27 Aug 2014

Its Honey Bee Swarm Season Again!

Here in Australia the swarms are out in force. It looks like a bumper season for increasing hive and bee numbers.

Bee Swarms are a result of the natural reproductive cycle of the hive superorganism and are a sign of a healthy and expanding bee population. This is a good thing. But having a swarm land in an unwanted place, a backyard, near a school, etc., needs to be dealt with in a responsible manner.

Under exceptional circumstances it may be necessary to destroy a swarm, but this is to be avoided if at all possible. It is far better to capture the swarm and turn it into a productive hive and increase the pollination quotient for the planet.

Without ignoring the real risk of Anaphylactic Shock for those who are allergic to bee stings, swarms are largely a harmless event. Their main intent is finding a new home and they have prepared for the journey by gorging on honey. Whilst a new home is being found they are focused on protecting the queen so if left alone, they pose no real danger. They will only sting you if they feel threatened as this action is a death warrant to the bee. So leave them alone and they will reciprocate in kind.

Of course, if you are allergic to Bees then stay indoors and arrange for their removal.

Find a local beekeeper who will come and collect the swarm. We offer swarm removal services for Melbourne, Australia, through this site. See http://www.naturalbeekeeping.org.au/p/services.html for contact details.

Alternately, you can find lists online at beekeeping clubs' websites for your local area. Some beekeepers will collect swarms for free, some will charge. You need to clarify this before they turn up.

The swarm collector will need some details before coming out and may ask you some questions such as:-
  • Bees or Wasps? – Bees = Brown/Gold Fuzzy, Wasps = Yellow/Black Shiny.
  • How big is the swarm? - Softball, Football, Basketball, or bigger ...
  • How long has the swarm been there? – Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks ...
  • Where is the swarm? – On the fence, hanging in a tree, on the car ...
  • How high is the swarm? – Ground, waist, arms stretched out, ladder ...
  • How accessible is the swarm? – Walk in the park, not bad, difficult, over the fence ...
  • Can I trim branches if necessary? – Yes/No/Maybe ...
  • Any other things to know? – Neighbour allergic to bees, savage dog in yard, ...
Of course, this also represents an opportunity to start keeping bees yourself. Talk to you local beekeeper for more information. As to removing a hive from a house wall, well, that is a story for another day.

8 Apr 2014

Are we into winter already?

So far this season was not great as far as honey is concerned, perhaps with the exception of those keeping hives in Bayswater (wink, wink).  I was hoping for late, autumn flowering eucalyptus to improve things, but as yet there are no signs of any nectar coming.  All information I am receiving shows hives slowly dropping weight - bees live off the honey collected earlier.  When walking my dog, I can see gum trees with flower buds growing in size but it is hard to tell when will they open and how much will they yield. There is still hope, but diminishing.

Under these circumstances it is time to consider closing the hive for winter.  If you have Langs or Warre, see whether the top box is ready for harvest and, equally importantly,  whether there will still be sufficient honey left for winter.  Our winters are mild affairs but still - no nectar will come from outside so what is left inside must suffice.  Or else..


13 Jan 2014

We are back online!

We are back!  Our blog was off-line for some time due to Internet gremlins, but thanks to tireless efforts of Woz we are online again and hope to stay that way.

Good times are here again.  In contrast to the last abysmal year, this time eucalyptus trees did what they are supposed to do and many report very intensive nectar flows.  To gain 2-3 kg a day is not unusual.  All it takes is a decent size gum tree nearby and in flower.  You may wish to keep an eye on your hive(s) to make sure that there is sufficient room for the coming nectar.  If the colony finds itself in a situation that it cannot gather what is available in abundance, it may start contemplating swarming.  This would not be good for anyone - the colony, your honey pantry and your neighbours' walls and compost bins.

The next five days will be in the 40+ degC region.  Make sure that your hives have sufficient shading at least from midday onwards.  An emergency shading can be arranges in whatever way - a shade cloth over the top, a piece of plywood, whatever.  Metal would be perhaps least desirable.  Do not let the sun blaze directly at the hive, especially so if you have a flimsy commercial roof made of metal and thin masonite.  This metal roof will heat up horribly.  Comb melting underneath is then almost certain.

Here is the relevant advice courtesy Maree (thanks!) and VAA Melbourne section:

Keeping your beehive cool 


·         Make plenty (and extra) water available.

·         Place water in a shaded position.

·         Larger volumes of water hold their cool better.

·         Foam floaters (high density or polystyrene) can both insulate the water from direct heat   and provide landing pads for the bees. 


Insulate the TOP. Look for polystyrene lids (ask your greengrocer for Broccoli box lids). Place these on top of the hive and weight with bricks.  This can insulate and stop the sun heating the lid.    Better – take a polystyrene box and place it on top of your hive. Weight it by adding bricks and filling it with water.  Place floating foam, leaves and twigs in the water to allow bees to land.  Top up when needed.

Overhanging sheets/roofs can also shade walls.

An old towel draped over a hive and weighed with bricks can help – consider spraying with water – evaporation can help cool the hive.  Use a light spray – make sure the hose has ‘run to cool’ and is NOT pushing sun heated water.

Spraying hives during the day allows evaporative cooling. Wet ground and humidity around hives can help.   Opening lids a little is NOT recommended. As with human houses, use shade, water and hot weather LOCKDOWN.


When placing new hives:

Direct hive entrances to the EAST if possible (DEFINITELY NOT NORTH).  The north winds can blow through a hive and cause meltdown.

When placing new hives consider positions that get afternoon shade (an east facing wall will get morning sun and afternoon/evening shade).


Confused bees + hot conditions = stress (and very stingy bees).

 Good luck.

Any reports of good or not that good outcomes of the heat wave will be most welcome.  We have to learn from each other experiences.