Learn About Beekeeping
From the hive to the jar, beekeepers play an integral role in the quality and sustainability of Australian honey.
What does a beekeeper do?
Did you know beekeeping is in fact a type of agricultural work? That’s right, a beekeeper is a farmer of Australia’s some mighty hardworking livestock, the honeybee. A beekeeper cares for and manages a colony of bees and the production of their products, honey and beeswax. A beekeeper’s primary focus is to ensure their hives are healthy and productive. The reward for this hard work is the extraction and collection of delicious Australian honey, which is taken only after the needs of the hive are met.
Nature and nurture
As well as understanding the intricacies of the workings of a beehive the job of a beekeeper also involves selecting the best locations for the bees. In selecting a bee site the beekeeper will take into account the trees and plants flowering in the area and the likely nectar and pollen sources, the distance from the beekeepers home base, how accessible the site will be when the hives are there.
Beekeepers keep honeybees who forage on the abundance of nectar produced by Australia’s unique and diverse flora. Australian beekeepers are always at the mercy of the weather and climate change. Long hot, dry summers, bushfires and torrential rains are all impacting Australia’s honey production. Australian beekeepers are always changing and evolving to ensure the survival of their bees, and the honey industry.
From hive to jar
A beekeeper is responsible for knowing when the absolute perfect time is to extract the honey from the hives. After the bees have collected the nectar, and brought it back to the hive, a little bit of time and patience is required for the honey to ripen. This means that enough of the water content of the honey has evaporated to a point that the honey texture, colour and flavour is optimal.
As soon as the honeycomb in the hive is filled with honey and capped with beeswax it is ready to be harvested.
Beekeepers regularly inspect their hives to see when the honeycomb can be removed. Honeycomb is removed from the hive and taken to be extracted. The wax cappings are removed with a sharp blade before the honeycomb is placed into an extractor. Centrifugal force in the extractor throws the honey out of the frames. The frames are placed back in the hives to be filled again by the bees. An incredibly efficient environmentally friendly process where nothing is wasted and nature happily accepts reuse!
Honey can only be gathered by the beekeeper if the hive has surpluses that the bees do not need. The beekeeper must always leave enough honey on the hive to sustain the nutritional needs of the hive or it will starve and die – leaving no honey for either the bees or the beekeeper in the future.
Beekeepers also keep bees for vital pollination services across Australia’s agricultural food sector. The value of pollination services provided by Australian honeybees is $14.2 billion*. Through buying Australian honey you are making an investment in pollination and fresh food; one that will keep the cost of our fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds affordable into the future. This will ultimately prevent the need for mass importation of the delicious foods that Australia currently grows and enjoys.
*The Economic Valuation of Australian Managed and Wild Honey Bee Pollinators in 2014 – 2015, John M Karasiński, September 2018.