Working with nature to produce pure honey
An unforgettable experience in country living is what you will find when you visit Beewise at Termeil. You will be greeted by friendly dogs romping around fruit and nectar producing trees just so the bees that flock to them can make pure honey. If you hear any strange squawking it is most likely the resident goose, Frank or Andrew, the peacock. Pure honey from Termeil comes from this apiary.
Deep in the recess of the farm is the apiary. It is the centrepiece yet it is not on display. Ian Lees prefers to let the bees live out a peaceful existence in their hives with as little disturbance as possible. However, their pure honey and beeswax candles are prominently featured at the shop’s display stand at the entrance.
Committed to the highest quality
Ian stumbled upon bee-keeping quite by accident. Equipped with a degree in agriculture, thirthy-three years ago, he began training to be a teacher at the local high school. His supervisor asked him one day to teach a class of 15-year-olds about bees. Ian began researching extensively. His interest peaked to the point of setting up his own hive. He started with one hive in 1982 and today owns 50.
What is unique about Ian’s pure honey and beeswax candles is that he works with nature every step of the way in extracting the pure honey and beeswax. He is commited to the highest quality products and greatest of care for the bees.
Ian has no plans to expand as he feels the quality of his products would suffer if he goes full scale commercial.
“At the moment I extract the honey, produce beeswax, candles and lip balm and manage the hives all by myself. Sadly a lot of people today do not understand what quality means. Some complain my honey goes candy, but those who understand quality know that authentic honey does go candy because it is very close to its pure state and has not been overly processed the way it is done with commercial honey. It still contains some wax and pollen and that is why it goes candy. I supply my honey in glass jars. All you need to do is place the bottle in warm or hot water and the honey will return to a pourable consistency,” said Ian.
Committed to respect nature
Ian places frames specially made of wood and beeswax foundation in the hives so they don’t harm the bees nor the honey.
“I never take too much either. Always leave some for the bees. No one benefits from greed in the long run,” advised Ian.
Once the frames, in the design of a honeycomb, are removed from the hives, he puts it through a machine that carefully slices the wax which the bees put over the honey to seal them.
Once the honey is extracted it is gently warmed under light globes so the impurities such as pollen and wax will float to the top. Only nominal heat is used to keep it close to its raw state.
“Many of the candles sold commercially are not made of natural wax but of paraffin. So you are breathing in petrol with toxic compounds when you light them. Pure beeswax candles will have the smell of honey when you light them,” said Ian.
Not content to just knowing about honey and wax and managing hives, Ian wanted more. He wanted to know about the bees themselves. What do they do all day? Where do they go to get their pollen? How far do they travel? What sort of trees do they prefer? His quest led him to study horticulture which he studied on a part-time basis from 1992 – 98.
By this time he had four children and a fully operational apiary. His wife, Linda, a high school teacher, was very encouraging.
After his course, he understood better what sort of trees and flowers bees were attracted to. Today the farm on which his apiary is located is surrounded by nectar producing trees. Ian took me around for a walk and showed me things I didn’t know. He tapped the Grevillea flower onto his hand and there was nectar.
“Did you know Grevillea is used by the Australian Aboriginal people as an all natural sweetener? They immerse the flowers in water and make a sweet tasting drink. Bees seek out the nectar of these Grevilleas,” he said and continued to point out other trees bees were attracted to such as the bottlebrush, banksia and eucalyptus.
“The bees travel at least 2 – 3 km from my place and I am fortunate I have no neighbours to avoid the dangers of others using chemical sprays on their plants. I am surrounded by national forest reserves -Murramarang National Park, Morton National Park, Meroo National Park and the Kioloa State Forest. So even when my bees travel as I said two to three km in any direction they have abundance of trees to feast on such as tea trees growing in the wild.”
Ian’s company, Beewise Honey Products sell pure honey, creamed honey, cut honeycomb, beeswax candles, lipbalm and handcream. These products are available at a local health food store, Merry Maidens in Milton and East Lynn store, Bateman’s Bay, NSW and of course you can buy Beewise products directly from the farm in Termeil, NSW.
Not worth the money if it disrupts the lives of the bees
Today a lucrative part of the beekeepers business is to transport their hives to other large farms to pollinate their trees and plants because there are no bees in their area. When there are no bees to pollinate, there is no fruit produced.
So farmers are paying for bees to be transported to their farms to pollinate their crops. Sadly the bee population is dwindling and some attribute it to the widespread use of insecticides and chemical sprays at farms.
In keeping with to his policy to work with nature, Ian prefers not to transport his bees as it would cause some stress to them.
Further these farms could be located in areas where there are not many nectar producing trees and this would result in poor quality honey. He will only move them when the need arises such as local trees not flowering.
” I do encourage people to drop by at the farm to buy our products as you get a real feel of where your product is coming from.
Having worked with kids in high school for at least two decades I also know what a great impression it will make on the kids to witness for themselves life on the farm and the animals. It will teach them to be responsible towards the environment and love animals. It is a very different experience from buying something at the supermarket.”
Beewise has many visitors during summer as the closest towns Ulladulla and Bawley Point are popular tourist destinations. Beewise Honey pure honey and other products is located at 135, Tallawalla Way, Termeil 2539. Tel: (02)4457 2128