Thursday, December 31, 2009

Summer Delight . . .

I love this photo, to me it epitamises what summer is all about in this water loving country of mine, no where are you ever far from the ocean, rivers or lakes.
Elliott Thomas, my delightful grandson with the look of sheer delight on his beautiful face, is falling about in the waves with his Grandad Paul , who was out from the UK with Nana Jane on their first trip to NZ - guess who didn`t want to go home to the cold and snow ??
Elliott has absolutely no fear of the water, or anything for that matter, you cannot take your eyes off him for a second, but when those 2 dear little arms wrap around your neck and `I love you Nana Marcie` is whispered in your ear, you can forgive him anything . . .

The Pohutukawa blossom symbolises Christmas and summer to New Zealanders. Bees love this nectar producing flower, the honey being pale and some say, tastes slightly salty - although I think this might be wishful thinking as the tree also grows inland, miles from the sea. It has strong leathery leaves that have a white furry underside, all the better for putting up with salty wind and sea spray. The tree grows knarly and strong, often called, along with its` close cousin the Rata, NZ`s iron wood trees. Long air roots often hang from branches like a beard and these ancient trees that have grown along our North Island beaches for centuries, will always hold a special place in my heart - I can never resist photographing them or simply just sitting in their shade .

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best ever Christmas Eve present !

I was rung on Christmas Eve about a small swarm at a property about 10 mins away, on the edge of the city - did I want it ??? I had my TB hive all ready to put bees into, cleaned out the ants and let the sunshine in to air it all out - you bet I wanted them !!
Once again, the swarm had landed right at eye level and were very easy to capture. This time I used a large drawstring bag that air could circulate through but bees couldn`t get out, put the bag`s wide mouth under the bottom of the swarm, pulled the bag up to enclose all the bees and shook the small tree hard - with that, most of the bees fell into the bag, I pulled the drawstring closed, after waiting for the few hanger-ons to re-group, shook them in and away we went.
Bees busily fanning at the entrance of the TB hive, alerting all the others still in the bag, to get in here - quick ! I have used the solid partition board to halve the space in the hive for this swarm, as they increase i will add more space and also beable to close it down over the colder months.
It was simple to pour the bees into the hive, interesting enough, most of the bees seemed happy to stay where they landed with not many flying up and around.
I am very happy to have bees in my TB again, I was so dissapointed about the spraying incident and my neighbour has promised he won`t spray anything again,hopefully, he has learnt a good lesson. I am going to write about TB hives into my teaching material for next year if I teach again (depends on Govt funding) during the school terms. I really hope so, I did enjoy spreading the beekeeping word.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Summer Christmas in New Zealand ..

Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year to all my blogger and bee friends - thank you so much for all the great comments and interest in my blog.
As I sit in the sunshine, I will think of you cosy and warm with snow outside and raise a toast to all of you who are making a difference in our shared love of bees.

Summer in NZ means long hot days, pohutukawa trees in bloom all along the coast and inland as well - the early settlers called it the NZ Christmas tree - it is spectacular and always full of humming bees and nectar loving birds.
We have our 6 weeks school holidays from now and most of us take 2/4 weeks off at this time also - I am looking forward to having 3 weeks to relax. I will spend some of that time with my family at the beach - top photo very similar to Papamoa where 2 families live. I also want to catch up with friends in other places and in Feb will be taking Ellena, my youngest daughter down to Wellington where she is beginning her University life for 3 years.
I intend to keep myself very busy next year, it will be the first time in about 35 yrs that I will be on my own - you know the story - home,to flatting, to marriage and children - well, mine will be minus all that which I am totally ok with, this will be the start of an exciting new chapter in my book of life ! I have been asked by the local paper to review books for them and have been approached by the editor of a NZ website called `Happyzine` to write a regular blog entry about bees , sooo, I am going to be busy, plus I intend to update my blog more regularly. I am treating myself to a new laptop when Ellena leaves which will make it alot easier to work from home.
aroha to you all and bless the bees !!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Beekeepers BBQ . .

The 2 cooks hard at work at the Waikato Domestic Beekeepers Assc Xmas BBQ - the sun shone and wind was gentle - a good turnout ensured an enjoyable evening.

A view of the happy beekeepers enjoying a very nice meal - lots of different salads and meat plus pavalova ( a meringue dessert - very kiwi ), ice cream and strawberries ! The club always supplies the meat and dessert, we all bring our drinks and salads - this year the event was held at the superb country home of Roger and Jenny Collins - lots of room for the kids to run around, a beautiful garden and very relaxing jazz played on the outside speakers.
When I first joined the club 4 years ago there were not many members, mainly retired beekeepers with lots of knowledge. I needed somewhere to learn and gradually the membership has built to 60 paid up members and new people coming along each month. Teaching the 2 night classes a week for 6 months really got more interested and I believe most have joined the club - I an really proud of what I have achieved with growing the membership, through acouple of interviews in the local paper, the teaching and generally bending anyone`s ear who would listen !
Hobbyist clubs are an important part of local beekeeping, they are a place to learn, meet other like-minded people, mentoring and be part of the world-wide adventure that is keeping bees !

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Sad Day . . .

All I have left of the small swarm that was doing so well in my new TopBar hive . . .
I have lost all the bees from my TB due to a neighbour spraying fly spray all over his flower beds and then roundup everywhere else - the bees took acouple of days to die and it was devastating. This small colony was building up slowly with brood and stores starting to be seen, plus the gorgeous combs being built from the bars. They were gentle, I never had to smoke them as long as I was quiet and calm around them. I now have to hope I can get a swarm before the season comes to an end or buy a nucleous from a beekeeper.
I have spoken to all my neighbours and asked them to let me know in advance if they intend spraying anything.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Monday Night Class.

Last night was the final beekeeping lesson for my Mon class - a visit to my hive. Above are afew of them that stayed on for a cuppa and piece of delicious honey cake. It was a beautiful warm evening and the bees were well behaved. I have really enjoyed these classes, hopefully I can carry on teaching next year with the Govt wanting to cut funding to night classes I may have to go private - teach from home. Nearly all the adults in my 4 classes this year have gone on to buy a hive and start beekeeping - I am delighted with the outcome - my aim is to get as many people into keeping bees as I can !
The gorgeous honey cake beehive was made by Sue, one of my students. She used an American mold, brought here in NZ. It was so good ! I also received a packet of seeds from one of the other ladies and flowers from another - spoilt or what ?? Just to share the passion I have for these little creatures is enough for me

A wee bit of smoke, I try not to get carried away with the smoker, I don`t believe it does the bees any good - probably sends them into panic mode and I would rather work with them as calmly as possible. I need to open all the boxes for a good look at what is happening plus check for any nasties. It seems to be a strong hive and hopefully hasn`t been affected with spray like my TopBar - more on that disaster in next post ...

One of the new frames broke as I pulled it out, must have been stuck to one under it ! Bees have half filled it, the students were able to see nectar and capped honey, plus afew drones. The honey tastes very sweet - lots of different floral sources around where I live.
I have been asked for an interview for the local paper next week and also featured in good magazine - I will make those bees famous yet !!
For the love of bees
The world’s honeybees are vanishing and NewZealand teeters on the brink of a catastrophic collapse in our bee population. Sarah Heeringa investigates the strange phenomenon of colonycollapse disorder, discovers amazing facts about bees and surprising new ways we can help them

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When your baby grows up . . .

This is what happens .... My beautiful youngest daughter, Ellena Roseann, went to her school`s Leaving dinner and Ball last night. She looked like a princess with her Irish green long dress, ( our ancestory),wearing her namesake`s cut-glass 1920s earings and her sparkling blue eyes she inherited from her beloved Grandfather ( my Dad) - the only one out of 4 children to have the pale blue eyes my Dad and Grandmother had. She looked amazing, I am so proud of the young woman she has grown in to - off to Victoria University in Wellington next year to study for a BA in linguistics and classics - must have her mother`s brains !!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

All Information is good ..

Trees for Bees’ programme - The Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group has established the ‘Trees for Bees' programme in order to ensure that bees have the opportunity to gather pollen and nectar, providing the vitamins and minerals required to maintain optimum hive strength and a viable pollinated bee force.
Farmers will appreciate that posts and wire offer little to bees and the practice of denuding the countryside of trees, gorse and broom has threatened the health of bees.
The Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group is producing brochures, by region, which make suggestions about what you can plant throughout your farm and along the riparian margins in order to support bee health. The brochure will also include what plants and trees by region are banned by regional councils and highlight those which the bee industry do not want to see planted, including Tutin.
Sustainable farming encourages natural pollination. The honey bee is responsible for over 80 percent of all pollination and relies on programmes such as these.
The regional brochures can be downloaded by clicking here. The national programme brochure is available below. Trees for Bees Programme (536kB) Thanks to Federated Farmers website

I have just included this article in the monthly news letter I write for the Waikato Domestic Beekeepers Assc and thought it may be of interest to my blog readers. Even though we have different seasons and alot of the trees are NZ natives, many can be brought in the UK, not sure about the States.

I am just delighted to see more NZ `s getting involved and informed about the importance of bees, especially those in rural areas where there is the need for more planting of bee food.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rose show with Japanese twist ..

For the last few days the annual Rose Show has been happening down at the Hamilton Gardens. This year it has had a Japanese touch with a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony to open the event - all the officials were there including the Mayor, rose breeders and Japanese Govt reps.I think the ladies in the picture above look so elegant and beautiful - I had to sneak up and look inconspicuous to get that photo !
There were lanterns hung in the trees, these were in the Gingko and big flying fish banners which made a colourful sight. I would have had photos of the roses but the weather has been very windy and quite cold, not alot of sun, the roses are out but not at their best. My poor girlfriend, Alice, who is charge of the rose garden, has been pulling out her hair and gnashing her teeth over the crappy weather, it is usually much warmer by now

The pretty opera singer must have been freezing, the wind was blowing and we all had jumpers on ! She sang beautifully, a trio of songs from Madam Butterfly, one of my favourite operas.
The Gardens are the perfect place for these sorts of occasions, during the summer festival there are plays, shows, music of all sorts and general good fun.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Swarm to catch !

On a bright sunny evening last Sunday, my friend and I captured this beautiful swarm hanging in a very convenient place under the grape leaves on a neighbours` vine - it was just about to easy to get, I half expected them to turn ferel and sting me !! They didn`t, and it was a super swarm to catch.
It was such a nice size that the complete swarm nearly did fit into the nuc box I was holding. It was a case of hold the box under the bees and shake the branch, we couldn`t cut the branch they were on as it was a main leader and I don`t think the bloke next door would have been happy with me.
We swept the rest off the branch, managed to get most of them, I popped them in the back of my car, my grandaughter, Lia was with me and she wasn`t the slightest perturbed, in fact she took some of the photos ! We drove out to the beautiful garden I was putting them in with me in my bee suit, Lia in summer clothes and the bees all covered up on the back seat !!

I poured the bees into the hive I had set up in Moondance Garden, check out their website,, and I`m sure they will be very happy there, the garden is stunning, huge with river views. Stephen and Jeanette are a lovely couple and I intend to see more of their gardens and them of course ! The hive is surrounded by perennials, all flowering, roses, big trees, a pond - you name it, plus a magnificent manor house. Perfect place for weddings.

I went out last night to check the hive, all looks well with plenty of bees flying around, orientating and checking out the food supply ! If all goes to plan, I might put another hive out there next year. The owners are very keen to have the bees in their garden, the hive really looks nice in the setting - adds to the ambience !

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Comings and Goings at the TB

It is a very busy bustling time at my TopBar at the moment - I have yet to decide on a name for this hive - I vary between a Maori name like my other one or something from the classics, I think I might let my grandaughter choose.

The bees don`t seem to have a problem with the 2 round holes as entrance ways, they actually line them up, the guard bees also manage to do their job sucessfully. I have been reading Phil Chandlers book, `The Barefoot Beekeeper` every night, it is such an interesting read. having my own TB makes it all the more fascinating, it is easy to read and makes so much sense I can`t believe no one else has ever come up with the idea !! TB hives are not a new thing, but I don`t know anyone else here who has heard of them let alone wants to try one - I am going to change all that !

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Orange blossom - ahhhh

There is no other scent like it - orange blossom ... Bees and other pollinating insects love these flowers and I can never resist sticking my nose into these delightful, delicate blooms.

One corner of the Italian Garden, another of the Paradise gardens at with a selection of potted citrus trees, covered in flowers all spring and summer . Each quarter of the garden has different Mediterranean plants growing, herbs, roses,annuals etc with large citrus in each corner.

Summer planting ..

Gardeners planting summer annuals in the Char Bar Indian Garden, one of the Paradise gardens built at the Hamilton Gardens , My work place is situated in this 140 acre gardens and park and it could not be a more beautiful place to spend your day. The Char Bar is planted twice a year with seasonal annuals which give a fantastic display in the shape of a Persian carpet.
The plants are all grown at the Council nursery which also supplies the plants for all the road side and roundabout plantings, Hamilton is known for its` displays of fantastic public gardens and trees. We have a beautiful city, with a river running through it and also a small lake which has alot of sail boating and rowing on it and people just enjoying the scenery.

The garden is divided in the traditional ancient Persian garden design, always having water and moats that point to the 4 directions, there is a lotus shaped fountain in the middle with a stage affair to relax in - an oasis of calm. The Waikato river runs behind the gardens and can be seen from the raised stage at the back of the garden.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

First Quick Look ..

TopBar hive minus cover, note that the actual bars form a second roof.

festooning happening.

first golden moon of wax being built.

On this stunning spring day down here in the pacific ocean, in these islands I love,( sorry for sounding so mushy, but I feel a strong attachment to my homeland, must be cause I feel so ok within me, and the fact that it is a superb country to live in) I decided to take a quick look into the TopBar hive that 2 weeks ago I had installed a swarm of honey bees. I must admit, I was a tad nervous about what I was going to see - I shouldn`t have been, these industrious little insects have started to build comb, beautiful, golden comb at the far end of the hive, just where Phil C says in his book, that they will. Also festooning on other bars with the bars at the end where the 2 entrance holes are are still bare - I am sure that will change in a month or so.They are making a brood nest for their queen to lay in, I will have a longer and more detailed look in another couple of weeks, hopefully will see signs of baby bees happening !

I was also thrilled with the fact that I didn`t need my smoker, I always have trouble with the thing staying smoking ( I use untreated cedar shavings which smell divine and always go well for my friend), the bees didn`t seem to get upset at all, as I was working down the far end I had a look at the end where the entrances are, and they were just busy coming and going as usual. The rest of the hive stays dark and warm as only 2 or 3 bars are out at a time, not even that many today ! It really does make sense to work like this, I guess there will be times when everything turns to custard, but for my first experience it couldn`t have been better - at last I can really get my teeth into this project, now I just have to convince my 2yr old grandson, Elliott, that bees don`t fly into your ears - where he has got that from I don`t know, he hates the buzzing sound, I think he might have super hearing powers !!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flying home in the rain ..

Bees in the sustainable garden at the Hamilton Gardens were getting very wet last week. I just happened to walk into the garden when the rain poured down and droves of bees began returning to their hive which is situated on top of a pergola out of human reach ! It was interesting watching them return in big groups, sort of like aeroplane squadrens returning to base - sort of
My TB hive is going very well by the look of all the activity all week. It has been very windy here so I am hoping it will be nice and calm on the weekend and I will get a chance to open it and see what has been going on. I do get a real kick out of just sitting and looking - it would only be about 3/4 metres from where I am sitting in my dining room at this minute. I have just finished mowing the lawns and there was no worry from either of my hives when mowing quite close to them.
Don`t you worry Cliff, as soon as I get something to report I will be blogging !! I actually hope to start a TB group in NZ, have had a chat to a lady in Auckland who is keen and I know there will be some from my club interested.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At last - my first TopBar hive !

I am finally the very proud owner of a TopBar hive, built for me by a clever person I met at a talk I gave to the local Organics group here in Hamilton. P used the plans from the BareFoot Beekeeper site that I had down loaded for him - there is even a window on the other side that has a sliding cover so I and the Grandchildren can watch the bees ! It is made from un-treated macrocarpa wood which means it won`t need painting and will slowly fade to a silver colour - it smells good to .. I love it !!
It is situated in a nice sunny,sheltered spot in my front garden where I can watch all the comings and goings from my windows as I drink coffee and read the paper or just watch the bees ! It is actually quite close to the foot path and road but can`t be seen from either of those places. My langstroth hive is at the back of my house and you would never know that was there unless you are the monthly meter reader who comes to read the electrics !

A nice lady rang on Sunday to ask me to come and collect a swarm she had in her garden - I was on the way out in the pouring rain to visit my family, so, rang my kind bee friend and he captured the quite big swarm which I swept into my TB that night - that is what is happening in above photo - notice bars across the hive opening, which all going well the bees will make comb from and attach to under side of bars,then fill with babies, pollen and honey. The poor little things were getting quite edgey by this stage, I got stung afew times but that is understandable, after having spent 2 very wet and cold nights out in the open, dropt into a nuc box, crowded in like sardines then tipped into another box in the dark, I would be too !

The next day dawned warm and sunny with some of the girls venturing out. They don`t seem to mind the lack of a landing pad, mind you, in the wild there is no such thing outside a hole in a tree. I do have another entrance P made at one end which I can unscrew and use if I want and it has a small landing strip, maybe later in the summer if the weather warms up and there is alot of action around the hive.
I am delighted with my first TB hive, it just makes more sense somehow to keep these amazing insects in a way as close to their natural habitat as possible. Totally un-practicle for commercial beekeepers I know, but if you can do it like this - why not ? The honey I collect is a wonderful bonus for me, but I keep bees so I can add my bit to keeping them alive and for the pollination skills they so abundantly use and which we humans depend on ..

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The last Fledgeling turns 18 today ...

My beautiful youngest daughter, Ellena Roseanne, turns 18 today, this was the sight that greeted her just before she left for her weekend job as the dishie at a local cafe this morning ! One of her lovely friends, Rene, delivered a South African dish that Ellena loves, to our front door at 8.45am !! It is a milk pudding, sounds sort of like the junket my mother made us eat as kids, I will get a taste later.

Ellena is going to Victoria University in Wellington next year, about 7 hours drive south from where we live. I am so excited for her and sad for me, it is a real new life challange for us both. She was the 4th child I so desperately wanted after loosing a number of babies between her eldest sister Meg, her brother Cameron and sister Phillippa - there is 9 yrs between Ellena and Pip. I didn`t plan on the big gaps but thats how it turned out. I have never regretted having my late baby, although at 38 I was a tad to old I think - took me years to catch up on sleep and I was always the oldest Mum at kindy and school !! She has been a delight all along, is adored by her sibblings and probably abit spoilt but she has grown into a beautiful young woman and tomorrow we will celebrate as a family at her brothers place by the ocean.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Happy Place ...

One of Meg`s paintings, she is a clever artist and sells her work through-out NZ, Raglan is full of arty folks !!

During the last week I took afew days off work, badly needed I might add, spending a night and 2 days out at my `happy place` Raglan-by-the-sea or Whaingaroa as it is rightly named. My eldest daughter, Meg and her daughter Lia live out there, on the side of a hill over-looking the harbour and out to the heads - a fairly dangerous bar. Meg had taken students to Wellington to see the Wearable Arts show, which I might add, is an amazing night, Lia was at her Dad`s and I had the house to me !! oh, and the crazy cat and noisy finch ..

The view from the window I sat by in a very nice cafe/bar and ate my dinner. It was raining but I didn`t mind, it is just so peaceful there, no rush, people smile and say kia ora (hello) - I hope the place never changes and becomes a `Bondi beach (Oz) or even Mt Maunganui which is a resort on the eastern coast of NZ. Raglan is on the west coast and very different geographically and every other way - wild and windy with crashing seas, rocks, some nice beaches and black sand that really does stick to every part of your body !! It only takes me 40 mins to drive out from home, I never tire of the views, it is a good road now, used to be a `goat track` as my dear old Dad would have said - can you get my drift at how much I love this place ??

The view from Meg`s balcony looking out over the little town and up the harbour - the sparkling water is always a deep blue/green and sometimes there are pods of orca to be seen, chasing the stingray they love to munch on.. Don`t you love the old building which is the pub ? The Palms were planted down the main street over 90 yrs ago now, could even be 100yrs - they are protected trees, as much as I don`t like them, they are part of what makes Raglan special and the neat thing is, Pohutukawa are planted at the sea end of the street and they are beautiful, especially with their aireal roots and other small native plants growing in the branch unions.

Mt Karioi, shrouded in mist, a view from Wainui Rd taken after I had visited my bee keeping friend. This dormant volcano is often called the `Sleeping Lady` as the mountain resembles a womans form when seen without the cloud. She dominates the scenery for miles, people climb to the top, the locals are beginning to care for her, getting rid of pests like possums that eat all the new growth of the native trees, with the new generation of children becoming involved with looking after the ocean and land around them - yah !!

A me trying to be `arty`, photo of the coast line, it was very wet and windy, everything blowing like mad, and cold ! I get these crazy ideas sometimes, they usually bomb out, but I quite like this one ..
I caught up with one of my favourite photographers, Gillian Lankshear, who lives at Raglan and takes the most beautiful photos using film, no digital for this lady, and showed her my photos, I am hoping to start something with my pics later in the year - whats left of it !! if you google Gillian`s name with Raglan, NZ beside it, you can see some of her work - she is an inspiration to me ..
I came home late in the afternoon, feeling restored and rested - just what I had in mind .. back to work next week and will be full on as the students are back for the last term of the year. I am teaching 2 night classes on beekeeping again this term if we get the interest and have just been approached by a very cool mag called `Good` for an interview re bees - all wonderful stuff ..
Oh, and I managed to buy the incense I was after, there is a seriously good Herbal shop on the main street - I tell you, Raggers is the place for me !!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Excellent Hangi ..

Some of the men uncovering the hangi pit - the soil is quite hot at this stage

Last evening Ellena and I went out for dinner - to a hangi - what is a hangi you are thinking ??

It is a meal cooked under the ground in a pit with stones that are heated to a high temperature by fire, then the fire is put out, the food in wire baskets is put on top of the stones and the whole lot covered in cloth and then the soil from the pit - left to cook in the steam all afternoon.

With the cloth drawn back and steam let out of the cooking pit.

The last layer of cloth is sacking which is very good at keeping the heat in - the smell by this stage is something else.

The veges are wrapped in tin foil

Some of the 100 people there !! Stew and Leah who put this feast on ,own 2 very trendy cafes in Hamilton, Ellena works at `Jacks` on the weekend, hence our invite - this evening was a `thankyou` to staff, clients, family and friends who have all helped to make their business`s so successful - a really nice young couple ..

One of the 6 baskets of meat !! Pork, lamb and chicken were wrapped in cabbage leaves to keep the salty juices in and cooked to perfection - the meat actually fell off the bones

Stew, the chef, busy cutting the meat - there was so much food plus salad followed by brownie and cream - all very yummy. I hadn`t eaten hangi food for many years and had forgotten the `special` taste the food has, a mixture of earth and steam if you can imagine that ? Maori cooked in hangi, there are many old pit sites around the country with shells and bones in them. Other Pacific Islands have their own version called an Umu, which is run the same way. Any fat in the meat tends to run out the bottom onto the rocks. Maori still cook in this way especially if there is a big event on, in Rotorua a tourist centre, the food is placed in baskets and left in the thermal hot pools to cook, tends to have a slight sulpher taste then !