One of my sayings …..The land itself must define its use….is very applicable when it comes to bees.
It’s extra important to leave enough honey and pollen for the bees to get through the tough times.
Judging honey quality with a point score system evaluates:
June 2016 - Meeting of the Beekeepers
Had a fantastic day with the Hunter Valley Amateur Beekeepers, Liane Colwell and Bruce White learning how to show and taste honey for competitions.
This contraption was used to test our honey accurately for colour.
Cleaning out the honey shed may not be fun but there’s something very satisfying about having the shed in tip top shape in preparation for spring. The problem is there’s not enough room for everything.
Phillip has been helping make all the extra boxes and frames…..
"What a season!” You can hear me shouting from the apiary. It started back in late winter when the Euc. albens (white box) put on a remarkable show. Then all the ground flora came out. And now the Euc. melliodora is showing off.
The bees have been remarkably busy.
This year we have a small supply of honey. Made, via bees from our ironbark trees, angophora, and all the flowers across the farm. The honey is dark in colour but lovely and thick.
Straight from the hive…..to you.
I've been a registered beekeeper for years. It began as a hobby and only after lots of requests did we start to sell some of the honey. We never have much to sell because the bees are kept in a permanent place on the farm and are never fed sugar. Most commercial beekeepers move their bees to wherever the honey flow is and then feed sugar, protein blocks and pollen to support them when times are tough.
Roger's daughter Lucy, samples Phillip's Paddington special
....eventually after some skylarking, in a delightful cup of tea with sister Molly.
Spring is exciting in the apiary.
I’ve just split some bee hives- to make new ones.
And this week the new Queens arrived by post.
Looking for the queen in a hive is one of the fun jobs, but for people like me who wear glasses …..it’s often quite a challenge. It always makes my day seeing a queen glide effortlessly across a frame.
Here’s some beautiful frames of freshly capped honey we’re about to extract
See here the bees enjoying euphorbia, the bush lemon tree which is full of fruit and flowering on the patio
and paulownias .
I always leave a lot of honey for the bees so they're not stressed.
We never use any chemicals. This comes as a surprise to many people but chemicals are used by most commercial beekeepers to manage fungal and insect problems.
All our honey is extracted by Phillip and me. It's one of our favourite jobs on the farm. No heat is used and it's strained with a mesh filter (just in case there's a bee wing in there.) Every batch is different because every honey flow is different.
Here you can see worker bees on top of the queen excluder.
Bees collect nectar from flowers and pollen. The pollen has the protein the bees need to grow.
The bees love the overripe figs at the start of Autumn, especially when there’s a lull in nectar elsewhere.
July 2012 Honey in the Post.
After a couple of tips from Origami master Roger, his daughter Molly and “bestie” Ashlee got to work on preparing and packing the boxes – thanks Girls – we’re pretty confident the Honey in their glass jars will make it through the post !
An Extract from My book
Ten Thousand Acres
When I was a little girl I’d see one or two bee swarms every spring. Thousands of them miraculously suspended by a thread in a backyard tree. Humming, thrumming, threatening. My friends and I would play a game, daring each other to prod the swarm with a stick, or, even better, to swipe the swarm and make it chase us. Screaming with fear and excitement, we’d run as fast as we could, the bees – so we believed – pursuing us. I can remember being in a cloud of them, but strangely cannot recall being stung.
Yet there was the time I stood on a single bee while hanging clothes on the line and my foot swelled immediately. It wouldn’t fit in a shoe for days, and it itched for weeks.
These days I treat honey bees with greater respect. We bought our first hive after a weekend bee course, and for the past fifteen years we’ve been harvesting honey. Hundreds and hundreds of kilograms of molten gold. Despite a deepening fascination with the life of the hive, I cannot claim to know bees much better. I’m familiar with individual cattle in the herd, their personality traits, but our bees remain anonymous, the hive enigmatic.
Most of our hives are in front of the house, near the olive grove, where I can keep an eye on the comings and goings, observe the degree of busyness and the quantity of pollen on the bees’ legs. Every few weeks I fill the smoker with dry eucalyptus bark, get it smouldering, and huff and puff at the hives, carefully opening the lids and lifting the frames to see what’s happening. Who needs Tolkien when you have a magical, mysterious beehive?
I’ve arranged the hives so that the bottom box is for breeding and the top for harvesting. The queen, - the only true female - in a process called parthenogenesis, produces regiments of drones - the only true males. The queen takes a few flights from home to copulate with some of the drones, killing them in the act and returning with their severed sexual organs attached to her like trophies. Her Majesty then spends the rest of her life laying fertile eggs which, depending on the way they’re fed, produce either workers or queens.
During summer, the hive is a labour ward, full of bees being born. Having wriggled from their cells, they immediately set to work, taking wax from their stomachs and massaging it with their legs until it’s soft enough to make new cells, the hexagons of the honeycomb.
Older bees shuttle to and from the hive delivering nectar, a watery, sugary solution whose character varies according to its floral source. Crouching by the hive, watching the bees through my visor, I see the old bees kissing the new bees – but actually they’re transferring nectar. The young ones then spit it into their wax cells, where enzymes from their salivary glands thicken it while they energetically flap their wings to change the moisture level. When the right consistency is achieved you’ve got honey.
Bees are endlessly foraging, guarding, cleaning their home and each other. A single bee can visit a thousand flowers a day. Having made a discovery, it will do a little dance to show the others where they’ve been. Remarkably, during a lifetime of five or six weeks, involving visits to as many as forty thousand flowers, one bee may produce a single teaspoon of honey. So every mouthful should be savoured.
Honey is mostly sugar, water and hard work, with traces of minerals, vitamins, proteins, acids, enzymes, alcohols and esters. Volatile aromas give honey the smell of the flowers of their origin.