I have been saying to many clients and students who started beekeeping in the Spring of 2016 that they started in a very rough season. The Ironbarks in the Great Brisbane Area really didn’t perform, which left bees with poor stores and worse brood patterns leading up to Christmas. The new year brought little forage, but some students in coastal areas managed to pick up a bit of the Melaleuca which put their hives in good shape for Winter.
Many clients who made early Spring splits were instead asking me for advice on how to feed their bees – something that is very expensive, time consuming and ultimately not an ideal diet for the honey bee.
Now, twelve months later I have clients contacting me in distress as their hives swarm again and again.
“They’re congested!” I say.
“But I only took honey off two weeks ago,” They reply.
“Well, this is what it’s like in a good season! Get out there!” I exclaim.
So beekeepers have gone from spending all season feeding their bees and watching them limp along to spending the whole season run off their feet harvesting and extracting honey in a hope to stop them from swarming every other week.
This is the nature of beekeeping in Australia. Erratic seasons mixed with erratic honey flows. Every other year the Christmas/New Year break has seen hives really slow down. Some queens even stop laying for a week or so as nothing really flowers in the Redland City area.
This year, I return after two weeks without tending to my apiaries to find them building honeycomb all through the lid. What a delightful mess! Have a look at the photo above to see how strong the hives are – bubbling over.
Allan always says to me “Every season is different, don’t think that next season will be the same as this one.”
So, in the end, during the tough times we can hope that next season is better (and make preparations for it) and in the good season make sure we are grateful for the bounty of a honey flow we’ve been gifted!
(Here’s hoping that the honey flow continues right through our Level 2 Workshop that starts this Saturday.)
On the 2016-2017 Honey Season
Why did the Malieta Honey season end so early ?
For most of the Eastern Coast from Gympie, Qld down to Byron Bay, NSW there was a dearth (no nectar or pollen available) from around the 20th of November, right through to Mid February.
About 3/4 of Malieta Honey’s crop comes from this species in Late Winter – through to Early Summer. Unfortunately, these trees barely flowered at all.
With colonies weakened from a very harsh Spring/Summer, they built up again in Early Autumn, but the torrential rain and flooding from Ex-Cyclone Debbie as well as other rain troughs literally washed most of the tea tree honey crop onto the ground.
Lionel always leaves approximately 25kg of honey on every hive at all times – this is so he never has to feed his bees sugar syrup. So, when the nights started to cool, and the season ended – the bees were in good condition, but honey stocks were all but gone – and the last few customers snapped up what was left for their toast!
Many beekeepers in the Greater Brisbane Area experienced the fatal (for bees) American Foulbrood. This bacterial infection forces the beekeeper to euthanise their bees to stop the spread. Sadly, one of Malieta Honey’s apiaries in was in range of the spread (at Birkdale). The loss of these bees had a massive impact on the viability of that particular apiary.
(image source and credit: http://www.afb.org.nz/burning-afb-colonies)
Learn more on the Facebook Group “AFB AWARE GREATER BRISBANE”
There’s always next season!
The 2016 Honey season has come to an end. The night time temperatures have dropped, which means it’s time for the bees to pack down and time for the beekeeper to ensure they have warm, dry and well-supplied homes for the coming Winter.
Speaking for the Greater Redlands Area, it was a poor season. The Ironbark and Blue Gum put in a 20% effort if late Winter/Early Spring. We experienced a 12 weeks dearth of pollen and nectar from late November right through to early February. The Paperbark Tea Tree season was delayed with unusually hot days right into March. Then, to make matters worse, the onslaught of heavy rain from ex-cyclone Debbie caused dramas not only with the flowers, but with many a beekeeper on the ground.
In this last week, we have finally seen solid brood patterns and the smell honey coming from our hives – but it is likely they are eating almost as much as they are bringing in to keep their warmth up in these cool nights.
With a poor season behind us, and the cold weather in front of us, Malieta Honey is calling the end of the season – this means that the webshop will not have any honey or beeswax available from purchase from 7pm the 18th of April (already passed at the writing of this post). Every one should receive their late season orders by Friday this week.
My main job now is to ensure all my hives are in perfect order and replace any equipment that I need to fix up over the Winter period. All equipment (boxes, lids etc) that are taken from out field and stored for maintenance will be sterilised, given a new coat of paint and put to good use at the beginning of the 2017 Honey Season.
The Level 2 workshop has 4 Saturdays remaining and we will also be holding a Level 1 workshop on the 3rd of June for any one interested in getting into beekeeping themselves! Check out www.malietahoney.com.au/learn-beekeeping for full details.
A big thank you to every one who joined Malieta Honey along the way this season – Beekeeping Workshops by “TEK” students or lovers of honey alike.
Keep well, and keep warm!
Lionel & the pesky bees
My latest facebook post reads:
It is with great disappointment that I announce that Friday, the 14th of April will be the final order-cut off for this season. With a very, very hard start to the season, a hot, dry Summer, combined with recent weather events, the bees will need all the honey they have on board to remain strong and healthy through Winter. Beekeepers all around are feeling optimistic about next Spring, given the rain we’ve had of late, but there’s little left to do in the coming months but keep the bees well fed, warm and dry. Supply is limited and therefore large orders may only be part filled, but the sooner you let me know what you’d like, the better I can serve you! A big thank you to everyone who helped me and the pesky bees get through this season so far!
I do hope I look at this blog post in a year’s time and say “Wow, we did it tough last season”!
Being at the mercy of the seasons is all part of being involved in primary production.
Although the Malieta Honey Hives themselves were unaffected by flood, wind or rain in the onslaught brought by ex-cyclone Debbie, you only have to look around to Logan, or into the Tweed Area to see the damage flood waters can do.
In the end, the best I can do as a beekeeper is protect the interests of my bees – and that’s to make sure they are warm, dry and well fed. Being well-fed means leaving as much honey in the hive as possible – which means harvesting for sale comes to a stand still.
To put it into kilograms, a strong productive beehive like the ones found in Malieta Honey, will consume around 100kg of honey in a year. And to get 100kg of honey, the bees need to bring in five times that amount in nectar.
So, for a single beehive to be survive the year, they need to have access to at least HALF A TONNE of nectar.
Of course, anything over that amount can then be harvested by the beekeeper. If the beekeeper takes too much, the bees will literally starve to death during the Winter season (or any other season with no nectar available) if they are not fed supplements.
It is Malieta Honey’s policy to avoid feeding sugar syrup at all costs, so in line with that policy, retail sales of honey will cease after the 14th of April until next season.
This doesn’t mean a holiday for me as a beekeeper though. It’s now time to start building and painting in preparation for what is hopefully going to be a great Spring!
Stay warm and dry!
Lionel and the pesky bees.
Broadsheet Magazine hosted Brown Brothers on a series of roaming wine tasting events around the country (some are still to take place at the writing of this blog post). As part of celebrating the release of all five varietals of the Patricia range (the finest of Brown Brothers) in one year, from each state five of the finest family producers were selected to be matched with each of the wines.
Malieta Honey was selected, and was matched with the Chardonnay. How flattering! Of course, I was a bit anxious on how effectively Malieta Honey could be made to complement a Chardonnay. Luckily, Gavin from Tumbling Stone Restaurant (at the venue, the Johson Hotel in Spring Hill, Brisbane) took charge on my behalf, and the baked goat’s cheese canapé he prepared using Malieta Honey as a glaze blew me away.
The guests at the event seem to agree, as we had a line at the Chardonnay/Malieta Honey station almost all night, and the canapés lasted no more than half an hour! We were positioned on the balcony of the penthouse, overlooking uninterrupted views of the city and the bay. It was raining when I arrived to set up, but half an hour before the guests arrived the rain stopped altogether.
As part of the display for Malieta Honey, I had some premium jars of seasonal honey on display, as well as beeswax creams, soaps and a frame of virgin honey comb. I wasn’t just standing there though. I brought along with me a three frame hand-driven honey extractor and uncapping set up, and spent the entire evening discussing the bees and the honey with the guests while uncapping and extracting frames of honey that I had harvested that very afternoon.
The highlight, however, was definitely my Queen Malieta and her entourage. In a single frame inspection hive, I had my favourite queen bee and about 2000 of her daughters on display. It was such a wonderful sight when I saw each person’s face light up with amazement when they realised they were live bees. And to top it off, Queen Malieta even starting laying eggs in front of the crowd!
After all the chatter, and cutting pieces of virgin honey comb for the wine-tasters to enjoy with their glasses full of chardonnay, I managed to extract about 20kg of honey – which every one was very keen to try as soon as it poured out of the extractor. What a delight!
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed talking to everyone present about the Malieta Honey bees. It reminded me that my passion is truly working with the bees themselves – and I often said to each guest that quality honey production is simply a sign of a happy and healthy colony.
I write this after a big week of rain last week, and with the caramel scent of Paperbark tea tree honey emanating from the hives. Finally, Autumn might truly be here!
Keep an eye out in the webshop for upcoming product updates, including a few more beeswax products and a few variations to the Malieta raw Honey range.
Check out the photos, and have a great week!
Lionel & the pesky bees (including Queen Malieta herself)
When the garden meets the kitchen, food becomes your medicine.
I have learnt about the therapeutic effects of nature somewhat indirectly – I started keeping bees as something to keep me occupied whilst on convalescence leave after radiation treatment, but when I started noticing the therapeutic effects of being around bees I realised that the bees are taking care of me as much I think I’m taking care of them.
Angela Stafford and her family host Malieta Honey hives, and I always find common values in our conversations when speaking of health, vitality and the things we should have in our gardens and our tummies!
During the Winter months, I was down and out with a heavy cold. Angela kindly offered a mixture of dried herbs that she’d has mixed for me as ‘Immune Tea’. It contained 9 or 10 herbs that smelled absolutely invigorating and by the time I had steeped the tea, I drank nearly a litre of it on the first day! Now when I’m feeling a bit low, a cup or two of that tea and I’m feelin’ alright! On top of that, Angela has also made me balms to heal my many bee-stings, given instructions for charcoal poultices to help people who have bad reaction to bee stings (some students!) and not mention tasty snacks here and there while I’m visiting the bees!
I explored Angela’s Website and found that wonderful immune teas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her passionate work of practicing being healthy in the kitchen and the garden. Angela has two very impressive books available for purchase as well as a popular Youtube channel with great videos of her and her family working together to share the wonderful benefits of a wholefood lifestyle.
“To all those parents out there who want to avoid family health problems like increasing allergies, frequent flu, colds and other ailments that come with a poor immune system, create your way to health and happiness in the kitchen… Don’t wait until your child is sick, upset, throwing constant tantrums and not focusing in school. The answer is here and it is simple!”
Angela’s passion for health and life is very contagious, and her dedication to her wonderful work is simply awesome.
Stay safe in the storms,
Lionel and the Very Pesky Bees.
You all know that my I love honey bees for many reasons – one of those is the healing qualities of their royal jelly, propolis and of course – honey!
One of my biggest challenges over the past couple of years has been trying to get my honey out to customers who will enjoy it in its raw form. It’s a challenge because I need lots and lots of people who love raw honey to ensure it sells before the next batch comes in. Bulk sales usually result in the honey being pasteurised and filtered.
Mary, from Good Mood Food, has shared a great recipe this week that makes an excellent use of raw honey for therapeutic purposes, and most importantly by only warming the ingredients (not heating) the healing properties are still intact.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL RECIPE!
If you have a recipe that uses raw honey – for flavour or therapy, then please contact me so I can feature it!
Watch out for those storms!
Lionel and the Pesky Bees.
I thought I’d elaborate a touch on the great article David Costello wrote up about me and my Malieta Honey journey in today’s Courier Mail. Previously a high school teacher with no beekeeping interest or experience, stumbling upon such a life changing practice (beekeeping) has been amazing.
My health issues are complex, but in short Vestibular Migraine is a condition (basically an improper flow of blood in brain) that affects one’s inner ear and balance system. A Vestibular Schwannoma (benign brain tumour) likely has something to do with my complications, but the typical triggers aren’t unlike those of the more traditional ‘migraine headache’. Technically, my longest migraine episode lasted over a year…an average migraine episode is only 72 hours.
The subsequent upsets in my balance from the lengthy migraine episodes I experience added to the complication in the early days of trying to find a diagnosis.
In 2014, I was invited to a field day held by the Bayside Beekeeping Club. I soon realised that after being around honey bees for a couple of hours – I felt….good. It wasn’t long before I started craving the calm hum of honey bees.
Once I started being around them more, the stings started coming in hard and fast. It took a few days before I realised the stings were doing something to also make me feel at ease. Don’t get me wrong, the stings still hurt (a lot!) to this day, but the feeling after a few good stings – whether it was something in the venom or simply pain distraction therapy, my mood improved and I started feeling more alive. I remember the first time I got stung on the scalp (about 5 stings). It felt as if my whole head relaxed for the first time in years.
Within a couple of months, if I went a single day without being around honey bees I would experience an episode that would keep me house bound for a week – back to how I was. I learnt quickly that a day away from bees was a day of misery. I still struggle every day with complications, but my connection to the honey bee certainly takes my mind off the matter.
Since then, the bi-product of my love for honey bees has taken shape as Malieta Honey!
During my journey, I’ve heard about ‘bee venom therapy’ – people who suffer from joint swelling, nervous disorders and other illnesses are prescribed a certain number of bee stings in a certain spot. There’s some links to acupuncture here too. Type ‘bee venom therapy’ into your search to find out more.
Other sources will tell you that bees impact human neurology through their communication with one another – maybe this is why I feel a difference when I’m around a hive of 50,000 bees?
Or maybe it’s simply the intrigue of the colony, the quiet apiaries, the beautiful outdoors and the raw honey that has had an impact on my quality of life. It’s more likely a combination of all it.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery on my brain tumour may have saved my life, but it’s the honey bee that has enabled me to live.
If Raw Honey Heals, then imagine what bees can do for all us.
Welcome to November!
Lionel and the pesky bees.
PLEASE NOTE: Some people are seriously allergic to bee stings. If you think you may want to see if beekeeping is for you, see your General Practioner for advice before hand.
Also, beekeeping is extremely addictive.
Sore throat? Runny or stuffed nose? Sinus pain? All of the above?
A lot of us (especially me) love to get into a nice hot lemon and honey drink when we’re feeling down – especially around Brisbane Ekka time when colds and flu are rampant!
I like my drinks quite strong:
- 300ml mug
- Juice of a whole lemon (yummmmy!)
- large tablespoon of Malieta honey (candied or liquid)
- fill the rest with water
Water? But how hot should the water be? NOT BOILING!
The biggest mistake people make when putting together that beautiful lemon drink is boiling the kettle and pouring water that’s between 90-100 degrees celsius into their mug. I think the habit comes from boiling the kettle to make tea – which is required as tea needs that boiling water to steep properly. People make the same mistake with coffee – but that topic is for a different webpage.
Well, if you use super hot water – the raw Malieta Honey you just used isn’t raw any more. The natural healing qualities within raw honey have just been destroyed twice over. Even super-heated honey in a supermarket isn’t put through temperatures like that (usually).
There’s arguments out there about heat and Vitamin C (in the lemon juice). Put simply, Vitamin C isn’t necessarily destroyed instantly by the heat, but it certainly speeds up its destruction.
Put simply, plan to drink your therapeutic drink straight away – make it hot enough to be comforting, but not so hot you have to blow steam off it before you take a sip.
Oh, and if you’re super crazy like me and want to wake up completely over your cold – try eating raw garlic submerged in a heap of raw honey. It’ll knock the cold on the head pretty quick – and keep people (and vampires) from bothering you for a couple days!
And, of course, if this you, I hope you feel better soon!
Honey bees have to contend with a lot of threats in QLD:
- American Foulbrood (a bacterial infection, spread from colony to colony – a death sentence)
- European Foulbrood (similar to the above, but stronger colonies can overcome it)
- Land clearing (less food for bees means less bees)
- Small Hive Beetle (a brood and honey/pollen eating insect that is resistant to a bee’s sting – can quickly overtake a weaker hive)
- A myriad of viruses and illnesses caused by cold weather, damp and fungus
- Pesticide use (yes, insecticides kills bees – have a look at your tomato dust etc)
- Irresponsible beekeepers
All of the above have been big challenges for beekeepers all over the world. But there is one thing that has contribute to catastrophic losses world wide – and for many years Australia has been the ONLY continent in the world free from it.
The Varroa Mite.
In the “Beekeeping Workshops by TEK” I find myself commonly speaking to students about how we will look back on times like the 2015-2016 season as being ‘Before Varroa Mite was here’. I thought I would have had at least another few years of saying that – but this very real threat may be attacking the bees much sooner than that.
The Varroa Mite is a parasitic mite that feeds on the blood of young, developing bees. Often (whilst in pupae) the bee will suffer several mites feeding on them at once. The mite cripples colonies, but weakening newly hatched bees with deformities, viruses and immobility. The mite is terrible. The only treatments available for it make me shiver.
“The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has movement restrictions for bee risk items following the detection of varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni) on Asian honey bees in Townsville. To move restricted items, please refer to the Movement Control Order and read about moving bees and hives.”
Hopefully this turns out to be an isolated incident that is controlled. But even if it is, it’s a reminder of how close we may be to having our beekeeping world turned upside down. The Varroa destructor is the second strain of mite – worse than the Varroa jacobsoni. They both spell disaster.
Let’s hope the pesky bees don’t have another threat added to their list any time soon.
Stay warm with the August winds on their way – the Malieta Honey bees are enjoying their Winter mats!
(Image Source from a UK based apiary)