On the 17th of October, 2012, my husband and I became amateur beekeepers. We bought some safety equipment, some beekeeping tools, 2 established hives and voila, we were beekeepers. They have been a great addition to our lives and even helped lead us to the farm. They pollinate our vegetables, provide us healthy-honey, give us wax for candles and propolis that may or may not have some amazing health benefits. They are quite the package!
Before taking possession of the bees, I knew very little about how to care for them. Frank and I joined the local beekeeping club and attended one of their open days then decided to go for it. Once I had the bees in my backyard, I gave myself a crash course in beekeeping with a lot of reading both online (there’s a world of information out there) and in books (yes, real paper and ink).
To be honest, keeping bees in Sydney is a piece of cake. We don’t have varroa mite (long may that statement remain true), the climate is kind (it’s a rare day when the bees can’t leave their hive) and the bees really just want a nice, quiet box in a nice, sheltered spot to live – they take care of everything else. Their food source is so good here all year round that we generally don’t need to feed them through winter. Easy peasy!
Easy but not free from all concern (and work). There are a few things we Sydney beekeepers have to worry about. We need to help our bees keep the small hive beetle in check. We do this with simple, plastic beetle traps that have holes big enough to allow beetles to crawl in but not big enough for bees to squeeze through. The traps have vegetable oil in them and the beetles drown. There are 2 types, ones that hang between the frames inside the hive and ones that slide under the bottom board (which has slots cut into it). This solution has worked really well for us. We did try another trap that beetles are supposed to get stuck on but we didn’t like that as well. Neither require chemicals which is great – we’re managing our colonies without chemicals. We may not be able to stop our bees from flying into a neighbour’s flower that’s been sprayed with something nasty, but we can avoid adding poisons to their home (as long as we don’t have varroa mites anyway).
Fast forward to today and we live on a farm with an apiary that has 20-30 hives (depending on the time of year, the swarm situation and the health of the colonies). We check our hives about every 2 weeks during their active season (August to May) and maybe every few weeks in the off-season, just to make sure everyone’s happy. Of course we walk into the apiary on an almost daily basis, it’s only 50 metres from our back door and so we can easily keep an eye on the bees and get a sense for how they’re doing.
The only other thing we have to do is harvest honey. If we don’t, they’ll swarm. They just keep accumulating and accumulating until their supers are full.
As I learn and enjoy my new hobby-cum-passion, I’ll post about my bees. I will always (or, when I remember anyway) categorise these kinds of posts as “bees” so finding them is easier. I love comments from other beekeepers so feel free to leave a note here or on individual posts. Here’s hoping we learn from each other and do our little bit to keep the honey bee alive as their global populations are under threat from mites, pesticides and monoculture.