Rocklily is in a temperate climate, so beekeeping is a whole new ballgame compared to our years in Sydney. With our move to Rocklily we have left a few hives with relatives in Sydney as a winter move is not on for the bees. New beekeepers apparently lose about 50% of their hives, we have done slightly better than that thankfully. Our beekeeper friends are all in Sydney and we really needed advice from cold climate beekeepers. It’s all a big learning curve, and truly fascinating. We know we have a number of large wild honey bee hives around too—we think one’s in a really big ribbon gum—as well as a good range of native bees, such as blue-banded and teddy bear to name a couple.
We have had a few hives here. Being absent has meant we lost a few to ants and have just had a hive abscond in winter. We can only presume it was because their stored pollen supplies ran out; although there was lots of honey they absconded. However we still had enormous numbers of bees still working all the bee plants I’ve put in. The hive was empty 4-5 weeks and a huge swarm appeared and has settled in nicely, we have given them the top box that was almost full of honey.
We don’t use any chemicals or antibiotics, preferring to beekeep in an organic or ‘natural’ style.
If you have been lucky enough to buy our yummy honey, the money goes towards more plantings locally to keep the bees feed year around. There is a shortage of shrubs as the area has been grazed by sheep and cows for nearly 100 years!
We are really concerned about the amounts of pesticides used now. Pesticides coat seeds, and is then in the plant and the pollen—nectar is then poison to honey bees. There has been an really big decline in bee populations worldwide, with many factors contributing. But I think the worst factor is the hidden pesticides in everything we grow and eat.
Watch this documentary and you will look at the importance of honeybees in a new light—a thought-provoking look at just what we are doing to this planet.
For the other beekeepers out there, there are a couple of great sites I’d recommend. Belonging to organic beekeeping forums is also very useful—although international, there are more and more Aussies on them.