Sunday, September 19, 2021

Some considerations before you are getting bees into your backyard

Where can I buy bees?  Well, right here:   Buying bees in Perth Western Australia


But, before you do that, lets have a look at a few considerations prior getting bees:


Allergies and allergic reactions to bee stings:

Bee stings can cause allergic local reactions and worst case anaphylactic shocks and is not to be underestimated and ignored when taking up beekeeping. It should be on your list to check with family members, members of your house hold, regular visitors and your neighbors if they indeed have allergic reactions to bee stings. If unsure its best to talk to your health care professional to find out about testing for allergies if you are concerned.

Western Australian Amateur Association had a great guest speaker on allergies and anaphylaxis which I suggest watching. The video initially has a sound issue but works after a few minutes. WAAS guest speaker on 
allergies and anaphylaxis

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

DPIRD Rules and regulations around buying and selling bees / nucleus colonies / NUCs in WA Australia

 Important Notice to all our customers in regards to purchasing bees


BE WORTH IT has recently been contacted by the Departement of Primary Industries (DPIRD) during their general and annual reminder for all vendors selling queens, bee hives and NUCs / nucleus colonies and ensuring all sellers of bees are up to date with the current legislation going into the new season.

Please read below rules which apply when purchasing bees.

DPIRD rules basically say:    NO BEEKEEPING REGISTRATION = NO BEES.

Hence it is MANDATORY you inform us of your beekeeping identifier within our online form when submitting your orders on our website found here


Saturday, August 7, 2021

What to expect when picking up bees for the very first time

What can you expect when picking up bees for the first time?

Googling Sunset Perth:

Well for starters bees are being picked up after dark. We usually tell people to  Google Sunset Perth, then add about 15 minutes to the received answer of google indicating the pickup time. We will send you pickup instructions a few days prior and ensure everything is lined up for the desired night.

Ute or Trailer:

We ask customers to pick up bees with either a Ute or a trailer and in larger quantities with a combination of both. We do sell additional "travel bags" into which we wrap the NUCs for transport, this to avoid escaping bees from the NUCs, however they are not a 100% guarantee.
Our transport bags however have indeed helped customers in the past when taking a roundabout a bit to fast, tipping their NUCs over in the back of the boot and the NUC opening, and keeping the bees contained in the bag. However as mentioned we recommend keeping the bees outside of your drivers cab for obvious safety reasons. Especially if you are new to bees, having bees crawl over you while driving can get new-bees freaked out, hence we ask you to bring a Ute along and place the bees on the tray.



If you are really new to beekeeping you may want to have a read of the following blog entry: 

LINK TO WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE GETTING BEES HERE


Using red lights for shifting bees:

On the night of the pickup we will most likely be illuminating the work and loading area using red LED lights while trying to avoid any white light sources such as car lights, lampposts etc, this as bees do not see red light and do not start flying while we humans can see where we are going. (Using red light to shift bees

Driving long distances on hot nights:

If you are planning to drive long distances, and picking up bees for a long drive to your destination, you may need to stop several times and give the NUCs a quick spray down with a water bottle to cool them down and give the bees access to some moisture.

Tools and PPE:

Also we recommend having a smoker with you, with some smoker fuel and a fire lighter ready, just in case you have an unforeseen incident and need to do some manipulation with your NUC while you travel. We would  also ask you to have a bee suit , gloves and a hive tool with you, not that it will be required during the pickup, it rather is for your sake and to be able to react to any unexpected issues until you arrive at the destination. We will shut the hive entrance after dark just shortly prior your arrival and try to avoid having any loose passengers crawling around the box, however it is bees you are picking up and there is possibility for the individual bees to crawl around.

Tie down and road safety:

Please ensure you have the correct length straps and ratchets handy to correctly tie down the NUCs either on the Ute's tray or trailer, keep in mind that ropes are not a legally approved tie down option on Australia's roads.


Arriving at the destination:

Once you arrive at your destination move the NUC colony right next to the intended hive location within the same night and open up the hive entrance facing the intended side. The bees will most likely start crawling out the front door fairly fast once you open it up, so its best to just open up, and stand back and watch them flood out, preferably using a red light torch a few meters away.  On the next day, around mid day you will then have your first true beekeeping experience in transferring your NUC into the bee hive.  If you think this may be an overwhelming initial task I would propose to consult a bee buddy in your area as well as joining the WAAS.org.au, there is heaps of experienced amateur beekeeper who are happy to give you a hand.

We have  a dedicated blog entry in regards to how to transfer a NUC into a bee hive found here.


(LINK TO HOW TO TRANSFER NUC)

Click here to order your first set of bees!


Happy beekeeping!


Regards,


Colin


How to decrystallize honey in 30 Kg buckets on small scale using a Sous Vide machine

Most Honey types crystallize over time and there is nothing bad about that, its just a natural thing to happen and there is nothing wrong with crystallized honey at all.

While some people seem to prefer crystallized honey it can become a bit unhandy for the beekeeper when it comes to bottling honey jars.

In our case we still store a lot of honey in 20 or 30 liter buckets, that's 8 gallons for people using imperial systems. We tend to first store it on those buckets prior either selling the buckets bulk or filling it into smaller jars for retail sales purposes. However filling of smaller jars can happen up to a few month later, hence the buckets can become crystallized by the time we intend to jar them.

 

When looking around for a simple solution to warm up the honey, to get it back into a viscous enough state to fill into jars we checked for something simple to use, low maintenance, zero effort requirement, and trying to be energy efficient.
That's when my brother Gordon was preparing some steaks using a Sous-Vide machine, when we found it to be also very handy to keep a large enough tub at perfect temperature to warm up our 30kg buckets full of honey. Same, same, but different.

As it turns out we can place 2x 30kg tubs into the black tub, heating up the water to approx 38 degrees Celsius and letting the buckets sit there for around 24h. Once done we can insert the next 2 buckets while the water still remains warm and keeps the heat for another few rounds of buckets.

 


Depending on how well insulated this is being setup, I could imagine it being fairly economical in terms of energy consumption. You also may change the heat source from electricity to gas.

The fact that we can easily just pop in 2x new buckets while the water is already pre-heated makes it fairly efficient, also if the heat source switches off for some reason then the heat does not just instantly dissipate.

Below you can see the Sous Vide machine dialled in for 25 hours at 38 Celsius.

 

Happy bottling!


Regards,


Colin


Friday, August 6, 2021

Delivering Pollen substitute with a Caulking gun - Will this become an alternative to pollen patties?

Beekeepers tend to use pollen patties to get their bees all fired up for a future honey flow or generally to just help a struggling colony expand its brood nest increasing the bees in number for a number of reasons.

There are many commercial products out there stimulating the expansion of the brood nest, and in our case we have been using FEEDBEE as a trial. Usually what you would see and hear about is that one creates little pollen patties or flat pancake looking patties which are placed under the hive lids.

In our case we are using polystyrene hives (Paradise Honey BeeBox) which unfortunately do not have a large gap under the hive lid. Adding a hive mat and just having a tiny fraction of burr comb on top of the hive mat already makes it a bit of a pain closing down the colonies. Usually one would have to scrape down burr comb of the top of the hive bars to make room for those extra few millimetres consumed by the pollen patty. 

Also we don't always want to deploy the same or similar amounts of feed, some hives may need more or less than others. In some cases not all of the patty is being consumed due to bees not having access to the patty, and some of the patty is then later being scraped down and simply being lost in the scrape down of the top bars with another required effort.

Once I first seen someone on youtube coming up with pollen sausages I was intrigued and wanted to play around with the idea. So rather than using patties we wanted to experiment with a new approach, using a highly customized amount of feed on a per colony basis while ensuring the bees have extremely fast access to the patty. The idea is to enlarge the surface area to the patty and having them consume 100-400g worth of feed within 48h for instance.

When playing around with such ideas is usually the time when I typically go through my wife's kitchen looking for inspirations on how to do the task at hand. As we did not have the right cake dough / cake icing gun and even if we had one they seemed to be a little fragile for the project at hand. Hence I went to the local hardware store to find if there is something else I could use instead and found Caulking guns at Bunnings for 11 bucks! What a bargain for this test!

(For this approach we have not exactly followed the guidance by the pollen feed instructions, this is rather a unique mix, adding pollen sub-powder until we got the consistency we intended to have)

  

Within the first few trials we had the nozzle set way to small, as well having fairly runny dough which has the tendency to drop down and potentially drown bees in the pollen sub dough. Hence you want to have it on the dry side, avoiding any squashed bees under the pollen-sub. Also you may need to puff smoke over the top bars just shortly before applying the sausage to get the bees out of the way.

 

However when you mix your dough adding more and more pollen sub to the mix up to a point where its fairly dry it seems to be quite solid and remains over the top bars nicely. Once you place the hive mat on top and close the lid it gently pushes the sausage into the top 5-10mm of the top bar, giving the bees a massive surface to access the patty while avoiding having leftovers on the top bars. It places the pollen sub nearly at the right height within the frame in comparison on how bees normally would store the pollen around the top of the frames.

Keep in mind, this has been an initial trail / experiment and we yet need to find a way to scale up this process to make any sense within a commercial beekeeping enterprise, however I could imagine having some "extra pipes / spare Culking magazines" worth of caulking guns or similar to make this work on larger scale.

I had weighted the filled Caulking gun and I think it weighed around 5 kg, which was not too bad in terms of quantity. Assuming you have 2-3 prepared caulking "pipes" it should be enough to custom feed a minor site. 


MISSING PICTURE of thick sausage applied, remaining on top bars. 

MISSING - Flattened picture of sausage once hive mat and lid applied and removed.

Cleaning the Caulking gun is rather an easy and quick task, as you only need hot water to flush out all the remaining pollen sub. Its a 2 minute job to finish off, however try to do this task sooner than later...


I will be updating the blog entry a few month in to update how.


Happy feeding!


Regards,


Colin


Bees on Canola 27.7.2021

This is our first time putting bees onto Canola -  27.7.2021 

The weather in WA Australia has been very wet for the start of this season, and according to the farmer it is slightly too wet for canola growers.

As we are fairly new to the Canola world, we wanted to be careful not to place too many hives on to the block just to end up with a insecticide drama, hence we decided to only drop 30 hives for the first year.



Weather forecast for the next 14 days:


Due to the current rain, no herbicide/pesticide spraying can be conducted within the next few days in the affected area, which is good to hear. However the farmer advised that he will need to do some spraying as soon as it drys up a little. We also know that it will take him about 4 days worth of spraying, hence I would imagine he will spray around the 3. - 6.August and we will probably need to remove the bees on Monday afternoon /  evening the 2nd.

Updated a few days later...

After a few days of cold and rainy weather we had a a few sunny days with temperatures above 13 Celsius, allowing the bees to fly, and soon into it the bees are bringing in a bit more than 2 Kg of nectar a day.

It turned out the farmer had to spray herbicide on to a barley patch a few kilometres away from the canola field away, luckily we have not had any impacts and do not seem to be affected by it as our bees probably will not even fly further as a few hundred meters into the canola field as we are surrounded by feed.




One thing which we are targeting on the Canola flow is to build all foundations and ending with a few build boxes of stickies on a relative cheap honey crop.
Keep in mind we run 2 brood boxes using WSP frame formats and placed 1 box of stickies over the excluder as 3rd box, while placing a box of foundations with 2 stickies in a 10 frame box as 4th box over the excluder.
As of the first week we are getting closer to having the sticky box filled, and hopefully having the 4th box built. This should then allow one of the following things. Either we will just need to rotate boxes and place the box with the foundations on 3rd position while getting the bees to finish off the built box on 4th position, or we may be lucky and remove the filled and capped box, placing the 4th box on 3rd position, and placing another box with 2 stickies and 8 foundations into the new 4th position. Sounds more complicated than it is, and I might post a picture to visualize what may have to do. I'm intending to head out to inspect the bees around the 13.8.2021 and perform all required rotations.


Below is a list of chemical used while planting and maintaining a Canola crop:

Seeding

- Butisan Herbicide
- Pyrinex Super Insecticide
-Granular Sulphate of Ammonia

Broadleaf Spray – Post Seeding

-Uptake Spraying Oil
- Attrazine 900WG
-Verdict 520 Herbicide
-Clethodim 240EC

We try to avoid having bees on the crop if this is being sprayed with Herbicide and especially Insecticide! Depending on which beekeeper you ask you get different opinions about the damage to the hives and bees caused by the different chemicals. Some beekeepers say, only the field bees don't return and simply die nearly on contact with some of those chemicals, leaving you with a box of nurse bees and a still laying queen. Others report total destruction of your hives, to a point where its best to just simply burn the hive and its contents and start over. Hence the reports we have received had quite a big gap in between.

Luckily we have not had any poisoning related issues to date.

Update 12.8.2021

So what you can see on the left is basically what happened so far a few days later. Keep in mind we have had quite a bit or rain and some fairly cold days. Some nights have been around the 3-4 degrees Celcius mark onsite. Hence you can see the weight increase initially remaining flat, a minor increase in weight during some nice weather, and then rain belting down for another few days. On the right you can see how we hopefully get a few sunny days, and are looking forward for some weight gain in those hives. I will be onsite on the 13.8.2021 to inspect the hives and rotate frames and make room where required.

 



Update 12.9.2021

As you may can see, we had the first honey pull on Saturday 11.9.2021, however there is still plenty on the hives to come. The weather has been fairly cool the last few days and we are hoping to get another few warm days to get the last out of Canola prior moving onto a spring flow in the Toodyay area.




Note the Canola seed pods pointed out. 







Update 20.9.2021

After 1 ton of canola and a bit more to come it is soon time to get the bees moved on. The flow is flattening out and new prosperous places have started indicating coming flows. So the plan is to move them on Friday 24.9.2021 into the Toodyay area. Keep in mind we had been a bit cautious this year and only placed an initial 30 hives out on to Canola, this as we had heard lots of horror stories about poisoning etc. In the next season we will probably place 100 hives on to the same batch again and see how we go. Below you can see the weather data and the weight gain recorded by WIFIHIVESCALES.

   


The issue of crystallization and or creaming your honey:

We had harvested and extracted the first load of canola on 11.9.2021 and shows the left bucket out of the two seen on the right picture. Today is the 20.9.2021 and the left bucket is still runny, no signs of crystallization even said the bucket had literally been in my house around 17-20 degrees Celsius max.

The bucket on the right, as well as the individual bucket seen on the left had been made into creamed honey. We literally inserted 10% of seed honey into the mix and stirred it 2-3 times within 48 hours.
The result after about 3 days is the bucket on the right with the spoon "cutting" out a chunk of the creamed honey, which has the consistency of butter when cool. However over the course of a few days, it really goes hard and you will have to work that spoon to get a scoop out of the jar. I personally found it amazing on how fast canola crystallized once we introduced a seed crystal, and I believe that is the issue when people have issues extracting canola. Canola by itself if there is no crystals inside are in my view not problematic for extraction lines, it becomes really an issue if there has been some form of crystalization happening and it can then easily block up honey pumps and pipes literally over night.
The creamed / butter honey experiment showed us how intensely fast it can go from looking like  viscous canola honey to going into a consistency of butter within the course of 3 days when the "correct" seed honey is used or happens to remain within your extraction plant.



(This blog post is subject for later updates as we go)



Meanwhile if you are interested in learning more about Canola, then please feel free to have a read of the below study:

https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/117112/bee-on-canoloa.pdf


Happy beekeeping!


Regards,


Colin


Monday, July 12, 2021

How to avoid wax moth damage in your honey supers - using drone comb!

Lets just start with the benefits of using drone comb within your honey supers:





- Drone comb stores more honey per frame!
- No storage requirements, avoid bees getting to them, that's all there is to it really.
- Frames can be extracted at higher speeds and empty way faster!
- Less honey stuck in frames after extracting!
- No pollen is being stored in drone comb frames!
- No pollen stored in drone comb = no wax moth damage of those super frames!
- Bees seem to be very happy to draw out drone comb.


(The assumption is that you use a queen excluder to avoid any drones / pupa off being raised within the comb, hence with absence of pollen being stored in drone comb and no brood being raised giving the wax moth literally close to no food at all to thrive on. You will still notice minimal wax moth damage, however wax moth starve to death prior causing significant damage. The hole idea of using this simple technique came to us once we initially observed over the years, that bees had never stored pollen in drone comb regardless of how heavy the pollen flow was)


I've never seen a beekeeper appreciate the wax moth's work:

Most beekeepers really seem to have a dislike for wax moth, that is probably a fair statement in "general".

Below you can see wax moth damage on a brood frame on a died out colony.


Most beekeepers have issues storing their honey supers over the winter period, just to find them destroyed by wax moth, if no special treatment had been done to them. And by treatment I mean either having frozen the comb for 24h and then sealed up so wax moth can't enter the comb anymore. Alternatively one can cover them in wood ash and or spray them with BT, which I would not recommend, however I have seen applications of this in the past.


The easiest way to store a few frames is to build a bee tight space out in the open with a roof, and hang up your frames out in the draft nicely spaced, which will probably do for most amateur beekeepers, as you most likely only hold a few boxes worth of frames over winter.

 

However when you are semi-commercial or running as large scale commercial beekeeper, storing a few 1000+ frames in a special setup is probably not a viable option due to all the labor involved.
Hence a lot of commercial beekeepers lock up their honey supers in either sea containers or other air tight structures and gas them, essentially killing all wax moth and developing larva, while keeping the frames in the air tight space for a few days, then maintain keeping them locked up, until being re-used again. However, please note that prior entering the air-tight container to air out the enclosed space for at least a few days to ensure it is safe to enter and all gases have cleared out of the space.

Easy potential solution:

We are using drone comb with a cell diameter of 7.2mm. We had to adopt a color code in order to better operationally differentiate between regular 4.9mm worker bee comb (white top bars) and the larger 7.2mm drone comb size (red top bars) in the field.




However if you either don't want to gas all your frames, and or don't want to do all this effort, then I would recommend using drone comb in your honey supers and using queen bee excluders!

Basically you just have to ensure the queen never lays an egg into those drone comb frames and they will never be destroyed by wax moth. Its fairly simple to say, if no bee ever developed in a comb, then the wax moth will rather have a hard time trying to develop. We noticed during Redgum flows, which yield very massive pollen flows, that we never seen a single drone comb cell filled with pollen, not a single time!

Hence the absence of pollen and layers of previous developing bees cause the wax moth larva to starve to death, prior causing any real damage to the drawn drone comb frames.

We now simply just store the boxes in our shed, with no additional effort required once the bees previously cleaned out the supers. And in spring we take them out just as new!


This is how we store our drone comb supers. Absolutely no super storage requirements what so ever. Just pop them in the shed, forget about them for a few month, and take them back out. That's it!

Zero wax moth treatment required!!


I have not read that too often before, someone claiming to have practically no wax moth damage! Below you can see how the frames look like after 2-3 month of being in the shed as stored above. On the left you can see the single frame which had suffered a tiny fraction of wax moth damage, and this frame has been by far the worst of all of them!

 

Mice however like to find a nice warm and dry spot to set up their camp, so you will have to put up some mouse bait to avoid having rather mouse damage than wax moth damage!


The operational catch to the solution:

There is a catch however, for starters, many beekeepers probably have not adopted this style of management yet. And second, in high numbers of boxes and frames, there is the issue of pulling either capped brood or capped honey frames over the excluders too. As the commercial beekeeper you will always have to bring additional foundations or sticky frames for standard brood size with you to fill up, what ever frame you had to move over the excluder, as you should not place some of the drone combs under your excluder to avoid having millions of drones chomping through your honey, and having your previously clean drone comb "contaminated" by a larva, and therefore now being susceptible to wax moth damage.


So as you can see, when you grow in size, this is not perfect, but the benefits can't be ignored too!


Happy beekeeping!

Regards,

Colin


Growing Paulownia fortunei - the fastest growing tree for shade and honey!

This blog post will be probably a long term / ongoing entry and will be all about growing Paulownia fortunei trees from the day we planted until the day we start to appreciate their shade and honey!

It is said to be the fastest growing tree on earth, reaching a height of 12m within 8 years! However the reason why we chose growing it was for shade as well as just trying to grow anything really in very sandy soil. Pauwlownia is said to survive sandy soil, this is something we have heaps off. Also the tree is said to survive our summer heat, another big contributor in the choice.

Depending on stocking rates I have read that Pauwlonia trees can yield up to 1.3 tons of honey per acre, hence for us as beekeeper this seems to be an interesting tree also, apart of the fact that you can also sell the trees and harvest their wood.

Delivery WA Australia (July)

We had delivered to our door by Small Tree Farm located in Balingup WA and you will have to pre-order your trees up to a year in advance. Then around June / July / August time frame you can expect your delivery of roughly 3m long bare rooted trees as shown below.




Soil preparation:

This is not a recommendation, rather just explaining on what we have done, as I am no expert on growing Pauwlonia trees yet. Keep in mind, on those pictures the trees had still been alive.
But what was recommended to me was to dig at least 40cm deep and about 50cm wide and refill with the soil removed. We have however not followed that just as instructed and thought it would be a good idea to mix  a batch of 50% of compost with 50% of charcoal and then blend the removed sand 50% / 50% with above charcoal/compost mix. Additionally we have purchased "Ollas" which are clay pots storing around 3 liters of water and dug them into the same hole. They can be filled with water and weep through allowing the soil to remain moist underground around the root ball of the tree. We intend to place float valves into those Ollas to maintain a constant moist soil around the root systems of the tree.

  




Once we had the trees and Ollas covered we added 5cm worth of wood chips / mulch over the top to maintain a better constant temperature around the tree as well as to reduce the amount of water evaporation around the base. I would highly recommend reading Peter Andrews book Beyond the Brink when trying to grow stuff in Australian climates. (status 12.7.2021)


 


Paulownia fortunei  will start to produce leaves the size of elephant ears, so we are looking forward to seeing them as soon as the tree comes out of dormancy.

So lets follow them on how they grow:


8.August 2021

  

29.August 2021:

  
 



So now its time to just sit back and relax...

Regards,

Colin


Some considerations before you are getting bees into your backyard

Where can I buy bees?   Well, right here:    Buying bees in Perth Western Australia But, before you do that, lets have a look at a few cons...