By Kate Taylor
A little secret army is buzzing around Ballan – but it’s under attack, unknowingly, from local farmers and backyard gardeners.
From hives in the centre of town to the outskirts, Ballan has a blooming bee population, a fact that often surprises residents who haven’t noticed the bees busily performing their vital work.
But flying under the radar is causing a bit of a problem for the Ballan Beekeepers Group – as member Jane Dennithorne told the Moorabool News.
“Most people don’t’ realise that there are a lot of bees kept in and around Ballan – not just private ones but there’s commercial ones too, the farmers pay to have the hives moved here so that the bees will pollenate the crops, and honey is just a sideline for them,” she explained.
“But spraying, herbicides and insecticides and fungicides, are so harmful for them.”
Ms Dennithorne is one of 20 members of the Ballan Beekeepers group, which meets regularly, and is asking for local farmers and also backyard gardeners to notify the group when they intend to do any spraying.
“Because people often don’t know that there is a hive near them, even if they are in the centre of town, it’s important to let us know when they are using any sprays so that we can protect the bees.
“Bees fly five to six kilometres from home, and because you can only spray in good weather that’s also the time that the bees are out and about. So if we know you’re spraying, we can block the hives and keep the bees inside so they’re not going to get hit directly with insecticides.”
Another problem is wasps.
“We need to get on top of the wasp problem that has been growing in Ballan over the past few years – a lot of people kill bees thinking they are wasps, so it’s good to make sure you can identify a wasp and kill it.
“Wasps kill bees. There’s nothing worse than having a group of wasps outside a hive, attacking every single bee as it comes in, getting it on the ground and stinging it to death, then eating it. It’s awful.”
Along with notifying of spraying and keeping wasps under control, locals can also plant more diverse flowering plants to support the local bee population.
“Tea tree is best, they are what is used to produce manuka honey, and they are really good for bees.”
The decimation of bees worldwide has featured in the news as they are considered to be responsible for one in every three mouthfuls of food humans consume – and without bees, having to hand-pollenate manually is quite a task.
“People spend days up on ladders with little paint brushes, moving pollen from one plant to another.”
In the meantime, notifying the local beekeepers in advance of any kind of spraying is the best option.
“We don’t’ want to antagonise anybody, we know that some people have to use sprays – but even if you’re just using sprays in the home garden please let us know because there are bees throughout the Ballan community.”
Contact Ballan Beekeepers on 0403 891 170 or firstname.lastname@example.org