I couldn’t help myself, I had to somehow work the word “bee” into the title of this week’s blog! Hehe!
|A small section of the bee food flower, vegetable and herb garden|
Then the following day at about the same time they phoned again. I thought to myself, not again, so I steeled myself to deal to them thoroughly and send them packing on their way. What a surprise to find that it was Robert from Bee Sustainable in Melbourne* calling to let me know that my new bee colony was ready to pick up. Glad I took that call, and I quickly arranged a time to pick up the colony.
There is a general rule which seems true to me that states that you have to kill a plant or animal at least three times before you can actually say that you know something about that particular plant or animal.
European honey bees have been a complete disaster here. Actually they’re a bit of disaster everywhere across the planet as humans have made a right mess of that species.
Anyway, my story with bees began about two years ago, when I purchased a hive from a commercial producer. My first mistake was that the commercial producer sold me a hive with an old queen, although this was unbeknownst to me at the time. I did originally read lots of books on bees, but the reality is always – like everything else – a little more complicated than that.
The second mistake I made was that all of the books that I read at that time advised me to place the hive in a sunny spot. In the meantime a local guy that I know gifted me another colony and things were looking up for some serious honey production at the farm here. Honey is really good because not only is it the major source of sugar in cool temperate climates, but it also produces the tasty drop “Mead” which over the past few years has become something of a production line here.
To be completely honest, the old queen was lacklustre, but the colony was still going strong and with another colony on hand I was feeling on top of the world. Over confidence possibly led me to thinking of myself as King of Bee Mountain! I was thinking to myself: “this bee stuff is 100% too easy”.
Then last summer it all went horribly wrong, with one heat wave after another, culminating in 3 days in a row in excess of 40’C (104’F) degrees with the final of those just shy of 45’C (113’F) degrees.
It was feral hot that January and I’d had enough of the heat by then too. However, during that time, the bee colonies, which were in the full sun fared far worse. The colonies didn’t die, they just went: “stuff this for a joke”. They then swarmed which is a process whereby they head out to cooler parts of the forest in order to continue their happy existence.
Just to taunt me, they still return whenever the sun is shining to assist with pollination and also sup on the nectar and pollen here at the farm. Yay for them!
I’ve since learned that many commercial bee keepers in this part of the world lost their colonies too as the wax and honey in the hives literally melted during those extreme heat days killing the bees and destroying the colonies.
Back to here though and even after the bees swarmed, all wasn’t lost and the bees in their wisdom left a small but active colony in one of the hives which possibly would have re-established themselves slowly over time. I was completely distraught though and sought advice both from local contacts and also on the Internet. A general consensus was formed that I had to feed the bees a half sugar and half water syrup so as to give the remainder of the colony the best chance at survival. They kept telling me that the bees didn’t have enough food. I’d suggest to readers though to have a second look at the photo at the top of the blog page…
So I fed the bees and that was when I finally killed the remaining colony. The reason for that was because the original bees from here which had swarmed off into the nearby forest decided that they could use that sugar and water syrup much better to facilitate setting up their new colony. The original bees simply turned up and killed the remainder of the colony in my hives to get at the easy and weakly defended awesome 100% too good food source. There is certainly a lesson in there for all those nutty prepper types out there!
Incidentally, after these disastrous incidents I had nothing to lose so I then proceeded to read every left of centre books about bee-keeping that I could get my hands on. They hooked me in early on because in one of the first books that I read, there was a bit of advice that said that if you were in a hot environment: keep your bees in the full shade. I had a serious “Doh” moment!
Fast forward to more recent times and a brief and chance conversation ended up with the phone call about the new bee colony.
Well the new bee hive is now in place. Here is how it happened:
The new bee colony was sold to me in a nucleus:
|Opening the bee nucleus hive and leaving them for a day to get established at the farm|
|A day later the nucleus frames were transferred into the new 8 frame hive box|
|The bee hive with the second brood chamber positioned|
As the hive that I purchased was so active, I added another hive box for the Queen to lay her eggs into. There was even honey in the hive already, but I left it for the bees to eat as they’ll take time to establish themselves fully.
|Burn off over Macedon and Bullengarook|
You can tell that the state government is facing an election next month as they’re undertaking burn offs with a seriousness that I haven’t seen for many years. The farm has been covered in smoke for a few days last week from this particular burn off which covers almost 1,000ha (about 2,500ac).
|Water tanks with two pumps covered by steel covers. You can see just how big the trees are here!|
In farm news, it has been an excellent season for apricots and they are swelling nicely. I look forward to eating these exceptional fruits later this year or early next year.
|Some of the apricots ripening at the farm|
|Musk daisy bushes with a mother shield fern|
This week has been much warmer than any previous week since autumn. However, with warmer weather here you get subjected to thunderstorms and sudden downpours and last night was no exception. The temperature outside here at about 9.15pm is 7.8 degrees Celsius (46’F). This is half the temperature it was last night! So far this year there has been 666.4mm (26.2 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week’s total of 655.0mm (25.8 inches).
*I received no discounts or freebies for mentioning Robert’s business on the blog. He’s just a good bloke with a good bee business.