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Beekeeping – How we started

by Spurtopia
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Beekeeping - How we started
A honey bee on basil flower

We started beekeeping a couple years ago. At that time we had no idea what keeping bees was about. Loving honey and wanting pollination for our garden was a driving force. We read a book (The Bee Book – beekeeping in Australia, by P. Warhurst) and visited a local beekeeping club to find out more. We also asked all of our neighbors if they were happy for us to have bees in our back yard. When we had gained sufficient initial knowledge and ‘yes’ from our neighbours, we looked at local council requirements (up to two beehives in a suburban backyard) and registration requirements of the DPI. (annual fee of about $15, which was not a problem at all) We got a nucleus hive (four frames of honey bees with a queen for $70) from a local beekeeper at a beekeeping club. That autumn day we brought bees into our backyard gave us great joy and excitement. After a few days of familiarization with their new environment, we transferred the frames from the nucleus box into the bottom beehive box. The bees established themselves well over winter time and were at full strength in spring time when we added an extra box for storing honey (super). These two boxes are separated with a queen excluder (a wired frame) which keeps the queen in the bottom box while allowing bees to get through to the upper boxes to store honey. It has been great fun watching them flying out and bringing back different coloured pollen on their legs. Watching young bees hovering in front of the hive learning to fly and recognizing the area, is on schedule daily at about 2pm (you can set a watch by them).

Beekeeping - How we started
Nucleus (4 frames of bees and a young queen) 

Managing the hive is not difficult. We got second hand equipment from friendly beekeepers so the only things we bought were the nucleus hive, veil and gloves. It cost us around $100 to start. In spring they became very busy with making honey. We added an extra two boxes (supers) for storing honey on top of the bottom (brood) box. In fact from spring till late summer we harvested honey six times and managed to get an unbelievable 160kg of honey from one hive. To extract honey we borrowed extraction equipment for free from our beekeeping club of which we have become members or through our beekeeper friends. It was incredibly joyous to extract and taste our first batch of honey. The honey is real raw honey, incredibly tasty, thick and delicious as it comes from huge variety of flowers in suburbia. Once you try “proper” raw honey you would not buy honey from a shop.

Tips:

  • Honey from a shop has most likely been thermally treated to make the honey flow during processing and this also kills all the good enzymes. It is also treated to stop crystallization which is a natural reaction of honey to cold, and has additives put into it.
  • When using honey to sweeten tea or coffee put it into a cup just before you drink it. That way, it is not super-hot and does not burn live enzymes in the honey.
  • Using second hand equipment, making your boxes and frames and borrowing extraction equipment will keep the initial cost of beekeeping to approx $100-$200. (Compared to about $1500 for a full band new set up.)  

Beekeeping - How we started
Bees are establishing in a brood box

Bees provide us with:
Pollination for our back yard garden and also the entire neighbourhood.
Honey as a replacement for sugar.
Pollen – a great source of protein, minerals and trace elements. It is five times more concentrated protein than beef.
Propolis which is great as a disinfectant and for tooth and gum issues.
Wax for candles and polishing paint.


A bee hive is the most efficient system in the garden. Bees are so hard working and such well organized creatures – if only human beings could be like that.

Did you know that the queen can lay up to 2000 eggs a day which is more than her body weight. When bees collectively decide that the old queen is no good any more, they will make a new one. One bee will produce in its life which is around 6 weeks, about one teaspoon of honey. You can harvest up to 500g of pollen from one hive a day. Without bees we would not have over 90 % of our commercial crops – our entire food supply depends on bee pollination.

Links:
– Find your local beekeepers club http://www.honeybee.com.au/beeinfo/assn.html
– DPI Backyard Beekeeping info http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/117413/Backyard-beekeeping.pdf
– DPI Queensland hive registration
http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/animal-industries/bees/beekeeping-essentials/hive-registration
– Bee Friendly: A planting guide for European honeybees and Australian native pollinators https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/12-014
– AusBeekeeping Guide 2015 https://www.dropbox.com/s/0lgdqc52m03onnq/AusBeekeepingGuide-2015.pdf?dl=0

– Queen of the sun – A fascinating documentary about bees
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frYkQfdQH-w

Beekeeping - How we started
Mosquito net and rubber gloves – simple protection

Beekeeping - How we started
Brood frame

Beekeeping - How we started
Bottom brood box and a super box

Beekeeping - How we started
Brood box and two Supers

Beekeeping - How we started
Protection suit, gloves and smoker

Beekeeping - How we started
Frame with wax foundation

Beekeeping - How we started
Honeycomb

Beekeeping - How we started
Honey harvest


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5 comments

Unknown August 21, 2014 - 12:08 pm

Beautiful photos Spurtopia! Good on you guys for spreading the word. Bee free, aye! 🙂

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Colliwat Farm August 24, 2014 - 8:48 am

Great post! Thanks for the information.

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Anonymous September 3, 2014 - 8:54 am

A great post. I bet your neighbours appreciate the improvement with pollination of their veggies!

Reply
Tania September 13, 2014 - 8:50 am

Great post! I just learned so much about the humble bee. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your knowledge, we are now going to investigate further and maybe give bee keeping a go.

Reply
Alexa September 17, 2014 - 11:10 am

Interesting post and great photos. I also just learnt last weekend at the Goulburn Markets which are in the countryan interesting bit of info about bees. Some of the gum /eucalyptus trees one of which if I recall correctly was the spotted gum , don't flower every year. Some will flower every three years. So if you are a novice and put your bee boxes out hoping for a crop you may be sorely disappointed for a time. …this goes to show that there is a lot to learn about bees in the various areas. I think this bee keeper mentioned that honey made from these not flowering every year tree tastes a lot stronger. That might explain why I don't like Leatherwood Blossom honey. It tastes perfumed to me 🙂
Alexa from Sydney,Australia
http://www.Alexa-asimplelife.com

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