From the Bowling Green to Beehives
There is nothing better than a good dollop of honey on your toast in the morning or perhaps a teaspoon in your herbal tea, so when retired policeman Howie Fortis from the Breakers BC Wamberal takes to the green, he does so knowing, that his two hives of honey bees in an orange grove at Matcham on the Central Coast of NSW, are feverishly collecting pollen and nectar to look after his future breakfast needs. He was introduced to the fascinating hobby of beekeeping by his Station Sergeant at Narrandera back in 1973 and for many years he had up to 12 hives that he would strategically place around the countryside to follow the local honey flow from Paterson’s Curse, River Red Gums and Yellow Box. Back in those early days he was keen to widen his knowledge of this ancient art and undertook a twelve month beekeeping course by correspondence through the Hawkesbury Agriculture College. For those that like to throw in a curly question across the table at a dinner party, Howie shares some interesting facts about these busy little creatures :-
- Honey is the only food that does not deteriorate with age
- The honeybee family (hive) consists of Workers (females), Drones (male) and the Queen Bee
- The Drones only role in life is to mate with the Queen Bee and once that is done he dies.
- A healthy Queen bee will lay up to 2,000 eggs per day and lives for up to 5 years
- A strong two deck hive will house up to 40,000 bees
- It takes 21 days for a worker bee to hatch in a good season and dies from fatigue after only six weeks
- A hive produces upwards of 60 kgs of honey twice a year (late spring & early Autumn)
- Honey bees communicate with each other by a dance known as the “Waggle Dance”
Howie was a keen sportsman and in retirement pursued his love of golf, tennis, bowls and bees. Two knee replacements in 2007 were a sign that perhaps he should start to slow up a little, so he enticed fellow Breaker’s bowler, Dale Kalms, to take over a couple of his hives and learn the art of beekeeping. Around that time mother nature had forgotten how to rain and the bee population suffered accordingly. But handling these little critters is tricky business and after a series of nasty stings, Dale developed a severe allergic reaction and is now forced to confine his role away from the hives by helping to extract and jar the honey. These days, Howie now just keeps the two active hives in a nearby orange orchard which yields more than enough honey for both families and some lucky bowling mates.
Bowls Central Coast
(l/r) Howie Fortis and Dale Kalms the beekeeper warriors show-off their armour, the protective head-geart and the smoke gun