I have been meaning to get out and meet so many of our seasoned stingless bee keepers. One in particular is Doug Irvine. I remember when I first saw one of his hives at a wild life sanctuary and I was immediately taken with its appearance. Having worked with timber all my life I knew it was made by a craftsman, someone special, someone with skills!
I was in Doug Irvine’s part of the world and decided to pop in and see how he does things. This interview is one to take your time watching and is particularity for those who have a keen interest in hive design.
Milling timber? Mounting hives? Piggy-backing?
Maybe you are looking to make a lot of hives but the cost of timber is too high? Well why not make a portable mill? Doug did! I was amazed seeing this lightweight mill cut planks like they were butter. What’s equally amazing is this guy made the machine. So impressed.
There are 2 million ways to mount a hive up but few provide a solid fix to a wall or tree. Check out how he made these simple brackets for the job.
Piggy backing? What’s that? Well imagine if you had never heard the term eduction, what if you had found your own way of doing it. Watch the video below for this simple ingenious trick for setting up eductions on trees.
Doug Irvine’s Hive
I was keen to see how Doug made his beautiful hive and he showed me! Such a lot of work and care has gone into each one and It was nice to know that he has been able to produce such a high quality product over the years without fiddling with the design to alter it.
For a pine hive they have certainly outlasted most and remain nice in appearance for years. Kind of weird to think with the right tender loving care that you can add years of life to it. I guess I found it a nice lesson in doing a job right the first time.
Watch the video below to learn all about it.
Splitting Hives and Collecting Honey
Doug has a few tips for splitting that I think are really good. The first being using a knife to cut the seal so that no leavering action causes permanent damage to the hive. The second being making sure his hives are dead straight before putting bees in so that the joints are tight. This means he can use a little scraper to remove the resin around the two mating hive faces and get a tight join every time.
Doug rang me around the time I released the series supers video and we had a great chat about what he was working on too. He had already made a spinner for them and was refining the preferred depth for optimum clean honey harvest.
Things are better explained in the video below.
My personal highlight was receiving a full stainless steel spinner from Doug. It was really nice to be gifted something that was beautifully crafted and hand made from one bee keeper to another. I also liked learning about his mill and getting to see the Kauri tree.
Questions I had for Doug Irvine
How did you become interested in Stingless bees?
In South Australia there was no native bees. Occasionally there was an article in the Australian Beekeeper magazine that sparked my interest. In the late 80s I move to Queensland and a friend had given me a log hive, 2 years later I transferred them into a hive.
Can you think of a memory or story that stands out with your bee keeping?
I was approached by a fellow, he said “I am restoring a motorcycle”. He told me there was a nest a of stingless bees nesting in the tank. He asked if I could remove them.
What type of Stingless bee is your favourite and why?
Hockingsi- Because they are virtually the only bee I see in the Harvey Bay area.
What things do you like about your box design and what inspirations did you have?
Finger joints because they are really strong and I wanted a box that had an appealing look about it. When I made my first box Tim Heard had published an article early on with his dimensions of his oath hive and I copied them. Some other articles I still have about bee are, Queensland Agricultural Journal, published in 1986. I have an article from 1982 from Anne Wagner and Les Dollin.
Why do you believe bees are important?
They are important to me because my whole life has been based around them, a lifetime fascination.
Have you learned something recently about bees that you would wish to share?
I don’t split hives when the Cadaghi season is about to start. So I don’t split from Christmas to early February. (For those unaware, if there is an empty space in your hive at this time, the space fills up with Cadaghi seed)
Finally what is your one piece of life advice you would share with the world?
My advice to people is, the greatest thing people can do for their bees is to site them properly. Having them well up off the ground is important and shaded from mid morning to the rest of the day. Get them away from walls that reflect heat. Don’t open your boxes up every 5 min.
To talk to Doug for a limited time. Please call 0418798131
If you would like to know more about Doug’s timber mill please click the link below.