Bee Day

It’s bee day. Two colonies have been delivered. They’re just settling into their new home on the rainwater tank.

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The law
The first step was to become a registered beekeeper with the Department of Primary Industries, (Qld). This is a legal requirement to assist with the control of ‘American foul brood’, a destructive, notifiable bacterial disease.

Bellis is an 815 square metre block, and residents of the Brisbane City Council region can keep up to two hives.

Last year I joined the Bayside Beekeepers Association, a local amateur club, and I’ve attended a local field day at the Redlands DPI. Extension officers at Redlands are looking for apiarists willing to let them regularly inspect their hives for introduced pests and diseases – the sentinel hives project. I’ll sign up for this as Wynnum is right next to the Port of Brisbane, a known point of entry for, amongst other things, Fire ants and Asian honeybees.

A recent change in the law allows beekeepers to use smokers during total fire bans when they must move their hives.

The hive
Last year I met a commercial apiarist, who had attended one of my sustainable living talks in Logan City, and he’s agreed to sell me two complete ‘eight frame’ hives, with a spare for re-painting.

I decided to place them on the concrete in-ground rainwater tank, because this will allow the hives to face into the warmth of the early morning sunshine. Being off the soil, the solid concrete will keep the hive warm and dry. It will also act as a natural barrier, helping to control small hive beetle, a pest, whose larvae pupate most successfully where they can enter soft, moist soil. If any of these soft little grubs leave the hives to pupate, they’ll desiccate on the concrete.

Happily, this location is also away from busy parts of our three neighbour’s gardens, and also allows for  garden maintenance around the hives.

Bee survival
To survive, honeybees need a varied source of pollen (for protein), a variety of nectars (carbohydrate) and water for drinking. There’s a publication ‘Fat bee, skinny bee’ about bee nutrition for the industry.

Small, weak colonies seem most vulnerable to attack by pests and diseases. Weak hives are also liable to have their honey robbed by nearby colonies. Robbing heightens the risk of pest and disease spread, and the risk is highest if it’s feral bees that rob. There’s plenty of feral bees in my district.

While there should be more than enough local food to keep one more hive going, you can buy ‘pollen patties’ and make up sugar syrup to ensure they don’t starve.

Colony management
The hive supplier will provide some back up so we can check for pests and diseases whilst monitoring colony size and health. Local club members and DPI extension staff are also be willing to help.

Last month I visited Brisbane’s beekeeping supplier and ordered some accessories, including suits.

I also completed a two day ProFarm beekeeping course, provided by Des and Jenan Cannon, at Wollongbar DPI (NSW), so I’m confident about taking on the hives.

Jobs to do
I’ll clean up and re-seal a trough so we can provide ample, local drinking water, so they can keep the brood cool. A good hive can use 2 litres, sometimes more, in hot weather.

I’ll have to keep an eye out for black ant nests that might take advantage of the hive too. They aren’t too bad in a garden, but they can also rob honey.

I must collect some fallen pine needles – from the local golf course – they’re ideal for smoke-making.

It’s all rather exciting.

Jerry Coleby-Williams
3rd April 2008


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