The virgin honey harvest for Virgin Honey

So I estimated my first harvest (or as I’ve now heard it called – “robbing”) would happen in early November. The beauty of living in sunny sub-tropical Brisbane, is that I had to revise that estimate and organise for the virgin honey virgin harvest to happen last weekend due to a bee explosion and a good honey flow in my area.

So it was with much excitement, a few litres of Margarita to lubricate the workers, and much hilarity that good friends Nadine (@madamehoneybee), Natalie and her daughter Eva and I extracted the first honey from my hives.

While I thought we would be taking 4 frames from H1/A (Hive 1/Honey Box A), I only had 3 truly full frames, so it was agreed to leave the girls with the 4th frame.

IMG_0327

The fun of extraction was completed rather hazily on Saturday night, but it wasn’t until late yesterday that I had time to bottle my wares. From the 3 frames, we extracted 7kgs of honey – approximately 2.3kg per frame. In no way a record weight but for my first ever extraction I was delighted! While it was not white clover which would have been too much to ask for, the honey is a beautiful light colour and quite floral.

If anyone has been eagerly waiting for a taste, I’m afraid that the virgin harvest has been accounted for. It saddened me to have to put aside a small sample for quality control (as pictured below). The good news is that the 3 Flow frames will be ready for harvest in about 2 weeks and I am really looking forward to that. I suspect that that will be a more populated extracting party than Saturday night as there are many who are interested to see if and how it all works!

Virgin Honey's first honey sample

PS: Yes there were photos taken whilst we extracted but will not be posted to this “family friendly” site. We discovered a new drinking sensation of one sip of Margarita (from a salt rimmed glass) to one finger-full of honey. It is the bees knees! xx

Don’t move your bees – fact or fiction??

I had been warned by many seasoned bee keepers that you moving your bees a short distance is a big no no and if absolutely necessary should be done less-than-a-meter at a time over an extended period of time. There is solid science and a lot of data to back up the cleverness of bee GPS and the importance of not mucking with the location of home, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice!

IMG_6995

I have been working hard to have my bee stand area paved and ready since I ordered my bees from The Bee Lady many months ago. Alas I was about a week short of the time I needed to finish the job before I went into surgery last week (yes I’m fine – thanks for asking). Of course doctors orders were that I can now do no heavy lifting for 8 weeks which made me want to weep since my back yard has been a construction zone for long enough!

My flatmate is terrific and very accommodating of the fact that I’ve become a crazy bee lady – a much tidier and less pungent smelling version of a crazy cat lady. That’s not to say he necessary likes the bees or wants to have much to do with them, but he tolerates them well enough that I can’t complain. I”m sure he would have probably obliged had I asked him every second day to move each hive a few inches each night. I’m just not sure that our happy flatmate state would have survived it.

So I took the plunge and late on Monday night and had my flatmate move one hive and again late last night move the other. The distance was not ideal – it was approximately 3 metres for the first hive and 2 metres tor the second hive to the new spot.

IMG_6998

The blue stand  on the left was the original site of the second hive. Enough to cause disorientation for the bees!

For most of Tuesday, I walked the stand (saw horse) between the original site and the new site, carrying a dozen or so bees at a time. I’m not sure how much good it did. By sundown there were perhaps three dozen bees that had succumbed to exhaustion from trying to find the hive without success. I had much less casualties today, probably because the new site was in their flight path to their original site. Fortunate because the original stand they were on was far too heavy for me to constantly lift back and forth carrying stray bees.

Given that there were definitely casualties from the move due to disorientation I would say with absolutely conviction that you should not move bees short distances quickly – only if doctors orders mean otherwise!!

Bee explosion in Madonna’s house

On the way home yesterday, I was talking with friend beekeeper Nadine from MadameHoneybee. Nadine also attends Bee School with me on Saturdays, and as a professional freelance photographer, she’s also able to occasionally attend the Wednesday class as well.  Nadine was making me jealous telling me that both last week and again today, the class encountered swarms which needed to be captured. All my bee school classmates would agree that swarm capturing is one of the things you need to know how to do before you graduate bee school.

IMG_6684

Bee buddy Nadine shooting the bees 🙂

The two swarms this week were from new nucs that have just been set up in the last month.

One had swarmed due to a severe infestation of Small Hive Beetle which had occurred in just 4 days (since the nuc had been checked on Saturday); the second seemed to be caused by simply too many bees in the nuc box.

The first swarm is more than a little alarming and the hives at John’s will all need to be closely monitored, but it was the second swarm that I was most interested in. You see, that swarm was from fellow schooler Scott’s nuc hive and Scott had collected his queens from Corrine, the Bee Lady the same day I received Madonna. Having both hives set up around the same time, I wondered whether I might have a similar problem at home.

So it was with a little trepidation that I approached my hive yesterday afternoon and noticed a lot of bees sitting outside the hive. Opening the lid was like opening a soda water bottle after shaking it. The bees just crawled out from everywhere and were in quite a buzz and seemed to just keep coming! A quick check on the foundation frames that were put in showed me that there is not a lot of storage room for them.

While not ideal given that by now it was already dark, I have put the new Flow Hive Lite box on top with a queen excluder.

This morning the bees seem a lot calmer with the new honey box on top. Honey may be coming sooner than I had planned! 

IMG_6789

Lazy bee gardening

I admit that I’ve been pretty neglectful of my garden in the last few months as I’ve been off to bee school early on a Saturday and exhausted by the time I get home. Now that I am coming to the end of all my hard bee preparation, I’ve been taking the time to wander around the garden in the morning watching the bees at work.

honey bee in nasturtiums

In my absence, my nasturtiums have taken over a good 3 metres of my veggie patch – swallowing tomato plants, green onions and chives in their path. But watching the bees gorge themselves this morning, I couldn’t be too upset; it’s like having a neon sign in your yard saying “Bee Stop Here”.

honey bee with pollen

Bee school

North Brisbane Bee Keepers - Bee School

Today was a public holiday in Brisbane thanks to the Ekka. I hope that next year I will be competing in the Honey Court with my Mead at the Ekka but I’ve got a fair wait til then. While I’m still a newbee learning the ropes, I took the opportunity to get a morning in at Bee School. I am a fortunate member of the North Brisbane Bee Keepers Association and our Treasurer John, kindly imparts his wisdom to other members from his hive site at Geebung.

Today we were keeping an eye out for hives that could be split as many of us will be receiving new queens on Saturday and John has offered to supply nukes from splits of his very healthy hives.

If anyone is thinking about taking up Apiary (bee keeping) I highly recommend joining a club as there are heaps of people happy to share their knowledge and also to give you a helping hand when needed.

The lovely Nadine from Madame Honey who happens to also be a professional photographer, was on hand for me today to take a proper in focus photo of my queen (named Madonna) while I took a peek in my hive.

Queen Madonna (blue spot)

Queen Madonna and attendants

Isn’t she beautiful!

Busy bees

It’s a week today since I got my girls and a lot of frenetic energy has been spent both inside and outside the hive settling them in! It’s only been 3 days since I transferred them from their 5 frame nuke box to their 8 frame home but already they’ve started to build our all 3 additional foundation frames and the brood is looking exceptionally healthy. Great to see!

Benvenuti ai miei bellezze italiane

Welcome my Italian Beauties!

I’ve just taken possession of my first nuke box full of Italian Honey Bees from “The Bee Lady” Corrine in Carbrook. I wasn’t quite expecting them so early – since Queens aren’t usually available ti September, but we’ve had an unseasonably mild winter and mother nature has decided it was time.

These girls will be helping my Native bees (Tetragonula carbonaria) to help pollinate my veggie patch and keep me in a plentiful supply of golden honey.