Bellingen Shire’s honey story is a rich one and one we thought worth exploring for our ‘Season of Food’ promotion. We are fortunate to have many registered honey beekeepers in the Shire and to date, we haven’t seen the ravages of the ‘global honey-bee decline’, which has been attributed to industrial agriculture, parasites, pathogens and climate change. Due to the diversity of our local flora, we produce “a lovely rich multi flora bend which constantly changes with the seasons. And because of our optimal climate and our mild winters, we have a relatively good nectar flow year round” says Jeff Daley of ‘The Honey Place’ Urunga.
And let’s face it, we all love honey- which was so well encapsulated by A.A Milne:
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
So we caught up with some of Bellingen Shire’s honey producers only to discover – there isn’t really any sting in this tale. And what better place to start than ‘The Honey Place’.
Jeff, can you give us ‘The Honey Place’ history?
The Honey Place was established in Urunga in 1982 and opened Mother’s Day 1983 by my parents Kelly and Norma Daley. Today I’m managing The Honey Place, with my daughter Roz and son in-law Sandy. It is very much a family orientated business.
How many different blends do you sell?
At any one time we can have between 8-10 different varieties of Pure Honey. We also have 8 infused Honey’s which we do in house and are a mix of pure honey and natural additives.
Tell me why we should eat honey.
Because it taste delicious!! Honey has many health benefits too. High quality honey contains many important antioxidants. It is also known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Should you lead a healthy lifestyle, honey can assist in many areas of your health and well being.
Is your market mostly local or do you sell across NSW/Australia?
Our biggest market are visitors to the area. We also have a large Sydney following, which is maintained through mail order.
Do you produce the bulk of the honey you sell?
We produce 90% of the Coastal honey we have on our shelves. However, we do support a number of amateur bee keepers in the area by buying their honey. The original owner Kelly had kept bees as a hobby. But his passion was to open up a “honey” shop. The 3 current managers didn’t start out as Bee Keeper’s but since joining the business in 2004 we gained a passion for it, it gets in your blood.
Can you give one tip to locals wanting to become one of Bellingen Shire’s honey producers.
You definitely need to have both a passion and an interest. It isn’t as easy as it seems. The best way to begin is to get in contact with your local Beekeepers Association. Contact the Department of Primary Industries and do the ‘Beginning in Bee’s’ Course.
Just for another take- we interviewed local registered amateur bee-keeper Arthur Swinton.
How long have you been producing honey Arthur?
We first harvested our honey in late 2014.
How would you describe your honey?
I’d say it’s a mixed blossom honey. The bees are into local eucalyptus such as Bloodwood, Iron Bark and Tallow woods. There are plenty in the nearby State Forests. They also like natives eg. Grevilleas, Lemon & Aniseed Myrtles, Tea trees. Then there’s the garden, plants including Citrus (Orange, Lemon, Lime Clementine and Cumquat), Pecan, Palms, Brugmansia, Evolvulus, Salvias, Lavender, Agapanthus, Basil, Borage and Coriander. They even get into the Water Lillies on our dam and the Seteria grass seed heads in the surrounding paddocks.
Can you describe the risks and rewards?
I see the biggest challenge is ensuring that my hives remain disease free and are protected from pests like Small Hive Beetles, wax moth and ants. Another, ever present risk is that of hive ‘swarming’, where the Queen bee leaves the hive together with a significant portion of the worker population. It’s a constant task to ensure that hive conditions are optimized to prevent or minimize this issue. Apart from the obvious rewards of the delicious honey and beeswax, I’m fascinated by the bees themselves. They’re so organized and productive, with an extremely successful social structure and diligence that defies belief.
Tell me one thing about bees we may not know?
All worker bees are females. The few males (drones) allowed to remain with the hive are only there as potential mates for the Queen bee.
Do you now have a true love affair with honey?
It’s not just the incredible honey I love, its the bees too. They’re such impressive insects and vital to worldwide agriculture and the environment.
For more information about becoming one of Bellingen Shire’s honey bee keepers- contact Mid Nth Coast Amateur Beekeepers Association which holds monthly meetings to update members on current bee issues as well as helping to spread beekeeping knowledge.