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AFB, Wisdom, and a jungle

Two weeks ago I had my hive inspected, checking for AFB, or American Foul Brood. AFB is a nasty bee disease, caused by a resilient spore forming bacteria, which some countries treat with antibiotics. New Zealand is trying to eradicate AFB, and so infected hives are not treated, but burned, and every hive in the country is supposed to be inspected every year. I hope we win. I was fortunate to have my hive inspected by the legendary Bruce McCusker – I was so grateful for his time, and his wisdom on beekeeping lore which I sought to extract. Bruce has literally thousands of hives, many producing that elixir called Manuka Honey. Thankfully my hives were free of any AFB, and my queens are happily laying, and workers bringing in pollen and honey.

Hives in summer

Apple (left) and Olive hives, slowly getting taller. So is the jungle. Visible are carrots, beans, corn, potatoes, and dock.

One thing which Bruce does, to maximise yield, is double-queen hives. To double-queen, the hive setup he suggests is a full depth brood box with a queen, then a queen excluder, then a 3/4 depth brood box with the second queen, then another queen excluder, followed by the honey supers. The basic idea behind it, is that the queens can together produce 4000 bees per day to bring in their magic cargo. More bees, more honey. I am not sure about how things like wintering, and spring time ramp-up would need to be structured, but it sounds epic. Still, we all remember how things turned out between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots – not pretty.

The jungle of a garden is rapidly getting out of hand, and the potato patch has swallowed the peas. I really do not have time at the moment to vigorously weed and mow, and even my staunch ally – the lawnmower – has all but succumbed to the photosynthesising hoard.

I have removed some honey from Dad’s hive – three boxes worth, I am guessing 40Kg or more. His hive is in the city, surrounded by well irrigated gardens. One of the dear bees managed to get into my overalls, and sting my leg. Burns like fire, and went red, but only a little swelling. At least I can be grateful I am not getting sensitive to them. The process used to remove the boxes was:

  1. had empty box ready.
  2. took out a frame, and shake the bees back into the hive, E then brushed the remainder off.
  3. Dad lifted the lid off the empty box, and I put the cleared frame in.
  4. Dad then pops the lid back on to prevent too many followers.
  5. repeat until the box is empty.
  6. helper A puffed a bit of smoke around, until none of us could see through our tears. He then toddled off to play croquet.
  7. clean out the now empty box, and repeat.
  8. Helper E then abandoned us to try and control the croquet game. Lots of fun. It ended in tears

I can’t wait to extract.

Where is my lawnmower?

That handle is attached to a lawnmower. Oh dear, how ironic.


The hives are just visible through the jungle. Poor lawnmower.

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