Backyard beekeepers could contribute to the health of our agricultural economy, a local apiarist says.

Alan Wilson, a semi-retired commercial beekeeper of 25 years, said he and other industry professionals would be happy to help hobbyists take up small-scale beekeeping at home.

“Everybody knows how important bees are for pollination,” he said. “But a mix of things have made life harder for bees which has made business more challenging for commercial beekeepers — and food producers.”

“If bees thrive, that’s good for the industries depending on them. I’d like to see more hobbyists having a go because lots of small scale operations could help sustainability in the long run.”

“But you can’t just set up a hive and go. Bees mix and meet other bees, that effects other colonies so you do have to get registered, have inspections and operate to high standards, but there is a whole industry and network standing by to help.”

60,000 valuable employees . . . Beekeeper Alan Wilson (right) and reporter Nick Brook among several small hives ideal for a backyard beekeeper.

He said the place to start was the HiveHub website, where beginners could register and network with established beekeepers to help get set up.

“I’d say one hive, three boxes high with 10 frames in each box would be easy enough.

“That’s 30,000 to 60,000 bees and you’d only need to check on it once a week.”

Beekeepers become custodians over a busily harmonious insect civilisation that amazed humankind long before we developed cities of our own.

Honeybees use pheromones and hormones to manage their population.

Most are females, hatched to work or be treated to develop into queens who need a stable of hive-bound drones to provide a varied gene-pool to mate with.

Queens can live up to four years but a worker lasts a month or two, producing up to a teaspoon of honey in that time.

Beyond honey, a highly refined human industry surrounds the hive world.

Throne room . . . Much larger queen cells appear outside the frames.

Bee pollen is a complete super-food, joining propolis and royal jelly as valuable ingredients in exclusive foods and medicines, while the infrastructure behind beeswax mimics the master-recycler abilities of the bees themselves.

Honeybee colonies exist to grow, and a happy hive will produce strong new queens to replace their elders, who will gather a following of 3000-4000 to swarm away and establish a new colony.

“Swarming means the colony is successful and needs to spread out,” Mr Wilson said.

Royal visit . . . The queen bee (right of centre) spends much of her time examining cells through the colony among her worker sisters and brother drones (top left).

“A main duty is looking out for the queen, making sure she’s healthy and backed up with replacements so you’ll always have a workforce.

“For that you might want to expand to a second hive or just co-ordinate with another beekeeper, maybe even a neighbour.”

“I think a growing number of hobbyists with small set-ups … would be a huge benefit to everyone.”

[email protected]