It is history that lived upon our doorstep that continues to buzz, and now it has formed an entire exhibition of beekeeping; a way to follow and highlight the history of the beekeepers in the Southern Flinders Ranges.
As a part of South Australia’s History Festival and National Honey Month, the Rangelands of the Northern Beekeepers have brought together a historical perspective on beekeeping from the 1870s to the current day, in a bid to achieve a range of data collection for a database, book and website.
Exhibiting in the Laura Archives Building in Hughes Street on May 6 and 13 from 12pm until 3pm, family members or those interested will be able to explore the exhibit and speak to beekeepers from the around the region about their memories they hold of beekeeping.
Lorraine Gilbert of Gilbert Beekeeping says they have created a display to insight conversation and give people in the region a chance to recall their memories.
“The history I have from the 1800s, those families have moved away but people still know relatives of those family members and it has just had a gorgeous bi-effect bringing everyone together and talking about things”, Lorraine said.
“In addition to that, the acknowledgement of the people that have gone before us, that we are not reinventing the wheel of beekeeping, it is part of a continuum. It is really about preserving the history and the living memories of people that are around now and marrying that in with the archival information that we have as a heritage to pass on to beekeepers that are coming in the future.”
Rich layers of beekeeping history currently exists in the Southern Flinders Ranges, especially Wirrabara where in the 1890s, commercial beekeepers known as beemen would work in the Wirrabara Forest.
Yet a precursor to that history, were the stations or grazing runs that were once under the strangeways.
In 1871 the land was divided up which saw many gardeners seeking the land, which required bees and from there it began to grow.
The exhibition not only withholds so much history, but can provide an insight to the agriculture economy, which Lorraine says is reliant on bees.
“If we talk about cheese people don’t think about bees and cheese. If you take it back and break it down into steps, to have cheese, you need milk, to have milk you need cows or milk producing animals, for them to be able to produce, they need really good fodder and that is often lucerne, to have lucerne to sew for your pasture grasses, you have to have European honey bees to trip the flower.”
“A lot of people are saying they need to drink almond milk, and they might be someone who is vegan but the issue with that is if they are drinking almond milk, almonds are 100 per cent European honey bee pollinated. If you don’t have European honey bees, you don’t have one almondset.”
As the history of the Mid North’s honey continues to bring to light the importance of beekeeping, but it also notes the mark it played on the towns of the Mid North and the significance that still remains.
“The Mid North itself became so well known for its honey. South Australia blue gum became really well known when it was exported back to England, as it was light in colour compared to some of the colour sources from the South East which are quite dark”, Lorraine explained.
“It had a rounded buttery taste, which was an acquired taste for people who were used to English flowers but it actually became extremely popular and there were huge yields which happened in the forest and the back-lands right from the Southern Flinders to the Northern Flinders.”
The exhibition will also have a display on the varying floral sources that are worked by beekeepers in the area, in addition to honey tasting and sales.
There will also be information available to beekeepers both recreational, part time and commercial on the new legislative requirements.
Changes to the Livestock Regulations 2013 took place on April 19 and Primary Industries and Regions SA are hosting an information evening on May 7 from 6pm-8.30pm at 155 Main North Road Clare to advise beekeepers whether commercial or not on the new laws.
For more information on the exhibition or the History Festival, visit the website.