Backyard Beehiving Is Becoming A Competitive Industry

Categories: On The Farm

Beekeeping has become a common hobby in Australia, with new figures showing backyard hives make up over a third of new registrations.

Torch lights flashed at the edge of the forest as two dark figures carry a box down into a suburban backyard.

But these figures are far from burglars, they are beekeepers.

Buderim resident, Scott Allan and apiarist Steve Price were working under the cover of darkness, on a mission to move in a beehive.

"Night time is the best time to move them because in the daytime they're still flying. If you did try to move them in daytime a lot of the bees would be left at home in the old site, and you'll lose a lot of those bees," Mr Price said.

"Usually if you want bees in suburbia the way to go is to have native bees because they don't sting at all.

"But they don't produce large amounts of honey. More and more people, because of the media, are saying we should look after the bees and we should buy our own beehive."

Mr Allan said they wanted to buy a beehive so they could have their own honey.

"I love honey, our family loves honey, we have it with everything [laughs], so that's probably one of the the biggest things and you know, they're just fascinating creatures," he said.

"I thought it would be an exciting thing to do with the family, produce our own honey, and look after the bees.

"I think I'm going to learn a lot by having a hive and Steve's pretty informative."

The buzz about backyard bees contributed to Biosecurity Queensland recording a 35 per cent increase in new beehive registrations last year.

Currently, there are 3,778 registered beekeepers — professional and hobbyists — with 107,469 hives.

The gross value of production of the Australian beekeeping industry in 2014-15 was $100.6 million, with a forecast of $110.2 million in 2015-16.

Australian Honeybee Industry Council Executive Director, Trevor Weatherhead said there had been a big increase in membership of beekeeping clubs in metropolitan and regional areas.

"With the decline of bees around the world a lot of people are taking a great interest in beekeeping and there's been a big rise in the backyard beekeeper who's just got a few hives," he said.

Mr Weatherhead recommended that prospective beekeepers join a club before buying a hive.

"Get to know a little bit about it first to make sure that you really want to keep bees, because there's nothing worse than buying them and then finding out that you don't like them and then they can become a problem," he said.

Sunshine Coast Beekeepers Group member Bert Livingstone said hives needed to be registered with Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

"If somebody allows their backyard hive to get a disease in, then that can spread all round the place because bees from different hives will visit the same trees or flowers, and the next thing it's being passed on from there," he said.

"Things like American foul brood, if they're passed on we have to destroy that hive. There's no cure for it."

By registering beehives, biosecurity officers, can better target outbreaks of disease, including the small hive beetle, parasitic mites and the American foulbrood bacterium.

Mr Livingstone said beekeeping groups provided vital ongoing advice for novices.

"It's a matter of having virtually a mentor from the group, that's really the only way about it and sometimes we say, look for what you need, probably get a native beehive," he said.

For those willing to do the work and risk the sting of the European bee there are rewards, one hive can produce up to 70 kilograms of pure, sweet, untreated honey.

Mr Livingstone said there was a difference in taste and people come back to say, "Oh, love your honey".

via ABC

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