Spring is a hive of activity (pun absolutely intended) around the High Country for nature's hardest working winged friend. The busy honey bees. And when you talk about bees, you can't go past the honey royalty of the High Country, Jodie and Steve Goldsworthy of Beechworth Honey.
You can track the history of Beechworth Honey back to the gold rush days when Jodie's great-grandfather turned to beekeeping after the search for gold eluded him. Fast forward to 2018 and Beechworth Honey is a staple in many a household, but the story goes much deeper than the sweet golden nectar that ends up on your perfectly toasted crumpets.
Jodie and Steve share a similar work ethic to their bees - determined, driven and hardworking. Dedicated to working closely with bees and nature to provide exceptional Australian honey, but to also spread the word about the vital role that bees play in Australia's food production. Now that the weather is fining up, and the diligent bees are getting down to business, let's take a little time to wonder in the marvel of these hardworking insects.
As the High Country wakes up after a chilly Winter, what is happening in the bee hive?
I love the chilly mornings and the sunny days and knowing that the start of our beekeeping season is about to begin. For everyone else, the new year begins in January but for beekeepers, it starts in August and I love the excitement and optimism for the year to come! By late Winter we have moved our hives to the warmer Riverland areas where beautiful almond blossoms begin to burst. Bees collect really nutritious pollen from almonds and they use this to expand the number of bees in the hive. Bees need pollen to breed and the hive naturally begins to expand in numbers in the Spring from its Winter dormancy.
What are the bees looking for when they have woken up from their Winter slumber?
The first mission of the foraging bees as they warm up and begin to fly is to search for pollen. The hive will have stopped breeding (think no baby bees for the last 6 months) and now its time to make up for lost time. They visit the early Spring blossom, gathering pollen that is essential for them to breed. Once there's sufficient pollen the queen begins to lay and the baby bees soon hatch. This continues for the next 6 months as long as there is enough pollen and nectar to feed the hive.
How important are the Spring blossoms and flowers to the bee population?
.Spring blossoms are absolutely essential to the bees. If there are not enough spring blossoms our job as beekeepers is to relocate the hives to where there are enough flowers. We're always on the lookout making sure we choose the best locations to keep our bees happy and healthy. The only way we get to make honey is to ensure that the bees have enough flowers to produce excess honey above what the hive needs to thrive. Only then can we remove this excess and enjoy the spoils. Every drop is precious and totally dependent on the flowers. Really as beekeepers, our constant job is being "flower scouts" and we work in tandem with the bees to make their job easier!
Do different plants and flowers influence the flavour of the honey?
Absolutely, this is what makes honey so amazing and so special. The nectar that the flower secretes is influenced by the type of plant, the location and soil it grows in and even the weather patterns. Beekeeping is a science. You really need to be a "bush botanist" and learn the art of reading nature and working with the environment and the bees. We love to share the different varietals. Australia has over 780 species of eucalypts and so our dynamic collection of over 40 different varietals is always interesting and usually contains really rare honeys that we only get to see every few years. Occasionally, like this year, we've had things like Red Sally and White Mahogany produce honey which I've never before. How exciting is that!?
Where is your favourite spot out and about in the High Country to explore in Spring?
Anywhere amongst the bush and trees in the High Country. I genuinely replenish my soul and my naturally optimistic outlook in the outdoors. I am so happy sitting on the ground under a gum tree playing with the leaves on the ground, watching the ants or other tiny insects. This is what I used to do in the same High Country locations as a kid while I waited for my parents at the beehives. I am constantly amazed by nature. This environment is my artistic inspiration, my clean air and my rejuvenation. We are so lucky in the High Country to be totally surrounded by this everywhere. If I had to choose one spot it would probably be Mt Pilot Lookout. It feels like you're miles away from anywhere, but in reality, it's just short drive from Beechworth.
Map it out for me
Hungry for more?
Winter is a time for cuddling up by the fire, eating naughty food and general soppy romance. Treat your partner and do it in style in the High Country!