Beehive Thefts

Beehive Thefts

There's been a rash of beehive thefts lately.

The price of manuka honey is soaring at the moment. So the bee industry is growing like crazy with lots of new beekeepers coming in to the industry to try and take advantage of the honey rush.

And this means the value of beehives is increasing too. A 2 box hive used to cost around $700 a couple of years ago, now its above $1000.

When anything becomes too valuable too fast, this is also an opportunity for less scrupulous people to take advantage also. Hence the increase in beehive thefts.

Where are the bee thefts from?

The Honey Flow is On!

The Honey Flow is On!

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz. I wonder where the beesies is?

Out collecting nectar, that's where.

Spring is the flowering time for a lot of plants. Some flower through summer, some in autumn. But spring is the first. And spring is manuka flowering season.

All the manuka round our home (Auckland) is starting to flower. The manuka further north, in Northland will have nearly done it's flowering (and word on the street is that it wasn't great this year - too wet, washed the nectar away, and made it hard for the bees to get out flying about too). Manuka further south will still be gearing up. Budding up.

So, it's important to manage the hives so the bees are ready and raring to go. Like anything, get 3 beekeepers together and you'll get 13 different strategies. And there aren't any easy rules.

Feeding Sugar Syrup to Bees in Spring

Feeding Sugar Syrup to Bees in Spring

As we head into early spring we need to start preparing for the massive explosion in numbers of bees. It's one of the most important bee management activities of the year for a successful bee business.

Naturally, bees will start to increase their numbers as the nectar food sources increase. But as a beekeeper, you will want the hives to be at a maximum strength as the nectar - or honey flow - hits.

What to use in a bee smoker

We normally use chopped up coffee sacks in the smokers as they make a good smokey smolder.

Sometimes they are hard to get, so recently we got a big pile of them, left over from a wedding where they were covering hay bales as the seating arrangement for a country-style event.

A couple fell off the back of the truck ;-) and have been re-purposed as cat beds. Quite popular, they are too. The dog loves hers too.

Extracting Honey

These are the Karamea hives of my brother.

And here is the honey being extracted and dripping into the sieve and into a bucket. A lovely harvest this year, although he reports that the rata honey is in short supply, probably because of the rata flowering profusely last year, and not much this year. The kamahi is good though. Different areas produce different honey types.

And, a jar of fresh honey. What could be better? (I know the answer to this: homemade sourdough and honey!)

Moving Beehives

How to move beehives to a new location? We've just had a Big Weekend!. Moving over 100 hives from Hamilton to the Wairarapa. We needed both utes and trailers, the bee boys and me (the spare driver), a couple of extras to help unload at the end. And 36 hours on the go without stopping.

Bees need to be moved in the dark, when they are all home. So, if you are loading quite a few, it goes on for a few hours. We finally left at 2am, ready to drive through the night. 

We lock up the front doors of the hives, so they don't fly off down the motorway, strap them on (this take AGES), and then drive drive drive.

And at the other end, bee people in suits, unloading. (I'm watching from the grassy slopes in the sun, with ahem...my eyes closed...)

We're really glad to have the super duper 4WD utes, top of the range -  this hill was extremely steep, and we were at the top - and it is full of some leftovers of some crop (blue flowers, stalky?), plus a few bulls (bulls are friendly, right?), add in a couple of narrow paddock gates on the wrong angle, and the most experienced 4WD driver, and we got there. In the end. I did stop breathing a bit, on the way (oh ye of little faith!)

Doesn't NZ farmland all look so similar? This could be virtually anywhere. OK, maybe not Otago, but still....

A job well done. Just another site to put the rest on, and we're done. Bee boys 1 and 2 were off with the other ute in a couple of other fields. I did count the hives, but got a bit muddled, so a recount is required. But, by my reckoning, there were gazillions. Technical term....

Official stats:

2100 Km driven, each

12 filled rolls eaten

4 apples, 6 bananas

6 cups of coffee consumed

6 litres of water drunk

gazillions of hives

even more bees

36 hours for the longest shift (we got back into Auckland at 9pm)

7 people (thanks to Will, visitor, who helped so much :-) )

5 days to catch up on sleep after (hey, I'm not so young, OK?)

Moving Hive Boxes

In a previous post 'Bee Equipment Logistics' I outlined the to-ing and fro-ing involved with all the hardware required to grow bees. Well here it is in action. 

Having spent ages making all the boxes and then dipping them in oil and letting them air dry, they need to be taken to the farms where the hives actually are. So we (ah, that would be the beekeepers) load them up on to the ute and a HUGE trailer, tie down every which way, and then some - none of these babies are going to fly off down the motorway - ready for transport.

And, because the bee box supply depot is at the other end of the island to the bee farms, the bee boys get up before sparrow fart and drive all day. Probably NOT the most satisfying part of their job.... but it certainly looks impressive all loaded up, and driving a big load could have its charms, at least the first time.

Expanding bee hives

This time of year the bees are multiplying like crazy. So this weekend it was all about expanding the hives at home, This top hive is looking pretty busy, all those bees trying to get in the door way. By the end of the day it has now got another box on top. Not that that will make the doorway less crowded, but conditions inside will be more spacious, and more room for honey-making.

Even Spike the goat, who lives over the driveway from the bees, was pretty interested. Or maybe its just quite boring being a goat, and any activity is welcome? 

Swarms

We spent a fair bit of this weekend checking out potential swarms in our beehives. Its been a bad year for swarming apparently, possibly El Nino changing the weather? Or who knows?

But its good to get on top of it and be as proactive as possible. Occasionally one will get away on you though, and then in come the swarm busters to clean up.Now the top pic is a bit less sharp because I was standing A LONG WAY AWAY with my camera on zoom as David scooped up the swarm and poured it back into a new hive box. You will notice the high tech tool (which would have been a much more interesting picture close up, ho hum) that he is using to capture the swarm - a giant brush and shovel. Yes. As you do. Seemed to work perfectly though.

After the swarm had been poured back in, we kept an eye on it for a while to see what the rest of the bees coming in would do. And here they are, on the left hive at the front, all following the scent in to the proper door. So this looks like a good capture. We'll check again the next day, to make sure all is well, but this one looks successful.

And on another host's property, another swarm. This one was huge when it first formed. Their neighbour came over and took most of it and put it in his empty hive. We're wondering whether the queen didn't get captured though, as there is still this little bunch left behind. If the queen is in there, then it is likely the rest of the family will fly on back and reform a bigger bunch. Another one to keep an eye on. Or the neighbour could come back and capture these as well. These bees did get thoroughly hammered with a big thunderstorm the night before this picture, although I'm not sure how that would affect them.

November is swarming month

About this time of year, in spring, the bees are all growing like mad. Growing, as in, making babies, not getting to horror-movie proportions. And in the wild they cleverly deal with this by making a new queen, and then half the tribe flies off with the old queen to set up a new home, and the other half hatch the new queen and carry on back at the ranch. All good, in the wild.

But in our hives we want to keep all the bees and help them to create new homes where they will be safe. So at this time of year we are always vigilant looking for signs that the hives are ready to swarm. One of these signs is the creation of queen cups. These are little lumps usually at the bottom of the main frame that have the queen larvae in them. And another is overcrowding.

We deal with both of these threats by keeping a close eye on the hives for signs of swarming. And splitting the hives to make 2 out of 1. And adding new boxes to the top so the bees can move up their apartment block and spread out.

Once a hive has swarmed we try to catch it and put it in a new hive so the bees don't just fly off and make their new nest in an inconvenient place. Like a bush, or an old building. Not that easy, and does require being there pretty soon after it has taken off. And if you see a swarm, and don't have a bee suit, its best to leave it alone and call a beekeeper. Nahla, the dog in the picture, got just a bit too close to this swarm!