Australian Parliament House honey harvest for Christmas!

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.

Cormac Farrell: head beekeeper for Aurecon photo Rohan Thomson Canberra Times.

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.

Eucalyptus trees surround Parliament House

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.

The House of Representatives Gardens today

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.

Gough Whitlam: Prime Minister from 1972-75

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.

Stu Anderson (left) and Cormac Farrell (right)


The honey flowing seamlessly into a jar as a result of the Flow Hive (

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.


Links for further information:


Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.






20 Replies to “Australian Parliament House honey harvest for Christmas!”

  1. The invention of the Flow Hive seems a very clever idea. I enjoyed the comment on bees fro m Cormac Farrell too, what a wise man.

    1. The invention of the Flow Hive seemed very interesting, I put the website link in for people who know more about bees and honey collecting than I do. Yes, I agree re the comment, a very wise man.

    1. The Flow Hive is a fantastic invention for harvesting honey. I did think of your native bee hive… Must do a post on it when we are up your way again.

  2. Amazing post. Isn’t it wonderful how they can now harvest the honey. And, I love that your government is leading the way is showing how it is done. 🙂 I seriously considered beekeeping, but with the extremely cold weather up here, the bees pick up and leave which gets expensive. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. I Love that bees leave town when it gets too cold! I read the White House has(or did have) bee hives, one of the first countries to do so.

    1. Yes, I agree, many Parliamentary buildings/grounds have the potential to do it, and, a good signal to the whole country about bees.

  3. Such an interesting post, Gerrie. There’s nothing like really pure, fresh honey. I once had a small piece of honeycomb, and it’s heavenly. I read that there is a hive in The White House kitchen garden, and that the Vice President’s wife is also very enthusiastic about the bees at her residence. I love the idea of honey being given as a peace offering. Very sweet indeed. 🙂

    1. Thanks Sylvia. Yes I agree re the pure honey, lovely! Interesting that you mentioned the White House having beehives, I had read they were one of the first Parliaments to have them in the 1970s. Also I know they have an extensive kitchen garden.

  4. That flow hive is ingenious! I am a huge fan of bees so did enjoy this post. Fascinating. I was smiling at the thought of your sticky fingers after testing the

    1. Yes, the honey samples were fantastic! I don’t know much about workings of bees, but I’m definitely going to look out for more bee stories next year.

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