Working with Bees
Most beekeepers have bees and work with them for the pleasure of being with the bees and watching their progress. From others it is a dreaded chore. There are things that can be done to continue making it a pleasure.
Some dress in suits of armor to prevent the possibility of being stung. That is OK, but on hot days that’s one thing that makes the job uncomfortable. Most bees today are quite docile compared with those before the 1960s. After that there was quite a trend for the queen breeders to select and provide more gentle bees.
With a little experience beekeepers get to the point where they can handle bees quite handily without getting them riled up to the point of being so defensive.
The common means of keeping bees calm is using smoke. How the smoke is applied and the material used can be the big difference. I had worked with bees for 25 years before I joined the State Inspection Service in 1949. One of my early assignments was to inspect some bees for Duane Griggs of Washington County. I was aware that Mr. Griggs knew his bees as he had worked as an inspector the year before for the State. So being a rather nice day we began the inspection, he at one part of the apiary and I at another. The inspection was going fine but it seemed to him that his bees weren’t as quite as usual. So, he suggested that maybe the smoker material I was using wasn’t keeping the bees so quiet. The fuel I was using was greasy waste from oil filters. So he suggested I dump that and use some of the chunks of wood he had in his truck. I made the switch and sure enough the bees remained much calmer. And since that very day I have continued to use wood chips in my smoker. I have tried other things but nothing compares to the wood smoke.
The best wood chips can be found where a tree stump has been chipped away. They are the right size and thickness. Wood shavings are too thin. Next best is old bark from a dead tree.
Lighting the smoker seems to be a problem for some. Just take a sheet of newspaper, wad it up, get it on fire, place it in the smoker, get it to burn good. Put in a small handful of chips, continue to puff until some of the chips are burning, then fill the smoker with chips and you will have lots of good white smoke. Use a little smoke with nearly every move but not to excess. Your bees will stay calm.
If you have several colonies and have combs of honey exposed for any length of time some robbing may begin. Then bees get cross. If the work is to be continued simply take the lids and inner cover off of all colonies and the robbing will cease. This works really well during the time honey is being harvested.
Submitted by Glen Stanley
Asian honey bees an export issue?
AUSTRALIA'S honey bee industry is small and its resources are few, which appears to be a primary reason for the suspension of the Asian honey bee eradication program in Cairns.
Lindsay Bourke, the Tasmanian beekeeper who heads up the Australian Honey Bee Committee, said the funding split for the $5 million eradication program is 40 per cent Federal money, 40 per cent State, and 20 per cent industry.
Despite statements from the Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries that the eradication program was suspended on technical advice, Mr Bourke understands that Queensland Biosecurity, which runs the program, simply ran out of money.
To date, only the honey bee industry has been contributing to the "industry" component of the funding
The honey bee industry's contribution is a mere $100,000—and even that tests the limits of the industry's 1800 members to pay, Mr Bourke said.
The industry has a "nest egg" built up to respond to an incursion of varroa mite, but members are determined not to tap into these emergency funds.
"We really need money to come in from the pollination-dependent industries," Mr Bourke said. "We're an industry that works with millions, but they work with billions."
CSIRO's Dr Denis Anderson notes that lots of industries, not just those connected with agriculture, should have an interest in keeping out Asian honey bees.
The bee is fond of swarming and nesting in machinery, and it is attracted to sweetness.
If it spreads Australia-wide, Dr Anderson suggests that the bee's habits may drive up the cost of exports for commodities like cars and fruit, because of a need for extra inspections.