As a family of commercial beekeepers in the South Australian beekeeping industry since 1972 we often get asked to share stories and perspectives on topics . This section of the website is designed to sit down with a cup of coffee or a beer and develop your own opinion as you read - As Marty says " Its no good in your head when you are dead " hence Sign Posts contains a mix of beekeeping topics of both experience and opinion pieces as an informal information blog. Enjoy !!
B#004 ~ JUNE ~ 2018
BOTANICALS – The shortest day of the year and subsequently the longest night came this week in Australia, heralding the start of the bee season. The bees already know what is going on long before the beekeepers do. Nature’s cycles not only influence the insect world but also botanicals. All plants have a trigger to flower and “yield” – the triggers are multiple and may include frost, fire, moisture, heat, warmth, drought & fluctuation of temperature just to name a few. Just because a plant flowers, does not mean it will yield anything useful to European honeybees. It may yield, either pollen or nectar, both or neither. Pollen = protein / Nectar = carbohydrate.
Understanding your botanicals forms an essential part of your beekeeping skill base. European honeybees are an introduced species to Australia and as such are always at risk of quality pollen deficit as Australian native botanicals in the main are low in protein in comparison to plants of European origin – on the flip side Australian native plants are often more prolific in nectar yield than European plants. The beekeeper has always to be mindful of what is happening within several kms of the hive/s location. The debate originating in Europe re. urban vs rural environment holds little relevance to Australia as the parameters are vastly different including the majority of Australian hives being migratory. Consequently botanical knowledge is essential for all beekeepers not just rural & metro but also commercial & recreational.
Its like learning your times tables and the remaining weeks of winter is a good time to update your knowledge. Put a comparative list on your fridge, or on the back of the loo door, including botanical & common names , flowering cycles, yield parameters – eg pollen values and carbohydrate values.Resources to help you do this include Native Eucalypts of SA Dean Nicolle ( click here) Bee Friendly – Mark Leech ( click here) Australian Living Atlas ( click here) If you take time learn to navigate this atlas including tthe maps and species information Australia wide you will find you use this tool frequently for botanical imformation . Australian Native Plant Society SA - plant data interactive identification tool (click here)
B#003 ~ JUNE ~ 2018
This Autumn we came across quite a few snakes across the state in our apiaries - under hives or lurking around the bees water IBC's - No, the answer isn't rubber boots. Believe it or not we even came across a snake wrapped around the top of an iron farm gate right at eye level a few seasons ago. They are there and mostly you don't even notice them - but if you are bitten by a snake do you know what to do ? Are you confident in your emergency skills ?
BEEKEEPERS ~ SNAKE BITE ~ CPR :- I have been genuinely surprised at the number of beekeepers that are vague when you ask them when they last did a CPR updated and an even more perplexed look when I ask what is the protocol for "snake bite". Whilst your bees are wintered down is a great time to think about your family , friends , yourself and more specifically "how your actions can save a life" - possibly yours or someone you love. Sound dramatic? You bet !!. Every beekeeper and their family in South Australia should know CPR and exactly what to do in the event of a "snake bite". This includes children of primary school age. Many people associate a bite with pain, not necessarily true ! our most common snake the Brown Snake has a painless bite. The broad compression bandaging technique of the whole limb for a snake bite is very specific to impede lymphatic drainage. CPR and snake bite bandaging are skills that need to be practiced with the whole family so in the event of an emergency everyone is confident about what they can and need to do.
St John SA - Conducts education sessions across SA and the One Day first aid session will assist you in being confident to apply the skills to the emergency situations that will arise at sometime during your beekeeping journey regardless of being a recreational , part time or commercial beekeeper.
St James First Aid and medical engineering is a South Australian based company that also conducts first aid skill sessions as well having an extensive range of equipment and workplace support services - everything to ensure you as a beekeeper and your family or workers are both confident and competent in the event of an emergency.
QUESTIONS :- How often do you check your first aid kits ? Are they in the vehicles you are using to visit your apiary ? Do you know what to do with the gear in your first aid kit? Have you in the past 3 months practiced CPR and snake bite bandaging ? When did you last do a CPR education update ? NOW IS THE TIME !!
B#002 ~ JUNE ~ 2018
Terminology:- Is correct use of terminology important ? In our opinion yes!! As Information Technology becomes increasingly accessible world wide there are some things to be mindful of. There is more than one way to do most things, however "slang terms" can be very confusing and misleading, especially for those new to beekeeping. Interchanging terms with "slang" may mean one thing in one country but something completely different in another. Beekeeping does have a language all of its own, the same as many professions.
Bees are not "Girls" - Whilst the term "girls" maybe used as a term of affection in the recreational beekeeping sector in some countries, it is not interchangeable with the term bees .( A girl is actually an immature female.) Bees are a collective colony of insects aka "a hive" . As individuals they are denoted by their cast i.e. either - a Worker, a Drone or a Queen. Although worker bees and queen bees are female they are definitely "not girls".
A "Full Depth" box or frame is not a "Deep" - In Australia a " Full Depth" is a different sizing to a USA Deep
A frame is a frame - It is not a rack, or a tray, or a divider .or even a slide - A frame is a "Frame" its a structure that is able to be removed from the hive for inspection. In Australia all parts of a hive must be able to be inspected regularly for hive health which necessitates the need for multiple " frames"
A Queen Excluder is not a "separator" It does not separate the queen or drones from the colony. It is "exclusive" and allows workers to move freely throughout the hive complex but "excludes" a plump fertile Queen and plump Drones from passing through.
B#001~ MAY ~ 2018
The first formal Beekeeping Group in the Continent of Australia was formed in CLARE Sth. Aust. in 1884 – ( just 10 years after the British Beekeepers Association & 6 days prior to the formation of Australia’s 2nd group in Adelaide.) Why SA? - Proactive beekeepers were concerned about the proliferation of new beekeepers & subsequent lack of bee craft skill resulting in bees not being checked adequately for disease as well as the dismissive attitude & disrespect for the existing beekeeping etiquette in SA. in 1870’s /1880s, coupled with the need for education & beekeeping standards for all beekeepers in SA. Hmm !! The historical accounts make for very interesting reading.
Apis Mellifera aka the European Honeybee is an introduced insect to Australia. Whilst access to good carbohydrate nectar is usually readily available throughout the seasonal variation in SA, the migratory access to high quality protein pollen is becoming an increased challenge, especially this season. On the first day of winter as dawn breaks the signs of an abnormally dry & warm autumn/ winter are evident & this morning after a clear overnight sky, a frosty coat has enveloped our valley. Farmers have been dry seeding all night for the past 2 weeks to get their crops in on time in the hope of winter rains. Opening rains and resulting wild “mushrooms” usually appear in MAY in our area – but not this year.
Sth. Aust. has experienced a melliferous forage drought for the past 4 months with implications for many commercial beekeepers – buds have appeared in their predicted cycles with the promise of yield, but the buds have remained static due to the lack of moisture & abnormally warm autumn. In addition, unfortunate “Over achieved” controlled burns have robbed several commercial beekeepers across the state of their wintering sites. It is timely that the 3rd Australian Bee Congress being held on the Australian Gold Coast June 27-30 will visit the topics of bee nutrition and changing environment.
MAY contained many gems – It is NATIONAL HONEY MONTH Australia wide annually, MAY 20th is also now the UN endorsed annual WORLD BEE DAY & we have had busy month discussing bees, honey, pollination, transport, equipment & regulatory compliance with the general public & beekeepers.
South Australia as of April 19th has updated State Beekeeping Legislation to facilitate the implementation of new standards in addition to previous standards required for all beekeepers in SA – We have advocated for this for many years & whilst the requirements are minimalist, we encourage all beekeepers to go beyond the basic requirement in their clinical practice regardless of being Recreational, Part Time or Commercial Beekeepers. Information sessions were held across the state to provide access for all beekeepers during MAY with an additional session being held as an adjunct to the SAAA – (South Australian Apiarists Association) AGM. Further details can be obtained from the PIRSA website or by contacting the SA Apiary Officer.
MAY is also HISTORY MONTH in South Australia & saw the launch of the “ Rangelands Of The Northern Beekeepers Project “ The project is an ongoing 5yr. collection of information, data & stories of beekeepers & families across the North of SA from 1871 to the present. Over 400 people visited the launch exhibition in LAURA designed to encourage conversation & enliven memories of beekeeping in our area from times past. Whilst the exhibition sponsored by Adelaide Beekeeping Supplies & Laura Gardens Bees was only held on 4 days, it was an extremely rewarding event combined with National Honey Month supported by local print media and television.
SUMMARY ~Melliferous Forrage drought ~ 3rd Australian Bee Congress ~ National Honey Month ~ World Bee Day ~ New Regulations to accompany existing regulations in SA now legislated ~ Rangelands Of The Northern Beekeepers 5 year Project .