Town and Country: Daffs' briefer bloom

You'd think I would have sorted things out by now, but every spring it happens - our lambs arrive at the same time as the daffodils, and the only place with lovely rich grass for them is the daffodil paddock at the front of the house. So my beautiful display gets nibbled by lambs and squashed flat by ewes plonking down for a rest.

I really must save another paddock for the nursery and let the daffs grow in peace.

Even the daffodils around the house are a bit sad-looking at the moment, because of a quick-moving 2-year-old grandson picking "beautiful flowers" for his Nana. Unfortunately, he just pulled the heads off, so I couldn't even put them in a vase. But the look on his beaming wee face as he showed me meant I couldn't really tell him off.

I was anything but beaming last week when I got a letter from the American foulbrood control folk to say the bee disease had been found within 5km of my hives. It's the bee world equivalent of foot-and-mouth disease. It spreads in honey and the infected hive had been robbed out, its honey stores taken by other bees.

I have to be even more vigilant now as I inspect the hives, and if I find any evidence of AFB, there's only one course of action. Wait until evening, when all the bees are in, seal up the affected hive and pour petrol in to kill the bees. Then the hive - hundreds of dollars worth of bees, honey, wax and woodware - must be burnt.

This costly exercise is a legal requirement for all New Zealand bee keepers - no wonder we hate finding AFB.

I passed a course last December on how to recognise the disease, but I've been so worried I would get things wrong that I thought I might ask someone more experienced to give my girls the once-over.

Then I found out that the infection was more than 4km away from us, and it was on the other side of a mountain. I don't really think my girls have been flying so far and so high when they have plenty of food close at hand, so I'm not panicking any more.

However, I now have two bee suits and two sets of gloves - one for home and one for away. That way I won't bring home AFB or accidentally spread it anywhere. And it will be a year or more of painstaking inspections before I feel my girls have dodged the AFB bullet - if they have at all.




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