Wednesday, April 27, 2011


My honey bees Apis mellifera, are precious in more ways than one. . . Some people understand that without our food plants being pollinated, except for the likes of rice and some cereals, we humans will be existing on a very bland diet indeed, others don`t understand at all !  What most don`t understand, is the tiny honey bee, which was imported to our shores in the 1830`s, is the main contributor to this vital job, one which it is finding harder and harder to accomplish.  But hey, there have always been enough bees haven`t there ? Once there were, but now there is a huge decline in their numbers due to many issues,  I do believe it has been mainly brought on by mans selfishness, his idea that the bee is here for our use and of course, don`t forget, the mighty dollar. Varroa arrived on our shores around 2000, decimating many hives and putting beekeepers out of business. Many hobbyist beekeepers just gave up, not wanting to bother treating their bees twice a year, but our numbers are on the rise again, thanks to many younger and not so young bee enthusiasts learning about bees, planting gardens and orchards, realising they need bees for pollination !
Honey bees have long been part of human life, providing much needed sweetness, light from candle wax, and most importantly, the pollination of over 40% of what we eat. Up until Rev Langstroth discovered removable frames, humans lived with bees in a fair relationship, each providing the other with what they needed ie habitat, flowering plants, honey and wax.
With products from the hive including honey, pollen, wax and propolis earning beekeepers a tidy sum, things changed rapidly, leaving the bees stranded in a place of disease and illness. .  their numbers declining, their health declining, with their ability to fight.. slowly declining ..
We will loose our bees unless attitudes change, food as we know it will change considerably, life as we know it will change beyond our comprehension – sounds abit over the top? I don`t think so, and neither do many other worried bee keepers. I feel very strongly that until many of the established ways of beekeeping, here in NZ and world-wide, change from how much money can be made from keeping bees, to how can we care wisely, working with these insects in a way that will benefit both parties, with the bees being the major beneficiary of our kindness and knowledge we now have regarding the use of pesticides and other chemical nasties.
Honey bees evolved with Angiosperms, flowering plants, millions of years ago – each supplying the other with the exact life sustaining substance it needs. During this time, bees along with other pollinating insects and birds dealt with many life threatening changes, over time adjusting and continuing to pollinate, plants providing the proteins and sugars needed to keep the insects healthy, the bees transferring pollen from flower to flower, thus continuing the cycle of life . .
So, my plea to all who care for our planet and its inhabitants, next time you see honey bees, bumble bees, other insects in your garden or wild places, think of what you can do to make their short lives free of starvation (plant bee food), free of contamination ( don`t use chemicals of any kind), free of homelessness ( keep a hive, maybe a TopBar hive, in your garden)  - it does not take much effort at all . . trust me
 Marcia Meehan     ( an article I wrote recently for a magazine )           

Monday, April 25, 2011

ANZAC in Aotearoa . . .

On the 25th April 1915, thousands of NZ and Australian solders along with many, many other allied solders were thrust ashore onto the Turkish beach, Gallipoli, under constant gun fire from Turkish army above them.  It was total bloodshed and miserably managed, so much unnecessary death and injury.
96 yrs on, this day is always remembered by New Zealanders and Australians with dawn services across the countries, solemn church services, young and old marching together . . .to remember them.
For many years, Ellena and I have put the red Flanders poppy the RSA men sell, on the cenotaph in Hamilton. Now it is just myself and my thoughts . . . My paternal Grandfather, Mick Meehan, went away to WW1 , a glorious adventure, he was only 20, a young farming boy from Wanganui. He came home shattered, not so much in body but needed time to sort his emotions out at Hamner Springs, which was then used as a rehabilitation center for war veterans. He was a gentle, loving man who raised a family and worked hard.
The cenotaph by the river here in Hamilton, this was yesterday before the rain and the wreaths, put there today. The solders, men and women from each war NZ has taken part in, march slowly across the Victoria bridge at dawn, gathering in silence beside the cenotaph. What is quite amazing, is the number of young people there - wonderful to see them listening and learning about what their Grand and G Grand parents did for their country.
A special day, a day for reflection - today seemed ideal . . . wet and gloomy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Waiheke Day ..

Goodbye Auckland, see you tonight - this was me on Sunday, 8.00am, on the ferry to Waiheke Island. I had not been to this island before, heard heaps about it, but like lots of things, one of the many places in my lovely country that I had yet to visit . . . I always knew the Waitamata harbour and Hauraki gulf had many islands dotted around, but was amazed at how many there were. Even at that hour of the day, there were small boats out with fishermen  trying their luck - a cherry wave as we lumbered past.
It was a gorgeous day; slight breeze, blue sky and sparkly sea - after the stress with my job that has been happening lately, this was just what I needed - a total change of pace !

My first close-up sight of Waiheke, deep green water with native bush growing down to the shore line. I had taken my car over, so once we docked, I drove up the windy road to the cliff top, meandering my way to the little village of Oneroa.
My first stop was at the Steiner Kindy Fair where I gave a 30min introduction to a large crowd about TopBar hives. The fair had lots of interesting stalls - yummy food, beautiful handmade crafts, old fashioned games for kids with an amazing medieval court set up, complete with wooden horses, big ones, that ran along railway tracks so you could do the jousting thing ! Music playing and many happy people - a very nice vibe throughout ... my huge thanks to Christy, for inviting me over to her special island.
The view from the cafe in Oneroa where I had lunch. There were lots of little sail boats out and about.. Waiheke Is has many sheltered bays, really picturesque, even at this time of the year. The population is around 8000 with many more over the summer and weekends - lots of holiday places, big and small, with most of what you need on the island. It is a 45 min ferry ride from Auckland, just enough time to enjoy the sea air and views.
Oneroa Bay is where I ran my TopBar Hive workshop - this the view of the bay from the rather lovely winery/b&b owned by Christy and hubby, where we all sat out on the decking in the sunshine.
The land down to the water is a wetland, the surrounding hills are covered in manuka - Christy`s bees have a great choice ! With guests expected, we moved back to the Kindy and concluded the day sitting around the table, coffee and tea and chat.  
This is my lovely group of enthusiastic TopBar beekeepers to be ! I did so enjoy my day with all these lovely friendly folk, was invited back in the spring to check out their beezzz and you can be sure I will be there !

The car ferry on its way to Waiheke and my journey home . . . I was back in Hamilton in 2 hours, so really, it is not a long trip, a trip I will be making again, this time I think I will organize a `girls` weekend, there are so many other places to discover on Waiheke, stunning scenery, friendly locals - a small slice of NZ to treasure ..