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Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Wagtail Dance

My Brand
A jeweler friend of mine Mary and her blacksmith husband Nick me a brand for my hives.The last thing I do, before I coat the hive with a mixture of pure raw linseed oil and bees wax, is fire up the brazier, heat up the brand and make my mark. Its such a wonderful finish to the day and to the hive.

The brand depicts the infamous wagtail dance of the honey bee.This dance is the method in which the bees are able to communicate to each other the direction and distance of nectar.When a bee returns from sourcing nectar it performs this dance on the comb shaking its body as it runs around in a figure 8.When it completes the dance it either runs up the centre of the 8 to indicate that the nectar flow is towards the sun or down the comb to inform the bees to seek away from the sun and as the sun changes position throughout the day so does the axis of the dance.The faster the waggle the closer the nectar flow the slower the waggle the further the nectar flow.The dancing bee will stop at some point in the dance and feed nectar to the worker bees to indicate what type of nectar to search for.Hooly Dooly.

Bees and new comb

Old School.Photo from "La Cucina; The Regional Cooking of Italy" - Rizzoli

I love the way this beekeeper has used an old hollowed out log to house a colony of bees by adding a plastic busket to the inside to make it easy to remove honey comb with out destroying the hive.

Backyard Beekeeping In Shangri La

Trying not to look like a bear
Beekeeping does not need to involve a lot of equipment and can be a pleasant sting free activity if you approach the hive calmly and move slowly with respect in ways the bees don't interpret as hostile.

Just before opening the hive I gave the hive a few puffs of smoke to distract them from my hairy presence that might put ideas in their heads I  be a bear disguised as a man.
I am using the kitchen knife to gently separate the top bars trying not to breath heavily especially if I have been eating garlic,cause even bees don't like garlic breath unless they are the famous Ligurian bees of Kangaroo Island that got blown across the seas from Italy on the trade winds.
 The top bars that the bees build honey from don't need to be wired up and foundation beeswax connected which is a great time and money saving method for the beekeeper and means the bees build beautiful V shaped comb that conforms to their natural desire to build comb cells of different dimensions depending whether they use them to raise brood or store honey.   
Honey Comb
 Beautiful honey comb dedicated to the storage purely of honey.No brood in this frame.
Having a closer look
When holding the top bars its always important to hold it correctly so the comb sits the way it does in the hive or it can break off and end up in a mess on the ground.

 The frame below is what is known as brood comb that has been extracted from deep in the cent re of the hive where the queen has been laying eggs into wax cells which the bees cap from which a new worker bee will emerge in  21 days or if it is a drone bee 24 days or 16 days if it is to be a queen.When the eggs hatch in their cells they are given a supply of royal jelly in which they float for three days and live off before their diet is changed to a mixture of honey and pollen.Queen bee larvae are fed royal jelly for a longer period through their developing time.At the end of the feeding period the adult bees cap the cells and the larvae inside spin cocoons  and pupate.over the next 12 days shedding its skin up to 5 times before emerging from their cells.
Brood Comb
Newly formed comb inside the hive

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rooftop Beekeeping in Richmond

Marshal and his family had been talking about having bees on  their rooftop in Richmond for some time.They had integrated solar heating into their home, established a worm farm and composting system into their newly renovated  Victorian terrace and were inspired by a progamm on rooftop beekeeping in New York.The bees arrived one sunny spring day with no drama until 7 days later, after the lid blew off in a very high wind,they decided to leave.Never mind, we immediately relocated another swarm into the hive,secured the lid and they have been happily collecting honey ever since.
The bees in this hive actually have a very good view of the MCG off in the distance.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Village Well

The arrival of the bees at the Village Well
 under the watchful eyes of their friend and advocate Zainil.
The Village Well is Australia's leading creative Place Making consultancy.They work with organizations from community groups to local and federal governments and the private business sector to facilitate the process of renewal in ways that create positive change.  They have a strong commitment and add support and lead the way in the new trend in rooftop gardening that is happening all over the world .Some of the more famous sites for keeping bees are the roofs of the Paris Opera and the Hilton Hotel in New York.

Village Well are the first city based site to take on the stewardship of beekeeping in the Melbourne CBD.It was a great day the day I wheel barrowed my hive up Elizabeth street after arriving by train into Flinders St Station early one week day passed the unsuspecting city folk to Hardware Lane and up to the 6th floor of Village Well. Zainil and I prepared a spot on the balcony nestled amongst nasturtium and lavender plants for the bees and they have been busy foraging for nectar since amongst Melbourne's inner city parklands and gardens, along the River Yarra and up to and within a 5 km radius of the CBD.
The Village Well ,Hardware Lane,Melbourne. 
The balcony 6 floors up shared by bees,staff and clients.