Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby. The rewards will come in beautiful fresh honey to eat, but are principally from the pleasure you will derive from working with them. From as little as a single made-from-scrap-wood hive in the back garden to a large apiary, you will certainly be hooked from the start. If you are considering starting beekeeping, it’s a great call – Australia is the best place in the world to do it; no varroa, mild winters, abundant nectar, it’s all here. And bees have the great advantage over other animals that they can manage for themselves for weeks at a time – so you can still take holidays!
How do I start beekeeping?
First, join a club. The members will be keen to help. If possible get a mentor who will assist you with the first somewhat intimidating inspections. Bees can usually be sourced in the following ways:
Obtain a Swarm
Swarms are the way colonies reproduce and ensure their survival. If you are lucky and there are hives nearby, you might find one in your backyard hanging from a tree. If so, collect it quickly because they usually hang around only for a day. Beekeepers will sometimes give you a swarm if they have more colonies than they require. This is a good reason to belong to a club. Normally in Victoria the season is between September and November. A strong swarm will set about rapid comb building and accumulating stores over the summer months to ensure adequate resources for the winter.
Purchase a Nuc
A nuc (nucleus) is a small self-contained hive used for starting a colony. Due to its restricted size, the smaller number of bees are able to manage the hive temperature and defend the space. It is made by splitting off a couple of combs of bee brood with some stores from the parent hive. With a queen or queen cell added, the hive is able to establish rapidly, Once the hive builds up, the bees and combs are transferred into a full size home. Nucs are a particularly good way to start beekeeping, since the small colonies are less defensive and so less intimidating for a new beekeeper. Contact me to discuss obtaining a nuc from Moonahbees.
although common in the USA, packages of bees with a queen, are not generally available in Australia and may be subject to postal restrictions.