“I received my first bees in 2017. Before then I had spent time preparing and educating myself through courses and reading, as well as talking to other local beekeepers. I am a gardener and it was only natural that I would add beehives to the backyard. Mum and I travelled to Tylden in Central Victoria to receive my first 2 well-established hives. The bees had spent their time among the Macedon Ranges area so were suitable for the cool climate area of Beechworth where I live. The bees got to work straight away once they got settled in and they continually provide a fascination for us.
Long time family friend, Slavko Blatnik was my inspiration. He tends 2 hives in a small urban backyard in St Albans along with chooks and garden. I have completed a beekeeping course at CERES Brunswick with The Practical Beekeeper – Benedict Hughes. I have since also completed the Victorian Apiarists’ Association Summer Beekeeping course at Abbortsford. The trainers were very knowledgeable, and there is always a lot to learn from the experienced beekeepers.
I am a member of North East Apiarists’ Association (NEAA).
In March 2018 I attended the Beekeeping and Honey Festival held by J Beekeeping School at Jadran Club in Diggers Rest, Melbourne. I will be attending the Bee Keepers’ Conference in Ballarat in June this year. This will be a good opportunity to network and learn from other beekeepers and special presenters.
I currently have 2 hives in the backyard, and looking to increase in the spring when I split the hives.
We also have a native bee hotel in the garden that Mum made. We see a lot of native bees visiting our garden especially among the salvias.
My bees are the Italian variety – Apis mellifera ligustica – regarded as good honey producers and less aggressive.
The hives are surrounded by an abundance of garden featuring annual and perennial flowers, vegetables, fruit trees as well as other surrounding trees in the surrounding streets. Living in a small town we are also situated close to forest, providing a further selection for the bees for both pollen and nectar all year round. This year was my first harvest from the 2 hives and I was pleasantly surprised by the lovely floral aroma and taste of the honey.
The bees are housed in winter in the traditional Langstroth boxes consisting of a brood chamber with 1 full-size super for each hive which face the early morning sun. In preparation for winter, the super and queen excluder is taken away. The bees are then left with enough honey for the winter and I have placed some polystyrene around the boxes to insulate from the harsh cold.
I have grown up with a family culture of food growing and preservation. This stems from my Slovenian background and growing food through necessity. In today’s society, however, many of us have forgotten the basic knowledge of producing our own food and being self-reliant. We have forgotten the tremendous source of pride and accomplishment, as well as providing for family. I love that it feeds us holistically. There is more knowledge now of food plants and their pollination requirements. The recent popularity of beekeeping is also partly due to the increased publicity of problems bees are facing.
For me, it is a growing realisation of the importance of bees. I recognise the value of the amazing honey that bees produce but more importantly, as a pollinator of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy on a daily basis.
My interest lies in permaculture and sustainable urban agriculture, so when I buy my small acreage in or close to town, the number of hives will inevitably increase to perhaps 5. Gardening is a passion and part of my livelihood. It makes sense to add bees to the equation of growing food and the added benefit of educating family, friends and community.
I would also like to paint the hives in colours perhaps some traditional decoration. My son is now busy making more boxes and frames for the spring. I am pleased that he has now started an interest in helping me with the bees, and hope that this will continue into the future.”
by Mary Kromar
For enlargement click on the photo
Photo – Mary Kromar