on bees and honey

Bee-keeping Syd Gazette

Bees in the hive

One of the earliest references to bee-keeping in Australia comes from The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser of 5 May 1805 where reference is made to a gentleman removing bees from a tree hollow into a case and apparently being “not the least discouraged by their transposal”.

From the same newspaper of 1 November 1822 came this happy note about baby bees emerging from established beehives on a property in Homebush near Parramatta; and an acknowledgment of the ‘fragrant’ variety of plants in the colony pointing to high hopes of local honey and wax production. These bees were no doubt the result of the importation of Apis mellifera into the colony that year.

Indigenous Australians had long known that native bees were a stingless source of honey.  These days, native bees are growing in popularity among agriculturalists and gardeners as a great pollinators with the bonus of sting-safe hives to have around the home garden.

young bees produced from two hives

By 1846 many in the press were speculating about the cost and value of early attempts to export honey as a commodity.

Towards the end of the century, there was enough interest in the industry for the Barnes family to be setting up this bee-keeping supplies stand at the Royal Melbourne Show (ca 1890-1918).  Source: State Library of Victoria (out of copyright image).download

 These days, Australia is a modest player in the world’s production of honey, not rating at all in the top 20 countries.


The colour illustration inside the hive is by Edward J Detmold from the the 1919 book – The Children’s Life of the Bee via Project Gutenberg.

Project Gutenberg's The Children's Life of the Bee, by Maurice Maeterlinck

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