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#011 ~ SEPTEMBER 2018
Night Life on the Road - We see some amusing sights whilst traveling bees . Last night ( Sept 23rd) taking a truck load of bees from the Southern Flinders Ranges to the Riverland it was bright moonlight - Whilst dodging Roos and Wombats, passed a mob of 5 ferral goats about 9:30pm - One was perched up on the yellow roadside PIRSA “Fruit Fly” Prevention Quarantine Bin in the moonlight on the Burra /Morgan road - it didn’t even flinch when the truck went past. ( guess its one way to get noticed !!! )
B#010 ~ SEPTEMBER 2018
Fire Prevention - Recreational /Part time/ Commercial / Urban / Rural ~ All beekeepers need to consider "Fire Prevention" - clearing weeds around the immediate vicinity of your hives not only allows ease of access for you and bees but it also inhibits errant sparks egniting . NEVER PUT A SMOKER ON THE GROUND !!!!!! - get into good beekeeping practice by never putting a smoker on the ground regardless if it is lit or un lit - A smoker can be put on the neighboring hive /smoker box or in a metal bucket with some sand in the bottom. Never turn your back on a lit smoker - hold it between your knees / have someone else hold it whilst you are working your bees or put it in the smoker bucket or on the hive next to you. In addition always take a bucket of water with you - to wash your hands & tools between hives and can act as an emergency douse for an errant spark. Every time you visit your apiary think through what you would do if there was a fire - What is your fire plan? - everyone needs a fire plan in place . Bee Smoker on the ground = FAIL. How to use a bee smoker click here
B#009 ~ Spring / SEPTEMBER 2018
Canola and Beans - Access to both of these crops together benefits the bees as well as the crops. Despite floral access , flying time is temperature dependent this time of the year. Opportunity to pollen spike with high protein as well as some nectar for 3 weeks resulting in strong rapid hive expansion before migrating onto a premium honey source. If you don't have strong colonies before moving to a honey source, the flow will be over before it is of benefit.
Interesting Honey fact - " Bees know what honey is !!!! Surprise !!! " Seriously !!!! Consumers, its not that hard to read labels or the Australian July 2018 required bar icon and make an informed product purchase choice regardless of the product or produce origin. Labelling laws ensure the choice is yours.
September 7th- Australian National Threatened Species Day - As migratory beekeepers we see many amazing sites including threatened flora as well as bird and other fauna species as we travel SA . This past week has been 7 afternoons & nights on the road ea 700km round trip from the Flinders Ranges to the Riverland return / repeat. Every year we see 1 or 2 wombats in the headlights on the road verge between Morgan & Burra at this time of year. This year we have seen between 14-16 every night. The other threatened species we see, is an aging "Multi Skilled - Commercial Beekeeper" population out there on the road traveling long distances in the night for the health of their bees . It is evident with current naive opinionated media hype that most social media contributors to the current round of "honey discussions" are doing so void of facts and experience.( import~export~deport~report) - hmmmm a more useful approach is sup-port and perhaps drinking tawny port.
B#008 ~ Last day of Winter ~ AUGUST 2018
Hives on the move. 27C coupled with 96km winds X 2 days , not what almond growers, stone fruit growers , farmers or beekeepers need. Todays rain gives some relief but can't stick blossoms back on trees. Hives are on the move - 2018 almond pollination season is all but over for 2018. For those of you whom have a sense of humor check out this video click here
B#007 ~ JULY ~2018
BOLT - Biosecurity Online Training - Recreational , Part Time & Commercial Beekeepers . As we approach spring and recreational beekeepers across Australia look forward to the new season or getting started in bees it is timely to revisit the issues associated with Honeybee Biosecurity Australia wide. With weaker colonies caused by drought, winter conditions and inexperienced hive management - bees robbing can be a biosecurity concern for all beekeepers both recreational and commercial . If bringing livestock into SA i.e. necus coming across the border it is important that your supplier has the required associated clearance paperwork and that the hives have been inspected. This documentation forms part of your records to be submitted to PIRSA with your annual registration. It is best practice for all beekeepers to have a good sound knowledge of beekeeping diseases and their associated management practices not just commercial beekeepers. Australian BOLT online training is available for all beekeepers including international - for further information click here or fact sheet click here .
B#006 ~ JULY~ 2018
Laura Gardens Heritage Fig Grove - The eclipse & red blood moon this week heralds the "Willunga Almond Blossom Festival" and the annual last week of July mass hive migration to almonds in the Murraylands, Riverland and Linsday Point. All are new phase markers and as such the last week in July 2018 is also the start of one of our new projects " The Laura Gardens Heritage Fig Grove" Horrocks Hwy. North Laura SA. As with many country areas in SA, the hundreds of Booyoolie & Howe have old established gardens that have remnant fruit and nut trees that are neglected and eventually die out or are bulldozed. This weekend we have been collecting a range of fig tree cuttings from old gardens across the area as well as the stories associated with those trees for the new grove. Looking forward to establishing the grove over the next few years.
B#005 ~ JULY ~ 2018
BEEKEEPING COURSES - Some of the areas of beekeeping training may include 1:1 conversations, beekeeping group meetings, information sessions, books, internet sites, videos, beekeeping workshops , beekeeping classes , mentoring sessions etc. or an accredited beekeeping course. All forms of education are helpful however not all meet Australian Beekeeping Standards. Education & Training is either freely available or has a fee for service. Before you part with you well earned cash , ensure you are clear about what you are actually paying for an how that compares the the national beekeeping education standard so that you can make an formed choice about what you are undertaking or paying for. As a consumer you are entitled to make an informed choice.
Demonstrated competency in the 12 core units of AHC32016 is the basic minimum standard for a person to be work ready as a beekeeper in Australia .The core units provide a bench mark for beekeeping education and also assist beekeepers to identify their beekeeping skills and knowledge deficits. For further information about Australian Education Standards click here NB - Australia currently has 7 registered training organizations ( RTO's) whom are accredited to conduct "A Beekeeping Course". i.e. AHC32016 ( unfortunately none of these are based in South Australia) hence no national standard beekeeping courses are available in SA - However, South Australian Beekeepers do have access to online , hybrid courses and apprenticeship formats supported by interstate RTO's. To view the Australian Beekeeping Course registered training provider list click here. If your beekeeping education provider is not on this list then they are not providing a standard beekeeping course.
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) Flowering Ecology of Honey-Producing Flora in South-East Australia ( click here) Enviro data SA ( click here) Electronic Flora of South Australia ( 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.
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.
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".
Bees are not pets they are livestock , insects that are free to fly when and where they want. Technically they are not owned - what is owned is the hiveware. It is a privilege to host bees in your hiveware and a legal responsibility to ensure when you are hosting bees that you maintain the hiveware and care for the bees according to legislative requirements of your state or territory.
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 .
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