By Georgina Hore
Linda Walker was having a serious problem with her pumpkins.
No matter how hard she tried, her veggies just didn’t grow; they simply were not being pollinated. Our buzzy winged friend the bee, it seemed, was not visiting her city garden.
Painstakingly, she took up the task of using a paintbrush to manually pollinate her crops. That was in addition to making the decision to complete a beekeeping course to find out if a hive would help her veggie dilemma.
It was here that she met fellow urban beekeeper, Sanda Ullrich, and it didn’t take long before the pair hit it off. They bonded over a mutual love of bees and immediately their minds were buzzing with an exciting and very sweet idea.
Sandra and Linda, the Queen Bees, created CBD Bees, a new initiative that encourages the conservation of bees by seeking local businesses sponsorship of a hive. They are on a crusade, one that will see bees return to the heart of Adelaide through placing beehives on city rooftops and gardens.
‘Obviously we don’t live in the country but Adelaide has a lot of gardens and the green belt around the city is prime for our bees,’ Ms Walker said. ‘We felt like the rooftops and city, that are not being utilised, would be perfect for hives.’
And this is not a new concept.
Rooftop hives are common in Melbourne, New York, San Francisco, London and Paris, with Adelaide the newest addition.
The program aims to raise awareness of the vital role that bees play in our ecosystem and food security, as well as informing people of the issues the common bee is facing.
Eighty percent of the food we eat relies on pollination and globally we no longer have enough bees to pollinate our crops.
Toxic pollutants, the loss of habitat, lack of biodiversity and diseases, such as the Varroa Mite, sees the health of our honey bee and native bee population diminishing dramatically. The bee’s future is under threat.
‘With the ever growing collapse of bees in both the US and Europe, we realised it was only a matter of time before these diseases hit our shores,’ Ms Walker said.
‘We think we’re isolated here in Australia because we’re an island but Varroa Mite has hit New Zealand, it’s going to hit our shores, it’s just a matter of time, and once it does it’s going to wipe out 50 to 60% of our bee population—it’s going to be devastating.’
‘Bees are so very important to us as a human race; Einstein even said that “if the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live”—we’ve got to look after bees,’ Ms Ullrich added.
Green Roofing Professor and bee enthusiast Graeme Hopkins of the University of South Australia has conducted extensive research into bees and green roof programs around the world.
The placement of an experimental garden on top of ANZ House in Adelaide city centre was his initiative and although his aim was to monitor energy efficiency and temperature, he observed that bees were congregating on this roof to collect pollen. This led to further research, this time with a specific focus on bees and their activities.
Graeme agrees that something must be done to save our bee population and in turn, biodiversity. ‘If you plant the right plants to encourage the bees, you bring the bees in. The bees are here in the city but we need to build the numbers up and that’s why the CBD Bees program is so important,’ Mr Hopkins said.
‘Bees are really important for agriculture. If you don’t have the pollination then you don’t have the production and a lot of people don’t realise that.’
The CBD Bees program offers businesses the opportunity to sponsor a hive for their city rooftop, garden or at other identified external sites. Anyone can take part and host a hive— from schools to community gardens, restaurants or city firms.
Sponsorship includes a one-off fee and an annual maintenance fee of $100. This includes registration, insurance, disease monitoring and honey extraction.
Karah Hogarth is the owner of Pickle in the Middle, a business in the ‘hive of Adelaide’, the Central Market.
Her business is a sponsor of a CBD Bee Hive and she is keen to put a hive on her new store which is opening soon on Currie Street.
‘I think it helps raise awareness about the important role bees play in not only the food chain but also the ecological system and the fact that they are under threat from a number of factors,’ Ms Hogarth said.
‘Customers are really interested about the program and it helps promote a local and ecological business.
‘It would love to see more businesses in the CBD doing it because then you will get honey with different characteristics based on what area the bees are pollinating.’
Businesses can also expect a sweet treat, receiving 20% of the honey produced in addition to the exposure the program offers.
‘It’s like a thank you from the bees!’ Ms Walker said with a giggle.
CBD Bees are about to colonise our city centre and return a buzz to Adelaide.