John Watson’s colorful beehives are everywhere in the backyard of his Wodonga house.  

“I think bee keeping is one of the fastest growing hobbies. If not in Australia, in the world. It’s an amazing thing,” says Watson.

But Watson’s hobby goes beyond just giving him joy.  

Amateur beekeepers are also playing an important role in replenishing the Australian region’s bee numbers.

 ”I think it’s great for our environment, particularly with the fires in the Corryong district, they were wiped out. Hundreds and hundreds of hives were destroyed,” says Watson.

The Upper Murray region saw more than 430,000 hectares of land go up in flames in the 2020 black summer bushfires and the bee population is still recovering now.

“The ferocity of the fire that went through has just scorched everything. We have decimated our natural beehives,” says apiarist Matt Gledhill.

Gledhill owns 400 beehives in the region. The bees help pollinate local crops and Gledhill collects the honey they produce.

“I’ve spoken to other beekeepers who have had sites up here in the mountains and they’ve said that they don’t think…it’s going to take 25 or 30 years at least,” says Gledhill.

But the professional apiarists can’t recover by themselves. That’s where amateur beekeepers come into the picture.

Trainee apiarist Pam Noonan teamed up with Matt Gledhill to help recover hives in the Upper Murray region after the fires.

“I got contacted by a farmer that said we’ve got a hive that’s fallen over in a tree that was burnt out in the fires, so I called Matt and I said look, we’ve got to get this hive out of this tree,” says Noonan.

John Watson is kept busy with all his beehives while helping restock the region with bees.

And he invites anyone interested to follow in his footsteps.

“You’ll get a lot of joy out of one hive, and I’ve taken that joy a little bit further,” he says.

Helping the environment from his backyard.