Beekeeping for Community and environment

April 2020

Andrew Britton, Small Landholder Engagement Officer and Noel Webster, Aboriginal Community Support Officer

Hive inspection

The Small Farms Network and the Every Bit Counts project recently supported the local Aboriginal community by running a two day backyard beekeeping workshop with Bruce White (OAM) at the Berry Local Land Services office.

Funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, members of the local Aboriginal community were provided with two days of theoretical and practical experience in establishing and maintaining healthy beehives for honey production. Participants spent time over the two days opening up our resident hives at the Berry office, inspecting frames for disease, identifying south coast flora types, learning how to manage honey flow and extracting over 15L of honey to take home and share with family.

Stephen Taylor, a course participant said: “the course was a great opportunity for local Aboriginal community to learn the dynamics of bee ecology and the fundamentals of healthy and sustainable bee keeping”.

On course completion the participants are provided with a resource kit, including an active hive to apply the skills they have learnt. A number of the group participants have pooled together to create a community bee production group, working with hives and using their understanding and knowledge of the local environment to produce their own local honey produce for their family and friends.

“We are all really excited” said Stephen “we learnt so much”.

Some of the key points covered during the course included:

  • Make sure you check your hives on a monthly basis for hive health/disease management, honey flow production and swarm management in late winter/early Spring. In cooler months you can lift the hive by the back hand hold on the brood box to feel the weight and see if feeding sugar syrup is necessary. By observing your bees flying back to the hive you can also judge the number of bees in the colony.
  • Join a local Amateur Beekeepers Association for ongoing support and complete a training course through the Small Farms Network, Tocal College or your local beekeepers association.
  • Make sure you register your hives with NSW DPI and if you see anything unusual call the Biosecurity Hotline on 1800 084 881.
  • If you buy second hand materials and don’t know the history, check the hive for disease before buying (if established) or have the material irradiated through Steritech to reduce the threat of American Foul Brood (spores remain viable for 40yrs).
  • Learn your local flora and establish native species in your garden for both nectar and pollen. Download the free Bee Friendly planting guide from Agrifutures for more information.

Bee Biosecurity for Everyone

BeeAware is a hub of information for beekeepers and growers about honey bee biosecurity and pollination of agricultural and horticultural crops. The site contains an extensive range of information about exotic and established pests and diseases of honey bees, and helps beekeepers to identify and respond to these pest threats. Download the free Biosecurity Manual for Beekeepers and subscribe to the free e-newsletter to stay up to date with the latest beekeeping news across the country.

Please don't feed honey to bees post fire

After the devastating bushfires some residents may think that they are helping to save the bees by leaving a little bit of honey out in their backyard. Please stop this! It is illegal under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015. As part of the NSW American Foulbrood (AFB) Minimisation Strategy, NSW DPI has implemented a program to benchmark the level of spores in honey sold in supermarkets as an ongoing biosecurity monitoring project. Results to date clearly indicate if this honey is exposed to bees, it will cause outbreaks of AFB which will ultimately kill the colony that has consumed the honey. Please note AFB spores in honey do not have any impact on human health at all, only honey bee brood.

Small Farms Network - Backyard Beekeeping workshops

The Small Farms Network has been running backyard beekeeping workshops with Bruce White for the past 10 years and have trained over 350 new and experienced amateur beekeepers in good biosecurity and hive management. Well managed hives in your backyard can yield at least 20kg of surplus honey per year depending on the local flora and seasonal conditions (most eucalyptus do not flower every year).  Please watch our short video case study here.

Inspecting the hives

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