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Thanks so much to all those who attended the AGM yesterday, it was an excellent turn out. We had some lively discussion and a very informative presentation from Rose McGruddy about the use of RNAi technology to defeat varroa in our hives.

Thanks too to Brian Pilley from Beeline, who had a great range of material for purchase. What a good way to start the season!

For those of you who are attending the 2nd part of the Beginner’s Course on the 9th of September please call Gordon Nairn 027 538 9568 to confirm your attendance.

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Why do hives die?  First Field Day – Aug 5th 2023

Jeff Robinson 

Our challenge on our first Field day was to learn how to prevent hive losses and to help us understand why we have hive losses -particularly over winter.

Jeff Robinson and Lindsay Moir went through both hives at the Club site that we lost this winter to check what were the causes and how could we avoid this happening in the future.

These are my notes from their talk, they might help you to diagnose what went wrong if you too have experienced the loss of a hive over winter.

Key Points to Check:

  • Position- is the position of the hive good for capturing the best of the morning and winter sun
  • Wet conditions
  • Is there vegetation close up against the hive? 
  • Is the hive tilted forward for drainage?
  • Do you have a mesh base?
  • Is the base dry?

Observe the front of the hive.

If there are dead bees- check for deformed wings or mites.

Do you have a Top Feeder on board for winter?

First check your hive diary/notebook  -check all the details you recorded about the hive the last time you visited.

Remember : 

8 week cycle-for developing a strong box of bees at the beginning of the season.

If the Q laying now, help by offering good feed and sugar syrup to build up numbers. 

Remember it takes 8 weeks to develop a worker bee-  3 weeks to hatch, 4 weeks growing up.  8th week a field bee collecting nectar and pollen.

In the Spring the bees wake up with the help of running the honey from the old frames onto the brood/ Queen workers. 

Sugar syrup for Spring -you use the spring/ summer concentration of 2 parts water to 1 part sugar.

Winter feed is thicker. I just make it up – i jug full of boiling water stirred int 8 cups of sugar into ice cream containers- 1.5 ml holes in the top and use upturned in my top feeder boxes.

Queen breeders get ready now so they start raising queens in September.

Secret in the breeding is the feeding.

To allow for hive growth I move my boxes of bees down from their winter warm position at the top box to the bottom to give them room. To easily and quickly check hives in cooler weather when you need to avoid chilling the brood I move boxes aside to check bottom box if cold. Put in an insert feeder with green bracken or ladders – bird netting bubble wrap.

Don’t use fermented honey syrup because you will kill the bees. 

Heave your boxes to check for weight of bees in the hive. (A quick check method.)

On observing the frames of the first dead hive, we saw:

  • Bees heads in bums up – hungry bees
  • Damp conditions, ventilation problems, lack of warmth
  • Mouldy frames – bees need to be free of poor frames and need good ventilation,

How to help reduce this problem in your hive:


You can use another hive mat with a hole in the centre and feeder directly above

You can add polystyrene to fill the space or newspaper to absorb the moisture

You can add extra feed -pollen substitute or treatment strips, ‘Hive Alive’

Oxalic acid strips – be careful make sure mite count is low less than 35% infestation 

Or use alternate treatments, Bayvarol or Apistan or Apivar- suggest use a hole punch and toothpick to put more securely into the hive.

Remember to put food near brood and your choice of varroa treatment

2-3 frames of bees need to be a box of bees and will need a box of honey to get through winter.


They can keep themselves warm but they struggle with moisture in the hive.

I use mesh boards as ventilated hives all year round. 

I move my top bee box down to the bottom 

The clue is when you see wax built up on the hive mat or them drawing out wax comb they are on the move.

On checking the next frame we saw dead brood and mould so it was important to check for AFB. Using the measure- if you can see eggs you can assess whether your hive has AFB or not.

If you uncap a cell and you are checking if you see a ‘cast’ a bee past the egg and grub stage you haven’t got AFB because the bacteria affects the larvae-pre-pupa stage and the bees never grow past this stage.

We also saw dead bees with protruding ‘tongue’

‘Protruding tongue in fully formed bees CAN be a sign of poisoning. Other issues can also produce extended tongue ie death due to varroa.

AFB scale with ‘tongue’ is thought to be brain parts this is comparatively rare if seen it is definitely AFB.’ -Lindsay Moir AP2 inspector

This first hive had many problems but bee heads and chewed comb indicated hive was attacked by wasps and due to diminishing numbers brood got chilled. Food stores were low and dampness set in.

The second dead hive had two mice in it.


Reduce entrance, remove chewed, destroyed and contaminated frames.

A final reminder for us all is that hives need to be in the morning sun – this is the best position for a hive. I’m reminded of being told on my beginners course that my hive deserved the same sunny spot on your section that you would put your house.

If you have found this helpful please send some feedback to help me judge if this would be good as a regular follow up to our Field Days.

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Jubilee Dinner

Thanks to everybody who worked so hard to make yesterday evening such a success. Gordon went above and beyond to make the venue so welcoming, with helium balloons, a slideshow of the club site, and activities of members. Thanks to Jeff Robinson for his speech, David Spice for arranging the menu and sorting out the venue, Jo for her coordinating role and her welcome, Dan van Asch for his appreciation of the Club over the years, and the Ara team for putting on such a great spread. We also appreciate Paul O’Donnell for his generous gift of the Bell to the Club. Thanks also to Lindsay Moir for the gift of honey and to suppliers of the other gifts in the goody bags. Keeping a beady eye on the finances was Kerry Kearney. If I have missed anyone out – apologies!!

A wonderful niight enjoyed by all!

Incidentally, I produced the balms that were in the goody bags. The Calendula and Kawakawa balms are good for skin issues. Besides soothing, and healing calendula is known for its antifungal properties. Kawakawa has long been used for skin conditions including eczema. Cayenne balm has warming properties. It is good to use on aching muscles and joints. However, it contains capsaicin – the hot component of chillis, and should not be used as a lip balm, or allowed to come into contact with the eyes.

All three balms are made from our beeswax, and herbal extracts into almond oil. To the final mixture is added a little lavender essential oil as a scent. I hope you enjoy using them!

Michael Winter

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field day

Last Field Day this season

Saturday 6.5.23. a 9.30am start. It’s time to plant the last of the plants to bed them in over winter. Enjoy and celebrate our successes with the Honey Show.

We have to check the hives for disease, remove varroa strips if necessary, clean up frames and feed the bees. Going into the hives is weather dependent but we will be meeting.

Bring your honey, wax and mead for the honey show on Saturday. Check the website for details or contact a committee member if you have any queries. But come and have a go! Beginners very welcome.

There’ll be a BBQ for lunch. We also love it when you can bring along a treat to share. 

Nomination forms for standing on the and committee will be there and we’ll be encouraging you to help your club and share your knowledge and expertise  by joining.

There are also conferences coming up soon and of course our 60th anniversary dinner. Please do come along to our big night!

We’ll be starting back on the first Sat in Aug. There are 2 beginners days planned to start the year; part 1 on the 22.7.23 part 2.  9.9.23(to be confirmed). 

The AGM will be held on the 19th of Aug check the website for more details.

During June and July we leave the grounds to rest and it’s time for us to put our feet up after a busy and satisfying beekeeping year. We’re looking forward to see you all there Saturday.

La dolce vita,

Jo Winter

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Jo and Michael’s visit to the Dunedin Beekeepers Club

Saturday April 22nd Dunedin Beekeepers Club

We were early for the Sat afternoon meeting. Brian Pilley who had invited us, described it as an old bowling green; and there was a cloud of bees flying in and out of the fenced apiary in the corner of the site. We were obviously in the right place.

Michael and I investigated the apiary, and we found a long box hive and several more conventional Langstroth hives. The long box hive was certainly intriguing with its 4 different entrances and its high profile.

Inside the Club rooms we met Brian Ellis, the President, and a little later Brian Pilley from Beeline Supplies arrived. The Dunedin folk have a different focus from us here in Christchurch. They talk about what’s going on in their beehives and what’s needing to happen in the next month, and they also have a host of great speakers.

During our visit David Milne from Blueskin Bay Honey spoke about his beekeeping experiences and his ongoing fascination with harvesting and developing products from the venom. 

David brought along some bee venom products for people to try and also the some of the equipment that he uses. The venom is collected by gentle electrical stimulation. The electric stimulus is given using a wire grid and the venom is collected through a silk screen onto a glass plate. This process is gentle and the bees live on to sting another day.

Bee venom, I learnt, is not only an amazing product but also fascinating in the way it is collected and how it is managed afterwards to keep it’s quality and integrity. 

David Milne is involved fully in the Waitate community in Blueskin Bay and I admire how he manages it all.

The Dunedin Beekeepers Club was very interested in learning more about how our Club operates and I invited them to visit us next Spring. 

Michael and I felt very welcome and would encourage Christchurch folk to pop in and visit if you are in Dunedin on their Club day, the second Saturday of the month.

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April 8th Good Friday Working Bee at the Hive Site

Good Sorts on Good Friday

Up and out early to get the best of the day the small team of concreters, builders and gardeners were at the site before 8.00am. It was superb to have this tricky part of the shed build underway and ready for the shed itself. We called the working bee to suit the guys with the materials, concreter and gear, so regrets to anyone who had wanted to come, but was spending family time together, that’s so valuable you have to snatch time together when you can and we perfectly understand. It’s not usual for us to chose an inconvenient date and we try to give you as much notice as we can. But sometimes this isn’t easy.

For my part, not being a concreter myself, I couldn’t resist the garden centre sales during Easter and have added more plants for Irene and Dave to plant and to boost our flowering plants at the site for the bees. We’re always keen to have flowering nectar rich perennials to add to the garden if you’re clearing out your extras from your flower beds this autumn do think of donating a little something to the Club. Thanks again to the great team that came along on Friday, Murray, Dave, Irene, Trevor, Richard, Andrew, Gordon and Allan.

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Autumn Working Bee 25th March

Perfect weather for our working bee on Saturday meant we were able to get a lot done and move ahead with our plans to upgrade the beehive areas in preparation for winter. 

Knowing how cold and wet the site gets we have started to create a better site for the hives to reduce the impact of the winter weather. Each beehive will sit on a concrete pad and on top of a short platform to help keep them well ventilated and dry. Alongside each hive is a table to help us to inspect the hives. Thanks to Murray and Trevor the foundation framing and digging out for the pads was completed on Saturday as well as the foundation framing for the new bee gear shed.

Jeff Gibson organised the hiring of the chipper and had Richard, Peter, Dave and Allen as the team to get all the chipping done. Stunning work guys. We have two piles of chips now and all we need is the fish to go with it!

Dave Ress and John Cook replaced the rotten seats -which was no mean feat – they were designed to stay! Paul and helpers cleared the storm water grate, and Paul will paint the seats at a later date to give us a great finish. 

Trimming the lavender and battling the weeds, was tackled by another team who did a fabulous job thanks Veronica, Annette, Irene and others.

Wind-break repair and replacement was also on the schedule and completed thanks, Andy and John. 

This wasn’t all that got done, nor do I think I have named everyone-my apologies if I’ve missed your name but I wanted to share how much fun this was and how satisfying it is to see so much completed when the Club members are working together.

Thanks for all the brilliant help, we had a great time and achieved an awful lot.

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Field Day March 4th 2023 ‘Gadget Day’

Inventive, genius at it’s best! We had so much fun. Here’s a taster of some of the brilliant ideas that our creative members came up with and demonstrated at our ‘Gadget Day’

I will also share the three winners. Peter Heeringa came first, Andy second with the repurposed pet water bowl and Lee came third with the gauze bag to protect others from bees when they are close by, either gardening or allergic visitors.

  • Jeff Robinson
    • propolis collector
  • Gordon Nairn
    • top feeder- 4x 2 litres
    • wasp guard
  • Bronny Kirkwood
    • easy wedge tool
  • Kevin Gates
    • lifting tool
  • Andy McGill
    • protection for nucs etc while transporting in the car.
    • Repurposed pet water bowl for bees
  • Peter Heeringa
    • small power tool run honey extractor
  • Jeff Chandler
    • toothpick and hole idea in your varroa strips
  • Brian Pilley
    • stacking base for collecting honey supers
  • Murray Baxendale
    • hive tool holder and hive porch roof
  • Skippy Liddicoat
    • swarm vacuum 
  • Lee Carmichael

This was a day when we could all learn something new. Even those of  us who get a little lost when the talk turns to different types of vices’s – and some of us only get as far as thinking -GIN?

We are all planning our new inventions for the next ‘Gadget Day’  and looking forward to similar events.

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Amberley Saturday Market

On Saturday, Jo Winter (your President), and her partner Michael, stopped off at Amberley Saturday Market on their way to Hanmer Springs. We were delighted to find Lindsay Moir, former Club Hivemaster, with his display hive, happily sharing his experience as Master Beekeeper with delighted members of the public – young and old.

Well done Lindsay – Great Work!!
There were a couple of other folk who were featuring bee products. One stall was selling honey and other bee related items; At another, run by an environmental educationalist from Hurunui District Council, there was a demonstration of how to make beeswax food wraps to replace Gladwrap. Surprising how many people had not heard of these eco-friendly wraps!

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