Cotton farmer Scott Morgan has added to his repertoire of skills after finding a colony of bees in his back yard.
Scott, a fifth-generation farmer from Gunnedah, NSW, became an “accidental beekeeper” during the coronavirus pandemic when he discovered the bees had made a home under a stage made of pallets, he built in his back yard.
“I decided to do a beekeeper’s course and find out more about them. Then I decided it was a good opportunity to dismantle the stage and get the brood into my own hive,” Scott said.
In the short timeframe Scott has cared for his one beehive, he’s admitted there is much to learn and it made him crucially aware of his farming operations.
“It’s fascinating how bees can collectively work together to produce something like honey,” Scott said.
“I’m more aware now than ever of what we are doing on the farm since becoming a beekeeper. I’m aware of what goes into my boom or aerial spraying, so it doesn’t harm the bees.”
Scott is no stranger to the environment and biodiversity, having completed his myBMP certification in 2006, and undertaken various projects on his farm to ensure its longevity.
Scott is also an engineer and has constructed his own solar system to assist his farming operations.
During the past 25 years, Scott and his family have planted gum trees in riparian zones on his farm “Kensal Green”, providing natural habitats for wildlife and strengthening his integrated pest management system.
“Improving our biodiversity and environment are crucial for beneficial insects. They reduce the numbers of pests in the crop – it’s a vital ingredient to any cotton grower or farmer,” Scott said.
Bees can travel up to 5km to forage for pollen and nectar, and while cotton is a self-pollinating plant, there are plenty of gum, melaleuca and callistemon trees on Scott’s farm plus the occasional canola crop offering plenty of pollen sources for the bees.
“I think the bees chose me because of the resources around our home,” Scott said.
“There’s always lots of flowering crops and plants all year round.”
Establishing his hive and bottling 14 jars of honey from the first 4 frames of his hive have been a pleasing reward for Scott following a challenging cotton season.
The flood in November 2021, followed by a massive hailstorm in March 2022 greatly impacted Scott’s 1200-acre cotton crop.
Discovering the bees during such a tumultuous couple of years has been a very welcome diversion for Scott.
“Instead of dwelling on the negative impacts of the season, the bees have been good therapy.” he said.