From New Year’s Eve the summer weather shifted into gear, with a change from the dull, overcast, drizzly conditions we had been experiencing up until then.

Apart from hives on small seed crops (e.g., radish, brassica), some of which surprisingly produced up to two boxes despite crops looking patchy earlier, the pasture clover crops really didn’t eventuate. I think ground temperature could have been too low.

All in all, this led to a disappointing season. The Mackenzie Country, however, produced some crops of clover honey, with hillsides snowy white in some areas.

The earlier rain has meant grain crop yields will be lower and quality will be reduced. Most crops have had a patchy start. Helicopters have had
to be used in spraying fungicides due to moist and warm conditions. It’s been a very trying season for farmers and beekeepers. I am coming across hives needing feeding, so it is a mixed bag of things requiring attention as of mid-February.

Also, during this period we’ve had a run of 30°C days making collecting honey crops very hot work, with a healthy dose of robbing thrown in for good measure.

We are working in a landscape of falling honey prices and limited selling opportunities, or at least harder to find. Beekeeping has been, and still is, a tricky game.

One concern l have is the discarding of surplus household honey. A lot must get thrown out without the consequences of this action ever being thought about. I hope at least it goes out with container lids on, but I suspect this doesn’t always happen. We need to take any opportunity to advise others who do not realise the flow-on implications of this practice. Many people out there are not aware of this, as I come across it quite often.

Good luck for the harvest.

- Noel Trezise

The last fortnight we have endured temperatures in the late 30s, and beekeepers have lost weight. Who needs to sit inside a sauna when you can work outdoors in Mid Canty wearing overalls? Fire risk is high. Yesterday was a shock to the system for humans and bees, with the temperature plummeting, reaching a maximum of only 13°C by mid- afternoon.

Those travelling further afield to chase the mānuka dream will be lucky to recover costs. The clover flow has been minimal, and some hives will not have a honey crop. Some hobbyists will choose to leave their ‘crop’ on the hive, instead of feeding sugar. The clover price remains low. Extraction plants, unless there is a major beech dew yield, will close early.

Above is a photo of honey bees working a magnolia flower in my garden. Interestingly they weren’t working the pollen whilst stamens were attached upright on the flower; they were waiting for stamens to fall off into the petals before harvesting to pack their baskets (pollen sacs).

- Maggie James, Canterbury Hub Committee

Wow have we had some rain .As a result of the prolonged wet weather we have had in the region, the likes of we have not experienced since the early 50s that’s right the 50s.,many crops have been adversely affected. Potato, strawberry,  cherry, grain growers and small seed producers just about every body  really. I had a case of one crop of Radish I was pollinating totally written off. It was in an area of high spring water so was a bit of an exception. The later flowering  carrot seed crops had missed the worst of the wet and so now  are looking good. Farmers have had a break on having to start irrigation early, a trend that has been with us over the last few years, I have noticed them going since about mid  December or so.  The wet weather has been accompanied with some dull overcast weather also, in between the wet days, which hasn’t been of much help to anybody either, except for some catch up time maybe. The foothills still have a tinge of green on the higher slopes, normally burnt off by now. There has been some extra feeding required, but not a heavy feeding round throughout this period as looked liked might be necessary. Beehive site access has been difficult[boggy] even on the flat land. Early January as I write the honey crop still hangs in the balance hives generally are looking good, with almost a box of honey on or more in some places.  Hay and silage contractors are flat out working into the night cutting  grass on the hot days, we have had a few over 30 degrees.  This will  encourage some short clover growth which is best for producing nectar.  Everything is there, ground moisture, heat and pasture. It just depends what the weather will do next. I have got to go and put some more boxes on now that most  of the hives that were in pollination service are out. Happy new year to all.

Noel Trezise S.C.

I’m reminded of a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that sums up the weather abnormalities nicely: “Winter changed into Spring. Spring changed into Summer. Summer changed back into Winter. And Winter gave Spring and Summer a miss and went straight on into Autumn.”

A wide variety of success has happened honey-wise so far this season. Some members are reporting two or more honey boxes from hives that were nucs in spring and others have had strong hives produce no surplus honey. We are crossing our fingers for a good autumn to come and, on the definite upside, at least the varroa doesn't seem to have built up too early.

I had an interesting report after a 3.8 magnitude earthquake near Christchurch recently. A club member reported that one hive piled
out and flew round for nearly an hour before settling down again. A second hive, immediately next to the first one, was completely unfazed, displaying yet another way in which colonies can differ greatly from one to the next.

- Nick Thorp for the NCBC Team

At the end of December, we continued to have lots of dull drizzly days, alternating with days of heavy rain.  This had an appalling effect on maintaining nuc populations, and some outfits instituted syrup feeds to hives.  For the first time ever in 20 years there have been zero syrup frames to recycle in the grafting yard, and light syrup feeds continue.  My home garden is at least three weeks behind schedule.  Polystyrene nucs have required three top ups with new bees.  Thank goodness for three frame nucs.  Over the New Year we have had several hot days. 

There is a lot of white clover in seed production, plus on roadsides and lawns.  The soil temperature is warm, but we need the rain to stop, increased air temperatures to continue, and the bees flying.  If the clover yields, the season will be very short and intense; shame about the honey price.  The latter will cause a huge amount of stress for some.    Spots of canola are just starting to yield.

This is the second spring in a row with heavy rain forcing the closure of Coes Ford.  It is difficult to know whether this is due to climate change, or post-earthquake changes in aquafers.  In November, the Selwyn District Council installed closure gates on both sides of the Ford, and these gates have been operational more often, than not.  This at times will be a nuisance for locals, but it was only a matter of time before a non-local not respecting nature was swept away. Those living in the vicinity were tired of rescuing people and cars.  Coes Ford is an often-used route for beekeepers cutting through the back roads enroute to extraction plants or shifting hives. 

In early December, when placing out blocked nucs, I noticed some very dull black honey bees. At first, I wasn’t sure whether they were bees or flies, but on picking them up and turning over to inspect the undersides, they had Italian honey bee colouring. These bees disappeared once nucs were unblocked. I have never sighted this before. I think I have spotted the offending unmarked apiary, less than a kilometre away, in weeds high
as hives with bees flying! Aargh! I have had to treat my nucs with miticide for the first time ever in December.

Recently in the Rolleston area, outside of the township on a farm, an outfit lost half a dozen hives with dead bees testing with a high carbaryl count.  The farmer is not a carbaryl user.  The question is, was this sabotage or someone using sugar or honey mixed with carbaryl as wasp bait?   

Due to large amounts of rain washing down beech trees, dew production is nonexistent.

Extraction plants remain nonoperational. 

As a regular Colonies Reporter it was a buzz to receive a Christmas card and a bright, high quality Kiwi bees tea towel from ApiNZ.  These towels are available on the ApiNZ website.