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Posts Tagged ‘Bee keeping’

We have just had the most glorious weekend in the garden, 24 degrees and sunny, just perfect. With all the rain this winter the garden looks like the national weed collection and two whole days of weeding has not made much of a dint.

Digging in the Green Manure

We dug in the green manure (mustard) into two garden beds. This is the first time we have dug the mustard into the garden in previous years we have let the chickens on the bed to eat it down. This year we cut leaves to feed to the chickens through the winter leaving the plants to keep growing. My chickens love mustard and the way they fold a mustard leaf into a cigar as they gobble it down is extraordinary. I’m looking forward to seeing if the mustard does imporve the soil.

I hoping that the green manure will increase the water holding capacity of the soil. I plan to grow climbing beans in this bed and they seem to be very thirsty plants so this should be a good test. Apart from yummy beans the Purple King Climbing Bean is a beautiful plant the hanging dark purple beans a very ornamental.

Glowing Scarlet Broadbean Flowers.

I planted Broadbean seeds in June and they are now, four months later, about a metre tall and in fall flower. I planted a Scarlet Broadbean as well as the standard ‘Prolific’.  The Scarlet plants are slightly shorter, maybe 80cm, a very fetching in the sunlight .

A second wild swarm of bees arrived in the garden on Sunday. This swarm is still sitting under the Jasmine on the back fence in a ball about the size of an Aussie rules football (Mmmm two football finals – two swarms. Coincidence or cosmic?). There is so much swarming at the moment that there isn’t a keeper available to come and collect it. I’m not at the stage were we can collect a swarm by myself.

I will be ready next year though. I’ve read that you can add a swarm to a hive by placing the swarm into a box on top of the hive. Newspaper is used to separate the two colonies. The bees then eat through the paper towards each other, by the time they meet, they recognise each other as the same colony due to the intermingling of pheromones. This seems to be a quick way to build a hive – well lets wait and see.

Next task is to germinate more seeds!

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Feral Bees Fly By

Hive Box New Home for Swarm!

Interesting weekend in the backyard.  We had our first warm spring day on Saturday and the temperature shot up to 20 degrees Celsius – lovely!  All of a sudden the backyard was a swirling sea of bees.  The air was think with bees for about an hour and then the wild swarm settled in a large ball on the jasmine vine on our back fence. This is the second wild swarm that we have attracted to our backyard in the last two years.  The sound of a swarm of bees is flight is truly deafening, more like the roar of jet engines than a gentle hum – amazing!

I called a ‘Swarm Collection’ beekeeper from the Southside Beekeepers and she arrived very quickly to start collecting the bees.  Now I wish I had taken photos of this process but it was too exciting to even think about tearing my eyeballs away for a moment.  I even suited up myself to help (I held the cardboard box)!

Essentially the beekeeper used a large soft brush called a ‘Bee Brush’ to sweep the bees off the vine and into a large cardboard box.  Once the bees were in the box they were gently transfered to a hive box (see photo). We actually saw the Queen Bee slide into the hive and once she was installed any bees still in flight started to move towards the hive box.  The bees that had settled on the pale-pink-sheet we had laid on the ground under the swarm all turned around and formed neat cues to crawl up the sheet into the hive door – strangest thing I’ve ever seen.

By dusk on Sunday all the bees had settled in the hive.  The beekeeper then taped the box closed after giving the bees two hive frames of honey (food and water).  The bees were then on their way to a new permanent home with a backyard vegie grower only a few suburbs away from me.

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Getting the buzz on bee keeping

I attended my first bee keeping workshop on Sunday at a suburban community farm.  What a fabulous experience.  I learnt a lot from the experienced keepers present and spent two very enjoyable hours embedded in the swarm of bees. Hazaar!

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On one level I understand that gardens are about change.  On another level it is taking me a bit to come to terms with removing the large Brazilian vine this week.  Our neighbour has requested that we remove it as it is breaking up our shared fence and threatening to overwhelm her garden – fair enough.

I have however become very fond of this really too enormous member of the backyard farm – not because it produces anything edible – but because of the enormous number of parrots that hang out in the vine at this time of the year.  The bees will also miss such a splendid and close source of pollen.

 

The death of a giant.

The death of a giant.

 

The current plan is to remove all of the vine and as much of the root as possible and then plant fruit trees along the fence line – which is a very cunning plan.  Cirtus trees seem to do well on these sandy soils so I’m going to investigate espaliered orange trees.  Our Desert Blood Lime (an Australian Native grafted onto european rootstock) has graciously pumped out one lime this winter – wow – clearly I am supernaturally talented with the citrus!

 

Desert Blood Lime

Desert Blood Lime

 

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It was a sunny day with no wind, apparently the best weather for opening a hive to check on bees, as most of the bees should be out collecting with only a few returning home at a time.

With a lump in my throat I get into my white bee suit.  Checking and obsessively re-checking to make sure all the gaps are closed and that the suit isn’t too tight anywhere – bees can still sting through the suit if they are very unhappy.

Re-reading the instructions I light the smoker and send out a morse of experimental smoke – dear…gods… keep..me..safe.. from….bee…stings.

Walking up to the hive I puff a little smoke in through the hive entrance to calm the bees, thinking, should I inhale, will it calm me down too?  I’ve been told that bees know when you are scared and are more likely to sting (though between you and I – I tend to think that this is Bee Whisperer mumbo jumbo).

As I lifted the lid off the hive the aroma of honey was heady and the humming rush of bees towards my face slightly terrifying.  I puffed more smoke into the hive and the bees dispersed – or so I thought – looking up I could see hundreds of little bee bums pointing their stings at me through the grill of my mask.  OMG was this a good idea?

I decided to remove just one frame from the hive before I chickened out totally.  Moving slowly and carefully to ensure that the, mad bee bum army, couldn’t reach me through the grill. I lifted out a frame.  It was covered in bees and some of the cells were dark with brood.  As scared as I felt, watching the bees up close and in such a large numbers, was a mesmerizing sight – like watching the ocean swarm and sway.  As captivating as the bees were by this point I felt that I had been as brave as I dared. I returned the frame to the hive and closed the lid.

I knew that in theory as I walk away from the hive the bees should leave me and return home.  I started to move away, puffing a cloud of smoke to move them along. Gradually they disengaged and headed back.  When finally I was alone I went back inside and took off the suit.  I rolled off my gloves and removed my mask.  Then as I lifted off my suit top, one remaining bee stung me in the throat – yowl!  That hurt like hell!

It was an awesome experience.  I am sorry to lose a bee but I think the swarm let me off lightly.  A few new-by mistakes but that was my first close encounter with the swarm.

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Introducing the Swarm

 

Extreme sport in the Vegie Garden - Bee Keeping

Extreme sport in the Vegie Garden - Bee Keeping

I’ve always wanted to keep bees.  

I remember reading an old herbal at University that explained that, in order to keep the bees happy, beekeepers would tell their hives all their secrets. Apparently bees always keep the keepers secrets safe.  

A college at work offered to catch a wild swarm for me this spring, if he could find one with a young and gentle queen.  I have been lucky, he found her, and now there is a new white hive at the end of my drive way, under a cluster of rose bushes and apple trees.

 I can stand in the shade at the end of the carport on a sunny day and watch the bees spiral flight as they leave the hive, flying off, right up and over the house.  They are a very calm, humming and gentle swarm.

So far I’ve only watched the bees from a safe distance.  I’ve never been stung though I’ve been told to expect that eventually I will be, gulp!

Tomorrow I’m of into the country to attend my first Bee Keeping workshop, where I will crack open a hive for the first time….if I die in a bee related accident… its been good knowing you all.  Wish me luck.

 

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