Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Preparing for Bees

I’m researching how best to fit our beehives into our existing permaculture system, so I’m busy reading up on all the books sitting quietly on my bookcase.

Firstly, from Introduction to Permaculture. The idea is for any animal introduced in the system to be able to self-forage. That way you don’t need to expel energy or money feeding them. They move around and feed themselves. A diverse diet and exercise moving around finding food leads to animals that are healthier and more robust than those kept contained and fed concentrated feeds.

Permaculture teaches us to firstly look at that particular animals needs, then it’s characteristics to see how they fit – what they need from the system, what they bring too the system and what products we can yield from them.

For example, chickens scratch up mulch, geese graze on grass… you get the picture.

So what about bees?

From the system – bees need food. They need specific plants and flowers to forage among. Bees travel about five kilometres from their home hive.

The book Permaculture Plants recommends a permaculture system having both nectar and pollen producing plants for bees. In permaculture we look at how many uses we can get out of one plants so being a provider of food for bees is an important use we can seek out when selecting plants.

Planting out a year round diet is also important – having something available all year round for your bees to forage.

Bee forages to consider include natives such as grevilleas and acacias, pasture crops such as Lucerne and clover, orchard trees such as citrus and herbs including lavender, borage, comfrey and rosemary.

Other plants include; tagasaste (for down south – not suitable for the subtropics), fennel, raspberry, sage, thyme, carob, cowpea, and various gums.

Rosemary Morrow’s book the Earth User’s guide to permaculture recommends the following;

Bees need shelter (hives located in protected areas, safe from flooding and strong winds),
Food, water, warmth (place hives in a maximum warm area – will need to bear in mind the harsh strong sun we have here in summer), and people to be calm around them!

They yield honey, beeswax, pollen, propolis, pollination (leading to higher yields) and broods.

Placing the hive 50-100m away from the main forage area also allows nectar to dry off on the way back to the hive and prevent it turning into alcohol.

Hives also need to be about one metre off the ground to prevent predators getting in and in an area away from where people might walk into the flight path of the bees, this makes them cranky and they sting you.

Permaculture – A designers’ manual recommends clumps of forage, rather than sparsely planted foragings. It also says that crops within a mile of hives will outyield crops in bee-deficient areas by a factor of three to 10 times.

Planning a calendar of year round food is the go, so I’ll take a look at what we have and start mapping out our bee menu plan.



  1. Nice blog! You might want to see my blog of almost the same name. novice-beekeeper.blogspot.com. I'm a "follower" of your blog. Steve.

  2. Hello! My name is Jack Simpson, I am 19 and I live near Yandina on the Sunshine Coast. I am getting some nucleus hives next monday. I was wondering which beekeeping group in Eumundi you were indicating. I would love to join if that's ok. Is there any chance you could reply to me through my email account: "jbsimpson@hotmail.com"?
    Thankyou very much