Weybridge Winter Meeting (virtual) Thursday 11th February

Matthew Ingram talking about his beekeeping experiences in Australia and England

This was really a most refreshing, and ‘different’ talk by a very unusual young man. He told us that he was 24 years old.

Matthew started his beekeeping with two old hives and gave us the impression that these were pretty grotty. He joined his local Association and was given a swarm, then later three more hives and his beekeeping took off. So far he has built up to 120 colonies in apiaries at several sites and housed in hives mostly made by him. He was able to renovate some old disused dairy buildings, and has equipped them for his own extracting, bottling and other beekeeping purposes. He later extended their use for him to extract and bottle other local beekeepers’ honey.

Matthew went to University and obtained a qualification in accountancy. Then, while his fellow students were enthusiastically exploring the relevant employment field, he could only think of pursuing his great ambition – to make a career in beekeeping.
He then arranged to gain beekeeping experience with a bee farmer in Australia, and the main part of his talk dealt with that time – and what an impressive time it was. In this report it is not easy to convey the feel of his talk and the incredible work load undertaken by the bee farmers over there. I would very strongly encourage you to watch the recording of this. Matthew was a full member of the working staff and took part in all of their activities in many apiaries.

In air temperatures of 40ºC, water had to be taken to the bees regularly, and two tons of pollen had to be collected and supplied, mainly to the many nucs to (the trees do not supply a significant quantity of pollen). They raised 300 queens a week, by grafting. The bee farmers run about 2500 colonies each, and travel about 1000 miles a week in the course of their migratory beekeeping. Although Carniolan queens are used there is not much swarming. The hives they use are all deep Langstroth (for both brood and super) so about 80lb to lift when the supers are full!! Major sources of forage are the Eucalyptus and Macadamia trees.

As with beekeeping everwhere, there are plenty of problems. These include giant centipedes (20 cm long), iguanas, snakes, scorpions, kangaroos, red back spiders, cockroaches and more. Then there are bush fires which can necessitate the rapid removal of entire apiaries to another site.

AFB is very common and can be found in most colonies. No control is attempted apart from dealing with it in nucleus colonies where it is found to be necessary for their survival. Otherwise infected boxes are stacked in the bee yard (in the open!) and then taken for irradiation. The honey is extracted from AFB colonies with the rest. EFB is also widespread but is not seen as an issue. Antibiotics and an unlicenced cockroach killer are used routinely. The Small Hive Beetle is common and the ‘slimed out‘ boxes produce an unimaginable smell. The beekeepers do not wear protective gloves.

Matthew’s talk was delivered in a relaxed way at a leisurely pace and was nicely illustrated with slides, again at a pace that we could take in (many other presenters could well follow his example).

It has to be said that we were not left with a good impression of bee farming practices in Australia. The attitudes towards the bees ring very much of those that we hear prevail in parts of the USA.

As I said, Matthew is an unusual young man and I hope this report has given you some idea of his capabilities and achievements – and isn’t it great to hear such an accomplished YOUNG beekeeper? He has spurned the opportunity to become one of the people who are commonly said to run the world (with vast incomes) to be a bee farmer who we all know are not so likely to reach the wealthy class level despite a huge work load, physical and mental.

We wish him every success in his chosen career, and are sure that we will hear a lot more of him in the future.

Geoff Cooper

Here are links to Matthew’s talk, in two parts:

Part 1   https://youtu.be/kt75MANe7bg
Part 2   https://youtu.be/lbRsq9janlY