Contributed by Linda M’crystal
I see the job of caring for bees a real privilege. My father and my grandfather were both amateur beekeepers so it became a big part of my childhood. My advice to anyone who wants to start looking after bees is
- Enrol in a beginning beekeeping course
- Get yourself a bee mentor or join a bee club
- Start with a hive that is already established
- Buy two hives not one. It’s easier to learn when you have a direct comparison with two hives. No two hives are identical, so it’s easy to see if your hive isn’t thriving.
- Bees will sting you! So make sure you wear all of your protective gear and use your smoker appropriately.
How to care for your hive.
As a beginner beekeeper it’s advisable for you to open your hive weekly. The more you look at your bees the more you will learn about your hive. Choose a sunny warm day with no wind. Observe your bees at the entrance; look for signs of pollen or nectar collection. The Bees may have pollen on their body or the will land heavy if they are full of nectar. They usually collect pollen in the morning and nectar in the afternoons. Also look to see if there are an excessive number of drone bees. This could mean there is an imbalance in the hive it could also be normal depending on the time of the year. Look to see if there is an excessive amount of dead bees near the hive entrance. Some dead bees are normal but if you learn to look at this you will notice if there are too many. Are the bees flying with purpose? This could indicate that you are on a honey flow, bees busy collecting off flowering trees in your area. Watching the entrance will give you a good indication of what is going on inside the hive.
When you open your hive you will be looking for a good amount of brood, a good mix of new nurse bees, pollen, and nectar and capped honey. Don’t be in a rush to take honey form your bees. Remember the bees need honey stores to survive lean times when there are few flowering trees especially over winter and extended wet periods.
You will need to learn about pests and diseases, learn how to identify them and what to do if they are in your hive. Some diseases can be transferred from hive to hive so good hygiene is important.
Are there any regulations that need to be adhered to?
Yes. All hives need to be registered with the DPI. It’s a simple procedure and of low monetary cost. If once registered you find your bees have a disease you will need to notify the appropriate authority. Usually this is the DPI in your local area.
You will also be required to keep a note of where your hives are if you intend moving them to various sites.
Websites that may be helpful.
www.dpi.nsw.gov.au NSW Department of Primary Industries.
www.nswaa.com.au NSW Apiarist Association.
www.beekeepers.asn.au NSW Amateur Beekeeping Association.
www.milkwood.net excellent site, lots of information and courses.
www.tocal.nsw.edu.au information and beekeeping courses.
www.theurbanbeehive.com.au Doug Purdie the urban beekeeper.
www.actbeekeepers.asn.au Beekeepers Association of the ACT.
Linda @ Simply Bees.
Cover Photo by Annie Spratt