To Bee or not to Bee – that was my question
What a wonderful hands on workshop I attended last month. I have been very concerned about the impact on our food chain because of the world wide decline in the bee population and believe if enough people like me who is just “one person” does something then we can make a difference. I decided to find out what was involved in having a European honey producing bee hive on my property. Driving North to a property in picturesque Eerwah Vale, Sunshine Coast I was met by the Queen Bee herself, Paula West form Adopt - a - Beehive.
The property is one of Paula’s sanctuaries for her bee hives and it qualifies as such by being pesticide free. The property was beautiful and full of luscious greenery, flowers, extensive vegetable garden and mature fruit trees.
Our session started with the usual chit chat about what we, as participants knew or more to the point didn’t know about bees and then Paula in her no nonsense way started to impart her wisdom gleaned from over a decade of experience. What was apparent from the very beginning was her admiration and respect for the bees.
How to set up and position your bee hive
We learnt about how to set up your bee hive to protect it from cane toads, secure it from being knocked over and to position it to keep the bees and your other garden participants cohabitating happily. Then we were shown all the parts that make up your bee hive box and what role each part played as well as which bees live where in the different compartments of the hive. The various occupants and the hierarchy of the bee hive is fascinating from the Queen Bee and the Princesses to Drones and Working Bees, each one has their own role to play.
I love the “tit bits” of interesting things we learnt as well. The in-house rivalry between the princesses who are potential queens, the maiden flight of the princess (honeymoon) Difference between Black bees and Golden bees. Who & what we have to protect the bee hive from including cane toads, moths, black hive beetles .. heat, wind, and so forth And then after this wonderful introduction it was .HANDS ON We learnt how to make a honey frame We had to make our very own frame from the supplied pre cut pieces – tops, bottoms, sides, tacks, nail, wire, and wax sheets plus electrodes – well I can tell you hammering a nail into a delicate piece of very soft hoop pine timber was outside my comfort zone. But I quickly realised some of the other participants were also not so au fait with “making things” and then Paula came and helped everyone and the other participants shared the bits they knew so we all managed to successfully make a honey frame. I really felt it was quite an accomplishment for me!
Frames full of honey
Paula then showed us how the professionals do it – she used a very large heated “knife” to decap wax covering off the frames which were full of honey and we placed them in the big tub and all had a go at spinning the honey out of the frames and watching the volume of delicious honey pour down through the filter and into the drums. The smell was divine.
I was fascinated to learn you must absolutely NOT let a drop of water touch the honey or it could spoil the complete drum through a fermentation process. Haha so if we stuck our finger in for a scoop and a lick (did we really do that – YES!! ) then if we did it again we had to use a different finger - no double dipping.
After we all enjoyed our lunch it was time to suit up. We had been warned to be clean otherwise the bees smell your perspiration but we also put on head gear and covered up and then we were .... drum roll ...
Off To Meet the Bees
There were 4 hives on the property but before we went too close we had to get the smoker going. I think a few hearts started racing at this stage. The bees were very busy and Paula worked quickly to inspect and swap frames that were full and replace with sticky frames (ones we had spun earlier). The smoker was rather popular and I had a great time huffing and puffing with it. I think it gave me a ? false sense of safety. As we closed the day out we were able to taste test a variety of different honeys - the texture, colour and tastes were so completely different.
All in all a most wonderful hands on, information packed workshop. I have a new understanding and respect for bees and also a deeper appreciation of why each and every one of us can make a difference
Thank you Ms Queen Bee and thank you too to the other participants.