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Hi there!

I’m slowly working towards some simplicity within the home, but hey! It’s a lot of hard work!

I love having a go at growing my own veges and always use herbs fresh from my garden. I try to plant from seed whenever I can and have learnt to save and share my own seed for the following year. I make Award Winning preserves and pickles; and my husband brews Award Winning boutique beers as well. I love to stockpile and try to limit quick trips to the shops. I dabble in bread making and enjoy making my own stocks too.

I enjoy feeding my family good hearty meals, nothing like those tiny restaurant stacks you have to look for on the plate. My husband maintains our vehicles and machinery and we both enjoy fabricating on a small scale mostly relying on metal & timber recyclers for any materials needed.


While I don’t always have time to reply to comments, I love reading them. I hope you enjoy your stay and I hope you learn something new because I love sharing what I learn, and I'm always looking for another new skill myself.

Cheers!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Preparing for Honey Bees

We've been thinking about getting bees for a few years now...and Chris has seen me in his office more than once...but late winter I decided to go for it. I ordered my first batch of bees. I had initially been thinking of getting stingless native bees for the garden just to pollinate. But once I found out that it's not really wise to harvest any of their honey I decided on honey bees. You see, natives don't like to come out of the hive if there's a big drop in temperature, and they only produce about 1kg of honey a year, so if you take it from them, you are in fact starving them of a supply of food if you have a cold snap and they don't want to go out that day foraging for 'extra food'.

I'm a firm believer in being stocked up myself...If someone took my stockpile away from me, I wouldn't be too happy. With the endless possibilities with honey bees, natives just aren't for me.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that native bees are being used in gardens, they are becoming very popular for extra pollination. I recently learnt that a local organic school garden has introduced native bees to their garden. What an excellent opportunity for the students to learn.

Yep, they sting, (I haven't been stung yet, touch wood)  but they do much more than that. I'm already gathering honey recipes...and soap recipes and even cosmetic and candle recipes.... It's endless. Even hubby has his eye on some to experiment within his brewing shed.

Building the beehive - Stage 1
I sourced my beehive kit from Chris at Parker Beekeeper Supplies in Dunmore. Chris is a lovely gentleman, full of information and shares what he knows willingly. He's helped me out a few times even over the phone.

He also makes and sells plastic beehives on his property. They are interchangeable with the timber hives too. If you don't have time or don't want to go to the trouble of soaking it yourself you can always invest in the plastic version.  But for my first hive, I wanted to learn more, so I chose the timber kit.

Firstly you have to soak all the hive timber in a 1:4 solution of Coppernapthanate and Mineral Turpentine. This is a long soak of usually around 3 to 4 days.



Once soaked, then you need to drain and allow all your timbers to dry. Leave this timber layed out undercover for a good week depending on the weather.

After soaking and drying all the beehive timber you need to assemble the beehive. 
 

Flat packed beehive kit after soaking and drying
Screw every joint.

Assembling the base of the beehive

Assembling the lid of the beehive
Once you have the whole beehive put together, then you have to paint it. 
Use a good turps based paint, and white is the preferred colour.

Painting the beehive. I used two coats.
Building the beehive - Stage 2

All that soaking and drying takes some time...so if you like you can use this time to build your frames. There's plenty of YouTube videos online to help you along the way. 

First you need to build all the frames. I have chosen a ten frame hive, so I had ten frames to build. Glue and nails worked perfectly for putting the four outside pieces together. 

Once you have all the timbers made into frames, you then need to wire them up, using stainless steel wire, which is supplied in your kit. I found a great tutorial video on YouTube that saved me loads of time.

Once you have all your frames wired up, then you place a sheet of wax in each frame. Weaving the wax sheet into 2 or more wires helps keep them in place. This wax and wire should be part of your initial kit.

With a battery charger you can also melt (gently) the wax to the wire. This doesn't take much time at all, and be careful you don't melt all the way through the wax, as it will cut it.

Clip one terminal from the battery charger on one end of the wire and quickly but gently strike the other end. This creates the heat needed to embed the wax to the wire. There are electric embedders out there on the market, but they are very expensive.

Using a battery charger to embed the wax to the wire.
Once you have all your frames built, wired and waxed you can then put them in the hive.
I've found it handy to number each frame, as you have something to refer to when making notes each time you enter the hive.


Store your hive indoors or in the shed until you get your bees, this will prevent a wild swarm taking over your fresh new hive. It's unlikely that this will happen, but prevention is better than cure. 

Some people collect bees this way, even adding a queen pheromone to the 'bait hive' to attract a swarm. But 'collecting' bees in this manner doesn't guarantee you of a disease free hive of bees. It's far better to buy your bees from a reputable beekeeper like Chris. 

It's important to decide exactly where your bees are going to be in your yard
Because once you place them, it's very difficult to move them and can take months. 
I was told that East Facing is particularly important too.
It's handy to know that you may have trouble with a Varroa Mite that likes to hide up in your hive. Apparently the bees toss the mite out of the hive every chance they get, but the mite just climbs back up into the hive. Nasty chemicals are often used to stop this from happening.

If I ever get mite in my hives...I have employed my chickens to help with this problem. 
I moved the chookpen fence in, but left a step or shelf for the hive to sit on. It sounds very complicated so a picture helps heaps. You will see from this photo that my chickens have access to beneath the hive. 

You can see here the view from the front of the hive which is accessed by the bees via the chicken pen. If any mite get into my hive, then are kicked out..the cycle wont repeat itself. Win Win for the bees, Win Win for the chickens...and Win Win for me too. Happy bees make more honey!

This photo was taken the morning I picked up my bees. (stay tuned)

Here you can see that I have complete access to the hive without entering the chicken pen. Everybody wins! 

I've been sprinkling a little bit of food there to 'train' them to look for goodies beneath the hive. If I ever get the hive beetle, and the bees toss them out, the chickens will gobble them up in a heartbeat. Ingenious! 

Say hello to Daffy scratching around near the hive. (the photo WAS taken after I introduced the bees)

It's all very exciting!....
Stay tuned for my next post .... Bringing Home the Bees!

14 comments:

  1. How good is that!?! We are also interested in beekeeping in a small way so I will watch out for your coming posts. Well done!

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    Replies
    1. It's awesome...(my new word for anything bee relate). We like that we are staying small for now. One day we might venture out onto another property, but this is perfect for getting to know your bees...One step at a time.

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  2. Good for you and good luck. You are doing well and it would have been nice to hear how you got your bees into the hive. I bet it would make an interesting story. I have been a beekeeper for 50+ years (now retired at 71) and could make a few suggestions. First of all you will need more than one box for your bees. The colony will grow very rapidly and soon fill the one box at which time you will need to put on a second box for honey storage. Whether you use a queen excluder to keep the queen from laying eggs (and then you get brood) in your honey combs is a matter of choice. Then you will need another box and probably yet another. Four boxes per hive is considered the minimum. I frequently had seven, 6 of which were full of honey. So if your hive is going to be 4 or more boxes high it will be very precarious balanced on that one concrete block. Better to have the hive stand lower so you can see into the top without a ladder and make it more sturdy.

    Another thing is those varroa mites. They are about the size of a pinhead and the bees don't throw them out - at least when they are alive. Occasionally they die and fall to the floor of the hive when maybe the bees will throw out the dead body. Chances are about 99.9% that your bees will get infected with the mites, but there are ways of dealing with them without using harsh chemicals.

    I have been mentoring two beginners this year and wish I could include a few photos.

    Don't give up.

    David

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    Replies
    1. Wow, thanks David for your lovely reply. What better feedback than from someone who has been doing it for so many years. I have already included my first super and a queen excluder. Your right about the hive being much higher when it is at its full height. I'll have to decide just how many to add. And maybe train my grown boys or husband to help if I need a ladder...hehe, good excuse to get them more involved really. If I was to have it just on the concrete pavers...could I still have it in the chicken pen, or would the chickens tend to feast on them too much... sounds silly hey. Interesting about the varoa mite, thanks because I was told that they kick them out...Maybe I assumed that they were the live ones as well...I'll have to ask. Thanks for the cheer on...and the lovely advice.
      I will be posting about bringing the bees home...and yes, it was an adventure...but no stings, so all went well.

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    2. When I was growing up my father also had bees and chickens in the same area. The hives were on 4 concrete blocks with a space underneath where the chickens used to love to dust themselves as it was always dry. And occasionally they laid their eggs under the hives too!! There is no problem of having bees and chickens together. I've never seen chickens trying to eat the bees as they come out of the hive and I've never seen the bees attack the chickens. So instead of having the hive on pavers, raise it one concrete block high - one block on each corner. This will make it easier on your back too.

      As for the honey boxes, you should be ready to put another box on as soon as the previous one is full of bees. It may have no honey yet, but remember when you are checking them during the day a large number of bees are out working and when they return they need somewhere to go. Being over crowded is one factor that influences swarming. As you are using all new foundation this year your bees will be a bit slower than next year when you have some drawn out combs. Put a couple of drawn combs from the lower box when you add the next so they are immediately encouraged to go into the new box. You don't want your hive to become plugged with honey such that the queen has nowhere to lay. If this happens, as the old bees die there are very few young replacement bees coming along and the hive gradually gets weaker and weaker. This is why it is best to add the next box when the previous one is full of bees, rather than full of honey.

      Probably enough for today….

      I have 400 books on beekeeping and want to sell them - any interest?

      Feel free to ask any questions - I love it.

      David

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    3. David my husband and I are interested in beekeeping and we are beginners. Would you have any books on beekeeping in South Australia please?

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    4. David, I'll be in the hive again in the next few days...so I'll see if the last few frames have been worked with comb, if they have would these be best to put up in the super, as there would be no brood in them. So far last week there was no activity on the last two frames in the brood box, but they are making their way.
      I'm interested in some of your books, but my budget it very limited, this is why I'm doing things in stages, instead of buying everything at once. Where do you live ?

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    5. Pigsmightfly: That's awesome that you are both interested. I'm very much a beginner too.
      The first place I would look is the Department of Primary Industries for your state. Here are a page of links from there...
      http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/biosecuritysa/animalhealth/other_animals/bees?SQ_DESIGN_NAME=printer_friendly

      there are also many great blogs or webpages regarding beekeeping. here are a few...

      http://www.naturalbeekeeping.com.au/naturalbeekeeping.html

      http://www.urbanhives.co.uk/index.html

      http://www.honeybee.com.au/beeinfo/links.html

      The South Australian Apiarists’ Association Inc http://www.saaa.org.au/

      http://beeinformed.org/

      and a personal favourite for me is http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

      Hope this helps, and remember, you don't have to take it all in at once....it's a journey.

      Delete
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