Day 5 - We board the bus after breakfast at the Motel Nirebo on the banks of the Murray River and begin the last day of the tour. About an hour out we meet up with Craig Scott, a local first-generation beekeeper who runs about 1,100 hives for both pollination and honey production. The pollination is mostly for fruits and seed production (onion, alfalfa or Lucerne) and rental is about AU$ 60/colony. He runs a palletized operation, moving bees within about a 3 hour radius for pollination and about a 5 hour one for honey production.
Mr. Scott is Mr January on the 2008 Beekeeper’s Calendar, a series of almost full monte naked beekeepers, ranging from their 20s to 80s. He runs Caucasian Queen– Italian drone crosses and does most of his queen production himself and requeens every year most of his colonies. The resultant stock is very gentle something most of those on the tour from America can appreciate, especially those running close to African bee country in the tropics of North, Central and South America. I realize that temperament has really been compromised in the U.S. over the years since Varroa. Again, looking at Australian beekeeping is like going back in time to a much different beekeeping that prevailed before Varroa.
The honey production in this region, Golden Valley environs, would be the envy of beekeepers anywhere. Basically there is some kind of flow on all year around; the management is to move a truckload of empty supers to a yard that has just finished a flow, take off the supers and return for extraction; then take the empties back on a sort of rotation scheduled based on flow. Supers can be filled usually on a four-week rotation. There is a bout a t 140 kilogram/colony average yield. Honey is put into 250 Kg plastic barrels or the 1000 liter plastic bulk container that appears to be ubiquitous and used by Capilano, Australia’s large packer.
Near the city of Shepparton we visit an orchard of the Corboy Fresh Fruit, a huge operation with many hectares of stone fruits, apples, pears. The young fellow who orients us is extremely knowledgeable. The place has compute controlled drip irrigation and we see several ways of putting fruit on a trellis, some result in a much more dense planting, requiring more bees. Bees are put at the end of the rows. A surprise is the picking labor. It turns out this is by what are called “backpackers,” from Asia and Europe. Young folks get AU$ 14.84/hour, also working by the piece, for which they also get their visa extended. Australia has very strict immigration laws and doesn’t allow people to stay very long. On arrival Melbourne, I see a sign at a youth hostel advertising “guaranteed” work for backpackers.
A nice lunch at the Belstack Tourism Complex and strawberry farm features both beef and chicken, under a large stand of red river gum trees, which are perhaps known as the premier Australia honey plant. Also called a “widow maker” because many a camper under these trees has died due to branches falling on them, especially in frosty weather.
Back on the bus we depart for Melbourne along the Riverine plain. This changes to the last remnants of the Great Dividing Range prior to entering Melbourne and thus some hills with a change toward more “urban” environment. There is a nice panorama from the roadway as we approach the city on the bank of the Yarra River. We are the last to be dropped off at the Travel Lodge South Bank. A quick change of clothes then down the quay and across the bridge to the Convention Center.
Registration was a breeze, as we were pre registered. I get a black bag with a copy of the program and abstracts. This will be one of the banes of my existence as I like to find the abstract associated with each talk. It is difficult as all are simply put in the book in almost willy nilly with no alphabetical order, no index, not referring to any part of the program.
The opening ceremony is typical of most I have been to with the standing commission chairs seated on stage and a welcome by various dignitaries and the response by Asger Sogaard Jorgensen (Denmark). There is a homily to Dr. Silvestro Cannamela by the current Secretary-General Riccardo Jannoni-Sebastianini (Rome, Italy). In addition, there is a moment of silence for Eva Crane who died just three days before congress convened. Usually opening ceremonies have some kind of cultural demonstration, but that is scheduled for Tuesday night during this congress.
In bed by 9:30 as I am still suffering from jet lag and all that time on the bus. I sleep like a log, but am up early at 5:45 a.m. ready for the beginning of the congress.