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Location, Location, Location... beekeeping in the Adelaide Hills


#1

so I have been keeping bees in the suburbs of Adelaide and it has been going swimmingly. We get good honey flows throughout the year- colonies build strongly in spring, and overwinter without the need to feed. In fact we never feed- and bees come out of winter with stores of honey intact. Over the last 8 months I have moved some hives up into the Adelaide hills at various locations and have discovered that it is an entirely different kettle of fish.

I have three different sites in the Hills: Bridgewater, Upper Sturt and the Fleurieu Peninsula. So far all locations have been very different to what I have come to expect int he suburbs. We are well into spring and none of my hills apiaries yet have honey stores. There is open comb at the edges where there would be honey in town. Several small late season swarm Nuc colonies I had starved and perished over winter.

I now realise that I will have to manage my hills colonies differently than I would in the suburbs- and perhaps feed some of them in winter.

I am curious if anyone on here has experience int he adelaide hills and can share things they have learned? I would have assumed the hills would be very good as there are many large trees, etc. but it seems things can be quite patchy. I inspected two colonies yesterday that came through winter meekly- and are only just now building up. They have very little stores on hand. However many very large river redgum trees adjacent are covered in buds and look like they will bloom shortly- so I have hope that when that happens the flow will start. At upper sturt my hives did produce lovely honey in Autumn last season- so I know flows do happen. It just seems they are not as regular as in the burbs. I am thinking the cold nights- and less diversity of plant species means that there are more dearths- and also maybe more competition from other bees.


#2

I’m in SE Qld so can’t comment on location but it’s so interesting you’ve posted this. I’ve recently caught 4 swarms and have found the ones I’ve kept in my suburban back yard are slow moving, yet the ones I’ve placed at my more rural site are absolutely pumping. The sites are only 10km apart, probably less as the crow flies, so are probably on similar forage. But different environments as we live at the base of a mountain range, and my other site is on top of it. Might rain here but not up there, and visa versa.
I’m interested to see the responses you get!


#3

I hope someone chimes in too- otherwise I will ask questions at the next bee society meeting.

I do have a specific question: I just read that redgum buds can take 11 months to actually develop into flowers. So now I am not sure if the ones I saw will flower this year or next year. does anyone know if redgum flowered last year in SA? 2017? I am hoping it is this year- and according to the normal flowering time it seems liek that’s likely - as it normally flowers around december- meaning the buds have probably been there for the last 9-10 months.


#4

Having visited the hills often and all I remember is the massive River Red Gums, so is it possible that without them flowering the hives up there are struggling a bit for enough nectar to produce much honey.
Down in the suburbs there would be a bigger range of flowering trees and shrubs and maybe a more consistent flow over the year. Just my memory and thoughts Jack.
To find out about the duration of buds and flowering period I would ask the Forestry Dept or Parks and Wildlife.
Cheers Jack


#5

That’s exactly what I figure too peter: the eucalyptus and natives flower irregularly and there are dearth’s in between. Also the cold nights burn up resources.

However my hives at Upper Sturt are within flying distance of stirling: which is full of beautiful expansive garden- full of all manner of introduced trees and flowers. Looking around you’d think it was bee paradise. I wonder how much competition plays a role…

I have hopes that there will be some big flows from time to time. Lately it’s been all swarm and no honey makes jack a dull boy… I have two hives in the burbs that have issued 4 swarms in 10 days. Despite having been weakened out- and one of them was just a swarm I caught in August- it built out an 8 frame box in 8 weeks and swarmed on me!


#6

I am sure that competition for nectar and pollen plays a much bigger part than we estimate in production from a hive.
Maybe there is more hives about Stirling so the extra foraging there is somewhat neutralized.
Where I lived in the Hawkesbury area an hour west of Sydney the agricultural college had I would guess at 600 hives in a 10 acre paddock, the sky was thick with bees and it always made me wonder why the hives weren’t dispersed to other areas. I thought back then that the hives were way to many, but I was just a bee keeper…
Cheers Jack


#7

Basically, what you describe, is our experience here on Mt Jerusalem. Except we started in the mountains and then moved some hives to the beach burbs, just 10km away as the bee flies.
Our mountain bees have the entire Mt Jerusalem National Park to forage on and initially I thought there must be always something for the bees.
Not so.
It’s native bush, and gums flower sporadically and not every year.
Even though there are many different gums and cedars, one can’t count on seasonal forage.
Down in the burbs, people plant stuff for all season good looking flowers, so there is always something. And then melaleuca in winter! And all that manuka.
I’m glad we don’t have it up here though. I don’t like the taste at all, but some people like it.

But - once any of these eucalyptus up here flower, it’s hard to keep up with harvesting. Like as it happened just last week after the 2 weeks of rain we had. The iron bark was still going, then the turpentines went off, then the black butts, and I don’t know enough yet to be able to state what else. It’s the first time I saw several hives bring in more than 3kg per day. Within 2 or 3 days I suddenly had 14 supers full to the brink. A nice unexpected problem to deal with.

In winter, the colonies more or less hold their own in the mountains. A nuc would need feeding. The beach burbs hives still gain, always. Unless we have relentless rain of course, which probably doesn’t happen as much in the Adelaide Hills.

Overall, we prefer the mountain honey and would always choose this quality above quantity.
The taste of the mountain honey is way superior and we know the bees forage in pristine nature.

In the burbs, there is very mixed forage, so your honey is likely multi floral and you generally can’t pinpoint the source.
In the mountains you can get single source honey. Well, learning about eucalyptus takes me a while, not an expert here yet.
An interesting subject.

There is something to single source.


#8

thanks for that- pretty much confirms what I am thinking. Just have to wait now till I get one of these native honey flows- and will have to start learning more about the natives so I can start to try to identify what is in the hives. In the suburbs our honey is always labelled as ‘mixed flora’ as we have no idea where the bees are going. My apiary at Upper Sturt is located at an organic fruit orchard that backs directly onto a large national park- with another park about 1 km away. Immediately behind the hives there is a large field full of some kind of tea tree- so I will be sending a sample off to be tested to see if it has that ‘manuka substance’ in it. The intermittent nature of flowering of natives explains why almost all commercial beekeeping is migratory. I am happy with the idea of stationary hives- even if it means less honey (it’s also less work :wink: )


#9

I was semi-commercial years ago and all my honey was sold by the 205 litre drums, I regarded it as farcical to call it by a tree species as the bees foraged on what was available on the day. I called it “Mudgee Bush Honey”, “Hawkesbury Bush Honey” or “Blue Mountains Bush Honey” depending of the location of the hives I was extracting from. In a single frame of honey it could have been nectar from a dozen or more different flora. That is the nature of the Australian bush generally.

The idea was to know what should be coming into flower at certain times for a given location and to arrive there at the right time with strong hives, and anything else flowering was a bonus. A nectar flow could well have a predominant flora source but it would be false to claim anything beyond that although a lot will.
Cheers Jack


#10

Guess, as soon as you deliver honey in big drums, many sources would have to be mixed. There is no way around it.

As a flow hobbyist beekeeper, one can be more discerning, to a degree as to keep frames of honey separate and knowing when that frame had been harvested last. Of course it requires record keeping of harvests and forage available.
I am developing a boutique line of flow honey it seems. People like to choose between packaging and honey colour. Dark honey wins out in sales. Little do they know.


#11

I did notice that bees keep nectar sources in clusters. So they don’t mix up all the nectar, but actually keep sources together.
It’s really obvious when you see a frame with a defined ball of dark honey and the rest is a totally different Colour.
It stands to reason though, the bees don’t fill up one frame with one source and the next with the other.
Yet, harvesting a full frame, knowing it has been filled in the previous 2 weeks, gives you a pretty good idea of its source.


#12

The drums are representative of the honey, the same as the frames are. Bees forage on what is available each day and take it to the hive for storage and as you say, they don’t have a frame for one flora and another frame for another so any extraction is a mix of the flora be it a frame, a hive or a drum.

I sell my honey as “bush Honey” with its source location, anything beyond that in my opinion, is making a false claim. For example, bee’s may be working River Red Gums, but it is folly to claim the honey is River Red Gum honey and I have yet to see the word “predominantly” used in honey labeling.
In the same thought, when does Manuka honey become Manuka honey, I have heard that if it is 20% Manuka then the claim it is Manuka Honey is accepted. To me that is a false claim, in my opinion, and not realistic.


#13

I think with manuka the only thing that matters is the presence of the ‘manuka substance’ and the level of it. It’s a good thing that that is something that can actually be tested and confirmed… and I agree about labeling: the word ‘predominantly’ should be there.

I guess in some cases with migratory beekeeping- the claimed flower type can actually be pretty accurate: like when hives are put in giant citrus orchards, etc.


#14

Yes, it is really difficult to pinpoint a single source. Yet, sometimes up here, there is only one eucalyptus flowering, so I try to learn about the taste of it.
When the frames fill fast, say, within one week, one can discern.

Just last week I harvested frame 4 and 5 from one hive. Frame 4 was harvested 10 days prior, frame 5 was harvested 2 months ago. One frame’s honey is the darkest I’ve ever seen, the other is water white.
Frames next to each other, harvested on the same day. Very different flavours.
I wouldn’t want them mixed in a bucket.
Each is so special in their own right.

I’ve been toying with the thought of mixing, at least similar colours, to reduce work load. But the taste test taught me otherwise.
So I keep plodding away keeping all frames’ honey separate.
Guess that’s what makes it a boutique honey.

Still have some way to go. Not easy to describe flavours for sales.
But my customers are very intrigued.


#15

My thought on the word “boutique” is that it can be applied to any honey from a small to medium bee keeper who produces for his/her customers. I have no issues with extracting and mixing all the honey from my apiary and selling it as “Very Local Bush Honey”, I can sell all that my bees produce and good feedback from customers, so I must be doing something right. :grinning::thinking:
Apologies for being lead off the thread, it was not intentional by me.


#16

I totally agree, your way is way more efficient, and as such makes for your enjoyment. A commercial beekeeper MUST be efficient to survive.
I bet you are as happy with your bucket as I am with my multiple jars.

I guess, people catch the beek bug for different reasons. There are plenty of non commercial beekeepers out here and there.

Yes, each frame I harvest goes into a big glass jar and is immediately transferred into smaller jars and labeled. Date, weight, frame number, hive name, weather, water content etc go into my harvest book, a list under each hive.
Above all, I keep a sample of 50g of honey from each harvested frame of my 15 flow hives in a tiny labeled glass jar. I like them all lined up. :rofl:

I guess living in Byron Bay Shire shifts your perception somewhat.
Around here it’s not even called OCD, it’s just how we do things.

I don’t want to sell my honey, but I must, to keep some space in the beelab.

Buyers are actually very intrigued by the different colours and flavors, so there definitely is a market. Whatever one calls this market.

In our kitchen there are jars where all the left over frame harvests go, leftovers that weren’t enough to fill another jar from that particular frame. That should, more or less, give us a bucket taste.

Well, it’s just all mixed up flavours. We do eat it, but it’s just not wow.

Oh, I’m also trying to correlate pollen counts to flavour in a particular week. I even harvest nectar from a frame sometimes to find the flavour of the pollen and nectar prevalent at the time.

I dare not mention apitherapy, but just did.

Bet not all beekeepers live with bees for efficiency or honey.

The thread is still about honey in the hills, which can be single source.
No need to blame webclan for anything.

And what’s with your constant editing @Peter48 ? My reply was a response to your original post.


#17

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


#18

I am into coffee as well as honey: in high coffee culture there are ‘single origin’ and ‘blended beans’. The majority of coffee beans used in cafes are probably blends. It’s said to be an art- blending. I have no doubt that honey blends could be a similar art form- if you really wanted to get finickity and precise and/or pragmatic… personally I roast my own beans and sometimes I blend and sometimes I go purist single origin. It’s all awesome high quality coffee is all I really know. You could take it as far as you want. I am sure there be a market for ‘artisanal blended’ honey :face_with_monocle:

Can’t believe you keep all those little teency sample jars @Webclan :upside_down_face::nerd_face: that must be some collection. You could open a museum of flow honey


#20

Keeping a thread on the original title topic is impossible without over the top moderating which ruins the natural flow of conversation that this forum has with its small numbers of active regulars.
This has been a natural progression and although it may be an annoyance for someone in the future who’s doing a search for Adelaide hills information it has by no means detracted from the information content.


#21

My original post was about the Red River Gums in the Adelaide Hills, I must have missed that in your reply. I can’t see your reference to it.