Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Country hives ..

Last night my friend and I took our 2 small hives captured from swarms we had afew weeks ago, out to their rural home.

We tied the bottom board, hive box and cover tightly together with ties, loaded them into Doug`s van, covered them up securely and drove (quite quickly I might add) , out to the countryside. We did all this at about 8.00pm, it was still reasonably light, I just hope most of the bees were home for the night !

An uneventful 15 mins later, minus afew odd looks from people, we arrived at my friend`s place, drove across the paddock and gently put Totara and Rimu ( more tree names) under the Poplar trees, where I know they will be very happy and productive (I hope).
I am looking forward to having rural hives, it is not that far out of the city, surrounded by 2 acre blocks, lots of trees and the Waikato river, but has a totally different feel about it, if that makes sense ??

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Life of the Bee

Where would we be with out this little gem, `The Life of the Bee` by Maurice Materlinck, translated by Alfred Sutro. First published in May 1901, reprinted every year up to 1912, with the Pocket Edition in 1908 to 1920.

`What is this "spirit of the hive" - where does it reside ? It is not like the special instinct that teaches the bird to construct its well-planned nest, and then seek other skies when the day for migration returns. Nor is it a kind of mechanical habit of the race, or blind craving for life, that will fling the bees upon any wild hazard the moment an unforseen event shall derange the accustomed order of phenomena. On the contary, be the event never so masterful, the "spirit of the hive" still will follow it, step by step, like an alert and quick-witted slave, who is able to derive advantage even further from his master`s most dangerous orders.

It regulates day by day the number of births, and contrives that these shall strictly accord with the number of flowers that brighten the country-side. It decrees the queens deposition, or warns her that she must depart; it compels her to bring her own rivals into the world, and rears them royally, protecting them from their mothers political hatred. So, too, in accordance with the generosity of the flowers, the age of the spring, and the probable dangers of the nuptial flight, it will permit or forbid the first-born of the royal princesses to slay in their cradles her younger sisters, who are singing the song of the queens`

I love the language used by Materlinck, it sings to me and describes even the most ordinary occasion beautifully. Who could not resist reading the chapter `The Massacre of the Males`??

Russian Bees

This interesting book was written by I Khalifman and won the Stalin Prize in 1951. Translation made from the Russian addition by Molodaya Gvardia Publishing House, Moscow 1953 and revised by the author.

Another book with interesting chapter titles, eg, `The Nest of the Four-Winged`, `Living Brush` and `A Turn of the Spiral` amongst others.

As you can imagine, this book has socialist views of beekeeping and some interesting perspectives on life in general, this is from the last couple of pages: This creative impulse manifests itself in the every-day work of millions of working people of the Soviet Land, workers in the green factory.
Orderly rows of the future forest belts stretch criss-cross over thousands of kilometres; there, in clusters, rise young oaks, spreading their green leaves and growing stronger and stronger as years go by.
Powerful tractors furrow the fields with glittering steel coulters and leave behind wide ribands of soil made fertile by the roots of sown mixed grasses.
Fields of these grasses form an endless carpet and the bees sent here by man reach with their proboscides into floret after floret of collective - farm clover.

All this has been done by the hands and minds of the Soviet people, people that were the first in the world to become masters of their own destiny and are the first to become masters of Nature`

Well, life in Russia has changed over the last few years, this book is certainly an insight into a period of history I didn`t know that much about.

The Apiary ..

This beautiful book was given to me by a friend, it written by Alfred Neighbour and published in 1878. It still has the original watercolour painting of Geo Neighbour and Sons Bee Farm West End, Hampstead. Chapters have interesting titles such as `Abdomen and Secretive Organs` , `Thorax and Organs of Motion` and `Bee-Keeping in London` all which delve into wonderful worded detail, eg `There are many persons, now in this noisy city pent, who frequently remember the days of childhood when, among pastures of clover or amidst flowery heath and woodlands, they listened to the cheerful hum of bees.`

The next 2 pictures are of different hives used, both very handsome - I wonder how practical ?
I found this book fascinating, these hives were works of art - very pleasing to look at. The inside of the hive was often grained and varnished with elaborate entrances and facade.

The hive with the 3 bell glasses must have been a delightful sight. The bees would come up throught one of the 3 holes and convey their honey into the bell glasses( with ventilators), which, when filled held about 6 pounds each. There were 3 windows in the lower hive, each closed with a shutter, very useful and interesting for inspection. Across the centre window was a thermometer , enclosed at the sides by slips of glass. The hive, in 2 parts, was made of straw with a zinc ventilator, ornamentally painted, forming the apex: this was useful in letting the confined hot air pass away in warm weather.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sustainable Garden Ramble

Our native fuchsia, Kotukutuku, note the blue pollen - a beautiful small tree with red peeling bark and these stunning flowers that the birds love for the nectar.

Today I went on a sustainable garden ramble around the fair city of Hamilton, this was one of the first gardens, a small inner city paradise with NZ native plants and beautiful roses, herbs, a worm farm, vege garden - all grown with no sprays, everything as organic as possible. The woman who owns this garden runs the Envirocentre here in Hamilton. There was an excellent working worm farm in the garden, it was quite compact and I think I will invest in one, I need somewhere to put food scraps that doesn`t smell or attract flies.

The second garden I went to was this gully section on the outskirts of the city. Hamilton is made up of a number of gully systems that run through the city. At last people are bringing these areas of land back to life and replanting with native plants. Most of the gullies are full of weeds like willow and privet plus old car bodies and fridges !! This garden went down to a steam and has been planted with flax, cabbage trees, kauri, kahikatea, pukatea and many other appropriate plants, many being eco-sourced from the surrounding areas.

I went to another gully section that has been planted up for 35 years, it was like being in the bush somewhere far from any city - amazing place with a small nursery and very productive vege garden. The English couple who had done all the hard work were happy to show people around, they also had a chap talking about the bird life or lack of it, native birds that is, here in the city. Compared to other places in NZ, Hamilton has a very dismal record of leaving bush areas and planting native trees and other food souces like Banksia, Gums etc. Hopefully this is changing as people become more aware of what can be done with abit of effort.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Queen Cells and a Hive A Buzzzzz

Yes there were 5 queen cells in Matai, some had hatched which would explain the 2 swarms over the previous week or so, others looking ready to . I felt bad about destroying them but I didn`t want to loose any more bees to the neighbourhood. There was no sign of disease in either of the hives, lots of bur comb and brood quite high up in the top supers. Also, quite alot of drone cells.

A queen bee ready to emerge from her cell - trying to hold it and camera made for difficulties getting the exact moment - I dropt the camera in the end - blast .

The bees where remarkably calm while all this intrusion into their home was going on. I am not the fastest or most agile when it comes to checking on frames, I do try to go slowly and quietly and not make any sudden movements, all the while telling them ( bees, that is ) how beautiful and clever they are and please don`t take offence and sting me, not too many times anyway. I did get stung once, on the knee of all places. I quickly flicked the sting out and put honey on the spot, it takes the `bite' out of the pain.
This was Miro after I had finished checking and swapping frames around - there was this huge number of bees out the front and there was no aggression or loud buzzing, it was like they thought, thank goodness for that, we have got more room. I must fix the `leaning tower of Pisa` look on this hive !
I am taking the 2 swarms captured out to a friend`s place in the countryside, I am looking forward to having rural and urban bees, it will be interesting seeing how each different situation performs. These 2 hives will be in a paddock situation but also within close range to a number of large country gardens and lots of trees.

First Honey for the Season

After checking all the frames for queen cells I decided to harvest 4 frames from Miro - the bees had been busy for acouple of weeks already and had nearly filled a super. I like this picture, it shows the construction of the cells so clearly.

Our new extractor - it is bolted into place now, no more jumping like a demented washing machine and she works like a dream. So easy to clean, just unbolt the top bit, take the hard plastic drum and metal frame holder outside to wash.

So much easier then turning the handle, especially when there are alot of frames to do. I have decided this year to extract more often, probably when there are full supers, it means I will (hopefully) have honey to sell on a regular basis.

I sold 12 jars last week from this extraction !! I put a sign up at work and the whole lot went in a day - to students and tutors alike. Now I have orders to fill - its amazing. I am so in awe of these creatures and I must admit, I do feel abit guilty about taking their stores, even though there is always plenty left for them.