The Buzz Blog

Welcome to our blog 'The Buzz'.  Here we will keep you updated on what is happening in the world of bees and honey and anything else that we think you would be interested in.  If there is a topic you would like to hear about drop us an email and I'll see what we can do.


Beehive Update - November 2015

Written by Martin on November 24th, 2015.      0 comments

Spring 2015:

Its been a very busy spring so far... so fast its nearly over!  Almost every hive has been split and most have been requeened with breeder queen cells. In general most of our sites are going reasonably well and despite the splits, bee numbers are satisfactory. There has been particularly good spring nectar flows in and around Hamilton so that's great.

Hive numbers are now back to our standard 250 colonies and we have also made up an additional 100 colonies for a new beekeeping business. Not bad considering this is a part-time job!

We've started putting on supers (honey boxes) at all our sites and are seeing some good flows coming on. One beekeeper who I spoke to last week had already started extracting honey! It looks like our Marokopa site will have the Rewarewa trees flowering in the next few weeks, and this is a very nice honey. At Horsham Downs its been great to see first the gorse (sorry we beekeepers love the gorse!), then willow, then barberry and hawthorn, cabbage trees and now the first signs of clover coming through. We've had some excellent quality pollen collection.

The word is that its likely to be a short fast season with a dreaded drought coming through quickly in early summer. I know there are many worried farmers and it will certainly have an impact on honey collection if it goes dry too quickly.

Wherever I go there is always such an interest in bees and beekeeping and there are always plenty of questions. It seems many people are fascinated by these little creatures and certainly I am as well! A lot of people are keen to have a hive in their back yard or already have one or two or three, yes, they soon start multiplying! Its a very relaxing hobby and one or two hives can produce more than enough for a family, so if you are keen and have the space give it a go. I'm a third generation beekeeper, with my dad and his dad keeping bees as a hobby. Its a nice connection that I hope my two boys might have the chance to take up later on. 

If you are interesting in hives in your back yard contact your local beekeeper hobbyist club.  Here are some that we know about:

Waikato Hobby Beekeeping Club
Auckland Beekeepers Club
Whangarei Beekeeping Club
Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeeping Club
Topics: Beehive Update
 

Beehive Update - June 2015

Written by Martin on June 14th, 2015.      0 comments

As I write this we are in the grip of winter and the bees are clustering to keep warm. Most of the queens have stopped laying and the brood comb is emptying out as the last of the new bees emerge. Hives are wintered down (surplus boxes removed), entrance reducers on to keep out wasps and mice. Varroa treatments have been administered and removed. Its now a case of keeping an eye on the hives to make sure they don't run through their honey stores too quickly.

Most beekeepers would have had a great season. The weather came right just before Christmas and carried on through summer. Our bees did well with very few losses and our best ever harvest. Remarkable considering the poor weather last Spring!
 
Hamilton City / Kirikiriroa
We had our first season with beehives in Hamilton. The city council provided apiary sites at three iconic parks,  Taitua Arboretum, Hamilton Zoo, and Hamilton Gardens. All in all, these sites have worked very well with more than 1.5 tonnes of honey collected. Some of the honey will go back to Council to be sold at Hamilton Gardens and some is going to the zoo. Honey is a special treat available to some of the zoo animals and the zoo keepers are very enthusiastic about using the Kirikiriroa honey. It's a mild, pleasant tasting honey and we've had a great response from our regulars at the Hamilton Farmer's Market.

Looking ahead
Its only 8 weeks to spring (or at least when the bees will start getting more active) and we are in the process of making sure that all the gear is ready for another season. New bottom-boards, repairing frames, fixing boxes, and a general cleanup all round! I'm looking forward to attending the bee-keepers conference in Taupo in a week's time and learning some new things about beekeeping from the "old hands".
Topics: , Beehive Update
 

Beehive Update - December 2014

Written by Martin on December 6th, 2014.      0 comments

The first week of December and finally some warm weather and no wind and/or rain!  After what looked to be a promising start in September, October and November has been very tough on the bees.  The cooler temperatures and unsettled weather have made it difficult for new queens to mate and new colonies have struggled to make headway.  There was a significant dearth of nectar through November which saw honey stores disappear as the large quantities of brood take a lot of feeding! 

In the last week I'm starting to see honey come into the hives and the bees are looking much happier.  However compared to last year when we had boxes of honey already, the hives are looking very light.
 
Ohui
Our beehives are back at Ohui and the Manuka is flowering.  The bees have built up strength reasonably well but we now need settled weather if we are to harvest any of this medal winning honey!
    
Marokopa
From excellent shape last report to dismal!  There has been little flowering in the bush and the very cold weather (we are 300m up which makes a big difference) has taken its toll. There is some Rewarewa flowering but only half the strength of last year.  The unseasonal weather may hold off the manuka flowering for a few extra weeks and this might allow us to gather a spring harvest early in the New Year.

Horsham Downs
We've been using our Horsham Downs site as a nursery to make splits and raise new hives for our new sites in Hamilton City.  This has all been completed now and the remaining hives are busy collecting bee pollen for us!  An amazing array of coloured pollen is coming in and I see that the bees are now collecting pollen from clover in the last week.
 
Four Brothers Reserve
We've shifted our beehives from the normal site at Four Brothers Reserve to a new one which is much more protected from the elements.  After an initial shaky start, (when the bees started starving), we are now back on track and things are looking up with the nearby Kanuka starting to flower.
 
Hakarimata
We have two sites on the Hakarimata range and one site is racing ahead while the other is struggling!  Still the main flow is generally after Christmas for this site and while its dramatically down from last year, bees can fill hives with honey very quickly.

Hamilton City / Kirikiriroa
We have three sites, Taitua Arboretum, Hamilton Zoo, and Hamilton Gardens. The beehives have only just gone in as with this poor weather I was fairly cautious to try new sites and risk the bees starving.  However, they are going great and already producing a surplus of honey.  Such are the benefits of the city where there is such a huge variety from residential gardens, the gully system, river walkways, road reserves and the sites themselves.  I dropped the zoo beehives into their site adjacent to the giraffe enclosure at 6:30am.  It was very quiet and also a little surreal to see seven long necks towering above the foliage and 14 large eyes staring at me stock still and watching my every move!  That's a first in beekeeping for me!
zoo
Topics: , Beehive Update
 

Beehive Update - May 2014

Written by Martin on May 27th, 2014.      0 comments

Martin-at-Ohui-Apiary-site
The chilly tendrils of winter are now upon us and I'm pleased to say our bees are in very good shape having come off a great summer.  Most of our hives have at least one good full box of honey stores and our varroa treatment has worked well. No sign of any nasty bee diseases which is also pleasing. The wasps have been epidemic at some of our sites, but don't appear to have done any significant damage to the bees. We put on entrance reducers early this year and what with the fine late summer and plentiful stores, bee populations have remained strong and kept the wasps out.


Ohui

Our bees came out of Ohui with a manuka harvest in December 2013 and will return in September this year. This honey has turned out to be a real favourite at the Hamilton Farmer's markets and with a 10+ antibacterial activity is in demand for those winter colds.  

Marokopa

We love Marokopa, what a fantastic part of NZ it is!  Last spring we were treated to a Rewarewa honey crop after two years of no show!  The cold and wet weather over December and January greatly reduced access of the bees to the  flowering manuka and so a relatively small amount was collected.  However the late summer resulted in a large harvest through to the end of February with prolific hill country flowers and native rata. We have never seen so many wasps as we did this year, they were everywhere in March, covering trees and anything that moved! Wasp traps were set with limited success and one large wasp nest was destroyed, but this year's forecast mild winter raises concerns as to how many wasps we might see next season.

Horsham Downs

The bees are settled in for winter and we will carry additional nucs (mini hives) over winter to help with increase of hives in spring. This spring we will be shifting our hives down to the newly created pond where we have been doing lots of planting - although plenty more is required! We had a good honey crop this year with lots of clover flowering.
 
Four Brothers Reserve

Unfortunately we had a poor season at Four Brothers Reserve this year. Our exposed site felt the full force of the wind and rain in December and the first part of January. The bees themselves have survived reasonably well but most hives will be moved back to Horsham Downs over winter to protect them. No Four Brothers Reserve honey this year!

Hakarimata

We had a great crop of honey from the Hakarimata ranges. Our apiary site is beautifully protected from the elements and the bees prospered in the hot summer. We extracted honey in February on one of the hottest days of the year in a very still wind! It was pretty hard on the body but we did get a great result. The bees have subsequently refilled at least one box per hive and are well provisioned for winter. Once again we have had some very favourable comments about this honey from our regular customers at the Hamilton Farmers market.

We are now planning and preparing for spring and hope to take our hive numbers up to around 250 hives this year.
Topics: , Beehive Update
 

Beehive Update - December 2013

Written by Martin on December 8th, 2013.      0 comments

As you may be aware we lost a large number of bee colonies in May due to varroa mite and it's taken a lot of effort to build up hive numbers for this season.  But fortunately we have had a great Spring and we look to be back on track with the prospect of a good season ahead. 


OhuiOhui-Farm

Located near Oputere on the Coromandel, our new apiary site is going well.  This is a great Manuka site and being on the sunny, warm Coromandel, it flowers much earlier than at Marokopa on the West Coast.  The honey here is a strong tasting Manuka and we hope to have this available early in the New Year.

 

Marokopa

At Marokopa, the Rewarewa has finally flowered this year after two years of no show!  The bees are loving it and we are seeing lovely thick white comb being produced particularly with the summery spells we had in mid November.  It looks like the Manuka will start flowering early this year about a week before Christmas.
 

Horsham Downs

At our home site the focus has been on collecting bee pollen and creating new colonies of bees. Its gone exceptionally well, as we have had such a great settled spring, allowing mating of virgin queens.  We have added 80 hives bringing up our total number to 170, twenty higher than last year.  We are seeing clover appear in the paddocks now and there has been good build up flows from barberry and hawthorn.
 

Four Brothers Reserve &  Hakarimata

Beehives have only been placed at these sites in the last few weeks, as the focus has been on establishing hives at our early spring flowering areas.  Already though, a lot of honey has been collected with prolific flowering from cabbage trees and now kanuka.

Cross fingers for a good season!
Topics: , Beehive Update
 

Beehive Update - September 2013

Written by Martin on September 18th, 2013.      0 comments

Martin-checking-hiveThe long summer resulted in high levels of mites in our hives and despite treatments to kill the varroa mite, we had a larger than usual loss of beehives. The mites physically puncture the bee's body and make them very susceptible to viruses and other hive diseases. A disappointing end to what was a great season. But don't worry that won't stop us!

Spring certainly appears to have come come earlier this year or at least the bees think so.  Pollen is being collected by the bees and there is good brood development. Many of our hives are already strong with bees. Most hives still have good honey stores, which is great!  Harald and I are busy rearing new queens and splitting hives so that we will have colonies ready for the main nectar flows.

At our home apiary site we have recently developed a wet area of our property into a wetland pond and created a hard stand suitable for our beehives. We are now in the process of planting lots of bee friendly plants and trees (flaxes and cabbage trees are in now) which will be a useful pollen source in Spring. There is even a small island for the kids! Its a great project and I'm looking forward to working with the bees in this very sheltered, sunny area.

 

pondPond-and-bees

 

Topics: , Beehive Update
 

Beehive Update - March 2013

Written by Martin on March 6th, 2013.      2 comments

Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun! The season is almost over and many beekeepers will be very happy with their honey crop this year. The hot dry weather has been great for the bees with a lot of honey collected and good conditions for drawing out wax on frames.  Did you notice the white blooms of the native Heketara tree flowering in spring? The last time I saw flowering similar to that was about 5 years ago – when we had the last drought! This has been noticed before by beekeepers , when the Heketara flowers in spring, watch out you may be in for a drought, or at least a good long dry summer. 

Marokopa Station
MarokopaAfter a slow start, the bees really took off. We harvested the Spring crop in late December, mostly Kamahi, just in time before the Manuka started flowering. It was even later than normal this time, mid December is generally when it flowers. Masses of flowering this year which finished in late January.  There was such a strong flow of honey this year, that I don’t think the bees even noticed us taking off the honey, they were too busy getting the next load! We undertook our third harvest in mid March, the summer crop, (thistle, clover, rata). The beehives now have entrance reducers on to keep the wasps out and all have varroa strips, because mite levels are now high.

Four Brothers Reserve
This farm has changed hands and is now owned by a native forest restoration society. The pasture has been left to do its own thing and there were flowers and long grass everywhere. Despite this the bees didn’t do quite as well as we hoped, but we did get a sufficient crop to allow us to do a pack.
I was out with our eldest boy at this site on a hot windy day in January with a very high pollen count. He went for a wander through the grass while I looked at the bees. Next thing he was coming back with tears streaming down his checks and welts coming up on his skin. Then he started coughing and gasping for breath – yes he had an anaphylactic reaction to the grass pollen. Luckily it wasn’t too bad and we got him some treatment, but now he carries an Anapen!

Hakarimata Range
We hit seven stories high on some of the hives at this site! Packed with bees and honey and a very good crop taken off. We are down to the last two jars of last years Hakarimata honey, so the sooner we get this extracted the better!

Opoutereframe
We did manage to get a crop of manuka honey from this apiary site – fantastic honey and while the crop was small we have come up with a great way to eat it! Look out for this honey at the Farmer’s Market in Hamilton and give it a try.

Kawhia
Our new trial site, the hot dry weather has been very tough on this farm and flowering finished early. The nectar flow has been a stop/start affair and the bees have generally been a bit below par. However, that’s what happens when you try a new site and it takes a while to understand the nuances of the area. The site has masses of lupins and the bees draw huge amounts of brightly coloured pollen from the flowers. The frames are full of pollen. We have harvested a small quantity of honey and what we have tasted has been very different. A salty, gritty taste – sort of like the sea! And it tastes great, so we will make it available and see what everyone thinks.

Horsham Downs
Our home apiary site and where we collect our bee pollen. This has been a tough year for collecting bee pollen in the Waikato – the wet spring meant that pollen collection was below average and then the bees became very focused on collecting honey in summer! Here’s hoping that Spring 2013 treats us kindly!
Topics: , Beehive Update
 

Beehive Update - December 2012

Written by Martin on December 5th, 2012.      0 comments

We've officially hit summer and the bees are bringing in nectar into the hives. The recent period of fine weather has allowed the bees to draw out the frames and build up to good levels. Spring was very much a stop start affair which made for a slow buildup of colony strength and extended periods to get virgin queens mated. Bee pollen has also been slow coming in which has made it difficult to meet the demand from our customers - sorry! However the forecast for summer is hot and dry and this should mean a good honey harvest. Honey supers are now on hives.
 

Around the sites:

IMG 1356Marokopa - a fantastic showing of Heketara this year, you can smell the fragrance of the nectar in the hives. However poor weather has limited any surplus, so Marokopa Spring may well be in short supply! Manuka expected to start in late December.

Four Brothers Reserve - hives doing very well and large quantities of flowering plants, Kanuka is just flowering now.

Horsham Downs Country - bee pollen is starting to pick up and hives are becoming strong. Good quantities of pasture flowers coming through now.

Hakarimata - very strong and good bee numbers. Just been through a dearth of nectar but expecting flowering to take off now. Looking forward to some more award winning honey.

Kawhia - a new site, huge quantities of lupin pollen coming into the hives, and good buildup. Kanuka flowering and Pohutakawa expected to flower shortly. So close to the sea, you can taste the salt!

Opoutere - a new site, masses of Manuka flowering, the bees will be working hard to get a surplus of honey however.  
Topics: , Beehive Update
 

Beehive Update - October 2012

Written by Martin on October 29th, 2012.      0 comments

It's close to November and it's the time of year when there can be a dearth of nectar before the flow starts. The bees have built up strongly and they are using all the nectar they can get to feed themselves. Our Horsham Downs, Glen Massey and Marokopa apiaries are low on stores, so we are watching them carefully.

Tasks over the last two months have been collecting bee pollen (many different plants are now flowering), feeding hives where necessary, splitting hives, adding new queen cells and checking for disease. All hives are now at site.

Very exciting to see the Heketara (NZ's native tree daisy) flowering strongly this year and we hope to collect a spring crop from it at Marokopa. We have had only one crop of Heketara in the past 5 years and everyone loved the toffee taste. Look out for it, its a medium size tree with masses of white flowers (like a daisy) and sawtooth leaves.

We have our bees on a new coastal site at Kawhia and they are close to lupins - what an amazing orange red pollen the bees have been collecting. They are nestled in a sunny shallow valley, out of the wind(!), and the bees are going for it. We are looking forward to trying the honey from this site.

In the next month we will complete more hive splits and start adding supers (honey boxes) to the hives for honey collection.

IMG 1356      IMG 1364
Topics: , Beehive Update
 

Beehive Update - September 2012

Written by Martin on September 1st, 2012.      0 comments

The first part of August was very wet - for almost two weeks - and that slowed the start of the normal spring build up. Luckily we were able to get to all our hives despite the wet weather and hives have been checked for diseases, bottom boards cleaned, fed where required, and varroa strips removed. The bees needed lots of attention to get them through this period.

Thankfully the weather has improved and the bees are now busy flying, collecting pollen and early spring sources of nectar. Pollen traps have been installed on the strong hives at Horsham Downs and we are now seeing good quantities of bee pollen coming in. Drone bees are now present in the hives and we have started raising queen cells in order to build up hive numbers and recover from losses over winter.

We have also undertaken checks of all the hives to ensure that the varroa treatments worked - essential now there is resistance to a number of varroa treatments. Our hives at Marokopa  had significant levels of varroa despite being treated in late Autumn and so we applied an alternative treatment which has worked really well.

Next steps will be to continue to monitor the buildup of the hives, create more new hives by raising queen cells and shifting hives out to site.
IMG 2666     IMG 2569
                                                                Super boxes made                                   Pollen traps installed
 
Topics: , Beehive Update
 
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