I went to check on the bees this morning and noticed the bees were coming in for a landing and some were hitting the box and falling to the ground. The green ants were there waiting and almost all of the bees were getting attacked and dying. Hence, I made this modified falling landing pad, which is held.ip by a brick in the middle and greased on the underside to stop the ants from getting to the pad. Will keep an eye on it and see how it progresses.
Making good soil – pH
This is a follow up.from.our previous post – Making good soil – organic matter. As we said in that post, making good soil requires three primary factors – good organic matter composition, texture and pH.
In short, pH is the acidity ( or alkalinity) of the soil. Differing plants can survive in differing pH levels, with some plants being able to survive in a wide range of pH to very specific limits. Plants that can survive in pH on the lower end of the pH scale would be considered being able to survive in acidic soils while those at the higher end would be alkaline soils. Those that can survive in soils in the middle would be considered neutral. The pH scale ranges from 0-14.
That’s all very well and good I hear you say, but how can I make my soil to a different pH? And to you I say ‘Good question’.
Soil acidity can be increased (that is go backwards on the pH scale) by adding manure or compost. If the natural way isn’t your thing you could also add powdered sulphur or iron chelates. If you go down this avenue then please be aware of how much to use, as using to much could set the pH too far into the acidic scale. If may also alter the chemistry of the soil in irreversible ways.
Soil alkalinity can be increased (that is go forwards on the pH scale) by adding various sorts of lime (that can be purchased from local gardening stores), wood ash or even baking soda. As with acidity, ensuring you get the right amount is important and you should test your soil pH before, during and after.
All in all, ensure you know what the optimal pH is for growth of plants that you are planting and adjust accordingly.
Making good soil – organic matter
Making your own soil can be great for your garden and help with giving your plants a kick start to their first exposure with your garden.
Making your own soil doesn’t have to be overly complicated. However, there are three main aspects you should consider if you want to make your own soil – soil pH, texture and organic matter.
For this post we will be focusing on organic matter, what it is and what you can use at home that would be classified as organic.
The benefits of having organic matter in the soil are numerous, and include improving soil stability, water infiltration, aeration of the soil and the amount of water the soil.can hold (which is great for most plants, especially in drier environments). Having organic matter will also help prevent your soil from crusting which will.make it harder for plants to germeninate and grow.
Simply put, organic matter comes from anything that is alive. Hence, using any dead animal or plant products would be considered organic. However, you want to make sure the right type of organic matter is being used to deter pests and unwanted vermin during the soil making process.
You could use any material from the kitchen that are off cuts or leftovers to help add to the amount of organic material in your soil making stage. Around the yard you could also add leaves and sticks (or other dead parts of a plant). Be mindful that sticks will take longer to decay and turn into soil and it would be recommended that you use a mulching machine to break them down further before adding to your soil making process.
Ensuring that you keep the organic matter moist will help with the decay process and turn the organic matter into the perfect soil component you are after.
How many eggs does a queen honeybee lay?
I have been doing some research on this question myself as I have found the number differs depending on the source you are looking at.
Most sources I have looked at indicate that a healthy, fertile queen honeybee can lay between 1400-2000 eggs per day. Having said this, I have seen sources indicating that during the warmer months a queen can lay up to 3000 eggs per day, with the number being reduced in the winter.
The reduction in number would make sense when you think about it (especially in the cooler, temperate regions) as pollen availability (and hence food sources) would be reduced or absent. Bees are also insects, meaning they rely on warmth from the surrounding environment to get moving as they are exothermic (‘cold blooded’). This may change though in warmer climates like the tropics where warmer weather persists all year round.
Once an egg is laid it will take approx. three days to hatch into a larvae. It will then develop as larvae for approx. 15 days until it forms into a pupae. Approx. 3 days later it will emerge as a fully grown bee, ready to do its bee thing.
Honey Bee Journal – Week 1/2
I recently bought a honeybee hive. The fascination with these insects has been with me since a child, when I use to wonder around my grandfathers shed looking at the honey extractor, the beehives and the sweet smell of honey.
I haven’t had much to do with the honeybees since then (I have been a very happy owner of some native Australian beehives for the past 5 years) and thus have forgotten most of the knowledge that I learnt as a kid. Having said that, it does slowly start to come back to you once you open of the hive for an inspection.
Part of being a reliable, hobbyist, beekeeper is keeping notes on the inspections that you do on the hive to ensure hive health is at its optimal best. To help with this, I am going to keep a journal of my bee keeping journey and thought it would be nice to put it on this page in hopes to share my experience with those that are interested and, hopefully, help each other out along the way.
A beehive – source from Bee Keeping Gear
I purchased my first, fully owned, hive from Pure and Natural Honey in Mackay, Queensland on the 1st January 2023. A late Christmas present and a good way to bring in the new year. Despite thinking about purchasing a hive I had been reluctant to purchase one due to many factors, primarily the knowledge behind owning one. But, I’m lucky to have my wife that pushed me and I took the plunge.
My beehive – with the brood and first storage box.
The brood box (first box) was full of bees, brood, honey and comb with ten frames. It also came with a second store box to be added later that had nine frames with comb. Keith (from Pure and Natural Honey) was very helpful and spent a good hour and half talking and discussing all things bees. After a good chat, we loaded the box into the back of car and I took it all of the 6.5km back to my house (very handy locating someone close to home).
I set it up in a nice sunny spot with the entrance facing north due to the majority of our rain coming in from the south/south east. I also placed it in a spot where it would receive part shade during the middle of the day and shade from the western sun in the afternoon.
My beehive entrance – with the bees doing their thing
I went down to look at the box three times a day for the seven days (felt like a little kid with a new toy). I am glad that I did, as on the first afternoon there were green ants at the entrance of the hive, attacking and killing some of the bees. This, naturally, freaked me out a bit, as Keigh had told me a nest of these ants could decimate a hive in no time. I raced out the next day to buy some grease from the local car store and greased the legs of the stand that the box was sitting on. Thankfully, this trick seemed to stop any further attacks on the hive.
One of the stands greased up to stop ants getting to the hive entrance
On day seven it was time to smoke the smoker and do my first hive inspection. Puffy some smoke at the entrance and under the top of the lid, I removed the lid and loosened one of the frames to do my first ever inspection. To my delight, there was brood (baby bees) present in the first frame. I was over the moon excited by this as it meant there was a queen still there. Then I ran into an issue – I could not fit the frame back in the box. I gently removed the bees with the ‘brush’ I purchased on Ebay and placed the frame on top of the lid. I then checked each other frame for pests (to which there was none – WINNING) and rotated the inner most frames with the outer most frames. The frames were all starting to look full, so I placed the second box on top and placed the frame I had removed from the brood box in the second box before placing the second box on the brood box.
A typical beekeeping smoker – image sourced from OzBee
I checked on the hive again today and all appears to be going well. Bees are coming and going, and some are returning with pollen (all different colours – yellow, orange and white). The hive is extremely loud with buzzing sounds coming from the inside.
There is rain predicted over the next 5 days so it will be interesting to see what this does to the pollen intake. Time will tell and I will keep you posted.
Washing machine firepit
Ever had an old washing machine that you didn’t know what to do with? Also, have you ever wanted a fire pit that wasnt in a ground but was instead on a stick? Finally, do you also have an old clothesline stand? Well my friends you have the perfect equipment to make a standing firepit.
Old washing machine firepit. Photo credit Andrea Stehpenson.
The making of said standing firepit isnt to difficult. You just simply attach the old spinner of the machine to the stand (securely of course) and ensure the bottom of the pit is stable. Just make sure the metal that is used wont melt (that could be interesting).
○ Reduce the amount of waste potentially going to landfill (thats if you dont drop off the machine to a place that already recycles the parts) by using old machines and recycling them.
Bees in the Garden
By now most of us have heard about insect biodiversity loss which is happening around the globe. You have probably also heard that bees, one of the most important pollinators, have also been reported as ‘bee’ing (yes – I made a funny) in decline.
With such sad news it is hard to keep the chin the high. But that is why I am writing articles for this blog, in the hope that people will get ideas on the little things they can do to help change the world. And one of the things that we can do is in the garden – and relates to bees (and not just the commonly known honeybee).
You can very easily plant plants in your garden that will attract not just bees, but also other pollinators. This provides a valuable food source for bees and is becoming increasingly important in a ever expanding urbanised landscape. The types of plants that should be plant will vary depending on the locality you are in. Do your research into the bees that could be in your local area and research flowering plants accordingly. One suggestion, if I may, is aim on planting a variety of plant species that flower across different seasons. Even if you do your research you may miss species and planting a wide range of species increases your likelihood of planting for those bee species that you may have missed.
Numerous scientific articles have shown the negative effects of pesticides on bees.
Therefore, do not use them. I know, I know. I hear your thoughts (or angry, cursing). “What about those (insert insect that eat’s vegetables/fruit). I can’t grow a decent tomato without a good old pesticide.” True, this will remove those nasty pests that eat your carrots when they are growing but it will also have a negative effect on other populations of insects. The pesticides can even make their way up the food chain to other animals that we may eat (rabbit, cow, chicken). For the good of all, use alternative, environmentally friendly methods to reduce pest insect numbers in your garden.
Bee friendly habitat
Different species of bees will live in different types of habitats (and can be found within the garden). This will be dependant on bee species and the area in which you live. For those just starting out the placing a bee/insect hotel will help increase the biodiversity of bees/insects in your garden. You can make your own or buy (most likely from a local hardware store).
Alternatively you could get creative and make your own hotel.
Old TV turned into an insect motel – Photo credit Marilyn Rogers
You may also want to build or purchase your own native bee hive. This process can be costly and expensive. However, once you have one hive successfully established, you can very easily make more.
- Planting a variety of flowering plants will help with increasing food sources for your bees
- Reduction in pesticides will help to reduce bee and insect biodiversity loss.
- Establishing bee friendly habitat will allow for an increase in bee biodiversity and overall bee numbers in all areas (urban and rural).
How to compost
Composting is not necessarily rocket science but there are a few hints and tips that will make the process easier.
There are a few fundamentals that you should follow no matter what type of compost bin (or no bin) you are using.
1) Decide on the right location. Too far one way or too far the otherway could result in the goldilocks syndrome.
Placing the bin on exposed soil will help the microbes that help in the breaking down of the material get in your bin faster. Also, placing the bin in the shade will help in reduction of lost moisture. Speaking of moistute….
2. Keep the compost moist but not like its a swimming pool. Moisture will help to increase the rate at which the compost is broken down. Too much will turn it to mush.
3. Turn the compost regularly. Not only will this expose the lowe level compost to the air but it will also help to reduce the number of pests within the compost (which is important if you decide to compost all food matter).
4. This next one is a matter of opinion but it is recommended to have a ratio of brown to green waste in your compost. Many ratios are suggested but 2 or 3 brown to green seems to ve standard.
There is a great info graphic here to help also.
Mulching in the yard
Mulching is great thing for your garden. It helps suppress weeds and, when broken down after being exposed over time to the elements, will help to aid in construction of soil.
To mulch you need a layer of dead organic matter (usually leaves, striped sugarcane, grass clippings etc.) That is placed on top of the ground. Overtime it will break down into soil.
Photo credit: Mark Schonbeck, Virginia Association for Biological Farming
The benefits of mulching are numerous and include:
○ preventing soil cracking during high or low tempertures.
○ prevention of plant diseases spreading through rain splashing on healthy plants.
○ keeping the moisture in the soil or a longer time period.
○ reduction of soil erosion by slowling down the rate water runoff occurs and by preventing rain hitting the exposed soil and making it erode.
○ reduction of global gas emissions by placing mulch on the garden when it would otherwise be thrown out (most effective if you make your own mulch).
○ it looks nice.
It is relatively easy to make your own mulch (and this is different to composting). In short, anything that is plant based can be made into mulch (you dont use veg or fruit as it will become smelly and not slightly). Leaves are the easiest to use from the yard as they are light and dont need to be broken down further. However, its those pesky sticks and tigs that are the big issue. You can buy or hire a machine that will turn these into mulch (known as the original name of a mulcher).
Overall, mulching is not just good for the environment but as your garden.
Should I compost that?
There are many a tale about what to compost and what not to compost. Let’s start off with the simple stuff shall we?
Fruit and Veg
The one we all hear about. The safe option. You can compost pretty much all types of food and veg in all types of compost. Avoid onions and other highly acidic food scraps if you have lots of worms present as it may go unfavorably for them. Additionally, try to cut up any veg that may ‘sprout’ in warm, dark, nutrient rich environments (e.g.onion and potatoes). You may find the compost pile/bin turns into a big potota farm (which is great if you like potatos).
Image: American Heart Association
Cereals and bread
In short – yes – go for it. Some cereals may also provide a nice little pick me up of nitrogen to the ole compost pile. Bread will also contribute to the end soil product that is the compost. Just be mindful that these can attract pests so regular turning may be required.
Avoid. It could upset the moisture composition of the compost.
Weeds and Diseased Plants
Sections of the weeds are ok but avoid seeds and seed pods. You dont want them sprouting when you use the soil made from the compost in that oh so awesome vegetable garden. Diseased plants should also be avoided as it may help to spread the disease when you use the soil made from the compost.
Weeds are a no no for composting
Image: WSU Washington
Yep. Go for it if the the wood was untreated.
Excrement from pets (and your own/familys behind)
Ummmmmmm. No. There’s this thing called health risks and…..yeah…….
All animal meat/bone will eventually break down (its the circle of life or something like that). It will, however, bring pets to the compost that are less then ideal and also produce some not so nice smells.
Please refer to meat info. above.
Paper. Have you ever smelt paper. Waterworld. Great movie. I digress. Yes. It makes a good layering between food scraps. Be wary of paper that is gloss or has high print on it. Anything purely white (or even a newspaper) should be ok. Otherwise recycle options would be best.
Anything cardboard is good for the same reason (just avoid those things outlined above). Oh, and dont forget toilet paper roles.
Tea bags and coffee grinds
Yes. High in nitrogen and phosphorus. Just be wary of the acidic content of the coffee with worms and soil acidity.
Nope. Elastic and plastics can be part of the material and your clothes are coloured. Colouring means bad nasty chemicals. Yuck!.
Yes, yes and god yes. Perfect to help maintain moisture in the soil that is made feom the compost.
If you have any other ideas then pleass leave them in the comment sections below.
Compost World Benefits
○ Reduction of CO2 emissions through transport of soil that you then nees to buy and transport home (and save you $$$ in the process).
○ Reduction in landfill and therefore reduction of climate warming emissions.
○ Increase in insect numbers in your garden which will make for food sources for other animals.