By Shelby Brooks

IT is believed there are more beekeepers in South Gippsland than ever before, with interest in the hobby skyrocketing during the COVID-19 lockdown last year.

South Gippsland Beekeepers secretary Colin Goodwin said the last year had been “gangbusters”.

“Something switched in people and suddenly they want to be beekeepers.”

He said although the club was growing each year, last year they had around 40 members join the club – double the usual number.

“We have over 100 adult members in the club, a high proportion of which are new beekeepers,” Colin said.

“Training and education are fundamental – we pay a lot of attention to the newbies.”

Andy and Paula Teitge of Loch were among the new beekeepers who joined the group last year.

“I wanted to keep bees since I was a kid,” Andy said.

“But it has only just become possible. We finally have a bit of land and away we’ve gone.”

Andy and Paula set up three beehives on their property last year and are already enjoying the sweet success of their endeavours in the form of honey.

“We probably need about a year’s more practice before we could start selling at markets,” Andy said.

“It is fun. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.”

However, there was a big learning curve in the beginning.

“It’s quite daunting when you put on the suit for the first time. There are 12,000 bees and each one could sting you. But you get used to it,” Andy said.

“Spotting the queen… you’re looking for one personality in 10,000 bees and the queen can be quite mobile and shy.

“But the queen does look different from the rest of the population and once you clamp your eyes on her, it’s easy.”

Andy said the most important thing for a new beekeeper to be successful was to tap into the knowledge of more experienced beekeepers.

“We’ve talked to local people about local conditions through the club and used that knowledge bank,” Andy said.

“You can take a picture and send it to the club and ask if anyone has come across this issue before.”