Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monty the Hereford Bull

Our heifers have grown a bit since we bought them six months ago. No longer lightweight shaggy animals, they have grown large, fat and shiny. As a reward we have provided them with a little male company, a three-year-old Hereford bull called Monty. We bought him at Smithton and trucked him home on Friday. He has a very good temperament, which is important as Michelle and I work our cattle on foot. In  August – September next year we should have some calves on the ground.

Lookin good.


Blondie and Ginger

Catch that Swarm

Our two beehives have become four. I had been inspecting the hives early in the week when I noticed the queens had moved up out of the brood boxes and were now laying eggs in the supers. Even to a novice beekeeper like me, they had obviously started to outgrow their home so I ordered some additional brood boxes to enlarge the hives. The theory was good but Mother Nature had other ideas. The very next day the bees decided it was time, left the hive and created a swarm.

When keeping bees you learn new skills and acquire valuable knowledge, and the most important knowledge is who to ring when you need to ask questions. In my case that vital store of information is ‘Barry the Bee Man’ a professional beekeeper who lives up near Rowella. 

I rang Barry, it was all so easy - “just throw a large carton over the swarm, that’ll hold them until you get some boxes”
How do I get the bees in the new hive? – “Just dump them out of the carton in front of the boxes and they will find their own way in”, he said. “If they don’t go, just push them in with your foot”.  Could it really be that simple?
It really is this simple to get the swarm into their new home.

I am probably a little blasé when handling the bees but this time I got fully suited up, smoker at the ready – and it turned out to be a complete overkill. The swarming bees were easy to handle, crawled up into the carton just as Barry said they would, stayed there while we drove to Rowella and picked up some new boxes and when dumped on the grass in front of the new brood boxes, they immediately walked in to create a brand new hive.

I decided to split the other hive before they swarmed, transferring one brood box to create a new hive.  This involves pulling the hive apart to check for queen cells on the frames and making sure the new hive has a good number of healthy queen cells to ensure they can hatch another queen. Without a queen the hive will simply die.

Robbing the hives has become a relaxed chore, the bees are predictable, they don’t get aggressive and there is little chance of getting stung. Separating the brood boxes and inspecting the frames is a very different affair; no amount of smoke is ever going to calm the bees while their home is pulled apart. The sound of kamikaze bees hitting the bee suit is a little unnerving at first and while the determined bee can still sting you through the protective fabric, their sting is mild and little more than an occasional nuisance.

We should get lots of honey.

I set the two new hives up on our top boundary where we join some bush and forestry. The scrub is flowering nicely with lots of blackberry in bud so we should get plentiful honey production.