It’s official, I am now a beekeeper.

Truth be told it’s only been a year and I don’t feel I do that term justice but in those 12 months I have learnt so much and savoured an abundance of sweet honey. So, I thought I would share my experience to inspire others to join the club.

My first encounter with bees was through my Dad who started beekeeping 20 years ago with the traditional Langstroth hives. I was keen to taste the honey but was less keen in extracting the honey from the honeycomb. This is a labour intensive and sticky task.

Fast forward 20 years and on one overcast afternoon I was surfing the web, yes you can tell I am a Gen Xer; I saw an ad for the FlowHive© and was quite literally blown away. This Australian invention from The Andersons of Byron Bay, has revolutionised the honey extraction method to make it as simple as turning a tap. The ABC has interviewed this creative and dynamic pair on Australian Story which is well worth a watch. When I saw the ad I thought it must be a hoax as it looked too darn simple. I can attest though, that drawing the honey from the honeycombs is just THAT easy, as my 8 year old son effortlessly extracts our honey. The FlowHive is a disrupting technology. Like all new technologies there are controversies. One large criticism levelled at the FlowHive is that it has created an urban army of backyard recreational beekeepers. “So what?” you might say but there is some validity to this concern as beekeeping is an agricultural practice and as farmers you must constantly look after your hives through regular inspections. If your hive becomes infected with disease it can rapidly affect all hives in a local area. That’s why your hives must be registered with the Department of Primary Industries as biosecurity is a huge focus.

So here are few facts I’ve gleaned about FlowHives.

  1. They are not the only hives out there – The Langstroth, Warre, Top Bars are also good options but you need to use a centrifuge to extract the honey
  2. They are not cheap – the expensive part of the setup is the “Super” which is made of refined plastics in broken hexagonal shapes. To start out you are looking at $1000 which includes a Bee suit
  3. They come in a flat pack box and require staining or painting – so it takes a good ½ day to build and several hours to paint
  4. There are many ‘knock offs’ especially from China – so spend the dollars and buy local

So here’s my bee story in a nutshell.

I ordered a 10 frame FlowHive2 in September 2020 and it arrived about 2 weeks later. There is always a rush in Spring so it may take a bit longer if you order now.  I chose 10 frames rather than 7 frames due to the cooler Orange climate, the theory being that the bees need the larger honey store provided by the 10 frames to survive the winter. After spending about a week building and painting my hive I nestled it under a shady gum in my backyard in close proximity to a dam (yes, bees need plenty of H20). You can pretty much plonk the hive anywhere as bees are very robust and resourceful little ladies. I have seen them placed on rooftops and in tiny backyards.

My bees survived a brutal Orange winter which even saw 5cm of snow fall on their roof. No question there were some days I was worried they must have perished in the arctic like conditions. I even contemplated getting them an electric blanket! Yes, I suffered from first year parenting nerves. However, this was not to be their fate, and the mighty Queen rose to the occasion to defy the conditions and continued laying hundreds of eggs to maintaining a healthy colony.

So now you have a hive the next common question is where do find my Queen bee?

I bought a Nuc from Lockwood Beekeeping Supplies. A Nuc is a queen with 3-4 frames of bees and so you are essentially buying a mini-hive that you drop into your FlowHive. You can also catch a swarm which is the bees way of moving out of a crowded home or ask a friend to catch a swarm for you. With a Nuc you need to wait a few weeks before making your first inspection as a bona fide Beekeeper. As you suit up and prep your smoker an uneasy tension builds. You are essentially about to go uninvited into the home of 20,000 bees. I have a wasp anaphylactic reaction, so to say I was a little worried on my first inspection is a serious understatement. My Epipen was ready in my pocket. All went well though and my bees were blissfully doing their myriad of bee jobs; feeding larvae, cleaning old cells, making honeycomb, turning nectar into honey and capping full honey cells. The final question that needs to be addressed is “So how often do you get stung?” Yes, you will be stung. Even with a full bee suit protecting you but the more time you spend with your bees the less likely this happens.

A beehive is a great pursuit with so many benefits to my diet, my garden and my environment. I have met some other like-minded and interesting folk by joining the Orange Beekeepers association. This is a must as tapping into local knowledge is critical to success. Beekeeping has taught my children so much about the importance these vital insects play in maintaining our food bowl. “Would I do it again?” You bet you I would as it has heightened my connection with my garden and our local environment. I also cannot describe how cool it is when you turn the tap and that golden honey starts to flows.






Rob Zielinski

Rob was born and bred in Sydney, NSW but discovered the delights of Orange as a medical student in 2005. Prior to this he hadn’t travelled further west than the Blue Mountains. After completing his medical studies he moved with his wife Amorette and two sons, Oscar and Marlon, to Orange in 2013 to begin working as one of the first medical oncology consultants in the area.

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