Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden
Have you heard about how much trouble honeybees are in? Bees aren't just a means to obtaining honey, bees are actually responsible for the pollination of most plants which provide food for us. They play a vital role in the survival of our society!
Bees face many challenges, and beekeepers can help increase healthy honeybee populations. In pesticide-free areas especially, even if you don't want to be a beekeeper, you might like to offer some of your land (or rooftop even) for someone else's hives. As well as producing honey, having bees on site helps increase the productivity of gardens, farms and orchards.
For awhile we have wanted to have our own bee hives. As well as pasture land, we have rainforest, a large mixed orchard, a macadamia grove, wild food and flower gardens and numerous wind/privacy breaks of native trees. We have had some hives here for a few years that belong to someone else, but for various reasons we decided to learn more about the honey bee business ourselves...
First I got a few library books, which explained some basic beekeeping info. We still had many questions, though, so we asked a friend for advice. He is part of a beekeeping club locally and was a wealth of info. We asked more people we knew with hives and got some conflicting information, but also a lot of local knowledge. We found out what we'd need to buy, and what we could borrow.
Some equipment we bought through our friend in the beekeeping club, and some we bought online. We did look for local secondhand items, but there was nothing around. It cost us about $900 to buy a full suit, tools (lever, smoker, brush, uncapping comb), two brood boxes (the bottom box where the Queen lives and babies bees are made) and two top boxes (where the honey for us is made and retreived). There's also frames, wax sheets (to speed the process up), a queen excluder and possibly more bits and pieces I haven't noticed! It was quite an investment, but we hope that the money will be recouped in honey before too long. How fast the hives are filled with honey really depends on the weather. I've heard that locally, hives have filled more quickly in the past couple of months than they have in years. Weather events like cyclones affect honey collection around here. We have the advantage of the bees having multiple sources of food, so supply is affected less than with hives situated in a monoculture orchard, for example. Our permaculture-inspired property of course enjoys the benefits of having many thousands of bees here as well!
We have been doing a bit of maintenance on the hives which are here (with permission) now that we have a full bee-keeping suit and smoker. The colonies are strong, and the honey is a nice mixed blend - good news for us as we set up our first hives.
Below are a few resources we've found useful so far. I will post more of our honey journey once we've set up the hives!
Beekeepers' Associations (Australia)
Become a Beekeeper *
* Check with your local department of agriculture or primary industries to find out about regulations and licences required where you live.