Saturday, October 12, 2013

honey bunch!

One of the most beautiful parts about living on a farm is watching the cycles of the seasons. Getting to know the patterns and the rhythms of time and weather and nature. 

One of the most wonderful parts of our journey is knowing that as seasons come and go, we are watching and learning and becoming more and more comfortable with our role. We are getting better at recognising the signs, and having the right equipment, and knowing who the experts are when we need that extra little bit of help.

Last Sunday while we were walking through the oldest apple orchard examining the blossom, we discovered a swarm of bees in a Tagasaste tree.

One year ago the very same thing happened and I wrote this post;
Late last Wednesday evening, or very early Thursday morning, half of the bees belonging to one of our bottom orchard hives suddenly gorged themselves on honey and flew on out of their hive. We weren't around to see it happen, but according to everything I've read, 1000's of bees leaving the hive at once is quite an incredible sight to behold.
Once they had escaped the hive with their queen bee, the swarm quickly found a temporary resting place in a nearby tree.
When we drove past on our way to school on Thursday morning they were calmly waiting in a big bee cluster for their scouts to come back with news of a more suitable permanent hive. Leaving behind half their colony and a new queen to take over is the hive's way of managing their population.
Last year we were filled with adrenaline as we suited up and caught that swarm. Last year we referred to books, we googled and we followed every rule we read.

This year we felt more ready. Bees swarm in springtime, we were right on track. 

We started with a visit to Barry the bee man for some bee box bits.

Barry is one of those guys every community should be lucky enough to know. Barry has been bee keeping for 60 or 70 years and there wouldn't be much that he wouldn't know. Barry has bees all over Victoria, he mills his own bee boxes and makes his own power. And Barry is patient and didn't laugh or make faces when I asked him the silliest of beginner bee questions.

For many years we rented bees off Barry but then a few years ago we bought them and Barry has been generous with his time and information ever since.

Back home we measured and sawed and nailed and built a new bee box.

Then we suited up and went down to see our busy buzzy buddies.

We placed the new box under the tree where the swarm was hanging.

And then Farmer Bren hit the the branch next to the bees and they dropped in a big lump with their queen into their new hive home.

Then we put their lid on and watched them do their thing for a while. And we talked quietly about colonies and anthropomorphisation and pollination and queens and seasons.

I couldn't help feeling a bit jealous of my girls' childhood. Of how early they are starting. Of how much they will know.

This newly hived swarm is now the sixth in our old apple orchard and with full blossom only about two weeks away, we are so very pleased to have housed them.

Happy new hive bees.

I hope your weekend is BEEEEEAUTIFUL!!



  1. Beautiful Kate, just beautiful! x

  2. This is one of the neatest posts I have read in ages; thanks so much for sharing.

  3. This is amazing stuff Kate. I love the idea of having bees but I must admit I am terrified of them. Your girls are indeed learning so many wonderful things. I love the texture of the bees in the first two photos, you have captured them so well. I hope you are having a great weekend x

  4. AM impressed. Amazing what they are learning.
    Am chuffed, that I know your tree :-) I did my masters on Leucaena leucocephala, a friend on tagasaste, and we helped each other out come harvesting time. Oh, separating a tagasaste harvest into leaves, twigs, thicker twigs , branches, for nutritional analysis! Green-stained fingers.

  5. I love seeing your girls suited up and experiencing this Kate! Thanks for sharing, I love bee's.

  6. An incredible story. I would love to have a hive of wee native bees in my yard, am going to see if I can get one delivered to me.

  7. I love all the pictures that go with this story, there is a bee course in town next week, I was very tempted to sign up!

  8. That is wonderful! xxx

  9. amazing! I live such an urban life in central london - season are only seen by the weather and the odd tree in the park. Such beautiful photography too.

  10. This post is one of my favourites of all time! Indeed what a childhood... what an education!! What a difference they'll be in the world! THanks for sharing this part of your life with us! :)

  11. Well I've learned something new there Kate - your girls are indeed very lucky to be having such experiences. The photos are wonderful as ever but I love the one of the two girls in their bee suits - one of them looking slightly perturbed by the elasticated wrist! Well done x Jane

  12. Beautiful post! I'm trying to work up the nerve to even thinking about bees on our new property. Any advice to get me over the line?

  13. You busy bees! Well caught. Lucky girls. I hope you get lovely blossom honey soon. Jo x

  14. What a beautiful, charming post, lovely photos ad you are so lucky to be part of it all. Xxx

  15. There's been so many swans around recently! But sadly we're just not ready for one. We've got out box, we just need to get some suits and a top and bottom to the box. But also I think indeed to focus on baby building right now. It's so lovely that your whole family can get involved!

  16. I love your exploration of nature's cycles. And your family looks like moon explorers in their bee suits!

  17. Fascinating!! Your girls are having The Best childhood. So many wonderful memories. Enjoy your honey!

  18. My husband kept bees for several years and even taught classes and made his own bee equipment. We had up to 9 hives on our 1/2 acre at one time and he has caught lots of swarms - as you said, they are a part of the cycle of nature. This past year we were learning how to fit a baby into our life and seeing what else we still have time for and unfortunately the bees lost out. So the one bee hive that we had left "went wild" and the bees vacated the hive in spring. Normally at this time of year, on warm days I could smell the honey wafting around the yard - such a good smell! I've been missing it the past couple of weeks, so it was nice to see your post.

  19. Seeing a swarm always amazes me.
    And I think I'm envious of your girls childhood as well Kate. Lucky, lucky girls! :-)

  20. Hi Kate,
    A beautiful post.
    Your girls are getting an awesome childhood. they will have a lot of memories to share with their children. :) Stingless small bees are here around my home. But I don't know whether beekeeping with small bees is possible or not. Wish you good luck!!!

  21. Great post! Makes me think we may be able to have a try at something like this one day...

  22. I'm jealous of your girls' childhood too, what a fantastic experience. Go bees!

  23. We have had a visit from a bee guy recently to seek some advice about a swarm who felt that our eaves would make a wonderful home. He was one of the most engaging people I have met in ages. Totally passionate about bees, I could have chatted with for hours just about bees. We are closer now to having our own hive, which will be a wonderful addition to our suburban life. Our cat might not be too keen, she recently found out that fighting with bees is not recommended.

  24. i am quite jealous of their childhood too, for me and my boy.

  25. Lucky you. It would be nice if it was as easy to get them out of someone's wall. We, (husband!) have had a few calls lately to see if we want them but he hasn't the time and I haven't the knowledge. I have only ever seen a *real* swarm like that and that was out in the bush. Amazing sight. I enjoyed reading this.



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Kate XX

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