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Tag Archives: beekeeping

  • Beekeeping Courses

    As I've been posting a few articles about bees and beekeeping, I thought I'd post a little information on beekeeping courses for anyone who is interested.

    There are 3 courses that I know of:

    1. The course that I did is run by OTEN (Open Training and Education Network) which is a division of TAFE.  I chose it because I wanted both the practical and the deeper, theoretical knowledge that the course offered.    The course covers bee colony structure and handling, bee products, bee flora, nutrition and crop pollination, bee diseases, parasites and pests and beekeeping practical skills.The overview says you need access to hives in order to complete the course, but I didn't have access to hives and nor have several of the friends who have done the course.

      The course is taught by a guy called Bruce White who worked for the Department of Primary Industries for over 40 years as the Apiaries officer (or something like that).  He is extraordinarily knowledgeable and a practicing beekeeper himself.

      As at the time of writing this course costs $545.

      You can find up to date information on the OTEN website.  For further information on this course call the Horticulture teaching section on (02) 9715 8537 or 1300 421 805.

    2. More recently I have heard about the Natural Beekeeping Course run by Milkwood Permaculture which is a two day practical course.Their marketing pitch is "Natural beekeeping aims to care for the bees, allowing them to control their own environment and build resilience. A gentler approach than conventional beekeeping, this method results in healthy and contented bees and superb raw honey, as well as allowing for a fascinating partnership with your bee colony."

      I'm all for natural, so that's a good thing.  What I don't accept that a beekeeper practicing 'conventional beekeeping' doesn't care for their bees, or in some way has a rougher approach resulting in unhealthy and discontented bees.  My personal view is that one of the reasons why Australia is not affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) or the varroa mite like almost every other country in the world is because our beekeepers care exceptionally for their bees.  Considering Australia has been in drought for the past decade, our bees really should be quite stressed and susceptible to anything going around.  But they're not.  The industry is in extraordinarily good shape (so long as the Federal Government reverse their rather shortsighted decision to declare the Asian bee endemic).

      All of the beekeepers that we buy our wax from are second or third generation beekeepers (we even have one fifth generation beekeeper).  They would call themselves 'conventional beekeepers' but I would challenge anyone to call how they treat their bees unnatural.  The beautiful thing about bees is that if you don't treat them well, they simply pack up and leave.  To me, that is the best explanation of Colony Collapse Disorder.  Yes, American beekeepers, if you expect bees to pollinate hundreds of thousands of kilometers of a single crop you may find they disappear.  Like humans, bees need a variety of protein and carbohydrates in their life.

      Anyway, I digress again!

      At the time of writing this course costs $390.  For more information go to the Milkwood Permaculture website or call (02) 6373 7763

      This course is taught by Tim Malfroy who is a commercial beekeeper (keeping his bees in standard beehives) started keeping his own bees in 2006 and is the founder of Malfroy's Gold honey.

      3. Tocal Agricultural College have a Beginning in Bees course run by NSW Industry & Investment.  The course is 2 days and involves both theory and practical components.  They seem to run courses all over the place (listed on their website are upcoming courses in Bellingen, Paterson and Camden).

      At the time of writing this course costs $500.  For more information go to the Tocal Agricultural College website or call 1800 025 520.

    I can't recommend keeping bees highly enough.  Whether you plan to manage them actively or simply to have them pollinating your garden (and those in the local neighbourhood), they are endlessly fascinating.  Obviously their are many practical considerations and I would highly recommend doing a course first to build up confidence and to ask any questions you may have.

    Happy honey eating! xx

    Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

  • Urban Beekeeping - Vogue Living article

    I have been meaning to post this article for months... so bless Easter with its 5 days off in a row.  Ultimate definition of luxury to a small business owner.  Well, I'd imagine to a salary earner too - just for different reasons.

    There was a fabulous article in Vogue Living, Jan-Feb 2011 issue on Urban Beekeeping.  You can see the full article by clicking on the link below, or read on for the full text.


    Urban Hives – Vogue Living, Jan 2011

    Sydney’s original urban beekeepers, George and Charis Schwarz set the standard for a growing number of amateur beekeepers

    By Madeleine Hinchy

    Riley Street is typical of many inner-city Sydney streets.  Poky renovated Victorian terraces sit cheek-by-jowl with student share houses and mechanics’ garages that hold fast against the encroaching tide of urban professionals who choose to call the area home.  But there’s something quite atypical happening behind one door.  George and Charis Schwarz have lived in the street since 1975 and have been keeping beehives in their backyard for almost as long; a practice that began as a form of therapy for George has become a way of life for them both.

    Their bees leave the Schwarzes’ rooftop hives every morning to forage in the nearby Royal Botanic Garens – “We know that because they have a radius of about three miles,” says George – and produce an annual yield averaging 80 kilograms of honey per hive, enough for the Schwarzes to supply a few regulars and give to their neighbourhood association for sale at Sydney Sustainable Markets in Taylor Square, but not enough to satisfy the commercial demands of chefs such as Jared Ingersoll of Danks Street Depot, one of a steadily growing stream of visitors pursuing the Schwarzes for their honey and extensive beekeeping knowledge.

    Guests are plied with the couple’s potent homemade mead and regaled with facts and anecdotes testifying to the wonder of the species and the industrious activity of their hordes of Apis mellifera, as Charis insists the bees be referred to, not by the common and , as she says, incorrect, term, the European honey bee.

    The couple’s public profile, cemented by George’s career as an artist and former head of photography at the nearby College of Fine Arts, has meant that they are the most well known of Sydney’s urban beekeepers – but they are not the only ones.  All beekeepers are required to register with the NSW Department of Primary Industries which reports there are eight in inner Sydney and another 11 nearby.

    Beekeeping has remained a largely private activity for the couple, but recent worldwide events have brought them into the public eye.  International bee populations have been rapidly diminishing and the cause is still largely unknown, but disease spread by the varroa mite, pesticide use, climate change and loss of biodiversity are all thought to be contributing.

    As word spreads about the plight of bees, concerned citizens want to help.  Studies suggest bees in urban areas may be healthier due to a wider diversity of plants and flowers and amateur beekeepers are establishing hives on rooftops and backyards in neighbourhoods in Paris, London and New York.

    In Australia, Milkwood Permaculture, an organization providing courses on sustainable small scale agriculture and urban farming, has been inundated with enquiries and has introduced a course specifically focused on beekeeping in urban areas.  The first workshop was held in September and rapidly booked out.

    While George and Charis believe that amateurs have a lot to contribute , they are concerned about the idea of beekeeping as a ‘trend’.  “Beekeeping is a serious occupation,” says George, who is worried the mismanagement of hives may make bee populations susceptible to disease.  Adds Charis: “We see our role as tending the bee strain – we always saw it that way.  The honey and so on wasn’t the objective.”

    Milkwood’s beekeeping tutor Tim Malfroy agrees, but adds: “I think it is just a matter of education.  Understanding bees is the key to keeping them healthy.  They are not pets – they are like a wild force of nature that you can have in your backyard – and that is one of the most beautiful things about them.”

    Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

  • I am woman. Hear me roar.

    I thought long and hard about the headline because ultimately I need every person I can get (male & female) to read this post, get outraged and take action.  The reference in the headline was a tip of the hat to the billions of female worker bees in beehives around Australia that tirelessly go about their work daily ensuring pollinated veggies on our table and their sweet amber liquid... honey.

    I'll get to the point...

    In a move that beggars belief, the Federal Government have declared the Asian bee (apis cerana) endemic to Australia and used that move as reason to stop funding the program to rid our shores of these invaders. This is a threat to food security in Australia, Australian native bees, flora and fauna and to our beekeeping industry.

    A little background

    In May 2007 a nest of Asian bees was found in Cairns.  They are thought to have reached our shores on a boat masthead.  Since that time a dedicated team of beekeepers and scientists have worked tirelessly to find and eradicate swarms/hives.  Why the worry?... in short, because Asian bees are ineffective pollinators, don't produce honey, are prone to swarming (ie unmanageable), compete for floral resources and disrupts queen rearing in honey bee hives.  They also destroy european honeybee and Australian native beehives.  In the Solomon Islands where they invaded recently, the honeybee population was decimated from 2000 hives to just 5.  Please take a moment to read the document below which goes into the issue in a little more detail.

    Asian Bee Fact Sheet

    It has been estimated that it will take $10 million over 2 years to eradicate the Asian bee.  I would have thought that this was a no-brainer investment considered in the light of the fact that bees in Australia are estimated to do more than $4 billion worth of food pollination PER ANNUM.  However, rather than dedicate the resources required, the Federal Goverment declared the Asian bee endemic on 28th February 2011 cutting the pittance of funding that was going to try to eradicate the problem.

    So what are we doing about it?

    The beekeeping industry, National Farmers Federation and Australian Food & Grocery Council are all galvinising forces and marching on Canberra today and tomorrow to highlight the issue.  The campaign calls for 3 outcomes:

    1. Immediately allocate $10 million over two years to eradicate the Asian bee in Australia

    2. Implement the recommendation of the 2008 Parliamentary Enquiry into the beekeeping industry (More Than Honey) by allocating an additional $50 million annually to maintain a healthy beekeeping industry and pollination services

    3. Provide funding for the establishment and operation of the Co-operative Research Centre for Bee Research and Food Security.

    What can you do?

    Firstly, stop feeling powerless.  I know that in the face of so many stupid decisions made by our government it is easy to just sit back and do nothing, but that is not an option here.  We can't have them selling off all of our food bowl land to overseas investors (in whose countries we are no allowed to buy land) and now further threatening food security barely trying to eradicate the Asian bee.  We at least need to throw some resources at it.

    You can visit to learn more about what is happening and use the very easy tool to send an email to the Minister, Joe Ludwig.

    You could also send a letter/email to your local, Federal Member of Parliament.  You can find your local member and their contact details here.





    Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

  • ABC News story - "Apiarists bring bees back to the city"

    Just got wind of this story (thank you to all the lovely friends and fans who send me links and scans and even clippings... it is GREATLY appreciated and I am going to endeavour to share more of them on the blog this year)...

    Anyway, it's a great little story about urban beekeeping and amateur beekeepers being the frontline of our defence against the varroa mite.  You can watch the story here -

    The timing is also a little uncanny as I am about to take delivery this evening of a beehive to go on my balcony!  Stay tuned for more on that one (not sure if I'm really passionate or really mad... or perhaps a little of both)!

    Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

  • A bee garden for Sydney?

    I have a dream.  Well, I have several actually!  One of them is to establish a Bee Garden in Sydney, and to encourage a renaissance in urban beekeeping.  My dream is for people (kids in particular) to know more about bees... their extraordinary, selfless, hardworking nature and functional community structure... the amazing products of the hive (honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, propolis and beeswax)... to eat raw honey, in honeycomb, fresh from the hive... and for the flowers and veggie gardens of Sydney to enjoy the benefits.  This is my call to action...

    I would love there to be more beekeepers in Sydney, and more people knowledgeable and passionate about bees in Sydney.*  Beehives grace the rooftops in New York (where classes sell out and the ban on keeping bees in the city was recently lifted), the veggie garden at The White House, they're in London (at Fortnum & Mason, The Royal Lancaster Hotel, actually all over London), not to mention in Paris at Paris Opera, and the Grand Palais on Paris' Champs ElyseeThis blog also has great information and links.  We need a bee renaissance in Sydney!  Sign our petition and please help spread the word.

    This dream was reignited recently when I was walking through the Botanic Gardens in Sydney for the first time in years, and was transported back to Luxembourg Gardens in Paris where I found the most fantastic apiary right there, in the sixth arrondissement of Paris, in the middle of the gardens.  A few of my photographs are below.  The garden had its 150th anniversary in 2006 and is looked after by Societe Centrale d'Apiculture.  Each September they harvest they honey to sell in the Garden's Orangerie.




    To kick along the process of establishing a Bee Garden in Sydney, I am hoping to collect enough signatures to show the relevant authorities that this is wanted and important.  Sign our petition to register your support or interest in urban beekeeping.

    * Note: this passion is not new, but it was reignited late last year when I read that Pittwater Council were spraying pesticides on the clover growing in the local parks lest kids accidentally step on a bee.  Head shake.  Eye roll.  Yes, geniuses, far better to have kids running around on and breathing in pesticides than to have them wearing shoes in the park, or, God forbid, getting stung by a bee.  Yes, a bee sting hurts.  That does not mean you are having an anaphylactic reaction.  There are far fewer people allergic to bee stings than peanuts.

    Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.


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