Founded by Graham Smith and Dennis Anger in 1983, Townsville and District Beekeepers Association Inc now has over 200 members and meets on the third Sunday of each month.
“We rotate meetings at our club members’ homes and our base at Hermit Park State School,” says Club President Alan Ziegenfusz. “You start by purchasing a nucleus hive and have the enjoyment of watching it grow into its rst full box of bees.”
Alan has two hives of European honey bees in his yard.
“They’re fascinating to watch as they all have a different job,” Alan says. “When the worker bee comes out of its cell, it has to clean it ready for the queen to lay a new egg — she can lay up to 2000 eggs a day!”
The newly emerged bees start as nurse bees to the eggs and pupae and help the queen bee for two weeks, then they start taking the nectar from the field bees and convert it into honey.”
Alan’s dog isn’t as much of a fan of the bees as he is, however.
“I didn’t know at the time that ‘wet dog’ smell makes bees think a bear is coming to raid the honey,” Alan laments. “Our dog went near the hive while she was still wet from a bath and got stung… a lot. It took days getting all the little stingers out of her hair. She hasn’t been near them since.”
Steve and Carla Kernosvski joined the club midway through 2014 as they wanted to improve the pollination of their backyard fruit and vegetable garden. They keep mainly European honey bees, but also have a hive of na ve s ngless bees and have gone from two hives to eight.
“We make a bit of pocket money from selling the honey,” Steve says. “When you first start beekeeping you think the honey might be enough to supply your own table and support some family and friends… Wrong! The amount of honey will be much more than you expect.”
“Bees are very busy and productive. A strong hive can produce up to 50 kilos a year.”
Midwifery Unit Manager Sonya Verburgt got into beekeeping to help boost the world’s dwindling bee numbers.
“The bee population is rapidly decreasing worldwide due to environmental conditions,” Sonya says. “So I decided to do my bit by having a bee hive. One hive soon became 12 and now I wouldn’t be without ‘my girls’!”
For the Hornes, beekeeping has become a family affair. “We have European honey bees and Hockingsi native bees,” Chrystal Horne says. “My husband Daniel, my son Nathaniel and I are the main keepers of the honey bees, while Taimana and Sebastian enjoy the native bees. I love watching the girls as they leave the hive, circle to gain their bearings and then take off to collect pollen and nectar. They have different buzzes that tell you if they’re calm or angry and sometimes you can hear the queen talking to her workers.”
Frana and Jon McKinstry joined the club in 2010 after inheriting some hives. At the time they were total novices (or newbees).
“After struggling along for a while with cranky hives we joined the club and had excellent mentors who helped us sort things out,” Frana says. “We keep both honey bees and native bees and it’s a rewarding hobby, not just because of the honey but simply watching the bees is so interesting.”
Frana says that, despite what many people think, bees are not out to sting you and most hives can be approached quite closely without any problems.
“Observing small dramas in the hive is amazing,” Frana says. “We’ve been lucky enough to observe a new queen emerging from her cell and another time we saw worker bees rejecting a new queen by stinging her to death. Game of Thrones has nothing on the behaviour of honey bees!”