This is a question we are often asked and the answer is quite simple. - No, it is not the honey.
My fascination for insects reaches back to early childhood. Growing up in a village in Germany I had my first encounter with bees when I was about three or four years old. Some country folks kept about eight beehives on their farm and told me if I wanted to see the bees, all I needed to do is poking a stick into the hive entrance. To satisfy my curiosity I tried that moments later, with great success, many bees came rushing out. To my surprise they followed me, running away, screaming. I got a few stings, one on my tongue that got swollen, all for the amusement of those country folks. Later the same folks ensured me that bumble bees do not sting, so they won't do me any harm if I caught them with my hands. Well, I had to try that and when I caught a beautiful bumble bee with my bare hands I was surprised again, to say the least. The sting of a bumble bee causes great pain! I doubted the good intentions of those country folks and did not take any further advice from those people.
During my primary school years I sometimes considered it safer to stand close to the schoolyard waste bin surrounded by bees and wasps. I figured out that bees and wasps did not harm me but certainly kept schoolyard bullies away when they were misbehaving. Despite their tough appearance those schoolyard bullies were afraid of bees and wasps. However, this protection scheme worked only in summer. I should probably mention that bullying was not really a big issue those days, but worth this story to tell.
During primary school we made several excursions to a nearby beekeeper who introduced us to his fascinating world of bees. All of his beehives were mounted into one wall of his backyard shed. While the bees were flying in and out of their hive entrances on the outside of the shed, we could enjoy watching them in their hives from the inside of the shed, through glass windows. We were shown the queens, each of them marked with a little round, coloured number plate on her back. Most fascinating though was the bees' waggle dance, we could watch them for hours. I visited this beekeeper many times after school on my way home, watching the bees through the glass windows - and never again poked a stick in the entrance.
My secondary school was not close to the beekeeper's and my visits were limited to school holidays. My fascination for insects continued during secondary school where I was well known for my collection of butterflies, beetles, wasps, hornets, bees and bumble bees - all pinned onto display boards.
In 2004 at Christmas time we were walking with some of our friends through a park in Templestowe and noticed several feral bee nests along the Yarrah river bankment, some in tree hollows, some in bird or possum boxes. We watched them for a while and continued our walk, no further thoughts about them.A short ime later, in January 2005, a work colleague invited us for a BBQ to his house. During this visit we became aware of the beehives in his backyard. The bees became the discussion topic for the rest of the day; one lead to the other and mixed up with childhood memories, I decided to take up beekeeping as a hobby. I remembered the bees in the park and a week later we picked up a bird nesting box with feral bees from there; they became the first bee colony of our apiary (see photos below).About four weeks later our excitement about bees was elevated to the next level when we harvested our first honey, just about eight kilograms. Oh what a feeling, our own honey, from our own bees, in our own backyard - and up to that date not a single bee sting.