Newsletter - April 2000

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Wellington Beekeepers Association Inc.

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Our Next Meeting:

Monday 10th April 2000 at 7:30 p.m.

Terrace Centre,
Union Church,
Dr Taylor Terrace.

Honey Competition

Note earlier start time!

Meetings are held on second Monday each month (except January), at above venue

Minutes of March Meeting

PRESENT : Richard Hatfield (Pres.), Mary Ann Linday (Treas.), John Burnet (Sec.) and 33 members and visitors as listed in the attendance book.

APOLOGIES : Nancy Fithian, Marie & Chris Christofel, Andrew Yung.

NEW MEMBERS AND VISITORS : Karl Segessenmann (Stokes Valley), Amor Walter (Levin), Gary Murphy and daughters Deborah and Sarah (Lower Hutt).

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING : Minutes of meeting held 14 February as detailed in March newsletter were confirmed.

MATTERS ARISING : Deca Training/Exam : Tentative date for next training session & exam is Sat 1 April at 8 am. (Mary Ann will check venue availability (J’ville community Centre) and advise candidates direct (members wishing to undertake the exam to complete a DECA application form tonight).

TREASURER’S REPORT : Deposits to club account and cheques issued during Dec, Jan and Feb were itemised and confirmed by members.


Invoice from Arthur Holmes for glass jars for $37.48 - payment confirmed by members. Members also expressed their appreciation to Tony Buder for organising the purchase. Jars would be sold to members at $1 each for use at next months honey competition.

Account for annual NBA membership subscription $38.00 - Payment approved (moved Cliff Hulston/seconded Richard Hatfield).

Invitation received from Upper Hutt City Council to participate in their Science Fair 20-22 July. Volunteers from members sought to staff the club stand as the Lindsays (who normally attend these functions) would be attending the NBA AGM on at the same time. More details would be available at next months meeting.


Issues discussed -

Honey harvesting underway with good crops reported by most members despite a very unsettled and uneven summer (167kg from two hives in suburban Tawa, 1100kg from 26 hives in Whitemans Valley).

Frank Lindsay reported his bees in Paekakariki had recently shown a marked preference for cabbage trees and fennel over neighbouring pohutukawa.

Ivan Pederson advised he had apparently been randomly selected to provide a sample of bees for AFB testing by AgriQual. Procedure was discussed and explained to members who had not previously been aware of this requirement under the AFB Management Strategy.

A recent email exchange was discussed concerning the taste of honey made from ragwort and ivy.

Appreciation was shown by members to Max Aston (new joint Club Librarian) for his self constructed mobile library (Wellington City Library should take note !)

Keith Huntingdon advised he required a new home for his bees preferably near Petone. Vicki Alexander offered Keith use of a site in the Hutt Valley.

President presented Doug Purdie with a certificate to acknowledge his 20 years of contribution to the club. Doug was retiring and emigrating to Queensland and mentioned he wasn’t sure about taking up beekeeping there.

Video - Importance of queen substance was shown to members (continuation of video shown at Dec meeting).

Meeting closed at 9.15 pm with usual supper.

John Burnet

SECRETS OF BEES - from Walt Disney’s ‘World of Nature’, 1965

To collect pollen, a bee dives into a flower, scrambles around, and rolls over like a child playing in the surf. The splashing throws pollen grains all over its body, where they stick to feathered hairs. When the bee dives for nectar, its body picks up pollen just by brushing past the pollen boxes that are usually held out in front of the flower on long trembling stems.

The bee leaves the flower, and while hovering in mid-air, or swinging below the flower and hanging by one claw, it combs its face, the top of its head, and the back of its neck with its front legs. Even the bee’s eyes collect pollen, as hairs grow out of its eyeballs. The bee has a special soft brush to remove this pollen. A reverse gulp brings up a speck of honey from the honey tank to moisten the pollen. The middle legs scrape off the middle of the body, reaching up over the back. Rapid combing and passing to the rear get the pollen onto the hind legs. The scrapings are caught in a comb with nine rows of bristle. The bee doubles up its legs. A huge rake passes through the rows of bristles, pulling the pollen into a press made by the knee joint. When the bee bends its knee, the jaws of the press open; when it straightens its leg, the jaws close, and the pollen is pressed and pushed up into the pollen basket. The pollen basket is a shallow trough in the middle of the hind leg, located just where it widens like the blade of a paddle. To hold the load securely in place, there are many curving hairs around the edges. They serve to hold the bee’s bulging load of pollen securely in place.

There is a single rigid hair in the centre of the basket that makes it possible to build twice as big a load. As the pollen ball grows bigger and bigger, the curving hairs surrounding it are pushed apart, and the load mounts above them. The long rigid hair in the centre gives the load a core. It holds the big swelling ball of pollen together like a pole planted in the middle of a haystack.

But of course, all this skill and equipment is useless unless the bee can get to the right place at the right time.

Freight planes carry a payload of about 25 percent of their weight. A bee can carry almost 100 per cent. Planes have enormous wings for lifting and gliding, but they do not have power to move forward. They lift only when the plane is going fast enough to make suction on top. The bee has short wings on a fat body. It cannot glide, but it can move up, down, or stand still in mid-air. It does not have to move forward for its wings to lift it. It needs no propeller or jet, because the wings both lift and drive it forward in flight.

The short wide wings beat at high speed with a weaving figure-8 motion. By changing the shape of the figure-8, the bee can drive itself forward, or stand still in the air in front of a flower and look it over. The stubby wings can fold in a second when the bee dives into a flower or into one of the tightly fitting cells of the hive. The bee has two pairs of wings, but even if you watch carefully, you would never see them. They are so close together their edges almost touch. For flying, a row of hooks on the forward edge of the rear wings fastens into a pleat on the edge of the front wings. This doubles the wingspread. They can be quickly unhooked and folded up like a lady’s fan, or unhooked when the bee wants to whirl them as an electric fan, instead of using them for flying.

This flying machine has three places for storing cargo. One is the tank inside, which it fills by sucking up nectar syrup through a long tube, from the inside of the flower’s body. The other two are the baskets on its hind legs for carrying pollen. Bees have been carrying freight on their landing gear since man first wrote about them in 3000 BC, and haven’t changed their equipment for doing so since.

Outward bound the bee only needs to pack a speck of honey for fuel, enough to reach the goal. Honey is so powerful that a pinhead-sized speck of it will whirl the bee’s wings for about a quarter of a mile. If nectar is flowing and anthers are bursting with pollen, a bee can suck up a load of syrup in a minute and can build two big bulging loads of pollen in the baskets on its hind legs in three minutes. Often it may carry water in its honey tank, if the hive is thirsty. It may scrape resin off sticky buds and twigs, especially poplar, horse-chestnut, willow and honeysuckle buds, and load this into the pollen baskets. This resin will be made into varnish to make all surfaces perfectly smooth, and to stop up cracks and crevices. When it has a load, the bee flies home at 14 mph with a tankful of nectar inside, and two bulging bags of pollen swung below that keep it flying upright. A loaded bee cannot fly upside down.

(Continued next month with Part 2)

Vicky Alexander

About the Apiary

March was sunny and warm but nights are now distinctly cooler indicating that winter is almost here. The countryside looks fairly dry with only a covering of short green grass. From a bee's eye view, everything looks bleak with very little flowering so they have settled into winter mode.

However around the cities it's a different story and nature seems to be playing games with them. The warm settled March weather has stimulated a number of scrubs and trees to continue flowering. Kermadec Island Pohutukawa (and even some of the NZ species have the odd bunch of flowers), Bottlebrush, Grevilleas, Eucalyptus, the odd Magnolia, and all the blue flowers such as Lavender and Rosemary are flowering. This has in turn triggered some hives into a massive build-up, converting winter stores into brood.

No doubt these hives will winter well provided they are given addition honey to winter over on. An alternative is to feed sugar syrup now so they can convert it into stores.

To feed a hive, replace an outside frame with an internal division board feeder. Put a good handful of dry pig fern inside to prevent the bees drowning in the liquid. Mix the sugar solution as thick as possible (2 white sugar to one of warm water by volume) and fill the feeder as well as dribbling a trail of syrup over the top of the frames so the bees follow it to the feeder. The bees can take up 2-3 kg a day so continue to feed until most of the honey super is full. Likewise, one can use a top or Miller feeder.

If you do not have a feeder, place a mat (sacking or similar) over the top super and cut a 75-mm in the center. Take a jar or a honey pail and punch 6-8 tiny holes in the lid, fill with syrup, and place the upturned container over the hole in the mat. Initially a small amount of syrup will dribble out until gravity and the vacuum within the container, equalise. Place an empty super on top to enclose the feeder within the hive, place a few matches on the top edges of the spare super to give top ventilation and pop the lid on top to seal the hive from robber bees.

If you don't have any feeding devices at all, pour the syrup into a plastic bag and seal it tightly. Lay this on top of the frames inside the hive and make a small hole in the upper surface of the bag. Press down until a small pool if syrup has formed. The bees will find this and as they climb over the bag, more syrup will be released until very little is left. After that they tend to chew at the bag so it will have to be replaced if more feeding is necessary.

It's not a good idea to use a bodman external feeder (a jar at the entrance) as the syrup cools too quickly and the bees will not take it in during the cold nights.

Feeding is best done in the evening as it tends to excite the bees and they will fly everywhere looking for the source of nectar. If you have to feed during the day, dribble a little syrup at the entrance to stop the bees flying but not too much to encourage robbing.

The easiest way to mix white sugar into a syrup is to fill a container 7/8 full of sugar, then pour in boiling water stirring all the time until the container is full and the sugar dissolved.

If you use Fumidil B, add a level teaspoon to 2.5 gallons of syrup to help control Nosema. If you haven't, then don't worry about it. The rotation of 3 brood frames each year plus good, dry, sunny, sheltered apiary sites will minimise the affect of the protozoa.

For the odd hive that feels a bit light, I also add an additional 2kg-honey container of raw sugar into the top feeder. The sugar takes in moisture and provides an emergency store for the bees. If they don't require it, they will ignore it until spring. I also add the odd frame of granulated honey I have held back in the garage to supplement some hives. These are OK, provided the bees have easy access to water to break down the glucose crystals otherwise they are tossed out the front of the hive.

Wintering Before putting your frames away for the winter it pays to clean them up. Old dark brood frames should be put aside for melting down. As a rule when you hold a frame up to the sun and can't see light through it, render it down. Any with broken lugs, badly distorted wax should also be put aside. I don't believe in eliminating all of the drone comb from my hives for two reasons. I breed my own queens and therefore need quite a few drones in each apiary and with drone comb in the hives, you can quickly get an indication of the nutritional levels in a hive. That is, when there is an excess of pollen and nectar, they start to produce drones. Some hives seem to produce drones well ahead of the rest in an apiary. These hives quite often are the first to swarm, so I mark them and then split before they have a chance to do this.

Back to sorting frames. I also clean all the propolis off the frames. Propolis from the top bars is kept separate from that from the sides of the end bars as it contains less wax and is therefore worth more. Apart from gaining additional revenue from the propolis, frames that are to go into the brood, nest next year should be clean. They are designed to give 33-mm spacing between the centers of frames. Propolis and wax on the edges of the end bar increases this distance therefore more bees are required to fill the bee space and keep the brood warm. Frames in the brood nest should be cramped together to form a close unite. It's more economical for the bees. However, I have also read that spacing them out requires more bees to keep the brood warm and therefore helps to discourage swarming. I prefer that the extra bees cluster on the two outside frames in the brood supers (9 to the super). Take your pick as to what works for you.

When stacking away frames for the winter, I sort the individual frames in each super by putting the lighter coloured frames to the outside of the super. That way, if a moth lays its eggs along the outside of the stack, the young larvae have to travel a long way in before find dark frames to feed on. This also means I don't have to sort frames when they are put on again for next season's flow. Darker frames (those that have had one or two brood cycles) are more attractive to bees and encourages them up into the honey super. I do not scrape off the wax along the bottom bars, as this tends to form a bridge to encourage the bees up into the super as well.

If the supers are put away before the first frost, add a little PDB to kill moths as explained last month's article.

April Management: winter down hives, BL check, slope of bottom boards for water drainage (3 degrees sloping to the front) and restrict entrances to prevent mice entering. Check hive foundations, replace any rotten or damaged supers and floors, check fences, store extracted honey supers and fumigate for wax moth. Control the grass around the hives and keep an eye out for wasp nest.

Time to plan for next season. Order spring queens, and woodware early and avoid disappointment. However, be aware that no matter how hard the queen breeder try in the spring, if the conditions are not right, (three days at 20 Deg C), the queens won't mate and can hang around for weeks. Not like February when conditions are warm and settled and they will fly and mate within three days of emerging.

Now when all the work is done, site back and review the season. Where did you go wrong? Hives swarmed, hives built up on the flow instead of before it. Get everything right with basic management (young queen, lots of bees and food (pollen is essential), add supers before they are needed and then its down to timing.

Learn what triggers swarming. For some it's broom after rain, for me it tends to coincide with the flowering of the cabbage trees. Act to prevent it. Cutting out cells just upsets a hive. Hives should be artificially swarmed (by creating a nuc) if they look likely to swarm. Learn the dates of your main flow and work back from that date. Maximum production of brood should have started 9-12 weeks before the flow starts. If nothing is flowering at that time, then consider stimulating the hives with sugar syrup and feeding pollen frames. It takes a few years to learn an area. Conditions can also vary within a few kilometers as microclimates come into play.

Once you know the local conditions, then you overlay the La Nino / El Nino weather conditions and how each of these affect your area. One produces more westerly winds with rain on the west, drought on the east. Hives on North slopes don't do as well as those on southern sheltered sites and when the oscillation changes the opposite can happen. It's important for beekeepers to know in advance what the weather will be like in the September to December period. This is the most critical time of the year when hives are building towards swarming, queens are getting mated and food stores reach a minimum. If we have an idea of what might happen in the spring, we can change our feeding and swarm prevention plans to match weather conditions. Sometimes it's all a bit of a mystery.

Some of my city hives swarmed in February after they had already produced a crop (probably because they were under-supered as I had already put all my supers out). It's inconvenient to neighbours and a slur on my beekeeper to have hives swarm, so I'm considering clipping the queen's wings in these apiaries and extracting the crop off these apiaries a little earlier. At least if they try to swarm, they won't be able to without a queen, so the bees will return to the hive. Hopefully I'll be around in the next few days to discover this before the bees try again, or I will have been informed by the landowner that something was amiss with the hives. So I have hunted out some New Zealand research on the topic to stimulate the brain cells.

Frank Lindsay

SEEyD Fringe festival play with Scott Macky at The Nucleus Theatre, Te Whaea Basement, Old Winter Show Buildings til 15th April. Ph 389 6137 for bookings.
"One couple's struggle to stay organic in an agro-tech world"

Useful Tip

If you have problems finding a queen, then place a frame of brood (without any bees) from another hive in the middle of the broodnest and leave for 5 or 10 mins. The queen will come to investigate to ensure that there is no interloper present, and she should then be easy to locate on the inserted frame.

Frank Lindsay

Honey Competition

Don't forget that the honey competition will be held at the April meeting. Prepare your entries now! Details in last month's magazine, or the club website (

Don't forget: entries in the liquid honey or creamed honey classes must be submitted in standard glass jars this year. These were available for purchase at the March meeting.

Annual Subscription

A proposal has been made that members who elect to receive newsletters by e-mail rather then standard post, will be offered a $5 rebate on their $20 annual membership fee. This allows for the fact that newsletters sent by e-mail do not incur either printing or postage costs.

If you would like to receive your news-letter by e-mail, then please indicate when you renew your membership shortly, and supply your e-mail address to

Mead Competition

Don't forget that the annual mead competition is coming up, and will be held in July with our AGM. Members wishing to enter should be preparing their mead now.

Entries will need to be submitted in clear round bottles of either 375 ml or standard 750 ml size. There are three classes: dry, sweet, and sparkling.

The club needs someone with a dry palate for judging the dry mead entries. Please contact Frank Lindsay (478 3367) if you are able to undertake this difficult duty.

Apiary Levy Payments

Don't forget - unless you obtain an exemption, your Apiary Levy is due by 30th April.

Future Meetings

The committee is looking for interesting and relevant speakers for meetings this year. It is hoped that Andrew Matheson will be available to talk to one meeting. If you have any suggestions please contact John Burnet on 232 7863 (or

May (8th): (to be advised)

June (12th): (to be advised)

July (10th): Annual General Meeting and mead competition

For Sale


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