Amber Drop Honey: How to save bees and have delicious honey
In April 2015, Ana Martin pointed out an article to her partner Sven. That had a bigger effect than she had anticipated. It talked about bees disappearing at an alarming rate. And the consequences humans could face if we didn’t do anything about it. It encouraged people to grow “bee friendly” plants in their garden and to keep bees.
Well, little did she know that Sven would hit the ground running with this new project!
They became members of the Central Coast Amateur Beekeepers association and started finding out more about the art of beekeeping.
They figured out that a good way to get bees, other than buying them, is to catch swarms. That also means saving bees that would possibly be sprayed with pesticides if they end up around a house.
So, that was Sven’s plan. Catch one or two swarms, settle them nicely in their backyard. And they would be on their way to do a little bit for the bees. Additionally get some delicious honey in the process.
It turns out that a lot of the swarms end up looking for nice little nooks in roofs, underneath cladding, in garages etc and there are not that many people that want to cut into walls to get them out. Sven, however, was keen to do just that. Having experience in the building industry, he had the tools and the know how to do a pretty tidy job of it. Spring came and with it many calls from people wanting to have unwanted bees removed.
The Obsession takes hold
Fast forward to March 2016 and after collecting 48 swarms they ended up with 35 thriving colonies (some were very little and had to be merged and one didn’t like the luxury accommodation prepared for them).
In September 2016 they moved to a beautiful farm in Johns River, in the Middle North Coast of NSW, and between splits and new rescues ended up with 75 colonies and are continually growing their numbers.
During this process there has been a lot of learning (mostly for Sven, Ana was lagging a bit behind). Through teachings at the beekeeper’s association, specialised magazines, books, youtube “how to” videos and courses they slowly learned the best techniques to keep their bees as happy as possible.
What was meant to be a side project has become so much more than that! They have realised that bees are fascinating, that honey (raw honey) is an incredible produce and that we are just touching the tip of the iceberg, not only in terms of learning about them, but also in terms of the work that needs to be done if they want to ensure a future with bees in it.
The Birth of Amber Drop Honey
Then in 2017 they took the plunge and decided to make this side gig their full-time job. Started doing markets every weekend, building a network of retailers, increasing the product range and of course continued rescuing colonies. Hence the advent of Amber Drop Honey.
Amber Drop Honey is raw, untreated honey and varies in flavour based on the flowering plants in Johns River, NSW. No breakfast toast is complete without it!
Every interaction with customers (whether it’s from bee relocations, talking at schools or libraries, dealing with stockists etc) Amber Drop Honey ends up creating a little pocket of people that are now more aware about bees and can share the message.
So, why not leave it at that? Because they, as newcomers to this industry, can see there is room for improvement. And are passionate about doing everything they can for a better future for bees.
What are the issues we see in the beekeeping industry?
Increased Regulations – will make it more difficult for small beekeepers to bottle their honey for direct public consumption. The cost of setting up a extraction and bottling facility is prohibitively expensive for most small producers.
An aging Apiarist population – a large percentage of beekeepers in Australia are nearing retirement age. Who will carry the industry into the future? Will they be able to run a viable business?
Increased stress on bees – According to the DPI, in 2013-2014 in Australia, eight out of every ten hives were held by just 11% of the nation’s beekeepers. Large commercial operations are not as gentle to the bees as small-scale beekeeping. It’s not really their fault, just like it happens in other farming industries, the profit margins are low, so it’s all about the turnover and the animals are treated more like a commodity.
Hard Working Conditions – Working in a suit in the sun, moving heavy boxes and buckets of honey, getting stung often…who is crazy enough to want to do that? It is clear that beekeeping is a profession best suited to slightly deranged people who are passionate about bees. However, everyone (even crazy people) need to eat and pay bills, which brings us to the next issue.
Low honey prices – generally because of relaxed import laws, major honey suppliers in Australia can import honey from China for as little as $2 per kilo, which in turns lowers our market price. This means the only way for independent beekeepers to develop a sustainable and profitable business is to market directly to consumers.
As population growth and job availability continues to decline in regional Australia, beekeeping could be a very fulfilling career path if some of the barriers of entry (like the expense of buying bees and specialised equipment) were lower.
We believe it is essential for small beekeepers to join forces and work together to achieve:
Smaller Operations – that are able to run sustainable businesses by marketing their products directly to the public and therefore keeping a bigger slice of the pie allowing them to be more patient and caring to the bees.
Support for local producers – because the product to the consumer is of greater quality and better for the health of the bee population.
Industry Growth – by training young adults or people looking for a sea change, in all aspects of beekeeping and running their own business. We want them to see it as a viable career path whilst instilling respect for the bees and the environment.
Increased Hive Rescue – by training other beekeepers to rescue hives. It is admittedly a bit of hard work but a cheaper way of getting bees and it helping to keep genetic diversity in the bee population.
In summary, we want beekeepers to be just that, THE KEEPERS OF THE BEES and to be able to make a living doing it.
Amber Drop launched a campaign on ING Dreamstarter platform with the goal of raising $50,000 to to build an extracting, bottling and training facility in the form of a portable building that they can share with other beekeepers. Read more or contribute here:
or treat yourself to some wonderful Amber Drop honey here: