Introduction to natural beekeeping course with Woz

This weekend (2nd – 3rd June) seven new and aspiring beekeepers from the Woodend Bee-Friendly Society had the privilege of learning from  Warwick Bone the principles and method of beekeeping that seek to make paramount the physiology of honeybees and their natural needs. Participants here are not only learning lots of important information that will equip them to keep bees in the future but also enjoying Woz’s humour and entertaining style of teaching.

Introduction to natural beekeeping course 2-3 June

Registrations are now open for the two-day course on introduction to natural beekeeping by Permaculturist, Warwick Bone, at the Woodend Neighbourhood House, 9am – 5pm, on the weekend of 2nd and 3rd of June.

This course is designed for beginners to provide participants with the information they need to start natural beekeeping with confidence. Natural Beekeeping regards the well being of the bees as no less important than the honey yield. It is simple, low cost and low effort and in tune with nature – perfectly suited for small scale backyard beekeeping and commercial beekeeping alike.

The course will cover both the theory and practical side of keeping bees and is designed to help beginners keep bees naturally with confidence. Learn about the bees themselves, how to work with them and best provide for their needs. Discover the three most popular hive types, Langstroth, Warre and Kenyan. Be exposed to beekeeping boxes, equipment and tools, and see a demonstration of typical hive manipulations and, of course, taste some honey!

Please bring along a plate to share for lunch, a notebook and pen, and wear weather appropriate clothing.

Costs:

$140 for members of Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group;

$160 for non-members.

Contact David Gormley-O’Brien on woodendbees@gmail.com to register your interest.

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WBFS Meeting 20th May, 3-4.30pm, Woodend Neighbourhood House: Update on the status of Varroa and The Asian Honey Bee in Australia from a Biosecurity Perspective

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Topic: Update on the status of Varroa and The Asian Honey Bee in Australia from a Biosecurity Perspective 
Speaker: Ron Glanville
Ron has worked for more than 40 years in the field of Biosecurity, in policy, scientific and operational areas. This has primarily been in the area of animal health, but also across plant health and invasive plants & animals. Until the end of 2010 he was Chief Biosecurity Officer and Chief Veterinary Officer with Biosecurity Queensland. Since then he has established a consultancy business, conducting reviews and providing advice on animal health and biosecurity issues. 
 
Ron will provide an overview of the current status of varroa and how it affects bees, the current world-wide situation, the history of detections in Australia, with a particular emphasis on the Cairns asian honey bee incursion and the current incursion of both AHB and varroa in Townsville.  
The latter will include information on the techniques that are being used in the response. He will then finish with some information on what bee keepers should watch out for.

Bendigo Beekeeping Field Day

Image result for bendigo beekeeping field dayThe Bendigo Branch of the Victorian Apiarists’ Association are holding their 39th Annual Beekeeping Field Day on Sunday 14th October 2018. Save the date! Trade Stall holders welcome, and mated queen bees may now be ordered to pick up at the Field Day.

When:   Sunday 14th October 2018, 9:30am – 3:00pm
Where: Harcourt Leisure Centre, 68 Bingham’s Road
Highlights:

Industry Stalls
Practical Open Hive Demonstrations
Hobbyist Or Beginners Corner
Mated Queen Bee Sales
Auction of Bee Goods
Extracting Honey
Specialised Machinery
Refreshments (including lunch)

Contact details in the 2018 Field Day Flyer. Further program information will be provided closer to the date.

European Wasp Management

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It’s that time of year, March and April, when populations of European wasps reach their peak and people start looking for ways to reduce them. European wasps, Vespula germanica, are an introduced pest species that was first spotted in Melbourne in 1977 1 and soon spread throughout Victoria. They thrive in our relatively mild climate, can be a major social pest and can impact native fauna, livestock and fruit crops. Although there is a perception of these wasps being highly aggressive “killers”, only 2 deaths between 2000 and 2013 have been attributed to wasps in Australia 2. In comparison, 25 deaths due to bee stings have been recorded over the same period, only one of which was a beekeeper.

Vespula germanica is a skilled scavenger – the biggest risk to people is from taking in a mouthful of food or drink with a wasp in it. For most people, it’s the disruption of outdoor social activities that drives them to look for ways to reduce the wasp population. There is a lot of information on the internet regarding European wasp control techniques, but very little attention given to the off-target effects. The main strategies are summarised below, along with their legal implications.

Drowning Traps

These come in a number of styles, but usually involve a plastic milk or soft drink bottle with small holes drilled in it. Either a sugar or protein-based lure is used, topped up with enough water to drown the trapped wasps. These are most effective in spring and autumn, when queen wasps are foraging, otherwise their impact on the wasp population is very limited. The off-target impact of these traps  varies on the environment and lure, but can be significant 3.

Many recipes recommend a honey-based lure, but this is an offence under the Livestock Disease Control Act 4. Of primary concern is that honey can contain American Foulbrood (AFB) spores, a serious disease of honey bees with potentially devastating effects on apiaries. Providing bees access to honey can be a very effective way of spreading this disease to both managed and feral hives. It is also completely unnecessary, since it has been shown that honey is less attractive to European wasps than a sucrose solution 3.

Bait Stations

Illegal homemade wasp baits are usually some form of poisoned meat, designed to be taken back to the nest by workers, killing the entire nest. A popular version being advertised online uses a veterinary chemical intended for use on domestic animals to poison the meat. The use of these illegal homemade baits poses a significant risk to other animals and unlike registered chemicals, the potential impact of using these baits has not been assessed by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). An APVMA permit is required before unregistered chemicals can be legally used – this allows the APVMA to ensure the intended use does not causes unintended adverse impacts on the environment, human health or trade. Examples of APVMA permits issued for european wasp control can be found at
https://portal.apvma.gov.au/permits.

It is also an offence to provide information that leads to someone using chemicals in an illegal off-label 5 manner, and carries a maximum penalty for an individual of $7,500 6.

Nest Discovery and Destruction

European wasp nests can be difficult to find, as the nest is usually concealed in the ground or within a cavity, identifiable only by the stream of wasps coming and going. Often nests are only discovered by chance, but with patience it is possible to track foragers back to their nest. Foragers generally fly in a roughly straight line back to their nest, which will usually be less than 200m away. Once discovered, the safest way to deal with the nest is to contact a pest controller as the wasps will defend their home if disturbed.

Wasp powder (permethrin) is the usual method for destroying nests, applied to the nest entrance, preferably after dark. There are various products registered with the APVMA for this purpose, but it is important to note that in order to minimise risks to the user and the environment they all must be used in accordance with the label.  In particular, chemicals like permethrin must not be allowed to enter drain, sewers, streams and ponds and some of the products also prohibit the use on humans, pets, exposed food, food preparation areas or food utensils.  A full list of registered products is available at
https://portal.apvma.gov.au/pubcris

References:

  1. Museum Victoria, European Wasps in Australia
    https://museumsvictoria.com.au/wasps/
  2. Injury trends from envenoming in Australia, 2000–2013,  Welton (2017), Internal Medicine Journal
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/imj.13297
  3. Carbohydrate bait preferences of wasps (Vespula vulgaris and V. germanica) (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) in New Zealand, Spurr (2010), New Zealand Journal of Zoology
    https://doi.org/10.1080/03014223.1996.9518090
  4. Livestock Disease Control Act 1994, Division 5 – Bees.
    http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/LTObject_Store/ltobjst9.nsf/DDE300B846EED9C7CA257616000A3571/07754A89299915DBCA2580D50078792E/$FILE/94-115aa076%20authorised.pdf
  5. Considered to be “providing false and misleading information” under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992.
    http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/LTObject_Store/ltobjst9.nsf/DDE300B846EED9C7CA257616000A3571/F7C82BDB0E01D2E4CA257E67000941FA/$FILE/92-46aa054%20authorised.pdf
  6. http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/about-us/media-releases/warning-dont-use-homemade-european-wasp-baits
  7. https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/european-wasp/european-wasp-identification-guide

Excellent turn-out at Introduction to Beekeeping course in March

Twenty-four members of the Woodend Bee-Friendly Society enjoyed the most recent Introduction to Beekeeping course conducted by our veteran beekeeper, Jim Sansom, on March 13 and 20 at the Woodend Community Centre. The course was intentionally theoretical, giving a good basis for the practicum on handling bees scheduled for October.

A heads-up for our next monthly meeting on April 15th, 3pm, at Woodend Neighbourhood House. Jim, Matty, and Matt will be covering the extremely important topic of packing down your hive for winter. Learn how to prepare best for enhancing your hives’ chances for surviving the cold, lean months.

Vale Bill Middleton

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Bill and Woz intently discussing the finer aspects of natural beekeeping while Sally smiles on beatifically.

It is with a deep sadness and sense of loss that we hear the news that Bill Middleton passed away a few days ago after a short illness. Bill was a very much appreciated member of the Woodend Bee-Friendly Society and was very passionate about Warré and Kenyan bar hives. He will be remembered fondly for his good humour, enthusiasm, and practical workmanship (he was a very competent woodworker).

Our sincerest sympathies to his wife, Lyn, and other members of his family coping with their loss.

David Gormley-O’Brien, Emma Collins, and the WBFS leadership team.