This is “BASIC Three” – 6 Essential pieces of info about Beekeeping.
What are the 3 BASICS to start Beekeeping…Okay… so now you have read part 1 – BASICS which covered 7 essential pieces of Beekeeping equipment and part 2 – BASICS which covered 5 essential Beehive components.
Welcome to Part 3 – and in this part, we are looking at “BASICS Three – 6 Essential pieces of information about Beekeeping”.
Introducing you to the things that you will need to think about when getting Bees, like positioning your Beehive or Beehive management, giving you some ideas to make you aware of the tasks to run a Beehive so that your Bees survive whilst also giving you some information on the things that will harm them.
hen, introducing some legalities of what is expected as a Beekeeper in terms of the ‘rules’ which are designed to help all beekeepers and help authorities to be aware of any issues in the beekeeping community.
As with many activities, Beekeeping involves RISK, so here we introduce you to some of those risks in the aim to help you keep safe and a few handy hints on how to deal with the risks.
As this is an introduction, its important to say that there is always more information – this article gives a simple overview of things to be aware of, more reading and research will be required.
…what are the 6 Essential pieces of info ?
Essential info 1 – THREATS.
Understanding the Threats faced by the Honey Bee, then looking at the ways to manage those threats.
Conduct regular inspections
- Spring & Summer on a Fortnightly schedule.
- Autumn & Winter – monthly but ALWAYS monitor weekly for ‘threats’.
New Zealand Beekeepers – generally we have year-round egg-laying and brood, this is due to our temperate climate. This also means that Honey Bees forage regularly, which means they can pick-up varroa mites while on their journeys.
This means the “Varroa Destructor Mite” is ALWAYS present !
…this mite can wipe out a colony anytime of the year, exceptions would be in the very lower parts of the South Island where brood shut-down can occur – check with local Beekeepers or Local Bee clubs to find out if your Bees will stop laying and when.
Important note: The mite breeds in the cells of growing baby Bees and feeds on the babies and also transfers disease in to their system, which weakens the Honey Bee colonys’ health.
WARNING: For those of you in other countries, you will need to find out from local Beekeepers or a local Bee club or go to your governmental agency which deals with Pest management or Beekeeping, so you know what the threats are relevant to your country or local county. Sample: Australia have Hive Beetles whereas NZed does not.
Essential info 2 – RISKS.
Understanding the risks when using your equipment so you can conduct your Beekeeping safely, minimising those risks.
Advice: TOOLs: have a container or ‘tool-box’ for your equipment. This will keep your tools in one place and off the ground. Have an Anti-Septic cream on hand for any injuries, cuts, abrasions. Clean tools with an Anti-Bacterial wipe.
SMOKER: when moving or storing – ensure the smoker is not hot, only hold by the bellows and keep it contained in a level position so it does not tip over – when you have finished – place some grass into the funnel.
ALLERGY / Stings : have Anti-Histamines, an Epi-Pen, antiseptic creams at hand – always ask visitors/family if they are allergic – get your self checked for sting-response. Store your gloves and suits separately from the home, or in a container so as to avoid you and your family becoming desensitised to venom.
To lessen risk of spreading diseases: BEEKEEPER HYGIENE : Have a roll of paper-towels handy to use to wipe down tools using a fine mist spray bottle with 1 tablespoon of Janola Bleach mixed with water as a disinfectant spray. Wash suit regularly, spray and wipe your tools and footwear especially if you visit other apiaries. – DO NOT not allow others to use their gloves or equipment in your Beehive – if you go to other apiaries, always wash your suit and wear plastic/clean gloves only and use their tools. Help keep your Bees and other apiaries safe.
Mostly: Learn how to manage all risks, be aware and prepare in advance, don’t wait for the ’emergency’!
What do we do here at kiwimana HQ? We keep our suits and gloves in containers in the garage. We have tool-boxes for each apiary and separate suits/gloves for each apiary. When going to customers apiaries and inspecting Beehives, we have separate suits and gear and always have a spray bottle with bleach and water mix on hand and a roll of paper-towels and some rubbish bags. Our gumboots are sprayed and also we use plastic bags to cover gumboots.
Essential info 3 – APIARY SET-UP.
Note: An Apiary is where Beehives are located, an Apiarist is a Beekeeper, Apiculture is the term used for the Beekeeping industry. It is important to understand that if a Beehive is not set-up effectively, it can be difficult to manage and inspect. Setting-up in a wrong position could cause Beehive-failure. You will need room to move around the Beehive when inspecting, and you’ll need space to put your wood-ware and tools on, or your tool-box.
Positioning of a Beehive – if a Beehive is not placed in a location that enables the wood-ware to dry-out after rain, the wood-ware will become damp and mouldly. – a badly set-up Beehive is difficult to work on and inspect – often making it easy to avoid doing your beekeeping. A Beehive must NOT be exposed to high or regular wind or kept under low, thick tree canopy.
SPACE to work: about 2 metres square or so you have a metre space in the front and to the sides and rear of the hive – preferably on a level site. A space for your equipment to be placed while you inspect. If you have more than one Beehive, approximately 1.8 metres apart front or side.
POSITIONING OF HIVE: Ensure spot is in a sunny position facing the Winter sunrise, no over-exposure to wind. If your area is prone to heavy rain, raise hives up about 20 to 30 centimeters so as to prevent rain splash-up going in to the entrance of the hive whilst also preventing the baseboard from getting damp. Bees can deal better with cold than wet and dampness.
WARNING: Beekeeping can bee hard on the back, involving heavy lifting, you might like to use a hive set-up which means no bending? – Perhaps build a ‘Hive Stand’
– or a get a Long Bench Hive set to one height.
Essential info 4 – SEASONS.
Beekeepers need to understand that the 4 seasons impact on Bee behaviour and on Beekeeper activities. Preparation is key for the Beekeeper.
For each season you will need to learn how to manage ‘bee space’ eg: Spring = more Bees = more space needed, Winter = less Bees = less space. Always have hive boxes, spare roofs, baseboards, hive mats and frames made-up, ready to use. As you progress through your Beekeeping adventures you will need to look at seasonal gear such as queen excluders, extraction and learn about ways to extract honey, eg: you may simply choose crush and strain method, this will require that you have spare wax-sheets on hand, larger extractions may require centrifugal types of extractors, etc.
Advice Note: The best food for your Honey Bees is their own Honey – don’t bee greedy learn about what they need FIRST !
What do we do at kiwimana HQ?
We leave a box of 10 frames of capped honey on each colony for their Winter feeding. All year round, We inspect regularly once a fortnight and are always monitoring the hives, spending time watching the entrance to see what is happening there.
Observation is a great way to learn.
For positioning of our hives, we have placed them facing the morning sun where it rises in Winter. All hives are on hive-stands around 30cms (12″) for our langstroths.
Essential info 4 – RULES.
These are designed to ensure the risks are recorded for the NZ Ministry of Primary Industries to help them manage Pest Management and to help local beekeepers know if their apiary is at risk. They require all Beekeepers, through local government to register their land and give the number of hives they have at their site. Therefore this means the land is registered not each Beehive. Their highest priority is for Beekeepers to notify when they have American Foul Brood (AFB) which is fatal to the hive and other hives within a 5km radius. The website : www.afb.org.nz
Advice: Check out the website referred above as there is lots of information, with photos about Bee diseases, and what they look like plus reading material / books.
Essential advice 5 – INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT PROGRAM – Natural and Un-Natural. By Understanding the Honey Bee – you can understand that they are a natural insect and are affected by the ‘natural’ world.
Un-natural Chemicals created by humans used for ‘land-management’ such as highly manufactured chemicals creating fungicides, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides and applied to plants, seeds, weeds – can cause death to not only Honey Bees, but also other pollinators such as Birds and Bumble Bees. These chemicals have also been used in the fight against the Varroa Destructor mite – they are called “synthetic Miticides”. Harm can be caused by immediate death or long-term poisoning.
Advice: Don’t spray around your beehive with any of the above mentioned types of sprays – research shows ALL affect the Honey Bees health.
What do we do here at kiwimana ? Here at kiwimana we treat with ORGANIC products which means they are made from plant concentrates and research shows these organic products do not cause harm to the Bees. Beelow shows the two products we use.
Organic Treatment products
Integrated Pest Management Program. (IPMP) The products as mentioned below are designed to aid the beekeeper in managing some of the threats.
These pieces of equipment will give you several methods to help manage your Bees, will assist you in helping to monitor whats is going on and are all simple ways to help you with your Beehive Management. You will need be able to use these tools so as to help you learn – enabling you to identify risks and the main key will be to inspect regularly, record your findings and always have ‘spare’ gear and woodware at the ready.
Essential info 6 – BEEHIVE INSPECTIONS and MANAGEMENT.
If you are starting out, the best piece of advice is that to let you know that a Bee is an insect and understanding the Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) will take some patience and trust as Bees do know what they need to do – don’t over-inspect when you get your new Bees, give them a fortnight to get to know your place – in the meantime plan your inspection schedule, build your gear and just watch them at their entrance.
Here in New Zealand recommendation for inspections is every fortnight – North Island. South Island similarly but Winter climate requires different methods – check with a local Bee Club. …But before any inspection, make sure you know the reason for your inspection. Suggestion is that your first inspection is recommended to be an ‘ASSESSMENT Inspection‘ only.
WARNING: Each country has different climatic conditions to be aware of – talk to some local beekeepers.
Note: Did you know that you can create micro-climates just by having a hive by a wall which could cause dampness. Your own property will have its own climate and temperatures which you will need to be aware of.
What things would you be looking for?
– is there a Queen, is she laying properly ?
– the walking Bees, are they well-formed, young or older ? Are they drones or worker Bees ?
– inside the cells what is there ? …..are there eggs, larvae, honey, nectar ?
…..are the cells’capped’ with wax ? what is in the capped cells and what type of Bee is it?
On the frame – what position are they on the frame ? …..where are the eggs ? where is honey ?
Method: Inspect each frame one by one, a great idea is to have someone who can take notes, taking photos if you can, which can also be helpful.
Or you could get “Hive Tracks” ( a fantastic hive inspection application you can have on your phone to record your inspection findings, you can add photos, list all your hive-wood-ware, and the beauty of it is that you when you get home you can go on your computer to check notes, photos etc. It also lets you record weather, temperatures, etc. print everything off and go over it, so you can see what is changing. )
Second inspection would ideally be about seeing what progress or changes are happening, with no action taken, the second inspection is about noting what is going-on, so just close-up the Beehive, then compare notes to see what has changed, this will give you indicators to what you will need to plan for.
What things have changed? Are there more Bees, are there more eggs? Is queen still laying ? Are there drones, workers ? where is nectar / what is nectar ? what is honey?
So you will need to learn what is ‘normal’ in a working hive, this will help you to understand what you need to learn more about.
If you have existing hives – Spring build-up is a prime focus and recommendation is preparing by starting assessments at the end of July or the last 4 weeks of Winter.
Final Note: There is so much more that can be said but in reality our advice is to bee prepared for what is expected, prepare a month in-advance of every season. Ask for help if something does not seem right. Read up on diseases relevant to your country, know what to look for. For reading material we have “The Practical Beekeeping Guide for New Zealand Beekeepers” at our on-line shop.
Advice: Plan your inspection schedule, ASSESS before you take action, RECORD your findings, COMPARE then plan action.
Mostly if you are aware of the Threats, Risks and Seasonal changes, you will be able to care for your Bees effectively.
Observe before taking action which may be harmful – Be Patient and Trust your girls.
Your strength will be in knowing when to take action.
Please understand that it will take time to learn, even the oldest Beekeepers are learning new things all the time.
Understand you will face challenges along the way, best to keep calm and deal with issues when they appear but have everything in place as best you can – Seek help when you find a problem, or confusion or are feeling overwhelmed.
If you are overwhelmed its probably because your hive is really busy, and that can only be a good thing, close-up the Beehive and enjoy… as long as you can conduct regular inspections then you will know if there are any jobs to be done. Give yourself about 2 hours a fortnight to be with your Bees.
Thanks for reading – we appreciate your time and hope that parts One, Two and Three of BASIC BEEKEEPING Essentials has been of value to you – and don’t forget, we are only a phone-call away.
it’s the kiwimana buzz…