The Hive of Life – Beekeepers of the North Coast

Bees are our early warning system; the ‘canary in the coal mine’: if bees die, so do we. Without bees, we have no flora and without plants well….you know the rest. Fortunately, there are people all along the coast looking after our interests by looking after the bees and selling delicious, pure unadulterated honey too. Coastbeat meets a handful of north coast apiarists.

It’s Naturally Honey, Taree

Vicky from It’s Naturally Honey started beekeeping by accident. Nine years later it is her full-time job 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’.

Beekeepers come from all walks of life, Vicky says, and their numbers are growing. 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.” Contact Vicky at E: itsnaurallyhoney@gmail.com

Beekeepers North CoastImage courtesy of It’s Naturally Honey in Taree

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!”

Amber Drop Honey started as Sven and Ana’s personal contribution to helping our environment. Now it is Sven’s full-time 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.” For more info: www.amberdrophoney.com.au

The Hive of Life – Beekeepers of the North Coast
Sven and Ana from Amber Drop Honey with their product range

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.

Live in the Macleay Valley? Contact Jerome to buy some honey: jah.roam@gmail.com

Orara Valley Honey, Nana Glen

Beekeeper Glenn Locke started his beekeeping career at a high school agriculture course. Now he keeps about 80 hives and sells bees and honey products throughout the area.

“Beekeeping is a bit of a dark art,” he says, tongue in cheek. “Nothing is clear-cut or black and white. There is a saying that if you ask 10 beekeepers the same question you will get 15 different answers.”

Glenn recommends beginner beekeepers join a club and seek support from an experienced apiarist. He sells queens and nucleus hives from his Italian variety European bees and offers workshops for beginner beekeepers. He is happy to talk bees anytime: www.oraravalleyhoney.com.au

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.”

The Hive of Life – Beekeepers of the North Coast
The Griffin Family 

Neil operates within 150kms of home but knows fellow apiarists who will drive up to 10 hours away in search of suitable fields. “We keep ridiculous hours because shifting bees is done at night, with hundreds of kilometres between sites. Beekeepers help each other out and I think that is the best part of the game. I’ve met some really good blokes and we always have stories to tell – usually about getting stung by thousands of bees in the middle of the night!”

But living to tell the tale. As an ex-chippie, Neil is pretty down-to-earth, but he 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.”

The Hive of Life – Beekeepers of the North Coast
Neil Griffin gets a helping hand from his son Finn 

That’s the sting in our tale. Coastbeat strongly encourages you all to plant bee-friendly bushes and buy beautiful, pure honey locally (the NSW Amateur Beekeepers Association is a great place to start: www.beekeepers.as.au)

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.