Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Bob Luttrell had a captivated audience.

I don't think I've seen a more spellbound audience than the one on Sunday that stood in the drizzle and heat for nearly two hours, listening to Bob the Bee Man.

Tèarman Garden is Bob Luttrell's research facility and working museum where every pathway in the garden is edged with current and past prototypes of his bee box design. As well as his own boxes there are ones he has collected, from Australia and overseas. Bob's passion for his small charges is evident and he is generous with his knowledge and experience, describing bee behaviour and how his increasing understanding of this has altered his own box design. As well as timber, he has tried building boxes from aerated concrete and lightweight concrete and even boxes made from styrofoam.

A few of the bee boxes.  The different species have different preferences and requirements.  Bob has experimented with many different shapes, sizes and materials.

According to Bob, the common techniques used when dividing stingless native bee colonies and harvesting their honey is messy and results in many bee deaths. His goal is to nurture the bees and do them no harm and this thinking has been behind the evolving design of his hives. After the main part of the talk under the shadecloth sail, we moved to a hive that was opened for us so we could see how his design works, cleanly splitting the box layers with no spilled honey.

With the clear divider removed, it is easy to see that the central core has nearly reached the top of the bottom level. 

Bob is also trying various designs to try to convince native bees to produce their honey in a separate box layer like a European honeybee. His goal is to design a box that is good for the bees and simple for anyone to manage. He would like to see bee boxes mass produced, possibly injection moulded in plastic and sold in nurseries and garden centres so more people would keep bees in their gardens. Definitely a man with a mission!

The current design. Bob's boxes are a result of his years of experience and research.  He has even traveled to Brazil to meet with keepers of their native stingless bees.

As well as the talk by Bob there were two plant sellers at Tèarman, one with plants for bees and the other with plants for butterflies. Amongst the bee plants I found an edible that I had only just read about the week before. Oxalis regnellii 'Triangularis' (tagged as Oxalis triangularis) is edible in all its parts, leaf, flower and tuber. The beautiful burgundy foliage contains a fair dose of oxalic acid so it is not recommended to make a meal of it too often. The tubers are supposed to be similar to Oca, but in this Brazilian native get to be only 5 cm or less. Decorative and edible, score!

You would think I'd have taken photos of the plants, but nope I was too enthralled by the bees!  I will add a photo of the lovely Oxalis...if it doesn't drown in all this rain :-(

Bob also mentioned in his talk another edible, one growing in his garden. Blue Tougue, Melastoma affine is a smallish shrub with purple flowers and edible fruit. I had it in a previous garden but haven't seen another one since. The fruit is sweet, if a bit bland but it stains the tongue dramatically (hence the common name) which made it a hit with any child I introduced to it. I asked the bee plant seller if she had any and she told me that while she had none there that it springs up all over her paddock. She is going to pot up a young one and bring it up to Toowoomba in May when she and her plants will be in town for Garden Fest.

While we were there, I also picked up a lime green 1 litre Decor water bottle, thinking it belonged to my friend who had her hands full with plant purchases. It wasn't until we got back to my house that she told me she thought it was mine! I've stolen someone's bottle :-( If it was yours or you know of someone at Tèarman on Sunday morning who lost theirs, please let me know so I can return it!

Views: 1610

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Brisbane Local Food to add comments!

Join Brisbane Local Food

Comment by Pollyanna on February 26, 2013 at 0:03
Ah. Maybe when they are older bee keeping will hold more appeal :-). I suspect I will want to go back again, as I'm bound to have more questions after I get my own box o' bees.
Comment by Andrew Cumberland on February 25, 2013 at 23:48

Oh, I was there.  I had my 16 year old with me, so I left about 10.30.  

Comment by Pollyanna on February 25, 2013 at 23:29
Thank you Andrew. It is helpful for me to document events, especially to remember dates in case I want to go back, or recommend something to a friend. The events postings here are very helpful, in the past I've often heard about things too late to fit them in. I hope you can manage to get to Tearman next year.

I've certainly been enjoying the blogs here. Even with your slightly warmer climate, I find much in common with the gardens (and gardeners) here.
Comment by Andrew Cumberland on February 25, 2013 at 22:48

I thought it was a pretty fine review Pollyanna.  

Comment by Pollyanna on February 25, 2013 at 21:30
Elaine, it may very well be a help! Most of my problems stem from a form of domestic blindness where I ignore the obvious. I can absorb an entire body of text, and somehow fail to register the title or headline; tiny buttons don't stand much of a chance.
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 25, 2013 at 19:51

I'm a Mac person too if that's any help.

Comment by Pollyanna on February 25, 2013 at 16:18
Thank you Elaine, I will try that when I get back to the Mac. I am on the iPad at the moment and things can look very different from a mobile device, I don't want to confuse myself further :-).

I am going to visit Lissa and her garden soon and she said she can walk me through a few of the features of BLF. it is so different from Folia , where I have been keeping track of my garden.
Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 25, 2013 at 10:55

Ach! Re-reading the post I've put in a 'The' second para which doesn't make any sense ;-)

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 25, 2013 at 10:48

Not so much 'wrong' as you haven't seen how it is done ;-) Do this: click on your blog title to bring up the editing page:

The see this title bar (there's one above almost every text-entering window on the site):

See the line Add: there link then a picture frame. Mouse over the picture frame to see a popup text saying image. Hit that image button and you get a window:

Navigate on your computer to where you have the image stored that you want to upload. Then when the little wheel stops spinning (you have to do this to see what I mean!) you hit OK then the image appears in the editing window. Once you're check that everything is as you want it hit 'save' bottom right I think that is, then the alterations to your post will be saved onto the site (not your computer) and everyone can then read it from then on.

And btw, you can make the editing window bigger by dragging down the bottom right corner, it makes it simpler to read what you have typed.

Comment by Pollyanna on February 25, 2013 at 9:54
The photos I attached show as links, not viewable from the blog page. I see photos displayed within other people's blog posts. What am I doing wrong?

Important note about adding photos:

Always add photos using the "From my computer" option, even if you are on a mobile phone or other device.


  • Add Photos
  • View All


  • Add Videos
  • View All

Place your business add here! ($5 per month or $25 for 9 months)

Talk to Andy on 0422 022 961.  You can  Pay on this link

© 2021   Created by Andrew Cumberland.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service