Saturday, 8 June 2013

Covering Native bee's up for winter!

We have a couple a native bee hives in the back yard and in the winter its a good idea to give them a bit of extra insulation. From the bee's perspective, they don't have to waste valuable energy or resources keeping the hive warm if you help them out during the colder months. We subscribe to the Zabel's newsletter (Brisbane and possibly Australia's leading bee sellers) and a couple of weeks ago they sent out a newsletter advising us that it was time to insulate your hive if they are in exposed area's.

Here's what I did...

This is our Trigona Carbonari hive set up for summer. We have a tropical lid on it, designed to keep the hive a little cooler in the hot Queensland summers.

Last year we got a polystyrene vege box and cut it down so that the back half slides onto the hive. 
As it wasn't the perfect fit, we used a panel to slide into the side (see it pulled down on the left hand side of the hive in this photo?) so that the box fits more snugly. 

If you ask at your local vege place they will probably give you one. Polystyrene is an evil plastic and cant be recycled. It breaks down into small pieces that animals can mistake for food that lodges in their stomach and kills them -  so if you go down this track you need to reuse it year after year

Then using the left over piece of box, we fashioned a front with a hole for them to zoom in and out of.
We used a couple of panel pins (small nails) to hold the front onto the rest of the box and the side panels in.

Its surprisingly strong. The stains that you can see on this box are from the possums coming to explore either our pergola after we have had a BBQ or the bee's themselves as they might be able to smell the honey!
This cover is three years old and still going strong.

This is our Trigona Hockingsii Hive with its winter coat on it. Again another polystyrene vege box cut to fit. This one came from a friend when we split our hives last December and Ken has put a piece of canvas on the top of his cover to make it a little more water proof. He has also cut the holes in all the places that you can have entrances to the Hockingsii hive's so that you don't have to muck around with it each winter no matter what the current configuration of your hive!

So if you have a native bee hive, it would seem that now is the moment to pop on their winter coats for them and let them get on with strengthening their colony and making delicious honey for you!

Native bee's are very entertaining and its easy to lose a large number of minutes watching them (always take a cuppa with you when planning on watching them) as they have different coulored pollen coming in on their legs, or they are building cadagi seed walls or protecting the hive from ants or hauling out the dead for an unceremonious flinging out or guarding the hive as they think your shadow is an intruder or sitting in the sun warming up.... I could go on and on but I need to go and check on the bee's while I still have a full cup of tea in my hand!

Score card:
Green-ness: 3/5 for using polystyrene one of the most evil plastics but 5/5 for using it each year even if its not pristine and covered in possum pee!
Frugal-ness: It was free so 5/5 for frugalness
Time cost: About 10 minutes to cut and fit.
Skill level: That which is needed to use a sharp knife.
Fun -ness: Making sure your bees are nice and warm and making lots of honey is very fun!

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