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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bee Keeping

We having been keeping bees for more than 20 years. Anything from 1-5 hives at any one time. However two years ago we lost all three of our hives to Small Hive Beetle infestation. To be fair our lack of attention was the contributing factor with SHB being the instrument of their demise.

After losing the hives it was decided to raise our skill level by joining the local amateur bee keepers association. This has been a wonderful experience. The club has 20 plus hives in the apiary and each month there is an opportunity to work with knowledgeable people and gain hands on experience. There is even a mentoring program and plenty of experienced people to contact for advice.
Last year we acquired a nucleus through the club and commenced bee-keeping again. However during the fortnightly inspections in Summer we noticed the brood numbers diminishing steadily until the hive ran out of bees. At first the thought was that the queen had died but eventually with some research it was discovered that the lack of pollen had suspended egg laying. As it turned out a few hives in the club apiary suffered a similar fate. Had we known earlier (lack of experience) it may have been possible to relocate the hive to a pollen rich area. Or last resort feed pollen.

The reasons for only getting one hive was multi fold. 1) We didn't need that much honey. 2) One hive was plenty for pollination in our orchard and garden. 3) One hive would make the bee keeping task more manageable and we could spend more time observing and inspecting.

Well all that was wrong. At a recent club meeting an experienced retired apiarist said that you need at least 3 hives and 5 would be better. By having comparison hives it is easier to see if the problem is queen related, hive related or general conditions related. With multiple hives it is possible to create a replacement if one is lost or in bad times combine a weak hive into a stronger hive to save it. And finally the managing of multiple hives increases the skill level.
So we wait until Spring and start again.

One hive stand, no Bees


  1. Oh wow! Interesting post! I'm a novice bee keeper too. I've had bees for a few years but I'm not involved with any clubs. There is so much more I could learn. Trouble is, at the moment I have so much else on the go. As soon as I find time I'm going to look into local clubs. Thank for the advice!

    1. In NSW we have the Amateur Beekeeping Association with branches all over the state. They meet once per month on Sundays 10 times per year which is not a big impost. The Hunter Valley branch's meetings are pretty efficient running for 1-2 hours at most allowing us to get down to the apiary.