If there is anything that can bond a group together, it’s a sticky substance. With that in mind, the Sydney chapter held a gathering for all the vollies to get to know each other and to learn about one of nature’s greatest cooperative species – bees – and about how urban beekeeping can not only help bees but people too!

It’s no secret that bees are currently facing threats worldwide, such as the overuse of pesticides, colony collapse and the parasitic varroa mite. Luckily the deadly varroa mite is not yet present in bee colonies in Australia, however concerns are that it could just be a matter of time before it is. So is there anything that can be done?

One (tasty, tasty) answer is urban beekeeping. With 2/3 of our food coming from the pollination work of bees, having an urban beehive is not only beneficial for the future of bees but also a way to get to know the local ecology and protect future food production. Bryn from Urban Beekeepers of the Inner West shared not only his bees’ honey but also his extensive knowledge about urban beekeeping with the Sydney chapter, including a few sweet surprises!

  1. Urban beekeeping is surprisingly easy. Joining a local beekeeping club can provide a knowledgeable support group, as well as a ‘swarm’ of bees to get started, and there are lots of spaces a beehive can go – from a rooftop to a tiny garden. After assembling a kit (suit, smoker, hive) and the bees have been hard at work, harvesting your small-scale produced honey can be simple. Take one frame of honeycomb from the hive, cutting the comb from the frame. Place the comb into a muslin sieve, hang over a bowl, and let gravity do its thing! In 24hrs your bowl will be oozing with raw, unfiltered honey, ready to store for over 2000 years!
  2. Local honey may help alleviate hayfever symptoms. Kinda like a vaccination, the raw local honey contains micronutrients from the pollen the bees have collected that can help to inoculate the eater against the pollen in the area, reducing hayfever reactions! Honey is also highly antibiotic and has been used in the past to protect cuts and injuries.
  3. The flavour of local honey will constantly vary. As the seasons change and different sources of nectar come into bloom, the flavour of the honey the bees produce can change dramatically. Early spring Inner west honey is very floral and slightly aniseedy, becoming much sweeter later in the season.
  4. Urban beehives contribute to bee biodiversity. Many large commercial hives will try to minimise drones (aka the bees that mate with the Queen bee) as drones don’t produce honey. However, that limits the genetic diversity of bee offspring. Most urban beehives don’t minimise drones, which helps contribute to more biodiverse bees.

Many cities now have urban beekeeping courses being run by various urban beekeeping groups that provide training and support for starting sweet, sweet honey adventures. And once the honey has been harvested, there is nothing better than drizzling it over everything or using it to cook something delicious – like one of our fave banana bread recipes!

If your backyard is actually more of a farm, check out the Bee Agskills e-book.

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Image credits: Urban Beekeepers of the Inner West

Sophie Armitage