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Gary Morton: Toast and Honey

One in every three mouthfuls of human food is produced by bees. A honeybee can fly for up to eight kilometres from its colony, and as fast as 20 km per hour, but it would have to fly about three times around the globe to make half a kilogram of honey. Bees are highly productive insects!

The first recorded surviving introduction of European honeybees (Apis mellifera) into Australia occurred in 1822. Since that time, honeybees have established widely throughout Australia. In 2018–19, honey and beeswax production were valued at $162 million and the little recognised value of pollination is believed to be in the order of $14.2 billion. There are approximately 25,000 registered beekeepers in Australia operating an estimated 672,000 hives. Apiarists keep bees for their environmental, economic, and of course honey contributions.

The advent of the varroa mite in Australia has brought a new dimension to beekeeping that must be met head-on.

Father of two beautiful girls, husband, farmer and beekeeper for fifteen years, Gary lives on Phillip Island. A trained environmental scientist, he got into beekeeping by doing a course that taught him to build beehives, collect swarms and maintain bee colonies.

Gary expanded his traditional Langstroth apiary in 2015 with the introduction of both hybrid and full flow hive systems. Honey collection is now a far less invasive and time-consuming process. However, bee colonies still need to be thoroughly inspected and maintained for brood health and signs of disease such as varroa mites.

As a registered beekeeper, Gary plans to expand his apiary to become a major pollinator on Phillip Island, along with running beekeeping workshops and mentoring new beekeepers.