Big buzz about bees: More young people turn to backyard beekeeping

Oct. 23, 2019 | 5 Min read
More young people are turning to beekeeping and in parts of Victoria there are even waitlists to own a hive.

More young people are turning to beekeeping and in parts of Victoria there are even waitlists to own a hive.

Ballarat Grammar Year 12 student Cecilia Hearn is younger than most beekeepers.

She keeps five hives, including two in her family's backyard in Ballarat.

What began as a school project for Ms Hearn's agriculture class has morphed into a real passion for bees.

Ms Hearn tends to the bees mostly during the warmer months and makes products from the wax.

She hopes to study agriculture at university next year and sees a future for herself in beekeeping.

"That might be becoming a commercial beekeeper or having an impact on new technology to support the bees," Ms Hearn said.

Ballarat beekeeper Amanda Collins owns 80 hives and runs a mentoring program for backyard beekeepers.

Initially, swamped with interest, she kept a waitlist for people interested in beekeeping, but the list grew quickly and when it became apparent that not everyone could get a hive, Ms Collins decided to close the waitlist down.

"We thought it was unfair to have a waiting list for hive hosting, because we knew that there was little hope of people getting off the waiting list and onto our hive hosting program," she said.

Ms Collins said she has noticed two distinct groups of millennials who have taken an interest in beekeeping.

"Then we see the early-to-mid thirties, so people who have young families, their notion is they want to provide quality food and be part of something bigger."

While many regional and rural Australians live on large blocks, Ms Collins said increasing urbanisation and smaller housing blocks could make it more difficult, but not impossible, to keep bees.

"I think there's the risk as we move forward with housing development that our backyards are becoming so small that there will be difficulty in being able to do some of those things in your backyard," she said.

Already, beekeepers have thought up creative solutions to have hives in unusual spaces, like balconies and garage roofs.

"I think it's really inspiring — young people getting into beekeeping," Ms Collins said.

As well as sharing beekeeping duties with her mum, Ms Hearn plans to take one of her hives with her to university, though perhaps not in her first term.

She hopes more people will recognise the importance of bees.

"With the increased rallies for climate change action, I'm sure a lot more people will be getting on board with the idea of saving the bees to save the planet," Ms Hearn said.

Although backyard beekeeping is seeing a resurgence, it has not always been popular to rehabilitate bees when they have set-up shop in an undesirable location — like someone's shed or roof.

"Some of the farmers that I've spoken to, they're absolutely upfront about their previous methods they've used when it comes to bees," said Tim Martin, co-owner of Tower Hill Beekeeping.

As well as owning hives and making bee products, Mr Martin runs a hive removal service in south-west Victoria.

To date, he has relocated 160 hives.

"We're really out there trying to push that message that bees are important," Mr Martin said.

"You don't have to love bees, you just have to respect and appreciate them.

"That's what makes people want to get hives and swarms relocated into new homes, rather than other more traditional methods."

Now, more people want to rehome the bees on their property.

When Warrnambool couple Samantha and Paul Atwell discovered bees had taken up residence in a metal barrel next to their chicken pen, they realised it might not be the best spot for a hive.

"[We were] a little bit concerned over the summers, with a couple of 40-degree days, they were bearding down the side of the drum because it was a bit too hot for them," Mrs Atwell said.

"On those days I'd set up sprinklers, try and get the bottom of the drum to cool them down."

With Mr Martin's help, the Atwells' bees have been rehomed to a shady purpose-built hive.

"After seeing today, they've done an exceptional job moving in and I think they're quite happy — so stoked with that," Mrs Atwell said.

Until they were concerned about their bees sweating in a metal drum, the Atwells had never thought about keeping bees.

"I like having bees here because I know they're important for the garden and we've got a lot of fruit trees," Mrs Atwell said.


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