The number of hobby beekeepers in Queensland has more than doubled in the past five years.
- There has been an explosion in hobby beekeepers in Queensland
- Commercial beekeepers are urging them to get educated on pests and diseases
- There is hope the younger generation will eventually end up as commercial beekeepers
In 2015 there were about 1,800 registered, and now there are more than 5,000 people keeping European honey bees.
Among those who took up the hobby is Stephen Wills, who started his collection in his backyard in suburban Bundaberg during lockdown.
“It started last year with the boredom of not being able to go anywhere,” he said.
“I was on the internet and saw a video on bees, and ever since then, I got the bug.”
Mr Wills said honey was not the main drawcard for him.
“We weren’t interested in the honey. We wanted pollination so we can get a good crop of stone fruit, mangoes and citrus,” he said.
Rebecca Pohlner started the Bundaberg Beekeepers group when she first got into the hobby, and since then membership has exploded.
“When I got involved with bees, I found it really hard to find help and assistance and a mentor to help me,” Ms Pohlner said.
She said getting into beekeeping was relatively cheap.
“It’s a skill set that you can quickly gather, and it’s something that you can help to rebuild the environment,’ she said.
Stay on top of pests
With the uptake in people keeping backyard bees, the commercial industry is urging new beekeepers to be properly informed on pests and diseases, so they do not spread.
Queensland Beekeepers Association (QBA) secretary Jo Martin said ignorance could be damaging.
“It’s really important for that next generation of beekeepers coming through to recognise there are sources of information out there to help them.
“One of them is the BOLT course. It’s an online biosecurity training course for all beekeepers that is free to access.
“Get in contact with the Department of Agriculture, alternatively contact the QBA and we’ll point you in the right direction.”
As well as biosecurity, it is important to check local council by-laws to see how many hives you can actually have.
Mrs Pohlner said her group ran information sessions monthly to educate members.
“We look at the makeup of a hive, how to care for that hive, what diseases and pests to look for and what management and husbandry skills that you need,” she said.
While there has been a strong uptick in hobby beekeepers, the commercial side has not grown at the same pace.
Ms Martin said it was a real concern.
“The commercial industry has effectively had a noose around its neck for many years now. We’ve been battling a lack of resource availability and a lot of uncertainty when it comes to where am I going to be able to place my honey bees,” she said.
“Our numbers for our professional beekeepers, our commercial industry, has largely remained static which is quite alarming.”
Mrs Pohlner said there was hope the younger generation would step up.
“We would really love to get kids involved because the majority of commercial beekeepers are in their mid-sixties or onwards,” she said.
Australian vs European
Native bees are also increasing in popularity.
Mrs Pohlner said they were working towards running information programs on the Australian stingless varieties.
“European honey bees are the ones that people want to get honey from. They want to have the ability to pollinate plus actually get something from it,” she said.
“In the last 12 months, we’ve really started to get increased interest in people wanting to get native bees.
“We are starting to concentrate a bit more down the native side of beekeeping,” she said.