Newsletter - October 2001

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Wellington Beekeepers Association Inc.

beehive-logo.gif (11191 bytes) Our Next Meeting:

Monday 8th October 2001,
at 8:00 p.m.

Terrace Centre,
Union Church,
Dr Taylor Terrace.

Swarm Control and Spring Disease Inspections

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

Minutes of September Meeting

PRESENT: Andrew Beach (Vice Pres.), John Burnet (Sec.), and 25 members and visitors as listed in the attendance book.

APOLOGIES: Frank & Mary Ann Lindsay, Ivan Pedersen, Pam McDowell.

NEW MEMBERS & VISITORS: Richard Wickens (Woburn), Michael Sommerville-Ryan (Brooklyn).

MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING: Minutes of Meeting held 13 August 2001 as detailed in Sept newsletter were read and confirmed.

MATTERS ARISING: GPS: Andrew Beach advised two handheld GPS had recently been purchased through the NBA.

CAMP RANGI WEEKEND: Two of the participants reported that the weekend was well organised, comprehensive and a good mix of commercial and hobbyist, experienced and beginner beekeepers. There was also a good representation from MAF.

CORRESPONDENCE: Secretary outlined an email received from NZ Wax in response to our email complaining of undersized foundation. General discussion followed which extended to the advantages and disadvantages of plastic frames. Cleaning plastic frames was considered a problem – water blasting was recommended or freezing and then twisting the frames. Plastic frames however did allow faster, more efficient extraction. The plastic smell, which discouraged bees drawing out cells from the plastic, could be eliminated with a wipe of wax before use.

Recent email correspondence exchanged with Trevor Tong, Secretary of the Whitstable & Herne Bay Beekeeping Assoc was outlined detailing his and other UK beekeeper experience with varroa. Several club members expressed interest in showing Trevor around during his forthcoming visit to NZ in Feb. 2002.

VARROA UPDATE: An infestation of the mite had recently been discovered at Jerusalem (Whanganui River Road) but circumstances suggested it was not a natural occurrence i.e. it may have been a deliberate infestation by a beekeeper with an ulterior motive. The current boundary line north of the Waimarino district is to be maintained unchanged.

MAF’s Varroa Control manual is to be distributed to all beekeepers on Mon 17 Sept.

GENERAL BUSINESS: Brian Mitchell has been confirmed by MAF as the new Apiary Officer for the Southern North Island area on a one-year contract only at this stage.

Spring Inspections & Disease Recognition: Andrew Beach outlined seasonal requirements covering in particular swarms, spring stores, feeding, space for expansion and disease checking.

Other issues covered were: replacement of old and deformed frames, frame nailing techniques, top supering versus bottom supering, cockroaches, swapping weak with strong hives.

Trees and shrubs currently in flower: tree lucerne, kowhai, wattle, willow, pittosporum, karo and various fruit trees. Several members reported a honey flow had started in Levin and Waitarere.

It was proposed and generally agreed a field day would be worthwhile at an apiary in the Wgton/Hutt region - details to be confirmed at a later meeting.

Meeting closed at 8.30 with usual supper.

John Burnet

Deep and Heavy Duty Foundation

Members who are preparing new frames for their hives may like to consider requesting sheets of the newer deeper foundation to assist the bees in completely filling the frame when drawing it out. The deeper foundation will reduce the tendency of the bees to build drone comb in the bottom 1-2 cm of frame where there was a gap in the old size. All opportunities to avoid the incidence of drone comb should be taken as part of preparations for the eventual arrival of varroa to Wellington.

On a similar note, members could consider using heavy duty (or even extra heavy duty) foundation for frames that may eventually hold manuka honey as the thicker foundation will prevent the comb from disintegrating so easily during extraction.

These (and other standard) foundation sheets are available from New Zealand Beeswax Ltd, ph 03-693 9189, fax: 03-693 9780, email: Request foundation that meets your needs to encourage the suppliers to produce the sizes and grades that we find most effective.

James Scott

Club Field Day

A field day to provide club members with an opportunity to participate in a teaching and learning event that will allow knowledge and experience to be shared between long time and newer members. John Burnet has offered the use of his hives located at Kenepuru for this occasion.

The hives will be checked to confirm that they have over-wintered OK and are building up correctly during the spring. A disease inspection will be performed to satisfy the requirements of the DECA that John has agreed with the NBA. John has six hives in this apiary so there will be many opportunities for new beekeepers to gains some valuable hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced members.

All members are welcome. Assemble at 10:30am on Sunday 14th October at Raiha St. This runs from Kenepuru Drive (Porirua), and John's hives are about 200m north of the intersection of Rahia St with Sunlight Grove.

If the weather is unsuitable, the field day will be re-scheduled for Sunday 28th October (same time). Ring John (232 7863) if in doubt because of the weather.

Preparing for Varroa

The best way beekeepers in the North Island areas not yet known to have varroa, to prepare for its impact is to have a programme of on-going passive surveillance. Because varroa is not easily seen until it causes significant colony deterioration, beekeepers need to know when it reaches their area so they can initiate appropriate control activities. Beekeepers in these areas should adopt simple but sensitive tests on some of their hives on a regular basis. Sampling brood (especially drone) is a suitable method and can be done whenever hives are inspected.

MAF Hanndbook - "Control of Varroa"

Summer Time

Note that the monthly meeting this month will start at 8:00 pm instead of 7:30. This will continue until the change from Summer Time back to Standard Time in the autumn.

Moving House (Part II)

The Two Hundred And Forty One Dollar And Fifty Five Cent (Bee)House Move

Moving day went quite well, all things considered. The weekend beforehand, the 'love-of-my-life' borrowed a forklift to move his rather large lathe, and trundled up the road with that to the new address. Then he drove his vintage tractor at its maximum snail s pace, minus exhaust and on its very vintage tyres, to its new home. A lot of heads popped out from behind curtains to watch his progress, popping back down again whenever said tractor backfired!

On Moving Day itself, the love-of-my-life set a list of prioritised tasks, then checked into a business seminar in Auckland. Yours Truly was left in charge of The Move !

Incidentally, at said seminar, participants were asked to set down two facts and one lie - hubby wrote that 1) he had worked for the same company for 30 years ; 2) he kept bees in his backyard; and 3) he was married with 3 children (lie - in fact we have 2). Of course, when the lists were swapped for vetting, all other participants declared that the lie must be 2) he kept bees in his backyard! An amusing vagary in our life as others view it.

First weekend in the new home, and the No 1 Son comes home on a week's leave. Conditional upon his borrowing the car, he is roped into digging steps up the slope behind the house to the proposed bee site. His enthusiasm is over-whelming - we'll make a beekeeper of him yet. Nothing to do with the clock marching on, and a lady friend tapping her watch, of course.

The fact that next day he is crippled with a stiff back, and I have to hire an endless supply of videos to keep him entertained whilst confined to the couch, is a small price to pay surely. A $28 small price to be exact. Oh well, these things happen.

Flowers are blooming, birds are humming and my chooks are scratching around the proposed hive site. Its time to bring my bees home. After tea I sweet-talk the two males in my life into taking a trailer up to my brother's life-style block. Our trailer currently being loaded up for a pending Tip Trip, a trailer is borrowed from a friend - no charge - but we get the job of mending the lights connection his brother left dragging on the ground when he last borrowed it & ($45.75). Leaving my males to struggle through the swamp in the dark, I pant uphill to my brother's house, to reassure him that the mutterings and curses down below have a legitimate purpose. Strangely, he doesn't offer to help, but I put that down to his dislike of things that go buzz in the dark, and leave him to his dinner!

Back down to the trailer where my males have managed to stumble through the scrub and pukekos with the hives - God Save The Queens and I forgot the gummies I lent to the No 1 son have holes in them - and are now securing same on the trailer. A very slow and sedate trip home. So slow, in fact, that the local constabulary decides to check us out under the impression that alcohol must be playing a part in our stately progress. $89 for obstructing traffic, a faulty trailer tail-light, and warrant not clearly displayed. Later, home to where the process is reversed. The pallet is set down, the hives set on, and the bees are left to put themselves to bed, while I am set to reconciling the cheque book (gumboots = $19.95; possible replacement queens @ $12 each = $24.00; Tip trip tomorrow to empty our trailer so that it is ready and waiting for any future requirement = $8.00).

Progress Report: 5 boxes high and growing. Frank Lindsay drops in to inspect, and declares the site 'spot on' - it was ok to buy the house in light of the excellent hive site - but was the hewer of the sloping steps on a bit of a lean himself? The leaning hewer indignantly explains the rules of gravity in relation to falling water and Frank and I retire, defeated by logic. Logic comes in many guises.

New hive site

By the nature of the hive site, I can now press my nose to the hall window, within a couple of metres of the hive entrances, and watch the bees coming and going. On a not so positive note, the house re-roofers are going to be working in direct line with the flight path. I wonder whether I can get a discount for bulk buying of Stingose? ($8.95 x ?)

Alternatively, I wonder whether the roofies would consider re-roofing after bee bedtime!

I love my bees. Hubby is quite taken with them too, but he hasn t seen the chequebook balance lately. I wonder what next expense they have in store for me?

The Innocent Bystander

Finding the Queen (from 75 years Ago August 1926)

A Trick for Beginners. Before coming to the trick, it might be well to state a few general principles helpful at finding the queen.

Two principles are outstanding: First, to have the fewest number of bees in the hive, and, second, to have an even distribution of those few bees on the combs.

The population of the hive may be the least in the early morning, when the workers have just gone to the field, but it is often too cool to open a hive then. Any time in the middle of the day, when most of the workers are out, is a good time, but one should never try it after 5 o'clock in the afternoon or at night.

The population may be further reduced by gently setting the hive aside, and on its stand placing an empty hive containing several combs to catch in-coming field bees. An even distribution on the combs is best obtained by no smoke, and by very gently taking out the combs-no matter how long it takes. If the bees ever start racing over the combs and ball up in clusters, one may as well close the hive for a while.

Now as to where to look and what to look for: Get on the trail of the queen. She will not be on a solid block of honey, nor on a solid block of brood. Search the combs for eggs-fresh eggs; that is, where there are no eggs hatching. She is more likely to be found near the bottom of the comb.

I was told to "look for a yellow streak." This is poor advice. It assumes that the queen is yellow and is running. If I had to give advice, I should say, "Look for length." The queen is the longest bee in the hive. Drones are short, stubby and fat.

I used to spread the brood. I would go around generally, putting one brood comb in the centre of the brood nest, then return the following day or the second day for another addition. One day it dawned upon me that every time I raised up this new comb, the queen was upon it.

The trick: This, then, was an easy way to find the queen. Drop a brood comb (the blacker the better) in the centre of the brood nest; return the next afternoon or the following day; take the comb out very gently, and the queen will be found on the comb.

Now, of course, there are conceivable conditions under which this would not work. The queen might be working in an upper story. She might have entirely "laid up" the comb, etc. But as long as I used the method, it worked, and I pass it on for what it is worth.

But this article does not tell how to find a virgin queen. Alas! a virgin queen is hard to find, especially if she is small and black. Like a vanishing airplane or the first star of evening, you are looking directly at her; look away, then look again, and she is gone.

There are expedients to which one may resort, if it is very necessary to find the queen at once. The bees may be driven up against a queen excluder, or smoked down over one, or they may be shaken in front of the hive after a strip of excluder has been placed over the entrance. The difficulty with the last named method is that there is always congestion of drones and field bees, and one has to wait quite a while for the situation to clear up. But it works, and it takes no time in preparation.

Finding the queen is an art. With long practice, one acquires a keen queen eye. The queen is most easily sighted on the next comb-that is, the one which has not yet been lifted. There, when she is scurrying downward away from the sunlight with wings lifted, she really looks different from the other bees. There is no mistaking this receding Zeppelin. The large abdomen is usually a shade of colour different from the workers, which assists the eye.

I would hesitate to claim that the trick here given is a new idea. I have not seen it given in my reading of bee literature during the past five or six years. The moment any modern beekeeper announces some manipulation which he believes to be new, someone rises to state that Doolittle advocated the same thing in 1887.

Too much stress cannot be laid on spoiling the operation of the trick by smoke. This manner of finding the queen might be called the sneak-upon-the-queen, or stalking method.

Some apiarists have a habit of moving fast from hive to hive, jerking up the cover, shooting under it huge blasts of smoke. This may work in taking honey, but it will not work in finding the queen. It spoils the even distribution on the combs, causes the bees to collect in clusters or to race about the walls of the hive-the very worst place to find a queen.

From the American Bee Journal August 2001

Another trick the late Ted Roberts did when he couldn't find a queen was to take a frame of brood from another hive, shake all the bees off and insert it in the middle of the brood nest of the hive where he couldn't find the queen. He closed the hive for � an hour and when opened again, the queen would be found on that frame. Seems the queen would detect the foreign queen pheromones on the frame and come and investigate.

Frank Lindsay

Easy Solar Wax Melter

Hi All,

I once gave a couple of containers of honey to the local pub/restaurant in exchange for two foam fish boxes. The chef has since rung me twice to pick up some more, on the same exchange arrangement. What to do with all these foam boxes?

SO: The foam fish box solar wax melter

Very little HAS to be done to make the solar wax melter. Today was a full sun type day and it worked a treat and didn't 'self destruct' even though the frames were too hot to hold.


  1. Visit Pub, with honey container and a full sized frame, to get the size right. (no money, in case temptation gets the better of you) and give the chef the honey and ask if he has any 'foam fish boxes' (FFB) preferably with a lid?
  2. Wash out FFB and fold an aluminium oven floor liner to line the bottom of the box.
  3. Find a piece of clear glass and cut the lid of the FFB to support the glass. Do it properly, cut the opening 20 mm too small then rebate 10 mm right around to support and protect the glass within the foam lid. Use a water based filler/adhesive to hold the glass in the rebated FFB lid.
  4. You can paint the 'foam solar wax melter' (SWM) inside and out with a light coloured water based paint to extend its useful life. Not a black paint (you want the frames solar heated, not the foam box).
  5. Fold some fine mesh to cover the aluminium oven tray and to hold the frames and old cocoons etc up from the bottom corner, where the strained molten wax will collect.
  6. That's it, just lean the SWM against a chair, in a naturally warm sheltered corner and angle the glass towards the sun.

Cheers Paul b.

Paul Brown (from NZBkprs List)

Note that there may be other boxes, cases, or cabinets being discarded but are suitable for using to build a solar wax melter. The main attributes are adequate insulation and provision of a glass front to admit and trap the heat from the sun.

Club Field Day

Sunday 14th October at 10:30 am - Rahia Street, Kenepuru

Refer to the article inside the newsletter for more information and instructions on how to get there. If the weather is unsuitable, the field day will be re-scheduled for Sunday 28th October (same time). Ring John (232 7863) if in doubt because of the weather.


The Wellington Beekeepers Association extends a warm welcome to Brian Mitchell who is acting AAO for the southern North Island while Paul Bolger is seconded to MAF for the varroa management programme.


Leave your name with Mary-Ann (ph 478 3367) if you are prepared to collect swarms in your area. Hives are predicted to be more susceptible than usual to swarming this season.

Telford Plea For Apiculture Students

Telford Rural Polytechnic offers full-time or correspondence courses in all aspects of Beekeeping, including Queen rearing. Recent low numbers of students enrolled in the one year course has placed it under threat of closure. All branches and even hobbyist clubs are being asked to identify young persons interested in beekeeping who might like to attend the one-year full time course to ensure that it is kept to provide the commercial beekeepers of the future.

If you know of anyone who might like this opportunity, please contact:

Dr David Woodward, Head of Department, Apiculture,
Telford Rural Polytechnic, Private Box 6, Balclutha.
Freephone 0800 835 367 (0800 TELFORD), Ph 03-418 1550, Fax 03-418 3584,
Email: or

Future Meetings

The committee is always looking for interesting and/or relevant speakers for future meetings. If you have any suggestions please contact our secretary,
John Burnet on 232 7863 (or

  • November (12th): (to be advised)
  • December (10th): Xmas party
  • January 2002: No meeting

For Sale & Wanted to Buy

  • Wanted: clean beeswax - $5.00 per Kg; bulk honey - 20 litre pails (supplied) - price after examination. Phone Ivan 526 9180

Don’t forget when selling hives with bees, the seller must inform AgriQuality in Palmerston North who manage the Apiary Register on behalf of the NBA (Ph 06-351 7930, Fax 06-351 7906, PO Box 585, PN), so they can be tracked in the case of an exotic disease outbreak. Purchasers should sign the form supplied by AgriQuality.