KELLY Lees and Anna Scobie are not only mothers to four-month-old Nancy, they are also the mothers of as many as eight million bees.
The Mayfield couple run the Newcastle-based beekeeping business Urban Hum, which operates 110 backyard hives across 26 suburbs in the Hunter Valley.
“People host the hives for us and we maintain the hives and harvest the honey,” Ms Lees said. “They pay a small hosting fee and each time we harvest they get a portion of the harvest. Plus they get the benefits of pollination.”
The business, which opened in October 2013, has proved so successful it is currently operating at capacity.
“We can’t meet the demand for hives,” Ms Scobie said.
The passion for bees began when the couple, also keen gardeners, attended a beekeeping workshop in 2011.
“We were hand-pollinating zucchini flowers,” Ms Scobie said. “We thought there must be an easier way. We got really obsessed with it … we started with one hive, then two and it just spiralled.”
The women heard about rooftop beehives in the cities of Paris and Melbourne.
“We thought Newcastle needed something to draw bees into the city, so we filled that need,” Ms Scobie said.
Ms Scobie works in the marketing side of the business, while Ms Lees is the full-time beekeeper. This role sees her working from daylight to dusk, seven days a week, during peak production season.
“It’s a bit slower over winter, but in spring and summer at least every three to four weeks I need to go to the hives,” Ms Lees.
“My most productive hives are in Mayfield. I probably get around 50-60kg out of some of those hives.”
Ms Lees said the bees appeared to thrive on Mayfield’s established gardens and larger house blocks.
“Some of the suburbs are more seasonal. New Lambton, which is a bush area, has a bigger flow for a shorter period of time. It’s not all year round like Mayfield.”
Each suburb produces unique flavoured honey.
“The honey is multi-floral honey, but we keep the suburbs separate, because they are all very different,” Ms Lees said.
The taste not only varies from suburb to suburb but season to season.
“It’s never the same,” Ms Scobie said. “Islington in spring often has a lemony taste to the honey, that’s the paperbarks.”
While New Lambton often has a “caramel undertone”, which Ms Lees attributes to its silky oaks.
Urban Hums’ honey is sold at Hunt and Gather Markets and Olive Tree Markets.
The business will run a series of beekeeping courses in August for both novice and advanced beekeepers. See urbanhum.com.