Kelly Lees and Anna Scobie, the co-founders Urban Hum, a Newcastle community-based beekeeping operation, are on a mission. They want more people to appreciate how good bees are for the planet, and they want to do it more of it in Newcastle.
While they began keeping bees for their own veggie gardens seven years ago, they have only been running the small Urban Hum business for two years.
But the business, which sees them tending to 115 hives - most of them in the backyards of enthusiastic bee fans throughout Newcastle’s suburbs, has grown to the point where it needs a financial boost just to take care of its current needs.
“We were both avid veggie gardeners and had to hand pollinate our zucchinis and thought that was a bit ridiculous because humans aren’t very good at pollinating zucchinis,” Scobie said. “So we went and did a beekeeping course ourselves. Got one hive, that turned into two hives, then it was a full blown obsession.”
They had more than 70 people respond when they did their first call-out for people to host hives ($45 a year will get a host 4 kilograms of honey from the hive on their block and the benefits of a healthy swarm pollinating flowering plants within a 5-kilometre range of the hive).
Now, Urban Hum has a waiting list of more than 200 people who want to host or buy hives.
More urgently, Urban Hum has begun a Kickstarter fund-raising drive to raise $20,000 in pledges to purchase more boxes and hives to service their existing swarms and obtain more extraction equipment.
“We literally don’t have enough boxes to keep the bees happy and healthy, so they need more space,” Lees said. “European honey bees collect a lot of honey. The more boxes you can give them the more honey they can collect.”
Scobie said Urban Hum services about 7.5million bees. A hive will produce 30 to 80 kilograms of honey a year. Every jar of raw honey Urban Hum sells is from a single hive, with the suburb of origin noted. The firm sells through markets, selected retailers and online.
“Each hive is unique, the taste is different,” Lees said. “You are tasting one suburb, one hive. That’s what you miss out on with supermarket honey, it’s all blended.”
Urban Hum is increasingly asked to remove unwanted hives from difficult places, like chimneys, ceilings or wall cavities. Lees salvages the swarm, settles it down and tries to find a home for it.
Novocastrians are keen to care for their own hives, so Lees is offering workshops and mentoring classes. She will host a question session at Estabar on Sunday, December 4, at 2pm.