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Bee on a hand

Parliament abuzz

Parliament abuzz

Pollinating power of bees

The arrival of beehives at the Australian Parliament House

The arrival of beehives at the Australian Parliament House (APH) had everyone abuzz last week.

Aurecon’s Cormac Farrell, Senior Environmental Specialist, will play the role of Parliamentary Bee Keeper.

“Aurecon has been keeping bees at our Canberra office since 2013. What began as a fun sustainability initiative has grown into something that produces honey gifts for clients, inspires sustainable design, and even created the name for our company intranet, Hive. While we mostly do this as a fun sustainability initiative, there is also a serious side to this project.  Bees are critical to agriculture and the broader environment, and are experiencing a global decline. In addition to raising awareness around the plight of bees, we have contributed to scientific research and global design projects to create sensor-enabled beehives. We are honoured to be supporting Australian Parliament House’s roll-out of this important initiative,” said Farrell.

(Text taken from the official media release by the Parliament of Australia – Department of Parliamentary Services)

In July 2014, the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport produced its report into the ‘Future of the beekeeping and pollination service industries in Australia’. The report highlighted the importance of bees to food security, the environment, and agriculture and horticulture industry performance.

A decline of bee populations across the globe has led to local efforts to ensure the health of bees which pollinate plants that produce crops of foods consumed by Australians.

The Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) Head Gardener at Australian Parliament House, Paul Janssens, said APH would be doing its part to protect Australia’s biodiversity with the installation of beehives.

“Bees matter to humans,” Paul said. “Without the pollinating power of bees, things like fruit, seeds and nuts can’t grow, which means we won’t see foods like potatoes, broad beans and tomatoes to coriander and chestnuts in Aussie households.

“That’s why APH will be installing three beehives next week to support beekeeping and pollination, helping to increase and protect the bee population in Australia.”

The three hives include an Australian designed and award winning Flow Hive, which features a plastic in-built honey extractor that allows the honey to be collected without having to disrupt the bees or open the hive. The other hives are the Langstrogh Hive and a Top Bar Hive.

The first harvest of honey should occur within six months and the honey produced will eventually be available from the Parliament House Shop, as well as featuring in dishes served at Parliament House events. 

DPS has worked closely with the Australian National University Apiculture Society and the Canberra office of Aurecon (a global engineering and infrastructure advisory firm with urban beekeeping experience), to ensure that the hives are safe and fit for purpose.

The beehive initiative follows other national and international institutions with resident beehives including the Scottish Parliament, the White House, the parliaments of Western Australia and Queensland and Government House in Canberra. Beehives were also kept in the gardens of Old Parliament House in 1976, managed by the then Member for Holt, William Yates.

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