Several BSSC VCAL classes are taking part in a program partnered by the CSIRO and Bendigo Tech School called ‘Bees with Backpacks’—a global project to save bees from extinction.

Students will study food security and bee behaviour to design a local habitat to increase bee activity. They’ll also learn about the importance of honeybees in maintaining biodiversity across the world, exploring issues behind the decline of bee populations over the past five decades.

Today, Karen Green’s VCAL Headstart Personal Development class were visited by EAL teacher, Tony Merrett, who also happens to be a passionate beekeeper with more than 40 years of experience working with honey bees.

He brought along some of his bee keeping equipment and gave a wonderfully informative and enthusiastic demonstration of setting up a hive, how European honey bees use a hive, the life-cycle of a queen bee, and the threats to bees such as disease and predators.

“So much of what we eat depends on pollination from bees,” he explained. “They are so important to the survival of humans, yet so many of our practices and activities have led to huge losses in bee populations around the world.”

Tony also showed the students how to use a smoker for calming bees, when and how to rob hives so the bees always have a food source, and explained how important it is for beekeepers to manage their hives and report diseases and infestations to the Department of Agriculture.

“As a beekeeper you have to be vigilant,” he said. “You’re always looking for something that’s ‘wrong’ within the hive and making sure the bees are happy and healthy.”

Tony also explained how he often purchases a queen bee through the mail. Students were fascinated to hear how the queen arrives packed in a tiny box with two worker bees as attendants and enough food for the journey.

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