On Monday, May 28th, Memorial Day 2001, Eloise and I left for Port Maquarie, Australia to attend the New South Wales Beekeepers Conference where I was the Keynote Speaker. We flew from Orlando to Los Angeles and from there to Sydney, then on up the coast to Port Maquarie. Port Maquarie is an Australian resort town that does not have many foreign visitors. It has a subtropical climate similar to Fort Myers. It is about half way between Sydney and Brisbane.
There were about 250 in attendance for the four-day event. They had research reports and presentations by various government officials on issues affecting beekeepers there. The last day, Saturday, was a field day at a different location and consisted of a trade show. There were also a few craft booths that did not have anything to do with beekeeping. The beekeepers there are very friendly and made us feel at home.
Following the Conference we took a bus back to Sydney and from there we were taken down to the South Shore where we visited two of the larger Australian beekeeping operations. Both operated 10 frame hives on four-way pallets and loaded with a Bobcat. It was reported that about half the bees in Australia are in eight frame hives and some of these are on six-way pallets. Almost all of the honey produced there is from Eucalyptus trees. There are many varieties, most of which only bloom every 3 to 5 years. There is usually some Eucalyptus somewhere in bloom at any time. There is a lot of movement. The moisture content of most Australian honey is 13% to 15%, which makes it difficult to extract. It must be heated before it can be extracted.
The operations I visited ran all deeps. They do not use chemicals to take off honey. Everyone uses an escape board. All colonies are strapped to the pallet with metal bands and tightened with a special clip. They anticipated that this year’s crop would be a record of more than 600 lbs per colony. That’s a drum of honey per hive. Beekeepers there appear to be prospering. Each of these outfits run between 1,500 and 2,500 colonies. In addition each has around 1,000 sheep and one has 100 beef cows.
All of the equipment that I saw was very modern, both in the field and the honey house. Both used an automatic load and unload vertical extractor, one made in the US by Cowen and the other made there. Both uncappers were made there and were similar to the Cowen. Their honey houses are kept immaculately clean at all times. They follow a sanitation code that most hospitals here would probably have a problem matching.
are only 5 or 6 honey packers in the country. The largest, Capilano, is a
beekeeper cooperative similar to Sue Bee. It handles 60% of the honey
produced in Australia. A
large portion of the honey produced there is exported. They have a National Honey Board
that appears to be universally supported by the beekeepers.
They do not have Varroa mites, tracheal mites or the Small Hive
Beetle. They do have American
Foulbrood Brood and chalkbrood.
A queen breeder was recently caught smuggling queens into Australia
from Italy. The Beagle
Brigade at the airport caught him.
The beekeepers were upset that he did not receive as great a
punishment as they would like but I suspect that his greatest punishment
will come from his peers who will no longer buy his queens.
Following the two-day trip to the south shore, we returned to Sydney where we spent five days as tourist. We visited the Sydney Opera House, took a bus tour to the Blue Mountains, took a dinner cruise on the sailing ship Bounty (a replica built for the film “Mutiny On The Bounty”) and shopped for souvenirs for 35 people. After the 42-hour trip back home, “jet lag” does not seem an appropriate term. I think the redneck term “flat wore out” fits better.
I was asked to go down there to inform them about Varroa mites and the Small Hive Beetle. I hope I did that to their satisfaction. However, I think that I learned a lot more from them than I was able to teach.
With camera in hand
I sit down on some old hive tops
Waiting for the bear
Listing, I hear him
Blundering over logs and rocks
There he is!
Oh! My heart!
Don't beat so loud
Be at ease
Don't frighten out state's beloved, protected, endangered species
Before I get his picture
Got it! Wow!
Look at that!
Please, which one of us is the endangered species?
Got me sort of confused, you see
That 'ol bear 'bout scared the fool out of me!
Was scared as the preacher a bear had up a tree
(This is a story Daddy told to me)
"I prayed to the Lord from way up there
If you can't help me
Please don't help this bear-r!"
There was a man who loved the bees,
He always was their friend,
He sat around upon their hives,
But they stung him in the end.
I met Eddie Albert one day. I was attending a meeting of the Agricultural Advisory Council in Tallahassee. We had been instructed to meet at Commissioner Conner's office for a brief social before going to the meeting room. When I walked into the Commissioners outer office, Eloise McDougel, his secretary, came up to me all excited and asked if I would like to meet Eddie Albert. I asked, "Who is he"? She said, "You know, he plays in "Green Acres' on TV." I said, "Oh, that Eddie Albert. No, I don't particularly care to meet him. What in the world would I say to him." She insisted that I come on into the Commissioner's office and meet him. With her dragging on my arm, I couldn't do much else but follow or make a big scene. So in to meet Eddie Albert I went.
He was talking to a representative of the citrus industry who was telling him about a new seven million dollar canning machine that they had just installed and I knew I was in the wrong company. There were four or five others standing around listening. I was certain that they would have no interest in the new pick-up truck that I had just bought. I don't think I have ever felt so out of place. But Eloise dragged me right up in the midst of the group and without even waiting for a break in the conversation she said, "Mr. Albert, this is Laurence Cutts. He represents the beekeeping industry on the Council." Mr. Albert turned to face me with a big grin and said, "I'm a beekeeper. I've got twelve hives. I started off with one hive and it swarmed and we caught it, and then we had two, then they swarmed and we caught them and it kept up till I now have twelve hives." I never felt more at ease and comfortable talking with a stranger in my life. Of course he was no longer a stranger, he was a beekeeper. And beekeepers are never strangers to one another.
Everyone in the room was now listening to Eddie and me talk about bees. I asked him why he had never had bees on the show, they had everything else. He said, "ZsaZsa Gabor would never have allowed that. It was hard enough to get her to work with a pig on the show. She kept pointing to Arnold and shouting, `I'll have you for breakfast! I'll have you for breakfast!'" I soon figured out that Eddie Albert is not an actor. That's just the way he is. Eddie continued, "One day we had a swarm that lit in a small tree in our neighbor's yard. Mr. Hillery, the neighbor, and my dad wanted to help me hive them. Both of them were in their eighties. I decided to wait until dark so the bees wouldn't fly. The bees were clustered just a little over head high. Dad was to hit the tree with a big sledge hammer and jar the bees into a big cardboard box that Mr. Hillery was holding under them. I was holding the light. When dad hit the tree about half the bees fell and hit the flap on the front of the box and slid off onto the ground. Mr. Hillery stepped forward a step and dad hit the tree harder. The rest of the bees fell and went between Mr. Hillery and the box. They crawled in his shirt and the ones on the ground crawled up his britches leg. They stung poor old Mr. Hillery so bad we had to put him in the hospital. He recovered all right, but Mrs. Hillery won't let him come play with us any more."
I commented that it was a thousand wonders that Eddie didn't get stung bad. They usually go to the light at night. Eddie said, "No, no. I was half way to Mexico by then!"
I eat my peas with honey,
I've done it all my life,
It makes my peas taste funny,
But it keeps them on my knife.
Copyright © 1996 - 2003 William J