Queen’s Birthday weekend was the start of winter for us. With it came 61 millimetres of torrential rain overnight, and a good dusting of snow on the foothills that all too quickly melted away. Since then June has been sunny and dry, with some uninspiring overcast days and a couple of brief nor’west showers.

We haven’t had the biting cold we would normally experience at this time of year. Beehives have slowed down in activity but are still collecting pollen from here and there. Gorse and Spanish heath are flowering in the outskirts of forested areas.

Rosemary is in full flower and attracting bees. I have had reports of hives supporting up to three frames of brood still with available pollen helping this. The number of passing tourists had slowed, possibly because of recent events in Christchurch. This affected local honey sales but tourism now seems to be on the increase.

There is not a lot of other to report on for this column this month. I would welcome any comments or interesting stories, observations bee- wise from any South Canterbury beekeepers or others in close proximity that you think might be suitable.

Keep warm.

Noel Trezise

We had the warmest June that I can remember. Whilst we received the occasional -6°C frost, from mid-month onwards we basked in a number of 20°C days with sun. On 3 July, the temperature reached an outstanding 21°C!

We are still sighting occasional wasps hovering about; boding not well for spring wasp populations. In beehives, some queens still are laying; therefore, varroa levels will need monitoring. Halfway through winter—a strange winter clime indeed ...

Maggie James

MID CANTERBURY

July, according to NIWA, was our warmest on record and it certainly helped that month pass quickly. The bees certainly have consumed
a lot of stores. Bees are currently bringing in pollen and I have started stimulation feeds for the grafting yard, and in early August I started putting miticide in hives noted to go in the grafting yard. We had a major polar blast in early August that continued into the following week, hopefully killing the few remaining wasps that we have been sighting.

Not only has the warm weather made winter pass quickly, I certainly enjoyed Dr Samuel Ramsey’s thought-provoking presentations on Tropilaelaps and varroa at the ApiNZ Conference at Rotorua. [Editor’s note: see Conference report regarding Dr Ramsey’s Tropilaelaps presentation on page 19.]

Also, I have presented queen cell production workshops throughout New Zealand, and have picked up a few tips from attendees. At some of these tutorials, the conversation at the end on different techniques and hive management in various parts of the country has been great. To me, this highlights the value of beekeepers meeting and having informative, informal and friendly discussions. These conversations have certainly given me a few ideas for topics and speakers at future Canterbury Hub events.

- Maggie James

SOUTH CANTERBURY

Beekeepers have sugar syrup tanks on and are out looking into their hives, feeding where necessary and putting varroa treatments in.

The season is getting under way up to a month earlier than usual due to the mild winter weather. Most hives I have looked at still have adequate stores of honey.

Rainfall for July was a heavy downpour of around 60 millimetres; otherwise quite dry, with some sunny summer-like afternoons, especially in early August.

In the garden daffodils are flowering, snowdrops have been flowering for some time, and the winter roses (hellebores) give a lift and some colour to an otherwise drab winter garden. They’re quite nice to observe when in the garden doing those winter clean-up jobs, pruning etc. Grass growth also is getting under way.

Beehives have up to two to three part-frames of brood and are getting going, with wattle and gorse pollen coming in where there is any. From reports I have had, this seems to be fairly generalised.

With Bee Aware Month coming up, it is a good time to remind the general public about the dangers of feeding honey water to birds,
to dispose of honey containers properly (i.e., wash out after use) and to plant nectar- and pollen-bearing trees in the garden or wherever suitable. Small things but they are easy for people to do and can make a difference.

That’s it for now; I have bees to look at. Best of luck for the start of spring.

- Noel Trezise

NORTH CANTERBURY BEEKEEPERS’ CLUB

I have just started reading a new book released this year entitled The Honey Bus by Meredith May, as recommended by one of our other club members. It’s a very well written and easy-to-read book with some great life lessons for us all, along with some great ideas on teaching beekeeping to youngsters and anyone else.

Wasps seem to have been taking advantage of the generally mild winter with more workers starting to appear, not a great sign for the coming season.

The weather has been changeable (and unfortunately, rubbish on my last few weekends), so inspecting the brood boxes to see exactly what’s happening has not been possible. However, the hives are bringing in plenty of pollen and are losing their winter weight, a sure sign they are building for spring. Some may need feeding before too long as spring seems to be starting early, and a cold snap could finish off some of the stronger hives that are getting through the last of their stores faster than the rest.

- Nick Thorp and the NCBC team