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.


Bee Swarms

Written by Stephanie on October 31st, 2017.      0 comments

Spring is the time of year when you are likely to see a few bee swarms.  For those that don't know much about swarms I thought I would explain what they are, why bees swarm and what to do if you have one turn up at your place.

Firstly, have a look at one of our beehives swarming!


 

What is a Swarm and Why do Bees Swarm?


Bee-SwarmMainly in springtime you may see a very large group of bees flying together or you may see a big clump (like a ball) of bees hanging from a branch, on a fence, against your house, or some other place.  This is a swarm of bees.  

A swarm is when a queen bee takes a large group of worker bees (usually about 50-60% of the hive) with her and leaves the hive to find a new home.  It is a natural means of reproduction for bee colonies.   A swarm of bees could consist of thousands to tens of thousands of bees.

The reason bees swarm could be due to one of these causes:
  • There are two queens in a hive so one takes half the bees out and finds another home
  • There are too many bees for one hive, a new queen is created and the old queen moves off with some of the bees
  • The bees are simply predisposed genetically to swarming (instinctive)


What to Do if You are in the Path of Moving Swarm:


Don't panic! Don't run!  Don't fling your arms around!  Just remember they will have filled up on honey before they left and will be docile and unable to sting.  But to be safe just crouch down low and stay still until they pass.
 

What to Do if you Have a Swarm on your Property:


Don't panic!  Don't touch them!  Don't spray them!  They will not harm you unless you harm them.

The best thing you can do is to get hold of a local beekeeper to come and collect it. There are hobby beekeeping clubs all around the country and they are often looking for swarms to fill new hives.

Look for a beekeeper in your area on the National Beekeepers Association website.  Or google a hobby beekeeper's club near you.  Here are some club websites:

Waikato Hobby Beekeeping Club
Auckland Beekeepers Club
Whangarei Beekeeping Club
Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeeping Club

There's actually a great list of hobby beekeeping clubs on the Kiwimana website, there might be one near you.  Hobby beekeepers are always on the scout out for new bee colonies!

 

Read More:

Why do bees sting?
Remedies for bee stings
 
Topics: Bee Facts
 

September is Bee Aware Month

Written by Stephanie on September 1st, 2017.      0 comments

Bee Aware Month Logo-291This month is 'Bee Aware Month' in New Zealand the focus is on how important bees are for pollinating food and other products we consume.  
 

Why are Bees So Important?

Imagine the world without strawberries, kiwifruit, apples, nuts, chocolate or even denim jeans! These are all foods and products pollinated by bees!  Without bees, a huge 2/3 of our food would disappear.  


Bees around the world and especially in NZ cannot survive without our help, and in turn, we wouldn't survive without them.  Albert Einstein said, “If the Bee Disappeared Off the Face of the Earth, Man Would Only Have Four Years Left To Live".  So not only do bees produce a wonderful, natural food source, they also play a significant role in supporting our food chain.

 

How Can Everyone Help?

 
  • One of the easiest things we can do is to plant bee-friendly gardens both in urban and rural areas.  Bees need food so they can help pollinate our food.  Bees will forage on these flowers for nectar and pollen which provide carbohydrates and protein for growth and energy.  Well-nourished bees are more capable of fending off disease and parasites.
You can purchase wildflower seeds here that are proven bee favourites.
 
 


 
Topics: , Bee Facts
 

Why Hasn't It Been A Good Season for Honey?

Written by Stephanie on March 19th, 2017.      0 comments

You have probably seen or heard in the media that this season's honey harvest will be significantly down.  We think we are down by about 50% but we won't know for sure until the honey is all harvested at the end of this month.  You may wonder what affects honey volumes and why each season can be so dramatically different.

Just like any agricultural business we rely heavily on the weather patterns.  Our bumper crops have always been in long dry summers.  Of course we need a little rain to help the flowers grow but not some much that it stops the bees flying to collect nectar.  Wind is also a problem, the wind blows the flowers off the trees/plants and the wind can make it difficult for bees to fly.  Wind and rain reduce the flying time for the bees that they would normally use to harvest nectar.

iStock 000003281196XSmallThis year we had a late spring and summer was cold and windy. The poor bees have really struggled with this as they can't get enough nectar from the flowers during the flowering season.  The temperatures need to be high enough for the nectar to flow in the flowers for the bees to collect it and it has only been warm enough in the last couple of weeks.  It will be interesting to taste this season's honeys, they could be quite different this year as the bees rush to get the last of the nectar from late flowering plants at the end of Summer.

Spring and Summer is generally a busy time for bees. If bees have the opportunity to make honey, in the form of access to nectar and accommodating weather, they will take it! So if one or both of these factors are reduced the resulting honey flow will reduce also - as has happened this season!

See what honeys Sweetree have in stock

Topics: , Bee Facts
 

Did You Know That Bees Dance!

Written by Stephanie on October 21st, 2016.      0 comments

Bees dance to communicate to other bees in their colony where food sources can be found, possible new homes, etc.  The dance is called a 'waggle dance', it's fascinating!  A bee returns to the hive fully loaded up with honey and pollen and then uses the waggle dance to tell the others the location of where she has just visited.  The dancing bee makes a figure eight and waggles her body at the same time to relay information.  The information she gives includes the location, quality and quantity of the nectar and pollen. 

The direction she waggles indicates the direction of the location in relation to the sun.  If the bee waggles straight up the honey comb the other bees fly towards the sun.  If she waggles on the left the bees are to fly to the left of the sun and if she waggles to the right they head to the right of the sun.

The rhythm of the dance explains the distance to the location from the hive.  The faster she waggles the further away the location is.  The pollen and nectar she has collected gives the other bees information on the type of flowers, their quality and quantity.  Aren't they clever!

Here's a wonderful video from National Geographic showing this dance in the hive!
http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/weirdest-bees-dance?source=relatedvideo 
Topics: , Bee Facts
 

Duties of Bees

Written by Stephanie on October 14th, 2016.      0 comments

Have you ever wondered what the honey bee gets up to when it's in the hive?  Did you know that a bee is allocated a job depending on its age?  Here are the jobs they are allocated:
 
Days Old
(approx)
Role Duties
1-2 Housekeeper - Cleans cells, starting with the one it was born in
- Caps cells
- Keeps the brood warm
3-5 Nurse - Feeds older larvae with honey and pollen
- Attends to the queen
6-11 Nurse - Feeds the youngest larvae with royal jelly
- Attends to the queen
12-17 Hive Builder & Food Management - Receives and stores food
- Ripens honey
- Performs undertaker duties
- Produces wax, read how bees make beeswax
- Builds comb
18-21  Guard - Protects the hive entrance
- Ventilates the hive
- Takes exercise and orientation flights to learn to fly and locate the hive
22-onwards Forager - Flys from the hive collecting pollen, nectarpropolis and water, pollinates plants, etc.

 
Topics: , Bee Facts
 

Types of Bees

Written by Stephanie on August 26th, 2016.      0 comments

Did you know there are three types of bees in the beehive?  They are the queen, worker and drone bees.

 

The Queen

The queen is fascinating!  As a growing larvae she is feed exclusively royal jelly.  Royal jelly, with it's special proteins, is responsible for giving the queen bee a long, long life plus an elegant and large body, which make her very fertile.

As a new queen her first job will be to fight and kill any other queens in the hive.  There could be an old, weak queen or one or two new queens hatched around the same time.  The worker bees create queen cells when the pheromone of their existing queen is getting low, therefore at the end of her life.  

The young queen will then take her virgin flight, mating with an average of 7-17 drone bees in mid air, she may take about 1-3 flights.  She will have enough sperm (about 5-6 million) stored in her sperm pouch to fertilise all the eggs she will spend the rest of her life laying.  She will not leave the hive again, unless she swarms, and will lay about 1500 eggs per day over her four to five year life.

The queen will determine how many worker and drone bees the hive needs. She will lay unfertilised eggs for drone bees and fertilised eggs for worker and queen bees.

 

The Worker Bees

The worker bees are all females and they are called worker bees for a reason, they are hardest worker creature I can think of!  The worker bees carry out all the jobs in a hive, except laying eggs.  The job they are allocated will depend on their age.  There are so many jobs to be done including carrying away waste, cleaning out cells and preparing them for new eggs, feeding larvae, tending to and feeding the queen, building wax, guarding the entrance of the hive, collecting pollen and nectar, fanning honey to dry it, capping honey cells, etc.  

Worker bees generally live for 15-38 days in the summer, 30-60 days in the spring and longer in the winter.  There main job in the winter is to keep the queen alive and warm but clustering around her.  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. 

 

The Drone Bees

Drones are the only male bees in the hive, their role is to mate with the queen.  They seem to have no duties in the hive and do not forage. They do not have pollen baskets, wax glands or stingers, so therefore can not sting.  

Once sexually mature, around 12 days old, they fly out of the hive looking for queen bees and will either mate with their queen or another queen from another hive.  Once mating is complete the drone will, as the penis is torn from his body after he falls away from the queen.  Any drones that do not mate live for a few weeks but if conditions get tough and food storage starts to dwindle the drones are kicked out of the hive, as they have no purpose once the queen has been mated and are just taking up space and resources.




Types of Bees (from Britannica
Types of bees from www.britannica.com
Topics: , Bee Facts
 

The Anatomy of a Worker Bee

Written by Stephanie on August 19th, 2016.      0 comments

Bees, like all insects, have three body sections - the head, thorax and abdomen.
 

Head

On the top of the head the bees antennae is it's sense organs, they are responsive to both touch and smell.  It has five eyes, 3 compound eyes and two simple eyes on the top of the head that are sensitive to light.  Bees have a keen sense of smell, the guard bees smell each bee that enters the hive and they can tell if the queen is healthy by the smell of pheromone she produces.  Their proboscis is uses like a straw to get nectar into their mouth and is flexible to allow a lapping motion.  The mandibles are used to fight, mould and cut wax, and cut at flowers to get the nectar.

 

Thorax

The thorax has two wings and three pairs of legs. The back legs have combs for collecting pollen and moving pollen to the pollen baskets for storage until the return back to the hive.  The forelegs are used to clean the antennae. 

 

Abdomen

The bee has a crop (or honey stomach), where the worker bee can store one third of it's body weight in honey.  At the end of the abdomen is it's stinger, only the females have stingers.  The worker bee's stinger has a barb so it can only sting once, as the barb and some of the abdomen is left in the victim.  The queen bee's stinger is smooth so she is able to sting over and over, but don't worry she doesn't leave the hive (unless she swarms with her hive).


Bee Body Map (from Britannica
Bee anatomy from www.britannica.com

 

Topics: , Bee Facts
 

The Life Cycle of Bees

Written by Stephanie on August 12th, 2016.      0 comments

Like other insects a bee starts it's life as an egg.  The queen bee lays an egg the size of half a grain of rice into a comb cell.  After a few days it hatches into a larvae.    

The larvae now looks like a grain of rice with a mouth. Worker bees will visit up to 1,300 times a day to fed the larvae bee bread, a mix of nectar, bee pollen and a small amount of royal jelly.  If the larvae is to be a queen it is fed solely on royal jelly.  Within about 5-6 days the cell will be capped by a worker bee and the larvae will spin into a silk cocoon to then pupate.

The pupae doesn't eat or move but takes the shape of a bee.  About ten days later the adult bee emerges .


Lifecycle of a Bee (from Britannica
Life Cycle of a Bee from www.britannica.com
Topics: , Bee Facts
 

Products from the Hive

Written by Stephanie on April 7th, 2016.      0 comments

Bees are amazing creatures!  They create so many products from their hives that humans have used for centuries for food and health.  They are:
  • frameBees wax
  • Propolis
  • Honey
  • Bee Pollen and Bee Bread
  • Royal Jelly
  • Bee Venom

Over the next little while I will be blogging about each one of these products.  I will be explaining how the bees make each one, their benefits and uses for each.  The first one will be beeswax, so look out for the blog soon!
Topics: , Bee Facts, Products of the Hive
 

Supply Water for Bees

Written by Stephanie on February 19th, 2016.      0 comments

It's important this time of year to ensure the bees have plenty of water to drink.  Help the bees in your garden this summer by creating some water stations for them.  The trick is to create stations that are not too deep and allow the bees to drink water without falling in.  Here's some ideas:
 
  • Create a shallow pond in your garden where bees can land on the edges to collect water
  • Place pebbles or twigs in a saucer of water so bees have something to stand on and drink
  • Fill a bucket, pail or trough with water. Cover the top of the water with wine corks, this gives the bees a landing pad to drink from
  • Wet sand is another great option, pop it near flowering plants and water regularly.

Drinking-Bees
Topics: , Bee Facts
 

Remedies for Bee Stings

Written by Stephanie on December 18th, 2015.      0 comments

bee-sting

As you may have read in my last blog worker bees only sting if they feel threatened.   But there are times when you just can't avoid being stung, if this happens what should you do? 

Please note:  Bee stings can give different reactions, from temporary pain and discomfort to a severe allergic reaction.  This blog does not cover severe allergic reactions.  If you have a severe allergic reaction please seek urgent medical attention.  If a reaction persists for over a week or covers an area greater than 7–10 cm please see a doctor.
 


Taking the Sting Out

When a bee stings you, the barbed stinger remains embedded in the skin, attached to the stinger is the venom sac, which can carry on pumping venom into the body for up to 10 minutes. For this reason doctors recommend removing the stinger as soon as possible.

It used to be said that pinching or squeezing the stinger could empty the venom sac into the sting, making things worse.  Studies have since shown the amount of venom released does not change whether the sting is pinched or scraped off, but a delay of a few seconds leads to more venom being injected.  Therefore, stingers can be removed by either scraping or brushing them away, or by pulling them out of the skin.

Check out  10 Ways to Remove a Bee Stinger Without Using Tweezers

 

Remedies


The sting may be painful for a few hours and swelling and itching may last for a week. You should avoid scratching the area as this may increase the itching and swelling.   Once the stinger is removed try to wash the area with soap and warm water and place a cold compress on top to reduce the pain and swelling.  Or you could try any of these remedies.
 
  • If you are in a remote area you could spread mud on the area and let it dry, but wash with soap and warm water when you can.
  • Spread baking soda paste on the area and allow it to dry.  Using this or the mud draws the poison out of the area.
  • Pain medications and antihistamines can also help relieve pain, swelling, and itching in the area.
  • Apply toothpaste.
  • Mix a paste of vinegar and baking soda and place on the sting.
  • Apply honey.
  • Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.

Some of our customers recommend:
  • Rub an ice cube over the area till it is melted or the pain has gone away which might take two cubes! This method is so effective and seems to stop swelling and even the itchiness you get a few days later!
  • Chop an onion in half and pop it on the sting, it seems to draw out the nasty stuff.
  • Take Homeopathic Apis.
  • Apply vinegar straight away, followed by a kombucha scoby wrapped on to the sting.
  • packet of lollies for a child...works a treat, for total distraction!
 
Some information for this blog was research from www.en.wikipedia.org and www.wisegeek.com
 
Topics: , Bee Facts
 

Why Do Bees Sting?

Written by Stephanie on December 11th, 2015.      0 comments

bee stingHave you ever been stung by a bee?  I think I have only been stung once when I was about 10 years old.  I still remember it clearly as if it was yesterday.  I was walking in the grass in my lovely red roman sandals at school and as I lifted by foot to walk a bee flew under my toes and as I stepped it stung me.  It gave me a huge fright and man did it sting!  I didn't get a reaction and I don't even remember how I got the sting out but from then on I was scared of bees and getting stung again.
 
Of course after meeting Martin I have grown a new appreciation for bees and I am now comforted by the fact that a honey bee will rarely sting when it is away from its hive foraging for nectar or pollen.  The only reason a bee would sting someone is if they stepped on it or handed it roughly.  Bees will however attack intruders who are disturbing their hive.  Hence Martin has had hundreds of stings!  When a bee stings it also releases an ‘alarm pheromone’ to signal to other bees in the hive to attack.  This is one of the reasons why beekeepers use smokers when they are working hives, it covers up the alarm pheromones.  Because the worker bees release the alarm pheromone when threatened Martin is very careful not to crush or harm the bees when harvesting honey.

So my advice to you would be don’t wave your arms around when a bee comes near you, just sit there quietly and still and when it realizes you are not a flower it will move on.  And if you are going to look into a beehive always wear a suit!
 

Here are some interesting facts about bees and their stings:

  • Bees are the only insect with a strongly barbed sting
  • As the sting lodges into the victim’s skin it tears loose from the bee’s abdomen and the bee die within minutes
  • The female bees (the queen and the worker bees) are the only ones that sting
  • The queen’s stinger is smooth so can therefore sting over and over (but don’t worry she never leaves the hive unless she is swarming to find a new home)
  • A swarm of bees is not aggressive, they are just looking for a new home and have no honey or young to defend
  • The large drone bees do not have stingers
  • A bee sting consists of three parts – a stylus and two barbed sides

The next blog will give you some tips of what to do if you are stung.


Some information for this blog was research from www.en.wikipedia.org and www.wisegeek.com
Topics: , Bee Facts
 

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.
Topics: , Bee Facts
 

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
Wattle is a good source of pollen in spring-time
Topics: , Bee Facts, Bee Friendly
 

Bee Swarms

Written by Stephanie on October 2nd, 2014.      0 comments

It's that time of year when you are likely to see a few bee swarms.  For those that don't know much about swarms I thought I would explain what they are, why bees swarm and what to do if you have one turn up at your place.

Firstly, have a look at one of our beehives swarming!


 

What is a Swarm and Why do Bees Swarm?


Bee-SwarmMainly in springtime you may see a very large group of bees flying together or you may see a big clump (like a ball) of bees hanging from a branch, on a fence, against your house, or some other place.  This is a swarm of bees.  

A swarm is when a queen bee takes a large group  of worker bees (usually about 50-60% of the hive) with her and leaves the hive to find a new home.  It is a natural means of reproduction for bee colonies.  ​A swarm of bees could consist of thousands to tens of thousands of bees.

The reason bees swarm could be due to one of these causes:
  • There are two queens in a hive so one takes half the bees out and finds another home
  • There are too many bees for one hive, a new queen is created and the old queen moves off with some of the bees
  • The bees are simply predisposed genetically to swarming (instinctive)


What to Do if You are in the Path of Moving Swarm:


Don't panic! Don't run!  Don't fling your arms around!  Just remember they will have filled up on honey before they left and will be docile and unable to sting.  But to be safe just crouch down low and stay still until they pass.
 

What to Do if you Have a Swarm on your Property:


Don't panic!  Don't touch them!  Don't spray them!  They will not harm you unless you harm them.

The best thing you can do is to get hold of a local beekeeper to come and collect it. There are hobby beekeeping clubs all around the country and they are often looking for swarms to fill new hives.

Look for a beekeeper in your area on the National Beekeepers Association website.  Or google a hobby beekeeper's club near you.  Here are some club websites:

Waikato Hobby Beekeeping Club
Auckland Beekeepers Club
Whangarei Beekeeping Club
Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeeping Club
 
Topics: , Bee Facts
 
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