Fighting to save the bees
I live in Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula, where diving, fishing and growing my own vegetables were an intergral part of my life from an early age. When I was 7 years old my uncles would wake me at 5am, take me in a tinny a few kilometres out into the Mornington bay and catch snapper. An appreciation of nature, and knowledge of the tides and weather patterns became as natural to me as swimming. I would bury fish and abalone guts where my vegetable patch would go in spring, and smother weeds out with seaweed.
As I got older however, I found myself being forcibly distanced from my love of nature.
By 2012, I was 36 years old and found myself at a low point in my life. My job as a foreshore park ranger was causing me to be conflicted and depressed. I was disappointed that we were constantly altering the landscape, cleaning up after campers and unnecessarily spraying glyphosate to keep the foreshore looking like a golf course.
The job involved long hours and low income and had contributed to a family break up. As a result, I’ve been a single parent to my wonderful son Oscar since he was 3 years old. The only way I could afford quality food for us was if I farmed it or foraged for it. For a few years I had ignored my intuition and connection to nature, and as a result my health was suffering my young family was left vulnerable.
I decided to try and become as self-sufficient as possible, and soon found myself the owner of my very first beehive. It would become the first of many.
Within a year my obsession had lead to me to offer to re-home bees that had encroached on peoples’ living spaces. I left the park ranger job and started my own gardening business. I would work saving bees for donation or often for free. I’ve since re-homed over 500 colonies. When I’m with bees it never feels like work – I love re-homing swarms!
One day removing a hive from a compost bin into a hive, I had the happiest day of my life: it was like witnessing magic . Hearing the vibrational humming of the bees and smelling their pheromones made me realise I had nothing to offer them but was experiencing everything. A profound feeling of appreciation came over me . Bees know what they are doing.
My passion became contagious and I started savethebeesaustralia in 2014. It was a bee-centric page with the aim of celebrating and protecting bees with others who loved them through Instagram and Facebook. In time the page has become a effective voice for bees and beekeepers.
Over the last 5 years the galvanised community has been effective in bringing attention to the broader community about issues bees and consumers face. The community has also created a honey map that consumers can connect to their local beekeepers, thereby bypassing corporate imports and enabling people to buy their honey locally.
Millions of people found out through savethebeesaustralia that supermarket honey often consists of blended Chinese honey and syrups and was nothing like raw local beekeepers honey. I soon found myself fighting for bees , beekeepers and consumers in the Supreme Court.
Over 187,000 people have signed our petition to have country of origin labelling required on honey but at this stage the government is continuing to ignore us.
More positively however, Bunnings and Woolworths have stopped selling neonicotinoids (confidor) and Europe has banned neonicotinoid insecticides. Despite this, they are still being used in Australia. We are currently campaigning to have them banned.
Recently we successfully stopped an outrageous program on the Mornington Peninsula that used insecticides to reduce mosquito numbers. While the program’s intent was admirable in that it was attempting to stem the spread of the Buruli ulcer by reducing mosquito numbers, the indiscriminate use of industrial-strength chemicals was decimating not just mossquitos, but all insect life it came into contact with.
Through the success of the website and my ongoing beekeeping, I now feel more balanced and connected to nature, much as I was as a child. It makes me realise that the way forward for me was being true to who I am and fighting for what I believe in.
If you want to support Simon’s ongoing campaign for greater awareness of the issues facing bees, follow Save The Bees at beethecure.com, or on Facebook or Instagram. And if you like your honey, be sure to support your local apiarist by finding your closest beekeeper on the Honey Map – your taste buds will thank you!