First Swarm

Bait hives are set around the property to attract swarming bees in spring. We check them every day to see if they are working. On this day there is no sign of activity in the bait hives. But there were a lot of bees buzzing around the Chinese Pear tree, which was odd because it is not yet in flower. On closer inspection there it was: a large swarm
formed on the ground under the Chinese Pear.

Lord Howe Island Bees Thornleigh Farm
The swarm sitting on the ground

Our Milkwood natural beekeeping course had not prepared us for this. Swarms are supposed to rest in trees, not on the ground. One of our Warre hives was placed next to the swarm with a ramp to the entrance covered in a white sheet. After trial and error (rewarded by bee stings for both of us) we worked out we could place sticks into the swarm and then shake the bees that clustered onto the sticks into the hive. It took a few hours but once the queen was in the hive the stampede began. Within 30 minutes the swarm had marched into the hive.

Lord Howe Island Honey Bees Thornleigh Farm
The swarm marching into the Warre hive

We gently set the hive onto its stand and strapped it down and retired to nurse our wounds and celebrate with a few beers. The workers had sealed the entrance to the hive with the bee equivalent of a human shield. We guessed this was to insulate the hive from the cool evening air to help them get the hive to its regulation constant 35 degrees.

Lord Howe Island Thornleigh Farm Honey Bees
Bees blocking off the entrance after the swarm entered the hive

Next morning at first light the bees were busy building their new home in the Warre hive. We will open the hive again in a few weeks to see if they have started building honeycomb.

Want to learn more about natural beekeeping? The way of the Bee: An intro to Natural Beekeeping

Looking to Summer

We were delighted with the reaction from the community and visitors to our very first small winter crop. We have had a steady flow of orders and it’s been great to see new customers and returning customers. This support has encouraged us to grow more for the coming warm season. 

Lord Howe Island Thornleigh Farm Melons
Melons and cucumbers are growing up as the weather warms

We are doubling the number of garden beds under drip irrigation and opening another field to broadacre planting. We have also invested in 40 new citrus trees in response to the demand for the fruit from the established trees on the farm. It will be a few seasons before the new trees start bearing but when they do we will have lots more oranges and mandarins and we will also have a good supply of lemons and limes.

Lord Howe Island Thornleigh Farm Leek row
A tunnel formed by rows of leek

In the coming season we are planting a broad range of herbs and we will have vegetables and fruits including beans, pumpkin, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, rockmelon, watermelon and corn. We are improving our signage and tentatively raising our profile, but still relying heavily on word-of-mouth. So if you like what we are doing please tell your family, friends, and visitors about us.

Lord Howe Island Thornleigh Farm Citrus Trees
Morning on light on the farm, with newly planted citrus trees visible