Beekeeping and Honey!

Another couple of bee stories October 23 2014, 0 Comments

One of the best things about my job is the fabulous stories that I get told - I have people tell me all sorts of stories about bees, or beekeeping. I had a gentleman come and tell me a story of a time when he was tramping in New Zealand many years ago with a couple of friends. They were in the middle of a track in the South Island, and observed some of the bumblebees in the area looking around for some flowers. The gentleman told me that another fellow and himself were dressed in a very boring khaki raincoats, but their lady friend had a very trendy, bright yellow one. 

Over the course of the day, the bumblebees noticed the young ladies' yellow raincoat, and became curious about it. An hour later, the lady couldn't walk along the track for all the bumblebees knocking into her! Bumblebees are pretty dopey - and not aggressive at all - so they continued to bump into the lady despite knocking their heads against the coat repeatedly.

She ended up having to change into another jumper to get a clear track. How delightful - fuzzy, cuddly air-bombers!

I came across a story on the feeds this week was a hive removal out of a 44-gallon drum. The hive had been in the drum for about 5 years, and very strong. The beekeeper split the hive into 2 new hives, due to the 30,000approx bees in the drum. The really interesting thing, was the fact that the bees had been using bitumen as propolis. Propolis is 'bee-glue' and used for all sorts of things inside the hive - preserving, plugging droughts and holes, even mummifying rodents or small animals that get into the hive, are strung to death, and the bees can't drag out of the hive! Of course, using bitumen is not ideal - being poisonous, but this shows the resourcefulness of our ladies!

Last story for the day - I sent Mr T up the hill a couple of weeks ago to check on some of our hives, in a lovely spot where a horse is also kept. This horse is by herself, so she is pretty lonely. After a pat, Mr T told her that it was time to get on with beekeeping and set up the table and equipment. The horse seems to get on pretty well with the hives in the paddock (it is a fairly big one) and was hanging around while Mr T looked at the first two hives. However, it was a different story when Mr T went to open the last hive. This hive is a little more grumpy anyway, and started to buzz around a bit more than the last hives. 

This also meant, that when the horse stuck her nose into the working area looking for more pats from Mr T, the bees were not particularly impressed...and let her know by stinging said nose a number of times.

You can guess what happened next! The horse swings around, Mr T dives out of the way of a hind kick in line with the hive and table where he is working! The hive gets knocked over, and now 20,000 angry bees are in the air. In the defense of the angry bees, I imagine that if some giant knocked over my house, I would be pretty peed! However, the horse is now at the end of the paddock, and Mr T is not. Poor Mr T becomes the scapegoat - and still has to right the hive, pack it all back and get it in order so that it doesn't get rain or such in it.

Even through the beesuits, he gets stung. Lots. And lots!

He arrives home, looking rather monkey-man like and I send him off to bed with a very fat face, hands and ankles with a couple of phenergan... Poor Mr T, if he wanted a afternoon nap, he probably should have just asked for one! I'm not that mean ;-)

 

Photo credits:

Bumblebee 1: www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk

Bituman hive: Steve Angel

 


Ramblings about in KL, Malaysia July 14 2014, 1 Comment

It is cold here in Perth. The sun is shining beautifully, it looks cheery and inviting, but with the faint breeze, the cold bites and makes you shiver in the bright light...in case you didn't guess, I am missing the summer warmth. As my dad and I were mutually lamenting a few weeks back; after five months of the heat, we are complaining that some cool weather is in order, but after just a week of the cold, we are wishing back the hot sun!

We have just arrived home after a quick jaunt to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It was hot - 32-34 degrees with 98% humidity and even with the sweat, it was heavenly to thaw out! We walked the malls, because as the number one shopping destination in South East Asia, it is a must. However, our favorite activities were not the epic halls of women's bags - sooo many bags - we loved the outdoor activities the most: KL Bird and Butterfly Parks, the long steps up to Batu Caves, braving the hawkers at Chinatown and Little India, and the best, KL Central Market.

We spotted only one bee in the time we were in KL - at the Bird Park. She was teeny tiny compared to a more full figured ladies here in Perth. Eastern Honeybees are more compact, and much more sensitive to management then their Western counterparts. Asian apiarists tend to collect a swarm at the start of the season, cross their fingers that the bees stay in the hive for a few months, and collect the honey once the bees abscond. Unlike our bees here, the Eastern Honeybee objects to interference and will only tolerate minimal management from the beekeeper.

The Butterfly Park was hot, humid and beautiful with the thousands and thousands of butterflies in the lush gardens. Across a vast, enclosed free-flight space, the butterflies chased each other and fed at the various feeding stations around the place.

Poor Mr T ended up having to defend his honour in Chinatown - after telling many vendors that I didn't like bags (shoes are a completely different matter!), the hawkers started telling Mr T to buy his wife a bag. He also told them that 'she doesn't like bags or want a bag' and every vendor started hassling him: 'every wife needs a bag, and wants a bag, and good husbands buy their wives bags'...Because they were ALL selling the same thing, and could hear every conversation we had, it spread like wildfire! We had a great laugh about it (really, I didn't want a knock off bag - or even a genuine one) because the next day, Mr T found a gorgeous tote bag for me at Central Market! Handmade by a local designer, collapsible for easy storage - and I got to choose all my own colours! I can't wait to use it for the beach this summer. 

Central Market was more our style - handcrafts, handmade and local artisan products - and we wandered around letting the kids do some batik painting, talked with vendors about market in Perth, and even dunked our feet in the fish massage tank! It was very amusing and kinda gross too since the fish were literally scrapping off the dead skin from our feet :-/ This market was a permanent structure, similar to Subiaco Station Market and has been operating for over a century. It was very laid back and the vendors weren't pushy like the street markets at Chinatown and Little India. We all bought gifts, shoes (with bees on them!) and clothes there :-)

There was also a honey shop and it was interesting to chat with the lady who was running it. She was quite bemused at our constant chatter and when we wanted to try all the honey! The 'wild honey' in SE Asia tastes very similar to the maple syrup. It is very runny and light. The shop was offering bee pupae in tablet form, bee venom honey and some international honeys as well. The shop was certainly different to my little stall! We topped the night off by being invited up on stage during the cultural dance that was put on by some amazingly costumed dancers :-)

Now it is back to reality...and it's still cold!