Monday, March 9, 2015

Urban Hum - A backyard beekeeping program

In 2014 I visited the curious backyard of Kelly Lees in Mayfield, Newcastle, NSW with the Hunter Organic Grower's Society...

urban bee keeping, hive, honey
Kelly Lees in her inner city Newcastle backyard with 9 or so hives

Sweet honey.... is in fact not pollen or nectar, but bee vomit. Across Newcastle this fact seems to be having no impact on the ground swell of urban bee keeping. Bringing sustainability to the suburbs by feeding and pollinating local gardens, Urban Hum is at the heart of creating a truly local food source, all be it of vomit. 

An initiative of Kelly Lees of Mayfield, it began for this self proclaimed insect nerd, in her small backyard. On Hunter Organic Growers visit in September approximately ten hives hummed to the tune of urban bliss, so naturally it’s no surprise that Kelly outsourced additional hives to new hosts in the Newcastle region. 24 hives call home in 24 locations within a 20km radius of Newcastle, keeping her busy with the bees particularly in spring time when the hives are split to make more.

A swarm of bees is in fact not dangerous, as they are in a delirious state after gorging on honey.... somewhat like a Saturday night out for some? If you see a swarm call a bee keeper, as they are in search of a new home. In this state they begin to waggle dance as they vote on the location of a new hive (the more vigorous the waggle, the better the local food source). Kelly demonstrated the splitting of a hive, how to calm them with smoke (it’s not known why this works but don’t be in a bad mood when bee keeping, they’ll pick up your vibe via your pheromones and get nasty!), and how to construct a super ready for honey ‘growing’.  And of course what we were all waiting for (at least until I discovered the true nature of honey) the tasting of the bee vomit and honey comb! Yum, yum! The flavours vary with the seasons and are infinitely complex, no doubt a trademark of the variety of forage available in the urban landscape.

Kelly Lees talks about her passion for beekeeping
Bees are a fascinating creature.... when bees move to a new hive the guards give them an all over crew cut (chewed, not with scissors) and after their spring clean are let into the hive.... the workers not the Queen are in control of the hive and decide when a new Queen shall be hatched....hives must only be moved at a meter per day or they lose their positioning (GPS gone haywire), unless they are moved beyond a 3km radius.... 

Keeping your own hive is a wonderful addition to the organic garden and a great way to support these pollinators that are crucial to our food production. 

Visit for more info on how you can be a part of this project.

1 comment:

  1. Nice web site and well done Kelly.We look forward to having you on the web site......


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