October 1998 will go down in history as quite a month. Constant rain resulting in extensive flooding, as well as persistent high winds. When it wasn't raining, it was blowing. I had hives on pallets completely turned over and some scattered down hillsides, three had died out. Another apiary was flooded but the damage was minimal, just a few inches of water through the bottom boxes on a few hives, so these were moved.
All this stormy weather has prevented the bees from foraging and now many are on the verge of starvation. I have been going around putting raw sugar in the top feeders as an emergency measure. Matings of new queens have been exceptionally bad with lots of queens blown away. (We are now looking for a breed that can mate in the rain and withstand 200 k winds as well as bring in a honey crop).
This when the whole bush is flush with flowers. Rewarewa, wineberry, kamahi, manuka, cabbage tree, hawthorn, buttercup, bush lawyer, whitey wood, ake ake and many more. In the urban areas, gardens are looking a picture. On the road edges clover is showing and in some hot sunny spots, the odd pohutukawa trees and bottlebrushes are flowering but the bees just can't get out to collect it.
In the mean time, one of our members in the centre of Lower Hutt has just removed six full depth supers of honey from her two hives. Makes you sick doesn't it.
For the rest of us mortals, keep the bees ticking over and prevent swarming. Reverse the brood boxes again this month to give the queen room to lay, (she tends to migrate upwards so this keeps the brood down). Keep checking hives every 8-9 days for queen cells, keep their food reserves high, and give them room to expand, (put a honey super on). The honey flow is just around the corner. If you find queen cells with larvae in them, artificially swarm your hive (make a nuc) or you will loose your honey crop.
We haven't had many swarm calls yet. Most have been around the Porirua area, which tends to be warmer than Wellington. Judging by the build-up in some hives, it's just about to happen around Wellington.
Please bring your questions to the meeting. No matter how trivial it may sound to you - ask. Sometimes these questions lead to interesting discussions where everyone learns.
See you at the meeting.