Your durable cotton suit is heavy, and it’s humid inside. A veil protects your eyes, and thick gloves cover your vulnerable hands. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a sci-fi novel, but instead this is the Alphington Bee School, an educational space that will soon teach the skill of apiary management to aspiring beekeepers. Classes will cover everything from constructing your own wooden beehive, to the science behind different types of pollens.
The Bee School is a new initiative from the not-for-profit Pollinator Alliance. Full-time beekeeper Benedict Hughes founded Pollinators Alliance with his friend Jody Gerdts (a scientist and fourth-generation beekeeper) to address the challenges facing bees.
“All pollinators are under stress because of climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss,” says Hughes. This includes flying foxes, fruit bats, some bird species and of course the honeybee itself.
Backyard beekeepers of any level can add to their skill base at the school, which offers programs ranging from an hour learning about what to wear when keeping your hive to a three-day course covering advanced techniques such as rearing a queen bee. Class prices start at $60.
The Bee School was funded through the Pick My Project competition run by the state government, and Hughes hopes the funding means it can keep costs low for students.
If you can’t get to Alphington for a lesson in helping these tiny workers, Hughes has some tips for you to try at home. On a hot day, “put out a dish of water with some stones floating in it. The honeybee will take water into the nest and sprinkle the water around to create evaporative cooling.”
Hughes also suggests cutting out the use of pesticides and herbicides, to protect the many burrowing species of bee. And it may be second nature to swat away that buzzing creature flying around your head, but Hughes encourages you to remember “[the bees] are just on a shopping trip, trying to get home.”
The Alphington Bee School opens at the Melbourne Innovation Centre on November 17. Information about the project can be found here..