YARRA VALLEY HONEY COMPANY
Second generation bee keeping family the Alcocks, tend to hives all around the Yarra Valley. “Everyone wants to help the bees, so we don’t have any trouble finding them homes.” Lee Alcock tells us. The diversity of flora in the Yarra Valley means the bees can live anywhere and produce a unique and delicious honey.
Lee’s Mum, Margaret, was introduced to bee keeping from a friend 10 years ago and it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with the ancient craft. It’s her son Lee’s third season and he admits, “When you become a bee keeper, your viewof the world changes. I’m always looking up at the trees, always looking for flowers or buds forming.” Now in it’s third season, the honey is packaged and sold under the brand Yarra Valley Honey Company. Learning as they go, the collective is made up of Margaret, Lee, his partner Heather and her brother Doug. The fifth member and third generation bee keeper is Lee and Heather’s daughter Evie, just 4-years old but a keen bean!
The Healesville couple host us in their backyard shed, a soon to be converted honey harvesting/storage/tasting/education hub. They tell us of their recent switch to polystyrene bee boxes made in Finland. “They’re so much easier to work with. They’re lighter and stack nice and tightly.” We’re lucky to watch part of the harvest on our visit. Lee lifts frames heavy with honeycomb, and breaks the surface with a special comb. After four are done, he places them in an open drum fitted with a tap at the base. The frames are then spun by hand and we watch on in amazement as the honey splits from the frames like a spider’s web. It glistens on the inner walls of the drum and eventually runs down to the base to be tapped.
The family operation has 20 boxes dotted around the Yarra Valley, including Yellingbo, Toolangi and Chum Creek. We taste some honey from an olive grove surrounded by tea tree eucalyptus, the amazing flavour has a slight spice and beautiful length. The family are excited to share their produce. We then try some stringy bark and mountain ash honey, again such beautiful flavour. “Raw honey is such an important and healthy product to have in your diet.” Heather says. As supermarkets monopolise to large companies with honey from unknown whereabouts and destructive use of pesticides in monoculture agriculture is decimating bee populations, it is imperative that we support local independent beekeepers. More support means more bees, and when their daily ritual of pollination is responsible for the production of two thirds of the worlds food, they need all our support!
Yarra Valley Honey Company aim to double the amount of hives they have within a year. Doubling the production is another story though. “We can put them in a good spot and keep an eye on them, but the rest is out of our hands.” Margaret says. Last year’s wet spring made this year’s harvest quite hard. “Some stocks are down by up to 50%.” There’s been a noticeable presence of wasps this Summer/Autumn too, suggesting some unbalance in the local ecosystem. “Bee’s do fight back though.” Lee says with a smile, recalling chase scenes and sites littered with wasp heads.
Bee’s are rarely a threat to people but if you ever have a hive set up shop at your home, and they can often pick very inconvenient places like a door way or even on your car! Call a professional bee rescue service to remove and re-establish the hive in an appropriate place.
beerescue.com.au is a good resource local to our area.
The Providore at Meletos proudly stocks raw honey from Yarra Valley Honey Company. Harvest photos kindly supplied by Heather Alcock.