Hello honey, we’re beekeeping ready!

Sydney Community College Blog | by Claire Pickard on

Our Beekeeping Course for Beginners just got a whole lot more practical! It’s a little tricky in lockdown, but we’re getting ready for our new rooftop beehives.

Geoff Begg constructing a wooden bee hive

Beekeeper Geoff Begg is our new Beekeeping for Beginners tutor. Thanks to his mighty efforts, and sustainability grant funding from Inner West Council, we have two swarms in the box and waiting to be installed in their new home in Rozelle.

A dab hand with the woodworking tools, Geoff built two brand new hives over the winter, ready for the springtime to bring him a swarm.

Two completed bee hives ready for bees

When a beehive becomes overpopulated, a queen will leave the hive with a swarm in tow. Geoff is on the “swarm list” so he’s the guy they call if someone reports a swarm to the local police or Council. First, there was a callout to Carlingford, where a queen had left the hive with around 20,000 bees. “The woman was new to beekeeping”, says Geoff. “Her hive was chockablock with honey, leaving little room for the bees.” This is one of the things beekeepers need to keep a regular watch for. If the hive gets crowded, you can add another box to expand the colony. If they start to make queen cells, you get ready to split the colony into a new hive before they swarm away.

Our second colony was spotted by Geoff’s wife, out walking. The 4kg swarm of bees was in a Jacaranda tree nearby. A quick and careful tree lopping brought the branch down and it was carried, swarm and all, back to Geoff’s place. The swarm was brushed carefully into a temporary hive box. Once the queen is inside, the thousands of circling bees waste little time to get in there with her. By dusk, they had all found their way inside.

Before swarming, the bees gorge themselves on honey in readiness for the move, so “they are in passive mode – they're not going to hurt you”, says Geoff.

As a registered beekeeper, Geoff has registered our hives with the Department of Primary Industries. He will move them in the coming weeks, so they can acclimatise to their new home in the springtime. For now, they are just chilling at his mother-in-law's place – so a big thank you to Eva for giving them a corner of her garden.

Geoff Begg holding a hive box swarming with bees

Once in Rozelle, the bees will settle into the new hives with a little “welcome to country” food. The hives will be sealed for a couple of days while they re-set their little GPSs. They will get straight to work making the wax shell comb to fill with pollen nectar... and the queen will be busy making babies – around 2000 eggs per day.

The College rooftop is spacious and flat. With a western wall to protect the hives from the heat of the afternoon sun. High above the street and far from any thoroughfare or classrooms, the position is perfect for beekeeping.

Our next Beekeeping for Beginners class (currently scheduled for November... let’s wait and see) will feature a visit to the hives for that all-important practical element to this popular Sydney Community College course. Bees are so important to our biodiversity and agriculture, and the growing number of backyard beekeepers play a key role in maintaining a healthy population of honey bees in Australia. But, you need to know what you’re doing.

As we always say: if you’re thinking of going there, knowledge is an excellent first investment

So, here’s to our return post-lockdown, with some exciting new courses for early summer, and loads more you can learn in our gardening program.


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