Interview with Alan and John Waters
Today I had the pleasure to meet with two long time stingless bee keepers who happen to be brothers, Alan and John Waters. Both Alan and John keep a variety of species including Tetragonula carbonaria, Tetragonula hockingsi and Austroplebia australis. Alan and John demonstrated a vertical split hive of Alan’s while we were there. John has a variety of interesting boxes; Small, medium,large, long, square, horizontal and vertical split. It was good to see them while we were there.
Dean asked during our visit if any fights broke out between John’s bees. John said they did and it was mostly the Hockingsi that caused them, not so much the Australis and Carbonaria that are a problem. He controls this problem by spreading the bees out, splitting Hockingsi at regular intervals and moving boxes to other properties.
When we first entered I noticed the beautiful clear resin the Tetragonula Carbonaria bees had been collecting. It smelt of citrus when I rubbed a bit onto my finger. It is pretty rare to see all clear resin like this.
Alan talked of his box design which I personally love. It’s simplicity and effectiveness is quite surprising. John used plywood to manufacture his boxes with manufacturing in mind. The inside of the box has a mesh floor raised above the base of the box. The box includes a plastic mesh brood chamber which acts as a control area for the bees to build their brood into. This ensures the bees will build their brood in the optimum position for future splitting of the hive. The whole box splits vertically down the center and a new half is added at the time of splitting. John and Alan explained this as the most effective and gentle way to split Austroplebia australis.
I filmed one being split while we were visiting. Have a look below.
Both Alan and John waters came prepared with alot of interesting things to show us. You can see these below.
One of the things that amazed me while I was there was this little cute hive that John had built. The internal measurement was only 100mm/100mm floor plan. This hive has a cover that goes over it to keep it warm during winter.
Here is Alan’s horizontal box. The idea of the base of the box is so that at split time you can maintain the established entrance. Alan and John explained that always moving the split half to the base box makes it easy for the bees to build upwards. Bees prefer to build upwards and so it makes it faster for them to fill their box.
John has improvised a way to help bees setup a good defense in their hive with relatively no time. A small piece of timber supporting one or two sticks helps them to setup entrance protection quickly. Both Alan and John have their own ways of keeping bees safe by providing good entrances.
Dean asked Alan and John’s opinion on adding honey and pollen to a recently split or transferred hive. Both Alan and John said that if all the honey is drained out it is generally not a problem. They talked about moving the bees inside for a couple of days to recover and John drills a tiny entrance hole on a new hive just big enough for one bee to fit out of till the hive has had time to repair.
Questions I had for Alan Waters
How did you become interested in stingless bees?
Can you think of a memory or story that stands out with your bee keeping?
When I first had trouble with phorid fly and I used a film cannister trap to clean them out.
What type of stingless bee is your favorite and why?
My favourite bee is the Australis because they are easy to keep and have a placid nature and they don’t mind having a day off. True Aussies!
What things do you like about your box design and what inspirations did you have?
My box design is simple to use and minimises brood damage. A honey super can easily be fitted and the bees do well in it.
Why do you believe bees are important?
Have you learned something recently about bees that you would wish to share?
I wasn’t aware that native bees could make emergency queen cells till I read Tim Heard’s book.
Finally what is your one piece of life advice you would share with the world?
My message to the world – Don’t do interviews with Nick (Ha Ha) and be kind to each other.