The Honey Track
We call this the path to ‘Well Beeing’ – from wilderness to your plate and palate. Follow the unfolding story of our unique honeys.
Each of the steps on our Honey Track below show how Blue Hills’ bees transform wilderness blossom into unique honeys and how we bottle them naturally and perfectly for your palate’s delight.
STEP ONE: PREPARING THE HIVES
During the colder months, well before our bees in their hives are placed in the fields, the beekeeping team at Blue Hills Honey are busy preparing our hives. We call this process ‘bee husbandry’. Our bee husbandry involves a number of important activities to promote the ‘well beeing’ of our bees including:
- sustaining our core colony of bees which cluster to keep their queen warm and healthy. She is the ‘power house’ of the hive after all Queen breeding selection (see our video on our process page)
- focusing on choosing queens with the best qualities like honey production, temperament and disease resistance. They have a busy task ahead growing bee numbers – her workers – by many thousands
- providing the breeding queen room for her new bees (she lays up to 2000 eggs per day) with new boxes added to her ever-expanding brood chamber
- during this preparatory step, the aim is ensure our bees are healthy and ready for the warmer months ahead Apiary maintenance: we are our bees architects and carpenters. A healthy home hive means healthy, quality honey.
STEP TWO: PLACING OUR HIVES
It’s all about position and location. With warmer months (from late December to April) comes the flowering season for most of the key honey producing plants such as Leatherwood. At the commencement of this season, and to ensure the best quality and flow of honey, our Blue Hills beekeeping team:
- understands nectar from blossom can flow at various times across the terrain depending on seasonal conditions. Mobility is therefore important so we transport our hives to well-planned locations across the wilderness and meadows of north-west Tasmania
- these locations all have access to natural selections of blossom which produce pollen and nectar. This nourishes our hives while the bees also transform this rich, natural sweetness into honey. Bees can fly up to 3 to 5 kilometres (2 to 3 miles) but tend to work within a few hundred metres (yards) of their hive
- takes account of local micro-climates so hives and their busy occupants are not stressed by being too hot, too cold or too exposed to winds.
The ‘well beeing’ of our hives’ tenants is vital to the quality of our honey. So … we are the best of landlords!
STEP THREE: HARD AT WORK
Literally: busy as bees! During the flowering season, millions of Blue Hill Honey’s bees are hard at work gathering pollen or nectar from the Tasmanian wilderness and fields. Vitally: while they’re at it, they are helping pollinate the many varied plants they visit.
“The nectar is stored by the bee in her special honey stomach (nectar ‘sac’) ready to be transferred to the honey-making bees in the hive.
“While much of the nectar collected by bees is stored in their special sac, they also use special pollen “baskets” on their legs. With a full load the bee returns to the hive. Nectar is delivered to one of the in-hive bees and passed from bee to bee until its moisture content is reduced from about 70% down to 15% or so.
“This changes the nectar into honey. Finally, the honey is placed in storage cells and capped with beeswax in readiness for the long months ahead; the ongoing wellness of the hive; and, of course, the arrival of newborn baby bees. While much of this honey is ultimately destined for our plates, the bees also mix pollen with nectar to make “bee bread” which is fed to the hive’s resident larvae (baby bees).
DID YOU KNOW …
- Some 65% of Australian agriculture depends on pollination by European honey bees. Read more at this fact sheet.
- The bee is a marvellous flying machine. She can carry a payload of nectar or pollen close to her own weight. Amazing…
- It takes 300 bees about three weeks to gather 450g (16 oz) of honey.
- On average, a Blue Hills leatherwood hive contains 80,000 to 100,000 bees.
- From an ordinary hive, there may be from 10,000 to 15,000 bees flying from blossom to blossom all day long, from sunrise to sunset.
- Each bee may visit thousands of blossoms in a single day. Also, should the hive become overheated, the bees will fan their wings across the water collected and deposited in the honeycomb. The water then evaporates and the temperature falls. Beekeepers world-wide love this sound; especially in Tasmania where it often also goes hand-in-hand with the fragrance of leatherwood blossom. Charles family members describe this as a wonderful – almost spiritual – experience of nature up close and personal.
So that lazy droning of a bees is actually the sound of one of the hardest workers in nature.
As we say: their ‘beeing well’ helps your ‘well beeing’.
Excerpts in quotes above in this section (some slightly edited for context) are from ‘The Wonderful Story of Australian Honey.’
STEP FOUR: HARVESTING
It’s time to harvest!
Harvesting is a very busy time for all at Blue Hills Honey as it involves:
- assessment of our hives by our beekeepers that the frames are full; the honeycomb capped with wax; and the honey is perfectly ripe
- each of the hives – full with honeycomb-covered frames – is carefully removed in the field and placed by forklift onto our honey truck. This step is physically demanding and strenuous work
- once transported back to our honey house they ready for processing (see next step)
- as ripening of leatherwood blossom can spread over a period of 10 to 14 days, this requires a solid, dedicated time for our workers in the field as well as transporting our hives
- typically collecting 12 to 14 pallet loads of honey laden hives each day
- an average harvest for Blue Hill Honey is about 100 tonnes: although this varies depending on the season.
STEP FIVE: PROCESSING
Ironically, our processing is all about keeping processing to a minimum. We’re after minimal disruption to deliver pure, quality honey as nature intended. Throughout this minimalist processing, we take care to maintain the temperature of the honey below 45°C; this helps preserve even the most delicate flavours and aromas.
At Blue Hills Honey our processing involves the following steps; first starting in the field:
- commencing in 2004, after we completed a review of occupational health and safety systems, Blue Hills Honey instigated the palletisation of all honey hives. This meant manual handling is minimised with the introduction of field forklifts
- we also invested in state of the art, twin honey extraction lines capable of the cold extraction of 8 to 10 tonnes of honey per day
- after arriving at our factory (we call it the ‘honey house’) we immediately extract honey from the frames
- the honey then goes through a centrifuge and a course filter of some 1000 microns to sift out most of the bees wax
- honey then settles overnight in 8 tonne tanks
- it is then drummed into 295kg (662 pounds/44 gallon) food-grade, Epon-lined drums
- these containers are destined for either the bulk honey market or are ready for our retail packaging into various types and pack sizes for the many markets for our Blue Hills honey globally.
At Blue Hills Honey, our processing is a critical step in assuring the natural, premium-quality of our honeys is maintained from paddock to plate. So every step in our processing – starting in the field – strictly abides by the many regulations, guidelines and disciplines we apply. After all: it’s about our bees’ ‘beeing well’ and your (the consumer’s) ‘well beeing’. To find more information click here certifications.
STEP SIX: SALES AND MARKETING
Blue Hills Honey is unique honey.
Its flavours, drawn as they are from the Tarkine wilderness and fields of north-west Tasmania, are unique. Its pure and natural qualities are unique.
These features – hard to find in an era of mass production – are increasingly attracting global interest to Blue Hills Honey.
Blue Hills Honey has a strong and growing domestic market. And, no surprises, Blue Hills Honey also has growing exports to many countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, UK, Japan, Russia and Vietnam. Indeed, exports for Blue Hills Honey account for nearly 70% of its production.
Blue Hills Honey’s sales success owes much to its credibility in the market. As consumers increasingly prefer natural, minimally processed food, Blue Hills Honey is well placed to benefit from this shift. With this in mind, our business has successfully secured important, globally-recognised certifications and accreditations which underline our commitment to producing high-quality, natural honey.
For example, Blue Hills Honey was the first Australian honey producer to implement the stringent, industry-initiated quality assurance program. This is in accordance with Australian and New Zealand food safety requirements called BQUAL. Blue Hills Honey also benefits from a registered ‘country of origin’ labelling which is an increasingly important credential in many countries.
STEP SEVEN: TASTE THE WILDERNESS
Ultimately it’s all about taste. And that’s where the unique flavours of the wild captured by Blue Hills Honey are award-winners.
Please review the taste profiles of our Blue Hills honeys. They’re mouth watering ….
Take our leatherwood honey for example as just one to whet your palate. Often referred to as the King of Honey and the Honey of Kings, leatherwood honey’s bold, complex and unique flavour can best be described as “tasting like the rainforest”. This is because the wild rainforests of Tasmania are the only place in the world where the rare leatherwood tree (Eucryphia lucida) grows.
Since 1955, our family – the Charles family – has had the privilege of sourcing this highly sought after honey from the heart of the Tarkine wilderness, an area known for its ancient forests and the world’s cleanest air and water.
All of us here at Blue Hills Honey believe we offer the best honey in the world.
So please try them. We’re sure you’ll love them. And drop us a line to let us know what you think or ask any questions you may have about our natural honeys. Contact us by first by using our ‘contact form’ after clicking here.