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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

Back in the Hives


Inside Pyramid Apiaries is a monthly insight into operations at Marlborough commercial beekeeping business Pyramid Apiaries. This month – the rubber hits the road as we get back into the hives and dust off the sugar syrup tank as well as the grafting tool…

Here we go again! Winter can’t last forever and, like many beekeepers, August is the first real look back into the hives at Pyramid Apiaries in Marlborough. It’s a gentle build in to the season’s workload, but with around 120 hives destined for pollinating cherry orchards in September to bring up to speed, and the smaller mating units to be maintained, August is always the month where the rubber hits the road.

3-frame mating units with over-wintered queens, such as this, have come out of winter strong for Pyramid Apiaries in Marlborough, which is always a relief says owner Patrick Dawkins.

Speaking of that, there’s also the hives over-wintered in bush sites to check and that’s where the road slashed my trusty ute’s rubber during first round visits. You have to keep an eye on the weather forecast and pick the right day this time of year to go and ‘heft’ the bush hives to asses their weight. So, I did that, and, after getting around all 70 hives and feeding a bit of raw sugar and honey frames to the lighter colonies, I felt very productive as I bounced out along the 4WD track through the bush by 3pm. That was until a rear tyre – and with it my mood – was deflated.

The trusty Pyramid Apiaries ute undergoes a flat tyre change following a visit to bush sites.

We use thicker-walled (8-ply by memory) all-terrain tyres on our vehicles, but sometimes they just aint strong enough for a jagged rock when under load. My spare tyre was up to the job and so were all my accessories for the change. Well, all but a block of wood to prop up the jack with which, given the location of the vehicle on a rocky 4WD track, was very much needed. With chainsaw on board, a nearby mānuka stump provided a big enough ring for the job though – mānuka the beekeeper’s friend!

When not winding on a jack I have been getting around both production hives and mating-units. The later have come out of winter very well, a relief as most only have three frames (in 3-way full depth box) to get them through. However, they barely need the lick of sugar syrup we are giving to help bring them up to speed for when over-wintered queens are caged and new-season cells go in.

On that note, this past week has seen us dust off the grafting tool and get back into the breeder queens and cell-raiser hives to get the new season of cell-raising underway. Our first over-wintered queens will be caged and sent out to beekeepers in September, with new-season queens coming on stream in October, and we still have some place for mated queen orders from mid-October on if you are in need.

That’s a while a way now though and there is plenty to do between now and then, including assessing more queens for breeding potential, plenty more grafts, a decent amount of hives into cherry orchards, and hundreds of queens to cage – let’s talk about some of that next month…


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