This week I did a call out to feature new Beekeepers on my blog and I was so happy to receive some fantastic responses!
So this week I would like to introduce Chris Wyatt from The Productive Patch.
Share a little about yourself and how long have been you been a beekeeper for?
In my day job I work at an all girls independent school in Victoria. My real passion is for sustainable living and I've grown my own produce since moving out of home at 18. Our family now grows almost 3/4 of the produce we consume and all is grown from locally saved seed. I've kept bees for a little over 3 years and this season begun mentoring new beekeepers and producing nucs.
What was the inspiration that lead you to learn and become a Beekeeper?
My passion for homegrown produce led me to start beekeeping. I had spent many hours hand pollinating cucurbits and was forever disappointed by the lack of fruit set on our trees. After many hours researching and allaying the fears of my wife for our two young children's safety I took the plunge. This was around 3 years ago now and now I eat, sleep and breathe beekeeping.
What has been your biggest personal reward in being a beekeeper?
As a teacher, I am passionate about education. Being able to teach others about responsible beekeeping and share my passion for these insects. Given our hunger for European produce in Australia, beekeeping also provides me with an opportunity to highlight the role pollinators, both native and introduced, play in the production of food and the ongoing viability of plant edible species in our country.
Of course the enormous improvement in our own harvest has been a huge bonus. Almost all flowers produced by berry canes, fruit trees and vegetable crops are visited by the bees we keep and this provides them and us with a year round food supply. It's also provided me with the abundance to indulge my interests in preserving.
What has been your biggest challenge in beekeeping?
Limiting my commitment. Since beginning beekeeping my hobby has grown exponentially. My initial goal was to have a single hive to pollinate my crops. This was never going to last long and, as numbers have increased, so have my commitments. With the swarm captures I've been able to get others started on their beekeeping journey and this has led to mentoring roles. These are even more rewarding, but add to the time devoted to bees.
My tip to new beekeepers is to prepare for a couple of hours a week across the season. If you're time poor beekeeping may not be for you. Those who can't devote some time with their bees will likely run into disease and/or swarm issues down the track.
How would you describe you average weekly beekeeping duties?
Research is the most time consuming component. I read daily to find out about new approaches. I follow some really hard working and innovative beekeepers from around the world. I learn something new every week to help advance my knowledge.
All year round the weekly responsibilities change. Spring I spend chasing swarms and educating the public on the swarming process. In my own apiary it's all about swarm prevention in spring, helping colonies to grow and stay strong and healthy ahead of the summer flow in our area.
Summer is spent monitoring space. Ensuring they have the room required to store the abundance of nectar that comes from the many eucalyptus varieties in Melbourne's outer ranges.
Autumn is the season for the harvest. I also love preparing my girls for winter. I take pride in sending every colony through winter with more than they need. Doing so has meant I have never fed an established hive.
Winter is a sad season. I occupy myself with planning for spring and gardening to get over the beekeeping withdrawals. I will admit to driving around with the gloves in the car so I can smell the wax and propolis hive scent. It's truly an addiction.
Do you have any tips and advice for newly inspired beekeepers?
Learn and read. If you're thinking about becoming a beekeeper you need to acknowledge that you're taking on an introduced livestock species. You wouldn't get a horse or a cow and chuck it in the backyard and do nothing for it. They are a responsibility, but one that pays back in so many ways. You learn as much about bees as you do about yourself looking after them. They teach us patience, gratitude and some of the harsher realities of the natural world.
Your bees will help pollinate crops most likely more than a kilometre away and, if you care for them well, you may even get an annual harvest of honey and wax for your family and friends. Many who start beekeeping as a hobby become a honey producing sideliner or transition into a fully fledged commercial operation. For this reason there's always a myriad of experienced mentors around willing to help and guide and share their knowledge as they've been there before. I can't recommend highly enough, joining a local club or finding someone nearby, willing to help in your first season or two. Beekeeping is a lifelong learning journey.
Follow Chris and the Productive Patch here: