Al is one of the major suppliers of honey for this area.
He currently has 8 bee hives. Usually he has around 16 hives but half he has lost to small hive beetle.
Opening the hive. Before opening up the hive he showed the flight path of the bees as they approached the hive and not to stand in the way of their path. Al opened a hive up for us to see the insides of a hive. There are 10 frames in each box holding honey in comb on either side. When viewing the frames it’s important to hold the frames perpendicular so as not to loose any unripe honey from the comb.
Next to this hive we saw a native bee hive in an old tree trunk. These bees are stingless bees and important in the pollination of natives and non natives. It is not very easy to extract the honey from these bees
Small hive Beetle is currently a serious pest for bee keepers in eastern Australia.
The European honey bees have no defence against the beetle except for picking them up and carrying them out of the hive, but nothing stops them from flying back. The beetles lay eggs inside the hive and the beetle grubs tunnel through the combs, causing the honey to discolour and ferment, and killing the bee brood. In bad cases the bees may abandon infested hives. The adult beetles can fly up to 15 km and readily find honey bee hives, probably by smell. These beetles may also successfully breed in fruit such as avocado, rockmelon and grapefruit. We believe it is impossible to eradicate these South African beetles from Australia at this stage because they have already spread to feral nests of commercial honey bees (Apis mellifera) in hollow trees. Is now a matter of managing the beetle.
Al manages the beetle in several ways by
1) using oil traps that are placed between the tops of the frames capturing the beetles in oil where they can’t escape
2) keeping a smaller hive by only having one super
the bottom box of a hive is the brood box where the queen is kept and where she reproduces, the boxes (or box) above are the supers and separated from the brood by an excluder allowing access to the workers but not the queen, the supers are where the extra honey is stored and harvested from).
3) by checking the hive on a more regular basis and removing any beetles and larvae by hand.
In Al’s old barn he has set up an extraction room screened off from the bees. The first stage of extraction is for the frames to have the wax capping removed using a heated knife, then they are placed in an extractor where they are spun and the honey is flung out on the insides of the vat and works it way to the tap at the bottom where it is contained in 20liter buckets that are then sold to shops. Idealy the frames are removed from the hives and extracted and placed back on the hive on the same day.
Al has a garden where he grows garlic commercially. The first year cloves are planted and produce single globes of garlic then the next year these are planted and produce the regular multiple cloves of garlic that he sells shops in the area.
We visited his fruit orchard that included, pawpaw, citrus, avocados and other fruit trees. Al has several dams, one that has a good example of a swale below it. Toward the bottom of his land in another dam that he attempted growing fish in but was invaded by duck weed and the fish died. Not far from his orchard we saw an area of native revegetation that he has added to over the years that was impressive. On the western side of his house covering a veranda wall is a very productive passionfruit vine.
It was an interesting visit for me especially seeing the bee hives and the honey extraction set up as well as hearing how your garlic is grown.