Bees found us actually – in a roundabout kind of way. And we were totally unprepared!
We’d gone in search of some baby chickens with a plan to raise and eat them. That’s a whole different story, but when we went to collect our 25 cute fluffy yellow baby chickens, we happened to drive past a bee keeping and supply store. Being in a very sustainable frame of mind, the idea of bees seemed brilliant, so we stopped at the bee store and before we knew it, we’d ordered ourselves a queen and nucleus.
It was early May and heading into Winter – a terrible time to tak eon baby chickens – and not the time to install a hive either. Fortunately, the bee store people just took our details and said they’d call when the queen and nucleus were ready, sometime in Spring.
Off we went with our bundle of yellow fluff, back to Dunsborough. They chirped and grew and chirped some more. They took up a LOT of time, and we promptly forgot all about bees. When the phone call came several months later to advise that our bees were ready to collect, we were completely caught off guard. But with a great deal of enthusiasm, and an equal but opposite amount of knowledge, we jumped in the car and headed to perth. After a short sharp lesson in beekeeping, we purchased a few ‘bits’ to get us started, and drove merrily home with our unsuspecting bees.
Once home we installed them in our small orchard and with great trepidation raised the gate. Our expectations of a fuming swarm chasing us back to the house wasn’t met. Rather they calmly ventured out to explore their new territory, barely noticing us at all. It was about this time that we were struck by the realisation that we knew next to nothing about bees! Now what?
And so began the fascinating adventure that is beekeeping. Our next move (and a very good one this time) was to call Luke, a young beekeeper in town. He was surprised, ina calm, beekeeping type of way, at our COMPLETE lack of knowledge. he kindly suggested that we do a course on beekeeping, and then offered to run one in our backyard since several people had expressed interest in keeping bees to him recently. The very next weekend, a dozen or so people arrived in our backyard and for the next few hours, Luke provided a comprehensive overview on beekeeping. Unlike us, every person there was preparing themeselves for the day they would install a beehive. Learn, prepare, then install….. the sensible way to go about things!
Happily, our ignorance was no problem for the bees, and they set about their amazing business of collecting nectar and pollen right away. Over the past six years, we’ve learned a lot, we’ve collected and eaten loads of magnificent honey, endured a few stings, marvelled at the life of bees, and benefited greatly from their pollination of our garden. We even got another hive after the first couple of years.
Bees are endlessly fascinating. We owe them a great deal – in fact our lives depend upon them. But they are also under threat from various sources. Habitat loss and fragmentation, diseases and exotic pests, air pollution and pesticide use all threaten honeybee health. The intricate and only partially understood relationship that bees have with each other, the environment, and us, needs to be carefully nurtured.
For this reason, all beekeepers, from large commercial operators through to backyard enthusiasts such as us, are required to register their hives with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. This enables good communication between beekeepers, and quick response time to threats. DPIRD, Save the Bees, BeeAware, and other bee sites are interesting and useful resources.
For lots more information, and the very real risk of falling for beekeeping yourself, visit