Support takes the sting out of loss

Sticky Prick Bee Haven owner Roy Murphy who lost all of his beehives in the recent Yanchep fires. Picture: David Baylis d497508
Sticky Prick Bee Haven owner Roy Murphy who lost all of his beehives in the recent Yanchep fires. Picture: David Baylis d497508

BEEKEEPER Roy Murphy says he has been overwhelmed by community support since his business was destroyed when fire ripped through Yanchep bushland for almost a week last month.

He said he could not comprehend how much the small family-run business Sticky Prick Bee Haven had lost after he and his wife Leanne had built the venture over six years.

In two areas of bushland they had a total of 125 hives, each containing 60,000 to 140,000 bees, and 38 smaller nucleus hives, each containing about 30,000 bees.

Each hive also had a queen breeder bee, which Mr Murphy said cost about $1000 each.

Burnt and melted hives and honey crystallised the ground.

And with no time to get the honey out before the fire set in, he estimates they lost 1 to 1.5 tonnes of honey, which sells for $20 per kilogram.

“The loss of livestock is just massive,” he said.

“There’s also the hours. The hives don’t come pre-made, so you have to build them and you can’t just get a colony going like that. It takes time to get together.”

Now the Murphys’ customers and the local community have rallied to help them rebuild, with a GoFundMe page set up by Mrs Murphy so far raising more than $4000.

This money has already gone to buying 400 bee frames and the materials needed to create 40 new hives.

Sticky Prick Bee Haven owner Roy Murphy is ready to re-build. Picture: David Baylis

Mr Murphy said he had six nucleus hives ready to go and another beekeeper had also offered to lend him a hive.

“I can then build a colony and go from there,” he said.

He said it would take about 18 months to get the business back to where it was, which included finding new sites, with the previous Yanchep sites not viable for at least five to six years.

He is now looking for sites to the north or east and said he would be relying on farmers.

“It’s hard for people to understand what we have to rely on,” Mr Murphy said.

“We live off the land and if it’s damaged, we have no income to survive on.”

He said many people also did not understand the difficulties of getting insurance for his type of business.

The Yanchep bush sites destroyed by fire.

“It is hard to prove how we could stop a fire in order to get insurance,” he said.

“If the business was in our home, we would be covered by house and contents insurance.”

Mr Murphy said the support they had received felt “really good”.

“It has made me want to keep going and doing something important,” he said.

“I can’t say enough how much it has inspired me.

“It chokes you up for sure.”He said it had been a “pretty emotional” time.

“When I was eventually able to walk into the bush and saw the ground crystallised from the honey, I couldn’t believe it,” Mr Murphy said.

The honey melted and crystallised by the fire.

“I thought ‘that’s it. This is me. I’m gone.’ What do you do if this is all you know?

“I was gutted and I didn’t know what to do. “But my wife said I have to keep going.

“There have been some tears and it is still raw and it hurts but I enjoy what I do and there are a lot of others worse off.”

Mr Murphy said as a small business they had long-term goals.

“There was a big picture and it was building up,” he said.

“I wanted to build training rooms and teach children about the importance of bees.

“I had a massive picture in my head and then I thought it was over before it got going.”

However, with an extended goal of $100,000 for the GoFundMe campaign, any extra funds raised will go to realising this dream.

Sticky Prick Bee Haven owner Roy Murphy is ready to re-build. Picture: David Baylis

This will include a “bee school” for schools, community groups, farmers or interested individuals to attend workshops and courses to learn the importance of bees and their impact on the environment.

“Our hardworking Australian beekeepers are enduring one of the toughest seasons on record thanks to relentless drought and damaging bushfires, with conditions feared to only become worse in coming months,” Mrs Murphy said.

“A scarcity of water and flowering trees mean honey production has fallen sharply, bee populations have suffered, and many honey bees are currently neither producing honey nor pollinating crops.

“This impact will be felt for many years to come due to a loss of bushland and forests that are relied upon to support healthy bee colonies.

“We owe it to future generations to keep going, to educate the importance of saving these little pollinators for future generations and the wellbeing of our planet.”

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