If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man. – Albert Einstein
When Simon Mulvany, founder of Save the Bees Australia, asked me to visit him on the Mornington Peninsula to learn about the plight of the honey bee and his work to rescue them, there was a sense of passion and sense of urgency I could not ignore. And so I spent a fascinating day with Simon, a single father who describes himself as a gardener with an apiarist hobby.
Simon’s fascination with bees started when he was a child and became his life’s work after he started collecting swarms to create hives when he noticed his own hive swarm last year. He rang Mornington Peninsula Shire Council offering to take care of any local bee issues, he received 10 phone calls in the first two days. So overwhelmed was he with the response, he ran out of boxes to put the swarms in. One hell of a hobby, huh?
On a global consciousness, how can I allow hives to be exterminated when bees are dying all over the world?
It pains me not to have the capacity to save all these swarms and put them to good use.
When a friend said, “Simon, you can’t save all the bees,” something clicked for Simon and Save the Bees Australia was born.
Save the Bees is a social enterprise working towards becoming a registered not-for-profit organisation offering a relocation service for swarms, free honey for those who are sick or undernourished and education programs for schools.
With one in every three mouthfuls of the food we eat pollenated by bees, there is no underestimating the importance of Simon’s mission.
It’s a cause the local community are rallying behind. With the help of volunteers, Simon has now saved and re-homed more than 70 hives that would otherwise have been exterminated.
Retired carpenter Alan Biddiscombe has generously been giving his time to make hives in his garage, and even provided a home for one of Simon’s hive in his garden.
A Mini Kitchen cafe in Rye was quick to purchase a hive to produce their own honey, a local wooden boat shop is donating recycled wood, local artists created art work for a fundraising event, and an injured local ranger has joined the crusade too.
At a cost of $260 per hive, Simon has poured enormous amounts of his own time and money into saving as many bees as he can. On top of his day job, Simon dedicates up to 15 hours a day visiting bees, educating school children, raising awareness through social media and organising fundraising events. His aim is to save 400 hives in the next decade.
Apparently I’m sleeping and talking about bees. But I love it. It feels like a calling. It never feels like work.
The movement has already spread its wings as far as Africa, with some of the donations to Save the Bees Australia going to “Bee the Cure Africa – a project helping fund hives in a community in Uganda, in which Mbine Innocent, a local traditional bee keeper is creating employment opportunities for local orphans. They’ve so far colonised 85 hives, 500 is the target.
Simon’s work is also attracting the attention of bee keepers from all over the world and even musician Ben Lee and fashion icon Alexa Chung who are counted among his growing social media following.
Explaining the importance of this issue, Simon says:
The state of bee keeping around the world is in calamity and a close state to disaster.
“Colony collapse disorder and varroa mite (a parasite that attacks honey bees) have hit every continent but Australia. In Europe and North America they have started to ban neonicotonoids (a pesticide attributed to colony collapse disorder).”
Australia is yet to follow suit in banning neonicotonoids. Simon has created a petition to ban the use of these insecticides from being sold in Woolworths and injected into Victorian pine trees – you can sign it here.
“We are in a privileged position here in Australia and if anything we ought to have more stringent laws for insecticide use and the transportation of bees,” says Simon.
“Australia is a major exporter of bees and by keeping our population healthy we have the potential to re-populate the world’s bees.
Saving the bees is literally saving the human race. If they go we go. There is nothing more important.
To find out more about Save the Bees Australia and what you can do to help go to:
If you’d like to know more about what’s being done at a local level to help save our bees check out my story on Melbourne City Rooftop Honey.