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.