BEES were once considered the little servants of God and it was considered unlucky to kill them.
These days they are big business, pumping $90 million into the national economy, and giving the agriculture industry an estimated $1.2 billion boost in cross-pollination.
While the Australian industry is booming, things aren’t so rosy overseas.
The varroa mite is decimating bee colonies, causing widespread devastation, especially in the almond industry which is dependent on bees for pollination.
Honey is so valuable in New Zealand, organised crime gangs are stealing bees and selling them to China where they’ve all but been wiped out.
Pesticides have also been identified as a major factor in the decline of bees elsewhere. In China it’s so bad that some orchard crops have to be pollinated by hand because there’s not a bee to be had.
It’s an expensive fix for a service that was once provided free of charge by the busy little insects.
But local beekeeper Jack Telford says Australia’s bees are in pretty good nick.
“We are very lucky, our environment is very clean and we are isolated by sea and desert,” he says.
“As long as we maintain our bio-security we should be okay.”
After Mr Telford, an industrial chemist, retired, he wasn’t interested in playing golf or going fishing, and opened Beewise in O’Connor.
“I’m the sort of person who likes to do something and I saw a large gap in the market,” Mr Telford told the Herald.
He has been beekeeping for more than half a century and was just 13 when he was put in charge of his first hive.
“I had a dad who kept a couple of hives,” he says.
“The family worked out early in the piece that he wasn’t good at it, so I took over.”
Beewise has a diverse range of items for amateurs and professionals, stocking everything from suits to high-tech electric honey extractors.
You can also buy a queen for your hive.
WA queens are sought after and exported internationally, with those bred on Rottnest Island selling for $400.
by JENNY D’ANGER
5 Zeta Crescent,