The Lazy Farmer – Bees

Firstly I will point out that beekeeping is anything BUT lazy. You should really do weekly inspections of the hive as most of us know the Bee population is in decline and there are so many reasons why. Weekly inspections help reduce the risk of the colony dying!

We received our first NUC (NUC = small honey bee colonies created from larger colonies. The name is derived from the fact that a nuc hive is centered on a queen, the nucleus of the honey bee colony) on the 8th May 2016. And transferred them into our first Hive which we purchased from Amazon. Within a matter of weeks the bees worked so hard making honey and brood chambers (baby bee frames) we could add our second box or officially called a super (A honey super consists of a box in which 8–10 frames are hung) 

As from the photos you can see we were feeding them sugar water to begin with, whilst they got their bearings and before the flowers all started to grow starting the nectar flow season.

Nectar or Honey flow is a term used by beekeepers indicating that one or more major nectar sources are in bloom and the weather is favourable for bees to fly and collect the nectar in abundance.

This is actually only a very short period. Usually only a week or two, then you should start to feed your bees again (trust me it’s weird when you see loads of flowers still out but have to feed the bees)

Our hive started strong, week after week we found the queen, we saw brood (eggs) we saw good honey supply and most importantly no pests.

Bee ‘hatching’13781968_1152999968086108_4213371413191793357_n

As we entered June/July we considered adding some honey boxes but were advised this was actually too late. So we removed the honey boxes and left the bees to their own supply ready for winter. We had made it to 3 boxes high and nearly every frame full of either brood or honey!

However over the next few months we noticed a steady decline in our bee population. The lower super was not being filled or touched at all. And then around September time we saw our first few mites on the mite board (a board underneath the hive that collects droppings of any kind) Varroa mites/destructor is an external parasitic mite that attacks the honey bees. The disease caused by the mites is called varroosis. Varroa mites are the “single most detrimental pest of honey bees,” according to the USDA National Honey Bee Health

varroa_mite04  varroa-mite-bee

So according to the handbook and our local association we treated appropriately. (With Mite strips) only a week later we found hundreds of dead mites. So we were confident we had caught them early. This was about the time we noticed a few hive beetles, Beetles can create sudden problems if bee escapes (a device that works like a one way door to let bees out but not back in) are used prior to harvesting, and supers of honey are left virtually undefended by bees. Honey contaminated by small hive beetles will be rejected by bees, is entirely unfit for human consumption, and should never be bottled or mixed with other honey. But fortunately there is a simple solution for the beetles. This device below, filled with some cooking oil, lures them in and they drown.

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Confident we had that under control too we were still very concerned about the lack of work being done by the bees in the lower box. We also started feeding the bee’s again, as we had noticed they were already starting to consume their honey stores. In hind-sight we missed a very important sign I think, and we only came to realise a few short weeks later when we went for a routine hive check and saw this:

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What we are looking at here is our hive under attack by another colony of bees. We know they are intruders as they are desperately trying to get in any crack or crevice of the hive (to steal food reserves) The vandals were mainly bouncing off the top box where the sugar water feeders were, but also fighting our bees around the entrance. On top of that we noticed a few wasps also trying their luck and they will also fight and kill honeybees to steal food supplies. Now there a few reasons this would happen Robber bees will rob another hive if the hive is weak or if there are drought conditions and there is a lack of nectar sources.

Either way we caught it too late, we locked the hive down but a few days later (when the robbers had gone) we opened up our hive to find.. not a lot.

The picture on the right is the bottom board of the hive full of dead bees. Waxmoths had settled in, so that wasn’t a good sign either.
Surprisingly we found the queen roaming around aimlessly, so we rescued her and gave her to a local lady who was in need of a queen for one of her hives.

So there you have it, our first year of bee-keeping. Not how we wanted it to go, but we learnt a lot and now we have some already built-up supers and frames ready for our next two NUC’S which are being delivered early next year.  So fingers crossed we will have some honey to try next year!!!

Start up costs for Bees
NUC = $150 (ish)
Hive & beekeeping kit = $250
Varroa mite treatment = $20
Beetle treatment = $1.59 per trap

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