Obit of the Day: Queen of Bees
While attending the University of Sydney, Gretchen Wheen discovered a swarm of bees and did what any college student would do - she collected the bees and set up a hive on her balcony. Thus began her career as an apiarist. Wheen, who was raised in England but sent to Australia during World War II, became internationally known for her commercial beekeeping. She would raise and then ship entire hives across the country and around the world.
Realizing that hives were rather heavy, Wheen began focusing on he cultivation and export of queen bees, as well as a developing techniques for artificial insemination of the queens. She also helped establish Australia’s Honeybee Quarantine Facility for the importation of bees in 1980. (The country closed the facility in 2001, which infuriated Wheen.) Wheen recognized the importance of honeybee to Australia’s food supply and donated her farm, “Gretchen’s,” for research and food supply preservation, while she was still living.
Wheen died at the age of 82.
Note: Wheen’s father worked as Keeper of the Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum and translated Erich Maria Remarque’s World War I classic, All Quiet on the Western Front into English.
(Image of Ms. Wheen at her farm is courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald)