Bee keeping isn’t just a thing you do, it is a way of life or so we are discovering after spending a good bit of this week listening to Apiarists both on the phone and the radio. We are interested in getting some bees to help us achieve our re-wilding goals and to also play a part in our Cosmetic workshops (honey, beeswax, propolis and royal jelly are all used in cosmetic products). However, one doesn’t just ‘get’ bees…..
As luck would have it we recently stumbled across a local bee keeper keen to retire and sell his hives – all ten of them and while we are not yet sure if we could take on such a challenge the research and preparation has begun as we try to bridge the gap between complete ignorance and a-bit-of-an-idea.
First question to answer was ‘are we allergic to bees’ to which I was delighted to answer NO. Bees must be one of the few things that I am NOT allergic too which is a blessing as this would be a foolish and potentially deadly endeavour if one of our family were.
The next big thing for us to consider is the matter of food. Everything has to eat and while bees are quite capable of making their own food (honey) they can only do this if they have access to pollen. I was somewhat dismayed to discover that pollen is in short supply out in the vicinity of this local bee keeper. I always thought that lack of pollen was a city issue but no, animal grazing land requires little in the way of trees, hedgerows and patches of pollen-rich vegetation – grass just doesn’t cut it – and as such the Cowra/ Blayney area is not as great for bees as I had imagined! On top of that the area is prone to relatively long and cold winters which means the bees will spend more time in their hive eating their summer honey supply – the chap I spoke to hadn’t had any excess honey to sell for two years!
I really couldn’t tell you what if any pollen-filled treats our land holds at present, I certainly can’t recall seeing lots of blossom around but then again I wasn’t really looking for it last time we went out there. The idea that we might be sentencing any bees we took on to a hungry death loomed over me and while I now know that we could feed them sugar syrup it just didn’t seem right!
We need bee food on our land.
A bit of googling led me to the Department of Primary Industry’s agnote data sheet – Honey & Pollen Flora Suitable for Planting in South-Eastern NSW and with that info I started to research the trees that would both work on our land (soil type, water availability etc) and would provide the bees with a good feed from Spring through Summer and into Autumn – no point thinking about winter blossoms as it would be too cold.
Before we go any further we plan to conduct a proper ‘pre Bee’ survey of our land to see if we can at least offer them something. Once we have established what we have we can then look further afield to see if what surrounds us is any better (bees can travel 2Km away from the hive to collect pollen). Putting all of this information together plus finding out if our neighbours do or plan to keep bees will help us work out how many hives we could sustain – our block size could possibly sustain 4 out of the 10 that are on offer but this is only a theoretical assessment at this point.
Working on that will take a good couple of weeks and in the meantime we will also investigate training courses as well as pop in and meet the man with the bees for sale. It is very exciting and motivating to think that we might one day be able to play host to our own family of pollinators but it is also daunting to consider the life-long learning journey we may be about to embark on.
We will only take on the bees if we can look after them properly so let’s hope we find (or can quickly plant them) some food!
The only problem then will be the hay fever that is sure to follow.
Pollen IS something that I’m allergic to.
Can’t have it all.