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Bees are fascinating little invertebrates. Many philosophers have stated that they are the perfect living organisms – only contributing to nature and not damaging her in any way. Keeping bees is an incredibly rewarding hobby, whether it’s for the sweet honey they produce, understanding their biology or simply wanting some assistance to help pollinate your garden.

A little about me and why I came to love the humble honey bee: I was a fearless child, and at around the age of eight would often pat bees whilst they were on flowers drawing up the nectar. I don’t remember getting stung back then, but I do remember that I was immortal – unlike the bees.

Keeping bees is an incredibly rewarding hobby, whether it’s for the sweet honey they produce, understanding their biology or simply wanting some assistance to help pollinate your garden. A little about me and why I came to love the humble honey bee: I was a fearless child, and at around the age of eight would often pat bees whilst they were on flowers drawing up the nectar. I don’t remember getting stung back then, but I do remember that I was immortal – unlike the bees i was patting! We lived on a farm in the Yarra Valley, and I can clearly recall a feral hive in a tree. I loved getting close to it and smelling the most luscious scent of pure sweetness emanating from the hive. Did I mention it was a feral hive? Any time I got near it the bees became alarmed and went berserk in defence of their fortress. I was a chubby child, but with bees on the offensive i could run like Forrest Gump! A few years later, at the age of 14, I told my mum and dad that I didn’t want a cat or a dog; I wanted a bee hive! Of course, I had to save up my own money, which I made on the weekends and sometimes after school doing fruit picking.

That hive cost me $60, and I was proud to call myself a beekeeper, but I never actually got to open it up. Several weeks later I became puzzled as to why so why few bees would fly in and out…the old beekeeper I bought it from came around and inspected the hive, and alas it had died from an infestation of wax moth. He was a lovely old bloke and gave me my money back and took away the deceased hive.

Thinking back now, I reckon the old fellow’s vision can’t have been too good, as almost every glass jar of honey he sold had one or more dead bees in it! if you were lucky, you would only end up with a few wings or legs…maybe it was some kind of strange marketing plan to prove the honey was pure! Two decades later, and after possibly more than 1,000 stings along the way, I now have almost 200 hives. What was once a hobby is now almost a full-time job, and that’s my story about bees! You will find bees make for a richly rewarding, amazing hobby. Who knows? You may end up starting a business as I have done.

It is paramount though that safety is always maintained. Bees sting; bee stings contain venom; and venom can be dangerous, especially to those who are highly allergic! If you do keep bees, make sure you comply with your local council laws and regulations and consider the neighbours, as not everyone is as fond of bees as me and you! If you are about to embark on a journey into the fascinating world of bees, my suggestion is to read – and read lots!

There are some fantastic books around that contain excellent information to help get your started. Getting amongst the bees also helps you understand them. If you are not quite ready to own your own hive, I highly recommend going to a beekeeping course and joining a beekeeping club. Having a mentor to guide you through the depth of a hive for the first time is totally invaluable. After you have got your gear and gained some knowledge, it’s time to get the bees! Bee happy!