Hi everyone. This is just a quick post to reassure you all that I am still alive. July and August have been busy, and September will be fairly busy too. I just have not had the time or the brain space to pull together posts every week. Sorry for that.

Uni stuff

This semester at Uni I am completing 2 subjects for the first time in a few years, and I am obviously out of practice. It is the final semester for this degree and I really just want to get it done. It would also be nice not to damage my grade point average, just in case I do decide I want to go on and do Honours and/or postgrad research… I am still considering the possibility. So I do really need to focus and get stuck into these subjects. It won’t be a problem, I just need to do it – and other things (like writing blog posts) will have to take a back seat.

The car

Other things I have been up to – Well I hit a kangaroo with the EV a few weeks ago. After having been without the car for 3 weeks while they assessed it, I have now had the call to say I can come and pick it up and drive it around for the next 4 or so weeks while they await spare parts to arrive. WooHOO! That is a relief, because the hire car I’ve been using in the interim is quite expensive. I was actually planning on buying a cheap 2nd hand car if I couldn’t get mine back, because that would be cheaper than hiring a car for 2 months. However, I have been spared that. I can drive my car until the parts arrive.

Varroa Mite stuff

Those of you interested in bees may have seen the reports of varroa mite being detected near Newcastle. The NSW Government has set up a Varroa Mite Taskforce to try to contain and eliminate the mite. As part of this, they have been deploying NSW RFS teams to assist the Department of Primary Industries staff and volunteer beekeepers who are out inspecting hives. I have so far done 2 rotations through the Taskforce. The RFS teams are there to provide transport and manpower resources. We are only acting under the direction of our DPI supervisor, and do not act independently.

The work we do to assist depends a lot on the composition of the teams and the number of hives to be dealt with. Some beekeepers were quite happy to do all the heavy lifting. If there were a lot of hives, however, they often had one of the RFS people go out with them to assist. Sometimes we had one beekeeper, and having and RFS person to assist sped things up imensely. Other times, there were 2 beekeepers and for a small apiary there was no need for RFS people to suit up.

Personal learnings from the Taskforce…

I did some hive work, but that was mostly ifting bee boxes on and off hives and strapping/unstrapping hives. The professional bee-keepers are actually responsible for pulling frames and checking them. A couple of the beekeepers did go out of their way to make sure I could spot a queen bee, however. That was fantastic, as I have never spotted the queen in my own hives. I did actually spend a lot of time doing the testing, though. That greatly speeds up the checking process if someone else does that while the beekeeper does other things. And let’s be clear here – the beekeepers were volunteering their time too. Some of them were being paid by their employers to do the work, but others were forfeiting pay to be there. WIthout fail, however, they all agreed that it was critical work and they were not complaining.

Obviously for personal privacy reasons we cannot discuss what we see or where we go, but I can say it has been fantastic working with some very knowledgeable beekeepers from all over Australia. I have learnt a lot to improve my own beekeeping. I have also seen some apiaries that make mine look like a first class operation (which it very definitely isn’t), and some apiaries that make mine look like a poor job run by a very inexperienced beekeeper (which it is).

Overall, it has been a great experience. I will definitely do another rotation if the opportunity arises and my calendar permits.

And a trivial personal achievement in the process…

In the process I have also been further north in NSW than I have ever been as an adult. I have never previously been further north than Newcastle on the coast. Dubbo, was the furtherest north I have been in NSW as an adult prior to this. I went further north than Dubbo this time. A long time ago, as a child, I did an overnight bus trip from Melbourne to Brisbane, which doesn’t count. Not that this really counts either, I guess. It’s not as though I had any opportunity to sight-see. It was all work. Generally about 11 hours from leaving the hotel to returning to the hotel, in fact.

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