LAKE Macquarie man Jim Wright was about 13 years old, living on a small farm just south of Coffs Harbour, when he first began to take an interest in bees and beekeeping.
“The farmers on either side of us had bees, and for some reason I took an interest in it,” Dr Wright said.
“One of them gave me a bee hive, and the other one promised me the first swarm out in Spring.
“My second swarm I saw hanging from a tree on my way to school... I was late to school that day.”
His hobby took a back seat when he moved to Sydney to study medicine, but Dr Wright’s interest in bees returned with a vengeance once he settled in Newcastle.
“I walked outside and saw a swarm of bees hanging from a tree in my front yard,” he said.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got to have those.’”
The former paediatric surgeon joined the Amateur Beekeepers Association of NSW when he retired in the mid-nineties.
Ever since then, Dr Wright has become a passionate advocate for bees and beekeeping, particularly on behalf of the association’s Hunter Valley branch.
He has dedicated much of his time to guiding fellow enthusiasts, and educating people on the vital role bees play in the pollination of our food crops.
“It has been said, allegedly by Albert Einstein, that humankind would not survive more than a few years without the honeybee,” he said.
Dr Wright has written books and newspaper columns about bees and the biggest threats to bee populations – such as the Varroa mite, and the “major villains” – insecticides.
He has spoken to local groups and school children about the importance of protecting our bees.
“Our survival depends on the honeybee,” Dr Wright said.
“Native bees, birds and winds pollinated Australia long before the European bee was brought out, but they don’t cope with the huge crops we need for our food supply.”
Dr Wright urged people to use insecticides with caution – particularly neonicotinoids, as they interfered with bee’s navigation and immune systems, leaving them unable to find home and prone to disease.
“Avoid insecticides if possible, but otherwise, be careful not to use them during flowering periods when bees are around,” he said. “Support our local producers by buying Australian honey.”
Dr Wright also encouraged people to support the bee population by starting their own hives.
“You can have bees in the suburban environment. There are conditions, and a lot to learn, and the way to learn is to join a club.”