28 Jul 2013

Spring is in the air

Today I smelled the coming spring for the first time - a warm breeze promising new life, new flowers and new beekeeping season.  Let's hope that it will be better than the last one.  Gum trees had a year of lazy  rest so chances are that they will decide to flower prolifically.

If you are a follower of Abbe Warre, whether in hive design or only in his practices, this would be good time to nadir an empty box for brood area expansion.  Air temperature is of no relevance for this operation, as you do not open the hive.

Keep an eye on hive traffic, it should be quite vigorous by now.  If it is poor, the colony may be in strife.  Not all colonies survive winter, especially after such an ugly season.  I am sorry to say that at least one colony on my farm can be classified as a "dwindler" judging by external signs.  I need a slightly warmer weather to look inside, but it seems that I may have a spare hive soon.

With spring will come swarms.  Oldtimers and traditionalists say that one should do his/her best to prevent swarming.  To my limited knowledge this is akin to preventing spring coming.  You can try and have this warm feeling of making an effort but your chances are very slim indeed.  Bees will do what bees do whether you like it or not.  Apparently some beekeepers succeed in preventing swarming.  Possibly, I will not argue here.  Apparently some people win Tattslotto too.  Many things are possible, but not all are likely.

As in previous years, I will run the Homeless Bee Adoption Service, a.k.a. swarm list.  If you enroll on the list, you will be in a queue for a young and healthy swarm.  Terms and conditions:

- readiness in terms of a hive standing and ready,
- minimum of beekeeping knowledge.  Experience helps but is not a requirement.
- willingness to participate in collection and/or transfer to your hive.

I will run three lists:

List A - for participants in our training courses,
List B - for known to me group members,
List C - for members of Permaculture Melbourne,
List D - other.

List A is of highest priority.

Cost for lists A, B and C - zero, D - equal to yearly PcM membership fee.

To enroll please email to pcm.apisig@gmail.com.  In due course you will be notified and you will receive further instructions.  No need to reapply if you have already enrolled.  And for more details - come to our meetings, after joining PcM of course.

Andrew

25 Jul 2013

Beemageddon?

Over the last few years we have been watching an intensive debate over what causes mass die out of bees, primarily in USA but also observed in Europe and elsewhere.  Sometimes these are sudden events - visible mass death or disappearance of entire colonies or even apiaries.  Sometimes the process is less immediately visible, but it is worth recalling what one of our past members, Tony, reported in May after his return to UK:

I've just spent 2 full days working in gardens around Darlington (Teesside,UK) and saw two honey bees in all that time - both of them spotted in adjacent gardens within 10 mins of each other. This despite warm temps, sunshine and a huge burst in flowering plants, including many dandelions.

I've also been watching trees in blossom and not seeing a single honey bee on them. I've now seen a total of 5 HBs since landing in UK on Nov 26 2012.

Things are not that bad here - yet.  Still, it is worth keeping an eye on what may cause problems elsewhere.  Today I came across an interesting if deeply troubling article describing some possible causes.  the article seems based on reasonable scientific grounds so it deserves attention.  The problem for me is that I cannot see what I or other beekeepers could do to make things better.  It seems that all we can do is to sit and watch.  Scary!

If you wish to read the article, go here.