Thousands of aspiring apiarists are swarming to amateur clubs around Australia, prompting some bee keeping societies to cap their numbers.
Australian Honey Bee Industry Council executive director Trevor Weatherhead said the increasing popularity could be attributed — in part — to the Flow Hive, an Australian invention that allows honey to be mechanically harvested without opening the hive.
“Some clubs I know have had up to a 200 per cent increase in [memberships],” Mr Weatherhead said.
“In Victoria, I know a couple of the clubs have put caps on their membership, because they were getting too many inquiries — in one case I know a new club started up.”
On the Gold Coast, 12-year-old beekeeper Tom Thomson has been tending his family’s hives for six years and said he was surprised by the increased memberships.
“It’s like Flow Hives have revolutionised bee hives,” he said.
The young apiarist owns three traditional box hives, which are located in the grounds of the Currumbin Community Special School.
The hives are harvested every six weeks and the honey sold to local businesses.
The student said his bees were easier to manage in the warmer months.
“If you open them in winter, and it’s cold, they get really angry and sting you,” he said.
“But in summer if it’s a hot day and it’s all clear and there’s not going to be any storms, they’re calm.”
Gold Coast Amateur Beekeepers Society president Kathy Knox said her club trained 85 new keepers this year, with many of them being quite young.
“Beekeeping is for anybody from nine to 90,” Ms Knox said.
The club now had 300 members.
Ms Knox agreed the Flow Hive had attracted people.
“The basic hive design and the basic principles of disease management and bee husbandry haven’t really changed,” she said.
“What Flow Hives have changed is the way we collect honey from the hive.”
Crowdfunding campaign launched global business
The hive was invented by Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart at Byron Bay in northern New South Wales.
A crowdfunding campaign in February 2015 raised $16 million and enabled them to launch a global business.
“Now we’ve shipped 48,000 Flow Hives to 130 different countries,” Cedar Anderson said.
Stuart Anderson said more than half of the hives had been sold to novice beekeepers, many of them women.
“Most of the hives are going to the US, although Australia is a close second to that,” he said.
The invention allows honey to be extracted without opening the hive, which raised concerns that some keepers were not properly monitoring for diseases such as American Fowlbrood.
Mr Weatherhead said disease was an ever present danger.
“That is a possibility if they’re sitting out there and not looked after then they become a biosecurity threat and could spread disease — that’s why we recommend they go and join the local bee club,” he said.
Ms Knox agreed training was important.
“We try and educate people about how to look for these diseases, how to prevent them, and how to treat them,” she said.
There are 20,801 registered beekeepers in Australia, managing 647,000 hives.