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Urban Bees


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Author Topic: Urban Bees  (Read 798 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: September 04, 2011, 04:51:12 pm »


Hive mentality

CAPITAL LIFE

By SHAWN MCAVINUE - The Dominion Post | 5:00AM - Saturday, 03 September 2011

HONEY BEE  CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post

MOST LANDLORDS would not allow tenants to have 20,000 pets. "We're not allowed dogs here," Quinn Straker, 8, says as she spoons frozen peas from her cereal bowl. "But our landlord is fine with the bees."

Quinn is talking about the two beehives home to about 20,000 bees she has kept for the past year.

The hives are at the back of her Island Bay home, as far away from the neighbours as possible.

"They can leave a nasty result," Quinn says, referring to bee droppings on freshly washed laundry. That's why urban beekeepers are encouraged to position their hives with entry and exit points directing the flight path away from washing lines.

Not that the neighbours are complaining. Jars of the Strakers' first honey harvest were gifted around the neighbourhood.

"My friends come back and say, I like your honey, can I have some more? and we give them honey on a teaspoon."

And the bees have helped pollinate gardens, too. "Last year we had that apple tree but it didn't give us any apples because we didn't have any bees but when we got the beehive, it started giving us apples."


FEEL THE BUZZ: Young beekeeper Quinn Straker says, I like getting my veil on and smoking up, it's fun.  CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post.
FEEL THE BUZZ: Young beekeeper Quinn Straker says, I like getting my veil on and smoking up, it's fun.
  CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post.


An annual harvest of 30 to 40 kilograms of honey is possible from a strong hive.

Quinn enjoys putting on her protective gear, and subduing the bees with smoke, to reap the sweet nectar. "I like getting my veil on and smoking up, it's fun."

Quinn's mum, Jacinta, learnt about beekeeping at the Wellington Beekeepers Association.

Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month, apart from January, at the Johnsonville Community Centre.

The association helps new members start a hive and its membership numbers are increasing.

"The hives are about $150, the bees about $120," says Jacinta, 32, a Wellington City Council analyst. "The veils are about $20 and I just got some red overalls from the op shop. The bees don't like blue supposedly, but red's OK."

Although Jacinta doesn't like honey, she enjoys teaching her daughter hands-on about the bees' life cycle and plant pollination.

Jacinta learnt quickly that a bees' life cycle could be shortened if the varroa mite parasite found its way into the hive. "The bees at the front of the hive were crawling around without any wings they'd been a bit chomped," Jacinta says.

"We ended up having pretty bad varroa but the hive survived."

And Jacinta's been stung twice since owning the hives.

"I haven't been stung by a bee," Quinn adds, finishing the last spoonful of peas, "but I have by a wasp it wasn't pleasant."


KING BEE: Jacob De Ruiter has kept bees for more than 20 years and believes they thrive best when left alone.  CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post.
KING BEE: Jacob De Ruiter has kept bees for more than
20 years and believes they thrive best when left alone.
  CRAIG SIMCOX/The Dominion Post.


OVER THE HILL, Houghton Bay beekeeper and mead-maker Jacob De Ruiter, who has kept bees for more than 20 years, believes bees thrive when left alone.

A bee sting is a sign of a strong hive, says the laidback 59-year-old. "Every time you go through the hive and smoke them, you really upset them. A lot of bees will try and attack you to defend the hive so you're losing 1000 to 2000 bees, maybe more in the process. It's like a kamikaze it's do or die. If they want to sting you, it means they are strong. If they are weak they lose their vigour."

Although De Ruiter is organically minded, he uses Apistan strips a chemical treatment for the destructive varroa mite after the honey harvest from pohutukawa flowers.

"I've lost eight hives through varroa ... and when all of your hives die on you it's a hell of a blow. It takes a while to build up again. I don't want to go through that again."

While brewing a cuppa he mentions that beekeeping was almost foolproof before the varroa's unexplained introduction into New Zealand in 2000.

"Do you have honey in your tea?" he asks. De Ruiter uses honey as both a sugar replacement and an antiseptic.

"If I have a burn or wound, I just put a band-aid with honey on it and because there is no infection it heals very quickly."

He also takes propolis a resinous mixture that bees collect from tree buds and sap flows from the hive and uses it as medicine.

"Propolis is the waxy black stuff inside the hive. I have found, when you feel a fever coming on, you chew this, and it gives you immunity to disease and sickness. I can't remember the last time I had a cold or was sick."

"I really believe that propolis and honey are a preventative way to stay strong and healthy."

Little traps at the entry of his hives collect pollen, which he sprinkles on his muesli as a protein supplement.

"It's really interesting when you are harvesting pollen because during the spring you get all these different flowers that come out, and all the different coloured pollens: purples, oranges, yellows, browns ... it's actually very pretty a kaleidoscope."

De Ruiter also makes mead, or honey wine, commercially in a Victorian farm cottage at the front of his property.

The age-old elixir is believed to have an aphrodisiac quality that aids fertility, virility and passion. In parts of Europe, a month's worth of mead was given to newlyweds to ensure fertility and happiness, hence the term honeymoon.

But De Ruiter says the public's lack of knowledge on the benefits of mead makes it a hard product to sell.

Still, the general attraction to the industrious insects and their byproducts is creating a buzz in the capital. Wellington Beekeepers Association spokesman John Burnet says the group has 180 members.

"It's quite a dramatic increase, as two years ago it would have been a third of that number."

"Back then we were a club of old men but we were pleasantly surprised that women and younger people are making up the new member numbers."


http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/capital-life/5555307/Hive-mentality
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« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2012, 02:35:11 am »


Beekeeper watches city hives fall silent

By PETER CALDER - The New Zealand Herald | 9:30AM - Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kerry McCurdy says hives across Auckland are collapsing.  Photo: Brett Phibbs.
Kerry McCurdy says hives across Auckland are collapsing. Photo: Brett Phibbs.

THE HINGED LID of the hive swings up with a creak. I could swear the air tightens with anticipation. But if so, it's all mine; Kerry McCurdy isn't expecting any surprises. He knows he'll find either dead bees or no bees, because that's what he's been finding, week after week, for two long months.

The two hives, beneath the fig tree and among the blazing orange clivia flowers, are not the classic shape, like the ones on the matchboxes, or the stacked wooden boxes we are all familiar with; they're long, lidded plywood chests, big enough to accommodate several dozen of the frames that bees will pack with honey.

For the past three years they've yielded 30kg each summer, and even in the depths of winter, when the colony of maybe 50,000 has been eating through its own stores, there's been a warm hum around the single entrance hole. Now, nothing.

McCurdy peels the plastic cover off the top of the frame-rack and levers each frame up in turn. "This one's been robbed out," he says, pointing to the indentations left by infiltrators from another hive that cleared every drop of the sweet contents.

A small brood of young, walled into their waxy cells, proves the hive hasn't been abandoned "sometimes, there's not a bee anywhere and it's like they've swept the floor before they left," says McCurdy but rather that the colony has succumbed to varroa mite. The weakened foragers have failed to make it back; the hive-robbing marauders have come and gone, in the process almost certainly taking the mite with them. The plague spreads.

"That brood is history," says McCurdy's son Oliver. "They have no other bees to bring them food, keep them warm." All the pair can do is repopulate the hive when the weather gets warmer, and hope.

Across the region which he refers to as "my farm, with millions of workers who don't want wages" McCurdy has about 300 hives. He sites them in people's backyards, charging them for the privilege. Householders get about 20kg of honey a year and the satisfaction of knowing that they're pollinating the neighbourhood. Or were. Now about 70 per cent of his hives have fallen silent.

"The phone started ringing two months ago," he says, "and it hasn't stopped since. And the scary thing is that it's all of Auckland, from the top to the bottom."

Scarier still is that different hives show different signs; there is no obvious universal, epidemic cause. That's why he fears that the city hives could be in the grip of colony collapse disorder.

His next two hives are barely 500m north as a bee flies. One has been robbed out; the other is untouched but abandoned. A kilometre to the west, one hive is silent, another apparently active.

McCurdy stands in the humming blizzard of bees around the open hive, inspecting frames in the sunlight. "Bees like me," he explains when I ask why he's hatless and gloveless. "I can work around a lot of people in hats and suits and not get stung. If I wear a hat, I get stung."

But the pair are sceptical that the active hive will survive. "There's no brood there and no sign of a queen," says the younger man. "The next two weeks will tell but it doesn't look good."

McCurdy knows that the beekeeping establishment regards him as something of a crank ("I've been called a cowboy," he says). One of his clients swears he once said "bees are people too"; I certainly heard him say "bees are smarter than people". He uses dowsing rods to decide where to locate his hives, a practice he admits is unknown internationally.

There's no dispute that garden insecticides containing neonicotinoid chemicals are killing bees, but McCurdy also blames cellphones, GPS systems and in-car computers, which are "showering the Earth and the magnetic lines bees use to navigate".

What is indisputable is that city hives of which he is the biggest operator are in sudden, serious trouble and no one knows exactly why. Official testing regimes, he says, focus on industrial-scale beekeepers and ignore him because "they see the city beekeepers as hobbyists".

"This is our backyard, mate. This is where we live. This is where our kids and grandkids eat plums and feijoas. If we just sit here paddling away, we're going to go over the edge. And one day we'll wake up and there'll be no bees, no flowers, no fruit."


http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10835020
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« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2013, 05:34:30 pm »


I saw either two honeybees or one honeybee twice this season. Bumbles too were fewer this year than last.

I have however seen increasing numbers of tiny wasplike critters, some sort of mason bee I think, that visits flowers and seems to build a nest in small space such as the holes left by popped rivets in my permanent awning, then it seals the hole with what looks like dried mud; but as I see them "working" dry timber, then flying off to their holes I think they use the chewed wood as a sort of paper to do the sealing.

Strange things happening during the drought, another one was the appearance of what look a small edition of white butterflies, about two thirds the usual size. Very few of the normal size big ones, I was wondering whether the brassica crops the caterpillars feed on were stunted by the drought.
 
 
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« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2013, 05:39:57 pm »

I have missed the bees.   We have a walkway that follows the river to the mouth.  The bank is planted out in clover grass which was blaze of purple clover flowers and during the entire 2 hour walk I did not see one bee.  Not one.
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2014, 06:05:27 pm »


Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014 08:34 AM NZST

Report: Research into bee-killing pesticides is tainted by corporate interests

Members of Britain's parliament say industry-funded research is compromising the fight to save pollinators
Lindsay Abrams

read the article and follow it's embedded links at
http://www.salon.com/2014/07/28/report_research_into_bee_killing_pesticides_is_tainted_by_corporate_interests/


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