Honey bees are really cool. No really, they're amazing. The more you know about them the better they get. For example:
- A third of all of our food is pollinated by bees.
- A bee makes only 3g of honey in its lifetime.
- It takes trips equivalent to 1.5 orbits of the earth to produce 1kg of honey.
- The worker bee goes through a series of jobs as it ages and develops.
- The queen only mates once, with up to ten drones, then lays up to 2,000 eggs a day for the next few years, choosing which eggs to fertilize as she lays them.
It's not just us who need bees to pollinate our food, wildlife such as birds rely on bees for their foodstuff too. A world without bees would be devastating for food production as plants would have to be pollinated by hand or would suffer lower yields.
So they're amazing and they're essential to our ecosystem, why are they disappearing? Over the last 20 years, we have witnessed the loss of millions of beehives around the world. The main culprits are pesticides, disease and increasing industrial scale agriculture which removes the bees' habitat.
There is a world-wide movement to save the bees, so what can you do to help?
If you have a small block you can contact one of the many companies who will hire you a hive or hives. These companies will assess the suitability of your land for bees, deliver and manage the hive(s) and provide you with honey from the hives. The costs vary from company to company but you can expect to pay between anywhere between $400 and $1200 per year.
This option is ideal if you want to keep a few bees to pollinate your garden or block, eat honey from your own bees and help save the planet without having to worry about the legal requirements or practical day-to-day management of the hives.
If you have a larger block with a good source of food for bees then you can contact your local beekeeping club to see if there is someone looking for a place to put hives. If your property provides enough of a benefit to the beekeeper you won't have to pay and may get paid or at least honey in return. Again, you don't need to worry about legislation or management.
The third, and most satisfying, option is to become a beekeeper yourself. This means you will have to manage your bees in the same way as you manage any livestock. You will be responsible for their health and welfare and you will have to abide by legislation, including local bylaws. However, all the benefits are yours, the honey, the beeswax, the propolis, the pollination and of course the satisfaction.
If you'd like to become a beekeeper then it's best to join a local beekeeping club. Beekeepers are a friendly lot who are usually very happy to help and support new members through your first hives.
If you can't do any of the above then at least you can plant a bee-friendly garden or bee-friendly trees to assist local hives.