This season is really showing how bad last season was.

This season is really showing how bad last season was.

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.)

Reflections on the 2016-2017 Honey Season

Reflections

On the 2016-2017 Honey Season

Missing Malieta Honey on your toast?

Why did the Malieta Honey season end so early ?

The Great Summer Dearth

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.

The Iron Bark in our area failed.

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.

Heavy Rains Late Season

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.

Limited Honey Stocks at Season's End

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!

The Dreaded American Foulbrood

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”

Learn More on Facebook

There’s always next season!

The 2016 Honey Season Has Closed.

The 2016 Honey Season Has Closed.

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

 

 

How much honey do bees eat?  (Closing down the honey season)

How much honey do bees eat? (Closing down the honey season)

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!
Lionel

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.

Malieta Honey as One of Queensland’s Finest Five (As Selected by Broadsheet Magazine)

Malieta Honey as One of Queensland’s Finest Five (As Selected by Broadsheet Magazine)

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)