What’s happening to my bees?

dead bees || cityhippyfarmgirl

It was happening again. Hundreds of tiny dead bee bodies littered my shared courtyard once more.

I had been watching the blossoms from the overhanging gum slowly appear and open. With the soft scent of gum blossom in the air, also came the steady drone of bees… and then they would fall.

All around me would lie dead or dying bees. I wasn’t surprised, this happened twice a year. Every time the gum would start to flower, the bees would drop, (Autumn and Spring without fail.)

This time I wanted to have more of an idea of why though. I posted the question to instagram and facebook, getting flooded with different ideas. So many possibilities people!

But which is it? What’s the reason behind my courtyard being a death pit for so many bees? (And I’m sure no one is spraying anything.)

It’s been happening for as long as we’ve lived here and that I’ve been paying attention. My three children have all been introduced to the sting of a bee from dead ones on the ground over different time frames, (and yes they can still sting when they are dead.)

We don’t run the gauntlet in bare feet when it’s blossoming season, as you really can’t go 30cm without another bee body.

dead bees || cityhippyfarmgirl

So what are the most likely possibilities?

– The bees could be dying in flight, flying themselves to death, being such a concentrated area for the blossoms, they are just falling out of the sky?

– They are getting drunk (this Guardian article explains it a little further.)

I’m still not sure exactly what the cause of my bee problem is, but I’m working on it. So to be continued people.


Now there is a huge array of bee knowledge out there in the internet community. Some of whom were suggested to me, in which I in turn will pass on. As really, knowledgable bee people, they are pretty damn important and we’re lucky to have them, (Aus only.)

Doug Purdie

Tim Malfroy

Jerry Coleby-Williams

Flow Hive

Stingless Bees (native bees)

splitting a native bee hive || cityhippyfarmgirl

Last weekend I did a one day course on stingless bees (or native bees) with Tim Heard, through the wonderful Milkwood.

Tim Heard is an expert on all things native bees and along with his friend Tony Goodrich presented a course that I haven’t stopped talking about since.

Stingless Bees are amazingly wonderful and I am so looking forward to going further with this. My courtyard, local school, friends…yes, this is definitely going to happen.

Watch this space I reckon. Stingless bees, let’s do this.


How about you? Are you doing any courses at the moment? Got any experience with bees, native or otherwise? Or would you also like to get a stingless bee hive?

Sugarbag.com for a cracking start to understanding what they are all about.

Jump across to Milkwood for more awesome courses to do.

bees and honey

I was watching some bees recently. Silently going about their business, buzzing around from one flower to another. Watching how their pollen sacks got more and more full. One poor bee could hardly keep himself up he was so laden down with pollen goodies. It was so peaceful just standing still and watching them.

From where I was standing I could see about 50 bees all gathering their pollen to take back to their hives and create liquid gold. Honey.

We had passed some hives earlier on, and it was quite possible that these little fellas would be making the 4km trek back to these same hives. Bees may travel for up to 10km in search of nectar, pollen and water if they have to. So would it be these same bees? Or were there enough flowers in their immediate hive area. In an ideal setting a bee would travel just 200 metres in search of food.

Within Australia many bee keepers will move their hives along with the changing flowering blossoms. By doing this the apiarist helps the bees find the best nectar around. The hives are usually moved at night when the bees are sleepy, and tucked up in bed.

Five little things about bees and honey

1/ Bees talk in vibrations

2/ Honey doesn’t go off.

3/ Honey can be linked back to Egyptian times.

4/ Honey can be used to soothe a sore throat, ease a coughing fit and aid sleep.

5/ Honey is a natural exfoliant when used as a face mask. No need for expensive chemical laden products.

The European honey bee was introduced to Australia in the early 1800’s. This is the type of bee that most commercial apiarists will use. There are native Australian bees, (approximately 1500) however the majority of these only produce enough honey for their own use. Only 10 out of the 1500 types of native bees produce and store honey. Sonya from The Novice Bee Keeper is a great place to start if you are interested in keeping bees or just want to know more of the processes involved. Spice and More has also just started up some backyard bees, for another interesting peek at beekeeping.

Honey is such a magnificent product. I can’t help but be a little in awe of it when I am spooning it out and drizzling it on some toast. The flavours that can be so different. The subtle changes in the different types. If you want a more flavoursome honey, try a darker variety. Generally these will be the stronger in flavour ones. Here in Australia the majority of our honey comes from the hundreds of types of eucalypts, with a few other native plants added in for more subtle flavours.

Leatherwood (from Tasmania) stringy bark, yellow box, and blue gum are just some of the types of honey produced here in Australia. So much tastier than a blended bland super market honey.

With that production of honey also comes fertilization. Fertilization of so many crops that we depend on both here in Australia and the rest of the world. (A list here on the extensive amounts of crops requiring pollination from bees.) What will happen if that pollination doesn’t happen?…Why wouldn’t it happen? Pesticides, parasites, disease, loss of habitat, farming methods all are possible contributors to the world’s downfall of bees.  Colony Collapse Disorder is a name that has been thrown around a lot in the last 5 years. Are we going to be hearing of it even more in the next 5?

Did you know that the honey bee speaks Parisian street slang? Many city centre roof tops are producing honey from their own bee hive or two. Helping out with pollination within the city limits and producing gorgeous honey for its city dwellers living downstairs. I’ll be right back dear, just popping up to the roof for some honey… I can certainly see the appeal in that.

So what can you do?

* support local honey production, buy some of the liquid gold.

* plant bee (and other pollinating critters) friendly plants. You don’t need a whole garden. Even a single pot is something. Some plants bees are attracted to, lavender, bottle brush, eucalyptus, rosemary and basil. These are just a tiny few of the possibilities for plant attracting. Have a look in your area and see what is available and suitable to the climate.

* If you have the right space consider some back yard (or rooftop) bees.

There is so much information on bees, home bee keeping, colony collapse disorder, honey that I have only just skimmed the surface with this post. So many things to think about while watching the next little buzzing bee quietly buzzing about doing its thing.

birds and the bee

from  The Winds Message

A.B ‘Banjo’ Patterson

There came a whisper down the Bland between the dawn and dark,
Above the tossing of the pines, above the river’s flow;
It stirred the boughs of giant gums and stalwart iron-bark;
It drifted where the wild ducks played amid the swamps below;
It brought a breath of mountain air from off the hills of pine,
A scent of eucalyptus trees in honey-laden bloom;
And drifting, drifting far away along the Southern line
It caught from leaf and grass and fern a subtle strange perfume.
It reached the toiling city folk, but few there were that heard–

The rattle of their busy life had choked the whisper down;
And some but caught a fresh-blown breeze with scent of pine that stirred
A thought of blue hills far away beyond the smoky town;
And others heard the whisper pass, but could not understand
The magic of the breeze’s breath that set their hearts aglow,
Nor how the roving wind could bring across the Overland
A sound of voices silent now and songs of long ago.