Next Club Meeting
Annual General Meeting
Beginner Beekeeping Courses
Beekeeping in bad weather
Beekeeping and Record keeping
Swarm Season's about to take off
A Different Sort of Beekeeping
Events and Popups
Recommended Vendor List
Aligning the Club for the Future
On the Fridge
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Spring has sprung: the days are getting longer, the weather is all over the place, and gardens are coming to life...and so are our hives. Queens are laying and bees are foraging: it is a great time of year for beekeepers - but also a critical time. My country hives had used up most of their winter food and so have started this season slowly with the queens only just starting to lay. So I moved them to canola to build them up. My Ballarat hives, on the other hand, had plenty of food and have boomed – with one already forming swarm queen cells. So get into your hives, using every good weather opportunity, and make notes every time you do.
I have appreciated people reaching out and writing in for advice, both through email as well as Facebook. This year we have our Area Groups up and running and so we should be able to give more options for support. Beekeeping confronts us with a multitude of scenarios, as well as many options for responding. So keep asking the questions and use your Area Group. Please consider inviting along other group members when you do your inspections. I love going to other hives to build my experience – I always need more chances to refine my queen spotting skill, for example.
The committee has ascertained that under the COVID restrictions our activities as beekeepers can continue. This includes attending our hives, collecting swarms and performing cut-outs. If done on private property, contact with the owner to discuss requirements must be done prior to the visit. Evidence of registration would be handy if you are checked – I keep an electronic copy of my registration letter and number on my phone.
Our new online BRB Beginners Beekeepers course has commenced and this week had the first video meeting. Our Education Officer, Cheryl, has been instrumental in setting the course up. If you know of someone who is interested in getting into beekeeping please refer them so that we can put them on a waiting list. Hopefully with the easing of restrictions we will be also be running our ‘taster’ course '2Bee or Not 2Bee,' as well as recommence the Open Hives program.
Nominations for the new committee will be available on the website shortly and I encourage you to self-nominate or tap someone on the shoulder. Role descriptions are being updated and will be available on the website. This is your last opportunity to provide input into the new Strategic Plan. The final version will be voted on at the AGM.
We have had 22 members complete the free online bio-security course and so qualify for a complimentary copy from BRB of the excellent Ag Guide: Healthy Bees (worth $25). There are only eight copies left so there is still time to get yours – just complete the course and email in your certificate. The books will be distributed at our next physical meeting, or else contact me to pick yours up from Mt Helen if you are keen to get reading. We want to encourage you all to be great at caring for your bees and helping your hives remain healthy.
Finally, our October meeting will be about selling honey. What are the requirements – extracting, bottling and labelling? Zoom into our meeting as Scott reveals all.
See you online,
Calvin Tromp President
Next BRB Meeting
The next BRB meeting will be held at 7:30pm on 1st of October 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 28th of of September, email firstname.lastname@example.org 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, frame maintenance, and collecting and preventing swarms.
This month Scott Denno will be discussing extracting, bottling and selling honey followed by 'Ask a Beekeeper' and a report from the committee.
Come along and bring your questions; it will be great.
Next Meeting October 1 on Zoom watch video for more detail
Ballarat Regional Beekeepers Inc Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The club has applied for a 3 month extension for our AGM from Consumer Affairs Victoria. We will be holding our AGM online as part of our November ZOOM meeting.
Prior to this there will be an online voting system to elect our committee for the next 12 months.
(Forms will be available in the Members Area of the BRB website.)
20 October to 3 November
A number of committee members have given many years of service to the committee and are stepping down. The club is very grateful for their service.
Nominations from members would be appreciated. The club wouldn't have been able to continue and adapt to the lock down environment without the great service of the committee, and we thank them for that.
We will be holding our election using a system called Election Runner. Members will receive codes in October to log into this system. If you receive an email from Election Runner, it isn't junk, please retrieve and action it.
Remember, every vote counts.
Beginner Beekeeping Courses
The club has commenced beekeeping courses again.
The first started on 14 September 2020 and is progressing well.
This online course covers the information needed to commence beekeeping. There are 5 two-week units each of which includes 45 min to 1 hour of online content (text, videos etc. ) and reading, for you to complete at a time that suits you. There is also an online discussion forum and a one hour Q&A session with guest experts.
The 5 units are Bees 101, Gearing up, Working with bees, Before you start and Having a healthy and productive hive.
An Open Hive experience will occur at the end of the course.
We will be running more of these courses later this year, if you would like to register your interest please email the club using this link and let us know. When we have enough names we will schedule another course.
What if it's windy, what's if it's too cold, what if...........?
Recently someone said to me, 'At the Club we always say what we should do, what's best to do when we can in the best conditions, but sometimes you just have to go in when conditions aren't perfect.'
Certainly if you feel your hive's about to swarm... there are huge numbers of bees, maybe packdown didn't go so well, the hive's full of honey and maybe there's nowhere for the queen to lay... time is of the essence!!
So, one recent Sunday when people were available and the 3-box hive had been moved to a better site ready for opening, the temperature was 14.6 'feels like ' 8.9, the cloud cover was heavy and the wind was blustery.
Those assisting learned quite a bit - best way to lift a box, how to light a smoker (Advanced Class!!), preparing the area, thinking positively (if you want to find the queen, stop focussing on drones....just. think. Queen!) and when to pack up and try for another day, when those inspecting will at least know what they're dealing with.
The queen cells have gone, there's evidence of a laying queen, they have plenty of stores, both pollen and honey, the extra equipment is ready and the plan for doing a split can wait till the bees are more settled. Bring on a calm warm day!
Beekeeping and Record Keeping
While having bees is a sweet, fun and challenging hobby, there are a few obligations that have to fulfilled by all beekeepers.
Record keeping is that essential part of the beekeeping we don't tend to think of too deeply. We spend a lot of time considering brood, diseases, re-queening and other practical aspects of beekeeping.
We need to keep records to ensure we manage our hives with a thoughtful and informed manner as well as to prevent the spread of disease. The Department of Agriculture follows up instances of notifiable diseases and the records you keep can help them to control these.
Below are a couple of examples how your records can benefit both you and the beekeeping community:
John lived in the country and had collected a swarm from Smith St in a local town. After a couple of months he noticed that the brood wasn't developing well, and some of the brood caps were sunken. Suspecting a problem he uncapped some brood and did a match stick test. The long stringy ropes from within the cell seemed like disease, so he collected some and sent it off for testing. He also informed the the Apiary officer. John was able to tell the Apiary officer exactly where he got the swarm from. The original hive was able to be located in a rotting tree, and the landowner convinced it should be destroyed and the original colony with it.
Tomorrow was looking like it could be a lovely day and Jane was considering going to the beach. In the back of her mind was that she had checked the hives last weekend. After quickly checking her records to discover it had been the weekend before. Jane re-organised her day and got into her hives early in the day, only to find a number of well-developed queen cells which she quickly dispatched of. After some thought she was glad her records helped her to stop her hives from swarming.
There are a lot of different ways to keep your records> Phone applications have been built, spreadsheets developed and paper forms printed off. Some even keep records in a notebook.
Agriculture Victoria, have partnered with BeeMAX to provide an option that will meet Victorian legal requirements. This web based system has many options and is a great choice for hobby beekeepers.
BeeMAX offers the capacity to manage these legal notification requirements, meaning that you no longer need to download the form, print, scan and send it off. Their online form system enables you to notify the department of Agriculture immediately.
There are other functions within BeeMAX which a backyard beekeeper can use to maintain their hive records,
It has the capacity to record:
Disease Management Actions
No matter what option you take, it is essential you keep records of some form to ensure that not only can your records support your beekeeping management, but that you meet your legal requirements.
Swarm Season's about to take off
This last month it's been terrific to see several club members join our team to capture swarms and do cutouts across our region. Training was provided via Zoom for 11 members of this team and our huge thanks go to Peter Debicki for passing on his knowledge to all involved.
While swarms haven't really begun in force due to the cool windy weather, the team has had some interesting calls for cutouts - in trees, in a cubby and in walls. All of these took place in tricky conditions so congratulations to the beekeepers who did this work, both to the people experienced with cutouts and those assisting to learn.
Andrew has been busy removing boards from an old shed and an old school as well as boxing up bees from a tree.
Arthur and Malcolm took a cubby apart looking for a hive which finally appeared occupying a huge area under the floorboards.
Peter, Daniel and Michael chain-sawed a tree in half to reveal a hive which had been there for a year- I'm sure the owners could have sold tickets for the afternoon's entertainment! A busy two weeks!
We are keeping records of the number of swarms, cutouts and trapouts done (for members of the public) by club members this year, so if you have been called to do one of these tasks please let me know by sending a message or an email.
We are aware that as the season progresses, some of the members of the Swarm Team will be at full capacity and will not wish to collect any more swarms, so may have some to sell or may offer to mentor someone who wants to know how to capture a swarm. I already have a waiting list of 4 people who would like to obtain a swarm somehow.... by buying, by capturing with help or by being given one.
If you'd like to 'tag along' on a swarm capture to learn, please ask. Members support members.
Jude Porteous, Swarm Coordinator
At the moment Open Hives are on hold. We want to begin our program of Open Hives, with a focus on opening hives with purpose.
We hoped to have an advanced open hive program this year focussing on open hives for specific reasons such as:
A general overview for new beekeepers
Queen identification and replacement
The current COVID-19 restrictions have put this on hold for now. We will recommence these open hive activities when we are certain that we can do so with the Victorian Chief Health Officers guidance and in a way that keeps all participants safe.
We will let everyone know when we can recommence this important activity.
"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
A Different Sort of Beekeeping
By Adrian and Cheryl
We recently inherited a Kenyan Top Bar hive. This will introduce to us another way of beekeeping and will be an ongoing learning experience.
I want to first acknowledge the family that made the decision that they were unable to continue beekeeping and needed to re-home their bees. This wasn’t an easy decision for them and we are doing our best to ensure these bees will have a good experience in their new home.
We currently have six Langstroth hives: five at home and one off-site. In our time with our colonies we have learned a lot: how bees behave, what they do and don’t like, as well as how our management techniques affect them. I had hoped that at some stage this year we would look into getting a Long Langstroth hive so that as I age and can no longer reach down or pick up heavy boxes this would be our way of continuing beekeeping. Our adoption of the Kenyan Top Bar will put that on hold for a while.
Early September we went with a car load of PPE: masks for COVID-19 restrictions and bee suits for the colony. While social distancing, we loaded the hive onto the back of our ute - the two of us easily lifted it in making me glad this happened at the end of winter rather than mid Autumn when it would have been very heavy with honey.
We closed the opening with tape, then wrapped it with sheets and more packaging tape - in fact, lots and lots of packaging tape was used. That worked, we didn’t lose bees and it was easily unwrapped when we got it home.
The hive was left for a week before we first ventured in to have a look at what on earth we had gotten ourselves into. The first learning for us was that the lid on this hive didn’t have a hinge: it needed to be lifted up then carried sideways, and because of the length, was most easily removed with two people. I had been quite concerned that while strapped to the back of the ute, and driven 30 kilometres through country roads, the comb would have dislodged from the top bars and be a big ugly mess at the bottom. I was pleasantly surprised to discover all the comb attached firmly to the top bars and doing what it was meant to do. In fact, I probably did more damage to the comb when inspecting it than transporting it.
That first inspection was to get some idea of what we would be dealing with. We found a combined 10 frames of brood and capped honey. The brood looked healthy with no sign of disease or other issues.
The Kenyon Top Bar hives are a long box with a triangular cavity across which supports wooden bars on which bees build their comb. Unlike the Langstroths that we are accustomed to, there are no sides to these frames, and so bees can easily build from one wall to another, fixing the comb more strongly to the actual box than the top bar. We haven’t discovered any frames completely attached like this yet, however there were a few that had some joins to the walls and we left them for a more thorough examination and dislodging on a nicer day - when we had time to think things through.
All up we were in the hive for about seven minutes (we checked the timestamps on the photos). We discovered a very healthy colony, with brood and honey reserves. It seemed like the top bars are too wide for the length of the box. When speaking to an experienced horizontal hive beekeeper, it was suggested that not only do we need to scrape the propolis off the sides of the top bars so they all fit, we should also consider trimming the follow-board bars, as they can swell with moisture from the humidity of the hive.
We will probably need to spend at least 45 minutes to deal with things like loosening all the frames, removing the excess propolis and checking for cross comb frames, which we may remove. We are planning to do this over a number of inspections. First stage, let's loosen and lift all the frames, it will involve sliding in from the side with the hive tool and breaking the connection between comb and wall, then lifting and breaking any cross comb joins between frames while lifting each frame out one by one. Hmmm, might take more than 45 minutes.
There are many way to keep bees. We have learned lots from listening to, and learning from those that have cared for different types of hive.
We are finding that while many things like bee space, temperature needs, food and brood remain the same, how we deal with each of these is a little different.
Adrian and Cheryl Claridge
Events, Requests, Offers & Pop-Ups
Monthly Meeting: October 1, 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
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.
Last month's club meeting was very well attended. Of course the topic of Swarm Season gained many people's attention and Area Leaders did a great job of promoting this meeting. That's not all they've done over the last month as they've been busy answering questions about hive management, looking for experienced beekeepers to help newbies do their first inspection since April, running a couple of Zoom meetings, sharing online resources and giving tips as well as welcoming new members. Just being available for members' questions is so valuable.....thanks Area Leaders for your work
I'm sure you’ll meet our Area Leaders on Zoom at our next club Zoom meeting at 7:30pm on Thursday October 1st.
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)