What’s all the buzz about?

If bees disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live” – Albert Einstein (controversially)

Last Tuesday saw K2’s Playschool class swarming about an extraordinary, yet rather unremarkable insect…

I became a fervent bee watcher in the spring of 1994. In keeping with tradition, the bloomin’ season always began with a flurry of refurbishments on our weatherboard rental property – let out to seasonal farm hands. As mum engrossed herself in superhuman, paint-tin-balancing feats atop a 10 ft ladder, my two youngest brothers (Tommy and Jimmy) and I busied ourselves with a good ol’ fashioned fix of hide and seek.

When it came to clandestine game play, Tommy was the absolute master. So the moment he started sniveling about a stinging toe, Jimmy and I knew to lay low. It was only when Tommy dropped to the ground convulsing that we felt it wise to alert adult authorities.

Upon returning home, after a rather extensive kiss-of-epipen-life infusion at the hospital, mum was as humming-mad as a queen bee evicted from the hive. Apparently – despite my vehement arguments to the contrary – “keeping an eye on my brother” and “manning the fort” did not include painting vertical, duckling-yellow stripes on Jimmy’s legs (arms, back…well all over really) or creating a roof top watch tower.

Twenty five years later and Tommy continues to evade death as a diplomat in biopolitical hellholes, Jimmy has a PhD in Colourbond Chemistry and I continue to keep a close eye on my buzzing backyard friends.

Whilst the jury is still out on the accuracy of Einsteins supposed statement, you won’t bee finding me resting on my flowerbed laurels whilst the scientific world awaits an anaphylactic verdict. So when a local apiarist came to K2’s playschool last week, my gardencentric antennae piqued at the opportunity to find out how our CBD could still the CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder).

One hour and a Sunday afternoon trip to hivequarters later, and I was keen as mustard-blossoms to get the startup lowdown:

  • Pollinise the patch: firstly, for anyone else keen on bee’n…have you got the space and the place suitable for keeping bee’s? Although bee’s have a wide foraging field (up to 10 km for some honey bees), for your busy friends to be happy in your backyard home, you’ll need to provide three key things: water, food (in the form of chemical free pollen and nectar) and a warm place to live.
  • Nectar-up the neighbours: “Good fences make good neighbours”…bees missed that memo, so to keep good relations with your next door kin it’s best to let them know of your worker bee plans. You will also need to review bee keeping laws set down by your local council…oh..and get permission from your lovely land lord (if applicable).
  • Send out a scout: knowledge is power, so best to school yourself up in good bee keeping hygiene and procedures before you take a dive for a hive. Best practice would involve completing a training course at your nearest technical college and/or touching base with your local bee keeping association.
  • Drone out the noise: you’re gonna need a fair bit of time and vigilance to be a good apiarist, so I’m gonna be broodally honest here. If you have a hectic life, like to travel a lot (and are therefore away for long periods in the year) or you find yourself getting distracted by the honey-coloured bling of new projects before finishing your previous ones, then don’t get a hive. Support your top quality, local honey suppliers instead. Whilst Varroa mite (not yet present down under) get’s a lot of air time, it’s actually foul brood that causes most of the damage domestically. Spread by invading bee colony’s stealing honey from infected hives, this disease is an apiarists nightmare and can easily spread to larger scale honey suppliers and hence affect the long term sustainability of the industry.

As for me…well…before I show up to the next Bee Keeping Association meeting, it’s back to the garden planning board. Adding to my already very extensive list of busy-brood activities for the summer holidays, will be some ground dwelling water features, flowerdise pockets and homes for the marginalised sub groups: native and solitary bees.

Oh…and that freshly collected honey pot…

well that’s a get-up-and-go, Christmas snow brainer: Go Ho Ho Granola!

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