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A day in the life of a Saleview Estate beekeeper

The sweetest job: turning curiosity into craft

Here are the facts. There are about 20,000 registered beekeepers across  Australia. That’s around 647,000 hives.

Saleview-estate-beekeeper

That number is mostly made up of commercial beekeepers who control hundreds or thousands of bee colonies.  

The most extensive own and operate up to 50,000 bee colonies and produce millions of kilograms of honey. But small business owners such as myself may operate as many as 300 bee colonies (which can still produce 10,000–20,000 kilograms of honey each year).

I was gobsmacked when I heard that figure, as I literally stumbled across beekeeping by a chance meeting with a local Dalby apiarist. I listened to his ‘day in the life of a beekeeper story’ and was inspired to look into it further. 

How do you become a beekeeper?

I’ve always delighted in the ‘paddock to plate’ concept, and so the thought of producing my own product and living sustainability really intrigued me. After visiting a couple of Dalby Beekeeping Club meetings, I taught myself the basics from reading books, watching my husband Don work on the hives, and finally getting my own hands dirty. 

 The more I learned, the deeper I fell in love with the craft. I wanted to start, only smaller.

beekeeper-saleview-estate-raw-honey

The first honey harvest

Once I knew the tools of the trade, we set up a few hives beside the citrus orchard on our property and let the bees do their thing. The first pot of honey produced from our hives was exhilarating for me. It was a definite “Wow” moment. 

In a good season, 10 to 15 kilograms of honey can be extracted from just one hive in a three-month period. So when I realised there was too much honey for our personal use, Saleview Estate was born.

A typical harvest day timeline

My typical harvesting day process usually takes 4–5 hours.

Firstly, I put on my white meshed beekeeping headwear and cover myself from head to toe to avoid being stung. Beekeepers need to wear protective clothing, with the minimum being gloves and a covered hat with a veil.

beekeeper-smoking-hive-saleview-estateSome beekeepers believe the more stings they get, the less irritation each one causes. They say it’s important for their safety to be stung a few times a season. But I don’t subscribe to that belief as research I’ve found shows that beekeepers who get stung react consistently higher than non beekeepers. You also have a higher risk factor for reaction if you have  asthma, a family history of bee sting allergy, and you haven’t been in the job for long, so I cover up well. 

(source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5931922/)

Like most beekeepers, I use a device called a smoker designed to calm bees. It starts a feeding response because the bees think there may be a hive abandonment going on due to the smoke.  

After I smoke the hive, I remove the bees from the honey super using a blower and then extract the honey frames that are now full of honeycomb.

Next I move the process to the harvesting room where the honeycomb is de-capped, the golden flowing liquid is caught in muslin, and then it’s strained twice before bottling.  

The honey extraction process sounds simple enough. But this is actually a sticky and time-consuming business.

Bottling Saleview Estate honey

Saleview-estate-bottled-honeyLet’s talk about honey in plastic bottles. It’s cruel to me. I wanted my honey to be treated with the utmost respect, and presented as the quality product it is. That’s why I present mine in glass bottles. For me, the bottling and labelling is the most enjoyable and rewarding part of the process. Not only is it done in a clean and tidy environment, I can do it in the comforts of home which means I can work in our 40-degree summer days thanks to air conditioning. It’s so rewarding to see this beautiful product drizzling into the bottles. It looks and smells amazing.  Sealing the bottle with the lid and placing the beautiful gold foil labels on makes the whole process worthwhile.

The best part is knowing I’ve done it all by myself, with just the help of the bees.

The sweetest job in the world

Being a beekeeper and harvesting honey from our property is truly the sweetest job around. The days are flexible, and the work satisfying. If you’re  curious about

making a start as an apiarist I suggest learning from beekeepers, books and events. The best way is to get stuck into it yourself and learn as you go. And of course, try lots of different honey varieties along the way. SHOP NOW

 

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