A traumatised veteran has revealed how he found a new sense of purpose after putting a swarm of bees he found in a supermarket in a box and driving them home, where he then found that his wife had, by chance, bought him a beehive.
Daniel Hooper from Ballarat in the State of Victoria, southeastern Australia, admitted he had been living like a “hermit” locked away in his room watching TV and YouTube when the bees changed everything.
Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the former member of the Royal Australian Navy withdrew from any leisure-time activities.
He told ABC News: “I wasn’t leaving the house. I pretty much spent my days watching telly and YouTube.”
Daniel – who reportedly served in war-torn countries – had considered engaging in apiculture but had never got around to it until he encountered a bee swarm as he popped out to go shopping.
Reflecting on the day which eventually had a significant impact on his life, he told ABC News: “There was a swarm of bees in the car park. I found myself watching them settle in a bush and thought: ‘This is my opportunity to get my bees.'”
Daniel put the social insects in a cardboard box from the boot of his car.
Looking back on his time in the Navy, he said: “You’re trained to do a job and sacrifice pretty much everything else to do what the task at hand is.”
Daniel told ABC News Australia that establishing his own apiary gave him “a belief there’s always a purpose.”
He claimed: “It’s just a matter of finding it.”
Today, Daniel manages around 40 hives.
The Ballarat Veterans Assistance Centre (BVAC) member said: “Beekeeping is almost like a form of meditation, without knowing you’re doing it. Bees soon let you know if you’re not focused. They’ll sting you if you’ve done something wrong.”
Daniel encourages any veteran to try themselves at beekeeping. He appealed to those who struggle with mental issues: “Don’t bottle it up. The more you do, the worse it becomes.”
The Ballarat-based NGO HiveMind Community Apiary recently launched its beekeeping course initiative aimed at veterans struggling with PTSD and depression.
The Ballarat Times reports that the organisation wants to “offer them a new hobby and potential stress-relieving outlet.”
HiveMind’s programme – which has been funded by the state government – features comprehensive workshops on the various aspects of apiculture.
Daniel – who volunteers at HiveMind – is convinced that beekeeping “saved my life.”
He told the Ballarat Times: “A lot of veterans, when we get out of the defence forces, we suffer mental health issues and struggle to have a sense of purpose, so caring for a hive full of bees, or a couple, can give you a sense of belonging.”