About the Apiary - July 2002

About the Apiary

Beekeeping here in Wellington has ceased in the last few weeks. Attention now turns to maintenance of equipment and building replacements. Alternative treatment for mites requires sound gear with no additional entrances. I have quite a few supers that are past their use by date that need attention before mites get here. Sort through your spare honey frames and put aside for melting in the summer any frames that have patches of drone brood.

When varroa arrives the idea is to concentrate all your drone brood on to one frame. If you have more than 5% of drone comb on other frames, your integrated pest management methods will not work. i.e. 60 cells of drone brood will produce the same amount of mites as 1000 worker cells through out the year. Hence it's important to reduce the amount of drone comb in your hives. At the same time reject any with broken lugs or are heavy and dark. These dark frames tend to darken your honey and are a reservoir for disease spores (nosema, chalkbrood, sac brood and AFB). Bees in clean frames are healthier and therefore produce more honey.

Time for a holiday? It's now too cold here for most outdoor activities unless they are associated with winter sports. However in the Pacific Islands although it's winter, the temperature is still in the low twenties. We visited New Caledonia for a week and really enjoyed it although everything is very expensive. Our currency is roughly $2 to the 100 pacific francs (PCF). Most things are imported and these attract a 30% import tax. Meat (beef) costs $30-40 per kg but salaries are high, between $50 and 100,000 PCF.

Honey, bees and used hive produces are prohibited imports to protect the bees and beekeeping industry on the main and outlying Islands. New Zealand has been involved in training some of their young beekeepers at Telford. You can't blame them for wanting to protect their small bee industry. We heard at a trade stand that there are no bees or honey produced on Vanuatu since Varroa arrived.

June is the rainy season and crops are being planted out ready for harvesting in October. Most days have the odd patch of cloud moving through which give the odd heavy dump of rain for an hour or two then the weather quickly clears. There is a slight breeze most days which basically only comes from two directions NW & SE (the trade winds so important in the days of sail). A good place for anybody interested in water sports, diving, sail boarding, kite sailing but also nice to just sit on the beach. The people are friendly and its very safe. Greet them in French and tell them you are from NZ and most will talk to you in English. We visited most of the Noumea tourist spots: the reef, gardens, museums, churches, shops, the library and walked around the town.

I only saw one apiary as we passed in a bus; of about 10 hives in a line, two supers high on steel stands about 500 mm off the ground. We did not meet any beekeepers (Apicutleurs) but bees could be seen visiting flowers around Noumea. Quite a lot of shrubs were flowering but the main ones were Mango and coconut. Honeybees could be seen working the coconut palms (see photo previous page) along the beachfront all day for both nectar and pollen. These bees were the same as can be see around Wellington varying from dark mellifera -mellifera to light banded Italian bees.

There was also a small native bee working flowers, which are very nervous and quick in flight. Took half an hour to get a picture. Each time I focused the camera on one of these, it is off again. We also noticed a paper wasp gathering nectar.

At the hotel, the honey on the breakfast menu was acacia, a rather dark but not an unpleasant honey. In the shops and supermarkets, local honey was displayed in an assortment of containers, squeeze top plastic, wine bottles and glass honey jars. All the honey (Le miel) displayed was liquid and rather dark. Prices were rather amazing and varied slightly between shops and supermarkets. 250g - 395F = $NZ 6.96. 500g Glass - 575 to 630 F = $10.26 to $11.25, gift pack of three 50g honeys - 7795F = $14.19, 1 litre glass bottles 895 to 995F = $15.89 to $17.76.

Before going back next time I'll become more conversant in French so we can travel further north and have a look around and perhaps meet a beekeeper.

Frank Lindsay