David, in the midst of his love affair with his outback country

Beekeepers Go West – Beekeeping In The Australian Outback

Our family has been “heading west” for decades. We started “going out west” in the 1970’s when severe drought gripped most of Australia. The outback was the place to be during the long drought because in the winter, the Napunya Tree will often produce nectar when there are few flowers to be found elsewhere in the country.

David on one of the old bee trucks circa 1978

“Outback Beekeeping” – David, 3rd Generation, sitting on top of the  bee trucks circa 1978

For many years during the winter, our family migrated to South West Queensland. Traditionally, our bees would be “in the west” by 25 April (ANZAC Day) and our family still owns property in Cunnamulla. We have so many marvellous memories of wonderful people, dusty roads, sun stroke, fighting fires, winning ribbons, camping along the Warrego River and bidding for the coveted Lizard Cake at Eulo during the Opal Festival.

The Walker Clan with Ribbons won at the Cunnamulla Show

Having fun “out west” – The Walker Clan with ribbons won at the Cunnamulla Show  (L-R Carmen, David and Kerrie)

Len with the Eulo Lizard Cake circa 1987

Family pride – 1987  was the year Len, 2nd Generation, made the winning bid for the Eulo Lizard Cake

This year David and Jodie, 3rd Generation Beekeepers, “went out west” in late March to “check the country”. It was a two week road trip to check the quality, size and abundance of flowering on the Napunya Tree and ground flora as well as a chance to spend some time with family friends.

Some might say it was eventful, but we think its just part of life.

David and Jodie on the way to check flowers in south west queensland

David and Jodie on the way to check flowers in South West Queensland

Jodie saying thanks - some of the country can be rough, but its worth it

Jodie saying thanks to the love of her life – some of the country can be rough, but its worth it

"Checking bee country" is a chance to spend time with family friends

“Checking outback bee country” is a chance to spend time with family friends

The best part of “heading out west” is the people. If you’ve never been to this part of Australia – you really must go, just to meet the amazing people who live in this part of the world. We look forward to seeing them every year.

Our favourite place to stay when "checking country out west"

Our favourite place to stay when “checking country out west”

David (centre) talking with some of the people who live and travel "out west"

David (centre) talking with some of the people who live and travel “out west”

This year, the Napunya Tree flowering is magnificent and holds the promise of one the most productive seasons “out west” in many years. The bees will do well here this year and will survive the winter with nourishment from the varied natural flora that abounds in the outback.

We have to say – this is something that sets Australian beekeeping apart from the rest of the world. We don’t suffer from the problems related to mono?single floral planting that the rest of the world does. Australian flora is the most diverse in the world, is revered by many and is something we wish more people could see, feel and appreciate.

A medium size Napunya Tree (Eucalyptus ochrophloia)

A medium size Napunya Tree (Eucalyptus ochrophloia)

Spectacular budding of the Napunya Tree

Spectacular budding of the Napunya Tree

A close up of the Napunya Flower -  a magnificent flower

A close up of the Napunya Tree Flower – a magnificent flower

We love these photos of the Napunya Tree and the way they contrast with the deep rich red earth and crystal clear sky. If you go into this country the colour will seep into your skin, your clothing and your soul.

David, in the midst of his love affair with his outback country

David, at dawn, in the midst of his love affair with his outback country

During March and April the looming winter forced David and Jodie into the reality of planning the logistics for moving multiple loads of bees “out west” and the last of the bees were on properties of family friends by late April.

Take a ride in the truck with us in this mini movie, at dawn, just as the last two loads of bees arrive into the outback.

(We move bees overnight to reduce stress on the hives and you can read more about how we move bees  by clicking here.)

A load of bees in south west queensland

A load of bees in South West Queensland

Now it’s July and the outback honey harvest has begun. The first of the honey is a blend of the honey that was on the bees when we moved them “out west” and the Napunya. We wait until the hives have two full boxes of honey on top of the brood box (or bottom box). We only take the top box off so that the bees always have at least one full box of honey with the hive at tall times.

Hives 3 boxes high (1 brood box and two honey boxes)

Hives three boxes high (one brood box on the bottom and two honey boxes)

When the honey is ready to harvest we stand the full box of honey up on its end.

Helen and Tim (4th Generation) harvesting a load of outback honey

Helen and Tim (4th Generation) harvesting a load of outback honey

The bees are naturally compelled to go back into the hive because they are drawn to the scent of their queen.

Bees walking out of the box of honey back into their hive

It takes a while for the bees to walk home and it’s the perfect time for a break, lunch or a nap.

Lunch time break - David with Helen and Tim (4th Generation)

Lunch time break – David with Helen and Tim (4th Generation)

David resting and waiting for bees to walk out of the honey boxes

David resting and waiting for bees in the distance to walk out of the honey boxes

David takes a nap while while waiting for the bees to walk out of the honey boxes

David takes a nap while while waiting for the bees to walk out of the honey boxes

Over the past six months its been a joy to share our work with tourists who have been interested in bees and beekeeping, but they usually watch from afar.

David talks flowers with visitors to south west Queensland

David talks flowers with visitors to south west Queensland

The outback beekeeping viewing station (station wagan)

The outback beekeeping viewing station (station wagon)

The bees will stay “out west” for a few more months yet and soon there will be some outback honey for you taste. It is nearly ready, but you have to be patient, just like we are, and wait for the pure outback honey that will be harvested in a month or so.

David, 3rd Generation, there is honey here, but you have to be patient

Outback beekeeping is beautiful and we will admit the work is hard and dirty, but we have made life long friends and we cherish the memories they give us.

David (3rd Generation) says outback beekeeping work can be hard

David (3rd Generation)  - bee boxes full of outback honey are heavy 

Red bulldust - the soul of outback country

Red bulldust – the soul of outback country

Jodie (3rd Generation) - out back beekeeping work is dirty

Jodie (3rd Generation) – covered in outback honey and dust 

Out back beekeeping has given us life long friends

Outback beekeeping has given us life long friends

Out beekeeping - we cherish the memories

We cherish the memories our outback beekeeping has given us

We look forward to hopefully sharing our exceptional outback honey with you all soon. (It will always depend on the weather). Our outback honey has won blue ribbons at The Royal Easter Show in Sydney and is among the thickest honey we produce. Sometimes its dark amber, and tastes of caramel and spicy butter scotch with a hint of pepper. Other times, when the Napunya Tree flowering is prolific the outback honey is light amber, delicate and gentle with a soft nutty flavour.

Warm regards

David and Jodie and the Honey Delight Family

xx

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