It’s the sweetest time of the year for the State’s honey industry and there’s a buzz around what this year’s WA Honey Month celebrations will bring.
The annual celebration of all things apiary kicked off on May 1, with a month of events — centred around World Bee Day on May 20 — culminating in the annual WA Honey Festival at the Gidgegannup Small Farm Field Day on May 29.
Honey Festival committee member Leilani Leyland, who owns Beez Neez based in Beechina near Chidlow, said interest in beekeeping was booming in WA and the number of WA hobby beekeepers with less than 50 hives has increased from about 100 to more than 4500 in the past two years.
“It has been a good year as far as honey goes, there was quite a bit of jarrah produced and that is always a high-value honey, and a good amount of red gum pollen,” she said.
“It is an exciting time to be in the industry because there are a lot of new beekeepers that are quite tech-savvy, and a lot of new technology being adopted across the industry.”
WA Honey Month fever will spread across the State throughout May, with events, tours, dining experiences, special recipes and more all designed to showcase the industry.
The CRC for Honey Bee Products plans to hold a sundowner for beekeepers at the Old Laundry in North Perth on May 13, to celebrate and mark the end of their five-year research project, while a free beekeeping workshop will be held at the Swan Settlers Market on May 15, to give recreational beekeepers the chance to learn about biosecurity.
Local businesses in the Shire of Mundaring are also getting involved, with Chidlow Tavern rolling out a honey-focused menu, the Hemingway and Co Bar creating a honey cocktail and Café Mojo baking a pistachio and honey cake for the month of May.
WA Honey Month fever will extend to the coast when the Rendezvous in Scarborough hosts a honey-focused degustation event on May 25, while Hive and Wellness will open its Bayswater packing factory for tours throughout the month.
Ms Leyland plans to throw open the doors of Beez Neez on May 27 for a tour to show people the trucks, loaders and lifters involved in commercially producing honey, as well as a tour through the extraction plant.
WA Honey Month celebrations this year coincide with the 95th anniversary of local brand Wescobee Honey, a WA-born co-operative of beekeepers who came together to sell their honey collectively.
The brand name was born out of a shortening of the words WA Co-operative Beekeepers.
Wescobee business development manager Michael Bellman visited Year 3 students at Bayswater Primary School in Perth last week with Honeybee CRC beekeeper Tiffane Bates.
The pair discussed a range of topics with the students — including the art of beekeeping, the important role bees play in pollination, and the honey journey from hive to table.
They also showed students a display hive, helping them to spot the queen bee and enjoy a taste test of Wescobee honey — which is mostly produced from the nectar of wildflowers from the coastal plain and jarrah forests, where jarrah, marri and karri trees grow.
Mr Bellman said the business had come a long way since its “humble beginnings” in 1927 and was recognised as one of Australia’s oldest and most-loved honey brands.
“Many local, family-run beekeeping businesses supply their honey to us,” he said.
“We’re proud that from our packing facility in Bayswater, we pack pure WA honey to be enjoyed by families in WA and around the world.
“The Wescobee brand is exported to countries in South-East Asia and beyond, and is even the most popular honey brand in Mauritius.
“There is no doubt this State produces some of the finest honey in Australia, and we hope West Australians will enjoy learning more about this local produce during Honey Month, and take part in some of the events planned.”
WA’s honey and associated products industry is worth up to $50m per year, while pollination — important in crops including avocados, almonds, apples and strawberries — contributes $1.2 billion to the WA economy.
The industry employs 1000 beekeepers, 200 people in processing and packing, 200 in retail and 100 in other areas, including research, acros the State.
Some of the bigger honey brands on WA shelves include Wescobee, Fewsters Farm, Swan Valley Honey, West Swan, and Elixir.