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Stationary or Semi Stationary Commercial Bee Keeping


#1

The extent of my bee keeping is a couple of wild hives we used to have on the farm and the Flow Hive I’m looking forward to receiving in December. So there is a lot I don’t know.

I’m a researcher into and developer of integrated agriculture and since ordering my Flow hive I’ve been looking to how we can incorporate apiary into our broader farming operations.

Rather than the traditional Australian practice of chasing honey flows around the country has any given any thought to planting and managing land to produce honey in addition to other crops?

The idea has to not just pay for itself but make a significant profit or its not going to be attractive to anyone. The idea of integrating different crops is to increase production and efficiency while reducing costs and environmental footprint.

I’ve been looking at a range of Australian natives that could be planted as plantations or as part of shelter belts and a sequence of crops that could be planted to maintain production of honey through the seasons and food for the bees where that is not possible.

For example we are currently looking at a project that could include an apple orchard and rather than just having grass between the rows of trees we have looked at a number of different plants we could plant between the trees that wouldn’t be flowering at the same time as the apples.

I’d like to work out a schedule of crops that wouldn’t involve moving the hives but if that wasn’t possible or advisable developing two or more properties such that you moved the hives between the properties would be the next best thing.


Multiple Flow Frame supers per colony
#2

There are so many options for plantations and bees, where do you start? Just remember that whatever you are planning to plant for your bees, you’ll need enough time for these plants to mature before they start producing enough nectar to feed your bees, and in the meantime what is in the area that they will have access to? Many fruit tree species don’t provide enough sustenance for bees to survive on their own so the need to provide either extra protein or feed is essential. You are on the right track with other nectar sources as you will want to avoid a dearth at all costs if you are in a rural location. What other native species were you thinking of introducing as a nectar source? as there are some which have sought after medicinal properties and other types just for flavour. Remember your bees will travel considerable distance to seek out large sources in the region. Not as simple as it seems.


#3

When I was travelling around QLD from Cairns down to Byron in March, Thinking of my new Flow Hive and wanting to buy Australian Native spices, I had a thought.

I had a chat to an Aborigine Tracker/Guide who works out of Kalandra at one of the midway stations.

Because the Aussie Native spices are so dear and because it is a new industry, I would love to start a ground up venture where we can incorporate Bees and Australian Native spices - You’d be on a winner © I’m copy writing this idea - if you do it I want in!! LOL

You’d need to know which trees are acceptable to Bees or which type of Bees - Could be natives as well, and plant. Lemon Myrtle, is a self pollinator but I’m sure there are others requiring bees


#4

I don’t think its a simple proposition at all especially getting a clear sequence of flowerings one from to the other. Which is why I thought two properties might work better if we are trying to produce unifloral honeys rather than more general blended honeys. From my basic reading if you are going to move a hive you have to move it at least 5km so the size of the plantings would have to be more of a mosaic if the hives were to be stationary.

The blocks of land we are looking at has almost no flowering plants other than “grasses” for want of a better term. Clovers, a few wild flowers (not many on improved pasture), weeds (thistles, dandelions, chicory and maybe lucerne on neighbouring properties.

Some plants could be producing flowers in the same season of planting ie clovers, lucerne, buckwheat and a range of other crops. Apples are obviously going to take a while but are not likely to produce much honey however we don’t want too many other things flowering at the same time so we get good pollination.Other plants like a range of native shrubs are likely to flower in the second or third year where as tree could be much longer.

If we were going to do this it would be on a minimum of 100ac and we would have to work out the division of the land between different crops. Once we had that worked out we would then work out how to ramp up production. In the first year when we wouldn’t have year round flowerings might only want half a dozen hives for the whole property but as the plantings mature we would split the hives to suit the growth of the plants.

A very important part of the plan would be finding someone local who wanted to manage the bee side of things.

When I first saw the flow hive and then saw the massive success of their crowd funding I thought it that one of the problems the guys would face is taking all these excited people and teaching them how to look after bees.

I’m under no illusions that bees will be easy to manage and just like all other livestock I imagine it will take a great deal of skill, knowledge and experience to get the most out of them. I need to know enough about them so that I can make intelligent decisions on how to integrate them into the rest of what we do but it won’t be me running them.


#5

If you are going to do this on the scale you envisage work experience with a commercial beekeeper would be a good start. They manage their beekeeping in a totally different way to maximise production within time constraints.

Whatever you do don’t plant manuka…yuk!!!
Or perhaps you should…there are masses of foolish people here in the UK that will buy it.


#6

Haha! Nice try Valli, I have been getting reports of some beekeepers getting up to $50 a kilo for their honey from some particular native plants in NSW and a research project is underway to identify microbial activity in honey for medicinal value, anyone here can get their honey tested for free.


#7

Whilst Manuka is not the best for eating, its greatest asset lies in its antiseptic qualities.


#8

It wouldn’t be me doing the work experience because it wouldn’t be me managing the bees. My job is to work out how the plantings would integrate with the rest of what we are doing, coordinate the operation as a whole and to look after the bits I’m already committed to.

We would either employ someone or find a partner to join the team to manage the bees and possibly take on other roles on the farm as well.

Manuka would actually be one of the primary plantings and any other plantings would be coordinated around its flowering, ie nothing else flowering at the same time and ensuring that the bees are well fed and supplied and ready to go to work when the Manuka or other Leptospermum flowered.

We and the customer we have are very concerned about environmental footprint and the possibility of chemical contamination hence the desire to have stationary (or semi stationary) hives, not accessing state forests and having control over the foraging areas of the bees.


#9

Sounds like you are on the way with your operation, wishing all the best with that. A couple of things to bear in mind if planning Manuka species. The honey will gel in the cells, so a Flow Hive won’t be suitable. You will need specialised extraction equipment to break the gel from the cell walls so that it can be extracted out. Something like a high frequency vibrator or a comb pricker, be warned they are quite expensive and there are only a handful or these devices in the country, so your beekeeper may increase his management fee to cover the capital outlay. The other point is that manuka species are poor pollen providers and your bees will need supplemental plantings of suitable protein for bee bread. If you can work other high protein pollen species into your plantation to ensure the bees are well fed you could be on to something.


#10

Yeah I read about the Manuka honey being thixotropic. There were some other threads on here that were talking about whether the Manuka and similar honeys would work with the Flow frames.

Yep. Which is why we need to get the hives well supplied before the Manuka flowering. Also why we might need to have two properties for it to work well. It would be very hard to time the flowering of another plant to finish as the manuka was starting. Unless it was some sort of grass or herb plant that we could slash/harvest as the tea tree came into bloom.


#11

Hi Weaver, I’m not sure if it is viable to reforest land to sit back & watch it grow to get an income from carbon credits. If that was in any way possible, you could plant a whole range of natives that flower at different times of the year. If you were interested in providing food for future generations, you could consider a few Araucaria Bidwilliis (Bunya) or A. Araucanas (Monkey puzzle) in the mix, depending what region your talking about.


#12

Not really. For starters the amount of carbon in a re forestation project is about 1-5 tons of carbon per year per hectare. At $14/t of CO2 (C:3.6CO2) that works out to about $50 to $250/ha per year. To get that the you have to meet all the regulations and auditing requirements. To afford that projects need to be pretty big and since the income is so low that means a lot of land is needed which is expensive. Plus it only covers re-forestation projects rather than agro-forestry projects. Short answer I’ve looked into it and its not worth it.

If someone disagrees and they want to get in touch to tell me how we could work it in I’d welcome the conversation.

I’ve advocated for various policies and programs based on their environmental benefit and in many cases their ability to save money for decades. Without much if any success, other than being paid for my reports. Now I’m working at setting up projects that make money, yes they will have an environmental benefit but first and foremost they will have to make money.

Happy to consider a range of crops and happy to consider long term time payoffs but they have to pay. Agro forestry has a lot of potential in Australia and I really see bees playing a big part in that because they can give projects cashflow while trees mature but at the end of the day I have to present a plan to the people with the cash that shows them they will get a return on their money.


#13

Thank you Weaver, fair enough, it was just a couple of thoughts I had. I’m with you on setting up things to help the environment for decades & future generations benefit. We often hear how people don’t want old trees to be cut down. I think we should be planting more trees today so future generations wont want to cut them down because they’re old. Good luck with your endeavors. cheers


#14

Just because I had already thought of it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a welcome suggestion. :smile:

I should also say that while the carbon farming oportunities are not really worth it the government 20million trees program is something we are looking into. Initial info seems to suggest that we can plant natives to the area and that we can choose species for honey production leaving out other species. If that comes off it will make the setup costs for the native tree side of things much cheaper. Although having said that buy a block of land next to the state forest could be a better way to go.


#15

Yes for sure, when I first read your post, I had feelings of deja vu, I started keeping bees just over 27 years ago & I remember thinking of something similar. I’m a bit lucky where I am, my bees have access to plenty of different varieties of Eucalypt plus peoples back yards. I’m also looking after some bees for a lychee/passion fruit farmer, I look after the bees like their my own, I get to keep the honey, plus I get heaps of beautiful lychees, passion fruit to freeze to keep me going all year plus as many mangoes as I want. He’s happy to be getting good pollination. It’s a kind symbiotic relationship.


#16

Symbiosis is a lot of what I’m about.

Many years ago farmers used to farm a range of crops or livestock over time, espeacially after the second world war, farmers and farming became more specialised. There are advantages in specialisation which I don’t want to loose but there are also advantages in integrating different forms of production on the one or adjacent properties. The more we can find different forms of farming that are compatible on the same piece of land or on adjacent bits of land plus the people who want to step up and run their own operations as well as cooperate with their co-owner/co-tennants/neighbours the more synergies we can realise.


#17

For the first time here in Australia, the almond producers this year are trialling the planting of Canola to feed the bees and encourage beekeepers to bring their bees earlier than usual to take advantage of the first flowers for pollination. It also means the bees will be healthier and can stay longer. Might be worth a read… if just for general interest. Lets hope the Canola seed has not been treated with pesticides.


#18

Thanks for the link I look forward to reading it.

Yeah pesticides of various types are a big issue.

I was at an agribusiness forum the other day where there was a farmer talking from a joint venture between a large family farm company and Kilter Rural (Industry agribusiness investment fund). The farmer was saying that over the last five years he has seen all the “myths” turn into reality as they went organic. Ie less water needed, more production, healthier production and a bunch of other stuff.

If we were going to go ahead with this (the bees) we would want to do it on our own land or land we are confident is chemical free. Not just for the safety of the bees but also the value of being able to say our honey is chemical free.


Red Cedar Flow boxes?
#19

Thanks to noddyc43 I’ve got another species to add to the list.

Paulownia. I’ve known about this genus for years because my dad was involved in some of the early plantations. I didn’t know it was rot resistant though which is why I was going for Black Locust. Both are good honey trees but now that I know Paulownia is rot resistant its a much better choice.


#20

Hi guys,
Sorry bit late to the party here but you are probably aware of similar to what you are talking about being done in NZ at present.
There is a big program of research into the plant genetics here which you might be interested in: