'Natural' beekeeping with Kenyan top bar hives

WHILE a good season would bring around 60kg of honey from his Kenyan top bar hive, honey production is not the reason Bermagui beekeeper Adrian Iodice keeps bees. 

He does it for “passion and love” as he is “fascinated” by bees, evident by the careful way which he handles his hive. 

Mr Iodice no longer wears beekeeping suits when tending to his bees, and during his interview with the BDN approached his hive with rolled up sleeves and nothing but a hat for protection.

Kenyan top bar hives are designed for minimal interference on the ecosystem of the hive.

Because of this design bees rarely become aggravated or attack, as the keeper only removes one comb at a time.

However using the wrong soap or any deodorant can provoke them – as well as the weather being cold or rainy.

Kenyan top bar hives are a “natural” style of beekeeping, allowing bees to build their own comb.

During harvest the comb is cut off, honey is extracted then the comb is used to make such items as candles – it is not reinserted into the hive.  

These hives are relatively low maintenance, and Mr Iodice said he only spends about one hour per week caring for his.  

Conventional beekeeping is done with Langstroth hives, and while Mr Iodice does have two of his own, he said they are more labour intensive and require greater intervention than Kenyan top bar hives. 

After becoming interested in beekeeping as a child, Mr Iodice only had a hive “here and there” for a long time as he often worked overseas.

In the last four years he got “serious” and became more interested in the natural side of beekeeping. 

Now Mr Iodice wants to make an educational career “teaching people how to live with bees, and enjoy what they offer us”. 

He wants to “get the word out to people about their [bees] demise” as bees are dying all over the world. 

One major issue impacting on bees according to Mr Iodice is the neonicotinoid pesticides.

These are sprayed on plants and, while the dose is not enough to kill a bee, it affects them causing them to become disoriented, wander from the hive and not return – which could be a reason for colony collapse disorder.

Another issue is artificial queen rearing, which involves taking worker eggs and raising them to become queens.

This is done in the wild, as if a queen dies an emergency queen is made from a worker egg, however as soon as another queen is born the worker-queen is killed. 

Mr Iodice said workers are not meant to be queens, and breeding from these emergency queens results in emergency workers. 

He said 40 per cent of food is pollinated by honeybees, and if honeybees die out native plants in Australia could survive as another pollinator would compensate, many European and US plans require honeybees to pollinate so would die off. 

Mr Iodice is a member of Bega Valley Amateur Beekeepers Association (BVABA) and will be running a natural beekeeping course in August. 

To read more about BVABA and Mr Iodice's course click here

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