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Sandra Ullrich admits that she is
“obsessed” with bees.
She is particularly fond of the bees
inhabiting the tranquil garden of
Archbishop Wilson’s inner city home where
she has been maintaining a beehive for the
past three years.
The idea for the beehive came from chef
Steven Linsner and was supported by
the manager of the Archbishop’s House,
Simon Mills, who wanted to make the
most of “this little piece of land in the heart
of the city”.
With its diverse array of flowering plants
and trees, Sandra said the area was
“perfect” for the bees. They have just
produced their third batch of honey which
is used in the kitchen and given away as
gifts by the Archbishop. “They are like us,
they need a balanced diet,” she said of the
flora the bees pollinate.
“The environment reflects their personality
– they are incredibly gentle bees,” said
Sandra. “I just adore them.”
She praised the Archbishop for having
the nerve to develop the beehive, which
contains about 50,000 bees, saying it
sometimes took time for a community –
the human kind – to get used to the idea.
Sandra said the past-time had long been
associated with religious life, particularly
in Ireland where many churches and
monasteries kept bees.
She said you could sit and watch the bees
for hours and she had become involved for
While harvesting happens only once a year
in January, Sandra visits the house about
eight times a year, to ensure that the hive
is “queen-right, happy and healthy”.
She described the queen bee as
“particularly challenging”, having slipped
through the queen excluder (a mesh tray
where worker bees can fit through but the
queen is “too voluptuous” to get in) on a
couple of occasions.
“She (the queen bee) found a higher spot
and we had to put her back where she
belongs,” said Sandra.
Although Sandra wears a protective suit
when doing this sort of work, at other
times she is relaxed about approaching
the hive without it. “They are gorgeous,
gorgeous bees,” she said. “When I squash
them – sometimes there’s collateral
damage – I feel terrible.”
Sandra said humans had a lot to learn
from the way a bee colony was organised.
“It’s a very altruistic, democratic society,
where everyone works for the common
good,” she explained.
At harvest time, Sandra extracts honey,
which she takes home on frames, and rolls
off the wax with a knife, leaving behind
the liquid honey. This settles for a week
or two before being put into 1kg tubs, six
of which are returned to the house. There,
the staff decanters the honey into glass
jars and labels them.
There are about 20 beehives in the
city, including the Adelaide Zoo and
Government House but Sandra is looking
for more locations for her part-time
business, Adelaide Bee Sanctuary. She
has found a new ally in the Monastery
at Glen Osmond which installed two
beehives in their large and beautiful
grounds on February 14, Valentine’s Day.
Coincidentally, St Valentine is one of
several patron saints of beekeepers.
Sandra said while beekeeping was more
common in rural areas, they did not have
the all-year-round floral sources that
featured in city sites.
Simon said the beekeeping project was
“brilliant” and people were very pleased
to receive the honey as a gift from the
Bees at home in bishop’s backyard
By Jenny Brinkworth
BUSY BEES: Beekeeper Sandra Ulrich says the Archbishop’s garden has ideal flora for honey-producing bees.
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