Friday, 27 May 2016

American Foulbrood in NZ

There has been a bit of a problem with an American Foulbrood outbreak lately, in Wellington, caused by the sale of infected boxes (without bees).

American foulbrood (AFB) is a bacterial infection that affects and kills the brood, which is the new bees forming in the brood cells. It has a characteristic foul smell (hence 'foul brood').

Source: wikipedia

New Zealand has strict rules regarding the control and monitoring of AFB, which is part of why all beekeepers need to be registered under the Biosecurity Act, and all their hive locations registered with the Management Agency. All hives need to be inspected by a DECA qualified beekeeper.

Also, an Annual Disease Return needs to be completed by 1 June each year.

If AFB is found, all hives and bees need to be burnt (by NZ regulation), as the spores can last up to 40 years.

Source:By Jrmgkia - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

We take the health of our bees very seriously, and are always on the lookout for signs of ill health, including AFB. AFB is like any other bee problem, it can be avoided with good bee and hive management in most cases.

The official site of the AFB NZ organisation is here if you are interested in all the ins and outs.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

How to grow manuka trees from seed

Our easiest-ever method to grow manuka trees

I've mentioned before about how we grew manuka trees for our bees and how we grew them from seeds when we were starting.

Now we've got our system refined, here is an update on the method we have found to be the easiest for growing them from seed:

1. Collect seeds off a variety of different manuka trees. Ours were from south Auckland and Whangarei, and I made sure I picked them from several different looking trees. That way you are more likely to have genetic diversity, and to extend the flowering season.

2. Pick the pods off when they look dry-ish. These are the bits that the flowers turn into. So sometime late summer to autumn.

3. We then dried them out, by putting them in a little dish on the kitchen window sill and leaving them till we were ready for the next bit. Months for some of them, just a month or 2 for others. Depends what else you have got going on. We just put the whole seed head in the dish, and as they dry the seeds fall out. But you can also crush them a bit and release the seeds when you are ready to plant.

4. When you feel like planting them, fill seed trays with seed raising mix, pat it down, and sprinkle the seeds over the top. They are very fine seeds so you don't need to cover them with mix. I pat them in a bit so the wind won't blow them away.

5. Gently water so they are moist.

6. Depending on what time of year you have sprinkled them, will depend how much of an eye you need to keep on them, to keep them moist but not soggy.

Now the magic bit is, that it doesn't really seem to matter what time you sprinkle them around. We did some in autumn, some in winter, and some in spring. They all basically got growing in spring. The autumn ones did a bit of a spurt before winter, so this would be my preferred time, to get a head start.

But it all depends what else you have on your plate. It's better to do them in winter and actually get it done than to leave it till spring and find you are spending all your time out with the bees and not get it done at all. In my opinion.

And the whole thing is pretty flexible, when you pick the seeds, how long you dry them, and when you plant them. They just keep on going. It does affect the speed that they grow at though, and whether you can gain a year in the cycle. Remember that nature takes it course, there ain't no rushing it.

To get your free copy of the Pictorial Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Manuka Trees from seed click here

For more information sign up to collect your free downloadable Pictorial Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Manuka Trees from Seeds. Free! And there is lots more information on Business of Bees including downloadable comprehensive courses on all aspects of planning and growing a manuka plantation specifically for bees.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

How to Kill Paper Wasps

Ha! Easy peasy.

The answer to 'how to kill paper wasps' would appear to be - ring the council.

They are super keen to get rid of anything that is a threat to people, small children, babies, old people etc. ah...not that small children are a threat to people....oh, you know what I mean!

Only thing is, it is helpful to find the nest first. And my wasps are suddenly absent. A bit like when you have toothache for weeks, finally book for the dentist, and the ache mysteriously disappears and you can't remember if it was the right side or the left.

Maybe it just hasn't been sunny enough.

Oh well, no wasps is good right?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Do paper wasps kill bees?

My garden has become infested with paper wasps. They come out in the sun, and love to hang around my clothes line and vegetable garden. On a sunny day I might have 100 or so in close proximity to my clothes hanging activities. Not cool!

There are 2 types of paper wasps, Asian and Australian. Check out this Landcare article for pictures of both.

I've spent ages outside trying to find their nest. Landcare suggests that their nests are small, about the size of a pear. And that they fly no more than 200m. So they must be close.

And AAA pest control Auckland suggests looking at dusk, so you can see them flying in.

Well, I have looked. And looked and looked. I can't see them flying in or out of my place. So that would imply they live in my place. But I can't see them in my place either.

But we've got Vespex, right? That'll deal to them. Except, no.

"Vespex® is specifically designed for wide-area control of Vespula wasp species. In New Zealand, this includes both the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) and German wasp (V. germanica). These wasps are also known as yellow jackets in some countries."

and that "Paper wasps (Polistes sp.) get the protein they need by hunting for living insects, especially caterpillars, and are not attracted to Vespex®."

But Clemson University says that paper wasps are good for killing garden pests, like caterpillars, of which I have many. Many many. And that paper wasps will die out in the autumn, and the queen will hibernate on her own over winter. Not sure if this applies to our climate, as we don't have hard frosts in Auckland, but fingers crossed.

So maybe I just need to stop hanging my washing out on sunny days?

And keep looking, I think.

And as for 'Do paper wasps kill bees?'. I have no idea. There doesn't seem to be an answer on the interwebs about this. So I am assuming no. Vespula wasps kill bees for sure though.