Honey we shrank the hives

THEY call Paula West Queen Bee and she is blunt when discussing the plight of what she calls "our most important insect".

"No bees equals no farms, equals no food. It's as simple as that," she said.

"Many bees are starving and suffering from malnutrition and become disoriented when they have to feed on acres and acres of monocultured crops.

"The best thing we can do for our most important insect is buy and plant heritage open pollinated seeds for our flower and vegie gardens, use eco-friendly products which don't kill you, or the bees, birds or the fish.

"The heat wave last week took its toll on the bees as they were working frantically to fan their hives to maintain a stable temperature so the honeycomb did not melt and collapse in the extreme heat. "The bees consumed two-thirds of their honey stores in the process and they would be exhausted, just like our brave firefighters are after fighting a raging inferno."

Mrs West has been running the Adopt A Beehive program from her Maleny base for the past two years. It is believed to be unique in Australia.

People pay an up-front cost of $390 for Mrs West to set up an all-natural beehive and then maintain and monitor it on chemical-free "bee sanctuary" land.

The adopter receives eight kilos of honey in that first year. In subsequent years, the fee is just $88 annually, but the return remains at eight kilos of honey.

"We have had people buy a hive as a gift for someone who has everything, we've had two wedding gifts recently," she said.

"(It's for) people who want to make a change and assist in the biosecurity of Australia but don't want to get involved in becoming a beekeeper."

Mes West urged people to respect bees and the critical role they played. "Fifty years ago nobody talked about not having pollinated vegetables in their garden. The bee was there silently every day pollinating the crops.

"Now people say 'oh there's one bee in my garden, quick, follow it around'.

"It is a serious problem on the Sunshine Coast."

Go to adoptabeehive.com. au for more information.

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