• Left to right: Some of the staff members at Whirrakee Woodware, office manager Ali Tebb, Kayla McIntosh, Tiana Jackson, Michael Drury and factory manager Luke Stephens.
    Left to right: Some of the staff members at Whirrakee Woodware, office manager Ali Tebb, Kayla McIntosh, Tiana Jackson, Michael Drury and factory manager Luke Stephens.

One of the largest Australian manufacturers of beekeeping equipment and hive ware has now completed its move into a large new factory building at Maryborough Victoria.

Whirrakee Woodware was founded in central Victoria about ten years ago by a large scale commercial beekeeper to manufacture timber products including hive boxes and associated equipment to support his own commercial apiary operations including crop pollination in Victoria and New South Wales.

The business then passed to another commercial apiarist before it was offered for sale last year.  All the business operations and plant and machinery was then purchased on April 1 this year by former Melbourne domestic and commercial builder Peter Smith.

“I always had the hope that a business in regional Victoria would come along that would complement my skills in carpentry and building as well as my interest as effectively a hobby beekeeper", he said. When Smith purchased Whirrakee Woodware he immediately sought a new location to relocate the business with all its plant and machinery.

“We were fortunate to locate a former pine furniture factory on an industrial estate in Maryborough that had been vacated but had a lot of manufacturing infrastructure remaining including compressed air and three phase power ready to be used. In a matter of three days we had all the machinery in place, with the former factory manager Luke Stephens ready to go so we now have recruited an additional team of up to nine employees.

“With my partner Ali Tebb as office manager we also considered Maryborough as an ideal location as nearby is a major honey receival depot of the ASX listed and successful Capilano public company."

In the surrounding districts of central Victoria some of Australia’s largest commercial apiarists are engaged in crop pollination and honey production. Smith says now, six months on, the shakedown of the business into its new location is largely complete and Whirrakee Woodware is growing quickly to meet the equipment needs of both commercial and hobby beekeepers.

Whirrakee Woodware manufactures a full range of hive boxes and typical support timber hive ware products as well as stocking a comprehensive range of all beekeeping support materials.

The business is able to support the hobbyist who may only be interested in having one hive, up to the commercial scale apiarist who may need several thousand hive boxes.

Peter Smith says “in fact we are currently quoting on an order for 7,500 hive boxes for a large pollination contractor currently operating in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

The recent almond crop pollination season in the Sunraysia and Riverland required 110,000 hives to be brought in for the month long spring pollination of the almond trees on the major plantations.

Bee hives are in short supply with the almond industry alone forecasted to need another 80,000 hives over the next three years just to pollinate the almond trees that are already planted as they are ready to come into bearing. No bees equals no pollination, so no almonds!

Hobby beekeeping is also growing. The six largest hobby beekeeping clubs in Victoria are all reporting their memberships are at record levels with a high proportion being new female members. “Women seem to appreciate that the honey bee is under threat from a number of factors around the world from diseases, mono culture farming, to increased chemical use and natural vectors like the Varroa mite which has yet to reach Australia.

“In fact bees are being referred to as the new chickens of backyards in Melbourne as many people are interested in pollinating their own gardens, producing some honey, or just understanding the unique structure and behaviour of a colony of bees”.

Whirrakee Woodware sources its high quality specialty pine timber hive box material currently from New Zealand but is working towards a local supply. Peter Smith adds “we do everything in house in Maryborough to cut, profile and build a variety of hive boxes and support fittings. In addition we have a hot wax dipping and painting service so when our hive box materials leave us they are ready for use with a long life ahead”.

Peter Smith says that his next step in his business plan will be to open Melbourne Beekeeping Supplies as an easy to access retail outlet for all types of bee equipment in a warehouse he has sourced in Port Melbourne.

For more information contact Whirrakee Woodware on 03 5461 4661 or Peter Smith 0418 535 500 or Ali Tebb on 0498 102 600 or enquiries@whirrakeewoodware.com

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