Fire season preparation and……

We have had such a long, cool spring in Perth that everything grew, and grew so much that for most of November we have had to slash, burn, mow, rake and that isn’t just the firebreaks! Although we haven’t had to do much watering because of the cool, wet weather, it is certainly warming up now so all the sprinkler systems have also been put in order.

In between all of this, we have had goslings, ducklings, chicks…. and a late lamb! There has also been a pesky fox, brazen as anything, hanging around in the daytime as well as night time so it is a constant juggling act to keep the animals safe but let them get out of their pens to roam. There is never nothing to do at McCarthy Park.

 

Horizontal hive update

We had a good look through the horizontal hive today, as there was finally a nice day and the time! The bees were a bit agitated, which was of some concern, but we proceeded to see what was going on.

Each side of the brood section was going quite well, though virtually no capped honey. There was plenty of comb being built and a fair amount of uncapped honey, so not too bad given the setbacks this hive have had. Of more concern was the bees agitation, which increased the longer we went.

In the brood section we only had chance to check out three frames, all of which had capped brood and larvae of varying stages. We couldn’t see the queen, but that isn’t surprising as we did need to close up – partly because the bees were agitated but mainly because our grandchildren arrived for the day and we didn’t want to annoy the bees any further as the hive is quite close to the house.

So, we will need to check again and see if there is a queen or any eggs, or maybe a queen cell. We have never replaced the queen of this hive, and given the changes it has undergone (from a wooden box to a topbar, then when that was smashed by a tree to a Langstroth, then to the horizontal), perhaps it is time.

Plenty of bees inside, and coming and going!

In the photo above you can see the original topbar comb in the centre, and he comb the bees have built either side to fill the Langstroth frame. This frame was pretty much full of capped brood.

 

Horizontal hive

Spring has arrived in Perth, and with it some (slightly) warmer weather, so the ideal time to transfer the Langstroth to the horizontal  hive. We decided to transfer from a different Langstroth, the one that used to be a Topbar but was smashed by a tree!

The move was very successful (but a bit too busy to take photos during the process). One of the benefits of the horizontal is that it is possible to open one lid at a time, and that was very beneficial for the transfer. We put some of the frames from the top super of the Langstroth straight in to either side. As they were WSP frames, each one was separated with a full depth (the horizontal is all full depth). When that was done each side was covered with the lid.

Then we opened the brood box and transferred the full depth frames straight into the centre of the horizontal (which has a queen excluder on either side). Most of the bees transferred in on the frames, and what was left in the boxes were shaken in. The centre lid was replaced, and all looked fine.

The bees were coming and going and using the new entrance very well! Once they have all settled, we will move the hive and stand slightly forward to be more central on the site.

Horizontal hive

Orange season again!

Last post was about how many lemons we had, and making Lemon and Mustard Seed Chutney- now it is oranges!

We gave our 30+ year old orange tree a good prune as it was getting very tall and overhanging the roof. Timing for pruning has always been difficult with this orange tree as it is always in fruit! As one lot of oranges are ready to harvest, so another lot are forming. We decided to just go for it as we had way too many oranges and the tree really needed a tidy.

After pruning we had so many oranges to give away and preserve.

plenty of oranges!

We gave away a couple of baskets, and made some more of our delicious Orange Brandy Liqueur, which always is well received at Christmas time!

orange brandy liqueur in progress

There will be more of that to come, plus maybe some Orange Chutney……….

orange tree AFTER pruning!

Last month was pruning time for our orchard, and now the plums and nectarines are starting to flower! Hopefully we get lots of delicious fruit again this year!

plum tree in flower

And just to update on the bee hive move- it is going really well! Thank goodness, because it has been very cold and windy in Perth since we did the move. Today was lovely and sunny and we saw plenty of coming and going and also plenty of pollen coming into the hive. Phew!

pollen coming into the hive- a good sign!

 

Eagles and foxes!

Well, if it isn’t one predator it is another!

One morning at 7am after letting all the poultry out for the day, we saw a fox checking them out. It was daylight, though only just at this time of the year. Needless to say we were not happy.

Next day, there were two eagles perched in a tree overlooking the wandering poultry! Now they are a predator too, and we have certainly seen them take our poultry in the past….. but……. they are a native Australian bird, indigenous to this area…… and so majestic! So of course the camera comes out, and numerous photos taken.

A pair of eagles watching the poultry

 

Needless to say, in the last two weeks since seeing the fox and the eagles, we have lost two geese and two turkeys, and everyone now needs to stay locked up in their pens for their safety!

Passionfruit, limes and chillies!

The warm Perth autumn weather has been great for growing (not so good for filling the dams though!). We have had (and are still having) bumper crops, particularly passionfruit, limes, chillies and lemons.

yellow passionfruit, limes and lemons

Today has included some preserving- freezing loads of passionfruit pulp to use later, freezing lime and lemon wedges (great fro add to a refreshing drink, especially those with gin in them!), making lime and chilli pickle, and salted chilli (great for a quick add to a meal without having to cut up chillies each time.

Love these chillies, there is always an amazing amount!

We usually make a delicious sweet chilli sauce, but with over 20 bottles already in the produce room it is time for something different! This is a really easy recipe- just chop up 500 grams fresh red chillies (I use the Thermomix), then add 60 grams salt and mix thoroughly. Put into sterilised jars and add another 15 grams of salt on top, then store in a cool place for a couple of weeks, then the fridge to use. This fills two 300ml jars.

Chopped chillies and salt, ready to jar- it is quite pungent!

After searching for something different to make with our limes, I decided to make a lime pickle next weekend as it needs more preparation time. Today was this really simple lime pickle– just wedges of lime, julienned ginger and chopped green chillies, in layers with a teaspoon of salt on top of each layer (3 in total). Once all that is done, just add the juice of one lime, add the lid and give it a good shake. Shake three times a day for 3 or 4 days. It looks delicious and we can’t wait to try it!

Lime pickle

All in all a fruitful day!

 

New top bar hive

We had been hoping for a swarm to repopulate our now repaired top bar hive but it was getting too late in the season to find one that would be strong enough for the coming winter. So, we managed to buy a top bar hive that a fellow beekeeper had started as a nuc (short for nucleus) but it had grown far too big and strong.

Although her bars were slightly longer, the main issue was that the shape was different and it would involve cutting the comb to fit into our top bar hive. We planned and prepared in advance, knowing it would be messy and there would be some losses.

Suited up, table cleared of all but the tools, and ready to go

As expected, it was a messy job with lots of bee losses from the flowing honey, but overall we were happy with the result. We used the follower board from our top bar hive as the template to cut the comb on the bought top bars to the same size. This proved to be more complicated than we thought because long thin dowels had been inserted into the bars, and these needed to be cut off as well as the comb cut.

Dowels each side of the bar

Where we had originally thought we would hang the bar and cut vertically, the dowel proved too difficult and we lost a fair bit of comb this way, so they we used the follower board as a horizontal support as well as the template and had much more success. After brushing or smoking off as many bees as we could, the bar of comb was laid onto the follower board and trimmed to size.

Cutting the comb to the size of our follower board

The cut offs dropped into the basket and honey oozed down into the tub, which gave more bees the chance to get away rather than being trapped in the wax/honey mess.

After trimming the comb to size, we used a Ryobi multi tool to cut off the dowel, which proved to be the smoothes and quickest way. The bar of comb was then placed into our top bar hive.

Most of the bars in situ

An extra piece of wood was placed on the floor of the hive just in front of the entrance as there was so much honey (leaking from the cut comb) on the floor of the hive that bees couldn’t get in the entrance without getting stuck in honey.

There were bees everywhere- in our top bar, all over the cut off comb, and all inside the bought top bar.

Almost done

We were fortunate enough to see the queen, and made sure she was safely transferred to our top bar. When the job was complete, we packed away all the tools but decided to leave the tubs of comb cut offs which were completely covered in bees in the hope that most would make their way into the hive at dark.

The next morning, the tubs were removed, and there was some coming and going from the hive entrance, and lots of orienting bees. Fingers crossed it is a successful transfer!

It is great to have the top bar back again, to add to the Langstroth and Warre in the same area. Soon our horizontal hive will be completed and our other Langstroth will be transferred to it. this should be a much smoother transfer as the frames are interchangeable!

 

Bee success!

Our transfer of bees from the top bar hive that was damaged, to a Langstroth, was very successful! We had obviously managed to save the queen even though we couldn’t see her, and she has been laying well. The worker bees have made repairs and strengthened the comb that was attached to the frames, as well as built comb to fill in empty frames.

Top bar comb secured to Langstroth frame

We are certainly happy about the success! Even better, the top bar turned out to be salvageable, so that is now back together awaiting some bees which we hope to pick up in the next couple of weeks. Our plans for a ‘long Lang’ or horizontal hive are also in progress- our plan here is to move the frames from our original Langstroth into it to make it easier to manage (no lifting heavy boxes).

Native insects galore!

Over the last couple of years we have noticed a lot more native insects such as the leaf cutter bee. This summer has been unusual weather in Perth (currently it is cool and pouring with rain….. in January!), but we have seen (or maybe just noticed) so many insects.  Here are just a few:

The Blue Banded Bees are out in force at the moment, and love the purple morning glory flowers.

Blue Banded Bee -Amegilla (not sure which one)

These little sweat bees are tiny! The males congregate on the end of a dead twig to roost at night, and then leave in the morning to find females, coming back to the same spot to roost.

Lipotriches flavoviridis

Lipotriches flavoviridis

Quite a few different bees and wasps are using the bee hotels (and holes drilled in the veranda rails!).

Different types of bees use different material to seal their nests.

Masked bees- Hylaeus nesting in wood.

And then there are those who have made homes in the clay blocks. There are a couple of different types here, the Hylaeus that uses a cellophane type material to seal its nest, and the Hylaeus nubilosis that nests in clay (often the abandoned nests of potter wasps or mud daubers. This one used the clay from the area around the hole to seal its nest. This series of photos shows top left- 4/12/17; top right- 15/12/17; bottom right 27/12/17 and bottom left with the hole sealed)-28/12/17.

Masked bee- Hylaeus nubilosis

And of course there are some who will just find anywhere!

A Hylaeus has used and sealed the holes in the handle of a whipper snipper!

It isn’t all about bees! There are lots of other interesting insects around:

Hoverfly

Wasps nesting, possibly Flower Wasps of some sort

Close up of roosting wasps

Orange Potter Wasp

Braconid Wasp (White Flank Black Braconid)

Christmas spider

Leaf cutter -Megachile

Daddy Long Legs Spider nest

Small wasp using the bee hotel

Ant Lion Lacewing

 

Anyone for champagne?

The elderflowers are flowering like crazy at the moment, so it is time to make elderflower champagne! It is really easy to make, and tastes delicious! Also there was plenty of rhubarb in the garden so made a batch of rhubarb champagne at the same time. It looks so lovely and pink, can’t wait to try it! Every day we have to release a little bit of air from the bottles until the fermentation slows down, then the lids get tightened and it is nearly ready-yum!

Elderflower champagne on the left, and rhubarb champagne on the right