We were overdue for a hive inspection, so the moon and stars were all aligned and we set up with Sam from Geelong Honey Source for an inspection. We did the previous one ourselves and added an extra box to the one hive. In the meanwhile the bees have been very busy – we’ve been seeing them working all around, in the big gum tree by the shed, on the sunflowers and all over the clover and water plants by the duck pond. It seems they have now at last found that the duck pond is a reliable source of water, even if it is a few meters further than Gaë’s hydroponics setup. I have also installed a little dripper off the front yard irrigation lines into the bird bath right near the hives, with some bark in the bird bath for them to land on, but in the dry season it runs dry at times.
Sam arrived in good spirits as always and we got straight down to business. Patricia’s parents are visiting us at the moment, so Neville (Grandad for the kids) squeezed into her suit and she squeezed into Markus’ suit. Sam, as usual, wore a singlet and a hat… Under his guidance, we have become quite used to handling the bees with bare hands. (Three sets of gloves to go, any offers?) Neville must have been set at ease by Sam’s relaxed dress code, as he witnessed the entire proceeding up close, with only the bee suit and thongs on. (Before any overseas readers jump to any kinky conclusions or hilarious images in their minds – “thongs” in Austrayian refers to flip-flops – beach wear (oops that doesn’t help either) – no man, those sandal-like thingies you wear on your feet.)
Anyway, the bees in the first hive, which got their second box during our previous inspection, were well at work. Queenie looked fine, lots of brood, lots of pollen, a little bit of capped honey and so for their reward they got a quick house reno – which entailed slotting a new box in between the existing two. All with bare hands.
But our great joy came from the second box. It was much heavier than the first, and when we opened the lid, it was just honeycomb everywhere! Under Sam’s guidance we left the comb in the lid (see the photo above) – it will become their winter stash. So we learnt that it is very important not to get too greedy and take all the honey you can get – you need to leave (more than) enough for them to live on through the lean months. Earth care – fair share, two permaculture ethics rolled into one application, Mr Mollison.
But we carefully scraped off all the honeycomb that was built on top of the frames, with honey just oozing out. It was so amazing to taste our bees’ first honey! Not only because it is a first harvest (well, sort-of), but because we can taste the diversity of our forest garden in there – hints of sunflower, sniffs of lavender, a sachet of sage here and there, with a convincing undertone of clover. No wonder people write poems about this stuff… it’s easy to wax lyrical about it! For their reward they too got a quick house reno – also a third box slotted in between the existing two.
So there’s a little tub in the kitchen with honey-laden bees wax in. The kids may get a small treat occasionally – if they’re really, really good, but primarily it’s earmarked for Grammy. People care, thank you Mr Mollison.
Now it all depends on our late summer / early autumn flowers. If the bees get enough to work with, we may get some honey. So, do I mow the clover for compost fodder or do I leave it for the bees? Easy choice I reckon. Now what about the ducks and the clover? I guess we will let nature sort out the fair share there. “But as soon as the heat is over, I’m gonna plant some more clover!” There must be a song in there.