Getting a buzz out of bees
Until about five years ago, Jane and her two daughters, Ann and Louise, had never considered getting involved with bees until nature intervened. The family had a problem with a possum and Jane told how it played a role in the three of them entering into beekeeping.
“We put a possum box up a tree to catch one that was bounding around on our roof and the next thing we looked up and saw there were bees in it. They lived in the box for two or three years and then started to swarm,” explained Jane. “The first swarm we paid $100 to have them taken away and when they swarmed again the next year we paid another $100.
When it came to a third swarm the next year, Jane and her daughters decided on a different approach. “We decided to keep this lot of bees that swarmed into a tree. We enlisted the help of Keith Russell, a professional beekeeper in Geelong, who brought the equipment we would need.and Keith got the swarm into a box.”
Realising they knew very little about bees they joined the Geelong Beekeeping Club and received mentoring from Laurie Beck. Now into their third year of membership they are confident in their level of bee management. The three share a philosophy of a bio-dynamic approach to their beekeeping, concentrating on having healthy and happy bees. “We are very pro bees, we want to protect the bees but it is nice to get some honey, the amount doesn’t matter.”
Considering their philosophy, there was an incident that Jane found quite distressing. “One of the bee swarms settled on a post up the road and we rushed up to protect it but they had already been exterminated. There were thousands of dead bees lying on the footpath and nature strip.”
Jane is impressed by the expertise that Ann has accumulated. “She is very calm and confident around bees now and has just rescued a rundown hive.”
A friend of Ann’s recently bought a property that included a dilapidated hive and although fond of bees, she had young children and decided the time wasn’t right to get involved with bees.
Ann tackled the job of restoring the hive on her own taking a couple of days to separate the boxes and prepare them for the forty minute drive home. While Jane and Louise share the management of two hives, the rescued hive has increased Ann’s total to four hives. Bees play an important role in food production and bees and beekeeping has captured the imagination of a cross section of the community.
In contrast to the trend of falling memberships in many clubs and organisations, memberships at the Geelong Beekeepers Club, has soared. Just four years ago the club had 22 members and is now 156.
President of the GBC, Gary (Monty) Montgomery said: “There has been considerable media publicity about the critical importance of bees, and the diversity of the people in the club and the various contributions they make have significantly enhanced interest in the club.”
The camaraderie within the club and the willingness of more experienced members to act as mentors to beginners, or lesser experienced members, no doubt appeals to those interested in learning about bees. Gary derives a good deal of satisfaction that members travel from as far afield as Colac and Ballarat to attend the monthly meetings.
‘Ask The Beekeeper’ sessions and high profile guest speakers are invaluable, and educational, with all aspects of beekeeping addressed. In April the club held its inaugural Field Day at Freshwater Creek that was a great success with 80 visitors participating in several activities.
“Thirty seven members ran the day supported by the CFA. Demonstrations included a glass fronted observation hive, opening hives, lighting smokers, honey extraction demonstrations, an assembly of a flow hive and a discussion on its operation and a talk on Bio Security from a Bio Security Officer. Another pleasing aspect was thirty seven club members volunteered to help run the day.”
For more information on bees visit Geelong Beekeepers Club Inc.