McCarthy Park Bee ‘n’ Bee- Bee Hotel

It is generally suggested that providing homes for native solitary bees like this helps nature as so much of their natural environment is being removed. Bee hotels also provide the opportunity to observe our native bees more closely- some are so small we don’t even give them a glance and often think they are flies. Native bees and wasps are also valuable pollinators, and there are thoughts that the introduced honey bee may take over most of their food source so there are moves to increase community awareness about them.

There is also an argument against using ‘made’ bee hotels- mainly because they bring together various species that may not usually reside in such close vicinity, and with that there is the potential for disease to spread. It also provides easy access for parasitic wasps such as the gasteruptiid wasp which lays it eggs in the nests of solitary bees, with their larvae feasting on the host eggs and food supply provided by the native bee.

We have had various ‘bee hotels’ around the place for a few years, but they have tended to be hastily put together so not very neat (although they were certainly functional with many native bees and some small wasps taking up residence!). On our property there are also an abundance of natural homes such as holes in tree stumps, reeds, bamboo etc. We decided however to provide a more attractive (to us) bee hotel in a better location so we could observe more closely, so the McCarthy Park Bee ‘n’ Bee was created on the front veranda using an old cupboard.

McCarthy Park Bee ‘n’ Bee

So far it has proved a success, with resin bees (Megachile) and masked bees (Hylaeus), and some small solitary wasps taking up residence (even while the hotel was still being finished!).

Hylaeus nubilosis in its nest in a clay hole

Small wasp perhaps closing its nest in a block of wood

A Hylaeus and another bee close by

Hylaeus using bits of wood detritus to seal its nest


Topbar hive harvest

We had the best harvest from our Topbar hive yet! After some trial and error that always seemed to result in too many bees dying, yesterday we perfected (we think and hope) our technique.

In our previous harvest, when we tried to remove the bars of comb, the comb broke leaving a sticky mass at the bottom of the hive along with lots of bees, which then had to be removed by hand. It was quite upsetting to cause so much destruction and we knew there had to be a better way. We had tried using a knife to separate the comb from the side of the hive  as it is always stuck, but there just wasn’t room to manoeuvre. We realised we hadn’t left enough working room by having all the bars within the follower boards.

As it was April and getting cooler and our aim in that previous harvest was to reduce the hive size ready for winter, we removed all comb from four bars and placed them outside the follower board at one end of the Topbar hive. Between the follower boards we made sure there was still some comb being drawn, and a couple of empty bars so the bees had space to add more comb and honey. We also hoped this would give us the working room we needed next time to slide the knife in to separate the comb from the sides of the hive.

And so it did. Yesterday’s harvest was the most successful yet in terms of the least damage to the bees (which was our main aim) and the least mess. Instead of a knife we used angled stainless steel cake icing blades, and they were just perfect for loosening the comb from the sides of the hive.

Using the cake icing blade to loosen the comb from the side of the hive

These angled blades and having the extra space made all the difference. We had bought three different sizes, and they each were useful at different times.

Angled cake icing blades

Opening the hive and removing the empty bars and follower board, we could easily use the icing blades to separate the comb from the sides with minimal disruption to the bees. The hive tool was used to separate each bar from the one next to it, and then it was easy to lift out the beautifully built comb.

Beautiful, whole comb removed cleanly from the Topbar

The bees were gently brushed off and the comb cut from the bar with a knife into a tub. The bars to be replaced inside the follower boards were left with 3-4 cm of comb, those to go outside the follower boards were left completely clean. All with no apparent distress to the bees- thank goodness!

Cutting the comb into the tub

When completed, we made sure that there were two to four empty bars at each end, then the follower boards, then a partially filled or empty bar (each end). Then we closed up the hive and walked away feeling much better than after the previous harvest!

Home made

It is great when we have an abundance, whether it is honey, vegetables, fruit, beeswax………….. there is always something wonderful to make to preserve the excess! The shelves are looking full again currently, after giving away considerable amounts to family and friends as Christmas presents. It is great to just be able to head to the produce room and select a chutney, herbed oil, home remedy, jar of honey, or what ever is needed, and it is so rewarding to make it in the first place!

full shelves in the produce room

Bees ……

We had such a great harvest in March, from both hives, but then left it too long before checking them again. One month later the ‘billabong hive’ had turned quite aggressive, with both of us getting stung through our suits. On checking the brood box, we found queen cells, no sign of a queen, and no sign of brood either. We did only check the 6 centre frames but by then really needed to close up the hive as we were getting seriously attacked! The frames looked pretty empty, apart from some that had plenty of pollen and money in them.

Pollen and honey but no brood

Pollen and honey but no brood

So, stings treated and up to the kitchen hive to check. This hive was looking better, so we removed a frame of brood (getting stung for our trouble again!) and went back to the billabong hive to replace an empty frame.

The following weekend we checked it out, and found at least one other frames (as well as the one we added) with brood, o there must have been a queen already from one of the queen cells, and she had just started laying! Hopefully disaster averted. Time to check again this week…………

Honey harvest!

Well in the space of a month there is honey to harvest! The weather has been unpredictable so we only took two frames from each hive, but the bees look busy and healthy. It was fascinating to see the different honey from each hive- the ‘kitchen hive’ produced a slightly paler honey than the ‘billabong hive’, though each hive gave us a good 3 litres just from the two frames.

Because the bees were so healthy and obviously all was well, a week later we also added a super to each hive. This time we are going for WSP supers and frames as they are a bit lighter (because they aren’t as deep). A full super of honey gets quite heavy to lift off, so this should make it a little more manageable!


Latest McCarthy Park update….

Everything is really growing at the moment- we have had a fair bit of rain but lately the days have been quite mild- perfect growing conditions! The orchard has really taken off in the last couple of years, we have had ample mandarins and it looks like a good crop of nectarines and plums again this year.

Bees pollinating the nectarine

Bees pollinating the nectarine

After the bushfire a couple of years ago, the bush is growing back. Though many species have completely gone as they were burnt too severely, other plants really regenerate after a bushfire. Most of the balga (grass trees) have grown back and quite a few are now flowering, lots of gum trees have self sown, and the prickly moses (a type of acacia), has come back with a vengeance (they really are prickly).

Prickly Moses

Prickly Moses

Running postman (Kennedia prostrata)

Running postman (Kennedia prostrata)



The almost spring weather is also shown in the animals activity around! There are lots of birds around making nests, particularly the wild ducks.

You looking' at me?

You looking’ at me?

The turkeys are nesting in their nice ‘bush’ nest (though safely in their pen!) too, though two on the same nest!

Sharing a nest

Sharing a nest

Growing season!

Apart from a few extra hot days here near Perth, the weather has been great for the garden and animals alike, and everything is in abundance!

We have had a great supply of nectarines and plums…

One day's harvest of nectarines!

One day’s harvest of nectarines!

We have had a successful hatching of ducklings by one of our Australorp hens….

Mother hen and her ducklings!

Mother hen and her ducklings!

We also had a successful hatching of duckings from a mother duck!



And finally…a check on hive number two showed all is well so far, with lots of beautiful coloured pollen and plenty of brood…

Lots of colourful pollen

Lots of colourful pollen




Ideal growing weather!

After the continuous heat of a Perth summer, we are now enjoying ideal growing conditions! We have had a bit of rain, plenty of sunshine, and reasonable temperatures, so everything is growing well. The herb garden is looking great- partly due to the weather and partly due to attaching a sprinkler to the top of a windmill stand so they could be cooled down more easily.

Herb garden

Herb garden

Herb garden

Herb garden with sprinkler on top of the windmill stand!

This area has been so successful, our next ‘project’ (there is never nothing to do!) is to bring the pumpkin palace and two large raised beds to this area too. This is for a number of reasons-the raised beds are certainly successful; being near the back door is also beneficial; the area currently being used will revert to a ‘clucker tucker’ (poultry food) area for the poultry to get a good source of greens without damaging the paddocks too much; and concentrating the vegetable growing areas really just makes managing it all much easier!

Also growing particularly well are the bananas in the atrium! It will be interesting to see how they go over winter, as it does get quite chilly in there, but they have grown amazingly over summer!

Bananas in the atrium (glass roofed entrance)

Bananas in the atrium (glass roofed entrance)


Pumpkin Palace!

How to grow LOTS of pumpkin in one remaining vegetable garden bed??? Construct ‘Pumpkin Palace’ to grow them UP instead of on the ground! So far, it is looking great, with pumpkin, okra, vegetable spaghetti, cucumber…..and probably more…..growing up the structure, with sweetcorn and beans growing underneath.

Pumpkin Palace

Hello trout!

In not too long at all, we finished preparing for the aquaponic system…….

Spa moved, ground being prepared for the system

Once we had finished all the ground work- a retaining wall (two in fact), about 100 slabs, lifting and relaying pavers, moving the biofilter…..the system was set up by Backyard Aquaponics ….

All set up, ready for fish and veggies

Then we had a trip to buy some fish, deciding on 50 trout, which struggled a bit on the trip but revived once in the tank. Of course, most projects have setbacks– and this one did too!! We lost 20 fish overnight as they tend to leap high into the air…and clean out of the tank! This resulted in another trip for more fish, and a net to cover the fish tank, something we should have thought of in the first place!

Trout safely under their net

Planting the grow beds