Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year

The setting sun over bee hives, ready for a new dawn. A fitting metaphor for New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Ancient Roman Honey Cake Recipe

This gluten free organic honey cake recipe comes from my friend Judith in America (thanks Judith :-)). Looks super easy, and as soon as I get honey from my hive I'll give it a whirl.

Ancient Roman Honey cake   (Sacred Sciences recipe)

"Honey was thought to be magical in the world of the ancient Romans. Aside from its value as a beloved sweet treat in its honey comb form and as a sweetener in cooking, honey was also used to dress wounds and to lift the spirit. The Romans made a wine called Mulsum from honey which they believed was good for digestion and promoted long life.

Many Romans made replica statues and funerary masks using bees wax which were believed to protect them. According to the legendary Roman poet, Ovid, these statues also functioned similarly to voodoo dolls in that harming the figurine could also inflict harm on the human it represented." (Sacred Sciences)

1 1/2 cups organic spelt flour
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup wild local honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 cup goat’s milk
1 egg

• Preheat oven to 180 C
• Beat all liquid ingredients together in a small bowl.
• Mix all dry ingredients separately in medium mixing bowl.
• Add liquid ingredients gradually to dry ingredients and beat well.
• Bake for 35-40 minutes in greased round cake pan.
• Serve with a drizzle of honey, a dollop of whipped cream or yogurt
and some fresh berries.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The meaning of Honeymoon

The term Honeymoon came from the old custom of giving newlyweds mead (an alcoholic drink made from fermented honey) for the first 30 days of their marriage (a 'moon').

And if you think that this might be a feature, here is a company that makes mead, and that does courses for how to make it too. Haewai Meadery. Their next course is 20 January in Wellington, NZ.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Native NZ Bees

Just outside the bedroom window is this Lophomyrtus tree, a NZ native. And a couple of mornings ago it was completely covered with bees. But all the bees were little black native NZ bees. Even though this tree is very close to a whole bunch of hives with regular honey bees, none of them were interested in the flowers, only the little natives were sipping away. But by the afternoon they had all gone, maybe for a bit of a postprandial lie down? Maybe.... because native bees don't live in hives, they only need to collect enough to eat for the day?


And for some lovely photos and more information see the Terrain site

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Breeding Varroa resistant bees

There is scientific work going on to try and overcome varroa, that destructive mite that kills bees. Currently the only way is with chemicals. But check out this short (6 min) Ted talk on this.

There is also a very cool 60 sec video in it, of the first 21 days of a bees life, where you can watch the baby bees hatch.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Bee Sculpture Art

I went along to the Auckland Botanic Gardens this week to check out the new Sculpture Trail. They have an exhibition every year, of very large pieces which are spread around the gardens in strategic spots. For sale, but you would need a paddock, not a suburban backyard for most.The gardens are also in full bloom at this time of year, so a lovely afternoon out. Lots of great bird sculptures this year too, which I loved. But in the little shop, it seems the artists have small models and other pieces, also for sale.

And I found this great bee. Isn't she fabulous? No, I didn't buy her, unfortunately. And, I forgot to photograph the artist, so no idea, sorry.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Bee Suits - One Size Fits All

Bees and children do mix. Just look at this! A kitted up beeboy, just add oxygen tank and he will be ready for a moon walk with Neil Armstrong. Moon walking chickens and horse too....

I think the one-size-fits-all bee suit and gardening gloves works splendidly well, but if you were after a real child-size one, check out the Ceracell's ones, in groovy green, or white.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Moving Hive Boxes

In a previous post 'Bee Equipment Logistics' I outlined the to-ing and fro-ing involved with all the hardware required to grow bees. Well here it is in action. 

Having spent ages making all the boxes and then dipping them in oil and letting them air dry, they need to be taken to the farms where the hives actually are. So we (ah, that would be the beekeepers) load them up on to the ute and a HUGE trailer, tie down every which way, and then some - none of these babies are going to fly off down the motorway - ready for transport.

And, because the bee box supply depot is at the other end of the island to the bee farms, the bee boys get up before sparrow fart and drive all day. Probably NOT the most satisfying part of their job.... but it certainly looks impressive all loaded up, and driving a big load could have its charms, at least the first time.

Monday, 7 December 2015

How to Build a Platform for Bee Hives

How to put beehives on a steep hill? One of our home sites is in Wellington, that wonderful city of extreme verticality. Bush covered hillside can be lovely - from the window. But once you try to set up beehives you are in trouble.

So the bee troops came up with the great idea to build a platform, to level out the hives a bit.

The bees will have an excellent view. And don't need a cable car to access their hive, although the beekeepers might.

And the idea worked so well, we made some more in Auckland. Not nearly as steep in Auckland on the whole of course, but pretty useful to have an easy platform.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Bee Equipment Logisitics

Sometimes I wonder whether keeping bees is just one big logistics exercise. So, here's how it goes....
1. get bee hive
2. get more box bits
3. make up boxes
4. get more floors and mats and frames and all sorts of other bits.
5. store the bits and pieces (but not hives, ha!) somewhere dry and safe that is not your bedroom (although lounge and dining room is fair game)
6. put some of the bits from 2 and 3 together.
7. get the assembled bits and take them away from 5.
8. drive things to host farms.
9. load bits from 1 with bits from 7.
10. drive things away from host farms.
11. return some of things from 10 to 5, and some to 8.
12. repeat steps. For more points, vary order.

The only rule - do not store hives in bedroom. Everything else is up for negotiation.

Might be able to run an army provisioning platoon with enough practice.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Clevedon Markets and flowers for bees

The Clevedon Markets is always a good Sunday morning out. One of my favourite stalls is this plant stall. And now they have a specific 'Plants for Bees' section, so no thinking required either.

This week I bought some summer savory for all my broad beans, and a lavender bush. Both of which will have lovely flowers, and taste and smell good too. Plenty of other plants to tempt me next Sunday too. 

I think bees like just about any pollen or nectar producing plant, which covers quite a range. I was admiring a busy bee just loaded down with pollen today, rummaging around in a few roses in someone's front garden. Its amazing just how much they can carry on their legs, and still fly.

Lots of other great things to indulge in, at the markets too, this week we had a fabulous homemade iceblock. Along with the usual coffee and breakfast.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Bees and Wasps

How to tell the difference between bees and wasps? Now I am no expert at all, but the beekeepers are. And it is important to tell the difference, you don't want to squash the wrong thing, or let the wrong thing prosper either. There are a few good summaries online including the Te Ara Encyclopedia

This is a bee, pic from the Ministry of Health. Little furry yellow number, similar to the ones in the hive above.

This one is one type of wasp, pic from Landcare. Smooth and evil looking. Bit Darth Vader really. For more on NZ wasps, including alien pics, check out the Landcare website.

And here are our wasp traps. Recycling in action. It would be better still, instead of trapping them and poisoning the wasps, to find the nests and deal to them that way, but in the bush it can be quite a mission to locate them.