The bees are having a tough time on the West Coast this autumn. As a result of all the foolish ferals, we are experiencing prolonged and relentless robbing. With robbing, of course, we are also having to deal with heavy re-infestations of mites, along with an increase in deformed wing virus due to the stressful conditions.

Thankfully the bees are bringing in sufficient gorse and catsear to boost the brood coming into winter, although additional varroa treatment has been necessary to ensure healthy brood.

With robbing also comes AFB, and recent reports have picked up
an increase in AFB incidence on the west coast. Thorough brood inspections on all hives are definitely on the cards before we all go into hibernation this winter.

- Carla Glass

We have experienced quite a settled autumn with some very pleasant days over the last two months, some overcast but no strong winds. I noticed a thin sheet of ice on some beehive lids early April with a few light frosts after that, but still quite mild. Beekeepers have been busy wintering hives, removing varroa treatments and shifting hives back to permanent sites after pollination. Bees are still quite active on sunny days as of early May.

Giant aphid willow dew doesn’t appear to be too much of a problem in my area and wasps have had a minimal presence generally. The weekend following Easter saw some intense rain in Mid Canterbury, especially in the Ashburton area and down into South Canterbury. This would help the many winter feed crops for overwintering stock. The lawn mowers will be going for a while yet.

I saw a school roadside sign recently which said, “Leave everything a little bit better than you found it.’’ Bees do that, don’t they?

- Noel Trezise

The leaves are falling thick and fast, the daffodils are starting to poke through and the last of the warm days have not been falling on my weekend, which has made it difficult to check up on all the hives in a timely manner.

Fortunately they seem to know what to do and have kept doing it well, only a very small patch of brood left in most hives with generally good stores of honey and pollen. As usual, there are always some rebels that will need feeding to keep them going through the winter.

With the help of a few club members, the preparation for the Beekeepers’ Day Out went well and it was a great day! Ground-breaking research and informative speakers brightened the day, despite the downpour outside. Here are a few ‘sneak peek’ photos. Look out for the full article and images in next month’s edition. 

Some of the attendees arriving at the Beekeepers' Day Out (12 May) at the outset of the day.

The North Canterbury Beekeepers Club had a stand as a Club fundraiser. All bee products were made from the Club’s apiary and were accurately labelled. The Club also carried out tasks for the Hub throughout the day.

Kaipak Ltd was one of the silver sponsors of the Beekeepers' Day Out, along with 100% Pure New Zealand Honey. Platinum sponsor NZ Beeswax is pictured at right. Photos: Nick Thorp.

- Nick Thorp for the NCBC Team

The past few years as a Colonies Reporter, from time to time a
query comes from a reader. I was pleasantly surprised last month to receive an e-mail from Wellington hobbyist, Donnah, questioning my comment in the April journal, in which I predicted an increase in wind- pollinated crops in my area, and how was this relevant to honey bees.

Wind-pollinated plants have very poor-quality pollen. This pollen is dry and brittle and designed to be windborne. Barley, wheat, oats, maize, cone-bearing trees, and most grasses come in this category, although some wind-pollinated plants do attract honey bees because the pollen is very sticky; e.g., maize, oak.

I note the ApiNZ Science and Research Focus Group concerns regarding the bee ‘dead zones’ associated with intensive cropping (especially maize cropping) around Gisborne, in the Eastern Bay
of Plenty and Waikato (see https://apinz.org.nz/wp-content/ uploads/2019/01/Call-for-information-on-clothianidin-imidacloprid- and-thiamethoxam-ApiNZ.pdf ). Maize is another crop that is certainly on the rise in Mid Canterbury, and we certainly don’t want to witness this phenomenon.

Pinus radiata pollen is totally useless for bees, and if a grain were to show up on honey analysis, my assumption would be that this was windblown in the hive entrance, although the honey bee will gather propolis from Pinus radiata. Unfortunately, it looks like in many parts of the country, we are going to see good farm land turned into forestry—more monoculture. In the Mackenzie Basin during early spring, I have seen honey bees absolutely smother the cone-bearing flowers of macrocarpa, and this is probably because that time of the year in that area there is no other bee forage available. Macrocarpa is also a source of propolis forage.

So, if you are trying to run an apiary in Mid Canterbury surrounded by dairy and grains or peas and pine trees, you are most likely to have a pollen deficit, never mind not much nectar sources available, and
a weak colony. In Canterbury, the plains are very flat, and on dairy farms paddock trees and shelterbelts get ripped out so the irrigators can travel up fields. Irrigators are used intensely, and all the growth of clover and dandelion goes into the roots and leaves, with next to no flowers (i.e., basically a large green desert for bees).

The same scenario happens in non-dairying, if clover is grown as a crop or if it underruns pasture, and constant rain is present. If you travel to Rotorua/Waitomo (as I did one conference), the dairying is on hilly country (not suitable for the massive irrigators we have here in Canterbury), interspersed with native bush, and on the hilly roadsides there is lots of barberry, heather, gorse and broom, to name a few floral sources.

And yes, I feel very sorry for the large cattle beasts in sweltering Mid Canterbury heat without shelter. Nor is there shelter for beehives, let alone shelter for flying honey bees.

The last two summers and early autumn have been incredibly dry and hot in Mid Canterbury, and high temperatures are conducive to high grain yield. So, no doubt with climate change, we will see more grains grown in this area.

... And now the Mid Canterbury report: On current hive inspections there appears to be very little robbing, bees are happy and queens have not yet shut down. Hives are a bit lean and really need feeding. Local beekeepers have their beady eyes out for AFB, and we live in hope that this exhibition lessens. The weather up until now has been very mild: 23°C on 28 April, followed by a high of 8°C on 29 April with the home fires burning. Looking forward to reading the report in the July journal about the Beekeepers’ Day Out, Sunday 12 May at Lincoln University.

- Maggie James, Canterbury Hub Committee

 

With the heat and burnt-off pasture of February behind us, we are now enjoying the more moderate feel of autumn in March, although we are still experiencing some hot days.

A good shower (around 100 millimetres) during March revived grass growth, giving the countryside a greener look again. Last year it was the opposite, with a dry November and December and a very wet January, February and March.

Beehives have been quite active working yellow flower (cats ear), gorse and some ivy. Hives are quite heavy with some good patches of brood still. I appreciate this will not be the case in some areas, as beekeepers have reported no crop collected in downland areas, comparable to the drought years of the early eighties. Arable farmers are reporting reduced yields of grain due to excessive rain in November and December.

I have been experimenting with alternative smoker fuel as jute sacking is becoming less available. Wood wool and non-treated shavings from a local woodturner work well with small wood pellets, which are available commercially. This is nothing new but it might help somebody.

- Noel Trezise