Monday, 25 January 2016

A Yurt House

One of our bee hosts lives in a yurt! 

It has fabric walls and roof outside, and a timber lattice arrangement on the inside of the walls. The walls are insulated between, and it has a fire inside, and bedroom and kitchen and the full works. Louise says it is cosy all year round, maybe just a bit chilly in the middle of the night in the middle of winter when the fire dies down, but isn't everywhere cold then?

This one wouldn't fit a large family, but is perfect for one or 2 people. They come in a variety of sizes, although no McMansions I would think.

Isn't it just the coolest?

And, one of her chickens. Which has its own regular chicken house, not a yurt.

Bee people are universally interesting, in my experience. I wonder why?

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Beekeeping statistics

Bee Labour Boy has been furiously making beehive boxes. And they are making quite a stack in the garage.

And the drying rack of completed and dipped boxes is getting a bit low.

So I volunteered to help dip them. Yippee, I thought, a fun adventure.
WRONG! It was quite good fun for the first 10 minutes, then it became deeply un-glamorous (yeah, I know, the other bee boys have been making millions of these, what is my problem?). 

So I compiled some statistics, to help time pass:
Boxes in a batch: 6
Total number of batches: 28
Total number of boxes dipped: 168
Time taken: 3 hours

Steps taken for each batch, garage to dipping vat (me): 150 steps
Steps taken for each batch, dipping vat to rack (a bit of me): 840 steps

Screws per box: 20
Total screws (used by Bee Labour Boy): 3360

Squares of chocolate eaten: 18 (2 people)
Water drunk: 2L
Weight each box, undipped: 4Kg
1 calorie = 10 steps carrying box
Calories per hour: 300 (yep, not quite the choc intake)

Plus the oil dipper Bee Man and his efforts. But he is practiced, having done heaps before, so that doesn't really count, does it?

Here they are, drying on the rack.

And look at all this space, ready for Bee Labour Boy to get cracking on making more.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Toxic Honey poisoning from Tutin

From January till late May we all need to be careful of eating comb honey from hives. Toxic honey can be created from this time of year on, for the rest of the season. And it is a Big Deal - causes stupors and violent convulsions, so the websites say. Not something you want, for sure.

Toxic honey is created when there is flowering tutu around. 

Photo credits of tutu: NZ Plant Conservation Network

The passion vine hopper feeds on the tutu, then exudes a sticky honey dew substance. The bees feed on the honey dew and take it back to the hives to create honey.

Passion vine hoppers start life as fluffy little insects (which my kids called fluffy bums when they were little), then become little moth type insects that flit and bounce around.

Photo Credit of Passion vine hopper: TER:RAIN

This is a serious problem, and there is an official MPI Food Safety Standard to control it. Part of this involves testing all harvested honey for tutin, and all our honey is tested before release and sale. 

The biggest danger is eating comb honey, because the toxin is likely to be concentrated in a small part of the comb, rather than mixed with various sources as happens with extracted honey. Also, times of drought make tutin poisoning more likely, as the bees run out of other food.

For really good pictures of tutu and more detailed information see the TER:RAIN website.

And if you want to read the full standards check out the NZ Food Safety document. 

If you think you have tutu around and you have beehives, the best thing to do is chop it all down.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Moving Beehives

How to move beehives to a new location? We've just had a Big Weekend!. Moving over 100 hives from Hamilton to the Wairarapa. We needed both utes and trailers, the bee boys and me (the spare driver), a couple of extras to help unload at the end. And 36 hours on the go without stopping.

Bees need to be moved in the dark, when they are all home. So, if you are loading quite a few, it goes on for a few hours. We finally left at 2am, ready to drive through the night. 

We lock up the front doors of the hives, so they don't fly off down the motorway, strap them on (this take AGES), and then drive drive drive.

And at the other end, bee people in suits, unloading. (I'm watching from the grassy slopes in the sun, with eyes closed...)

We're really glad to have the super duper 4WD utes, top of the range -  this hill was extremely steep, and we were at the top - and it is full of some leftovers of some crop (blue flowers, stalky?), plus a few bulls (bulls are friendly, right?), add in a couple of narrow paddock gates on the wrong angle, and the most experienced 4WD driver, and we got there. In the end. I did stop breathing a bit, on the way (oh ye of little faith!)

Doesn't NZ farmland all look so similar? This could be virtually anywhere. OK, maybe not Otago, but still....

A job well done. Just another site to put the rest on, and we're done. Bee boys 1 and 2 were off with the other ute in a couple of other fields. I did count the hives, but got a bit muddled, so a recount is required. But, by my reckoning, there were gazillions. Technical term....

Official stats:
2100 Km driven, each
12 filled rolls eaten
4 apples, 6 bananas
6 cups of coffee consumed
6 litres of water drunk
gazillions of hives
even more bees
36 hours for the longest shift (we got back into Auckland at 9pm)
7 people (thanks to Will, visitor, who helped so much :-) )
5 days to catch up on sleep after (hey, I'm not so young, OK?)