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October 3, 2016

Birdsong Bees

By NutritionNo Comments

The moment we’d long been waiting for- the arrival of the bees! Even if we weren’t starting a market garden, and even if we didn’t want lots of bees to pollinate our crops…we use a LOT of honey, and had been considering beekeeping for a long time.

Late last year we met Stan and his wife Liz, who showed us their hives in their back yard in town. From there I started going to Southern Beekeeper’s meetings with our older daughters (I don’t advise taking children…they get too sleepy there!).

Now finally, months later, we have a nucleus of bees in the Warre hive that Rick built himself. If you’re wondering why our hive looks different to your regular hives, that’s why. It’s a Warre hive. Warre was a bee-obsessed Frenchman who experimented with 350 different hive designs/variations apparently. The hive we built is the final design he settled on. Using his hives is a form of natural beekeeping, a less invasive approach than using standard techniques with a Langstroth hive.

Nev Hunt from Southern Beekeepers kindly supplied us with a nucleus of bees. It all happened rather suddenly in the end! We got the call Friday night to see if we could come and get the bees that weekend. We’d previously tried to catch a swarm by setting out the hives with a lemongrass essential oil blend in them (attracts bees) but we hadn’t caught anything. So it was a blessing to get this nuc from Nev. The drive home was exciting- we had a box of bees in the back of the Prado and they started escaping. The children sang out regular reports “One got out Dad!” and then “Now there’s two!” or “I found a third one out!” When you’ve got a 25 minute drive with 8 people in the car and bees on the loose….well, you can imagine the adrenaline!

So, pictured above is Rick preparing the top box of the Warre hive. We lined it with fine mesh and 100% linen fabric. This is to keep bees out of the lid, and keep the insulation (sawdust) in. Insulation is there for the same purpose as it is in the roof of your home-temperature regulation. Bees don’t like temperatire extremes, just like the rest of us.

And here’s the top box, lined and filled with dry sawdust, ready to go on the brood boxes.

And here’s Rick decked out in his new bee suit…beekeeping suit I should say (just so you know he’s not trying to dress up as a bee!). It will be interesting to see if he ends up needing to use it much. The Warre hive is said to create calmer bees, and therefore they may not cause a need to wear a suit to often. We’ll see.

Now what do those oils have to do with bees, you say?

Well, there’s this little pest called the Small Hive Beetle. I didn’t know if it would be much of an issue here, because at the Beekeeping meetings I noticed it’s AFB (American Foul Brood) that the members complain loudest about, not the hive beetle. But sure enough, after less than 24 hours of having bees in the box, along came some rogue hive beetles to crash the party. The reason they are a pest is that they lay their maggots in the honeycomb. I’ve never met anyone that enjoys the odd maggot in their honey. So most beekeepers seem to use traps etc to deal with the beetles. But Being an essential oil junkie, and having seen an article detailing the use of Wintergreen essential oil to repel the beetles…well, I couldn’t let the chance to test the theory pass me by. So what we have pictured is coconut oil, Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Wintergreen essential oil and a cardboard diffuser pad (a coaster will work just the same). You mix one part Wintergreen with 16 parts carrier oil (coconut oil in my case) and then soak your coaster or diffuser pad in it. This then is placed above the frames in the hive to repel the unwanted beetles. Apparently it also repels varroa mites.

By the way, the bees transferred nicely into the new hive. Some died from the stress of the drive home (inevitable, I think) and another died after stinging Archie (in defense of the colony, of course). I’ll post more pics when I get them! Today, being almost non stop rain, was not such a great outdoor photography day!