Monday, September 24, 2007

Keeping Bees

Out west on the Raglan road there is an interesting farm owned by Rick and Liz, where everything, right down to the milk in our tea and the composting toilet, is organic. It was here on Sunday morning I took part in a beekeeping lesson. Rick, seen here at left, explaining some of the differences in the size and shape of the queen, worker and drone, was well qualified to take the course having kept 2 hives on his property for about 8 years. Being organic, there are no sprays or chemicals used and going by the taste of his honey, there is a wide variety of flowering trees and plants around. They grow specific bee food like Tree Lucern which flowers twice a year.

Most of the other people there did not have their bees or hives yet so all the equipment needed was shown and explained, including the smoker - very important ! Rick explained the different materials used in the smoker, he prefers dried pine needles which do give off a pleasent smell and light smoke, what the boxes are used for, the different sizes, clothing needed, pests and disease including the varroa mite which is here in New Zealand now and for which we have to treat our hives on a regular basis. The queen excluder was on one of the hives and it was a good example of how it works, especially at this time of the year when the queen has started to lay, she will often lay up into the top boxes if given the chance. The picture below shows Rick clearing out propolis that the bees have started to put on the excluder. The course was run by the Envirocentre in Raglan, they also run permaculture, sustainability, seed saving and eco sourcing lessons. Raglan is a great little seaside town on the west coast of the North Island of NZ. It has a large number of people living there that are artists, writers, weavers, alternative life-stylers - great cafes and shops. It was a sleepy village for many years but is now a popular destination for day trippers plus has the best left-hand surf break in NZ.
We had a good look at some of the frames from the more docile hive, apparently the other one is quite agressive ! There were a number of drone cells plus worker brood, pollen and as we expected, queen cells.

I found I knew about most of what was being talked about, but it was wonderful being with like-minded people all really enthusiastic about keeping bees. I don`t think any of them lived in an urban situation like myself so that is my next goal, to get more bees in the cities !

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