The beautiful Great Hall of the Australian Parliament House is not the first place you would imagine a bee harvesting ceremony to take place.
Add to that some sampling of delicious chocolate coated honeycomb and other honey inspired goodies, and you have a very popular event!
Earlier this week I joined this celebration of the first harvest of honey from the beehives in the Parliamentary Gardens.
Cormac Farrell, an Environmental Scientist, and head beekeeper with the engineering company Aurecon, helped established the hives at Parliament House in 2013.
He said the Parliamentary garden crew have been fantastic because they maintain the gardens almost completely pesticide free. There are eucalypts trees with an understory of tea tree and cherry blossoms in spring and a big stand of Argyle apple nearby.
In 1976 the first Parliamentary beehives were approved by the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Billy Snedden. He was asked by the Victorian MP William Yates for permission to install two hives in the House of Representatives garden.
As the request was made on the 1st April, Snedden thought it was an April Fool’s Joke, but approved it anyway.
During the time of the first two beehives in the House of Representatives gardens, Mr Yates’ honey became very popular, and was often taken home by politicians.
The honey was famously given as a peace offering by Mr Yates from the Liberal Party, to the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam from the Labor Party, during a particularly heated parliamentary debate.
Wouldn’t it be great if honey could smooth over party tensions these days!
Today’s hives at the new Parliament House gardens have the latest bee technology fitted with sensors to monitor the health of the hives as well as the Australian-invented “Flow Hive” which allows easy harvesting of honey.
I joined the many people who watched the first harvest. As you can see I was not the only one hoping to get a glimpse of the whole process. I had trouble getting photos of the process…
Cormac Farrell is gently brushing the honeycomb
Father and son beekeepers, Stu and Cedar Anderson’s invention ”Flow Hive” has made beekeeping much easier. The Flow Hive works by splitting honeycombs vertically with a key mechanism, releasing honey inside and letting it flow to a tap at the bottom, all without disturbing the bees.
This project is a collaboration between the Department of Parliamentary Services, the Australian National University Apiculture Society and Aurecon.
Once the honey goodies came around, it was difficult to hold sticky bits and take photos! Congratulations to all who brought this project together, what better place to have beehives…
Cormac Farrell made this simple but profound comment at a previous interview:
It might seem weird to keep backyard bees at Parliament House, but for our grandparents generation it was as normal. Bees help people understand how seemingly small things connect with big things. Our cities are not concrete jungles, we can still have plants and we can produce food, bring culture and real life to the place.
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Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.