Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A day of hive maintenance

After weeks of rain we had a sunny day, so we made the most of it and headed out to check the hives. We'd decided to try to get out there (weather permitting) once a fortnight just to check the small hive beetle traps and to see how they are going and if they need harvesting.

It also gives us time to build our confidence working the bees, to see what's normal for them and hopefully to be able to spot any problems early on.

Because of the rain, not a lot of the frames were ready for harvesting, but with a few sunny days, we'll be able to have another harvest of honey.

These are the gloves I use. They are from Quality Beekeeping Supplies and seem to be doing the job (protecting me from being stung) quite well.

Another benefit of checking the hives regularly is that hopefully the bees will get used to use being around and with being handled.

Getting the smoker to lit and then to stay smokey seems to be our biggest challenge so far. Like a lot of beekeepers we use sheoak needles and hessian bags.

It's my job to keep it going throughout the time it takes us to check all four hives.

We have small hive beetles in our hives, but they seem to be being kept under control (fingers crossed) using traps filled with diatemaceous earth.

We use two types of traps - the one BELOW can slide in the entrance and provide some protection for the brood box (the box on the bottom), or it can sit on top of the brood frames just below the Queen excluder.

There have been some reports of bees getting in these traps, but we didn't find any in ours - we did find dead beetles though.

The other type of trap we use is one that fits between the frames in the honey super (the top box). We find the bees quickly block this up with propolis - which they haven't done to the one ABOVE - so each time we check the hives we take new, cleaned traps to replace the old ones, then take them inside when we're done, clean them and refill them ready for next time.

This has meant buying two sets of traps, but it's worth it for the ease of swapping them over.

They sit neatly between the frames and we find dead beetles in these too.

We always record our findings in our Bee Book - keeping a record of how the hives are going, how the bees are behaving and any maintenance work that needs to be done - for instance, we found one frame where the wire has come out, so next time, we'll take a spare frame with foundation and replace it.

it's wonderful to see the bees close up and we're getting a little better at beekeeping each time we go out there. It's good doing it together too, you can bounce ideas off each other while we learn and a spare pair of hands can come in very handy sometimes too.

We are coming into our winter here in Australia and we're in the subtropics, so we don't need to over winter our hives, in fact winter will probably be a better time for them, less rain, more sunny days, more blooms in our vegetable garden.

Next time I'll write about which native plants we've added to our garden as bee forage and what we've observed in relation to bees' drinking behaviour.

The Novice Beekeeper

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The many benefits of raw honey

Honey is a wonderous product - particularly raw, untreated honey.

It has so many health benefits and I was reading some stories courtesy of Tricia's blogspot here.

There was a story on Catalyst on the ABC (a public television station here in Australia) - Catalyst is a science show - and they talked about how honey helps heal wounds here.

Which was very timely, because just last night I burnt my finger getting something out of the oven - I immediately put honey on it, then aloe vera, which I keep a pot of near the kitchen, just for such incidents.

And it worked, this morning I had to go looking for where the burn was and could barely see it, needless to say it doesn't hurt anymore either.

I use our honey on cuts too - being out in the garden a lot, I'm forever getting small cuts and grazes on my hands and applying raw honey to them heals it very quickly.

We also keep a small jar of raw honey in the propagation house too to use when we are planting up cuttings - dipping the end in the honey will prevent infection setting in. BELOW is a selection of plants taken from the garden ready to be propagated - and dipped in honey.

This is all focusing on the external application of honey, but don't forget the good honey does you when you eat it too.

You can see in the first image we have our home honey pot with honey comb in it too - this means there are a lot of bits n pieces floating in the honey - all good for you - propolis, pollen etc.

Now I've had someone asks about using honey to treat pollen allergies - they said they had tried it and it didn't work - but I'd suggest (and I'm not medically trained, it just makes sense to me) that you need to be eating fresh, local, raw honey to yield the benefits of treating allergies.

The theory is, if whatever is causing you grief with your allergies, if you can be eating honey with some of that particular type of pollen at that particular time of the year, you will reap the benefits.

So raw honey it is - we are endevouring to keep our product as close to natural as possible - unprocessed, untreated, no heating, just straining - all good.

What other uses do you have for honey?

The Novice Beekeeper

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Market Day :: Maintenance Day

We took our bottled honey harvest to the local markets and were very pleased to sell 15 kilos of it on the day.

The theme of the markets was Autumn Leaves and (BELOW) this is our honey display, complete with autumn leaves. We also had beeswax candles for sale too.

We hope to have homemade beeswax furniture wax available at future markets too and homemade honey soaps too.

I've been observing the bees in the garden to see what they like best. Cosmos (BELOW) is popular - both the yellow and orange varieties. I wonder if this is one of our bees, a wild bee or one from the nearby strawberry farm hives?

We choose a fine morning this week to do some hive maintenance. We plan to get out there at least once a fortnight, if not once a week to check our four hives over.

We are looking for any changes or anything 'strange' going on. We're only new to this, so we ask "Is that normal?" a lot - then head inside to look on the internet or in one of our bee books to see - or we email a photo to beekeepers we know.

So far so good and things seem to be quite normal. We have small hive beetle in our hives (as most hives in Queensland do) but not to a level that it's starting to damage things - yet. So we are keeping up the maintenance on our beetle traps - we use the traps with Diatomaceous Earth and we've observed dead and dying beetles in these traps so they do work.

In the photo below you can see we're sliding one through the front of the hive into the brood box.
We've ordered extra traps, so when we check the hives we take clean, new, fully laden ready to go traps out with us, so we can easily swap them over there and then while the hive is open.

The bees also quickly fill up the trap entry points with propolis, so they need to be removed and cleaned regularly. I use boiling water to clean the equipment thoroughly (this is on advice from the DPI via the local beekeeping group). We also need to get set up to set fire to our hive tools using methylated spirits to sterilise them too.

While we had the hives open we cut off some comb and kept it aside, brought it inside then added it to a jar of honey we have... you can see it in the top of the jar - all that golden goodness!
So everyday we can add this honey to our breakfast and enjoy the unfiltered honey with all the health benefits that entails.

I've also been researching the best native plants to plant here - we need to revegetate some areas of our permaculture garden, provide some screening for privacy in some areas and while we're doing it, we thought we'd ensure all the plants we bring in to the property are bee friendly.

I'll write another post soon about what we've discovered and how we are starting to go about writing up our bee forage calendar for the year.

The Novice Beekeeper