I drove to Lunz am See today to listen to a legend of beekeeping and forest expert share his knowledge about the best forest food for bees. Univ.Doz. Dipl.Ing. Dr. Hermann Pechhacker has been around for a while and really knows his stuff. He's also extremely well traveled and was able to recount several very interesting stories about beekeeping in Nepal, Chile and Australia amongst other countries.
Anyway, after a few very interesting hours in a Gasthaus where he showed us slides and spoke mainly about honeydew producing insects which are vital both for ants and bees, we went out to see an anthill inside a toolshed at the edge of the woods - certainly the biggest anthill I have ever seen! We followed the ants to find the aphids they "milk" for honeydew:
We then also drove up the mountain a little to go and visit some of his bees. At a wonderful site on the edge of the forest he has about 20 hives and opened one up for our inspection.
Walking back down to the car I stopped where there was a tiny stream on the side of the path - loads of bees were gathering moisture from the pebbles and dirt next to the stream. I also caught a pretty worker with some pink pollen on her and had to take a picture for my daughter!
I spent the day at the Melarium (the Apis-Z apiary) where Roland and Wolfgang held a seminar about the Bienenkiste, a highly non-invasive way of keeping bees which allows for appropriate care (including the necessary steps to fight Varroa infestations) but also just provides a simple frame for the bees to build natural hives in. The seminar was full with about 15 enthusiastic people looking to become beekeepers. It was great to have theoretical knowledge transferred but at the same time open a hive and also allow a swarm to colonize a new box. At one point we had a swarm of bees travelling into the new box with about 20 people, including 2 small kids, standing around and it really was wonderful to see that the bees felt comfortable enough not to sting at all since everyone was calm and caring. Just think of the numbers: the hive we opened has about 50000 bees in it. The swarm probably contained about 10000 to 15000. There were 20 people in a small courtyard with all of these bees and not one person got stung.
Another fun fact: when bees are swarming, they are looking for a new place to live. Dark, enclosed, dry places are perfect. The lens hood on my 100mm macro lens is ideal for them and so after taking a couple of pictures of the swarm I found the inside of my lens hood covered with about 30 bees!
We finally have our own hive! In a super fast late night undercover mission, I drove over to the Salzkammergut to pick up a hive of bees... the next morning I was able to get a few first shots of my new friends! We are now proper beekeepers! They seem quite happy and definitely have everything they need - bringing back lots of different colours of pollen at the moment.
Went out to see Roland and Wolfgang from Apis-Z (www.apis-z.at) today, they have 12 hives in a little custom house in Klosterneuburg which is on the property of the Martinschloss. Had a few minutes for macro shots of the bees at one of the hives. Got a couple of nice ones but also caught the efficient murder of a bee by a wasp...
First set of pictures, taken in the "underbelly" of a hive that Roland Berger (www.apis-z.at) opened for me at his melarium. It takes some getting used to the bees flying out all around you, sitting on your head, buzzing by your ear, etc. Wasn't the best of conditions for pictures but I had good access to one of the chambers in the comb which houses a queen bee in the making (4th and 5th picture). Haven't shot macro in a while so I will need to practice again and will definitely set it up better next time, maybe with someone helping me to hold a reflector rather than using flash.
As part of striving to becoming a better global citizen, I am following up on what we can do to help the bees that live around us. This started off as a photo project about bees but has now turned into keeping my own bees and learning more about them!