It has been great to have some free time over the Christmas break to wander around our block with camera in hand. Here are just a few photos of what we have seen this past week or so……
It is so important not to just work, work, work- even though there is never ‘nothing to do’! Sometimes, it is great to just wander around the garden, camera in hand or not, and see what there is to see. This Painted Jezebel kept hanging around the mistletoe on one of our wattles. After watching it for a while, it settled in laid eggs! It was fascinating to watch, and a really good reminder to just enjoy the moment.
There are a few different native bees around too, especially now the weather is warming up. They like the old nail holes in wooden beams!
We have seen a few different types of case moth- this is the latest:
And of course there are always those we see with no camera at hand- like the Blue Banded Bee. One day we will get a nice photo of it!
Here in Perth, we have had an incredibly slow, cold, wet start to spring…….. but yesterday was a beautiful spring day, and the day one of our hives swarmed. The weather had been so awful, we hadn’t managed to check the hives for a couple of weeks, and we still don’t know which of our three hives may have swarmed (all look full and active).
After some discussion, we decided we would keep it, but locate it down near the orchard and ‘dam’ rather than near the house like the others. We had a spare super, lid and plenty of frames so we just bought a bottom board and we were ready to go!
We placed a white sheet under the swarm, climbed the ladder and trimmed the branches around it. It was good to have the white sheet down as quite a few bees dropped in the process. There were two main ‘clumps’ of bees which we carefully placed in the hive box, with four centre frames removed. When we felt we had as many as we could, we did a quick shake and placed the lid on, then wrapped up the bees on the white sheet, and took the hive (in a wheelbarrow) to the area we had chosen.
It all worked well, fingers crossed the bees like their new home and stay there!
Having recently changed the kitchen hive to a Warre we have been keeping a close eye on it especially getting into our winter. A check last week revealed condensation inside the hive, and a little bit of mould and mildew. A quick google search revealed that a little bit of mould or mildew is not a huge problem as the bees will clean it up, if they are all fit and healthy. The problem though, is the condensation which causes it in the first place.
We realised that where the hive is it doesn’t get a lot of sun or air circulation. The Langstroth seemed to cope ok, but perhaps the different set up of the Warre makes it more susceptible. Anyway, this discovery led us to look for a different location and a way of moving the hive. There is a lot of information now on moving a hive, without the need to stick to the old ‘less than a metre or more than 3 kilometres’ rule, so we chose a spot about 100metres away, not far from the Topbar hive where the Warre can face ENE and get a good amount of winter sun to help dry it out, we hope!
After dark, the hive entrance was covered with mesh to allow for ventilation but no bees, and the hive was strapped to keep all the boxes in place. Next morning we loaded the hive onto a trolley and moved to its new, prepared location.
Once in position, we put some leaves near the entrance, as this obstacle apparently makes the bees more likely to reorient and slow down their exit (they are less likely to be on ‘auto pilot’ and return to the old location by mistake).
Also to help their reorientation we kept them in for 3 days- apparently they can ‘forget’ their previous orientation.
After three days, we opened up the entrance, made sure the leaves were in front as an obstacle, and watched the bees pour out! Sure enough, they crawled out and circled above the entrance (a sign they are reorienting).
Unfortunately there were a lot of dead bees too, but we hoped that ultimately the hive was better off for the move. Soon we saw lots of bees circling the old location near the kitchen window, looking for the hive, but within an hour or so they had gone, we hoped back to their new home.
Subsequent days there were more bees flying in the old location, but again only for a short time, hopefully they returned safely. The Warre is getting some lovely winter sun and hopefully drying out. In another day or so we will check it out and see how it is going. If necessary due to a loss of bees we can take the top box off and reduce the size. Fingers crossed!!
A while ago we posted about changing the kitchen Langstroth hive over to a Warre, well we have now finished the conversion. It took a little while because the brood were in Langstroth super, and we wanted to wait a while until the queen had moved down into a Warre super below…. well, she finally did and we felt we could remove the now superfluous Langstroth super.
Because there was still some brood in the Langstroth however, we decided to cut it off the frames and attach it to some of the Warre frames- we really didn’t want to destroy what brood remained in there.
So, with knife in hand, we cut out just the right size and using elastic bands placed the brood comb into the Warre frames.
The final steps in the conversion went smoothly, and it wasn’t long before the bees got to work and secured the comb, removing the elastic bands from the hive!
The Warre hive is now complete and looking healthy.
We have so much honey, and a lot of it crystallised, so we decided to try Sandor Katz T’ej (Ethiopian style honey wine) as described in his book ‘Wild Fermentation’. It is delicious, and so very easy to make! It has helped put the crystallised honey to good use- we just warmed it enough to liquify before mixing with the water.
We have read quite a lot about the different styles of hives and which may be best for the bees. We decided we would experiment! The box of bees was getting really full so we decided to have a Topbar hive made for this area.
We cut the comb from the box, getting as much as we could-especially comb with brood.
This was cable tied to the top bars.
When we had as much as we could, we replaced the Topbar hive in the same position and direction as the box, closed it up and left it for a week. A week later, a few of the bits of comb had fallen off and were removed, but the bees had strengthened several others and even started creating their own fresh comb!
The bee numbers looked really healthy, especially given the numbers that were lost in the process of transferring from the box to the Topbar.
The bees are coming and going very happily!
Well, the hives are going well. We decided to re-queen both hives- we had read a lot of advice on re-queening annually, plus with the billabong hive still behaving aggressively we decided that replacing the queen was the only option. Never having done it before, we did some research and found it surprisingly easy. The hardest part was finding the old queens and removing them!
After re-queening, we left the hive for 10 days and then checked, and sure enough the billabong hive was calmer already, so we knew we had done the right thing. With the weather getting cooler, it was also time to reduce the number of supers again. We had already removed one super from each of the kitchen and billabong hives, and harvested heaps of honey, and we now reduced them further. For winter, each hive has the brood box and one super, which is more than half full of honey. We will keep an eye on them but hopefully this will keep them going over winter. Mind you, it has been amazingly mild so far and the bees are continuing to bring in pollen at a great rate!
Well, it certainly has been a hot Perth summer, but autumn has finally arrived and with the cooler weather the plants are recovering. We have loads of pears, guava, citrus and apples growing at the moment. This is the first year we have been able to pick guava, and they are delicious!
We also have had a huge amount of honey from our busy bees- the shelves were full of jars of honey and we did another harvest a couple of weeks ago. This is a 20 litre bucket!
Our olive trees have also fruited this year, much better than the dozen or so olives we harvested last year!! Enough to fill a couple of 2 litre jars. These are soaking in water, changed daily for 2 weeks. Next comes the brine solution which they will sit in for a year- such a long wait!
Well, most of Perth stayed indoors as much as possible today, with the temperature reaching 44.4C…….that is 112F for those overseas! We knew some heat was coming (plus it is summer after all and we do what we can to prepare for the heat…and bushfire season. We had put up shade cloth over the aquaponics grow beds, and the duck pen, and thank goodness we did that before today.
Late yesterday we gave everything a good deep watering in anticipation of the 41C forecast for today. As the temperature soared we turned on some sprinklers to give the birds some relief, and freshened up the water baths (check out the handy hints page) we have around the place.
We also put on the ‘overhead’ sprinklers. We have these on the house in case of a bushfire, but it also helps to cool down the house (we have a tin roof); and we also have them on the rabbit house, again for both reasons. The rabbits had their two litre bottles of ice (also mentioned in handy hints) this morning, and then a new one at 3.00 to help them out some more.
The poor turkeys are hot, as they recently had young and they are too small to let out along with the ducks, geese and poultry. We turned on the sprinkler for them too, and this helped cool them down.