I started keeping bees in 1968.
My interest was kindled by a farmer from Howes Valley, Jack Della-ca who had kept a commercial apiary when he was younger. Jack was my first mentor. I started with one hive and subsequently that grew to three hives. My first extraction was done on a small table in a small hut my wife and I stayed in every second weekend.
Travelling home from Howes Valley I met John Swan who was a timber logger for Colo Heights Timber Mill. John had a few hives at the mill. This was in 1970.
There was nothing John did not know about trees as his entire life had been working in the timber industry as a logger.
In 1972 I wrote to Ian DeCoursey Dutton, a beekeeper who owned Wilgian Queen Apiaries at Manilla, NSW, asking if I could work with him on my holidays and time off work. He agreed and off I went. This arrangement continued for about nine years. This was like an apprenticeship into learning more about bees from a third generation beekeeper.
I had been going to Condobolin for many years, from my teens, with a workmate whose father lived there trapping rabbits. There I was introduced to bush honey from wild bees. With this knowledge I invited John Swan out to Condobolin.
John and I cut down trees to get honey and wax and hive the bees. I helped him get bush hives. John eventually bought a house in Tullamore. We used to get about seven hives a day with John felling and opening up the tree and then I would hive the bees and rob the honey. When I finished I would listen for the chain saw and make my way to the activity after that tree was felled and opened up.
I did the hiving whilst John would look for another hive and so on. John eventually had between 50 and 60 hives and in a good year he extracted 25 tons of honey.
I eventually took my hives out to Condobolin and built them up from three to 55. I used to work them about once a month with a four day weekend.
I started selling honey commercially and started a part-time business. John and I worked our hives together, but the honey we got from our hives we each did our own thing. I sold my honey privately and John sold his honey to Capilano.
At one stage of my beekeeping education I assisted Gretchen Wheen who was in charge of the Eastern States Bee Breeding Programme. My job was to collect drones from different genetic strains. I then milked the sperm from these drones, using powerful microscopes, into minute microlitre insemination syringes which were then used to artificially inseminate virgin queens of different genetic strains.
These queens were then used in commercial hives, testing them for all the desirable traits and the best queens were then used in the breeding programme.
On one of my visits to Manilla Ian Dutton asked whether I was a member of the Amateur Beekeepers Association, to which I replied “what can the amateurs teach me”. Ian replied “no, but what can you teach the amateurs”. When Parramatta Branch of the ABA advertised in the local paper they were convening a meeting to assess if there was any interest in beekeeping I was really interested.
I went along and joined that first night. I was coerced into putting honey into Castle Hill Show and won a couple of prizes. Over the next ten years I became increasingly competitive and showed honey at Fairfield, Hawkesbury, Castle Hill, St. Ives and The Sydney Royal Easter Show. At all of these shows I won Champion Jar of Honey and Most Successful Exhibitor.
My greatest input has been on Education of new beekeepers. With 47 years experience I have been to many beekeeping clubs as a guest speaker and also to field days both at amateur and commercial levels.
During my membership of the Amateur Beekeepers, Parramatta Branch, I have fulfilled many roles, such as Apiary Officer, President, Vice-President and Public Officer. Iam also the Public Officer of the Amateur Beekeepers Association.
I no longer show honey but put my interest and expertise into judging at honey shows, namely, Castle Hill, St. Ives and the Sydney Royal and was asked to judge the honey show at Orange for their inaugural Honey Week.
I also get asked to be a guest speaker at ABA Branches and have also spoken at Commercial Apiarist events, ABA field days and have written beekeeping articles for the Australasian Beekeeper and Amateur Beekeeper magazines.
At this years ABA Annual General Meeting I was made an Honorary Life Member for my dedication to the Amateur Beekeepers Association.
I feel all the aforementioned aspects of my beekeeping experiences more than qualify me to be your Beekeeping Educator.