We know that bees are the amazing creatures behind honey production. Their most important role, however, is to gather pollen and help plants reproduce to bear new fruit. And while we have the bees to thank for their unique pollinating skills, our beekeeping heroes are also busy doing their part to protect their hives.
Bees and the community
Next time someone tells you that you are as busy as a bee, take that as a compliment. Honeybees may be small yet full of energy to forage for their colonies’ food stores. Daily, they can travel for miles, collect nectar and pollen for food, and do the “waggle dance” to tell the rest of the troop where the flowers are. And as they go from flower to flower, the pollen they gathered on the way is also transferred to the flower’s stigma, allowing the plant to grow and fruit.
Bees in danger
Foraging is no easy task. Worker bees in charge of food hunting encounter a number of difficulties and risks while at work. Harsh weather conditions can wear them out and predators like birds can bite them. In a National Geographic Australia (2017) article by Lulu Morris, parasites like the varroa mite and the deformed wing virus are also among the many threats to the bees’ survival.
Recent findings in other countries have also reported a significant decline of worker bees in hives, known as the colony collapse disorder, which has been attributed to the use of pesticides. Neonicotinoids present in agricultural pesticides affect the bees’ systems, causing them to lose their way home.
Worker bees need to be at a certain age before they can forage successfully. However, if their numbers would decline, younger worker bees would be forced to find food instead. This not only results in poor foraging, but also further decline in the bee population.
Beekeepers to the rescue
The humble bees is important in keeping our nature and even our diet balanced. Because of bees’ hard work, we get to enjoy the freshest produce and the yummiest honey. In return, we need to do something to keep them safe. Good thing our brave beekeepers are here to the rescue!
It all started from a simple summer job offer as a beekeeper in Auckland, New Zealand that later grew into a genuine love for bees and honey. This passion led John Faherty and Nicole Stoffers to realise the same goal: to establish a healthy, strong beehive in every postcode in Perth. And with that, Postcode Honey was born. So far, their team has been able to successfully estabish about 50 postcodes in and around the city.
When asked what keeps them motivated despite the hard work of beekeeping, John said that “We want people to realise that honey doesn’t need to be that boring stuff that you squeeze out of a plastic bottle. Honey from every hive is unique. Some honeys are light and sweet. Other honeys may be dark, thick and can be smoky, chocolatey, and some can almost be savoury. We’d love to demonstrate that Australia has the best honeys in the world—to the world.”
Melbourne City Rooftop Honey
If you are seeing more and more bees buzzing about the city, it’s all thanks to the dreamers and doers at Melbourne City Rooftop Honey.
Their vision is to bring bees back to the city and surrounding suburbs and be part of the solution to save honey bees from threats of disease and human habitation. They are using unutilised roof spaces of cafés, restaurants, hotels, as well as gardens, to give a home to hives.
By doing so, Melbourne City Rooftop Honey is also giving the community a truly local product: honey that is unique to each site. Plus your honey won’t have to travel far to get to you!
It was being able to keep in touch with nature that drew Sharon and Craig Ferguson to beekeeping that eventually gave birth to Fergo’s Farm. “We were practicing backyard permaculture and purchased a native beehive to help pollinate our crops. Bees fascinated us so much that not too long after that, we got European bees (Apis mellifera) then we were hooked. It’s that balance of nature we love, crops need pollination, and one-third of our total diet is dependent upon insect-pollinated plants”, Sharon recollected.
Starting from seven hives back in 2015, Fergo’s Farm now has its own extraction plant that produces raw honey as well as artisan beeswax products. They also offer nucleus hives for people interested to start beekeeping. In the years to come, Fergo’s Farm plans on expanding its hive numbers to a manageable size. Sharon commits that “we will remain as natural with our beekeeping practices as possible and also to remain intimate with the bees is important so we can keep a closer eye on bee health and management.”
The efforts and goals of our beekeepers are humbling indeed! And if you want to know more about Fergo’s Farm, come along to our Market Day.
Bec McBride grew up surrounded with orchards, vegetable patches, and beehives. Learning bees’ role in pollination and crop production made her want to expand the interest in beekeeping by promoting it as a rewarding hobby. Through Bec’s Beehive, people can come to her workshops, training programmes, and visit her shop for beekeeping gear and tools.
Bec said, “People were fascinated I was a lady beekeeper. This was before beekeeping became super popular so the demographic in my training programmes was mainly retired men and only a small about of women. Now we have such a diverse cross-section of our community and the increase in women beekeepers has been astounding.”
For Bec, beekeeping has become more than just a hobby. It has also served as a glue that bonds her family together. “Our home hives bring our entire family together and our children are also heavily involved. We enjoy harvest time as well as experiencing new discoveries these fascinating creatures bring forth. I find my home hive time is my therapy time whereby I can relax, enjoy, and just bee…”
Can we non-beekeepers do something?
Of course, we can! Our beekeeping heroes even gave their own suggestions on how we can save the bees in our own little way:
Plant a bee-friendly garden
By planting more flowers, we get to help feed the bees. John of Postcode Honey recommended planting more native plants in particular. “Native plants produce huge quantities of nectar. Any native flowering plants will help feed native bees and European honey bees.”
Bec also noted that “Bees require a diverse diet from a range of pollen and nectar-producing plants. Pollen is a protein and amino acid source while nectar and honey are their carbs. A complete diet is required to keep the colony functioning properly.”
Stop using insecticides and herbicides
Think about the bees before you spray! John explained that “insecticides are having a huge impact on bee populations particularly in the northern hemisphere. Anything that you can do to minimise the use of insecticides will help.”
Sharon suggested that in place of insecticides, “There are some great natural products that are safe to use, so purchase those instead.”
Support local beekeepers
Purchasing local bee products not only helps our beekeeping heroes continue with their work but also keeps the bees healthy. And this just made your honey-drizzled pancakes that special, too!