" Bee Sign Posts"
As a family of commercial beekeepers in the South Australian beekeeping industry since 1972 we often get asked to share stories and perspectives on topics . This section of the website is designed to sit down with a cup of coffee or a beer and develop your own opinion as you read - As Marty says " Its no good in your head when you are dead hence “Bee Sign Posts “ contains a mix of beekeeping topics of both experience and opinion pieces as an informal information blog. Enjoy !!
B#017 ~ FEBRUARY 2019
Call of the cool autumn - This week = rainbows / nectar feeding bird activity / hatching wanderer butterflies looking for milk weed / rolling mist / skud showers / balmy days / diminished variant between low and high temps collectively leave us grateful to God for the sign posts that are there to read. Every season has its own sign posts to read in addition to reading the bees.
The issue of “beekeeping etiquette” again raised itself over summer and now coming into autumn - presumption coupled with arrogance do not sit well with me. Identifying and managing risk is an important facet of all commercial business and without an annual risk assessment all beekeeping operations are venerable . It raises the question what is the critical sustainable number of commercial beekeepers in SA ?. or more importantly how many commercial loads of bees can existing forage sources in SA support ?. In short, my opinion is :- in good years commercial load numbers are at capacity . In a harsh erratic season such as this one the state is in the main “over stocked”. Much of the native remnant vegetation across SA is held by state or federal government and access is not granted for beekeepers. Whilst there is an ever increasing demand for bees for pollination, that is only for the 4-6 week flowering period of any one crop, what happens to the bees for the other 10-11 months of the year?. Therein lies the dilemma as existing beekeepers increase their load numbers alongside new entries into the industry. The unwritten code of beekeeping etiquette is inclusive not exclusive and is a long held tradition across SA since the 1800’s - it is as relevant today as it was at the turn of both centuries into the 1900’s and the 2000’s. - Some bee sites may not have been used for 5 or 6 years due to conditions, however , never assume vacant tenure.
Just saw an amazing sight in our neighbors yard. - a flock of 10 rainbow bee eaters wheeling low around a young flowering/ yielding red gum, plucking fat juicy nectar filled bees out of the air. Buffeted by 40km winds. Amazing arial spectacle. The sound is always distinctive - Love those birds.
B#016 ~ FEBRUARY 2019
Understanding conditions - Have had a few phone calls over the past couple of weeks asking for queens !!!! In addition to the lament of dead bees.!!!! Whilst dead queens/ bees may seem simple and straight forward - my question is why? . Why are there reports alleging “ high percentages” of hive mortality due to heat and why re-queen in summer under stressful conditions?. Further investigation of reports reveals in actual fact whilst all bee colonies are affected to some degree by heat , total demise of colonies specifically mainly occurred in “ caught swarm” colonies of supercedure and secondary swarming origins and or colonies that had been split in late spring into either singles or neucs and as such were unable to thermoregulate due to the limited critical mass of the colony and their inability to build up quickly as a result of poor conditions. Another interesting point was full width hive entrance in weak colonies caused additional hive stress ( akin to leaving your doors and windows open in a heat wave). Extra unwarranted supers on hives in heat also cause more stress on bees . In short bee deaths YES ( due to beekeeper practices) High percentage producing hive loss due to heat NO. NB - a weak colony does not constitute a producing hive. Weak colonies need to be fed both carbohydrate as well as good quality protein. A green drought can be heart breaking when the flowers are there but the nectar and pollen is not. It is critical under these conditions that you know the protein status of your hive including:- stored pollen values / available forage pollen/ supplied pollen. Protein malnutrition in bees affects the ability of your bees to collect available nectar.
All beekeepers have access to over 100 years of BOM data including temperature and rainfall. This data coupled with the 3 monthly and long range forecast outlooks already indicated at the end of winter what the spring / summer weather pattern would be. The important information is for all beekeepers Australia wise to understand their “local” conditions. All farming is legalized gambling and it is no different with beekeeping however, forecasts for summer 2018/19 gave clear indicators that splitting off neucs or putting in queens over summer in South Australia would not be optimal as conditions would not be favorable to do so.
Being proactive in beekeeping ensures your operation is able to be flexible enough to absorb changing climatic conditions and it is important to acknowledge micro environment variations can occur within several kms of each other. Understand the environment you are working in at each of your bee sites and sometimes it is more prudent to leave your bees as thriving colonies rather than split in unfavorable conditions. Never re- queen unless you have 6-8 weeks of good conditions ahead. If you have weak colonies consider uniting them until conditions are favorable for splits ( whilst maintaining a load for load barrier system)
B#015 ~ JANUARY 2019
Jan 24th 2019 ~ 48.4C = 119.12 F - in the shade at our house in the Southern Flinders Ranges @ 16.45hrs ~ over 55C in the shed ~ yup thats warm !!!! Heat temperature record highs around South Australia today. Heat will always have stress effect on bees but hive meltdowns and expired hives are attributed to the hives inability to thermo regulate which will be the case in necus and weakened hives. Remembering we are talking about european bees in the Australian environment in the driest state on the driest continent coupled with Port Augusta SA just up the road from us being the hottest place on earth @51C Jan 24th.at 4.44pm. - no amount of water,shade or styrofoam boxes will prevent the demise of a colony with so few bees it can’t thermoregulate. Likely there will be a high casualty rate amongst recreational beekeepers during the heat for several reasons- #1 environmental = drought followed by green drought ( flowers with no nectar or pollen yield) followed by erratic and prolonged heat spikes. #2 Many recreational beekeepers start their beekeeping journeys with a caught swarm - whilst primary swarms with a vigorous young queen in the spring may have the ability to breed up if forage conditions are good and build a strong colony by summer this is often not the case with secondary and supercedure swarms. Secondary and supercedure swarms are natures way of kicking out the inferior bees in the colony = old workers and an old, damaged or inferior queen - whilst these are fun to play with and are a great learning experience , the likelihood of them building up sufficient strength in numbers and vigor to survive the erratic summer challenges in SA is unlikely - if they do survive the summer stress they are unlikely to recover enough in time over autumn and will expire over the winter period. Unfortunately “ saving the bees” however well meaning is sometimes a concept that conflicts head-on with nature. The strength of a bee colony is a crucial element of survival in our state of South Australia which can and often does have 4 seasons in one day.
Feeding Beekeepers , Bee Supporters & Honey Ice-Cream lovers . New Look packaging January 2019 ~ Same yummy Golden North Honey Icecream. Love the New Look !!!! Thank-you to all you “Golden North honey ice-cream lovers” - Every time you have a mouthful we say “Thank You” for supporting jobs in the Southern Flinders region of South Australia & “Thank You” for supporting our local South Australian family beekeeping business in LAURA.
Golden North Honey Cream is the real deal ~ REAL CREAM & REAL HONEY 100% South Australian - further product details www.goldennorth.com.au available in supermarkets across Australia . A great way to beat the heat wave is grab a spoon and a tub of Golden North Honey Ice-Cream. (Don’t forget to share !!!!!!)
B#014 ~ DECEMBER 2018
Drought followed by Green Drought - Like many whom make their income from the land, beekeepers are no exception. Drought evidence was indicated by the lack of floral source after irrigated lucerne had finished at the end of January this year and confirmed as successive floral sources failed to yield either pollen, nectar or both through out the year. Erratic weather conditions including frost, wind, heat , unreliable rainfall and rapid fluctuating temperatures all have markedly affected floral sources and in turn the bees. (It is important to note our bees are european honey bees in a non-european environment.) It is critical to ensure honeybees in an Australian environment have access to high quality protein to ensure they are kept healthy to be able to access the nectar when nature makes it available and if not available then to feed. South Australian beekeepers are reporting well below average yields to date and this has also been the same for our operation with both SA Blue Gum , Red Gum and several mallee species failing to yield adequately despite flowering ( i.e. green drought) .
Despite being in the middle of a heat wave ( today being 46C ) 2019 brings encouraging prospects as we look forward to several summer and autumn flows. Growing tips on many eucalypts varieties give promise of what is to come.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2019 everyone - stay safe and see you on the road somewhere across the state.
B#013 ~ NOVEMBER 2018
Vale CHIEF - 26/09/08 ~ 14/11/18 ( pain free to run the big kangaroo paddock big boof )
Rejuvenating PVC - Our friend the “Heat Gun” gets a regular workout in our shed and is used for a myriad of things especially when it comes to warming / heating /melting. Removing old paint , impregnating wax into wood , removing wax & “gunk”, warming metal ……..etc. . One of the heat guns conquests is rejuvenating PVC - i.e. ( when PVC plastic goes flakey or chalky and gets on everything. ) Yes there is a way of rejuvenating and restoring luster to “ significantly sun damaged PVC items ” - e.g. pegs/ out door furniture / dashboards/control covers / PVC hiveware/ PVC containers etc - for a great little tutorial click here.
B#012 ~ OCTOBER 2018
Honey & Harvest - In our region the headers are in the paddock reaping cereal crops ( hopefully at least getting some seed back as drought and frost have not only affected farmers but beekeepers as well) We are thankful for Blue Gum , Orange Blossom , Sugarwood & Mallee which have all yielded to varying degrees enabling a honey harvest. Realization that Christmas is 7.5 weeks away. Will have some FREE Christmas Honey recipes at the November & December Wirrabara Producers Market. ABC radio came to visit LAURA on the October “Legends and Larrikins” tour - we love where we live and are grateful for the spirit of the community in which we have been a part for the past 24 years. ( almost locals ). If you would like to listen to the ABC broadcast and have an insight as to why we love where we live - click here.
The 3rd Australian Bee Congress 2018 For those unable to attend or wishing to revisit reference material - presentation papers available online click here
B#011 ~ SEPTEMBER 2018
Night Life on the Road - We see some amusing sights whilst traveling bees . Last night ( Sept 23rd) taking a truck load of bees from the Southern Flinders Ranges to the Riverland it was bright moonlight - Whilst dodging Roos and Wombats, passed a mob of 5 ferral goats about 9:30pm - One was perched up on the yellow roadside PIRSA “Fruit Fly” Prevention Quarantine Bin in the moonlight on the Burra /Morgan road - it didn’t even flinch when the truck went past. ( guess its one way to get noticed !!! )
B#010 ~ SEPTEMBER 2018
Fire Prevention - Recreational /Part time/ Commercial / Urban / Rural ~ All beekeepers need to consider "Fire Prevention" - clearing weeds around the immediate vicinity of your hives not only allows ease of access for you and bees but it also inhibits errant sparks egniting . NEVER PUT A SMOKER ON THE GROUND !!!!!! - get into good beekeeping practice by never putting a smoker on the ground regardless if it is lit or un lit - A smoker can be put on the neighboring hive /smoker box or in a metal bucket with some sand in the bottom. Never turn your back on a lit smoker - hold it between your knees / have someone else hold it whilst you are working your bees or put it in the smoker bucket or on the hive next to you. In addition always take a bucket of water with you - to wash your hands & tools between hives and can act as an emergency douse for an errant spark. Every time you visit your apiary think through what you would do if there was a fire - What is your fire plan? - everyone needs a fire plan in place . Bee Smoker on the ground = FAIL. How to use a bee smoker click here
B#009 ~ Spring / SEPTEMBER 2018
Canola and Beans - Access to both of these crops together benefits the bees as well as the crops. Despite floral access , flying time is temperature dependent this time of the year. Opportunity to pollen spike with high protein as well as some nectar for 3 weeks resulting in strong rapid hive expansion before migrating onto a premium honey source. If you don't have strong colonies before moving to a honey source, the flow will be over before it is of benefit.
Interesting Honey fact - " Bees know what honey is !!!! Surprise !!! " Seriously !!!! Consumers, its not that hard to read labels or the Australian July 2018 required bar icon and make an informed product purchase choice regardless of the product or produce origin. Labelling laws ensure the choice is yours.
September 7th- Australian National Threatened Species Day - As migratory beekeepers we see many amazing sites including threatened flora as well as bird and other fauna species as we travel SA . This past week has been 7 afternoons & nights on the road ea 700km round trip from the Flinders Ranges to the Riverland return / repeat. Every year we see 1 or 2 wombats in the headlights on the road verge between Morgan & Burra at this time of year. This year we have seen between 14-16 every night. The other threatened species we see, is an aging "Multi Skilled - Commercial Beekeeper" population out there on the road traveling long distances in the night for the health of their bees . It is evident with current naive opinionated media hype that most social media contributors to the current round of "honey discussions" are doing so void of facts and experience.( import~export~deport~report) - hmmmm a more useful approach is sup-port and perhaps drinking tawny port.
B#008 ~ Last day of Winter ~ AUGUST 2018
Hives on the move. 27C coupled with 96km winds X 2 days , not what almond growers, stone fruit growers , farmers or beekeepers need. Todays rain gives some relief but can't stick blossoms back on trees. Hives are on the move - 2018 almond pollination season is all but over for 2018. For those of you whom have a sense of humor check out this video click here
B#007 ~ JULY ~2018
BOLT - Biosecurity Online Training - Recreational , Part Time & Commercial Beekeepers . As we approach spring and recreational beekeepers across Australia look forward to the new season or getting started in bees it is timely to revisit the issues associated with Honeybee Biosecurity Australia wide. With weaker colonies caused by drought, winter conditions and inexperienced hive management - bees robbing can be a biosecurity concern for all beekeepers both recreational and commercial . If bringing livestock into SA i.e. necus coming across the border it is important that your supplier has the required associated clearance paperwork and that the hives have been inspected. This documentation forms part of your records to be submitted to PIRSA with your annual registration. It is best practice for all beekeepers to have a good sound knowledge of beekeeping diseases and their associated management practices not just commercial beekeepers. Australian BOLT online training is available for all beekeepers including international - for further information click here or fact sheet click here .
B#006 ~ JULY~ 2018
Laura Gardens Heritage Fig Grove - The eclipse & red blood moon this week heralds the "Willunga Almond Blossom Festival" and the annual last week of July mass hive migration to almonds in the Murraylands, Riverland and Linsday Point. All are new phase markers and as such the last week in July 2018 is also the start of one of our new projects " The Laura Gardens Heritage Fig Grove" Horrocks Hwy. North Laura SA. As with many country areas in SA, the hundreds of Booyoolie & Howe have old established gardens that have remnant fruit and nut trees that are neglected and eventually die out or are bulldozed. This weekend we have been collecting a range of fig tree cuttings from old gardens across the area as well as the stories associated with those trees for the new grove. Looking forward to establishing the grove over the next few years.
B#005 ~ JULY ~ 2018
BEEKEEPING COURSES - Some of the areas of beekeeping training may include 1:1 conversations, beekeeping group meetings, information sessions, books, internet sites, videos, beekeeping workshops , beekeeping classes , mentoring sessions etc. or an accredited beekeeping course. All forms of education are helpful however not all meet Australian Beekeeping Standards. Education & Training is either freely available or has a fee for service. Before you part with you well earned cash , ensure you are clear about what you are actually paying for an how that compares the the national beekeeping education standard so that you can make an formed choice about what you are undertaking or paying for. As a consumer you are entitled to make an informed choice.
Demonstrated competency in the 12 core units of AHC32016 is the basic minimum standard for a person to be work ready as a beekeeper in Australia .The core units provide a bench mark for beekeeping education and also assist beekeepers to identify their beekeeping skills and knowledge deficits. For further information about Australian Education Standards click here NB - Australia currently has 7 registered training organizations ( RTO's) whom are accredited to conduct "A Beekeeping Course". i.e. AHC32016 ( unfortunately none of these are based in South Australia) hence no national standard beekeeping courses are available in SA - However, South Australian Beekeepers do have access to online , hybrid courses and apprenticeship formats supported by interstate RTO's. To view the Australian Beekeeping Course registered training provider list click here. If your beekeeping education provider is not on this list then they are not providing a standard beekeeping course.
B#004 ~ JUNE ~ 2018
BOTANICALS – The shortest day of the year and subsequently the longest night came this week in Australia, heralding the start of the bee season. The bees already know what is going on long before the beekeepers do. Nature’s cycles not only influence the insect world but also botanicals. All plants have a trigger to flower and “yield” – the triggers are multiple and may include frost, fire, moisture, heat, warmth, drought & fluctuation of temperature just to name a few. Just because a plant flowers, does not mean it will yield anything useful to European honeybees. It may yield, either pollen or nectar, both or neither. Pollen = protein / Nectar = carbohydrate.
Understanding your botanicals forms an essential part of your beekeeping skill base. European honeybees are an introduced species to Australia and as such are always at risk of quality pollen deficit as Australian native botanicals in the main are low in protein in comparison to plants of European origin – on the flip side Australian native plants are often more prolific in nectar yield than European plants. The beekeeper has always to be mindful of what is happening within several kms of the hive/s location. The debate originating in Europe re. urban vs rural environment holds little relevance to Australia as the parameters are vastly different including the majority of Australian hives being migratory. Consequently botanical knowledge is essential for all beekeepers not just rural & metro but also commercial & recreational.
Its like learning your times tables and the remaining weeks of winter is a good time to update your knowledge. Put a comparative list on your fridge, or on the back of the loo door, including botanical & common names , flowering cycles, yield parameters – eg pollen values and carbohydrate values.Resources to help you do this include Native Eucalypts of SA Dean Nicolle ( click here) Bee Friendly – Mark Leech ( click here) Australian Living Atlas ( click here) If you take time learn to navigate this atlas including tthe maps and species information Australia wide you will find you use this tool frequently for botanical imformation . Australian Native Plant Society SA - plant data interactive identification tool (click here) Flowering Ecology of Honey-Producing Flora in South-East Australia ( click here) Enviro data SA ( click here) Electronic Flora of South Australia ( click here)
B#003 ~ JUNE ~ 2018
This Autumn we came across quite a few snakes across the state in our apiaries - under hives or lurking around the bees water IBC's - No, the answer isn't rubber boots. Believe it or not we even came across a snake wrapped around the top of an iron farm gate right at eye level a few seasons ago. They are there and mostly you don't even notice them - but if you are bitten by a snake do you know what to do ? Are you confident in your emergency skills ?
BEEKEEPERS ~ SNAKE BITE ~ CPR :- I have been genuinely surprised at the number of beekeepers that are vague when you ask them when they last did a CPR updated and an even more perplexed look when I ask what is the protocol for "snake bite". Whilst your bees are wintered down is a great time to think about your family , friends , yourself and more specifically "how your actions can save a life" - possibly yours or someone you love. Sound dramatic? You bet !!. Every beekeeper and their family in South Australia should know CPR and exactly what to do in the event of a "snake bite". This includes children of primary school age. Many people associate a bite with pain, not necessarily true ! our most common snake the Brown Snake has a painless bite. The broad compression bandaging technique of the whole limb for a snake bite is very specific to impede lymphatic drainage. CPR and snake bite bandaging are skills that need to be practiced with the whole family so in the event of an emergency everyone is confident about what they can and need to do.
St John SA - Conducts education sessions across SA and the One Day first aid session will assist you in being confident to apply the skills to the emergency situations that will arise at sometime during your beekeeping journey regardless of being a recreational , part time or commercial beekeeper.
St James First Aid and medical engineering is a South Australian based company that also conducts first aid skill sessions as well having an extensive range of equipment and workplace support services - everything to ensure you as a beekeeper and your family or workers are both confident and competent in the event of an emergency.
QUESTIONS :- How often do you check your first aid kits ? Are they in the vehicles you are using to visit your apiary ? Do you know what to do with the gear in your first aid kit? Have you in the past 3 months practiced CPR and snake bite bandaging ? When did you last do a CPR education update ? NOW IS THE TIME !!
B#002 ~ JUNE ~ 2018
Terminology:- Is correct use of terminology important ? In our opinion yes!! As Information Technology becomes increasingly accessible world wide there are some things to be mindful of. There is more than one way to do most things, however "slang terms" can be very confusing and misleading, especially for those new to beekeeping. Interchanging terms with "slang" may mean one thing in one country but something completely different in another. Beekeeping does have a language all of its own, the same as many professions.
A "Full Depth" box or frame is not a "Deep" - In Australia a " Full Depth" is a different sizing to a USA Deep
A frame is a frame - It is not a rack, or a tray, or a divider or even a slide - A frame is a "Frame" its a structure that is able to be removed from the hive for inspection. In Australia all parts of a hive must be able to be inspected regularly for hive health which necessitates the need for multiple " frames"
A Queen Excluder is not a "separator" It does not separate the queen or drones from the colony. It is "exclusive" and allows workers to move freely throughout the hive complex but "excludes" a plump fertile Queen and plump Drones from passing through.
Bees are not "Girls" - Whilst the term "girls" maybe used as a term of affection in the recreational beekeeping sector in some countries, it is not interchangeable with the term bees .( A girl is actually an immature female.) Bees are a collective colony of insects aka "a hive" . As individuals they are denoted by their cast i.e. either - a Worker, a Drone or a Queen. Although worker bees and queen bees are female they are definitely "not girls".
Bees are not pets they are livestock , insects that are free to fly when and where they want. Technically they are not owned - what is owned is the hiveware. It is a privilege to host bees in your hiveware and a legal responsibility to ensure when you are hosting bees that you maintain the hiveware and care for the bees according to legislative requirements of your state or territory.
B#001~ MAY ~ 2018
The first formal Beekeeping Group in the Continent of Australia was formed in CLARE Sth. Aust. in 1884 – ( just 10 years after the British Beekeepers Association & 6 days prior to the formation of Australia’s 2nd group in Adelaide.) Why SA? - Proactive beekeepers were concerned about the proliferation of new beekeepers & subsequent lack of bee craft skill resulting in bees not being checked adequately for disease as well as the dismissive attitude & disrespect for the existing beekeeping etiquette in SA. in 1870’s /1880s, coupled with the need for education & beekeeping standards for all beekeepers in SA. Hmm !! The historical accounts make for very interesting reading.
Apis Mellifera aka the European Honeybee is an introduced insect to Australia. Whilst access to good carbohydrate nectar is usually readily available throughout the seasonal variation in SA, the migratory access to high quality protein pollen is becoming an increased challenge, especially this season. On the first day of winter as dawn breaks the signs of an abnormally dry & warm autumn/ winter are evident & this morning after a clear overnight sky, a frosty coat has enveloped our valley. Farmers have been dry seeding all night for the past 2 weeks to get their crops in on time in the hope of winter rains. Opening rains and resulting wild “mushrooms”
usually appear in MAY in our area – but not this year.
Sth. Aust. has experienced a melliferous forage drought for the past 4 months with implications for many commercial beekeepers – buds have appeared in their predicted cycles with the promise of yield, but the buds have remained static due to the lack of moisture & abnormally warm autumn. In addition, unfortunate “Over achieved” controlled burns have robbed several commercial beekeepers across the state of their wintering sites. It is timely that the 3rd Australian Bee Congress being held on the Australian Gold Coast June 27-30 will visit the topics of bee nutrition and changing environment.
MAY contained many gems – It is NATIONAL HONEY MONTH Australia wide annually, MAY 20th is also now the UN endorsed annual WORLD BEE DAY & we have had busy month discussing bees, honey, pollination, transport, equipment & regulatory compliance with the general public & beekeepers.
South Australia as of April 19th has updated State Beekeeping Legislation to facilitate the implementation of new standards in addition to previous standards required for all beekeepers in SA – We have advocated for this for many years & whilst the requirements are minimalist, we encourage all beekeepers to go beyond the basic requirement in their clinical practice regardless of being Recreational, Part Time or Commercial Beekeepers. Information sessions were held across the state to provide access for all beekeepers during MAY with an additional session being held as an adjunct to the SAAA – (South Australian Apiarists Association) AGM. Further details can be obtained from the PIRSA website or by contacting the SA Apiary Officer.
MAY is also HISTORY MONTH in South Australia & saw the launch of the “ Rangelands Of The Northern Beekeepers Project “ The project is an ongoing 5yr. collection of information, data & stories of beekeepers & families across the North of SA from 1871 to the present. Over 400 people visited the launch exhibition in LAURA designed to encourage conversation & enliven memories of beekeeping in our area from times past. Whilst the exhibition sponsored by Adelaide Beekeeping Supplies & Laura Gardens Bees was only held on 4 days, it was an extremely rewarding event combined with National Honey Month supported by local print media and television.
SUMMARY ~Melliferous Forrage drought ~ 3rd Australian Bee Congress ~ National Honey Month ~ World Bee Day ~ New Regulations to accompany existing regulations in SA now legislated ~ Rangelands Of The Northern Beekeepers 5 year Project .
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