Becoming a beekeeper was a logical step for Robbie Collins - she simply loves honey.
Robbie began keeping bees three years ago after realising our bee population was struggling.
Keeping herself supplied with honey was initially her main aim but over time, her passion has expanded. She's now a member of the Shoalhaven Beekeepers Association and has taken on the role of Apiary Officer.
The club began with 32 members in 2015. Beekeeper numbers across New South Wales have exploded and the Nowra club is no different. It now has 105 members.
It meets on the third Wednesday of the month and aims to help beekeepers improve their skills and knowledge, regardless of the level of expertise and type of system they manage.
With poor rainfall in recent time, Robbie hasn't harvested much honey in the past 18-months but that hasn't dampened her enthusiasm.
She said her story is typical in the club, with many amateur beekeepers keeping bees as much for interest and helping bees as for collecting honey.
"Beekeepers come in all shapes and sizes and our youngest club member is about 11," Robbie said.
"The club is a friendly, collaborative place where more experienced beekeepers will help and mentor newcomers."
Robbie stressed caring for bees isn't a matter of getting a hive and collecting honey.
"Beekeepers are required to inspect their brood boxes for pests and diseases and to manage their hives such that the bees are healthy and happy," she said.
"Beekeepers come in all shapes and sizes and our youngest club member is about 11."Robbie Collins
"Happy bees with good hygiene generally keep their colonies very healthy.
"It is not 'grab a box and harvest in a month or two'. You do really need to be looking at your hives a number of times during the year to be in the best practice space."
While she used to worry about being stung, Robbie said she's learned the bees will react according to her touch.
"There is no doubt that the calm of the keeper who is looking at their hive affects how the bees respond to someone poking around in their home," she said.
The Shoalhaven Beekeepers Association meetings keep the formal part short and always include both educational and social gatherings.
Guest speakers include knowledgeable locals and industry experts. The most recent visitor on August 21 was Mark Page, a DPI Biosecurity Officer charged with making sure beekeepers understand the new Biosecurity Code which becomes law in July 2020.
All beekeepers are required to be registered with NSW DPI. With their close watch on their hives, amatuer beekeepers are considered to be one of the groups watching carefully to respond when pests like Varroa enter Australia.
The hives of some club members are hosted on a farm in Numbaa, close to flowering plants, trees and water - all necessary for success in beekeeping.
Interested in joining the club?