It’s winter, and it’s around now that I start to stress a little …
The nights are cold, we’ve had long periods of rain, and the daytime temperature often doesn’t reach 18 degrees. And 18°C is the magic number when it comes to my native bees (Tetragonula carbonaria). Below 18°C they stay in the hive and won’t come out to forage, which means they use their stores of nectar and pollen to stay alive.
Native bees don’t hibernate so the inside temperature of the hive is also really important. Extended periods of cold can kill a hive. I have a mental picture of them all huddled together trying to keep warm, sipping honey and telling tall (or small?) stories to while away the hours.
With all this in mind, I was understandably nervous about splitting my hive, but finally last spring, with the help of a friendly local native bee enthusiast, I felt brave enough to take the risk. So very early one Sunday morning, we cracked it open and were rewarded with the sight of a healthy, honey and pollen filled hive.
We put a new top on the base of the old hive and vice versa and sealed the joins with tape to keep out predators until the bees could seal it themselves. The new hive is now sitting under the Pecan tree where it will get some winter sun.
Still feeling a bit cowardly, I decided to take the minimum amount of honey, and give the bees the best chance to rebuild the hive and to set aside stores for winter.
Native bee honey is quite runny, and it has a strong complex flavour. Drizzled over vanilla bean ice-cream, I can tell you that it was absolutely delicious!
The good news is, that so far after each spell of cold rainy weather, as soon as the daytime temperature reaches 18°C – out they come . Fingers crossed for the rest of winter.
PS: If you are looking to keep native bees in Australia,
this is the bible , by entomologist Dr. Tim Heard.
Or even better, if you live in NSW or QLD you might be able to get to one of his fascinating seminars or workshops.
This is how I got hooked!