Newsletter - July 96

James Scott's picture

Newsletter date: 


PDF file: 

beehive-logo.gif (10912 bytes)

Our Next Meeting:

When: Monday 8th July 1996
at 8 p.m.

Where: Terrace Centre,
Union Church,
Dr Taylor Terrace.

Theme: AGM

Wellington Beekeepers Association Inc.

Meetings are held monthly, every second Monday (except January) at above venue

Planting for the Bees

Spring is a critical time for the bees. Honey and pollen is usually in short supply and brood rearing is starting to reach a maximum. Think of the bees lost to cold temperatures early in the spring searching for fresh sources of nectar and pollen. Willows provide early nectar and pollen for a few weeks which enables them to raise brood. Good beekeepers try to provide such sources for their bees if not much is about. Check how much pollen is in the hives and look around at what’s flowering in the vicinity. If they are short of pollen, do something. You can swap frames of pollen from one hive to another to even them up, but if all hives are short there is only one thing to do - plant trees.

Now is a good time to take cuttings of pussy willow and other flowering willows. Leave them in water until they establish small roots and plant them out. If you can, try to establish a number of trees within a hundred metres of an apiary.

Frank Lindsay

About the Apiary

Well, we have just passed the shortest day and apart from two spells where we received a few days of hail, where is our winter? The rest of the country seems to be having their’s with snow in the Southern Alps and the middle of the North Island, but so far it seems to have passed us by. We just experienced nine days of mild weather, very little wind, with an average temperature of 14oC. What has this done for the bees? Well they are out gathering winter and early spring sources that have come into bloom: tree lucerne, eucalyptus, kohekohe, banksia, spring bulbs, etc.

In the first few apiaries I visited last week, I thought it was just their location (close to flowering sources) that had stimulated them to fly, however, it seems all but the shady hives had broken cluster and were busy with activity. It also surprised me just how much brood there was in the hives. Young queens had brood on 3-5 frames where old queens were struggling to lay on two frames. (Why was I looking in the brood nest during winter? - unfortunately I’m still removing the crop so was inspecting for BL. One apiary to go now, and then its back to the saw bench making up more gear for the spring. And if you think I’m late, I rang around a few beekeepers trying to get information for our July Conference Seminar and quite a few of the commercial beekeepers are still extracting too. A bigger extractor next year will speed things up considerably.)

Well, back to the bees, they are really motoring and have used up quite a bit of feed producing all this brood - some as much as half a super. Surprising to me was they are also storing the nectar around the brood nest and in the upper frames. They even built wax between the escape boards and the top bars on hives where I left them overnight. (I ran out of time to remove all the honey of one apiary, so inspected the brood put on an escape board to save me blowing them out in the morning). They work well - not a bee left in the supers. The only problem is that the supers had cooled and were damp so will require some heat and drying before extracting. I’m also lucky in that most of my supers were new last year and therefore the honey is very slow to granulate in them.

The only problem with all this activity, is when winter really does arrive, the bees will have to maintain the brood nest at 32oC and this will require a lot of honey. So come September the hives will be either bursting with bees, ready to swarm in October, or will be on the verge of starvation. Only time and weather will tell. I’ll be checking my hives in August to see if they require supplementary feeding. (Most shouldn’t as I have left them with three high ready to split in the spring).

If you left your bees a little light and they are flying well, I suggest you check out how much food honey they have left. Wear something heavy to stop being stung. Their stings seem to grow longer in winter as they easily go through the suit and a light shirt. If the hive is down to the last three frames of honey, feed them sugar syrup as thick as possible for a week or two until they have stores in most of the top super. Allow extra ventilation so the moisture can easily escape and close the lid down again after you have finished feeding. That should last them for a month or two with luck.

Frank Lindsay

Propolis Lozenges

It is very difficult to make lozenges, so here is a recipe for honey toffee from Circa dated 1910. Try adding a small amount of propolis to this and see what results you get.

4 Cups sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vinegar
5 tablespoons honey

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and boil for about 3/4 hour (on the coal range), or 20 - 30 mins on an electric stove. Stir well to prevent burning. Place mixture on a flat buttered tray to cool. As it cools twist into long runs and cut into pieces when cold.

Stuart Lindsay

Preparing Gear

Will you be ready for a spring flow?

It is now only 12 weeks until some of us start working the bees in earnest again. Checking the hives for stores and replacing rotten woodwork and generally cleaning hives and apiary sites. One should be busy making up new gear and preserving it with copper napthanate (1%) which takes form three to six weeks to dry before applying paint. Mix copper napthanate with either turps or diesel, about 1 to 5 ratio. It is best to soak the supers first for an hour or two, then make them up while they are slightly damp and before they have time to warp. For best results, put the dipped woodenware in large plastic bags for a week before assembling. This slows down the evaporation and allows the preservative to penetrate deeper. I also like to dip the end of the top bars as these tend to rot out first if the hive is damp.

The preservative should go all the way into the timber. If it doesn’t, this means the timber is not totally dry and therefore won’t last as long as good dry wood. I have learnt to stack any woodenware I don’t intend to use straight away between small wood fillets in the shed so drying continues. Remember, the drier the timber, the better penetration of preservative and consequently the longer it lasts. Paint the material well using a good quality primer, undercoat, and two coats of gloss (I personally prefer oil based paints). 65mm cement or galvanised nails are ideal for supers. If you use dovetailed gear, it may pay to pre-drill holes to prevent splitting. Always choose wood that is free of knots as these tend to fall out just at the most inopportune moment.

A method commercial beekeepers use to preserve woodwork is to hot dip them using paraffin wax. Although much cheaper, it requires specialised gear and can be very dangerous. Heat up the wax (outside) in a vat to a temperature of between 90 and 130oC. Put the fully assembled supers in for two minutes, take out and immediately apply two coats of water based paint. The paint and the wax soak in as it cools leaving the wood sealed and painted.

Most use white paint, but I prefer to use darker colours. Oddments or rejected pots of paint can be purchased cheaply from the paint stores and mixed together. The darker colours blend the hives into the background which helps to prevent vandalism, and absorb more of the suns rays which heats the hive and assists the workers to ventilate it.

Frank Lindsay

Have You Seen the Mountain?

We were going to Wanganui for a pre-conference meeting on the 17th June. It was a beautifully clear day and from Sanson there was only a little white puffy cloud in the direction of Mt Ruapehu. It wasn’t until we got much closer that you could see it was coming out of the mountain. By late afternoon the white cloud had turned to grey clouds, and from Wanganui (approx 60 miles away) you could see the continuous eruptions through binoculars - very spectacular. We missed seeing last year’s eruption, but talked to beekeepers who have hives close to the mountain. The only sign they had seen of any disturbance a month after the eruption was a thin layer of pumice dust that still remained on the ground under trees. The rain had washed all other signs away and the pasture was growing green and lush. Perhaps this contributed to their good honey crop - all that extra fertiliser.

How will a volcanic eruption effect us? This far south, and being such a small one, it won’t make much difference to our climate (just delay the start of the skiing season a little perhaps). However, Punetubo in the Philippines being such a major eruption did have an effect on our climate. The ash cloud in the upper atmosphere cooled things down a degree or two. Keith Heron from Gore, though this change reduced the honey crop. He put things together when studying his father’s records and noticed the same effect in 1937 following an earlier volcanic eruption. Clover produced nectar when it is hot and dry. They had a wet cool summer - interesting isn’t it?

Frank Lindsay

NBA Conference and Seminar - Wanganui: 15th - 18th July

Only a few weeks to go now. I hope some of you can at least attend the seminar day. See last months newsletter for details. It should be interesting.

Frank Lindsay

Last Month’s Meeting

Despite a cold night, the executive committee and 23 members (plus visitors) met to conduct general business and to discuss several of the remits being put forward to the National Conference. There was lively discussion on some of the more contentious issues, so any members attending the conference would have the opinion(s) of the meeting to bring to discussion there. The NBA Executive election was considered and the meeting determined that the Association’s vote in this election should go to Nick Wallingford.

Plastic propolis mats (for harvesting the stuff from bees in the hive) was shown to members, together with a plastic 3/4 size frame. The benefits of this plastic gear over the traditional materials was discussed.

Help! - there are still a large number of books, magazines and videos missing from our library. Please return them, and ask any ex-members you know who may have books belonging to the club to return them also. I will compile a list of the titles missing so that anyone who knows of there whereabouts will be able to assist in their return

Future Meetings

Our secretary, John Burnett, has lined up some interesting guest speakers for the next three months, so please mark these dates in your diary and come along to our meetings.

  • August (12th) Stephen Ogden (MAF) has a special interest in tropical beekeeping and will talk on beekeeping in Vietnam.
  • September (9th) Dr Penny Fitzharris (Wgtn Hospital) specialises in allergies and will talk on reactions to bee-stings.
  • October (14th) Disease recognition. Ted Roberts and James Driscoll, our MAF Apiary advisory officers will talk on bee diseases.

Other Beekeeping Clubs

There are many clubs around now (Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, etc) so if you’re visiting, make yourself known. Those going overseas should take a few of the Club’s badges as an introductory gift. They always go down well. You can usually get a contact name and number from the local Council Information Office.

Honey Butter

Try this recipe for a treat on special occasions.

250ml honey
125ml butter or margarine
cinnamon to taste

Cream all ingredients together. Serve on pancakes, waffles, hot biscuits, french toast, or fresh bread.

Alberta Beekeepers Association - A Honey of a Cookbook


Any members who have destroyed hives because of BL infection may be eligible for some compensation from the Club’s BL fund. Please contact Andrew (04-297 1635) before the AGM on 8th July to lodge a claim

Don’t forget when selling any hive gear, the seller must inform MAF Palmerston North, so it can be tracked in the case of an exotic disease outbreak. Purchasers should sign the form supplied by MAF.