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There's a buzz around backyard beekeeping, as people embrace healthy and organic foods

A man in a protective bee suit holds a frame from a beehive with bees on it.
The average backyard hive houses more than 50,000 bees.

ABC News: James Carmody

Backyard beekeeping is the buzz around Perth with the number of Western Australians embracing healthy eating options and taking up the hobby tripling from last year.

The WA Apiarists Society (WAAS) said it had helped at least a dozen newbies or "newbees" each week set up their first hive in recent months, with memberships growing from about 350 last year to 1,200 in 2017.

Spokesman Dan Dowsett said beekeeping had become trendy of late, which he believed was mainly attributed to growing demand for healthy and organic foods.

"A lot more people are asking for natural foods, whole foods and slow foods," he said.

"Even the doctors will tell you to eat honey when you've got a cough."

Mr Dowsett said the demand was not just for the honey bees' produce, but for the positive effect increased pollination has on the health of veggie patches.

There are more than 37,000 registered bee hives in WA, maintained by more than 2,000 beekeepers.

Ninety-five per cent of these beekeepers, also known as apiarists, are amateurs, often with just one or two hives in their backyard.

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Experienced beekeeper Dan Dowsett says WA bees make the world's best honey.

ABC News: James Carmody

Parasitic mite decimating bee populations

Department of Primary Industries entomologist Sonya Broughton said healthy eating trends were definitely boosting interest, but she was hopeful the larger environmental benefits would ensure it was not just a flavour of the month.

Dr Broughton said agriculture globally had been drastically impacted by global declines in bee populations in recent years due to disease and the parasite Varroa Mite.

"Varroa Mite has been spreading throughout the world and Australia is one of the last countries that is free from it," she said.

"The Western Australian bee industry is free of many diseases found in other parts of the world and other parts of Australia so we have very strict quarantine requirements" she said.

UWA researcher and apiary manager Tiffane Bates said Western Australians were realising the potential of the state's geographical protections.

Ms Bates said they were seizing on the opportunity to keep healthy, disease-free bees and boost local populations of the insect.

"I think there's something really crucial about it, and also romantic for people that they can, in their backyard, do something big for the whole picture."

A woman wearing a headscarf holds a frame covered in bees from a hive.
Tiffane Bates says it's a good idea to buy a spare bee suit for friends so they can help out.

ABC News: James Carmody

Ms Bates said it was important new beekeepers were trained and properly set up with the right gear, including the hive, tools, a smoker and a bee suit.

"I think there's this idea from some people that you can just put the beehive in there and it will look pretty and just do its own thing," she said.

"But they're like a dog, you have to take care of them" she said.

New apiarists 'likely behind CBD swarms'

Dan Dowsett said he suspected a lack of training among some new apiarists was likely the reason for a spike in swarms in the city and suburban areas in recent weeks.

A section of busy Murray Street in Perth's CBD was bought to standstill in October as a swarm descended on shopfronts.

Mr Dowsett said bees leaving their hive and swarming was a common occurrence at this time of year as hives become too full and the bees search for a new home.

Tiffany Bates said the health of Australia's bees was an asset worth protecting and hobby beekeeping could help maintain healthy population numbers.

"We don't have a situation yet where we are desperate but it's lovely to see something happening that is actually preventative," she said.

"If WA gets these big bee diseases that are collapsing the systems globally, we will have a small army of people who actually know what they're doing."

Registration of a hive costs $75 and allows authorities to monitor hives to control disease. The penalty for owning unregistered hives can be up to $2,000.