108 episodes

For any of you that know me, I love a good yarn. One the of the best things about my job is getting out and about with local people, sharing the knowledge I have about bees, the environment, produce, gardening and healthy living.

And I have lots of experience getting on my soapbox! For years now, I have been a representative at local and international conferences. I have appeared on popular TV and radio programs (including The Project, ABC radio, Network Ten News, and Channel Nine’s reality show, Dream Job). I have launched educational programs and am excited to launch my new podcast!

Bees With Ben Ben

    • Kids & Family
    • 4.8 • 64 Ratings

For any of you that know me, I love a good yarn. One the of the best things about my job is getting out and about with local people, sharing the knowledge I have about bees, the environment, produce, gardening and healthy living.

And I have lots of experience getting on my soapbox! For years now, I have been a representative at local and international conferences. I have appeared on popular TV and radio programs (including The Project, ABC radio, Network Ten News, and Channel Nine’s reality show, Dream Job). I have launched educational programs and am excited to launch my new podcast!

    EPISODE: 102, Karen Santos, Researcher, University of New England, Australia and Brazil

    EPISODE: 102, Karen Santos, Researcher, University of New England, Australia and Brazil

    Originally from Brazil, Karen Santos was an undergraduate biology student when she volunteered for

    an intern project working with beekeepers and palynologists (who specialise in the study of pollen)

    to examine the diet of honey bees on the Brazilian savannah in 2012. This triggered a fascination

    with bees and led to further research, particularly in the different aspects of pollen ecology. In 2019,

    Karen moved to Australia to continue her research as a PhD candidate at the University of New

    England; her main interests involve understanding the diverse effects of large crops on native

    vegetation, together with the behaviour and efficiency of pollinators within these crops. She

    presented an intriguing paper at the 4 th Australian Bee Congress in April of this year and is our very

    special guest on episode 102 of the Bees with Ben podcast.

    Karen says it was exciting to be able to return to conferences after Covid lock downs; she normally

    attends more ecology-based forums, and the Bee Congress provided an opportunity to learn about

    different research and to chat with a variety of people, including beekeepers. She explains that she

    had zero knowledge about bees when she embarked on that first project in 2012. This involved

    analysing pollen grains collected in pollen traps amongst colonies of Africanised honey bees to

    determine what sort of resources they were collecting in a given area. Although people were telling

    her that the bees were ‘crazy’ or ‘killers’, Karen had nothing to compare them to at the time. She

    does acknowledge that precautions had to be taken to ensure the bees did not become agitated -

    such as avoiding noise or wearing perfume - and that Australian honey bees have a far more mild-

    mannered disposition and tend simply to ‘mind their own business’.

    Karen’s presentation at the Congress concerned the diet of bees in almond orchards and was based

    upon data collected in Victoria. The results were surprising, as although almond pollen is extremely

    attractive to honey bees (it is a good source of protein), the bees nevertheless also seek out and

    collect complimentary resources, even at the height of the flowering season. Results varied

    significantly between hives, but the lowest proportion of almond pollen encountered was around

    62%.

    Karen is currently working on other crops including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and apples,

    and was lucky to finish her PhD data collection just prior to the onset of Covid restrictions -

    particularly since she was working with blueberries at Coffs Harbour, which is now the subject of a

    varroa mite incursion. However, plans to visit apple farms in Queensland had to be abandoned in

    2020 and again in 2021 due to border lockdowns. Eventually, Karen is hoping to conduct a fieldtrip

    to gather data on the pollen flow between apple cultivars. Like some almonds and blueberries,

    apples also require cross pollination, and growers often interplant two or three cultivars in the same

    area. Fluorescent pollen dye is used to track the movement of bees via UV light, which Karen says

    can create quite a beautiful scene at night.

    • 33 min
    EPISODE 101: Dr Trong Tran, University of the Sunshine Coast, QLD

    EPISODE 101: Dr Trong Tran, University of the Sunshine Coast, QLD

     Episode 101 of the Bees with Ben podcast showcases the research of Dr Trong Tran, who lectures in

    chemistry at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and the magical substance known as propolis! Ben

    met Trong at the recent 4 th Australian Bee Congress in Sydney and knew immediately that his work

    on propolis would make for a fascinating chat. Propolis is well known to have antioxidant qualities

    that may have great therapeutic potential for humans. It helps promote healthy bee hives and can

    inhibit foulbroods and chalkbrood.

    Trong originally came to Australia from his native Vietnam 14 years ago to work on his Masters

    project, which involved searching for bioactive compounds that exhibited anticancer properties in

    marine organisms, with a special emphasis on attempting to identify compounds that may be

    valuable in the treatment of prostate cancer. He was awarded a PhD degree in Organic Chemistry

    from Griffith University in 2015, and then undertook postdoctoral research in the National Cancer

    Institute - US National Institutes of Health. In 2019 he was the recipient of an Australian Endeavour

    Executive Leadership Award. Trong has thereby gained extensive research experience in natural

    product drug discovery but explains to Ben that it can be a very long road from identifying a

    beneficial bioactive compound to getting it approved for human use; involving significant investment

    from pharmaceutical companies and substantial clinical research. A lot of time and expense can be

    spared by focussing on agricultural research - dealing with raw, natural products that are already

    consumed by humans with no ill effect. The raw material (rather than an isolated chemical

    compound) therefore becomes the product. Trong says this was part of the reason he switched the

    subject of his research to agriculture, and then specifically propolis, about 3 years back.

    Starting with propolis derived from native stingless bees, he was able to demonstrate wound healing

    properties; the propolis helped to improve scars and exhibited anti-scarring activity. Trong then

    turned his attention to honey bee propolis, aware that this could represent another significant

    source of income for beekeepers. The beneficial properties of propolis appear to derive largely from

    bioactive components of plant resins, in particular polyphenols. This large family of organic

    compounds is abundant amongst plant species. Trong tells Ben that most premium propolis contains

    a high level of polyphenolic compounds, which act as antioxidants and can assist in boosting

    immunity and in the treatment of diabetes and other conditions.

    How does one consume a daily dose of propolis? Trong says that some people like to make a

    tincture, but that this is best stored under cold and dark conditions. Propolis can also be processed

    into a powder which can be mixed into drinks or sold as capsules or tablets. And the appropriate

    amount? This is currently the subject of further research. The resins in Australian propolis are very

    different from those overseas. The recommended dosage for Brazilian green propolis, for example, is

    up to 500mg per day. However, when used as a treatment to boost immune function in Covid

    patients, 1500mg was used daily. Trong stresses that propolis is not a food, and that more research

    is required with Australian propolis to establish, for instance, if there is any toxicity associated with

    ingesting large quantities. He says that the propolis industry in Brazil has been going for 30 years,

    and that they are consequently far more advanced in understanding level of polyphenolic compounds.

    • 28 min
    EPISOSE 100!!! Bob Binnie, Blue Ridge Honey Company, Georgia, USA and Co-Hosted with Dan Curless, Curless Aussie Apiaries, QLD.

    EPISOSE 100!!! Bob Binnie, Blue Ridge Honey Company, Georgia, USA and Co-Hosted with Dan Curless, Curless Aussie Apiaries, QLD.

    We’re celebrating! The Bees with Ben podcast has reached 100 episodes. And the 100 th episode is

    very special, being co-hosted Dan Curless from Curless Aussie Apiaries. Our distinguished guest is

    Bob Binnie of the Blue Ridge Honey Company from Northeast Georgia in the US. Bob has been a

    commercial beekeeper since 1981; after reading a book on bees he was introduced to a commercial

    beekeeper and pollinator in Oregon and the rest is history. He is a past President of the Georgia

    State Beekeepers Association as well as the Northeast GA. Mountain Beekeepers Association and the

    Macon County Beekeepers Club. In 2003, he was voted the Georgia State Beekeeper of the Year. Bob

    runs over 2,000 colonies; he also teaches beekeeping and is a popular guest speaker, as well as

    having a popular YouTube channel.

    The Blue Ridge Honey Company is a family business; Bob manages the apiary while his wife Suzette

    handles shipping and administration. Honey, pollen and beeswax products are offered for sale; the

    honey is pure, natural and raw and is not pasteurised or micro-filtered. Varieties include Sourwood,

    Tupelo, Orange Blossom, Gallberry, Tulip Poplar, Purple Starthistle and Wildflower.

    Obviously, the recent varroa incursion in Newcastle is foremost in the minds of Australian

    beekeepers at the moment, and although no-one would wish the varroa mite on their worst enemy,

    it is appropriate in one sense that this constitutes our 100 th episode, as Bob’s experience and advice

    makes for essential listening. Combatting varroa is a complex, expensive and labour intensive

    process, as demonstrated by the excerpts that follow, but to get the most out of this podcast, you

    really need to listen to the whole thing.

    Bob starts with some sobering comments about the varroa invasion in the US. He says that initial

    attempts to eradicate the mites were ‘absolutely unsuccessful’ and that colonies were killed, and

    beekeepers forced out of business before the authorities threw up their hands and said, ‘You’re on

    your own.’ Bob doesn’t think we can stop varroa here in Australia, but is certainly of the opinion that

    it is a good idea to get educated ‘ahead of the game’ and be prepared before it turns up In our

    apiaries.

    It is immediately apparent that Bob’s integrated pest management programme has been the result

    of a lot of research, thought and experimentation. For example, varroa often wipes out colonies in

    winter, but he treats his hives well beforehand around August 1, the idea being that he is treating

    the bees that will raise the winter bees. Oxalic acid vaporisation only kills mites that are on bees, not

    brood, so this is applied twice in early to mid-winter during the broodless period.

    Bob has used Apivar (active ingredient is amitraz) and Apiguard (active ingredient is thymol)

    effectively for his early August treatments, but the latter is temperature sensitive. Apivar in

    particular is very expensive (Bob’s bill three years ago was $18,000 US) and some colonies are now

    starting to show resistance to amitraz. Bob is not a fan of Apistan; its active ingredient, fluvalinate,

    proved very effective early on, but the mites quickly became resistant. Fluvalinate has a very long

    half life and will persist in comb for many years; it can also pose problems when mixed with other

    chemicals. This is an extremely informative podcast that should be listened to in its entirely. And it’s not all

    doom and gloom. Bob says that beekeepers in the US had to learn the hard way, but we need not

    ‘go down fast’ as there is now so much information available to help.

    • 1 hr
    EPISODE 99: Barry Roberts, Backyard Beekeeping Australia Facebook Page, Victoria, Australia

    EPISODE 99: Barry Roberts, Backyard Beekeeping Australia Facebook Page, Victoria, Australia

    As Ben observes, there are so many ways in which beekeepers can no learn about the hobby: books,

    clubs, mentoring, and of course the internet. And a good source of online information for

    beekeepers in this country is the Facebook group ‘Backyard Beekeeping Australia’. Barry Roberts,

    the founder of the group, is the special guest on episode 99 of the Bees with Ben podcast.

    The group was founded in 2018 and now boasts more than 19,500 members, making it the largest

    Australian Facebook group supporting backyard beekeepers. It is focussed upon educating

    beekeepers and assisting them to improve their beekeeping techniques. Barry says that he originally

    created the group because the existing local Facebook pages were dominated by commercial

    apiarists and he wanted to provide a hobbyist perspective. Initially, he spent a lot of time putting

    together a library of resources and materials. Membership is open to anyone; currently about 90%

    are local beekeepers, but overseas members are also encouraged, particularly since they are able to

    provide valuable insights into the management of pests and diseases with which we have

    comparatively little experience.

    Barry believes the identification and control of pests and diseases is something that many hobbyists

    struggle with. He details the effectiveness of ripe bananas (which give off the gas ethylene) in

    eliminating European foul brood and chalkbrood, and the lack of clear direction provided by the

    authorities. Ben brings up the bee vaccine developed in the US - this will be the subject of a

    forthcoming article.

    Ben and Barry discuss a range of topics, from the upcoming honey season to the divide between

    commercial and hobbyist beekeepers, and the decline of honey on the supermarket shelves. But the

    current varroa outbreak in NSW is never far from the surface, and this is the basis of a fascinating

    discourse.

    Comparisons to Covid have become commonplace, and Barry tells Ben that living with varroa will be

    similar to living with Covid, in that if it is not quickly eradicated, it is here for good and you will never

    get rid of it. If that happens, then beekeepers will be forced to absorb additional workload to

    implement a range of ongoing control methods.

    Barry’s best guess, based upon the limited information supplied by officials, is that they have

    ‘already thrown in the towel’ given the removal of the standstill order in NSW. He notes that the

    impending almond pollination could well be a ‘super spreader’ event, and that the almond industry

    is putting a lot of pressure on Victoria to open up to the importation of bees from NSW. Barry says

    that varroa may be contained, due to an ‘absolute fluke’, but that he is concerned that there are

    queen breeders in the contaminated zones, and that queens are routinely posted hundreds of

    kilometres away. Given the lack of real compensation available, he finds it highly doubtful that a

    commercial apiarist with hundreds or perhaps thousands of hives, is going to admit to purchasing

    queens from someone in the ‘red’ zones.



    https://www.facebook.com/groups/BackyardBeekeepingAustralia/

    • 52 min
    EPISODE 98, Dale Armel, DAP Pest Control & TikTok Viral Video Poster, Melbourne, Australia

    EPISODE 98, Dale Armel, DAP Pest Control & TikTok Viral Video Poster, Melbourne, Australia

    A ‘viral video’ may be described as a video that rapidly gains popularity through a process of sharing

    on the internet, through a variety of platforms such as social media, emails and websites like

    YouTube. But how does a video qualify as viral? The most basic measure is the total number of

    views, but the goalposts have changed over the years. In the early 2000s, a video could have been

    considered viral if it hit a million views, but by 2011 YouTube personality Kevin Nalty considered the

    benchmark to be ‘more than five million views in a three to seven day period’. Some viral videos can

    also earn their owners some serious pocket money; one such video entitled ‘David after Dentist’

    (depicting the humorous effects of anaesthetic) earned more than $100,000.

    And so we come to the subject of the Bees with Ben podcast episode 98; joining Ben in the studio is

    owner of DAP Pest Control and TikTok celebrity Dale Arnel. Dale has been in pest control for about

    11 years and specialises in the installation of termite barriers. However, his favourite pest is the

    European wasp - he is also a budding beekeeper.

    Dale describes in some detail the difficulties of working in tight crawl spaces, and explains that the

    termites found around Melbourne are subterranean in nature and come up from the ground,

    building little mud ‘leads’ (or tubes) so that they can gain access to floors and walls. Ben reckons that

    beekeepers are not designed to crawl around under houses and says that although he is also a

    licensed pest controller, he has a couple of major issues in that he is claustrophobic and scared of

    heights!

    Back to our viral video. About three months back, Dale had a call from a client who had a wasp

    problem in Healesville on Melbourne’s eastern fringe. She sent through a photo, which depicted a

    nest that looked about the size of three basketballs, and Dale thought this may be a good subject for

    a video. Upon arriving at the abandoned house - which Dale says looked like it could have been

    haunted - large numbers of wasps were observed flying in and out of windows and the roof, so Dale

    got suited up and went inside to investigate.

    The resultant video records Dale’s initial reaction when he opens the bathroom door. The photo was

    ‘nothing like real life’ as the nest took up a whole corner of the room, measuring approximately 1.7

    metres across and protruding out of the wall ‘like a verandah’! Dale says it looked like it some sort of

    pulsating alien and felt like it was somehow telling him to stay away. He explains that European

    wasp nests are normally subterranean and above ground nests usually attract attention and are

    dealt with before they reach these mammoth proportions. Hidden away inside this vacant dwelling

    and protected from the elements, Dale says this nest contained tens of thousands of wasps and,

    “Was going to survive the winter and keep going!”



    https://www.tiktok.com/@dappestcontrol/video/7076821304434822401?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1



    https://www.dappestcontrol.com.au/

    • 33 min
    EPISODE 97: Jessica Locarnini, Professional Honey Sommelier, The Honey Merchant, Australia.

    EPISODE 97: Jessica Locarnini, Professional Honey Sommelier, The Honey Merchant, Australia.

    A ‘sommelier’ is typically associated with wine - a highly trained and knowledgeable professional normally only found in fine restaurants, who specialises in the service of wine, as well as pairing wine with food.

    It follows equally that the term could also refer to an expert in honey, trained to distinguish all the different nuances of flavour, texture and aroma. Melbourne-based Jessica Locarnini is in fact a qualified honey sommelier, and she is the featured guest on episode 97 of the Bees with Ben podcast. Jessica received official certification from the American Honey Tasting Society after completing sensory analysis training in the US - learning to detect hundreds of different aromas and even distinguish the type of flowers from which nectar and pollen were originally collected purely from the honey produced.

    On website honeymerchant.com.au, Jess explains that she returned to Australia with an even deeper appreciation for the complex flavours of Australian honey: ‘Australian beekeepers work their magic in a land of extremes filled with challenges like fire, flood and drought while being surrounded by some of the most diverse landscapes and flora on the planet. All this is reflected in the unique and varied flavours of our honey.’ In an interview with goodfood online in 2021, Jess runs through the evaluation process using a wine glass in which has been placed a sample of honey. She first holds it up to the light, then examine  the aroma, and finally rolls a small sample round in her mouth. It certainly sounds like she could be talking about wine, as adjectives such as ‘caramel’, ‘camphorous’, ‘spicy’ and ‘medicinal’ start to emerge. In fact, Jess finds many similarities between tasting honey and wine: both have complex aromas and flavours, and honey tasters also use a palette cleanser between samples (in this case, green apple).

    ‘When you smell honey, it inevitably evokes memory,’ she says.

    Locarnini now works with beekeepers to promote the unique character of local honeys, and is dedicated to developing an appreciation for our honeys through tasting, pairing and education. She likes to pair honey with cheese of a similar intensity, one such example being orange blossom honey with goat’s curd. ‘And you can increase the textural experience of a good crumbly cheddar with honey that has crystalised.’

    But she is also mindful of the need to conserve our unique Australian environment, and the health of our bees. Jess joins Ben in the studio for this truly fascinating and engaging episode, in which she walks Ben through a ‘live, non-visual honey tasting’ that she reckons could well be a first for a podcast. It will certainly be a revelation for many listeners. Ben describes Jess as, ‘An absolute guru.’ She responds by saying that being a ‘honey sommelier’ is her super power!

    http://honeymerchant.com.au

    https://www.instagram.com/honeymerchant/

    • 55 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
64 Ratings

64 Ratings

DA on bees ,

Bees with Ben

Bees with Ben is the best bee podcast I’ve found anywhere. Incredible range of guest from around the world and really interesting topics covered in each interview. Added to this, Ben’s incredible enthusiasm shines through every episode. All around, a great podcast for anyone interested in bees.

PJ of Sydney ,

Fantastic Show

This is a fantastic show and Ben clearly puts a lot of effort into each episode. It’s great to hear from notable local beekeepers, who are often very willing to pass on their knowledge to those walking in their footsteps. Well done Ben, keep up the great work

Tristangreen23 ,

Awesome - 5 stars!

Extremely informative from beginners through to experienced bees keepers.
I found myself binge listening!!

Keep up the great work Ben, I love it!!!

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