Photo - Robin Powell
We talk to the busy-bee-owner of Urban Honey in Sydney.
About a year ago I became interested when I noticed there weren’t many bees around, and I did some research and found out about the problems they are having
in Europe and North America with declining populations of honeybees. We don’t have the same sort of problems here yet, but I think we have to take
measures now to make sure that we don’t.
How many hives does your company Urban Honey have in Sydney?
We have about 30 at the moment, on rooftops in the CBD, on balconies, backyards and in community gardens. We grow the hives by collecting swarms. If someone
rings up a pest company or the Amateur Beekeepers’ Association about a swarm in their garden or in their neighbourhood we’ll go and collect the swarm.
How do you do that?
It’s simple. You just put the hive under the swarm and shake the tree and they all fall in. As long as the queen goes into the hive, all the other bees
will follow. We write the name of the street where the swarm was collected on the side of the box.
Bees at work on city honey. Photo - Robin Powell
Are cities good places to keep bees?
Fantastic. There are plenty of good places for them. My business partner Victoria and I are always spotting great places to keep bees, and there is much
more plant life than you would imagine, and a greater diversity. There are roof gardens, pockets of weeds, and of course the big gardens in Hyde Park,
the Domain and the Botanic Gardens.
Paris has more than 400 hives in the city doesn’t it?
Yes, the oldest ones are on top of the Paris Opera and now all the best hotels and restaurants want to be able to serve their own honey. The Obamas are
into it too. They hand out White House honey in crystal jars to visiting dignitaries.
How much honey does a honeybee make in its lifetime?
Only about a quarter of a teaspoon. The worker bees are females and they just work until their wings wear out basically. They keep going until they just
can’t make it back to the hive. In the spring that’s about six weeks. There are something like 60,000 bees in the hive during its peak population during
the warm months of the year and the queen lays about 2000 eggs a day to replace the 2000 losses a day so that the populations of the hive is constant.
Doug Purdie checks the honey frames. Photo - Robin Powell
What do you do with the honey you collect?
We just strain it to get the bee legs and bits out of it, and then we bottle it. We don’t even heat it because we want to preserve all the pollen that’s
How can gardeners attract more bees to their own gardens?
Bees really like blue and purple flowers, so borage and lavender are good, and basil seems to be good too.
Doug Purdie and Victoria Brown’s Urban Honey is available it at the Sydney Sustainability Markets in Taylor Square in Darlinghurst on Saturdays.
Text: Robin Powell