Monday, June 04, 2012

Natural beekeeping to help save the world's bees

I did a fascinating course last weekend on natural beekeeping presented by a friend, Tony Hodgson.

Honey bees entering hive.  Author:   Björn Appel 

I learnt that the world's honey bee population is now at great risk due to a combination of factors - including Varroa mites, commercial "over production" and problems with pesticides and herbicides.

The Varroa mite was spread from Asian Honey bees (which are resistant to it) to European and North Amercan bees in recent times.  This has resulted in deaths of 70% or more bee hives (colonies), and the use of chemical to try and "manage" the mite.  Bee colonies now only last 3 years in countries afflicted by the mite.

Australia is the last major honey producing country to be free of the mite - but it may eventually arrive here too.

70 percent of the world's food results from bee pollination of plants, so huge reductions in bee numbers puts the world's food supplies at great risk!

The good news is that natural bee keeping can result in bee hives (colonies) that are not subjected to the same stress that commercial bees are.  Less honey is harvested, the hives are not moved around to follow flowering periods and a more bee-friendly hive design such as a Kenyan or Warre hives.  These hives can be made out of timber for a reasonable cost.

You can also get equipment required for beekeeping - such as a bee suit and hive tool - for a reasonable cost.

Some I am getting ready to have a go at starting beekeeping this spring!



Grant said...

Hope you are not intending to keep the hives in the suburbs, you will probably find you will have some very p'd off neighbors. After talking to some commercial bee keepers a year or so ago, you will probably have to find out what areas you can put a hive in the country, as bee keepers have their agreed territories (so they do not effectively steal each others honey). A "ring in" hive will just disappear.

Peter Campbell said...

Grant, I am intending to keep one hive in my backyard. It is legal if you get a beekeepers licence.

We eat a lot of honey in our house, and I am sure that neighbours like having their plants pollinated.

Hives in the country have to be moved to follow flowering periods. Hives in the city can stay put all year round.

Grant said...

Suggest you pray that your bees do not sting one of the local kids or you may be sued for your socks, although they may have one hell of a job proving any bee was one of yours.

Steve W said...

Hey, Grant, what's with the negativity? Bee keeping on a hobby scale is well established all over Australia and worldwide. Any bees in your garden will probably come from a neighbour's hive that you've been blissfully unaware of for decades.

In fact, the suburbs are ideal bee foraging areas because of their variety of nectar and pollen-bearing plants. There will be bees there anyway. Keeping a hive doesn't increase the risk of feral colonies in dwellings or people in neighbouring properties being stung. If Peter catches a local swarm he's actually helping to manage the local bee population and prevent them causing a nuisance.

Many rural areas are actually bee deserts except when the eucalypts are flowering, because of the lack of biodiversity in monocultures. What you are writing about is industrial-scale migratory bee keeping. Suggesting that there's no room for Peter's hive is like saying he can't grow lettuces because there are hectares of them down at Werribee ;)

Peter Campbell said...

Grant, further to Steve's advice, a friend of mine put in a beehive several years ago in Blackburn. Neighbours complained over the back fence that one of their children was stung by "his bees".

But there were none in the hive - it was empty at the time.

I do intend to catch a local swarm with some assistance, thereby helping manage the local bee population.

My friend Tony took some hives to a rural location and the bees rapidly starved (no blossom) so he brought them home.

If you adopt the right practices, keeping bees in suburbia can benefit everyone. And its legal, when you get a licence.