Stephen Heatley - Aussie Apiarists Online | Australian Beekeepers online

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Beekeeper Profiles

Stephen Heatley

Beekeeper Profile

I've been in bees for 30 years and tapped into childhood memories when I was looking for something to boost my job's income. I was living in the country at Tarana and noticed the drums of honey coming from a beekeeper's extracting van... I did the sums and thought maybe I could make extra money for my big family, which peaked at 8 children!

Anyway I soon ran up against problems with AFB and the way it was handled in NSW, so I left for greener pastures and relocated to Kangaroo Island, which is free of AFB, EFB and SHB. I noticed the drones here looked like some of the ones I had in the darker strains I had in NSW. Those bees were productive and easy to manage. I then had to establish myself here on the island in the face of local reticence about a newby arriving. I've been expanding and breeding the bees here for the last 10 years.

Kangaroo Island is on a level with Merimbula on the South Coast of NSW at a latitude circa 35.8' South. The climate is cool and mostly frost free with the odd heat wave effect from North winds in the Summer. The bees have to cope with a range of challenges and are hardy as a result. They are the least tampered with as far as selecting goes and I believe most of the original qualities have been preserved. As South African beekeepers would notice their 'non poodle' status! No other bees are allowed to be introduced onto Kangaroo Island as it is a certified sanctuary by Act of Parliament over 130 years ago.

The Kangaroo Island strain is excellent for hobby beekeepers as they can tolerate misuse and won't harass the neighbours in an urban setting. They have proved themselves in a commercial setting by going that extra especially in pollination of orchards when nectar may be scarce. They will fly in inclement conditions and are good at resisting ants as they propolise against incursions. I have tracked my bees to a distance of 6 klms when during a dry spell pollen from a sunflower crop was being collected.

The honey from Kangaroo Island is antibiotic free as we are not allowed to use antibiotics, and we are GM free and with nearly 50% native vegetation we are very close to 'organic' conditions although I am not organic with the certifying authorities. It would be hard to have bees free from farm buildings and seed crops such as peas, beans and canola.

Stephen Heatley (18th August 2013)



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