Beekeeping has a two-fold advantage: it not only gives you a supply of your own honey, but it aids the environment and the food supply, since bees help pollinate so many different plants.

The bees used to produce honey are the European variety, as these live in hives and colonies. Australian native bees are usually smaller and tend to be more solitary.

Advantages of beekeeping

A hive of European honeybees may produce up to almost 70kg of honey annually; for commercial hives the output may be up to 250kg. If you have a healthy thriving hobby beehive, you may find you have more honey than you can use, and so you could earn a few dollars from the excess production.

The honey from your own hobby hive may retain the flavour of the local plant life, and be higher in nutrition as it is likely to be not as highly refined as commercial honey, nor heat-treated.

While it may cost a few hundred dollars to set up a hive, it is relatively low maintenance in terms of cost.

Hobby beekeeping can be set up in suburban or city backyards.

Disadvantages of keeping bees

Stings are not pleasant, and if there are people in your family or neighbourhood who are allergic to bee-stings, you should think twice before starting a hive.

What to do

Before getting started:

  • Do lots of research; talk to experienced beekeepers, and read the Department of Primary Industry’s publications on beekeeping.
  • Consider doing a course on beekeeping.
  • Join a beekeeping Club or Association.
  • Tell your close neighbours and check if any are allergic. Bee-stings for some people can be fatal.

Once you are certain you want to keep bees there are a few requirements such as:

  • A hive made from weatherproof wood.
  • Supers (hive boxes), frames and wax sheets.
  • A hive tool, which is used to separate the boxes and frames that hold the honeycombs.
  • A smoker for subduing bees.
  • Light-coloured protective clothing and a hat with a stiff brim and a veil.
  • Sturdy boots.
  • Make sure to check out the legal requirements for beekeeping in your State.
  • Register as a beekeeper with the Department of Primary Industry and pay any fees.
  • Get hold of and read the Apiary Code of Practice.
  • Make sure you have a good spot for your hive -one that gets sun but is also shady, and not in the front yard.

Problems

Australia has managed to escape some of the diseases that have ravaged hives in New Zealand and other countries. The varroa mite has caused a worldwide decline of hives of 25%. A combination of geographical isolation and border vigilance has helped to keep our Australian hives healthy.