Words from David Simmonds and photos from Sandra Curtis
A few weeks ago my interest, fascination and admiration for bees moved closer – a lot closer – so close I was in
a full bee suit, looking like Buzz Aldrin surrounded by bees.
A month or so back I was part of Landcare, starting a bee keeping group initiated by fellow
SOLN Community members, Kel Needham and Kevin O’Connell. We decided to call the group the
SOBees (Southern Otway Bee keepers); the broad purpose of the group, which meets monthly, was to
bring bee people together whether, like me, they knew little – had never had a hive – through to people
who have years of experience and many hives.
Our first and subsequent meetings have been very well attended with much fun and knowledge shared,
which is the purpose of the group: to share knowledge of good bee keeping practice, support beginners
with resources and a mentor and create a network of bee keepers in the Southern Otways and beyond.
But all this is still just theory and no sweat and a nice buzzy feeling, knowing there were bees on my
property, something I had often talked about with my bee keeping friend, Greg Denney, until he moved
North. I’m still at a distance and nice and safe. Until the other day, when Kel, who had already placed one
of SOBee’s hives, a Flow Hive, onto my property for hosting, said it was time I put on the gloves and a suit
to check the brood boxing and see if the hive was ready for the Super to be added.
Then my mentor tells me, You’re going to have to take care of that hive yourself. Oh sure no problem.
Thinking that meant me watching Kel do the real bee work. No chance. When it came time to place the
Super, Top story, on the hive, Kel says You'll need a bee suit, a J tool and a smoker. Suddenly, OK, a little
less academic. Kel kindly had a spare suit and the tools for the prescribed day.
Kel lays out the suit. It's bit like getting into a space suit, really tight especially if you don’t have the hood
correctly unzipped. Once in, Kel shows me how to light the smoker and keep the bees quiet as the smoke
interrupts their sensing of pheromones, and so disorientates the bees from identifying the invaders (which
essentially, we are, when we go into a bee hive especially to take their honey) and defending their hive.
With big gloves on I could not take pictures, so bravely my wife, Sandra, shot all the images in this story
and may be the real reason Kel and I came out smiling as Unstung Heroes. Sandra turned out to be the
perfect beecoy as sadly she was stung twice as she was not in a bee suit at all just a big Akubra, shorts,
and short sleeves as on a hot day, bee photography was not on her agenda. Thank you Sandra, we owe
All that aside, it was so good to get close to these amazing and fascinating animals and to finally get out of
the bee keeping armchair and begin what I know will be a long, fascinating and rewarding journey, no
doubt not without the odd sting here and there, a small price to pay for being part of Landcare’s SOBees
program to support and nurture bee keepers, and play a vital role in supporting our bee population to grow
free from disease and the impacts of mankind. Without healthy bountiful bees we are in big trouble
as nearly all our food depends on these hard working amazing creatures.
To find out more and for meeting times, email or call Kel (email@example.com 0409 989885)