THE darker bees get, the crankier they become, and it’s all down to the age of their queen bee.
To keep the colony calm, urban beekeeper Kelly Lees explains, you need to introduce a new queen bee every couple of years.
It’s a little-known fact Ms Lees throws into the conversational mix as she deftly handles trays of honey and bees in her enchanting, sun-filled backyard.
‘‘They are really amazing creatures,’’ Ms Lees offers.
After keeping bees at her Mayfield home for about five years, Ms Lees launched a new venture, Urban Hum, (urbanhum.com) in October last year through which other families can host a hive in return for a share of the harvest.
So far, she has installed hives at 15 different urban locations around Newcastle, on people’s balconies and in their gardens, with another 30 people on a waiting list.
Ms Lees visits the hosts about 10 times per year to ensure the bees are humming along in a healthy, maximum honey-producing kind of way, and the host family receives about four kilograms of honey made right on their door step every 12 months.
The hives are handmade, and the honey is extracted by Ms Lees herself who sells the rest of it by the jar at the Hunt&Gather markets at Pacific Park, Newcastle, every third Saturday.
‘‘There’s been a real move back towards urban farming in a lot of cities around the world, and in Australia, and I felt that Newcastle would be a great place to do something like that,’’ she said.
‘‘There’s lots of interest here in community gardens and a lot of creative, and environmentally-minded people, and we have also got some fantastic suburban gardens here.’’
A single colony is home to between 50,000 and 70,000 bees
Bees live for between six weeks and three months, except for queen bees that can live for five years
The colour of bees grows darker as the queen bee ages
Colonies with a young queen bee will be calmer and produce more honey
Bees swarm when their home is threatened, and after gorging on honey to fuel their journey, and so are less likely to sting when swarming than usual
Bees forage up to five kilometres away
During their first flight, bees will fly around close to the entrance of the hive as they calibrate their hive’s location in relation to the sun, so they can always find home
Source: The world of bees, according to urban beekeeper Kelly Lees