Valentin came to Australia with his wife and two small children in 1968. Beekeeping is a hobby he started on his retirement from work. It gives him great satisfaction and deepens his appreciation of the work of one of Nature’s most industrious creatures.
Valentin first became interested in beekeeping on his retirement. Since then, he has established several well managed backyard hives at the back of his garage, near the vegetable garden. His enthusiasm for his bees is obvious as he goes about the tasks of collecting the frames and preparing them for honey extraction. Valentin uses wooden box-like structures called ‘supers’ that hold a number of frames on which the bees construct their wax cells to contain the honeycomb. When bees return to the hive, they place the honey into the cells and seal them with wax. This is protein-rich food for the baby bees.
The bees are fairly inactive during winter when it is cold and there isn’t enough food for them to harvest. But, in Spring, they come to life again and beekeepers like Valentin get ready to harvest the honey.
A long sharp knife is heated and used to carefully cut away the wax cappings. The frame is then placed into the centrifuge and the honey extracted. It is sieved to remove wings and other debris, and then poured into jars, ready to be enjoyed.
Much as he loves his bees, Valentin always wears protective gear including a veil, long sleeves and long trousers. Gloves, of course, are essential! Although he has been stung a few times, Valentin says it’s important to move calmly around the bees. His respect for them is evident as he reflects on their short, hard lives that enable us to enjoy their liquid gold.
Dr Elizabeth Tomažič - From Hands and Hearts, 2011, p.39
"I arrived to Australia on 13th August 1968. In year 2002 I have seen for the very first time a bee swarm by the stream. The owner of the land knew about the bees and he collected them I became very interested. At the Blacombe beekeepers shop I purchased everything needed.They all helped me with the preparation to give the bees a nice home.
The honeycomb with the queen bee we put in the bucket and the next day the bees returned to the bush from the previous day. Than we put them in the beehive, added the honeycomb and the queen bee and would you believe it – in two months time I had a full beehive of the bees. My teacher was a Slovenian lady Anica Vrisk.
I am not a member of the Australian Beekeepers Association, by do attend the Beekeepers Festival at the Slovenian Club Jadran at Diggers Rest for 10 years. I have 3 beehives, soon to have only 2. I have 2 beehives of the Slovenian Kranjska sivka at home and 1 beehive at friends place with Italian bees. All my bees are feed at the eucalypts in the near park. They like the pink and cream flowering gum trees. I mostly have Eucalyptus honey, sometimes mixed with floral.
I always care for the bees so they have a warm and dry home. Australian winters are not very cold. In Slovenia the beehives were insulated with hay. The bees love a dry home. If they swarm in the ground, giving them a ready beehive, they will quickly occupy it. In beehive could be 30-60 thousand bees. I harvest up to 400kg of honey.Some bees are ‘thieves’ – they steal the honey from other beehives (especially the Italian bees). The Slovenian bees - Kranjska sivka – are very strong and they defend their territory fiercely.
I also prepare some propolis tincture from the resinous substance collected by the bees, with which they seal and varnish honeycombs and the alcohol. I sell some honey privately or give it as gifts."
Recorded by Draga Gelt