Wednesday, May 20, 2020

It's World Bee Day and Saving our Bee Hive

Have you heard the Buzz - it's World Bee Day. It's celebrated every year on the 20th May to raise awareness of the importance of bees and what we can do to help towards their preservation. When I heard on the news this morning that it was all about the bees today, I knew I would have to contribute. Having a beehive is taking conservation to the next level.


When we returned from overseas in early March, and thank goodness we came home when we did just before all of the lock downs started, our Italian Honey beehive was full of honey. However, little did we know that from here on we were on another steep learning curve, making us realise how fragile beehives can be. We extracted lots of honey from the hive on Saturday, a big day, and the following day the whole front of the beehive, bottom brood box plus 3 supers above were covered in a black mass of bees from top to bottom. We had never seen so many bees en masse,  thousands of them, and this was the ominous sign that our bees were getting ready to swarm. And they did. The next day the black buzzing population of bees had gone, but there was still some activity obvious around the hive so we remained optimistic.  However within a week we realised that we had probably lost our Queen Bee, the old queen had swarmed with the hive without a new queen produced to keep the hive going. The female bees left in the hive desperately try to produce another queen but because they are unable to fertilise the egg they only produce drones. This is the tell tale sign that the hive is queenless when a lot of drone cells appear in the middle of a frame.  We called in Keith, our friend and local bee expert, and he very calmly worked with Mr. HRK to salvage our hive. He brought a new Queen for us in a small box, with three escorts, (Keith hatches the Queens and sells them to beekeepers), reduced the hive to just the brood box, and to cut a very long story short, we have basically started from scratch again but our beehive is alive. If we had left it much longer, we would have lost our hive.

Freezer full of beehive frames
 We have our second fridge freezer full of beehive frames which will kill off any diseases present due to the weakened state of the hive after the swarming. They will also be used when our beehive is back on track to expand to another super, that is beehive terminology for another beehive box on top of the existing one. The frames will be a food source in the new box for the bees.

It appears that by the time we returned home the bees were hungry, because there had been lots of hot weather and then rain, and being a very large hive they were depending on the supply of honey in the hive to keep them sustained. Perhaps they were planning to swarm anyway, after all they swarmed to our place in the first place and perhaps the Queen had gypsy tendencies, anyway lesson learned. They didn't appreciate us extracting the hive for honey although our friends that we gave lots away to certainly did and it was beautiful honey. Since then Mr. HRK has been monitoring the hive closely, and to supplement their food sources every couple of days he feeds them sugar syrup to give them the energy to fly off in search for food. The sugar syrup is a mix of 2 cups sugar and 2 cups boiling water. He pours this into a ziplock bag and when it is lukewarm, and the sugar dissolved he places it with a couple of holes  prodded in the top of the bag in the top of the hive and the bees feed off that until it is empty which may only take a day. So I have certainly been supporting the local Mackay sugar industry with the amount of sugar I have been buying. We also bought some hive beetle baits from Keith as that is our main concern now that there is evidence of hive beetle in the hive, which eat the bee larvae. But it all appears to be working and the hive is becoming more active each day. I hope this story reinforces for you just how fragile beehives can be and that beekeepers need to be vigilant and constantly monitoring their hives as environmental circumstances are constantly changing. Beehives and the beautiful honey they produce can't be taken for granted. It's a primary industry to be protected.

This is what our beehive looks like now. 

When the hive has grown sufficiently we will add another super or box to the top. Last weekend Mr. HRK's mission was to let more sunshine into the backyard area around the hive. So the day was spent pruning, something that needs to be done regularly in tropical gardens. The Golden Penda tree and the Lychee tree were both given a good haircut. All the foliage was moved to the shredder, so that it could be shredded down to mulch, and then Murphy's Law intervened. The shredder wasn't working, so Mr. HRK pulled it to bits, but with no luck. The pile of tree and plant cuttings is still sitting there as there are no new shredders available for sale anywhere in town. Another consequence of the pandemic.

Did you know, that all of the worker honey bees are female, only live for about 28 days, and do all the work? The male honey bees (also called drones) have no stinger and do not work. All they do is mate but the health of a hive can be judged by the number of drones it has. Did you know that the Honey Bee is the only insect that produces food eaten  by humans? Interesting eh?

Honey bees are so important for the pollination of all our food crops in Australia and the hives have been hit hard recently with drought and bushfires, as I'm sure you know. Native Bees are the backup plan in case Honey Bees become decimated and so they need to be nourished as well. Moths, ants and even butterflies play a role as well with pollination. One positive bonus of the Covid 19 pandemic and isolation is that many more people are gardening and growing their own vegetables and planting fruit trees. Now that we have the beehive, every vegetable plant and flower in our garden is a potential food source for our bees and a celebration although bees are known to fly 5 kilometres in search of food. Butterflies, moths and birds are also beneficiaries. 

The following are some photos of our garden at the moment. I hope you enjoy looking at them.I planted a whole lot of seeds a month or so ago, rather randomly throughout the gardens, not having a lot of faith that the seeds would germinate but I think most of them did. So now we have lots of tomato plants growing from seeds that I dried myself between sheets of paper kitchen towel, pak choy, zucchinis, eggplant, strawberries and some herbs. I have transplanted some to better spots in the garden

Here are a few photos for you.

Red Cherry Tomatoes, I think. This one is doing well in a pot. The rest are in the garden. I noticed it's first little flower this morning.

A few female flowers with small zucchinis attached are now emerging and Mr. HRK plans to give them a hand with pollination to ensure that the small zucchinis don't fall off. 

This one seems happy in a pot
Capsicum growing from seeds I dried

Eggplant which I think must have germinated from seeds in the compost heap. I have seen Italian honey bees in their flowers which is inspiring.

Some kind of bug on the Eggplant flower

This is our leafy patch, mignonette lettuces, beetroot, rocket and other greens.

"Beauty is in the Eye of the Bee-Holder" - Some flowers, to brighten up the garden and add to it's diversity.
The Brazilian Red Cloak just coming into flower. This is at least 12 years old, originally from my Mum's garden in Rockhampton.
Cut flowers of the Brazilian Red Cloak I brought inside to enjoy
 If you look carefully you can see a yellow honey eater salivating over my orchids. It was difficult to get a good photo through the kitchen window.

The flower from one of my Cattleya orchids which I brought inside.

Reliable and pretty Pentas flowers that all insects enjoy. We also have a purple one.

Beautiful begonias

Perfumed Chrysanthemum

Old-fashioned Coleus flowers, almost finished and ready to be pruned but adored by bees.

  Beautiful salvia, can you see the Italian honey bee on this one? Loved also by the honey eaters, butterflies, and native bees.

 Happy World Bee Day my friends, enjoy your daily dose of honey, and the vegetables and fruits that Italian Honey and Native bees have probably pollinated just for you.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes



  1. wow your back yard is amazing! Those flowers are so beautiful,Pauline.

    1. Thanks Angie, it's nice to have some flowers in the garden.Hope you are well.

  2. Wow your gardening skills are amazing! I've now resorted to havin faux plants because I'm the opposite and kill most things!

    1. Thanks Lorraine, We are fortunate to have some space and some time to look after them. You are a very busy lady with your NQN business.

  3. I had no idea World Bee Day was a thing! Glad to learn about it. Love the photos -- you have a terrific yard.

    1. Thanks KR. Hopefully our bees appreciate the diversity in our yard:) Glad you like the photos. Take care.

  4. I love bees! We have a hive of tiny native bees and honeybees, blue banded bees and teddy bear bees regularly visit here too. They are such important little creatures. We use no chemicals at all in our garden as bees are so susceptible to these toxins. We plant lots of veg and flowers for the bees.
    All your flowers look lovely. I am sure the bees at your place appreciate them too. Meg🐝

  5. Thanks Meg. Wow sounds like you have a thriving bee population. We don't use any chemicals either, so important. Just hope the neighbours always realise that as well.Best wishes, Pauline

  6. My dream is to have a garden like this, beautiful veggie plants! Such a blessing ☺ Bees are so needed these times, I love honey☺ Have a lovely day!

    1. Thanks so much Natalia. We really value our beehive, and work quite hard at times to ensure it's survival and it's lovely to have the very special honey.

  7. how marvellous to have your own bees and honey. i gave up on our veg patch some years ago - all the bugs and turkeys and possums didn't make it worth it sadly...

    1. Thanks Sherry, what a shame about your veg patch, we get so much pleasure from ours and most of it this year has been grown from seed or compost pollination so not many costs that way. A friend of mine got so upset about all of the bugs demolishing her patch that she has her gardens shrouded now in white netting and it seems to be working. We love our honey and put a bit of work into the beehive but it's worth it. Have a nice weekend, Pauline


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