It’s been very warm the last few days and there are lots of swarms happening around Sydney. I collected one in a tree yesterday; this is what it looked like before…
I returned after dark to collect the hive and had the pleasant smell of honey in the car all the way home so they must have drawn some comb and stored the honey they were carrying. It’s a much better smell than the remnants of smoker smoke that usually fills my car.
So Spring has finally arrived and with the promise of a good beekeeping season, I removed the queen excluder two weeks ago from a couple of my hives in preparation for splitting them into two as a swarm prevention strategy.
Well the queen has been busy! If you look at the shot below there were many bees covering all 12 frames of brood – a perfect hive split prospect.
Now this is a healthy frame of bees and brood.
One of the hives was a lot smaller; it’s been in a position that didn’t get as much sun during winter and serves as a good example of why sun is important when it’s cold.
If you look closely below you can see some bee communication going on.
One of the hives was clearly ready to swarm despite all the room I have given them so we took this queen cell to make a nucleus hive along with another frame of brood and honey.
So we ended up with two new hives and a nucleus hive after the splits were performed.
It was a nice day so I went off to check my hives with Vicky and Sarah.
First it was hive #5 that I resorted to feeding last week. It was just so low on food, as it didn’t have enough time to build before winter. Fortunately they are now going well. We swapped a couple of extra frames out to give them some extra space for brood which will give them a lift. I may even give them a frame of brood from one of the other hives just to help them along.
Then to hives 2, 3 and 4 at the community garden. I removed the queen excluder from hive 4 two weeks ago as I discovered the large bees from the new brood foundation just didn’t fit through the holes. So the top super is now full of brood and it’s going to be one busy hive in a week or so when all that hatches.
Hive 3 is also building well and we removed the queen excluder from that one as well so that it builds in preparation for doing a couple of hive splits. Hive 2 is quite depressed and a little damp, it does not get as much sun as the others during winter and it also had a rat attack on the bottom board so I am hoping it will be fine once it warms and gets to dry out a bit.
All in all a good inspection and you can tell the hives are going to be very strong in a few weeks.
We had a hot week followed by a cold week and then yesterday the temperature got to 20, so I decided to have a quick look at my hives and to feed that poor little split from Autumn that is hanging in there.
I got a big surprise with the eucalypts in Lane Cove in flower and hives 2, 3 and 4 very very busy, frantically gathering pollen and nectar.
A visit to hive 5 at Mandy’s showed they’re still hanging on, waiting for spring so I gave them a candy block. I am usually against feeding; if you leave enough honey it’s not needed. But if I don’t feed they will perish as the poor weather did not allow enough reserves to be built up in late Summer/Autumn.
I think this is going to be a very busy spring with lots of swarms already so I have put a couple of bait hives out with lures in them as an experiment to see if they attract occupants.
Winter is a good time to get your hive boxes prepared and as I am planning a bit of an expansion this winter I have a bit of work to do.
The first step is to soak the components in Copper Naphthenate. (This timber preservative is safe for plants, animals, insects, humans etc and can safely be used with bees.)
The timber needs to air for about 4 weeks to allow the Copper Naphthenate to dry before the next step.
I use stainless steel square drive decking screws as they are easy to install and better than the other options I have tried. Traditionally cement covered nails were used but they will rust over time, resulting in box failure.
The method I use is to assemble the boxes using waterproof timber glue (this glue also expands as it sets which eliminates gaps). I then square the box using a box square and strap it using a strap clamp to hold it square. I then screw it using the decking screws and an impact driver which results in a very strong joint.
No gaps to keep the dry rot spores out of the joint.
They then need to be stacked for a couple of days to dry before painting inside and out. I use any light colour of water-based exterior house paint and have bought old tins from reverse garbage as they are cheap. I normally do one coat inside and three or four coats on the outside. With second-hand paint, make sure it’s not had any mould additives put in. If in doubt, don’t use it as it may be toxic.
I also made a heap of bottom boards. As they are a simple shape, I picked up a whole lot of marine ply packing crates from a local motorbike importer and used some timber offcuts for the risers and cleats.
I gave a hand yesterday in starting the long process of re-homing some neglected hives. It’s the first, and I hope the last time, that I will need a hammer, crowbar and power-saw to open a bee hive.
The boxes were badly rotted and needed total replacement
Hmm… where to start.
After 15 years, the boxes were just a block of burr comb.
Hive one finished and the girls march back home…
Time for the saw.
I had a City News journalist visit me yesterday. She’s writing a story about bees and my push to get bee hives on city rooftops. I have also entered the City of Sydney Small Business Awards: all part of my media swarm plan to get bees on the radar of councils.