tips for beekeepers
DHA AND MGO EXPLAINED
DHA (Dihydroxyacetone) is a chemical that is found in some Leptospermum species, and is the precursor to MGO (Methylglyoxyl) being produced in the honey. If there is no DHA in the nectar, the species or the individual plant is known as "inactive", and its honey will never have MGO. An example of an inactive species is Leptospermum laevigatum, or Coastal Tea Tree. The higher the MGO levels in the honey, the better the antibacterial properties are, and the more valuable the honey is. All of the plants produced in our breeding programs are from parent stock that have had their nectar tested for DHA, with only the highest testing plants used for propagation.
FILL A "NECTAR GAP"
One of the keys to a successful Leptospermum plantation is to have the main source of nectar available when you put your hives on the Leptospermum as the plantation itself, and not another close by strong nectar source. Any nectar that the bees collect and bring back to the hive from other species will dilute the honey from the plantation, therefore lowering the potential DHA and MGO levels in the honey. This is best done by selecting a plantation species that flowers in your area when there isn't much else in flower. As we have the potential for up to nine months of flowering from our ten Leptospermum species, select one or more species that will fill your local nectar gap.
USE EMPTY, DRAWN OUT FRAMES IN THE HONEY SUPER
This may sound obvious, but if half filled frames are in the honey super when the bees start collecting from the Leptospermum plantation, you have already diluted the honey considerably. Also, if frames are used with only foundation, it takes valuable time and energy for the frames to be drawn out before nectar can be stored. The aim is to have the bees start collecting nectar from the first day and store it throughout the entire flowering period.
Some of the Leptospermum species we have available for plantations flower at a time when bees naturally swarm. The last thing that you want to happen is for half of the work force to fly away while they should be gathering nectar. Requeening in Autumn may be a good option so that a young (and less likely to swarm) queen is in the hive in Spring. Otherwise, undertake other swarm prevention measures, such as regularly removing queen cells, throughout the Leptospermum flowering.
PUT YOUR STRONGEST HIVES ON THE PLANTATION
Strong hives have the biggest work forces for nectar collection, resulting in more honey being produced. Strong hives are also generally less prone to diseases and other health issues which could reduce a weak hives ability to gather enough nectar to produce honey.
HONEY STORAGE AFTER EXTRACTION
Active Leptospermum honey takes time for the DHA in the nectar (and stored honey) to be converted to MGO. This complex chemical process can take from 12 to 18 months for the maximum MGO levels to be reached, so the honey will need to be stored at temperatures around 22 degrees celsius for the period. After extraction, it would be wise to send a sample of the honey to an accredited laboratory for testing to ascertain the current DHA and MGO levels, as well as the potential MGO level on maturity. The chemical process cannot be accelerated by heating the honey to higher temperatures (such as 50 degrees celsius), which will actually denature some of the DHA in the honey and reduce its final activity. Excessive heating the honey at extraction also adversely effects the DHA levels, so be careful not to overheat the honey at this time as well. This can be tempting as Leptospermum honey has a thicker consistency than other honey types. A "pricking" machine or implement as well as fast rotation of the frames can make extraction easier.