The Queen Bee has arrived at T-1Print. She was brought to our new hive by beekeeper Rochelle Polley. Rochelle is an experienced beekeeper and is playing an important role in our community with bee keeping education and beehive management. Rochelle teaches school children about caring for bees and how they can encourage them into gardens and schools. She was kind enough to manage the introduction of our very own beehive at T-1Print and offer ongoing support and advice on managing the hive and which type of flowing plants to establish around the site so as to support its health. We had the pleasure of chatting with Rochelle about beekeeping in general and she was kind enough to lend us her thoughts on bees and how they are functioning in our environment.
Rochelle, tell us a bit about bees and what kind of bees are prevalent across Sydney?
I deal mainly with European honey bees which are great pollinators. We do have native bees as well which are smaller and stingless. Native bees don’t swarm like European bees so they are less noticeable in comparison. Native bees don’t make as much honey compared to their European counterparts but they are fantastic pollinators of our local flora. European bees are no threat to native bees and you will often find them sharing the same tree. There is an growing interest from people wanting to start beekeeping which is great because we need more bees in order for our environment to function in a healthy manner. In Australia we are pretty good with our biosecurity and we have managed to keep away one of the worst diseases that has a detrimental effect on bees which is the Veroa disease. The Veroa disease attaches itself to the brood causing deformation and illness in bee colonies.
Are there other commercial or industrial sites like T-1Print that are keeping bees?
There are hotels in the city of Sydney keeping bee hives on their rooftops. Many community gardens are keeping bees which is accepted by some local councils. This is where I keep two of my hives. We do come across neighbours that are sometimes scared of bees but with education people become more comfortable.
How does a bee hive start and how is it structured?
A bee colony will start when you have a hive with a queen bee and about 20,000 – 60,000 bees and in the warmer months the queen will lay up to 2000 eggs a day which means the colony will grow quite quickly. When the colony starts to grow and less room becomes available in the hive the worker bees will decide to make a queen bee and fly off to establish a new colony elsewhere so the hive splits. This is where you sometimes see the swarms in tree branches and attaching themselves to poles. They will stay in the branch until scout bees look and find a permanent location which results in bee colonies re-establishing themselves in the brick work of house and onto the bottom of trees. This spltting of the hive can be managed by the keeper so as to avoid swarms. This should be split so as to allow more rooms for frames and the existing hive to thrive. It’s important to check the hive regularly and during the warmer months
What environmental factors enable a hive to thrive other than surrounding flowering plants?
Bees need water and plenty of plants and importantly they need people to refrain from using pesticides, insectides and weed killers. Bees that come into contact with these damaging chemicals can often take these back to the hive which can kill the whole hive. Bees will travel up to 6km to collect pollen and in the Marrickville area and along the Cooks river there are plenty of weeds, plants and vegetables growing across the suburb which bees love. They particularly love pumpkin flowers. Purple and yellow flowers seem to be their favourite flowers.
On the question of honey, what can a bee keeper expect to yield in honey?
Usually a hive contains two boxes. The bottom box is where the bees and queen live. The upper box is where they store the honey where 8-10 frames can be positioned inside the hive. In Spring and Summer you can expect to empty a hive of this size every 2-3 weeks and yield about 2-3 kilos of honey on each frame. When the honey is extracted from the hive it can be strained to remove any wax capping and particles but other than basic filtering it’s ready to eat.
For those interested in establishing a beehive, where can they get information from about doing so?
If people want information they can contact their local beekeeping club of which there are many around Sydney. A good place to start is the Inner West Beekeepers group which can be found online at www.beekeepers.asn.au/inner-west