Monday, 7 April 2014

Hands-on beekeeping experience

There's a lot to learn about keeping bees. It's a really good idea to get a solid understanding of what you're getting yourself into before you commit to getting a hive of your own. Reading some books on beekeeping is a good start. Getting some hands on experience is the next step.

We all need to know what we're looking at when we open our hives.  Natural beekeeping places an emphasis on preserving the hive environment. While this translates into less openings of the hive, that doesn't mean natural beekeepers don't responsibly manage their hives. Understanding what you see when you open your hive is integral to responsible hive management. 

So where can you get some hands-on experience?  If you live in Melbourne then a good source of free beekeeping training is the Collingwood Children's Farm Apiary. We wanted to gain some experience opening a hive and knowing what to look for before we got our bees so that's where we went.

The Collingwood Children's Farm is a not-for-profit community resource which aims to provide country experiences for city people. It's located just 5 km from the centre of Melbourne along the Yarra River. Consisting of 17 hectares of paddocks, gardens and orchards, and with a large range of animals, it is open every day from 9-4.30 pm. It also has a café and a Farmer's Market on the 2nd Saturday of each month which is well worth a visit.

The Apiary at the Collingwood Children's Farm is staffed by experienced beekeepers from the Melbourne section of the VAA. They kindly volunteer their time and effort to educate the public about bees and beekeeping.  It's open to the public on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month from 11-4 pm.  All you need is an interest in bees - protective gear and supervision is available if you want to get up close to a beehive.

The Apiary at Collingwood Children's Farm - with the city skyline in the background

An experienced beekeeper instructs a novice

For those content to view the action from further away there is a caravan with a window out onto the apiary. From inside the caravan you can view the beekeeping activities being undertaken. The caravan also has a window into an observation hive so visitors can get a close up view of bees inside a hive without the need to gear up or disturb the bees.

viewing the action up close and also from inside the caravan

We found that regularly visiting and volunteering at the CCF apiary was a great way to build up our confidence in preparation for getting our own hive. The experienced volunteers are friendly, patient and extremely knowledgeable - they're always happy to share their experience and answer questions.  These guys, some of whom have 30+ years of beekeeping experience, say there is no end to what you can learn about bees and beekeeping. 

We'd heartily recommend going along to the CCF apiary if you are thinking about keeping bees.  Suit up and get amongst it - you'll soon know if beekeeping is the hobby for you.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm one of the many volunteers that come down and help at the apiary. I always look forward to getting down there and learning new tips and tricks from the more experienced bee keepers that attend. I would recommend anyone interested in bee keeping get on down and spend a few months learning preferably 12 months before trying it at home on your own. There are a few very important tricks to get right before you can start collecting those great big buckets of beautiful honey! :-)