Hive of activity

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beekeeping

When the bees swarm, backyard beekeeper Dr Michael Baker of Toowoomba Dental in Queensland, is ready to capture the queen.

“When a beehive becomes too crowded, the queen, drones and some worker bees fly off to create a new hive. Before departure, the queen lays eggs so a new queen will emerge and take over the existing hive. When this happened to my original hive, I managed to catch the swarm and create a second hive. Then it happened again, and I created a third hive. Currently, I’m collecting about 20 litres of honey from my three hives per year. That’s more than enough for me, my friends, family and colleagues at work. I don’t intend to expand any further as this keeps me very busy.

“I started backyard beekeeping in 2018 after coming across a couple of YouTube videos about the subject. They were showcasing a new Australian invention called a Flow Hive, which allows honey to be easily and efficiently drained. This appealed to me so I thought I would buy one and give it a go. 

“I have a patient who’s a beekeeper and he gave me a nucleus colony that included a queen, drones and worker bees. I transferred the colony into the Flow Hive, but unfortunately, we were in the middle of a drought in Toowoomba. They took some time to establish, and it was late 2019 before I collected a couple of litres of honey. 

“I have planted a lot of lavender, flowering natives and bee friendly plants in my garden and the honey tastes amazing—much better than what’s sold in supermarkets. Since adding our hives, the garden has gone berserk from the bees busily pollinating. 

“My two other hives are a traditional design called Langstroth Hives, and I have all the gear to harvest and spin the honey from the frames. At each harvest, I collect about five litres of honey. My colleagues at work have become real connoisseurs. They try to pick what type of flowers are flavouring the honey.

“All three hives are in my backyard, and I have two young kids who know to stay clear of them. Most of the time, you can walk up to the hives when gardening and the bees stay very calm. Of course, you can’t shake or bump the hives, unless you’re after an adrenaline rush. 

“I love dentistry, yet beekeeping is a great escape from the pressures of the job. There’s the thrill of catching a swarm of bees every now and again but generally, it’s simple, calming and very enjoyable. And you’re producing something delicious from your efforts.” 

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