Keeping bees is good for us, good for the planet, and good for bees! Here are some important things to consider before you set up a hive at home.
Honeybee or native bee?
The first and key decision is whether to keep honeybees or native bees. The European honeybee (Apis mellifera) can be kept in all parts of Australia, but you’ll need to learn how to maintain your hive and harvest the honey. Australian native bee species form colonies and are suited to hive management, but can be kept only in certain regions because of climate. They require virtually no maintenance, but are not massive honey makers. You would keep them mainly as pollinators, and for the pleasure of seeing them in the garden.
Join a bee club
A great way to develop your knowledge, skills and contacts is to join a local bee club. You can learn from experienced members, then mentor subsequent newcomers down the track. The information you gather will be invaluable when you come to buy your hive, and extract the honey. Most clubs also sell hives to members. Otherwise, you can source a hive from a reputable beekeeping supplies store, either in person or online.
Choose a spot for the hive
Beekeepers have a duty of care to their neighbours, especially as the possibility of being stung by a bee frightens many people. So before getting your hive, speak with your neighbours to establish that they are not at risk for anaphylaxis. Your hive should be positioned to get at least half a day’s sunshine, with a couple of metres’ clearance at the entrance for the bees to take off and land.
Provide a water source
In hot weather, having a source of water can save bees’ lives, so provide a birdbath containing rocks, pebbles or floating branches to allow bees to quench their thirst without drowning.
Learn more about establishing your own beehive, including different types of hives available, in the September 2020 issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine, out now.