaded them in but there wasn’t anything to strap them to.  They’ll be fine, I said… I was to regret that decision.

Off we headed and it was apparent pretty quickly that the rough road was going to cause some problems.  At the first big bump the hives rocked and the screen popped off releasing the bees into the jeep. I marched in in my polar fleece and tried to strap them down while my friends got their gear sorted – they were going to be driving a car full of bees. A number of stings later we headed off at a very slow pace and after a few tense moments arrived at the destination.

It was then that the folly of clambering up a cliff face in the dark hauling bee hives became fully apparent. We did our best with the first hive – thankfully it was the fully sealed one and the heaviest of the two.

The next one was a) lighter, but b) covered in annoyed bees so it was a much more difficult operation to get it up there without screaming “the bees, the bees!” and running away.  But we succeeded.  I discovered that you should always wear loose jeans as a number of bees worked out that my jeans were tight in unpleasant places where you should never get stung.

I suggested that they leave the jeep’s door open and sure enough, in the morning many escaped bees had found the hive.  There was also a handful of cold ones that once they got a bit of sun headed for their new home.

So the lesson learnt was moving bees is always full of surprises and always take all your gear with you. A polar fleece is no substitute for a bee suit.


Melting cappings

Last year we had heaps of cappings to melt down – heaps!  I used a gas ring and a stainless pot and it took forever.  This year the bee club purchased a cappings melter so I took delivery of it and set it up.

The unit needed a couple of valves to get it going – a 50-mm drain valve (it’s that big) to let all the crud out; and a 15-mm inlet valve that’s used to float the wax up and out of the unit once it’s melted and settled.

In use it’s filled to the first ring in the tank about 50mm above the element; then the remainder of the tank is filled with wax cappings.

The element is turned on and the water brought to the boil then reduced so it’s kept hot but not boiling. Over time the crud will settle out of the wax and then you add cold water to the bottom which floats the clean wax up and out of the tank. It’s a really simple system that performs like a dream and it’s going to make processing all our cappings a really quick and easy process; and produce wax that’s perfectly clean.


Learn beekeeping from The Beevangelist

Want to learn urban beekeeping from The Beevangelist?

We are running a few workshops over the next couple of months for aspiring beekeepers in the Sydney urban area who would like to learn how to keep bees, with a particular focus on rooftop or backyard beekeeping.

It’s a one-day course and will include hands-on experience in one of our city apiaries.  For more information Look Here.