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Sustainability Story

The bees of the Canberra office

A bee sitting on a hand

Aurecon started keeping bees as part of an urban sustainability initiative

In what is probably one of the more unusual sustainability initiatives in the company, the Canberra office started hosting a beehive both for honey production and pollination in 2013. The bee hives are on the first floor balcony at the office and many of our staff members have become interested in bees as a result of the project.

Bees are what we call a keystone species in the environment and they are absolutely essential in food production. Pollination is behind many of the foods that make our lives interesting like strawberries, apples and nuts,” says Cormac Farrell, Aurecon Senior Environmental Specialist.

“Aurecon started keeping bees as part of an urban sustainability initiative. We did a lot of research to determine how we could keep bees in a safe and effective way. One of the things that people don’t always realise is that lush urban settings can provide the ideal setting for honey production. The Aurecon branded honey, which we often give to clients as gifts, has even won an award,” says Cormac.

Staff members at the Aurecon office have become very involved in the bee keeping process and many of them were intrigued to learn more about beehives and honey extraction, which is something that people don’t generally get to see in their day to day lives.

“Being able to experience the bee keeping and honey extraction processes first hand has been a lot of fun for many of us. Executives, managers and various members of our business units have been involved in doing the beehive inspections and many staff members lend a helping hand to extract and bottle the honey,” says Cormac.

Aurecon Office Manager, Mike Palmer, says that he was a bit cautious when one of the staff members suggested that beehives be put on the office balcony, but it has proven to be extremely successful and very rewarding.

“I made Cormac jump through a few hoops to make sure we’ve covered all our bases with regards to health and safety and eventually signed off on the initiative. It’s been very exciting and staff members have been highly engaged in the process,” says Mike.

Staff involvement

How are you involved in the bee project?

“The beehive project has become like a hobby for me. I regularly post articles on Aurecon’s intranet to keep everyone updated about the project,” — Jennifer Spence, Office Administrator

“I often take photographs of the hive inspections. I also get involved in the crushing of the honeycomb, the extraction process and the pouring of the honey, which has been absolutely fascinating,” — Karyn Tisdell, Team Assistant

“I started working at Aurecon on the 1st of April and when I was given a jar of Aurecon honey, I didn’t know whether it was an April Fool’s joke or not! I like to brew beer in my free time and I used the honey to make honey beer. It’s great to be able to use a local product to improve my beer,” — Sam Butler, Client Side Project Manager, Defence

How has the project changed the way you think about bees?

“The bee project has changed the way I think about bees quite drastically. I used to have a huge fear of insects, so when Cormac suggested we put bees on the balcony I was very opposed to the idea. Images of bees swarming the office and attacking people were conjured up in my mind. The more I learned about bees and their role in the ecosystem, however, the more I learned to appreciate them. Cormac is so passionate about the subject and his passion is contagious,” — Karyn Tisdell, Team Assistant

“This initiative has taught me a lot about bees. I didn’t know much to begin with, but sitting next to Cormac at the office has taught me myriad of things. It’s been a real eye opening experience and I’m now considered a bee expert among my friends. I’ve visited the beehive on several occasions and I’ve even worn the bee suit,” — Sam Butler, Client Side Project Manager, Defence

“I’ve learned that a lot of what we eat is only possible because of bees. I didn’t know that before we started our project. We’ve given both local and national clients jars of Aurecon honey and it’s always very well received. Clients love the unusual nature of the gift,” — Mike Palmer, Aurecon Office Manager

“Bees are very important to the environment due to the pollination process that they’re involved in. As Cormac says, the bees are also very cute and cuddly,” — Jennifer Spence, Office Administrator

Girrga yabang

The Indigenous themed Warré Beehive

The marketing team at Aurecon noticed the pages on Aurecon’s website that receive highest amount of visitors are articles relating to our bee keeping project and our indigenous reconciliation journey. In 2014, we brainstormed how we could bring the two closer together and the uniquely painted Warré Beehive was the result.

Beehives are often white, but increasingly urban hives are painted to create a unique look. In October 2014, Aurecon’s Canberra Office became the proud recipient of a new Warré Beehive, painted by Aboriginal artist Krystal Hurst.

The beehive is based on a sustainable beehive design, which incorporates open style frames. The base of the beehive was constructed by Cormac and the artwork shows warm, multi-coloured sun turning into the roots and branches of a Yellow Box tree.

“Krystal has explained that the sun pattern represents the female spirit of the sun and the rays of the sun go down and become the roots of the Yellow Box tree that feed the hive,” says Cormac.

The Flowhive

Aurecon has recently introduced the Flowhive at the office. While it’s a standard hive in many ways, there is something that makes this particular hive innovative and unique.

“The Flowhive modifies the hive’s super box, which is where the honey is stored, and it allows us to extract the honey without opening the hive and disturbing the bees. Aurecon was involved in the original kickstarter, crowd-funding support project for the Flowhive and as a result Aurecon put together one of the first Flowhives in the world. We’re going to try it, see how it works and provide feedback to the inventors,” concludes Cormac.

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