Despite spring mating events being some of the lowest in a couple of decades and difficulties in maintaining nucs, February was exceptional with a consistent 10–14-day turnaround using emerging cells in polys
or three-frame nucs. Early April has been quite cold with heavy rain and thunder for two consecutive nights. But the following week’s forecast is for an exceptionally warm week for April, so may the last of all those virgins get out and about and return home.

March saw atmospheric dew at night, helping with the robbing problem, which in late January was exceptionally difficult. Varroa treatments are now well and truly installed, and levels still appear low. Long may this last.

In the town boundary, honey bees are covering flowers of ivy hedges. I need to immediately stop writing this report to harvest the remainder of my beautiful black table grapes before they are all damaged with honey bees harvesting the high sugar content juice.

- Maggie James

The bees knew winter was coming early, with almost all hives filling brood chambers with honey before the cold snap.

Though sadly, some apiaries have discovered willow aphids, and that honey will need to be taken off and replaced with sugar syrup if they are to survive the winter.

A couple of hives haven’t got the message though; several are still producing drones while the majority are booting the poor fellas out into the cold.

Also, the wasps have started with a vengeance in in my back yard. Considering they can fly at several degrees lower air temperature than the poor bees, it’s a bit of a slaughter each morning, even with the assistance of a wasp guard. Living in a town makes tracking the nests down nearly impossible.

While it’s not been the greatest season, as with all things in nature, it tests the skilful and weeds out the weak. Stay strong!

I do hope everyone can stay positive and healthy over winter, despite a subpar season this time round.

This photo was taken around 8 am on 8 April, with the temperature at about 8°C. The wasps were in full form, with five or six of them continually attacking my four hives L. Photo: Nick Thorp.

- Nick Thorp for the NCBC Team

During January/February the hot weather was hellish and exhausting to work in. The countryside is bone dry, looking like another planet. In early March we received atmospheric dew at night, and a slight greening is being seen on lawns.

Over the last few weeks, most crops have been harvested and this, along with extreme dry conditions and lack of food sources, will force rodents into sheds. From now on in, robbing will be a major issue; necessitating working early a.m. and near dusk. Looking forward to a quieter April. On a very positive note, during February and early March, 10-day-old cells are having a 10-day turnaround of mated laying queens.

Good-sized virgins have emerged from these queen cells. Photo: Maggie James.

Despite wasp numbers high in spring, wasps are now very low. Maybe we have the extreme heat to thank.

Honey yields have been appalling, with extraction plants shutting early. Also contributing to low yields, as in other parts of the country, is the spread of dairying. In this area there is a definite rise in mainly wind- pollinated cereal grain crops, which no doubt will increase as our Mid Canterbury summer temperatures rise.

- Maggie James

Autumn hasn’t quite decided to set in here as of mid-March. We did enjoy a scattering of snow on the mountains at the beginning of March along with a welcome drop in temperature; however, a burst of rain soon put an end to the lovely fresh mornings as it rudely washed away the snow and restored the ongoing humidity.

It seems the humid conditions have caused all sorts of havoc with nature. Just today we noticed a paddock of dandelions in flower, which is most unusual for this time of year, and this was while we were on our way
to investigate two separate reports of swarms in the area! What ever happened to the theory that swarming is all over by Christmas day?

Beekeepers seem to be busy feeding syrup now that the pasture honey has predominantly stopped yielding and wintering down is in full swing. We have noticed quite a variation in the condition of hives, which seems to be relative to their location. Some have gathered a lot of pasture honey and are strong with good stores, whereas the hives in other sites are very strong, very light and in need of a lot of feeding. There is, however, no shortage of pollen, with catsear as the favoured variety at the moment, and gorse just starting to come into flower.

On a whole, the hives seem to be in reasonably good heart with good quantities of healthy young bees coming through to see the colony through the harsh months ahead.

- Carla Glass

Despite a fickle spring and some splits being made, there is a surplus of honey from the club hives. The hives are wintering down naturally this year for a change which is nice, albeit a little early.

Currently echinacea, sedums and michaelmas daisies are flowering in the garden, and yellow flowering weeds in the fields are propping up my bees nicely at this time of year (although the spikes in the centre of the echinacea make it hard work).

 

A hard-working bee on an echinacea flower. Photo: Nick Thorp.

 

For something a bit different, several members have tried variations of the no cut ‘cut comb’ systems. A small number of hives did not take to them at all, but the others made a good effort with reasonable results for the first year.

“Get stuck in to beekeeping for the best results” is the advice from one of our newer members. They started with 12 nucs in spring and now have strong hives, all with honey to take off. He found it was far better than having one or two hives, as you got to see the law of averages better.

The club is looking forward to having a stand at the Beekeepers’ Big Day Out, 12 May at Lincoln University, and to meeting like-minded beekeepers from near and far. We will hopefully see you there!

- Nick Thorp and the NCBC team