Bees work for "the common good"

Sandra Ullrich (The Southern Cross)

Sandra Ullrich admits she is "obsessed" with bees. She is particularly fond of the bees inhabiting Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson’s garden, reports The Southern Cross.

Sandra has been maintaining a beehive at the Archbishop's inner-city home for the past three years.

The idea came from chef Steven Linsner and was supported by the manager of the Archbishop’s house, Simon Mills, who wanted to make the most of "this little piece of land in the heart of the city".

With its diverse array of flowering plants and trees, Sandra said the area was "perfect" for the bees, which have just produced their third batch of honey which is used in the kitchen and given away as gifts by the Archbishop. "They are like us, they need a balanced diet," she said of the flora the bees pollinate.

"The environment reflects their personality – they are incredibly gentle bees," she said. "I just adore them."

She praised the Archbishop for having the nerve to develop the beehive, which contains about 50,000 bees, saying it sometimes took time for a community – the human kind – to get used to the idea.

Sandra said beekeeping had long been associated with religious life, particularly in Ireland where many churches and monasteries kept bees.

She said you could sit and watch the bees for hours and she had become involved for meditative purposes.

While harvesting only happens once a year, in January, Sandra visits the house about eight times a year, to ensure that the hive is "queen-right, happy and healthy".

She described the queen bee as "particularly challenging", having slipped through the queen excluder (a mesh tray where worker bees can fit through but the queen is "too voluptuous" to get in) on a couple of occasions.

"She (the queen bee) found a higher spot and we had to put her back where she belongs," said Sandra.

She said we had a lot to learn from the way a bee colony was organised. "It’s a very altruistic, democratic society, where everyone works for the common good," she said.

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Bees at home in bishop’s backyard (The Southern Cross)