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Tag Archives: beekeeping

  • Creating a bee beard... at the Royal Easter Show

    Each year the NSW Apiarists Association has a stand at Sydney's Royal Easter Show.  It is the single biggest fund raising initiative annually and the funds raised keep the association going.  Staffed entirely by volunteers, most of whom are beekeepers with a wealth of knowledge and experience, it is a great educational initiative. [There are also a few of us with very little beekeeping experience but a bucket load of passion for bees!]

    The goal of Honeyland is to educate people about bees and honey.  It sits alongside the entries for the National Honey Show showcasing honey, beeswax, beeswax candles, bee pollen, frames of honeycomb, mead and all manner of other bee-created goodness.

    Whilst we all like to eat fruit and veggies, and most of us like to eat honey, our bee sisters have suffered for many years with a bad reputation.  Like most people, insects and animals, honeybees have a mechanism for communicating their displeasure if they feel like they are under attack... they sting.  Much like you or I may shout or lash out if someone trod on us, a honeybee will sting when they feel threatened.  Thankfully European honeybees don't generally attack if they're not provoked and most people aren't even aware of their work in our gardens and parks every day.  They are absolutely necessary if we want to live in a green city. Recognising this, a few years ago the NSWAA established a "Bee-Zeebo" to do live bee demonstrations to educate people about bees and honey.

    Live bee demonstration in the Bee-zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show) Live bee demonstration in the Bee-zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show)

    One of the primary educators is Bees In The City's very own bee whisperer, Bruce White OAM.  Like watching or listening to anyone who is extremely skilled in their chosen profession, watching and listening to Bruce is mesmerising... particularly if you're interested in bees!

    Bees In The City, Bruce White - Bee Whisperer My fabulous business partner for Bees In The City, Bruce White

    This year, for the first time, a beekeeper, Craig Klingner, demonstrated a bee beard.  To make a bee beard, the queen bee is put in a 'queen cage' (with a few attendants) and hung around the beekeepers neck.  Her progeny (worker bees) are then let out of the hive where they will climb up the beekeepers and gather around their queen.  With over 10,000 worker bees clustered around his neck and face it was a great demonstration of the safety of working with bees (if you know what you're doing) and their in built mechanism to gather around their queen (much like you see when there is a swarm).

    Craig Klingner beekeeper bee beard honeyland Craig Klingner demonstrating a bee beard in the Bee-Zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show Sydney)
    Craig Klingner beekeeper bee beard honeyland Sydney Royal Easter Show Craig Klingner demonstrating a bee beard in the Bee-Zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show Sydney)
    Craig Klingner beekeeper bee beard honeyland Sydney Royal Easter Show Craig Klingner demonstrating a bee beard in the Bee-Zeebo at Honeyland (Royal Easter Show Sydney)


    Oh, and did I mention that our 45cm dipper beeswax taper candles won first prize?!  Happy days.  We don't have them available online because we can't find a box suitable to ship them in (any box that long is as wide and high and thus we get killed on postage), but they are available at the hive and some of our lovely retailers.

    Queen B Pure beeswax taper candle first prize Sydney Royal Easter Show Did I mention that our 45cm tapers won first prize?! :-)

    Next time you're at the Easter Show, remember to pop into Honeyland to taste the honey's for sale and support the NSW Apiarists Association and the beekeepers that keep us nourished (and naturally sweetened)!

    Cate xx

  • That's enough about me... what do you think of me?

    OK, so this post borders on narcissism, BUT anyone who makes a product will tell you that there is nothing like the thrill you get when you see it loved in someone's home.  And so, a few photographs that I snapped when I was staying with Joost & Jen (+ girls, dog, chooks & bees)...

    Bee Bottles, Vases & Jars
    Bee Bust & other assorted Queen B goodies
    Broken bottles from Dom installation & Queen B reversible candleholders
    Joost's beehives... pollinating his 9 acres of flowers & veggie patch
  • My "fourth" Tassie highlight

    After much contemplation I have decided it is simply impossible to narrow down my other highlights from Tasmania to a 'fourth'.

    Do I write about the couple of nights I spent with customers who became friends and recently moved to Tassie having designed and built the home of their dreams?  This is the view from their balcony (that's Maria Island in the background).  It is such a privilege and inspiration to share someone else's dream.

    Living the Dream - Balcony View in Orford


    Or do I write about the extraordinary beauty of Freycinet National Park, and the angel (from the Blue Mountains) who I gave a lift to and who returned the favour tenfold when I started the walk to the Wineglass Bay Lookout only to have a panic attack and flashbacks to when I got lost on a mountain in Canada 17 years ago?! (long sentence... long story)  I can't actually recall thinking much about it in the last 16 years, but then again, I haven't done much bush walking in the ensuing 16 years either.  My recall was certainly very powerful on the day, and it just so happened that said angel who I gave a lift to just happened to be a bushwalking guide and just happened to have had panic attacks herself in the past, and just happened to know exactly what to do!  I made it to the lookout (which was spectacular) and put those demons behind me.  The photograph below is from the lighthouse walk in Freycinet National Park.

    Freycinet National Park


    Another highlight for me was staying at a B&B in Swansea called Schouten House.  The owners, Cameron and Jodie, moved to Swansea from South Australia about 5 years ago.  Anyway, as I was paying and saying goodbye, it somehow came up that I made beeswax candles.  Jodie asked me what the name of my business was.  When I told her it was Queen B, she got quite teary.  Evidently someone does read my blog and in some ways my journey was providing comfort or inspiration for their own fabulous journey into small business, following their dream and creating something that is unique and filled with integrity!  At a time when I was utterly exhausted and questioning everything, it was an absolute gift to have that feedback.

    Schouten House


    Another highlight for me was simply the sheer beauty of the Tassie countryside.  Here a vineyard with Freycinet National Park in the background.  I can never get enough of the Australian countryside and I'm a complete sucker for a roll of hay, a field of poppies (yes, they grow poppies for opium in Tassie!), cattle, rolling hills and vast blue skies.

    Scenic beauty on the East Coast of Tassie


    I kind of ruled out making Bridestowe Lavender Farm my fourth highlight because again it was all about bees, and I wouldn't want you thinking that I need to get a life or anything like that.  Below is a photograph looking across the lavender fields to their apiary.  Not only do the bees pollinate the lavender, but they also sell Bridestowe Lavender Farm honey from their hives.

    Apiary at Bridesdowe Lavender Farm


    Bees pollination lavender at Bridestowe


    Another gratuitous bee close up


    After my stint beekeeping, I went to Cradle Mountain for a couple of days and did the Dove Lake walk on one of those days.  The walk started cloudy and moody (which is actually kind of beautiful when you're in Cradle Mountain), but cleared up to reveal her glittering beauty.  I also happened upon a very tame wallaby sitting on a rock and had my moment of kangaroo whispering which ended up with the wallaby having a little neck and back scratch all the while one eye closed and urging me "a little lower... a little to the left... no down, now right... yes, that's it... now scratch"!

    Dove Lake walk with Crade Mountain clouded in background (this was at the start of the walk)


    Dove Lake walk with Cradle Mountain in rear


    Incredibly tame local


    My least favourite part of Tassie was Strahan - I think partly because of the weather (15 degrees, raining and windy for the 3 days), partly because one company owns the entire town (yes, all the various levels of - overpriced - accommodation, plus the pub, the fish shop, the cafe, the restaurant, the tourism centre, even the boat that does the cruises on the river) and its pretty kitsch.  However, having said that, I did the cruise (because I wanted to see the leatherwood forests from the amazing Franklin River, and the photograph below is one of my favourites from the entire trip.  Talk about shades of gray...  I don't usually acknowledge shades of gray in life!

    Macquarie Harbour (Strahan)


    Another big highlight was meeting Yves Ginat, the beekeeper behind Miellerie honey which we sell a LOT of at the hive.  Yves honey is sublime and he has the artisan approach and attention to detail that we love at Queen B.  Learning about beekeeping told by a beekeeper with a strong french accent makes it all sound about as divine and romantic and pure as I know it to be... apart from the fact that he must have been bathing in oil of olay because I also met his 16 year old daughter!  Amazing.  I think he may have been hoeing into the royal jelly - known throughout Asia as a youth elixir.

    Yves from Miellerie Honey


    And finally, I couldn't not have told you about the boat trip that I did around Tasman Island which included an endless array of seals which were just fascinating to watch.

    Seal off Tasman Island


    More seals around Tasman Island


    So there it is... a little late in finishing, but you get the gist.  If Tassie weren't on your bucket list prior to now, put it on there.  I actually think the Tasweigans have it right (as opposed to being backward)!  Life is a little slower, but they do what they do REALLY well (amazing honey, amazing wines, amazing cheeses, amazing beauty, great opium - if you're into that sort of thing, fabulous museum, great cooking school etc etc and they seem to be really into supporting Australian made).  Even the Pure Tasmania tourism campaign (which is a little ironic given they are still systematically destroying their old growth forests) is clever.  Tourism NSW, where the bloody hell are you?

  • My favourite work of art at MONA, Tasmania


    The rest of my "Highlights from Tassie" posts appear in no particular order.  They were all equally magical in their own way.

    The one I'm sharing today is about my favourite work of art at MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) in Tasmania.  I am confident that it was not a curated part of the exhibition, but if art is something that provokes an emotional response, that makes you stop and ponder, that is visually grabbing and that inspires you, then this was, hands down, the highlight for me.

    OK, so I'm not going to win any cinematography awards, the resolution is dodgy and whatever I was doing that makes the click, click sound is a little annoying, BUT these are my highlights and unfortunately that is the best that I can do to share with you what was a completely profound and beautiful moment, indeed one of the 4 most profound and beautiful moments in 2 ½ weeks in Tassie... which is only a reflection on my camera skills, not on the rest of my time in Tassie.

    Hopefully it will inspire you to look for more bees in your day and watch with delight as they go on their merry way.


    [BTW the building is also striking and stunning and the rest of the art was, I thought, variable but entertaining].  MONA request on their website that photographs of the art not be published without permission... so we'll just stick to the building and my favourite work of art.  I really hope you enjoy it too.  There is something so delightful about seeing nature in all its glory and loving itself sick!  The garden was pumping like a mardi gras dance floor.  Flitting here and there.  Sequins and tiara's.  Bum waggles.  A touch of pink.  And oh so beautiful to watch!

    [No, I'm not outing myself, I love a gay man as much as all of us other single Sydney chicks too terrified of getting hurt!]
    MONA Gallery, Tasmania


    I only realised the irony of this photograph later... I wonder if he chose the t-shirt specifically?


  • Bag a bargain at BrookSALE

    Discover your local retailers in the back streets of Brookvale and bag yourself a bargain at BrookSALE

    Saturday, 26th November 2011

    Occupy Brookvale!

    The back streets of Brookvale are a hive of businesses manufacturing and supplying goods to retailers Australia wide.

    Join us for the inaugural BrookSALE on Saturday, 26th November 2011 (9am – 4pm) and discover:

    • hand-crafted Australian beeswax candles and honey at Queen B,
    • beautiful European tableware from Villeroy & Boch,
    • gorgeous French glassware from La Rochere at Mosaique,
    • Australia’s yummiest jams, marmalades and chutneys at Hank’s Jam
    • Australian made gates made to survive Australia’s harsh climate at Leisurewood Gates

    Meet the makers.  Meet the importers.  Meet your neighbours and do your Christmas shopping locally.  In fact, at these prices, why not decorate your entire home (and entry gate) and then sit down to some candlelit sourdough toast with Hank’s jam?!

    With unbeatable offers and discount prices BrookSALE is brought to you by:

    Hanks Jam - With over 30 delicious product offerings in 3 different sizes we cater for almost all tastebuds. Using only the best natural ingredients, no artificial flavourings or preservatives, our Jams and Chutneys are being used by the most discerning chefs, food stylists and discerning customers nationwide. (

    Leisurewood Gates - Leisurewood Gates was established in 1981.  We specialise in custom made joinery and steel/timber automatic gates.  We’ll be showcasing our new laminated timber gates at BrookSALE made from Cedar and Silver Birch. These high quality laminated timbers produce gates that are cheaper and more adaptable than traditional joinery gates and they’re made in Australia to survive the harsh Australian climate.  (

    Mosaique – Importers of French made glassware and soaps and body products from the south of France. We have a wide range of fabulously scented soaps, hand creams and body lotions, just perfect for gift giving. Table linen and dinnerware to make your Christmas table something special. Vases and ceramics – all made in France. Come along and speak French, discuss your French holiday with experts who really know France while grabbing a bargain.

    Queen B – Come down to Queen B’s hive and meet our talented candle-makers as you watch the process of beeswax candles being hand-made.  Indulge your taste buds with over 22 varieties of Australian honey – and meet our beekeepers too.  Northern Beaches local beekeeper, Shannon Schmidt, will be onsite as will Bruce White, OAM – one of Australia’s most experienced beekeepers.

    Villeroy & Boch - As a leading name in European tableware, Villeroy & Boch offers an array of stylish solutions to turn a house into a home.  Innovative creativity has been integral to the character of the company for more than 260 years.  Today, a contemporary selection of ceramic designs, cutlery, glassware and accessories awaits those looking to create a home environment that reflects their personality.

    BrookSALE - Google Maps



    Look for the red BrookSALE flags as you drive around behind Warringah Mall and grab great gifts at amazing prices to give your family and friends this Christmas

  • Bees In The City - Cast Your Vote on our New Logo

    I've recently set up a new business with a good friend, Bruce White OAM (got to love those initials)!

    Bruce was the gem who set up the hive for me on my balcony, and as anyone who has read this blog would know, I am completely obsessed with my balcony bees!  So I got to thinking that more people needed to be able to have bees - not just for the joys of managing bees, but because more and more people have veggie patches in the city and that means we need more and more bees in the city for pollination (not to mention the parks and gardens).  By now you can work out where the business name - Bees In The City - came from!  Imaginative huh?!

    Of course, I am an expert in running businesses that make no money (and Bruce is a bit of an expert at that too), so the challenge became a way of making the venture viable.  Hence the idea to do hives for restaurants and hotels.  We provide the hives and the management expertise and honey extraction equipment and services and they have the job and benefit of using their own honey in their restaurant or selling their own honey.

    Anyway, I used DesignCrowd to run a logo design competition and would love your thoughts.  You can see the shortlist and case your vote here -

    Recently my candlemaker, who had never seen a beehive before (even though we have random scout bees scoping our premises daily), came to see my hive.  I love the sequence of photographs below which occurred in less than half an hour!

    BEFORE realising how gentle bees really are


    AFTER realising how gentle bees really are


  • The 'other' queen

    Last week I opened the hive to see how things were going (very well it would seem) and I managed to get a sneaky shot of the other queen...

    Queen B's queen bee


    She's the large one in the centre looking like she's tired and over laying eggs!

    A couple of other beautiful shots too... the one following is of a worker bee cleaning her proboscis (that's the bee's mouth) which is straw-like to allow her to suck nectar from the flowers.

    Proboscis polishing


    The photograph below shows worker bees coming back to the hive with full pollen baskets (on their back legs).  The bees fly into a flower and, being covered in fine hair, the get covered in pollen.  They then use their front legs to tuck the pollen back into the pollen baskets on their back legs.  Amazing.  Pollen tastes a little like sweet, nutty flour and is packed with protein, amino acids and every vitamin known to mankind.  Good one nature.

    Full pollen baskets


    The final photograph I thought worthy of sharing shows that even though all the bees in a hive may have the same mother, as half sisters, they bear the markings of their different drone father's.  On the right hand side of the photograph below you can see a bee which has much darker markings than the bee below.  This is a good sign and tells the beekeeper that the queen bee mated with drones from other hives/with different genetic markers.

    Front and centre in the photograph you can also see one bee passing nectar to another.  This is part of the process by which flower nectar gets converted into honey (ie by mixing it with enzymes in the bees stomach).  It is later matured in the hive whereby the bees flap their wings to evaporate moisture from the flower nectar (which is around 70% water when collected).  When the water content reaches 15 - 17% the cell is capped to signal that the flower nectar has been ripened into honey.

    Half sisters and Sharing the Love


    There endeth the lesson.  Can't believe how much I love having bees.

    Meant to be writing a eulogy for Lizzie.  I just can't get those words to flow so easily.




    Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles, tealight candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

  • My first taste of balcony honey

    You may recall that in June I blogged about the hive I got back in March?... if not, you can read about it here -

    Well, Spring has sprung and 'the girls' appeared to be outgrowing their neuc hive.  This week I decided to give them a fully fledged 'grown up' hive before I went away.  At the same time one of our candlemakers asked me if he could come and see the hive as he hadn't seen a hive before (although he works with bees visiting him every day)!  Alas, there went my bee suit!  So, with no gloves or veil, and a pounding heart, I rehoused the girls and Friday and I have to say that it was absolutely extra-ordinary.  What a rush.  Lucky I did it when I did because they were getting seriously cramped.

    Here's a look inside the lid of the nucleus hive.  There are 3 large sections on the top right full of drone brood (ie larvae of drone bees). There were also 2 big sections of unripened Neutral Bay honey and a couple of sections of comb which had been built, but had nothing in them yet.





    In this next photograph you can see how I took the 4 existing frames from the neuc hive and added 4 new empty frames in the new larger hive.  By this stage there were about 5,000 bees flying around and looking very confused, one excited candle-maker and me trying to keep calm because bees can pick up fear.  I actually think I found that fine line between fear and excitement though.  The whole experience was quite surreal.  I am pretty sure I made several mistakes that would have had many a beekeeper stung by bees with a slightly hotter temperament, but I seemed to be forgiven my errors.  This queen makes lovely, well mannered, hard working, forgiving offspring!


    I think the following photograph is one of the best photographs I have ever taken... it shows a worker bee with her bottom in the air 'scenting' to alert the other bees where to come.  There were literally dozens of bees with their bottoms in the air...



    And finally, the prize!  Whilst the honey wasn't even ripened yet, I couldn't resist taking a little for my excited little candle-maker to share with his flatmates and for me to share with my niece and nephew who had been watching the bees with me just a few weeks ago.



    I am happy to report that Neutral Bay honey is a lovely light honey, mild in flavour (partially because it hadn't been ripened properly yet) with fruity notes and strong pine needle smoke overtones!!  I think I may have gone a little overboard on the smoke at one stage!

    Tomorrow I am off to my beekeeping conference for 10 days.  How exciting!

    Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

  • The Secret Life of Bees -

    I just came across an old issue of Mindfood magazine which had a great article on beekeeping in Tassie... with a couple of super recipes - Honey Madeleines  and Cinnamon and Honey Swirl Teacake.  I think I'm going to give those madeleines a bit of a run myself this weekend.

    Below is a transcribed copy of the article.  Or you can click on the link below to open a pdf.

    201105 Mindfood - The Secret Life of Bees_email

    The secret life of bees
    MiNFOOD meets the clever creators, and the brave apiarists keeping us in honey.
    BY Laura Venuto | May 13, 2011

    Next time you drizzle honey onto your morning toast, spare a thought for Ewan Stephens. Not only did his day start at 4am, he also had to deal with some pretty aggressive passengers riding on the back of his truck. “They were very nasty today,” he says gravely.

    “When you unload the hives it’s nice to have sunshine so they can fly around and look around for the leatherwood flowers. But when it’s overcast, they just hang around you and get pretty nasty.” While Stephens has stopped counting the stings, one beekeeper they had in from Germany counted every one. “He worked out it was about 2300 stings for the season,” he says.

    Stephens is a third-generation apiarist, and works with his brothers Kenneth and Neal, and their mother, Shirley, whom they affectionately refer to as the queen bee. Stephens was taught beekeeping from age eight by his father and grandfather. It was his grandfather Robert who started R Stephens honey company ( as a post-World War I hobby in 1920. It is now the second-largest honey producer in Tasmania; its second-biggest export market is New York.

    In a secluded clearing in the pristine world-heritage rainforest areas on the beautiful west coast of Tasmania, Stephens has just unloaded about 100 hives. He will do 24 of these loads over 24 nights to various leatherwood locations on the west coast – a total of 2400 hives. It is early February and the leatherwood trees are just starting to flower. Tasmania is the only place the leatherwood tree grows, making this distinctive-tasting honey all the more unique.

    “Our leatherwood trees are normally 400 years old,” says Stephens. “It doesn’t yield honey until it’s 80 years old. It’s a very poor generating tree. We tried to replant them 30-40 years ago but it wasn’t successful. If you burn leatherwood forests out, they’re gone forever. It’ll never come back.”

    The leatherwood season is very short, so special bees have been bred to suit the unique conditions. “On the mainland you get honey 10-12 months of the year, but here you only get honey for up to eight weeks,” Stephens explains. “In that time, you’ve got to produce a lot of honey. So our bees are bred from an English black and an Italian gold bee. They’re a very high-production bee and they work very hard for us.

    Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

  • Popping in to see 'the girls'

    For many years I was under the mistaken impression that as I lived in an apartment I couldn't have a bee hive.  Turns our I was wrong.  So several months ago I got a hive.  At this stage is is only a neuc (a very small hive).  But when we make it through winter and the queen starts laying frantically in Spring, we'll put a full size box there and a honey super.

    We have the entry to the hive facing away from my balcony doors (it faces the park opposite where I live) and I haven't had a bee come into the apartment once (despite leaving the doors open all day every day in the warmer months).  On my days off, if the bees are working, I will and sit a foot away from the hive and watch the girls to check that they're finding pollen and that everything seems in order

    Anyhow... I thought I'd give 'the girls' a few months to settle in before popping in to check they were happy.  Finally on Monday I had a look.


    [Side note - my friend, Bruce, who set up the hive is something of a bee whisperer.  He's been around bees his whole life.  I, on the other hand, have a long history of asthma attacks and have never been stung by a bee (despite having them here at work every day).  So, I mentioned to Bruce that I'd bring my 'bee suit' home and he said I wouldn't be needing it.  Turns out he was right... again.  No bee suit.  No gloves.  Just Bruce, 5000 females and me!]




    Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.


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