The Hive of Life, Beekeepers of the Coast
Bees are the ‘canary in the coalmine’: if bees die, so do we. Fortunately, there are people all along the coast not only looking after our interests by looking after the bees but selling delicious, pure Australian honey, too. Coastbeat meets four north coast apiarists.
Amber Drop Honey, Port Macquarie area
Ana and Sven from Amber Drop Honey started as Bee Rescuers. Didn’t know that these well-armed little wild things needed rescuing? “When a colony makes a home in an inconvenient place it worries people,” Ana tells me. “Calling a pest control company means killing the bees. The alternative option is to find someone like us to rehome the colony safely. We once rescued a colony that had set up home inside a rowing boat!”
Sven from Amber Drop Honey
Amber Drop Honey started as Sven and Ana’s personal contribution to helping our environment. Now it is Sven’s fulltime job. “Bees’ difficulties in surviving are a clear indication that we are coming to a tipping point in our environment,” says Ana. “But everyone can help bees, through everyday choices: plant bee-friendly flowers, avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides and purchase honey from a local beekeeper.”
Putting money where our mouths are, and inspired by the success of Flow Hive (see article in our Winter issue), Ana and Sven are crowd-funding to build a portable extracting, bottling and training facility for apiarists to help them market their honey direct to the public. They hope to create a ‘honey collective’ of pure Australian honey. Their website has more information – amberdrophoney.com.au
It’s Naturally Honey, Taree
Vicky from It’s Naturally Honey, started beekeeping by accident. Nine years later her full-time job is selling honey, honeycomb and queen bees. Despite the hard yakka, stings and seasonal ups and downs, she still considers bees ‘fascinating little creatures’. Vicky’s husband calls her bees, ‘the new chooks’.
Image courtesy of Vicky from It’s Naturally Honey
Beekeepers come from all walks of life, Vicky says, and their numbers are growing. Without mentioning names, she cites a Governor of NSW as an avid beekeeper. Her local association in the Manning Valley has some 1,600 members. Vicky recommends that beginners join a local amateur club and find a friendly beekeeper mentor, much like herself. But she warns: “If you’re only in it for the honey, stay out. Our bees are too precious, and we can’t afford for them to be wiped out.”
Mila and Maple’s Arakoon Apiary, South West Rocks
When Bellingen beekeepers gave Jerome Allen a chunk of honeycomb to try he was transported back to memories of his own childhood in the south of France, sucking on fresh honeycomb. “It was magical,” he says. “I placed my first box in the front yard and immersed myself in everything to do with bees and beekeeping.”
Jerome has partnered with his young granddaughters, who the business is named after. He regards beekeeping as an honour and a privilege but also feels the responsibility of safeguarding “these magical little insects which provide two thirds of the planet’s food through pollination. We have all become aware of the global issue surrounding bee health. We can save this sacred garden for all future generations, but it needs to be done now.”
All profits from Jerome’s honey sales go towards his granddaughters’ education and Save the Bees, Australia.
Griffin Family Honey, Coffs Coast
Neil and Tanya Griffin started beekeeping for fun, but as Neil explains, “It became an obsession. If an outsider saw the effort that goes into beekeeping they would think we were plain mad, but I find it very rewarding. We keep ridiculous hours,” he says, “because shifting bees is done at night, with hundreds of kilometres between sites. But beekeepers help each other out and I think that is the best part of the game. I’ve met some great people and we always have stories to tell – usually about getting stung in the middle of the night!”
L to R Neil and Finn Griffin from Griffin Family Honey, image courtesy of the Griffins
Neil worries about the future for his kids and his bees. “If you couple deforestation and monocropping with pesticide, herbicide and fungicide use then the odds aren’t good for bees. Or us.”
That’s the sting in our tale. Bees are our early warning system. Without bees we have no flora and without plants well… you know the rest. So here is the challenge to Coastbeat readers: plant bee-friendly bushes and buy your pure, unadulterated honey locally. Sweet.
To purchase honey from these beekeepers; Organics MattR in Port Central stock the full range of Amber Drop Honey (such as ginger, chilli, coconut and with honeycomb included).
Amber Drop is also available from Nourished Earth at Moonee Market and online at www.nourishedearth.com.au Nourished Earth is also your go-to for Griffin Family Honey.