By Laura Power
Our local Wanaka area honeybees have been busy! Spring has well and truly sprung in and around Wanaka and you’ve likely noticed a surge in honeybee activity with the change in season. The worker bees have emerged from their hive and can be spotted flying from blossom to blossom, foraging for new food like nectar and pollen, while helping to pollinate flowers along the way.
Honeybees are a crucial part of our ecosystem. Not only do they help pollinate many of our own food sources but they also provide us with a delicious and beneficial food source in return (honey!). As part of our Forage & Feast Food Adventures we aim to celebrate and share all aspects of our local food systems with our guests. This includes meeting our local producers to learn from them and tasting the wide variety of produce grown and products made right here in our little corner of the world.
On our last Forage & Feast Food Adventure we hosted our first ever Mothers and Daughters tour, with guests from Wanaka and Invercargill. A definite highlight was the visit with Barna at a Tiaki Bees hive in central Wanaka to wrap up a long day of eating, sharing, laughing and connecting with our foodie community.
What’s happening in a Tiaki Bees hive during spring?
Spring is a very busy time for beekeepers! It’s also a very exciting time as the older bee colonies are coming back to life and new colonies are being created.
During springtime, Barna is busy checking in on all the Tiaki Bees hives throughout the region, making sure everyone is healthy and that the hive is buzzing as is should be. Spring is a particularly busy season for the bees too as they’re focused on replenishing their food stores after a long winter inside the hive, and it’s the time of year where new worker bees are born.
The spring beekeeping season starts off with a health check of each hive. Bees can get sick just like the rest of us and it’s important to make sure that everything is in order. Barna is also looking out for the nasty varroa mite, checking whether it’s had the chance to multiply in the hive during winter and treating it if necessary.
Once Barna’s happy with the general health of the bees, he’ll start feeding the hives to stimulate the Queen to start laying eggs, which builds up the colony for the upcoming busy summer season. Queens have one of the most important roles in the hive as they’re responsible for laying eggs (about 1,500 to 2,000 eggs each day!) and making sure that the colony is strong and healthy. If the health of the Queen bee declines so does the health of the rest of the colony. If he notices that the health of a colony is declining, Barna may also introduce new, young Queens in springtime.
A swarm of honeybees
However, a hive can also become too strong. You’ve maybe heard of or even seen a swarm of bees, which tends to happen at this time of year.
When there are too many bees in a hive, the colony decides to make a new Queen and half the hive will leave with the old Queen to find a new home, which is how the swarms happen. Barna has had to split some of his stronger hives (making two hives from one) in order to avoid this phenomenon, and has also managed to rehome some swarms caught around our local area.
Visiting the bees on a Forage & Feast Food Adventure
While most of us have had a taste of local honey and have seen honeybees flying around outside, getting up close and personal to a working beehive and learning from a beekeeper firsthand is a truly unique experience that will give you a new appreciation for and understanding of our tiny hardworking friends.
Our recent group of mothers and daughters loved hearing all about the bees and what they’re up to during the spring season. They learned heaps from Barna, grilling him until it was time to return home.
We wrapped up the day with a tasting of Borage & Bee Mead (both their sweet and dry, with a 50/50 split of who preferred which style) served with The People’s Bread Co. bread topped with fresh strawberries, a drizzle of the Forage & Feast Tiaki Bees Honey (from Hawea) on top and a pinch of salt to lift the sweetness. This was our final tasting of the day and what a sweet way to tie everything together.
All photos: Kiwi Captures Photography