Quang Minh Temple and Urban Honey Co. is currently working on an exiting bee keeping project to extract organic honey in a sustainable and humain way. Currently most honey comes from rural and forest areas many kilometres from where it is sold, the words 'local' on a jar of honey can mean anything from 30 km away to 150km.
In order to obtain a single-type honey such as red gum or blue gum, bees and their hives are loaded by crane onto large semi-trailers and trucked en-masse to known red gum or blue gum forests when they are in flower.
A couple of weeks later when this nectar has been obtained the honey is removed from the hives and the bees are trucked again to the next flowering forest ( maybe yellow box or white gum etc. ).
As the weather cools the bees are trucked further north - even inter-state.
As well as the obvious impact of transport pollution on the environment there's also the fact that this 'local' honey is not local at all.
I aim to keep bees within 10km of the city or within 5km of where their honey is sold.
Rather than having one large apiary of 500 hives trucked around the country I propose to have lots of small fixed apiaries with anything from 5 plus hives dotted around Melbourne City, different honey varieties would come from each site according to the local flora growing there.
The sites would ideally be close to a natural water source and open land that has a variety of flora that the bees can access from Spring to Autumn - the hives would not be worked in Winter.
For nearly 5 years now I have read studies from Europe that show that city bees are longer lived and more healthy than country bees due to the fact they are not as exposed to pesticides and also do not have to fly as far to find nectar. Bees can fly up to 5km to find nectar in the country but only need to average 1 -2 max in the city.
I have been in touch with beekeepers in Paris and Belgium who have hives right in the heart of the city on rooftops, their bees collect honey from the local parks - even window boxes - and the honey changes throughout the year depending on when it is extracted. One beekeeper has the support of the local council which has allowed him to put hives on the roof of the train station there.
Last year I was visited by someone from Holland who used my honey at the VCA in Melbourne as part of an exhibit to do with urban food production.
By having lots of small apiaries dotted around it means I can keep calmer bees who don't have to be disturbed by constant moving, it means that I can also sell truly local honey which is untreated and still has the health benefits associated and most importantly it will be carbon neutral.
The honey would need to be extracted on site using a small manual hand extractor which can either be left and stored on site or brought in specially.
Currently I have hives in Brunswick at the Ceres Community Park, they have a registered kitchen there and a shop which also sells the honey, I give free bee-keeping workshops every month and twice a year give more in-depth paid lessons as part of their education programme. The reason for the Brunswick site was mostly due to the slow response from more local groups in Footscray where I live but also because of the tremendous support they offer.
Space is the main consideration for keeping bees, it's best they are in an enclosure away from direct public traffic, this can be as simple as a shade cloth screen so long as it's a least 6ft high on any side within 6 feet of a public footpath or boundary fence.
Once the bees are established there is no greater danger of being stung than exists already - you already have natural hives alongside the temple near the river . The main concern is keep people out of their flight path which is why we use high screens, it quickly encourages the bees to fly up above head height and they do not come down again until they reach their intended flowers/trees some distance away.
At the moment I've been slowly buying equipment and financing this by working in an office, I have also had built locally a specially adapted trike (a bit like a cyclo) which I use to transport the bee equipment around so I am not reliant on petrol at all
The aim is to one day be doing it full time and grow it into an enterprise that benefits the local community by providing excellent carbon neutral, environmentally friendly honey and also educating programmes and displays.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 July 2009 10:33