Kitchen Gardeners’ Society November meet: Bees in the backyard

There were lots of us who wanted to talk about bees at the November Kitchen Gardeners’ Society meet.  And it is a fascinating subject.

Penny and Shane invited us all to their lovely, shiny new house where they have put in enormous amounts of work in establishing a garden before summer proper hits.  They have wonderful plans for bees and chooks and already have their fruit trees in.  It’s going to be a gorgeous, edible, shady and fragrant garden.

Rob, who first appeared at the August meet, and who is a man of many talents, offered to take us through setting up a bee hive in suburbia.  Which we did, but with many digressions and whimsical meanderings of conversation.

We were all so entranced that no-one remembered to take photographs.  Sorry about that.

However, here’s what you need to know:

  • Bee keeping starts off expensively – a hive, bees, bee suits, smoker and assorted paraphernalia will set you back in the order of $600, but this stuff lasts a long, long time and the benefits do outweigh the costs.
  • A jar of honey goes a long way to mollifying a sceptical neighbour.
  • The American hive tool is rubbish, make sure you get an Australian one.
  • You must harvest your honey (or, as Rob says: rob the hive) or the bees will seriously consider decamping and there’s not much you can do once they’ve gone.
  • Your veg patch will thank you, although the bees won’t make much different to your tomato pollination – this you can achieve by a vigorous watering or a gentle shake.
  • Suburban honey is really interesting as the bees range up to five kilometres and collect from whatever is flowering.
  • Conventional wisdom has it that paler bees are less aggressive than darker bees, but this is not necessarily the case.  Be careful around bees.

We”ll probably run another bee workshop next year.  December’s workshop will be on summerproofing your garden, and it’s at Dave and Joan’s place.  Watch your email for the address, and if you’re not on our mailing list, you’ll miss out!

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