Inside the Collection

Bee Delighted

Papier mache insect model of queen bee 1883
148 Insect model, queen bee, papier mache / metal, made by Dr Auzoux, Paris, France, 1883

If you’re in Maitland between 21 and 29 April, drop into Brough House in Church Street, to see some of the Powerhouse Museum’s beekeeping collection. It’s featuring in an exhibition called Amazing Bees, the contribution of JW and WS Pender to the Australasian Bee Industry.

Maitland has a long and proud history in the manufacture of beekeeping equipment. It was the home of Pender Brothers Limited, an important organisation in the New South Wales honey and beekeeping business. Penders began manufacturing beekeeping equipment in 1892 and led the field for the next eighty years. In 1899 they started publishing The Australasian Beekeeper journal, also known as ABK, that continues today. The objects on loan from the Powerhouse Museum collection were donated directly by Pender Brothers to the Museum for public education purposes in 1931. Pender Brothers also donated equipment to Hawkesbury Agricultural College apiary and offered the W S Pender Memorial Scholarship, ‘to students showing outstanding promise in beekeeping’.

All of the objects traveling to Maitland are normally displayed at the Powerhouse Discovery Centre at Castle Hill. These are just a few of them:

Brass Corneil smoker 1931
E5114 A Corneil smoker, made by Pender Brothers Limited, West Maitland, 1931. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Pictured above is a corneil smoker consisting of a brass cylindrical burner with a brass nozzle at one end. The burner is fixed to a set of bellows made form wood and leather.

Steam heated honey knife 1931
E5128-1 Steam heated honey knife ,made by Pender Brothers Limited, Maitland, 1931

Above is a steam-heated honey knife which greatly simplified the task of cutting wax cappings from honeycomb because the knife was permanently hot and did not have to be constantly rewashed and reheated.

The 1930 Pender Bros catalogue described the importance of keeping a honey knife hot and notes: “A copper boiler to place on an oil stove supplied sufficient steam to keep a knife hot all the time. It is fitted with a simple spring safety valve, which also answers for refilling with water.”

Boiler, used with steam-heated honey knife
E5128-2 Boiler, used with steam-heated honey knife, made by Pender Brothers Limited, Maitland.

A bee brush is essential for gently removing bees from a hive before working on the hive. The brush must have long soft-bristles so that it doesn’t harm the bees or delicate comb. The bristles must, however, be firm enough to be able to remove bees from frames and other equipment. Before the advent of bee brushes, beekeepers used handfuls of grass or leaves to brush their bees aside.

Wooden bee brush
E5158-1 Bee brush, wood / vegetable fibre, made by Pender Brothers Limited, West Maitland,

The Powerhouse Museum is very pleased to have the opportunity to support the Amazing Bees exhibition through this loan and we wish the Friends of Grossman House every success with their Heritage Festival events.

Amazing Bees, the contribution of JW and WS Pender to the Australasian Bee Industry will run from 21-29 April 2012 at Brough House. It’s the centrepiece of a two day event which will also include displays and talks by apiarists and associates (10.00 am to 2.00 pm on 21st and 22nd April –please book). The exhibition and event has been organised by the Friends of Grossman House, a committee of the National Trust, NSW. The exhibition is part of the National Trust Heritage Festival 2012. For more information, call Janece on 02 49334450 or Alan on 02 49336452. The Collection will also be on display over Steamfest -28th/29th April at Brough House for a Gold coin donation.

The Powerhouse Museum has an outgoing loans program.

Contributed by Katrina Hogan, Loans Registrar

2 responses to “Bee Delighted

  • I have a honey knife heater that deserves to be in the collection. 3 knives suspend into the heated water reservoir, also comes with metho burner. I live in Caloundra, Qld

    • Hi Peter,
      Thanks for getting in touch. If you’re interested in donating to the Museum’s collection please email and your offer will be forwarded to one of our Curators for consideration. There is more information about donating to the Collection here. If you have any further questions, we will be able to answer them via the above email.
      Kind regards,
      Sarah Reeves, MAAS

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