4 Sites - 58 hives - 2 Stings - Endless sunshine
Today was my first proper day on the job. I got to wear a sparkling suit, which was less sparkly at the end of the day, and clumsily wield my hive tool. Shamelessly following at Harlan's heels while he inspected hives and shoving my mesh clad face inches from the frames he patiently held up. We needed to feed some with sugar syrup, it's been a wet slow-to-start Spring. Many we topped with a second box in preparation for the immenent onset of Spring nectar flow. The sites were beautiful most in lush paddocks, some very remote and requiring no small skill to drive up to. All were busy on this fresh Sunny day. There is some Manuka flowering, it's a rather inconspicuous shrub/bush. You wouldn't guess that it holds the key to the highest priced bulk honey In the world and is responsible for what Harlan refered to as 'the good rush' of beekeeping.
One hive had AFB (American Foul Brood) which was interesting but sad to see. It's a vicious bacteria detectable in the brood and means the hive, bees and all, must be burnt. All the hives have Varroa strips in them (produced by Bayers) which the bees work around and is meant to treat for this viscous mite. The caramel coloured Italian bees are a lot more tolerant than our Cape bee, nonetheless I managed to get stung by senselessly placing my hand in the wrong spot on two seperate occasions. Italian stings have an exquisite initial sharpness but ease off and despite the swelling there's not too much heat or throbbing, thus far.
The frames used are all-in-one frame and foundation plastic frames that have been dipped in wax. So the bees draw out the comb from the plastic sheet. I read once that this can interfere with the vibrations and thus the communication within a hive but again the bees seemed happy enough to adapt to this innovation.
We dipped into some honey from the comb, it wasn't quite ripe and I suspect the best is yet to come.
Sitting in the beach, where we broke for lunch, I felt deeply blessed by the landscape, her creatures and this opportunity. I am struck by the hard work that commercial beekeepers sign up for, as Harlan says, one has to be incredibly pragmatic. There is little time to get sentimental and you need to be constantly keenly observant as you quickly and gently open up hive after hive amidst hessian puffs from your smoker. And then there are relationships that need to be created and maintained with human land owners for decent sites. And knowing how to lift a one ton bucket of sugar syrup and decant some of it into a drum. And understanding meteorology, and remembering to put on sunblock.
Close of day 1