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Remnant Vegetation vs Planted Gardens - Bee Food


#1

Hi guys,

I’ve had a search through the forums and online and not found a answer that really fits my question.

I have a property (Queensland, Australia) I’m looking at installing 1 or 2 hives on, it is 15 ha (37 acres) and 95% native remnant vegetation (lots of eucalyptus, melaleucas and grevillas), with about 140 square kilometers (54 square miles) of water catchment state land (the odd trail but mostly treed) bordering it. I’ve added a photo below showing the property, the white line is from front to back to give scale (800m/2500ft).

My question is; generally speaking, would this type/quantity of vegetation - remnant native forest, provide enough natural ‘food’ to easily support 1-2 hives without the need to supplement with additional plants or feed?

I’ve read lots of info about the need to add bee friendly plants etc and we’re currently planting a largish orchard and large vegetable garden, as well as native pasture paddock and fodder crops for our chickens and hope to have that all well underway in the next 6-12 months. However we would like to start with our bees sooner rather than later. What might be a positive sign, we have plenty of local native bees around!

Thanks in advance


Hive location - Advise Requested
#2

Generally speaking, yes. Australia is close to heaven for most types of bees. Your veggies will also help, depending on what you are planting. Bees seem to love most eucalypts too, so you seem to be in a good spot.


#3

Hi Dawn!

Thanks for the response. My gut thought so but I wanted a second (less needy) opinion :rofl:

I assume there would be some cross over between our native sting-less bees and Euro honey bees and what they need, so seeing how we get swarmed with those little guys on occasion that should give some indication I guess.


#4

Hi @Felix,
With that bush adjacent to your place I would think it would support many more hives than one or two.
Where are you located in QLD. It’s a big place.


#5

Hi @busso about 20km out of Hervey Bay. Right now there isn’t a lot in flower that I can see from my deck, banksia, some pink fingers, a few different grasses. I’ve yet to have a good walk through the whole property since moving here but when we arrived the Melaleucas were insane, soooooo many flowers, we have so many on the property.


#6

Hiya Felix, welcome to the forum.
My plan was to have one or two hives too… It’s said you always need extra boxes and every time I got one bees found me and I needed another ‘spare’… :slight_smile:
Although I’m not on a property anywhere near the size of yours I am in a bushland area with national parks around the area like you. Originally thinking it was an ideal location for beekeeping I’ve found down in the urban areas there is more forage year round due to the urban gardens. Friends down in suburbia get a flow Spring through to Autumn whereas here the flow only lasted a couple of months due to the native flowering pattern.
I think allowing the bees to build up a good amount of stores is essential when keeping bees in our Aussie bush.
Personally I prefer my honey over the urban honey as its more of a purer taste if that makes sense, not such a mish mash of flavours.
Good luck with the beeking.


#7

Hi @skeggley

Sounds great, we’re not huge consumers of honey, we’re wanting it for our limited use and as gifts/trading but mainly as pollinators and for the interest, so it might not be a big deal for us, I just don’t want it to be a big deal for them!

I’ve now done up a flowering calendar for the native species we’re looking at planting to give us an idea of how we can keep them full :smiley:


#8

You are about 200Km North of Buderim where @JeffH is located. I am sure he will have some good advice re native vegetation. I do know his bees are pretty well active all year round.


#9

Hi, I live in a similar situation with lots of eucalyptus and native shrub species. The one plant that I have put in around the homestead is Crimson Bottlebrush Callistemon citrinus It flower twice, in early summer and autumn, and the bees love it.


#10

Hi & thanks @busso, my bees do well on lots of eucalypts & other native vegetation, however having my bees near urban gardens is a good stand by for when the native trees are not in flower. A lot of gums are in flower right now. The nectar eating birds & the bees are having a field day on them. It’s evident by all of the mess on the ground under the trees.


#11

It will depend on the diversity of the species forming the majority of plants. If Euc.s some may not not flower every year, more often once per 2 -3 years up to every 8 years (a few once every 20 or more) or if there are only a few species they may have a very close flowering period. I’m in a similar position, the majority of my bees forage is National Park, Euc. & understorey plants. If you have the space why not plant out some large areas with annuals/perennials until you you get other things established to support your bees during potential dearths.
If any other local beekeepers ask them what times of year they experience dearths. In my area in Victoria it begins around Melbourne Cup weekend.
Beekeepers who work Eucalypts for commercial honey tend to follow the flow.


#12

That might be a good stop gap! Brachyscome, Xerochrysum, Rhodanthe, Scaevola… My main issue is clay content so broadcasting is a little expensive when you can’t get a good strike rate, so ‘improvement’ of the soil is a must first. I might see if there are some local species that might be suited to our poor draining soils. Cheers


#13

Felix,

Thank you for asking this question!!

I’m in Tennessee, USA and I will be starting beekeeping in 2018. I live on 93 acres. My landlord uses the farm for rolling hay for his cattle and my husband and I live on the property to “keep thing safe”. We have 3 horses, 3 dogs and 2 cats.

With that said, I have been looking closely at the plant life here on the farm to see if I have adequate vegetation to support the bees. We have wild blackberries (good jam!) along with the following list:

Honey suckle (currently in the 3rd bloom of the season)
Thistle
Red and white clover
Iris
Passion flower
Daffodil
Dandelion
Johnson grass
Alfalfa grass

There are various Oak, Maple, Persimmon, Pear , Buckeye and Mimosa trees (but I’m germinating seeds and will plant more Persimmon and Mimosa). At one point, that farm was used for hold cattle, so I have found 3 old tubs (used for personal showering) on the property that we figured were used to watering the cattle. I’ve noticed the deer population uses them for watering holes.

A couple of years back, my husband and I went to the National Wild Turkey Federation show here in Nashville, TN and picked up 5-6 packs of seed to plant native to Tennessee. I was going to through that out in the field not far from the location I have picked for my hives.

I’m hoping that with all the above, I will have sufficient food sources for the bees.

Again, thank you for a good question!

Maureen (Mo) Olsen


#14

More than sufficient. They go nuts for clover, and do very well with Alfalfa, if it is allowed to bloom. Passion flower will be well-pollinated (mine has about 10 fruit on one vine right now).


#15

Hi Maureen,

Wow sounds great, big different between our property and yours is we can only ‘work’ 5% or so, the rest is forest, those fields of yours will be great!

That said, someone threw a ‘factoid’ out the other day about bees making honey… the first page of google (if you can call that research) yielded these similar factoids that really give scale to amount of forage required (no evidence to back up the below, just copy and pasted).

'How many flowers must honey bees tap to make one pound of honey? - Two million.'
Bees will provide a honey harvest on one acre of blossom per hive (over three square kilometres)
It would take 1,100 bees to make 1kg of honey and they would have to visit 4 million flowers
The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime
It takes about 556 workers to gather half a kilo of honey from about 2 million flowers
It takes 500 honey bees four weeks to make one kilogram of honey, and they will travel the equivalent of three orbits of the earth in distance to collect it.
Each worker makes, on an average ten trips a day and visits about 1,000 flowers during each trip. It takes about 65,000 trips to 65 million flowers to make 1 kilogram of honey


#16

Felix,

Truth be known, that’s just too much work for me to do in one day! lol


#17

Haha absolutely! I got excited yesterday because I was inspecting one of my limes and there was a bee foraging at the same time. That tree at a guess would have 100 flowers on it at the moment (just under a month until Spring), so by the above rationale I would need another 39,999 lime trees for 1kg of honey :smiley: :dizzy_face:


#18

Many Councils have Native Plant lists specific to local areas. It would be worth having a look. I’ve been growing native & exotic annuals in large tubs & raised beds, so I can direct sow. I stagger the planting times so that hopefully there will always be something following up. I sow from 100-300 seeds & pass some on to my neighbours who love having bees in their garden. I think it will make a difference as supplementary forage source.
We have heavy clay & little to no top soil. However it is amazing what you can grow successfully in just a few cm.'s if you plan ahead & put just a little bit of work into it prior to sowing. A really great product for soil regeneration is rock dust (Munash) it’s not a supplement, instead in works to activate & release the preexisting minerals, which in turn breaks the clay down. The effect is amazing. I planted 1st year growth tubestock, endemic species, from 5-10cm in height, 6 months later they were 50-60cm with really strong root systems, in comparison to an area without the rock dust, they were quite weedy & half the size.