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Australian Honey Bee Education with Fergo’s Farm

Posted: 3pm 20 Nov 2019

Did you know that one third of the food we consume each day relies on pollination by bees? Globally, there are more honey bees than any other type of bee or pollinating insect making them one of the most important pollinators for food crops.

Recently, we met with the husband and wife beekeeping duo, Fergo’s Farm, who own over 100 hives in the Moreton Bay Region, using the honey produced to sell 100% natural, full-flavoured raw honey and other Australian bee products. Here’s what we learned.

How many locations/hives do you have in the Moreton Bay Region?

All our hives are located within the Moreton any Region. We currently run about 140 hives, with three sites around the D’Agular National Park plus a fourth Apiary closer to the bay. We pay particular attention to the health and hygiene of our bees so all sites were chosen for their flowering trees for year round flowering events.

Tell us more about how honey tastes different from hive to hive. How does this happen? Does this change any of your processes or products?

Each apiary site will produce a different flavoured honey, depending on the floral source the bees are foraging on. Different trees, different flowers, different nectars, different flavoured honey! The Eucalyptus alone has over 660 species here in Australia that provide great nectar and pollen. So, flavour variations are inevitable.

The Paperbark Tea Tree (Melaleuca) for instance gives us a deep burnt orange coloured honey, with a big blossom flavour whereas the Blue Gum yields a pale yellow coloured honey with mellow floral notes. We hand pick these mono floral frames for small batch extractions separate to our bulk honey extractions. This process is quite time-consuming, however, it’s worth keeping them separate so we can spoil you with our Specialty Honey range.

All this being said, climate plays a vital role in how much the flowers secrete nectar. At present with the drought, many are dropping their buds so the bees have limited food.

How does each flower affect bees and what are the best bee-attracting plants/flowers?

One of the most rewarding things about becoming a beekeeper is the connection to nature. From observing the benefits in the have when certain species are in flower to researching natural health remedies. It’s amazing observing the effects, that some nectar & pollen have on the bees. Certain species will make the bees cranky, whereas others have a calming effect. Then some flowers are great brood builders, whereas other flowers have very little nutrients. There are flowers out there such as Leptospermum (Manuka) who have poor pollen but are mainly visited for nectar. There is quite a lot to learn about botanics for bees if you want you hive to flourish.

Our latest bee products range feature herbal infusions to take advantage of the wonderful nurturing powers of nature. Our bee products are all handcrafted, combining natural ingredients with our clean, chemical-free beeswax. I guess you could say that beeswax is the by-product of honey extraction, so we are keen to put it to good use and not waste a flake.

If your wanting to attract bees to your garden, we suggest having a chat with your local nursery for planting advice. While you're there, ask about bee-friendly 'pesticide alternatives' as this range is expanding all the time. Every little bit helps the bees.

Can you explain the natural healing ingredients in honey or how they work?

Raw Honey has had a valued place in traditional medicine for centuries. It’s been reported to have an inhibitory effect on many species of bacteria and some species of fungi and viruses. Along with raw honey, bee pollen and propolis also offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and anticancer properties.

The composition of raw honey varies from one floral source to another. It’s primarily fructose and glucose but also contains sucrose, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. So, the active levels vary within different honeys. Most Australian honey is active and the Melaleuca (Paperbark tea tree) is almost as active as Manuka.

What is the average number of bees in each hive?

10,000 - 80,000… It depends on many things such as the age of the hive, the time of year, current weather conditions. Over winter or times of dearth, some breeds shrink the brood nest down which results in a lower number of bees.

You mention ‘fully capped’ hives in brochures, how is this determined?

It’s determined by a visual inspection and the weight of the hive. Industry standard is to extract frames of honey which are three-quarters capped with wax. We prefer to leave the frames with the bees for longer, so the frame is fully capped, that way we know the honey is ripened and ready for extraction.

Do you have any tips for anyone who is interested in caring for their own beehive?

Our best advice is to join a beekeeping club. Generally, they will pair you up with and experienced beekeeper, so you have a mentor nearby to help when needed. It's most important to be vigilant with pest and diseases, as they can easily spread from your hive to others in the vicinity. It is also a biosecurity obligation to register your hives with your state body.

About Fergo's Farm

We're a husband and wife team determined to do our bit in making the world a better place. As bees play a crucial part in the chain of nature, we pay particular attention to the health and hygiene of our bees and ensure they have all they need to flourish in their surrounds.

Bees, along with the help of other pollinators, pollinate 35% of crops in Australia and 90% of wild plants thrive due to our pollinator friends. It's a wonderful symbiotic relationship: plants get fertilised and bees feed their hive.

The pollen and nectar bees gather is taken back to the hive to make bee bread, which feeds their young. We always leave enough honey for the bees and only extract the excess honey from fully capped frames which in turn gives the bees more room to grow and develop their colony. Fergo's Farm loves being part of this chain in nature.

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