Native Bees for Pollination or Pleasure
Bees have been a part of me since I was seven years old. That was over forty years ago.
My grandfather kept honey bees on his farm at Minden in South East Queensland virtually all his life. His reason for keeping bees was purely to supply honey for his family. He would always tell me stories of his experiences with honey bees and native bees over his long life. He would often talk about his work near Bundaberg where he was employed to cut sugarcane in the 1920's. He would describe the felling of large trees that would have as many as a dozen native bee hives in one tree. I'm sure many thousands of hives were destroyed. (Things still haven't changed much. Thousands are still destroyed each year)
My father has also kept honey bees and native bees for most of his life. It was Dad who caught my first honey bee swarm in a chaff bag and brought them home. This interest in bees has not waned but my energies have deviated along the way from honey bees to Native bees. My Dad is now a tremendous helper and supporter to my native bee collection.
I have kept native bees for as long as twenty years. I remember the first hive was in a blue gum log, and at this stage in my life, that was as far as the interest went. The hive died out after about 18 months. My uncle gave me a hive of native bees which I kept for about 10 years or so in a honey bee nucleus box. This hive was very powerful and established new colonies all around my parents property. I remember that one hive tried to establish itself in an opened 44 gallon drum. It was far too big for the hive and the first taste of summer melted the resin and wax to a liquid. (Oh well!)
In my teens, I would be often out in the bush collecting feral honey bee hives. This was great fun! We would often come across native bee hives, but at this stage of my life, the honey bee was like a drug. I couldn't get enough. I had about 90 hives of honey bees at the age of 20. I sold all but 6 hives of honey bees in 1981. I still keep honey bees to supply my families needs.
My feverish interest in native bees began on the 22nd of December, 1987. An article in our local paper, "The Gatton Star", on native bees got me moving into high gear. The article was prepared by a young entomology student by the name of Tim Heard. I contacted Tim, who willingly sent me further details on native bees.
Tim had developed a system of domestication where native bees could be hived in boxed. This system was tremendous, as the box could be split to create two hives from one strong hive. I thought to myself that this is what I wanted to do. After studying all of this literature and drawings, I developed my adapted version of Tim's box.
Gatton Star, Tuesday, 22nd December,1987, page 25
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