PODCAST EPISODE 78 of the Bees with Ben podcast features Kevin Tracy, the queen bee guru from Queensland’s Gold Coast. Originally from Chicago, Kevin says he’s more Australian than Australia, but he still hasn’t managed to lose the tell-tale accent (he claims it is 100% Queenslander!).
Kevin is the owner and manager of BeeZone Apiaries Queen Bees and Training, and besides producing queens, honey and delivering pollination services, he also offers comprehensive training for apiarists, and in this capacity has educated beekeepers across the country. He is a member of beekeeping associations in four states, as well as being actively involved in the Australian Biosecurity Bee Emergency Response Team (BERT) and the Australian Queen Bee Breeders Association, and assisted in the South Australian Government’s Bushfire Recovery programme and with the ‘Outback Academy’, an indigenous not-for-profit organisation. Kevin is also in demand as a guest speaker, and has a very entertaining style, as you will no doubt discover.
Kevin says he initially purchased a couple of hives as he thought bees were cool and fitted in with his permaculture lifestyle, but admits to knowing nothing about them at the time – a big mistake in retrospect, since he was stung so severely that he was comatose for three days. Eventually he returned to beekeeping and became focussed upon the production of queens. He says there is a certain magic or mythology that surrounds the creation of queens, but that in reality it is actually quite simple. Kevin says he is convinced that everyone should produce their own queens and is committed to teaching apiarists how to achieve this. He’s on a mission and will travel anywhere to fulfil this objective.
When asked to describe the perfect queen, he unhesitatingly replied, ‘Elizabeth!’ Seriously, Kevin says a good queen is the one that does what you need for your colony – colour or appearance is of no significance. Interestingly, he says the hardest part of creating queens is the timetable.
We also talked about pests and diseases, and the challenges of keeping bees in south-east Queensland. Kevin provided a fascinating insight into his selection process for queens, whilst reiterating that he is a big fan of ‘local vigour’. The controversy surrounding feeding bees was covered in some detail, and Kevin revealed his pet hate – the Dunning-Kruger effect. This may be defined as a ‘cognitive bias in which people overestimate their knowledge of ability in a specific domain’. Unfortunately, according to Kevin, it is prevalent in some bee groups!
Kevin is incredibly knowledgeable and quite a character. Do queen bees have crowns? And why, given the choice of any historical figure, would Kevin choose to share a coffee with Joan of Arc? You will have to listen to the podcast to find out more!