Next Club Meeting
Beekeeper Training to recommence
We have changed survey
Swarm Prevention or Swarm Capture, there is a choice
Swarm collection and cut-outs register
Events and Popups
Recommended Vendor List
On the Fridge
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Last meeting was another excellent production for BRB. Many thanks to the contributors of the ‘Preparing for Spring’ film clip. It is always helpful to see how other members organise themselves and their bees, and I never fail to pick up some tips (and experience shed envy). Likewise, thank you to the members who tuned in for the Q&A, and shown support to the club through this time. Our ‘Zoom Survey’ returned positive responses about our online meetings.
Gradually the warm weather is coming (yippee). Some of you will be tempted to open up and feed your bees, as is often promoted on YouTube and the like. Before you do, can I suggest you re-read Scott Denno’s excellent article in our May newsletter on rules of feeding (available on the website).
At the coming meeting we will be talking about swarming: how to prevent them and how to catch them. Scott Denno will be hosting this meet, so make sure you tune in.
I am also excited to report that our education sub-committee, led by Cheryl Claridge, is putting together the final touches on our revamped Beginners Beekeeping course. This will be part independent study, part online conferencing and will finish off with an open-hive experience. We hope that this format may well prove to be more flexible for participants.
In this newsletter we are releasing the new Strategic Plan. The proposed new vision for BRB is that: our region will be the home of best practice in beekeeping and biosecurity. In this light I am pleased to report that more of our members have been undertaking the online biosecurity course, which is currently free. As an incentive, graduates get a free copy of ‘Healthy Bees’ from BRB. But be quick as there are limited copies. Thanks to those who have emailed in their certificates, you will be emailed back once we have figured out how to get copies to you.
We now have an ‘Approved Vendors’ listing on the website. These are beekeeping suppliers that come recommended by our members and have been approved by the committee. We currently have three vendors listed. If you would like to recommend a vendor, please email me. Our thanks to Edmonds Honey for providing a 'door' prize worth $50 at our last meeting. Congratulations to Bob Brown, the lucky recipient of a bee jacket. Please support our vendors by choosing to purchase through them.
Finally, the COVID pandemic has drawn out a lot longer than first anticipated. This means that we have given up on the idea of a physical AGM in November and will now conduct the AGM via video conference. Planning is underway to ensure we have a voting system as there are a number of proposals for members including:
to elect the new committee,
to pass the Strategic Plan, and
to decide whether to become members of the VRBA.
I trust many of you are still enjoying last season's honey, I certainly am. I recently received praise for how much better honey is from a local beekeeper than honey sourced from the supermarket.
See you online,
Calvin Tromp President
Next Club Meeting
The next club meeting will be held at 7:30pm on 3rd of September 2020 on Zoom.
Club members will receive their invite to the email address they have placed in Club 2iC. If you haven't received it by the 31st of of August, email email@example.com and we will sort it out.
These meetings have been a great way of continuing some form of normality in these times. We have previously had Peter MacDonald from AHBIC and Naomi Forbes-Wilson from Billabong Beekeeping as guest speakers. We have also had some great education sessions on native beehive boxes, Nuc making, wax melting and frame maintenance.
This month we will be discussing all things Swarms
Come along, it will be great.
Next Meeting September 3 on Zoom watch video for more detail
Ballarat Regional Beekeepers
Our new online Beginner Beekeepers’ Course starting 14th of September.
This course covers the information needed to commence beekeeping. There are five two-week units, each of which includes 45 min to 1 hour of online content (text, videos etc.), readings, an online discussion forum, and a one hour Q&A session with guest experts.
The five units are:
Bees 101 – some history of beekeeping, information about the castes and lifecycle of bees
Gearing up – personal protective equipment, tools and types of hives
Working with bees – safety considerations, lighting a smoker, approaches, tasks and record keeping
Preparing for your bees – deciding on location, race of bees, buying bees or catching a swarm, and legal considerations
Having a healthy and productive hive – biosecurity and best practice.
In addition to the online content, discussions, and Q&A sessions, students will undertake the BOLT biosecurity course (approximately 1.5 hours).
The first course of the season only will be $120 per participant.
Future courses will be at a higher rate, book now so you don't miss out.
The cost covers:
access to the online content and sessions,
a copy of Bee Agskills: A practical guide to farm skills, and
a small group refresher and open hive experience, to be held when weather and COVID-19 restrictions permit
complimentary BRB membership (for this year only).
We have changed so much: how are we doing? Survey results.
The committee has been working very hard during the COVID pandemic to provide online meetings via Zoom. Although we have had many members participate in the meetings, we wanted to know if there are members who are either unaware, or unable to access, our meetings.
Our survey of last month told us that:
90% of respondents knew we were holding our monthly meetings online through 'ZOOM'
70% of respondents had attended a meeting
37.5% of those that hadn't attended were because they were too busy to attend.
This is great feedback and the meetings will continue.
See you at the next meeting
"For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today" African proverb Draft Strategic Plan, 2021 – 2024.
BRB was started by a group of enthusiast beekeepers in 2015. This year an executive group of the committee has undertaken to write a Strategic Plan to guide us over the next three years. The full draft plan is available on the website, but an outline for your consideration is below.
The plan proposes that BRB adopt as its vision that:
Our region will be the home of best practice in beekeeping and biosecurity.
The committee regards this as a concise and memorable summary of the purpose of BRB - why we gather together as a group and conduct the many activities we undertake. The Strategic Plan has used the data and insights gathered from both members and non-members of BRB in order to present some goals which are to:
Provide opportunities for members to share and increase knowledge, skills and confidence as beekeepers.
Raise public awareness of the role of bees in food security, beekeeping and of Ballarat Regional Beekeepers Inc.
Promote and advocate on issues affecting bees and beekeeping.
Increase the involvement of members in BRB activities and promote committee membership.
Some of the proposed strategies to achieve these goals include to:
promote biosecurity in all aspects of operation,
form an education team and building a team of trainers,
have a strong calendar of events including open hives and workshops,
enhance the BRB online presence with a renewed website, YouTube channel, and social media presence,
advocate for beekeeping in the media and with councils,
form a team to coordinate BRB involvement in community events, and
promote involvement and build relationships through the Area Groups.
You will note that some of the work has begun already, but other areas need focus on in the coming years. What we need for you to do is to read the full document and let us know if there are areas we have under-emphasised or overlooked.
The plan sets the agenda for the coming years. Is it a worthwhile agenda?
How would you like to be involved?
The team looks forward to receiving feedback. We will then re-release an updated plan next month for it to be formally adopted at the November AGM. Calvin, Cheryl and Jude
Swarm prevention or swarm capture:
there is a choice.
Both the Biosecurity Code of Practice and the Apiary Code of Practice state that as beekeepers we MUST take reasonable steps to prevent swarms. These steps should be logged in your notebook/app: the date, time, location and what you did. If a swarm appears at your neighbour’s back door, and they make a complaint, you will have records to show what you have done and when you did it. Without this record you don’t have a leg to stand on, even if the swarm is not yours.
The ability of the beekeeper to prevent swarms emitting from their own hive/s
This is part of the ‘craft’ of beekeeping; using all your senses to absorb information from the bees, listening to nature, contemplating your training, considering what other beekeepers are saying, then taking the actions you feel are necessary to help the bees do what YOU want them to do.
“With two beekeepers come three opinions”: a frustrated beekeeper's partner.
There are many ways to prevent a colony from swarming and most of us practice a combination of what we have learned and what suits us.
While there is no right way, here are three commonly used strategies:
Splitting – artificial swarm, making a nucleus colony,
Weakening – removing capped brood, and
Manipulation – moving frames around the hive and introducing frames with foundation for them to work on.
Understanding the signals given by the colony as to when they will swarm.
Spring hive inspections are a series of the most important events in the beekeeping calendar. Once the bees have “built up” (4+ frames of brood), we must ensure they are safe, biologically clean, disease free and not a danger to any other colony. Ensuring this can only be done through comprehensive brood inspections.
In early to mid-spring, we need to inspect the hive every 7 to 10 days. This is so we can find queen cells before they hatch. The colony takes 15 to 16 days to raise a queen - from the time the egg is laid, to when she chews her way out of that elongated cell that hangs from the side of the frame. She will add her pheromones to the existing triggers that are in play in the hive which causes pre-swarming activity. Regular inspections will identify when the bees are getting ready to swarm. You will see those queen cells developing and you can remove them.
If you don’t inspect regularly enough, a queen can be laid and hatched between inspections with the cells torn down and the hive much lighter than when you last looked, leaving you a little confused because you have less bees which are now highly irritated and no brood.
Knowing what can be done to prevent a swarm.
So, what can be done to prevent swarming from happening?
Inspect regularly. If using a queen excluder, you only need to inspect what is below it. Look at the amount of bees as soon as you open the hive, but then, the number of bees becomes irrelevant and so ignore them. You are only inspecting the brood area. Once you have removed the supers and are in the brood area, start removing frames for inspection. You don’t want bees on these frames so shake or brush them off. Now you can see all of the frame and the brood it contains. Inspect inside the cells. You are looking at the bee life cycle: eggs, young larvae, old larvae and capped brood. Are they all there? Inspect the whole frame for queen cells - they love nooks and crannies so inspect everywhere. If there are queen cells, remove them.
Understanding the benefits of not allowing a hive to swarm.
Do you want honey? Do you want to keep your hive strong and healthy? Do you want to know the genetics of your queen?
Preventing a hive from swarming is not just the right thing to do, it is vitally important for maintaining a strong, healthy well-managed honey bee colony. Each time a swarm emits from your hive there are risks of:
the queen being damaged/eaten,
the swarm not finding a suitable home,
the mother hive not getting a replacement queen,
the mother hive getting a poor queen,
the mother hive losing too many bees during the separation,
the swarm not taking enough bees, and
the mother hive becoming infested with pests during the period of low bee numbers.
When we manage a hive correctly we are doing all we can to ensure it survives and flourishes.
Making a split, sorting the frames out, and making sure both hives have equal resources.
Sometimes it happens!
Even with the best management sometimes a hive will emit a swarm - it’s in their nature. If one queen cell is missed, they will swarm. Just make sure it is written in your log and do everything possible to capture them.
Natural verses man-made.
Natural swarms put the mother hive at risk and this is one of the unnecessary risks that we can eliminate as beekeepers. Man-made swarms, or splits, are managed and rarely fail. The man-made swarm/split is given everything it needs to survive. They also reduce the chances of a natural swarm from occurring.
When is a swarm no longer a swarm?
When wax is present! When a swarm emits from a hive we all know it’s called a swarm; it is in free flight and comes to rest, usually about 50 meters from the mother hive. This cluster then sends scout bees to look for a new place to call home. Sometimes this is not successful and the cluster is left there. The cluster then becomes an open air hive and can be identified by the creation of wax cells and the storing of honey.
Most times the cluster of bees will be excited by the scout bees running around the outside of them letting them know they have found a new home. They then take flight coming to rest at their new home. This can be up to 3km’s away, but is usually not more than 1km. After they move in, they start building wax and storing honey. When the wax is present it’s no longer a swarm but a feral hive, which can cause financial loss to someone who does not want it there.
The best time to collect a swarm is when they are in the first cluster, hopefully free hanging in a tree, bush or shrub with easy access. Shaking them into a hive box with some new foundation will give them a place they can make home, and soon they will start coming and going from that hive box.
It is important to move it that night to its new home, and then a few days later open the hive and ensure all the frames are in place. That first check is easy to forget but if missed can create an unproductive mess. Then let your swarm settle for a while, four weeks is long enough, then inspect it. If there are no eggs and larvae, start thinking about merging them back with another hive. If you have eggs, larvae and stores of pollen and nectar, then you have successfully captured a swarm.
Free hanging swarm
Cut the swarm out of the tree and place into a box.
Swarms have already started in Bacchus Marsh, which means they will be here soon!
Club members who would like to collect swarms this season or would like to go with an experienced swarm collector should register with the club on the BRB website.
We will shortly be offering training/refresher via Zoom for those who have applied.
I'll contact each person by phone beforehand to determine whether you are also willing to do cut-outs, which demand a very different skill-set to those needed in collecting swarms.
The existing Swarm Messenger group will be refreshed and those that haven't registered for the 2020/2021 season as a swarm collector will be removed.
We have a couple of starters already, so that's great!
Note: Depending on COVID-19 restrictions, swarm collection may be limited to commercial beekeepers only, but we're awaiting clarification on this.
Jude Porteous Swarm Co-ordinator
Events, Requests, Offers & Pop-Ups
Monthly Meeting: September 3, 2020. This 75 minute meeting will be held online via ZOOM. The link will be available on the BRB Members' Facebook Group, in the Members' area of the Ballarat Regional Beekeepers website, and an email will be sent to members with the link and entry codes.
An offer has been made by a farmer half way between Ballarat and Geelong.
There are a lot of remnant tree lined creeks and new tree plantations with a large variety of flowering trees. They also have 70 acres of lucerne and clover based pastures. The farmers are interested in purchasing the honey from the beekeeper afterward. If any members are interested in putting hives on the farm please contact the Club secretary through firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you in touch (we have had no takers yet, so this is still available).
Recommended Vendor List
BRB passed a Vendor Policy in November last year (see website). One of the items was to develop a list of quality vendors – suppliers of beekeeping goods and services – that you can use for purchasing your requirements. This list is now published on our website.
Invitations to vendors have started to be emailed out. If you have a recommendation that should be included on the list, please email Calvin at email@example.com. Listing is free for BRB members and there is a small charge for non-members. Who is your favourite vendor?
These businesses support your club and we think the list should be the first place to look for equipment, bees and queens. The added bonus is that you will have a local to call upon for support.
Aligning the club for the future
WE WILL BE VOTING ON WHETHER TO JOIN VRBA AT THE UPCOMING AGM
One of the tasks of this committee has been to develop a Strategic Plan based on membership needs and wants. This deeper insight has informed the committees growing responses both to the COVID-19 situation and the future direction of the club.
Some of the key features that members wanted from the club are support, mentoring and education. Our Education Team is working on this. However broader and deeper resources will assist us to provide better education experiences for club members.
An opportunity has arisen for the club to join the Victorian Recreational Beekeepers Association (VRBA). Membership of this Association will provide a range of benefits for the club including:
Enhanced Public Liability Cover for club members when conducting club business, including the collection of swarms, conducting open hives and attending educational events.
VRBA's aims and objectives are closely aligned with those outlined in our Strategic Plan.
VRBA is working toward developing educational teaching material for use of member clubs.
VRBA will be working to educate local governments around State legislation and beekeeper-related issues.
The committee will be recommending to the membership at the AGM that we join the VRBA as a member. This will change our current insurance coverage. BRB membership will include membership of the VRBA, including insurance coverage by their provider.
We encourage you to have a look at their website so you can make an informed decision when this comes to a vote.
Our six area leaders have been very proactive over the past month contacting all the members in their groups and have done a great job promoting the free BOLT (biosecurity) Course, the addition of our club’s videos to our YouTube channel, getting feedback about topics for future meetings and being available for requests for help and general conversation about our favourite topic: beekeeping. The team that creates videos for club meetings has been a bit curtailed by COVID-19 Stage 3 restrictions at the moment, but you can be assured that all the great tips for future topics that Area Leaders put forward from their members will be considered. Some of these ideas may also be included in our Beginning Beekeeping course. Some initial ideas include:
Practical 'hands-on' guide to complying with the Code of Practice,
High-level summary of a year of beekeeping in Ballarat (what to do when),
Operation of alternate hive designs (horizontal, top bar etc.),
Woodware construction for longevity and durability.
Congratulations to those who have recently completed the BOLT course and well done Area Leaders in helping create a stronger knowledge of bee biosecurity in our club, something that ties in very strongly with our vision for the next few years.
One of the ways two Area Leaders have facilitated great discussions in their areas was by Zoom meetings, and I don’t think they were disappointed with the response! There was a great deal of interest of course at this time of the year because of ‘swarm season,’ which is almost upon us. Being swarm-ready is so important.
After the Area Leaders emailed you to introduce themselves, some details on Club2ic needed updating, which is terrific. Remember that BRB has extended your membership until the end of the year and so you don’t need to pay fees until you receive a notice in late November.
Once again I’d like to congratulate Area Leaders on creating really purposeful conversations and personal links with members. The opportunities and ideas that arise are inspiring.
This month I’d like to introduce you to four more friendly faces - Area Leaders for :
Central North- Gloria Salt East- Malcolm Garth
North - Peter Debicki South- Stephen Jeffers
I'm sure you’ll meet our Area Leaders on Zoom at our next club Zoom meeting at 7:30pm on Thursday Sept 3rd
Jude Porteous, Area Co-ordinator
Our Leaders are:
State governments will be assisting beekeepers in developing strategies to harmonize state border crossing and communications with border crossing personnel over the next couple of weeks.
Apiarists are reminded to have their COVID-19 Health and Safety Management Plans up-to-date and Orchardists are advised that COVID-19 Management Plans for beehive delivery may assist with providing assurance along the supply chain. All personnel should operate in a safe manner that minimizes the risk of further contamination and spread of COVID-19 within the beekeeping and almond communities.
For further information and updates please visit the AHBIC website.
Victorian Apiarists Association's summarised local happenings (click here)
ABC Rural's hotspot for the latest beekeeping industry related articles (click here)
BeeAware's hub of information and articles regarding honey bee bio-security and pollination (click here)