Apis Melbourne - February 05 







                        Chairman’s Report 


As we approach the end of February you should have by now produced some honey from your hives. This even though most of January was cool and overcast.


Production this year has been much better than last season and we should see some Autumn honey production yet, look out for a bit of grey box and even some pockets of stringy bark, but of course “don’t weigh the honey until it’s in your buckets.”


If you have produced some honey, make sure you put some aside to put in Melbourne Section’s Honey Competition later in May this year. This honey could then be held over for the VAA State conference honey competition in June.


In the coming month of March, the Gippsland Apiarists’ Association are holding a field day on the 5th March at the Koonwarra reserve, about 15kms past Leongatha in South Gippsland starting at 10am, it should be a excellent day if past events are anything to go by, Bee there or bee square.


Later in March, the Melbourne section will be holding its annual auction of beekeeping equipment, so if you have any surplus equipment remember to put it aside and bring it along on the night, and turn it back into money for you and some funds for the Melbourne Section to put towards the library.


Also in March the “Jadran Beekeeping School” will be holding its annual field day at the clubs grounds in Diggers Rest. It too is a great day out to learn about beekeeping.


Collingwood Children’s farm “working beehives” that have been so much hard labour to get established need our help again. The heavy rain of early February has unfortunately seen them taken away down the Yarra. The devoted efforts of the trio and others have not been rewarded. That’s farming ! And like all primary producers, come flood or drought, the hives will rise again.


As I said last month, the relevance of the Melbourne Section of the Victorian Apiarists’ Association is as great as it ever was during our fifty years as a group.

If you are a newcomer or an old timer in the bee world, please support the events  mentioned because there are people out there who still need to learn from field days and educational activities and many of you out there who can help them.


Field - Days





Gippsland Apiarist Association

Field Day


(near Leongatha)

5th March 2005


The Koonwarra School

Koala Drive, Koonwarra

Melways Map 512 , V10


*                Hive demonstrations

*                Assembling hive materials

*                Locating the queen

*                Introducing a new queen

*                Disease identification & management

*                Equipment suppliers on site

*                Honey for sale

*                Talk to you local beekeepers


$5 Entry fee and gate prize

Howard Stevens 5662 2280

Field - Days





and the West (just)

Jadran Beekeeping School

Field Day

(Opposite Calder Raceway)

13th March 2005

35 Duncans Lane

Diggers Rest

Melways Map 352 , G11


Here’s your chance to meet beekeepers, purchase equipment, honey, mead, honey liqueur, and of course have a most informative afternoon.


Contact Stan Starc 9331 1619

Good Advice for All










Autumn is a great time of the year for bees but it can put the skills of the beekeeper to the test. Often colonies that unfortunately die out over winter have been put under nutritional stress by beekeeper management in autumn. Good Autumn management will assist the colony in its natural process of winding down from the high point of activity in summer, to the often stressful times of winter.


Although it has been very dry in country Victoria and parts of Melbourne, and honey flows have been limited in many areas; hives generally are carrying reasonable stores. Just how much of that honey to extract in autumn can sometimes be a difficult decision.


A form of insurance for beekeepers who don’t move their hives on to winter honey is to leave plenty of honey on the bees. An alternative when closing down the hives for late Autumn and winter is to set aside some of your own well sealed frames of honey from your hives, which can be fed back at a later stage during winter and early spring if necessary. Feeding back your own honey in sealed combs is far better than feeding extracted honey or sugar syrup. I stress only keeping your own honey because you should know its history and the possibility of disease. This will certainly be the case if you have been participating in the AFB Smart project. When keeping combs, try to keep honey that has been gathered, stored and sealed early in the autumn. In most cases it is of better feed quality than some of the later honeys.


Late Grey Box, Ironbark or any large amounts of unsealed honey for example, can often be quite thin and will ferment easily, especially if the weather is cool and wet.


Beekeepers without honey prospects in winter, are always advised to leave plenty of stores on their hives. But the problem of how much honey to leave the colony is the difficult question. There is no exact quantity, it is always variable, what is enough in milder Melbourne is not enough in colder Ararat. The amount to leave is variable and will depend on colony strength, how much room there is in the hive, location and seasonal conditions.


A general guide seems to work for most hives, leave sufficient honey of known good quality, in fully sealed combs, that the bees can comfortably cover. That will be somewhere between 10kg-20kg per hive.



At this time of year, you really do have to share the honey with the bees if you don’t want them to starve in winter.


Sticky combs

Unfortunately some beekeepers still stand out their sticky combs for bees to clean up after their final extraction in autumn prior to the winter shut down. Exposure of sticky combs to bees is an offence under the Livestock Disease Control Act, but apart from that it is dumb, poor management and shows little if no concern for your fellow beekeeper. Exposure of sticky combs for clean up robbing by bees is certainly the easiest way to spread brood disease, and any cases of it detected should be reported to the apiary inspectors immediately. The apiary industry and DPI have spent many thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in time trying to reduce the amount of AFB in Victoria. That can all be undone by irresponsible standing out of sticky combs for robbing. The apiary branch is strong on this, and asks any instances of this practice reported without delay.



It can't be stressed strongly enough, that if precautionary dosing of colonies for European Foulbrood is part of your Autumn management, then look hard in the brood nest for signs of American Foulbrood before using any antibiotic. If the notifiable brood disease American Foulbrood is even suspected, don't treat the colony.


Final disease inspections should not be left until too late in autumn, because the bees will have the brood nest contracted, and any inspection then would be inconclusive.    


Peter Kaczynski Senior Apiary Inspector DPI Ararat













The VAAI—The Victorian Apiarists Association Inc. is the chief body representing all Victorian Beekeepers. Where a government wishes to consult with Victorian beekeepers, it is this body that will most often be consulted. Your view on beekeeping cannot be known to the VAAI unless you inform them.

Thus, joining it, helps the whole industry.

 If you attend Melbourne Section meetings, give thought to joining the VAA. Not only will you save most of the investment through lowered attendance fees at our meetings, but the Australian Bee Journal will make interesting reading. You may also find that some of the special deals  or discounts that are available to members can be taken up as well.

Membership for the vast majority of urban beekeepers is currently $58 per year.

The big boys pay considerably more. We have forms for membership at our meetings each month.

A dollar a week or thereabouts is the most it will cost you.


 Enquire about joining the VAA at the next meeting you attend.

You can of course simply join by mail:


Make out a cheque or money order to :

            VAA Inc

for the sum of $58.00

and mail to      The Secretary, VAA Inc.,

                        P.O.Box 40

                        California Gully, VIC 3556



Melbourne Section representation on the VAAI Executive





The Melbourne Section of the VAAI values having a representative upon the Executive Council. Currently there is such a position vacant. Without representation the VAAI is the poorer. The VAAI is the chief state body representing all beekeepers and without a Melbourne section member it fails to be a body representing all Victorian beekeepers.


Please give some consideration to taking on this position.


Yes, it does require some hours of attendance, as well as some driving well away from Melbourne. For this, some recompense is available.

Make you mind up prior to this coming meeting and ‘dob’ yourself in.

You may be surprised what you gain from position.

Alternatively ring our chairman, Gordon on 9587 5950 


Mario and the Caucasian Queen bees of French Island 






“Honey”, said Mario “is a bother to me. It gets in the road of what I am trying to achieve”. With that, he hurriedly explained that it was of course, extracted and sold, but it remained one more task that distracted him from his main aim of breeding better queens. As a comment from one beekeeper to another it came as a bit of a surprise. Especially as I was having a bit of a honey shortage myself, and was a little concerned about meeting orders. Mario, or Mario as he confessed was less confusing for Australians, had invited me down to French Island, where he had set up some years ago, a most impressive queen bee research and breeding station.


            Mario is well known among us all at Melbourne Section meetings. A quietly spoken, but very committed beekeeper, he is in danger of being overlooked. However whilst hoping for some return on his considerable investments, his aim of improving the genetic stock of our queen bees is chief.

            “I wish to develop a line of queen bees that is ideal for the purposes of pollination, and honey collection, and yet be very resistant to disease and gentle. To this end I have imported from my country of birth, Poland, to my country of choice, Australia, queen bees of the Caucasian race.” Mario went on to explain that several institutions in Europe spent huge resources studying the breeding of better bees. His own few imports, having spent some time in quarantine, were now several generations on and his research and reproduction of them was a continuing pursuit.

            “Caucasians are especially suited to the smaller beekeeper,” Mario explained, “ as they tend to produce a great deal of honey and yet not have very large populations of worker bees. They need care and management, especially as winter approaches, and the danger of unsustainable numbers can arise.” This can occur if the beekeeper allows large deposits of nectar to be stored in the brood nest. Moving frames of nectar to another super, away from the brood is the answer.Yet, as Mario explained to me, they will reward the beekeeper with excellent honey returns and yet remain for at least another two generations a very docile bee. This he demonstrated to me by grasping two workers at once in his fingers, only to release them a few seconds later to return to their duties.

When the caucasian is crossed with an Italian bee, the first generation has a 90% chance of showing heterosis, a hybrid vigour, the result of which is shown by an abundance of nectar collecting and consequent honey production.


            A dark bee, they are distinguished from the black feral bee by the greyness of their colouring and especially the light grey bands across the abdomen.


            I left French Island most impressed but somewhat overwhelmed with science. I expect that over the years, these French Island bees will gain recognition along the same lines as those bees of Kangaroo Island, off the South Australian mainland. I will be giving Mario’s bees a run in my hives over the next few years; I just hope I can give him the feedback he would expect, as he is adamant that frequent reports will assist him in his efforts to breed a better bee for us all.



Mario  and the Caucasian bees of French Island


                Mario, right, together with Polish queen bee research scientist, Christopher Loc, examine the laying pattern and proliferation of young from one of Mario’s artificially inseminated queen bees. Over a hundred small nucs, each with a number enabling  human identification, and with a colour and pattern enabling similar identification by the bees, were neatly arranged in rows across an area not much lager than a tennis court. Hidden from the blustery winds of the island, they were to some extent remote from feral drones and as a consequence more likely to mate with drones of an approved parentage, where “free-mating” was desired.


A long row of nucs, made from polystyrene and protected from bee-eating birds by a covering of netting. Even so, Mario experiences a substantial loss of queen where free - mating occurs and many are lost through this and also some drifting. The boxes being from the same source as those purchased by pathology laboratories for the transportation of blood, are relatively cheap, but require mini-frames to be tailor made for them. They are light, resistant to weathering and yet extremely well insulated from both the cold and the heat experienced in these parts. A large area of tea-tree and coastal vegetation, ensures a very adequate supply of nectar, an essential for any queen bee breeder.


In a humble shack, that could easily be mistaken for the lodgings of a fisherman, an immaculately clean laboratory stands, only metres from the rows and columns of nucs. A cylinder of carbon dioxide provides a whiff of gas sufficient to anaesthetise the virgin queen, whilst practiced hands using accurate instruments make the insertion of drone sperm into the queen bee, now upended in a movement-restricting device not unlike a small glass tube.


A very effective though a trifle undignified attitude for a queen.


Each inseminated queen is then on standby for introduction to a queenless colony. However the date of introduction,  and the management of the hive prior to and after the event, is one that could easily fill an entire handbook, without fully exploring the subject.


A standby time of 25 days or more is the safer way, Mario told me, though good success can be had early, within the first two weeks after insemination. For some reason the period between from day 15 to day 25 should be avoided. A honey flow or a supply of sugar-syrup is also required, or all that work of genetic selection can be lost through rejection.


Autumn is an excellent time to re-queen so don’t hesitate to contact him for a selected and tested queen bee.


Mario Winczura can be contacted by phone on 8707 4594

Or by mobile 0410 48 07 03







Having read Mike Love’s ‘Collecting Swarms’ in the December 2004 issue of “The Australian Bee Journal”, I thought that an anecdote with a different slant might be of interest to novice & / or bumbling beekeepers like myself.

Mike’s experience & knowledge is much respected, and although I can claim a little experience in the successful collection of nuisance colonies and swarms, a recent incident had a quite different complexion.

The scene:  Country Victoria – Goulburn Valley irrigation country.  Irrigation over the 80 year period from the building of Waranga Reservoir up to the salinity enlightenment of the early 1990’s has led to the death of countless Grey & Yellow Box trees, providing many wonderful hollows attractive to all forms of wildlife, including colonies of bees.

The main access driveway to our 70 acre property leaves the main road adjacent to a neighbouring property, which is itself a 2.5 acre subdivision by an earlier owner.  Across this driveway from the latter property in a paddock are several box trees, some dead, others struggling, all very old and with great hollows.  Branches drop from these old, ailing trees at a time of their own choosing.

The Incident:  A massive hollowed, dead trunk section, 600 mm in diameter & 8 metres in height, crashes over the paddock fence onto the driveway some 7 metres below.  On impact the branch shatters where the hollow diameter is greatest and the walls thinnest, revealing a magnificent feral bee hive.

Unfortunately the neighbours are not that comfortable with bees, particularly when they are in their thousands just over the neighbours’ side fence on our driveway.  A phone call to us ensued, and we the ‘experienced beekeepers’ assured them that the situation would be sorted without delay.

The experienced ones attended the scene in the ute and casually inspected the site.  Regrettably the bees were not equally casual, probably due to their happy home having crashed to the ground and it being rent asunder in the process, exacerbated by the day being stinking hot & windy.  The good wife, normally a willing assistant to the beekeeper, was quickly seen to be retreating into the ute, minus clothing from the upper body which was rapidly accumulating many very hostile bees.  The trophy awarded for her intervention was in the form of a beaut sting to the eye, that was to last several weeks and led to inordinate wearing of sunglasses over the festive season.

The beekeeper followed almost immediately, but needed to mount a strong argument to be even allowed to open the ute door in case the bees, presumably having decided that they had located the cause of the homewrecking, were very keen to follow and to extract vengeance.

Return to Harmony:  It would have been interesting to attempt to relocate the colony into a conventional bee box, but the neighbours’ interests had to take priority.  At dusk the bees clustering on the exposed combs (about eight perfectly formed combs) were sprayed with insecticide.  Inspection the next morning showed there to be only a few residual bees about, so we prepared to travel to Melbourne as previously planned, with the risk of neighbourhood disharmony apparently diffused.

At midday, on weaving our way through the fallen trunk & branch remnants on the journey of departure down the driveway we noticed that there were again bees hovering around the feral combs in substantial numbers.  Presumably they were bees from our own hives, now making the most of the unguarded & freely available material in the combs, but the nervous neighbours could not be expected to tolerate our bees any more than they would the feral bees.

Any further employment of insecticide, for instantaneous or residual effect, would invariably harm our own bees, so if the bees could not be deterred or removed the source of interest itself had to be relocated to a less sensitive area.

After donning protective clothing once more, the beekeeper cum  timber worker secured each of the two larger sections of trunk bearing the feral combs in turn, and the whole feral hive shooting match was thus relocated by towing up the driveway, out of ‘bee-shot’ of the neighbours.  The visiting bees followed respectfully and causing no difficulty allowing the ruptured feral bee home to be extensively photographed without protest.


            - Brian Hawley


            Funny how people unaccustomed to bees fix you with an unbelieving eye when you tell them that one lot of bees are a different mob from the other.—Ed





Melbourne - Coming Events 

March 31st

                        Auction of Beekeeping equipment—Chance to buy and sell with benefit to both yourself and the VAAI library.

April 28th

                        Guest speaker to tell us how to pack-down for winter, minimise loss and start the next season off with vigour.

May 26th

                        Honey Competition - Wax Competition

                        Show off your best !



Melbourne Section monthly meeting

this Month ( February)


Guest Speaker:


The name Alan Smith, will be familiar to many of us.

Alan used operate out of Darnum in Gippsland and as a keen beekeeper added a great deal of strength and vitality to the Gippsland Apiarist’s Association.

A frequent attendee at Melbourne section meetings also, he has recently taken a bigger step in his beekeeping.

In short, he has done what many of us would like to do. He has progressed from  hobby beekeeper to a full time apiarist.

Head-hunted for this coming Melbourne Section meeting, he has agreed to talk to us on the trials and tribulations, the good and the bad, the profits and the losses, of leaving employment to try to battle the droughts and floods as a primary producer.


Photographic Competition


Time to dust down the images. A bit of digital enhancement of your finer bee related photographs and they’ll pass for a “recently taken”. Bring your favourite photographs along as separate images or as a set that tell a story.

There will be prizes and judging for all the classifications we can think of.

If bringing them in the format that requires a lap-top or projector, bring the hardware along as well as there is no guarantee we will have what you need for showing