The Hunter Valley Amateur Beekeeping Association was formed in East Maitland in 1964 as the third branch of the Amateur Beekeeping Association of NSW. This was ten years after the establishment of the parent body in Sydney and 29 years before the Hunter Valley Branch of the professional Apiarists’ Association was formed.
Early apiaries were in Kotara and Martinsville and meetings were held in a church hall in Adamstown. In the 1990s membership dwindled but revival followed shift of activities to the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, a move facilitated by two office bearers, Derek Humphries and Ray Bohlsen who were gardens volunteers.
Originally honey extraction was performed under shade cloth inevitably attracting myriads of bees, until the original small building was extensively renovated to house extraction equipment and approximate to food preparation requirements.
The symbiotic relationship with the Gardens has persisted with mutual benefit, the apiary located deep in the Gardens bushland growing to 20 hives.
With the cooperation of the Board, a honey shed was erected by beekeeper members in 2002 and later extended in 2008. With increasing membership and activities, a shipping container has been added nearby for further storage.
Membership has grown from single figures in the 1990s to over 280 in 2019. Meetings held on the fourth Sunday of the month at a picnic table under a tree were originally attended by a handful of members. With the blessing of the Gardens Board the “Volunteer” rotunda and more recently the larger Environment have provided more amenable accommodation for the many members and visitors attending meetings.
The club has enjoyed association with Tocal Agricultural College since the first Field Day there in 1979, a relationship shared with the corresponding branch of the professional Apiarists’ Association.