Sunday, 7 April 2019

Our Backyard Honey Beehive Swarm moves into it's New Hive

One of our bees in our garden on the Salvia flowers
At last, we have moved our bees from their adopted Bird Box into their new hive, with the assistance of Keith Lang, who with his wife Denise own a local Mackay company, Pure'n Natural Honey. This has been a work in progress for a couple of months. Since I last wrote about our Bees (see previous story here), which had swarmed into the Bird Box located on our backyard Palm tree last Christmas, Neil (Mr. HRK)  has moved the Bird Box hive three times.  Down the tree, a metre at a time, at fortnightly intervals; then a metre across on trestles, toward the future location of the permanent hive; and then to a spot directly adjacent to the new hive. With minimal calming required from the smoker for each move, the bees coped remarkably well with each transition, and found the hive easily again after a day's foraging. I don't think we lost many at all.

The New Hive

Our original Bee swarm in the Bird Box on the Palm Tree

Neil has been building the boxes  and the internal frames with foundation wax, for two new bee hives, over the last couple of months, all from scratch, and all from recycled materials. The hives have been constructed from old waterbed timbers, including the bedhead and the frames that he was given. The honey extractor (centrifuge) is also built from scratch, from recycled pieces of metal and bicycle parts, except for the food grade bin. A couple of the metal components needed to be purchased online. All of that activity kept him well occupied. It is great to think this whole project has been very environmentally sustainable.

Home made State of the Art Honey Extractor (centrifuge)

The big day arrived last Sunday when the Bird Box beehive was to be relocated to the new Beehive, which is set above the ground on a concrete slab amongst the rain forest area of our garden. Keith arrived early and equipped to help us move the hive. There is a lot to it, and Keith has years of experience and knowledge with bees. In fact what he doesn't know about bees, hives and honey probably isn't worth knowing. The hive was smoked carefully and the process began. This needs to be a very gentle and slow activity, so that the bees don't get stirred up and start attacking. Keith and Mr. HRK donned their bee suits and started dissecting and analysing the combs  in the bird box. I was also wearing mine as a precaution, as I was the brave photographer.

The inside of the very full Bird Box Hive

It is important to check for disease with a hive like this one. Thankfully overall it is a healthy hive. Keith found only a few small hive beetles which he thought was pretty good and placed a bait in the hive for them. There was also a little chalk brood in there which apparently is because of the moisture which could enter the bird box, but otherwise it was all looking good.

Below are Neil and Keith checking one of the brood combs from the original hive,

The search was on for the Queen Bee and any signs of problems in the hive. Just in case he couldn't find the Queen, Keith had brought a new Queen with him. Most of the combs had been moved and the bees dropped carefully into the new hive when Neil spotted the Queen Bee, right at the bottom of the bird box. The clever girl had been evading discovery up until now.

There she is, where he is pointing.


A rather fuzzy closeup of the Queen Bee
Keith, who I must add has been gloveless throughout this operation and miraculously only suffered one bee sting, carefully picked her up near the head and separated her into a small box for relocation later. She was then given a dab of pink paint for easy recognition later in the hive by us.

The bees had built beautifully consistent rows inside the Bird Box which Keith attached to the frames with rubber bands and carefully placed into the new hive. All the wooden frames were constructed by hand by Neil.

Below, the brood box is successfully completed with the Queen Bee excluder in place. The second box in this picture was used to keep all the bees together and with a little smoke they retreated in to the brood box.

It's all going well and getting ready to take the extra box away.

Feeding the Bees

There was little food in the hive for them,  because of the difficult weather conditions that bees have been coping with lately.  They need some of their own honey to feast on. However Keith brought a new frame from one of his hives laden with honey that the bees can enjoy. So they will be ok.
We also made up a sugar and water syrup solution for them to eat and to help with the readjustment.

Sugar and water bee syrup  recipe: (There had to be a recipe somewhere in this story.)

Boil the kettle and measure one cup of water or use one cup of distilled water. Add one cup of sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. When cool, add this solution to a plastic sandwich bag, and press the edge closed. Remove the lid, and place it on the top rack in the beehive and gently cut two small slots into the top plastic surface. Press the surface very gently so that a little of the solution seeps through, and watch the bees crawl toward it and start feeding. This should keep them fed for three days in addition to what they forage out in the garden. Smoke the hive, and check the sugar bags in three days, and replace until there is enough food in the hive for them to live on. We used two smaller bags as we didn't have any normal sized sandwich bags.

The metal Queen excluder which the Queen can't fit through but the honey bees can, was placed above the brood box in the hive.  The brood box contains all of the brood comb that was  inside the Bird Box.

Close up of the sugar syrup bags and the bees and the black hive beetle bait box in the background. On the left is all the comb with honey that was attached to the top of the bird box hive.

Neil cutting small slits in the bags
Shortly after the move and closure of the hive, the bees were exploring their new home. We left a small portion of the Bird box hive comb outside the entrance slit which is at the base of the box, as the bees will be attracted to it's scent and find their way home much more easily. The top goes on with the honey comb, sugar syrup and bait inside.

Neil has replaced the repaired bird box back onto the palm tree in the hope that we may attract another swarm. Keith suggested we add a couple of drops of lemon grass oil to the box as an incentive for another swarm of bees to settle there. Our bees had also built a comb outside the bird box so they were possibly looking at expanding or swarming again.

Neil and I still have a lot to learn about beekeeping, but we have also come a long way since Christmas. I hope all of the experienced beekeepers and Apiarists who read this will be kind with their thoughts about some of my beekeeping terminology. By blogging this, I hope we will also receive some interesting comments or emails from you, dear reader, and that we will continue to learn and enjoy our bees.

A Bee Friendly Garden

We are aiming for a Bee and Butterfly friendly garden, and are particularly conscious now of growing plants that will attract and feed our bees. They are loving the New Guinea bottlebrush at present, and if you look carefully you should be able to see the bee in the middle flower in this photo.

They also love the purple Salvia flowers (photo at top of page) we have growing in a few spots, and we recently purchased a few  Coleus plants. Remember that old fashioned hardy plant with a variegated leaf which our Aunts and Grandmothers always had in their gardens? It's making a comeback and the bees just love the blue/mauve flower spikes it produces. Ours is yet to flower but it shouldn't be long. Wandering Jew is another old fashioned plant that sends bees crazy with desire, however it also goes crazy in the garden and will take over so it needs to be planted in a sunny spot where it can be the boss. We are gradually adding to our garden of bee attracting plants and I'll write another story about this at a later date.

The biggest benefit for us with having bees besides the honey they will produce, is their pollination of surrounding  fruit trees, flowers,  and vegetable gardens, and for the neighbours as well. On an optimistic note, we are hoping to harvest some of our own honey by next October, for our own use and a few gifts.

Speaking of honey.......

 I am very happy to be able to promote a wonderful, local honey product, produced by Pure'n Natural Honey. This is a family owned Mackay business. Their beehives are placed in carefully selected pristine bushlands, and also move their hives to local farms growing macadamias and citrus to assist them with their pollination. The honey is 100% natural and raw and tastes delicious with well known health benefits. Also thank you to Kylie for providing me with the Pure'n Natural honey photo.

Products can be purchased by clicking on this link, or visit the Wednesday morning Farmers Market at Bluewater Quay in Mackay. The product is also sold at various Airlie Beach outlets, and is used by numerous restaurants and cafes in the region. You can also keep up to date with what is happening by subscribing to their Blog here.

We are very fortunate that Keith from Pure'n Natural Honey has provided a lot of his support and knowledge with our backyard bee hive, and as part of their business initiative, assisted us with successfully moving our hive.

Mr. HRK and I  would love to hear from you with any advice, comments etc, which you can provide either through the email box on the side bar of this post or in the Comments Section at the end of this post. Click on the title link at the top for the Comments page.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes



  1. I so enjoyed the journey of your bees. You have done an excellent job of describing the process. Mr. HRK looks to be very handy with his tools. Now your honey will have a special flavor unique to your mini-ecosystem.

    1. Thanks Ron. We are really looking forward to tasting the honey, hopefully in October. Still on a learning curve, but it is coming together. Best wishes, Pauline ( not sure if my first reply actually sent. One of those days :)

  2. You certainly have learned a lot since the bees arrived, Pauline. I can't imagine not wearing gloves around the bees though. LOL! We buy local honey from an apiarist which is much cheaper than the honey at the supermarket and much tastier as well according to my hubby who eats all the honey.

    1. The Apiarist honey should be a lot nicer with no additives. Yes I was surprised at how placid our bees are. The trick is not to stir them up apparently. Thanks Chel. Enjoy your honey. I never realised how many bees were needed to make a jar of honey. Best wishes, Pauline

  3. Thanks Ron. We are really looking forward to tasting the honey, hopefully in October. Still on a learning curve, but it is coming together. Best wishes, Pauline

  4. hi pauline
    how very exciting to have your own bees! and the honey to come... we don't see many bees around anymore which is a real worry. when we had basil plants we saw lots of native bees especially, as they loved the flowers. for that matter we don't see snails or ladybirds either. so good on you for your endeavours. cheers sherry

    1. Thanks Sherry, we have learned a lot and fingers crossed they will survive. Honey will be the ultimate. Best wishes, Pauline

  5. So nice to get an update on your bees Pauline! And yes next time I'm in Mackay I'll let you know :D

    1. Thanks Lorraine. So pleased you enjoyed your sojourn in Mackay. Best wishes, Pauline

  6. What a fabulous post- and what commitment! We had a hive here, but sadly the summer heat was too much for them and after weeks of days well over 35C the 47C day was just too much for them. We are replacing them when we come back from holidays.

    1. Thanks Amanda, I remember you have had excessive heat conditions down there. Very difficult for bees needing a lot of water and ventilation. We are feeding ours every couple of days at the moment with the sugar syrup to provide the carbohydrates they need. Worthwhile though. Nice to hear from you, Pauline.


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