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.

Flowers for Bees in the Winter

Written by Stephanie on May 29th, 2015.      0 comments

I've recently been asked what are good plants to have flowering in the garden over winter for the bees.  It was a very good question!  It's good to have plants flowering in your garden all year around for the bees. 

Bees actually spend most of the time in their hives over the winter and eat the stores of honey they have collected over the summer time.  Having said that if it's a nice warm sunny winters afternoon they will pop out for a little while.  I'm not a gardener but have done a bit of research and it seems these are good flowers to have in your garden over the winter for bees:

  • Alyssum - white, pink, purple
  • Calendula - orange or yellow flowers
  • Candytuft
  • Salvia Blue Bedder
  • Rudbeckia


What Happens to the Bees Over Winter?

Written by Stephanie on May 28th, 2015.      0 comments

Beehives in SnowHave you every wondered what happens to the bees after the long busy summer?  They deserve a good rest that is for sure!

During the warm months bees would normally collect enough honey and bee pollen to keep them going over the winter months.  Beekeepers add 'super' boxes to the hives for the bees to collect more honey.  It is these extra super boxes that are extracted and packed for human consumption.  At Sweetree we leave enough honey and bee pollen in the hive for the bees to keep strong over the the winter months.

Do Bees Hibernate?

People often think that bees hibernate over the winter months, but they do something more fascinating over the cold period.  Their major purpose of the winter is to take care of the queen, so she can re-colonize the hive in spring. 

In late autumn, when they have their stores of honey for the winter, they throw all the drones (male bees) out of the hive to die.  They cannot afford to feed extra mouths and the queen does not need them for mating over this period.

Bees stop flying when the temperatures drop down to around 10 degree celsius. They stay inside the hive and go into a big huddle to keep as warm as possible, this is called a winter cluster.  The queen is kept inside the cluster to keep her warm and safe.  The colder the temperature the more compact the cluster becomes.  The worker bees create heat by shivering and they also move back and forth between the inner part of the cluster and the outer part.  In this way no bee will freeze in very cold climates. 

They usually don't fly outside the hive as there are no flowers in bloom, therefore no pollen or nectar is available.  But on nice sunny winter days you can see bees flying short distances out of the hive and then quickly returning, this is to eliminate body waste.

When it gets closer to spring I'll talk about what bees do in spring-time.

Beeswax Candles

Written by Stephanie on May 22nd, 2015.      0 comments

Paraffin Wax Candles

All candles begin with wax, but now there are many waxes used which can be detrimental to our health. Most candles on the market are petroleum-based products and scented or coloured candles, setting the scene for polluted indoor air, which can aggravate existing respiratory conditions such as asthma.

Natural waxes are created from plants such as soya beans and beeswax made by bees.  This wax was always in candle-making until the manufacture of paraffin became much cheaper.

Beeswax CandlesBeehive-Web

For optimum health, burn natural and beeswax candles, which are clean- burning. Burn candles with cotton braided wicks, which contain no metal.

Did you know that burning beeswax produces negative ions that circulate in the room and attract pollutants and clean your air?  Many people report that burning a beeswax candle in your bedroom 30 minutes before falling asleep produces a more restful sleep.



Beeswax is a remarkable by product of honey.  Beeswax is made by the youngest honey bees in a colony, they are too young to forage for nectar.  To produce the wax they gorge themselves on honey and link themselves together by the hundreds.   After several hours wax starts to flow from pockets in their abdomens.  Each bee then scrapes off the wax with their legs and chews it into soft pellets.  They then use these pellets to make perfectly engineered honeycomb cells.  The hexagon shape used is the most efficient storage structure ever developed by any species, including humans.

We sell some great beeswax candles for different uses in your home!  Have a look at the range.


Plant Trees for the Bees in Spring!

Written by Stephanie on May 15th, 2015.      0 comments

Autumn is the perfect time to plant trees and plants so they are ready for the bees to feed on in spring-time! 

Good carbohydrate (nectar) and protein (pollen) sources are critical to the honey bee’s survival and good health.   They need a good supply of flowers with good protein-rich pollen in spring for raising young bees and then diverse and abundant nectar sources throughout summer.

A poor diet and malnutrition compromises the bee’s ability to withstand long term stresses such as Varroa and to resist diseases.  If we can all plant some good sources of pollen and nectar for bees it will make a big difference to their survival.

Planting these trees will help NZ Bees:
  • Wattles
  • Kotukutuku
  • Lemonwood
  • Five Finger
  • Ngaio
  • Putaputaweta
  • Pohutukawa
  • Rata and Southern Rata
  • Lacebark or Ribbonwood
  • Eucalypts
  • Willows
  • Bottlebrush
  • Cabbage tree
  • Harakeke, NZ Flax
  • Koromiko 
  • NZ Jasmine
  • Rewarewa
  • Tulip tree 
  • Wisteria
Wattle is a good source of pollen in spring-time

Please Help Nepal

Written by Stephanie on May 7th, 2015.      0 comments

No doubt you have heard about the horrific earthquake in Nepal.  Thousands of people have died, with many more unaccounted for, 2.8 million people have been displaced, 70,000 houses have been destroyed, 4.2 million people are in urgent need of water, 3.5 million people need food assistance and fuel is urgently needed to pump ground water and maintain hospital services.  Rain and thunder is forecast for the next 10 days.  Most people are living outside in whatever shelter they can get - tents, plastic sheets, etc.  The trekking season is at an end now and they will be heading into the monsoon season which will bring worse problems and disease. Many of the shops are closed for the season and people find it hard to get food. During the off-season many Nepalese people will not have jobs (because there are no tourists), there is no infrastructure or government help. The future for Nepal in the next few years is very bleak indeed.

It breaks my heart to see such devastation in a country that is so close to my heart, and many hearts of New Zealander's.  We all grew up hearing the wonderful stories of that humble NZ beekeeper who 'knocked the bastard off' and was the first to scale the highest mountain in the world, Mt Everest.  Over the years that followed that historic day Sir Edmond Hillary, along with many other New Zealander's have had a big part to play in growth and support of Nepal.  They built many schools, hospitals, airstrip, etc.  The first school that Ed built was in Khumjung.  Khumjung has special memories for me...

When I was a teenager my parents often visited Nepal, they fell in love with the country and the people after their first visit.  In fact they were particularly soft on a young porter in their trekking group, Nawang, from Khumjung.  Nawang's parents had died and at 15 years old was responsible for taking care of his younger sisters. In the years that followed my parents financial supported him and his sisters so that they could carry on schooling.  In my 20's I had an opportunity to go with them on one of their trips and it was an experience I will never forget. 

From the moment I met Nawang he called me his New Zealand sister and treated me like of of the family.  Nepal was certainly a culture shock!  But it was the most amazing experiences of my life.  No only for the amazing views of the magestic mountains and of course viewing Mt Everest at every turn.  But the people and their lifestyles blew me away.  They had no power and lived in basic housing.  They had no running water, they had to walk for hours to get the water for the day, so they had to really conserve it.   There are no roads in the mountains so they had to walk for a day to get the a market and buy food and everything was carried on their backs, even building materials.    I was amazed at how many things we take for granted in New Zealand.  It was a very harsh and physically demanding life.  But what I couldn't believe was how resilient and happy they were!

As soon as I heard about the earthquake I was worried for Nawang and his family (his wife and three grown up girls) and the Nepalese people are on my mind constantly.  I can just imagine how isolated those mountain villages will be.  But remembering how resilient they are gives me hope that they will find a way out of this mess.  I've since been in contact with the family and they are all safe and well but their house is in a bad state and they are living in a tent, along with many others. 

I understand that the government are giving Nepali families 7,000 repees (NZ$91) for a demolished house and 3,000 rupees (NZ$39) for a partly demolished house. This is tragic for the Nepali families. They will not be able to build anything with that sort of help. If they do it will be so substandard that the after shocks will probably demolish it again.  The Nepalese really need foreign help but unfortunately it's one of the countries that you have to be careful how to get money in or the people won't see all or any of it.

Here are some ways we can all help:

  1. Give donations via organisations that will go directly to the people and not the government.  Try these, I'm sure there are more that you can investigate into.
  • If you know someone in Nepal you can send money to them directly (and with no fees at the moment) through Western Union.  I did this, it was a pretty easy process and the family had the money that day. Find your local agents here
  • Donate to Rural Women NZ's joint campaign with ALIVE Nepal by donating to 06-0501-0778590-00 (Reference Nepal).  ALIVE works to support women in Nepal.
  • Help Rural Women NZ and Farmy Army purchase tarpaulins, ropes, school supplies, bedding, etc and have them shipped to Nepal in time for the monsoon rains. Tarpaulins can be purchased through two Farmland stores at a big discount to be included in the shipment.  Find out more here.  But in quick this ends 24th June!
  • We know a NZ Trekking business, Trekking Adventures, that has created a Trust Appeal Fund for the people of mountain villages of Nepal.  All the money will be going directly to families in the villages, no administration fees, etc. 
Their cycling guide, with a group of cyclist is biking 100km per day to remote villages handing out rice, food and medical supplies.  This is a fantastic initiative!  Also one of their clients is putting together shipping containers of full of goods to be sent.  Here is a message from their Nepalese cyclist:
"i just got back in ktm after four days we went to this village where no ine eals has been up there we wear the first group who went there and it was more pain full to see those ppl who's houses all colaps there was no food no shuletr nothing we are so glad that we went to help them out and i got a call from Laxmi and there parents they still sleeping outsite now need to go kakani then see what happend and laxmi's parents house is colaps too i also neet help them see what i can do for them Ann. ok will be in touch talk to you soon.  with regards mangal lama"

If you want to donate to this fund here are the details:
Bank: Westpac
Account name: Guides & Porters of Trekking Adventures Trust Appeal Fund
Account number: 03 – 1522 – 0109147 – 000
phone 027 356 7043 / (06) 356 7043
email: or website:
  • Donate via the trust that Sir Edmond Hillary set up -
  1.  Of course not many of us are in a situation that they can do this but if any of us could afford to bring heads of Nepalese families over and employ them it would be great.
  2. Pray that the Nepalese people will get what they need and quickly before the monsoon season hits!
  3. Share this message to as many people as possible!

O Mani Padme Hum

Here's some photos that the family have sent me after the earthquake, the photos of the houses are in Khumjung.

nepal-house-crumbled  Nepal-house

Inside-nepal-house  nepal-road-crack

Here's some photos of my trip to Nepal in 1993:

This is Bhaktapur, the 12th century part of Kathmandu, it is completely flattened
Our last day in the mountains with Nawang's family.
Nawang and I at 18,500 ft!     

This was my last view of Khumjung village, it has grown a lot since then, but now 99% of the houses are damaged and need need of immediate repair

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