Busy as bee cleaning out garage

Winter must be on the way out - I've been feeling the urge to spring-clean.

So we started with the garage.

It all had to go.

Handy bits of wood, miscellaneous rusty nuts and bolts, old kitchen cabinets, lids to dustbins that have long gone and assorted camping equipment (broken tent poles, bent pegs and the like) were loaded on to the trailer along with short bits of chicken wire and empty cartons that had failed to come in handy, despite being kept for years.

But I kept finding useful treasures, such as the piece of perspex that will be the top of my solar wax melter, when my bees finally gather something for me to harvest.

Still, for every handy thing I kept I ditched about 20, so the car fits into the garage, and the middle shed is mine for beekeeping jobs.

But when it's too cold to be mucking around with bees or building hive parts in the shed (which doesn't have a door), I've been sitting by the fire reading the new fourth edition of Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand, by Andrew Matheson and Murray Reid (Exisle Publishing).

These guys know their stuff.

Andrew Matheson spent five years as director of the International Bee Research Association, based in the UK, while Murray Reid is apicultural services manager for Asurequality, an organisation all Kiwi beekeepers should know.

This just-published edition has been revised and updated, and includes information on problems such as nosema and varroa - vital stuff for those of us in the South who haven't experienced such potentially deadly pests yet.

It's a comprehensive guide to keeping bees in New Zealand, for both amateur and professional beekeepers. In a hobby where you spend a lot of time alone, trying to figure out what a bunch of insects are doing and how to make them do it your way, this book is like having a wise and friendly tutor looking over your shoulder.

The book deals with Langstroth hives (the ones you usually see around the countryside) and contains nothing about the vexed subject of the top-bar hives springing up around urban areas. Commercial beekeepers distrust these - or at least the beekeepers who have them - because they fear the spread of diseases such as American Foul Brood, due to not being able to inspect hives in the traditional way.

Top-bar proponents say they are just as easy to inspect and their bees are healthier anyway, because the hives are more natural.

Some say top bars are illegal, because the comb is not built on removable frames. Others say that's just silly, since the bars on which comb is built are easily removable for the legally required inspections.

It would have been nice to hear the experts' view.


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