SAVE THE BEES: Bee keeper and council worker Stephen said bees are a vital to the Bundaberg community and agricultural sector.
SAVE THE BEES: Bee keeper and council worker Stephen said bees are a vital to the Bundaberg community and agricultural sector.

Bees hold the keys to sustain agriculture

BEES are an integral part of the Bundaberg community, but the species continue to face a number of threats to their survival.

Issues the pollinators are facing include threats from other insect pests, hives being incorrectly transported or relocated and concerns related to weather conditions.

Stephen Johnston started collecting native bees twenty years ago, but is a tradition that has been in his family for generations.

“My Dad had bees all his life and when he passed away, I continued doing it and inherited 80 to 100-year-old logs from my uncle,” the 58-year-old beekeeper said.

“The older generations know all about bees because back when my parents were young, you couldn’t just go to the corner store and buy some honey, so everyone had bee hives.”

In addition to being a beekeeper, Mr Johnston is a member of the Bundaberg Bee Keepers Association and also works as a plumber for the council and said he often receives calls from residents for bees turning up in water metres.

“It’s the perfect temperature for them as the weather starts to get warmer, which is why they do it … the main issues are that people can’t turn their tap off and it’s not the safest place, but there hasn’t been as many cases this year as what I usually would get,” Mr Johnston said.

“Some people aren’t aware that they have them in their metres because they don’t turn the tap off to start with, but what I do is I get a box and collect them from the meter and transport them to a nearby tree or near the front garden to pollinate the flowers.”

As for bees in brick walls, Mr Johnston said it’s better for the bees to leave them there.

“If they are in a brick wall, just leave them because you can’t get them out unless you build another hive and then they transport themselves from the wall to the hive,” he said.

“But they are harmless and they won’t sting you unless you get stuck into their hives, but it’s just a pinch — not like the European bees.”

SAVE THE BEES: Bee keeper and council worker Stephen said bees are a vital to the Bundaberg community and agricultural sector.
SAVE THE BEES: Bee keeper and council worker Stephen said bees are a vital to the Bundaberg community and agricultural sector.

Mr Johnston said it was always safe to call a professional like Widebay Stingless Bees to remove the bees from a tree before cutting it down, as a lot of dead limbs would be full of bees and people could get stung.

The dry conditions that many regional areas are facing at the moment leads to a reduction in flower production, meaning less food consumption for bees.

As a result, their ability to produce nectar and pollen is limited.

Mr Johnston said pollination was an essential part of the process in the agriculture sector, an industry that Bundaberg relies on heavily.

“Without bees, we can’t pollinate and without pollen, our crops won’t grow,” Mr Johnston said.

“Native bees are really great for pollinating things like macadamias and avocados.

“They don’t produce much honey and when they do, it’s a little bit tangy but true native bee honey out in the bush is spectacular because they feed off wattle.”

Determined to educate the future of Bundaberg about bees, Mr Johnston said there was a program that allowed schools to adopt a bee hive.

“Bargara State School was the first school I know of to adopt a hive and we basically collect them, place them into a hive and then the school can adopt them,” Mr Johnston said.

“The idea is if the kids can look into the hive from the top and look at what they are doing and get to know them.”

For more information about bees, hives and removals, contact The Bee Widebay Stingless Bees on 0499 027 115 or the Bundaberg Bee Keepers Association online at https://bit.ly/2W6qOkT.



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