A few years ago, Julie Dinsdale had a desk job in corporate IT, a far cry from her life today, running a commercial beekeeping business that exports honey to markets around the world.

Key points:

  • Registered beekeeper numbers have ‘exploded’ in Western Australia by 688 per cent in the past decade 
  • The Bee Industry Council of WA says the increase is good for food production 
  • Newcomers are being asked to ensure they are educated about biosecurity risks 

Ms Dinsdale is one of thousands of West Australians drawn to beekeeping  in recent years, resulting in a 688 per cent increase in registered beekeepers since 2011.

“I left [the job] after 20 years and decided it was time to see what else I could do and the bees took a natural course for me,” she said.

“It’s been an interesting journey. A lot the skills I learnt in the corporate world certainly come into play now … giving confidence to my husband and I in growing this business.”

Bee Industry Council of WA chairman Brendon Fewster standing in front of hives at Muchea in July 2020.

Brendon Fewster says the commercial honey industry welcomes the increase in new players. (Jessica Hayes: ABC Rural )

‘Explosion’ of new players

Ten years ago, just 582 beekeepers were registered with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD). 

Today there are more than 4000.

Bee Industry Council of WA chairman Brendon Fewster said the “explosion” of beekeepers coincided with the development of the flow hive – an easier, less invasive way to harvest honey.

“People are learning a lot about the bees and we’re having a big influx of beekeepers because it’s quite an interesting job,” he said.

Mr Fewster said the rise in beekeeper numbers was welcome among established players in the industry.

Julie Dinsdale

julie Dinsdale traded in corporate life for honey after following her passion for bees. (Supplied.)

“Not too many other industries would have come close to that kind of growth,” he said.

“The state can handle quite a few commercial beekeepers, and we’re getting back to where we can sustain quite comfortably where the number is at the moment.”

Community buzz

WA Apiarists’ Society president Stephen Boylen said recreational beekeepers accounted for a large share of new entrants.

He said grassroots apiarist hubs have emerged as the backyard beekeeping community has grown, including 15 chapters of the ‘Bee Buddy Network’ in Perth and South West WA.

“Small groups meet and sit and talk bees,” he said. “There’s so much to learn, tips and techniques that people share.

A close up of bees from a hive

The increase in registered beekeepers has also increased biosecurity risks.(ABC Rural: Annie Brown )

Biosecurity must remain a priority 

DPIRD biosecurity project officer James Sheehan said beekeepers — both professional and amateur — should register their bees to support the state’s biosecurity

“While beekeeping is a rewarding hobby and profession, without the proper and regular care, poor beekeeping practice can lead to breaches to our biosecurity status, loss of colonies and serious impacts on other beekeepers and wild bee populations,” he said.

Busy times: What’s behind the ‘explosion’ in beekeeper numbers?
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