The trailer towed behind Elizabeth Frost’s bright red Holden ute is unmistakable. With a big picture of honey bees emblazoned across it, the words state, ‘Tocal College – Beekeeper training’.
Comfortably bedded down for their journey on the road, the hives are super-efficient factories waiting to be set loose on crops and forests. Her bees spring into action wherever Liz travels, to show how to pollinate plants, and to make sweet honey. Beekeeping is a vital industry, summed up by the mud flaps on the trailer, which read: No Bees = No Food.
Liz is the NSW DPI Honey Bee Education Officer for Tocal College near Paterson in the Hunter Valley. Last week she was back in Bingara at The Living Classroom for the second time in the past few months. Her students had travelled from all over northern NSW and SE Queensland, this time to learn how to Artificially Inseminate Queen Bees so as to improve hive vigour and honey production through selective breeding.
The Living Classroom looked more like a scientific laboratory with all of Liz’s equipment transferred from the trailer into the Classroom. The hives were placed fifty metres away near some old white box gum trees and the bees set loose to find the flowers that they needed to make their honey.
Active only during daylight hours, the bees return home to their specific hive each night and settle in for the darkness. This means that to move on the next day Liz has to seal the hive in the dark, and have them packed up and ready to go at the start of the next day.
Liz took half an hour off from her unpacking last Wednesday afternoon to tell the middle school Civics students from Bingara Central School about her work and the essential role that honey bees play in nature and in our food production system.