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Castlemaine Bee Sanctuary Honey

As beekeepers and honey producers, there are many practices we can do (or not do) that affect the quality, taste, and nutritional content of our honey. The results are sometimes subtle – too subtle for most to detect individually – but if we take the time to ensure all of these techniques are practiced, together they add up and the result is noticeably superior honey. Taste it and see for yourself!

Generally speaking, you can’t buy honey like this. It just takes too much care, attention to detail and spent energy to ever make commercial sense.

Why is it so special?

Pristine Eco-friendly Extremely Raw Cold/Hand Pressed True-source Hyper-local Sugar and Virtually Smoke-free Natural-comb Hive-conditioned Poly-floral Artisan Garden Honey

Honey you can feel good about. Honey like it used to be. Honey like it should be.

Garden Honey. We have created a network of honeybee colonies throughout backyards in our local community where they stay in one place and are hopefully not moved at all. This means happier healthier bees as it provides them with a stable and diverse foraging area which allows them to be more settled and in tune with local conditions.

Ideal Conditions. Our bees are kept throughout backyards in the small sun-soaked country town of Castlemaine/Chewton, in The Goldfield Region of Central Victoria, Australia. The bees are spoiled for choice between the town’s parks and gardens and the vast expanses of trees in the bordering National Heritage Park, State Forests and other bushlands. No agricultural chemicals used within our bee’s foraging range.

100% Sugar-free Pure Naturally-foraged honey. We NEVER feed our bees sugar syrup or pollen substitute. Unless a honey producer specifically states that they do not feed sugar syrup, it is very likely that they do as supplemental feeding is standard practice in beekeeping – even for many “natural” beekeepers! Bees who forage their own nectar instead of being fed sugar syrup are more robust; feeding processed unnatural forms of food is likely to have an effect on the the bee’s health… as well as the honey they produce.

Uncontaminated honey. We NEVER use any treatments on our bees whatsoever. No chemical treatments; no anti-biotics, no fungicides, no organic or essential oils: nothing at all. Ever. It would not be unusual for some or all of the above to be used on bees used in conventional honey production.

Extremely Raw Cold/Hand-Pressed Honey. Virtually all honey is spun in a centrifugal honey spinner which oxidises the honey and changes it’s composition and taste. Lots of supermarket honey is then heated and micro-filtered which destroys much of the health giving nutrients and alters the taste that the honey would otherwise retain. A heated uncapping knife is often used during the processing of honey which destroys many of the health giving properties the knife comes into contact with. Conversely, Castlemaine Bee Sanctuary honey has been processed using the traditional time tested ancient methods of “crush and strain” – the comb is simply crushed and the honey runs through a course filter, or cold pressing – in which the honeycomb is squeezed using a honey press. It is then put into jars. Literally straight from the hive to the jar. It doesn’t get any fresher or simpler than that!

Hyper-local True-source honey. The flowers and plants that the bees foraged to produce this honey all within the bee’s foraging range (3-5 kilometers) of the location named. We call this “True-source” honey. Almost all Australian commercial honey is produced by bees that are kept in large numbers together and constantly trucked from place to place following flowering trees and plants. Apart from the enormous amount of fuel and resources spent in this practice, even if you buy honey from a local honey producer, the actual honey itself was almost certainly produced in an area far away from where the honey producer is based. (mention something about true local honey being important for pollen allergies here).

Minimal Smoke Used. Virtually all beekeepers use smoke on their bees which has the effect of subduing them during hive inspections and when harvesting honey. Smoke is extremely irritating for the bees and particles from the smoke can contaminate the honey altering the taste. The gentle beekeeping techniques employed by Castlemaine Bee Sanctuary usually allow us to manage the bees without using smoke most of the time – which means happier bees and better tasting honey.

Hive Conditioned Honey. To ensure our bees have enough honey to see them through the winter, we harvest the majority of our honey in spring. Like all artisan foods, honey seems to benefit from time sitting in ideal and controlled conditions. After being in the hive for at least six months or up to a year or more, the honey has appreciably changed. It has become more rich and complex in its body and taste.

“Wild” Poly-floral honey. Lots of the honey we buy in the shops is a particular variety – honey made from a particular plant and with a particular taste such as Leatherwood, Manuka, Yellowbox, Bluegum etc etc. And it’s lovely to have such strong specific tastes. But it’s not so great for the health of the bees. And here’s why.

In nature bees collect a very wide variety of nectars, pollens and other forage. It is said that the average “wild” honey is made of at least 300 different plants. Bees, just like humans, need variation in their diet to stay healthy. The way most beekeepers are able to harvest varietal honeys is by forcing the bees to only forage from one particular plant by taking them to an area where that’s all there is. A bit like forcing people to only eat one kind of food.

Our honey will usually not taste of a particular plant. Rather, like all artisan foods, the honey tastes of the region – the terroir.

Natural-comb Honey. Ok, bear with me here as this is not a straightforward one.

We provide honeybees with homes that mimic, as much as possible, the natural structure of a wild bee colony. This includes, allowing the bees to build their own natural comb instead of using foundation.

Almost all other honey is produced using a wax or plastic foundation. These are flat sheets of wax or plastic embossed with a honeycomb pattern that beekeepers put inside the hive. The bees are then forced to build the cells in which they store their honey on these flat sheets.

Conversely, with natural-comb honey, no foundation is used and the bees build their own natural honeycomb entirely out of their own wax.

Why does it matter? For lots of reasons. One I’ll menion here is that there is lots of research (click here and here for information) that show the beeswax used to make foundation is often heavily contaminated with agricultural pesticides and other poisons. I should mention that this research is US-based where chemicals used against the varroa mite are in heavy use. As far as I know, no similar research has been done in Australia. The varroa mite is currently not present in Australia so this aspect of chemical contamination is perhaps not so relevant.

Pesticides bond easily to the oils in beeswax. Wax foundation is made from recycled commercial beekeeper’s beeswax the contaminates build up over time.

Some inexpensive foundation “wax” often imported from China is not even made from beeswax. It’s made from paraffin!

And so it follows that when we eat honey produced using recycled foundation wax, we are exposed to this wax along with any contaminates it contains. For this reason, in my opinion, we should always seek honey made by bees allowed to build natural comb.