My sons own a few beehives which they have placed in the garden around our house. Christoph first became involved when a local beekeeper asked if he could relocate his 40 hives to the back of our land. I willingly agreed on the condition that in return for the use, he takes on an apprentice part time beekeeper. Christoph and David have been spending a few hours each week together for 3 years now and it has slowly evolved to a solid mutual friendship. David is very patient, has a PHD in entomology and has really taken to Christoph. Last year, I asked if another son, Pieter could tag along, to which David also kindly agreed. The three of them seem to get along fine. Late last year, I purchased a few hives and bees for the boys and they placed them in our orchard close to the house. Christoph and Pieter got to have something of their own and we have the potential benefit of pollination of our many fruit trees during spring. It's been a pleasure watching the bees multiply and thrive until Autumn arrived with a bang. All of a sudden the weather grew cold, the natural flowers and other nutrients that the bees seek, appeared to disappear and the bees for the most part stayed inside their hives on all but the sunniest times of each day. Not so for the dreaded wasps however. They are one of the worst scourges of New Zealand’s fauna. Funny that something so seemingly small could be such an incredibly destructive pest. I knew they were bad, but only since having beehives in our family, did I finally begin to realise the full implications of how serious the problem is. As a natural part of beekeeping, hives are bolstered with cane sugar syrup over the cooler months when there is little natural food for bees to find. This is particularly important for newly established hives and also for existing hives that the beekeeper has harvested the honey from in order to replace reserves lost. In effect beekeepers tend to remove honey and in effect swap a portion of this with low cost sugar syrup.
It was only during Autumn that we really became aware of just how vicious these predator wasps were. Each morning we would stand in front of the hives only to watch a steady procession of wasps flying in and out to rape and pillage all they came across. We sought advice on how to minimise the damage and narrowed the entrances to each hive to make it easier for the bees inside to defend.
We then set traps outside the hive entrance to lure wasps. The trap was a glass jar with a small hole at the top. Inside the jars we used a mixture of beer and jam, which the wasps (not the bees) were attracted towards. To watch as a wasp landed on the jar and then crawl inside only to join their comrades in a sticky ending left us feeling very satisfied that we were at least doing something worthwhile to control the issue.
Alas, we seriously underestimated the strength and numbers of wasps attacking each day and before long they had decimated (killed) the weakest of the 4 hives. About now we started feeling desperate. What could we do to get on top of the wasp issue? We live on a lifestyle block and are surrounded by trees and gardens and we walked the property many times looking for ground based wasps nests. Before long we found a nest and killed it that evening when all the wasps were at home. It felt good to know we had got one. Alas it made virtually no difference. Once again we underestimated the issue. I did a bit of research online and found that it is likely that wasps could come from hives as much as 1 Kilometer away, which meant, there could be many undiscovered nests in the area?
As a final desperate measure, I read that wasps could be enticed to eat poisonous bait, which they could take back to their nests, effectively killing the entire colony. To attack the issue at the root, sounded like quite the plan.
The value of service
I had made up my mind to purchase a tin of sardine cat food and to lace it with insecticide and placing it inside an animal friendly jar with a small hole inside the lid. I visited the local hardware store and was looking to find a suitable insecticide. I'm not sure if your local hardware store is the same as ours, but I wasn't expecting much in the way of advice. This was specialist knowledge and I needed to study the various products they had available. After about 20 min, a kindly lady approached me and asked if she might be of service. I looked at her and gave her a brief explanation of what I was trying to do and then said, “just leave it with me, because you will not know anything about what I'm trying to achieve”. I said this because; the majority of big stores are all heading that way now. Huge barns stacked full of goods, with the occasional low paid store worker to assist in the event you get desperate. So naturally I wasn't expecting much, but to the contrary, she was bright and exceptionally engaging and really started on my issue. After about 15 minutes of her telling me all she knew on the subject, I was eating out of her hands. They didn't have the product I required, but that's not the point.
The point is the value of service she gave. I now will seek her out next time I'm in store, because she was so helpful and engaging. Not only will I seek her out, but it has re kindled my interest in the store and tempered my enthusiasm for a bigger range and lower prices. The service difference was the key to my experience and it has made me realise that I must do more in our small business at Perreaux to do all we can to look after our valued clients every need.
For those who have been dissatisfied with the advice and service you have received from Perreaux lately, I'm very sorry for this and feel that I will definitely try harder in future.
Now all I have to do is get those wasps sorted out before they completely decimate the remaining 3 hives.