Busy as a bee...

Last updated 14:53 07/12/2012

"There are certain pursuits, which if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees for instance." - Henry David Thoreau

Today's blog might not be about kiwi or tuatara, but more rests on the closeness to nature we can find in our own backyards. And today's blog is a request for help from you!

Honey bee on flower

The bloke and I have recently bought a house and are proceeding square metre by square metre to turn what was an enormous lawn into mostly productive space. First we rotary-hoed up a huge chunk of lawn into a garden. We only did that a month ago, and we already have lettuces, silverbeet, spinach, chives bursting out of the soil and ready to eat, closely followed by zucchini, pumpkins, kamo kamo, tomatoes (including cherry tomatoes the bloke grows UPSIDE DOWN in muttonbird buckets hanging from the fence), radishes, beans, peas... the list goes on and on - all in just over a month!Good life

After an obligatory few years as a public servant in Wellington, then a stint in Auckland, the gardening bug never really came easy to me - but there is something truly soulful about it, and crunching into your own produce is something pretty special indeed. OK, this is starting to sound like I'm stepping on Woman vs Wild's bloggy toes, so I'll settle down on the vege rave now...

We've had chooks for a while, and we love the taste of home-grown eggs, but it has always been a goal to add to our "good life" pursuits and have a working beehive. 

Last week it was the bloke's birthday, so for a surprise I arranged for a beekeeper to deliver some honeybees to our beehive (which I had built for the bloke's Christmas pressie a couple of years ago, but never had the space to put in the bees until now).  It was really interesting to get the bees put in the hive - and there were a lot more bees than I thought! We got four frames of bees in total, and had to fill in all the relevant paperwork, become registered apiarists and commit to being good beekeepers.

The beekeeper who dropped off the bees was tough as nails, but a real softie when it came to the welfare of the bees, and made sure that I knew about providing extra feed for the bees (sugar water, "but only if there is bark or something in the water so the bees don't drown"), as well as making sure they'd be warm enough on the slightly cooler day they were delivered. He left with some good instructions, some strips to keep disease out of the hive, and then carried on his way, leaving me with a few thousand new tenants.

Beehive window

Peek-a-boo! It all looks good in there, but now what?

So the bees have happily settled in their new hive, appear to be doing well (our hive has a door with a perspex window in it so you can see them doing their thing inside), and for now I've just left them alone. They seem to be busily feasting on the clover pollen, and we are thrilled that our veges will all be pollinated by our little yellow and black workers. 

However, to be honest, apart from studying bee brain behaviour in a neuroethology paper at university, I don't really know anything at all about beekeeping. I've discovered a great national beekeepers association website, and we have a couple of books, but I'm keen to hear from you!

Do you have bees? Got any tips for a couple of would-be apiarists? Any traps or pitfalls to watch out for? Do you love having bees in your backyard?

» Please feel free to email me to send me your questions, feedback, ideas or photographs for In Our Nature blog posts. You can also join the In Our Nature Facebook page.

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