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Archive for April, 2011

Beekeeping Courses

As I’ve been posting a few articles about bees and beekeeping, I thought I’d post a little information on beekeeping courses for anyone who is interested.

There are 3 courses that I know of:

  1. The course that I did is run by OTEN (Open Training and Education Network) which is a division of TAFE.  I chose it because I wanted both the practical and the deeper, theoretical knowledge that the course offered.    The course covers bee colony structure and handling, bee products, bee flora, nutrition and crop pollination, bee diseases, parasites and pests and beekeeping practical skills.The overview says you need access to hives in order to complete the course, but I didn’t have access to hives and nor have several of the friends who have done the course.

    The course is taught by a guy called Bruce White who worked for the Department of Primary Industries for over 40 years as the Apiaries officer (or something like that).  He is extraordinarily knowledgeable and a practicing beekeeper himself.

    As at the time of writing this course costs $545.

    You can find up to date information on the OTEN website.  For further information on this course call the Horticulture teaching section on (02) 9715 8537 or 1300 421 805.

  2. More recently I have heard about the Natural Beekeeping Course run by Milkwood Permaculture which is a two day practical course.Their marketing pitch is “Natural beekeeping aims to care for the bees, allowing them to control their own environment and build resilience. A gentler approach than conventional beekeeping, this method results in healthy and contented bees and superb raw honey, as well as allowing for a fascinating partnership with your bee colony.”

    I’m all for natural, so that’s a good thing.  What I don’t accept that a beekeeper practicing ‘conventional beekeeping’ doesn’t care for their bees, or in some way has a rougher approach resulting in unhealthy and discontented bees.  My personal view is that one of the reasons why Australia is not affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) or the varroa mite like almost every other country in the world is because our beekeepers care exceptionally for their bees.  Considering Australia has been in drought for the past decade, our bees really should be quite stressed and susceptible to anything going around.  But they’re not.  The industry is in extraordinarily good shape (so long as the Federal Government reverse their rather shortsighted decision to declare the Asian bee endemic).

    All of the beekeepers that we buy our wax from are second or third generation beekeepers (we even have one fifth generation beekeeper).  They would call themselves ‘conventional beekeepers’ but I would challenge anyone to call how they treat their bees unnatural.  The beautiful thing about bees is that if you don’t treat them well, they simply pack up and leave.  To me, that is the best explanation of Colony Collapse Disorder.  Yes, American beekeepers, if you expect bees to pollinate hundreds of thousands of kilometers of a single crop you may find they disappear.  Like humans, bees need a variety of protein and carbohydrates in their life.

    Anyway, I digress again!

    At the time of writing this course costs $390.  For more information go to the Milkwood Permaculture website or call (02) 6373 7763

    This course is taught by Tim Malfroy who is a commercial beekeeper (keeping his bees in standard beehives) started keeping his own bees in 2006 and is the founder of Malfroy’s Gold honey.

    3. Tocal Agricultural College have a Beginning in Bees course run by NSW Industry & Investment.  The course is 2 days and involves both theory and practical components.  They seem to run courses all over the place (listed on their website are upcoming courses in Bellingen, Paterson and Camden).

    At the time of writing this course costs $500.  For more information go to the Tocal Agricultural College website or call 1800 025 520.

I can’t recommend keeping bees highly enough.  Whether you plan to manage them actively or simply to have them pollinating your garden (and those in the local neighbourhood), they are endlessly fascinating.  Obviously their are many practical considerations and I would highly recommend doing a course first to build up confidence and to ask any questions you may have.

Happy honey eating! xx


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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I have been meaning to post this article for months… so bless Easter with its 5 days off in a row.  Ultimate definition of luxury to a small business owner.  Well, I’d imagine to a salary earner too – just for different reasons.

There was a fabulous article in Vogue Living, Jan-Feb 2011 issue on Urban Beekeeping.  You can see the full article by clicking on the link below, or read on for the full text.

Vogue Living - Urban beekeeping

Urban Hives – Vogue Living, Jan 2011

Sydney’s original urban beekeepers, George and Charis Schwarz set the standard for a growing number of amateur beekeepers

By Madeleine Hinchy

Riley Street is typical of many inner-city Sydney streets.  Poky renovated Victorian terraces sit cheek-by-jowl with student share houses and mechanics’ garages that hold fast against the encroaching tide of urban professionals who choose to call the area home.  But there’s something quite atypical happening behind one door.  George and Charis Schwarz have lived in the street since 1975 and have been keeping beehives in their backyard for almost as long; a practice that began as a form of therapy for George has become a way of life for them both.

Their bees leave the Schwarzes’ rooftop hives every morning to forage in the nearby Royal Botanic Garens – “We know that because they have a radius of about three miles,” says George – and produce an annual yield averaging 80 kilograms of honey per hive, enough for the Schwarzes to supply a few regulars and give to their neighbourhood association for sale at Sydney Sustainable Markets in Taylor Square, but not enough to satisfy the commercial demands of chefs such as Jared Ingersoll of Danks Street Depot, one of a steadily growing stream of visitors pursuing the Schwarzes for their honey and extensive beekeeping knowledge.

Guests are plied with the couple’s potent homemade mead and regaled with facts and anecdotes testifying to the wonder of the species and the industrious activity of their hordes of Apis mellifera, as Charis insists the bees be referred to, not by the common and , as she says, incorrect, term, the European honey bee.

The couple’s public profile, cemented by George’s career as an artist and former head of photography at the nearby College of Fine Arts, has meant that they are the most well known of Sydney’s urban beekeepers – but they are not the only ones.  All beekeepers are required to register with the NSW Department of Primary Industries which reports there are eight in inner Sydney and another 11 nearby.

Beekeeping has remained a largely private activity for the couple, but recent worldwide events have brought them into the public eye.  International bee populations have been rapidly diminishing and the cause is still largely unknown, but disease spread by the varroa mite, pesticide use, climate change and loss of biodiversity are all thought to be contributing.

As word spreads about the plight of bees, concerned citizens want to help.  Studies suggest bees in urban areas may be healthier due to a wider diversity of plants and flowers and amateur beekeepers are establishing hives on rooftops and backyards in neighbourhoods in Paris, London and New York.

In Australia, Milkwood Permaculture, an organization providing courses on sustainable small scale agriculture and urban farming, has been inundated with enquiries and has introduced a course specifically focused on beekeeping in urban areas.  The first workshop was held in September and rapidly booked out.

While George and Charis believe that amateurs have a lot to contribute , they are concerned about the idea of beekeeping as a ‘trend’.  “Beekeeping is a serious occupation,” says George, who is worried the mismanagement of hives may make bee populations susceptible to disease.  Adds Charis: “We see our role as tending the bee strain – we always saw it that way.  The honey and so on wasn’t the objective.”

Milkwood’s beekeeping tutor Tim Malfroy agrees, but adds: “I think it is just a matter of education.  Understanding bees is the key to keeping them healthy.  They are not pets – they are like a wild force of nature that you can have in your backyard – and that is one of the most beautiful things about them.”


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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Recently I was asked why we recommended putting 1/2 teaspoon of water in the bottom of each 9 hour tealight cup, and why we now crossed that out on our packaging!.   It’s a question I’ve had a few times over the years, and so I thought I’d answer it here.

When I decided to start making pure beeswax tealights, I was aware of a problem often experienced with the taller tealight cups called “flash over”.  Flash over can happen as a longer burning tealight burns because you have both the heat of the flame and the molten wax heating up the cup.  If the flash point of the wax is reached (around 199 degrees celcius for paraffin and 205 degrees celcius for beeswax), then all the wax in the cup goes on fire.  The fire is usually contained within the cup but can cause damage to the surface of the holder or table, and is obviously a little dangerous if unattended.

During the many months of wick testing we did for the tealights, if we experienced flash over with a wick, it was immediately eliminated from possible selection.  However, with my background as a lawyer, I thought it prudent to put the warning on the box as we had to have the boxes printed prior to beginning production on the tealights and even if flash over only occurred 1% of the time I didn’t want customers to be alarmed.  Five years and over three hundred thousand tealights later, we are relatively confident that flash over does not generally occur with Queen B tealight candles.  We also erred on the side of crossing out the instruction because the water in the cup could sometimes be drawn up the wick of the candle causing it to splutter!  It’s a fine line to walk.

Obviously the general instruction of not leaving candles burning unattended always applies as does using common sense and always burning your candles on a heat proof and fire-safe surface.

If you want to see what flash over looks like, see our blog post from last year where we put Queen B tealight candles to the test versus competitor tealights.

Queen B 8-9 hour tealight candle


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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I receive the most gorgeous email last night… I just loved the unbridled enthusiasm!  It went like this:

“Subject: Any age can pour tealites

Hi Cate

Thought I’d drop a line to let you know that Matthew my youngest (8) has just poured a beautiful tealite…right to the very top & didn’t spill a drop… We took a picture and he was so excited, he reckons it was the best one that he has poured… even tried to wake his father, who was sleeping, to show him… very proud young boy! … here it is 11.20 at night and we are enjoying the lovely smell of beeswax through the house…

Just goes to show that anyone, doesn’t matter of age, can enjoy the relaxation & enjoyment of pouring their own tealites…”

Tealight pouring protege

Gosh I love my job!


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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Oh dear, I keep on finding new things to love!  We have a few new additions to our range of bone china tealight holders… can you believe how completely gorgeous they are?

Bone china pomegranate tealight holder

Bone China Owl tealight holder

Bone China Bee Votive tealight holder

Bone China Monarch Butterfly tealight holder


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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A lovely little article in the April issue of both North Shore Living and Peninsula Living magazines.

North Shore Living magazine

See the article here… or read the text below:

The Easter Show
By Brooke Gilliland

In its 1823 debut, the Sydney Royal Easter Show’s main feature was merely a selection of horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry.  This year, the show has ballooned to be Australia’s largest event and will boast not only over 14,000 animals, but also feats like sword swallowing, hypnotism and mid-air back-flipping by motocross bikers.

Annually attracting more than one million people, the Sydney Royal Easter Show aims to bring the best of the country to the heart of the city, celebrating traditions of agricultural excellence while providing incredible entertainment.

This year’s show will include a bush-whacker lumberjack competition, a frog and reptile show and a rodeo every night of the event – to mention a few.

“This is a great opportunity to meet up with country cousins, see the best in agriculture and enjoy hundreds of hours of entertainment all day, every day.  There is truly something for everyone,” says Michael Collins, general manager and member of the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS), which runs the show each year.

Neutral Bay’s Cate Burton of Queen B beeswax candle shop in Brookvale is excited about this year’s competition.  Though her candles have won ribbons in the beeswax candle competition in the last four years, she says developing a new products each year is always a challenge.

“It’s exciting trying to come up with new ideas,” says Cate, who has been making beeswax candles for nine years now.  “I strive to stay ahead of what other people are doing.  It keeps me on my toes coming up with new innovations.”

Queen B prides itself on its organic, handmade pure beeswax candles.  All the candles the company makes are free from paraffin, soy and palm wax, as Cate is very committed to helping the environment.  Her Eco-bulb candles won first prize in the show two years ago and were subsequently used by the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour.

Aside from here time at the beeswax candle booth, Cate says she “absolutely loves” the Easter Show.  I hadn’t done for well over 15 years until I went four years ago to volunteer on the honey stand and just loved it,” Cate explains.

“This show is a great way to see how and where things are grown.  There is a huge wealth of knowledge here.  It’s something you don’t want to miss.”

Ticket prices range from $34 for adults to $22.50 for children.  Any surplus from the ticket sales is used to support education, and the RAS has donated $215.000 to 48 schools in the last couple of years to help pay for books and scholarships.

The 14-day event kicks off on April 14 with the opening ceremony, which will feature an appearance by Hon. Governor General, Ms Quentin Bryce, and a grand parade.

For more information, call 9704 1000 or visit http://www.eastershow.com.au.


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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Whilst my fascination with bees manifests itself most obviously in my love of and obsession with creating the world’s finest beeswax candles, actually it extends all the way from beekeeping through the societal structure of bees, to all the products of the hive (including honey, bee pollen and royal jelly) and finally to candles.

Today I read a fascinating piece of medical research on the Antiproliferative Effects of Honey in the treatment of cancer.  The research was done by Saravana Kumar Jaganathan and Mahitosh Mandal and published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology.

Following is an abstract of the research:

Honey has been used since ancient times both in medical and domestic needs, but only recently the antioxidant property of it came to limelight. The fact that antioxidants have several preventative effects against different diseases, such as cancer, coronary diseases, inflammatory disorders, neurological degeneration, and aging, led to search for food rich in antioxidants. Chemoprevention uses various dietary agents rich in phytochemicals which serve as antioxidants. With increasing demand for antioxidant supply in the food, honey had gained vitality since it is rich in phenolic compounds and other antioxidants like ascorbic acid, amino acids, and proteins. Some simple and polyphenols found in honey, namely, caffeic acid (CA), caffeic acid phenyl esters (CAPE), Chrysin (CR), Galangin (GA), Quercetin (QU), Kaempferol (KP), Acacetin (AC), Pinocembrin (PC), Pinobanksin (PB), and Apigenin (AP), have evolved as promising pharmacological agents in treatment of cancer. In this review, we reviewed the antiproliferative and molecular mechanisms of honey and above-mentioned polyphenols in various cancer cell lines.

Composition of honey

If you have a little more time, you can read the full piece of research here.

We have 22 varieties of Australian honey for tasting at the hive where we also make Queen B candles.  The most important thing to be aware of when buying honey is to ensure that the honey has not been heated over 42 degrees Celsius.  At that temperature the anti-bacterial properties of honey start to be killed.  Most supermarket honey is flash heated (which involves heating significantly above 42 degrees).  They do this to stop the honey candying on the shelf because a lot of people think that if their honey candies that it has gone off.  It hasn’t.  All honey will candy in time, the timing just varies.  Eg Clover honey will candy within a couple of months where Yellowbox honey would take years.

If you’re ever near Sydney’s Northern Beaches, feel free to pop in and try some honey and read the tasting notes and research and watch Queen B candles being made.  Happy days.


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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So, we tried crowdsourcing which I would say was a moderate success, and now we’ll try bulk discounts… as in, we will buy our most popular holders in bulk on your behalf and then hand on the savings (plus some in this case) to you.  What we need to do is get our turnover up by around 50% in a viable way.  Ie yes I do realise that if I halved the price of all the candles we’d probably get turnover up by 300% but we’d also be out of business in weeks.  So, we need to find another way of doing it!

We recently scored a bit of a deal on the beautiful porcelain dome holders that fly off our shelves. So we bought our two favourite designs in bulk and thought we’d pass on the savings to you. Here’s the deal:

* the porcelain domes usually RRP for $24.95 for 36 hours only if you buy 3 we’ll send you 1 for free… that’s 25% off. That means you’ll have 4 gifts for under $20 each in the cupboard. Bargain.

You get to choose between the Filigree Dragonfly with tealights or without tealights or the Cherry Blossom with tealights or without tealights.

Filigree dragonfly porcelain dome tealight holder

Cherry Blossom porcelain dome tealight holder

You also get to choose whether to buy WITH a box of 4-5 hr tealights to go with each tealight holder, or WITHOUT the tealights. If you purchase with the tealights, the same buy 3 get 1 free offer applies for the next 36 hours. We have NEVER done 25% off tealights ever before so get in fast!

This offer expires at 8am on Wednesday, 18th April 2011 so we can get the orders shipped prior to Easter.


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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For many years now I’ve felt like something of a hypocrit in making beeswax candles and encouraging people to relax and have more life balance whilst at the same time living a very imbalanced life myself. I’m aware that in choosing to do something so single-mindedly and without any acceptance of compromise that I’ve made certain sacrifices/choices, but I just didn’t want to advertise that (and recognised on some level that it probably wasn’t “healthy”). It was my little secret! At the same time, I can’t imagine how I would ever have discovered the things I’ve learned if I hadn’t worked the hours I’ve worked to the exclusion of a life outside of Queen B.

I love it then when I get a different perspective on things…

Last night I was reading the latest issue of Dumbo Feather (historically my favourite magazine). It’s a quarterly injection of inspiration – each issue has interviews with 5 interesting people. In the four years I’ve subscribed I’ve never put down an issue without learning something new (both about the world and about myself).

The first interview in the latest issue is with Kate Bezar the founder and former editor (she has recently had a baby boy and stepped back from day to day management). She says:

“Someone said to me once “Kate, you don’t really profile people with children”. And I hadn’t really every thought about it. But it is true, and a lot of the people I’ve profiled have been fairly dysfunctional, in the sense that they really have this completely single-minded devotion to what they do. And it takes precedence above all else, including a life beyond that which they are passionate about. That’s not necessarily an extraordinarily healthy thing… in retrospect it [is] extraordinarily like having a child, actually.”

Isn’t it funny how when we read something that clicks with us or makes sense to us somehow that legitimises it?! Now it’s our little secret!

So, to anyone else in the tribe who is reading this… tell me what you’ve done to the exclusion of having balance in your life and if it resonates, I’ll send you a pack of Bee Lights so that at least you have have beeswax candle light while you’re following your passion/dream!


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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[When things go wrong, and they sometimes will],
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are -
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit -
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

[My mum gave me this poem on a beautiful card when I first left Australia to study overseas for a year. I carried her hand-written card around in my wallet for almost 20 years until my purse was stolen a couple of years ago. Interestingly the thing I was most upset about losing was the poem. I was reminded of it when reflecting on my day!]

I spent all day on Saturday working on a new candle. In my mind it is a long (40 – 50cm), elegant, very slightly tapered, dipped taper candle. It is inspired by, and to me a logical progression to, our recently launched Bee Lights (with which I am completely obsessed).

Today was my third day of production testing…

Below are a couple of photographs from my last test batch today. You will appreciate that the final version is still a little way away!

Having said that, I am actually burning them at home today (no point in them going to waste!) and they are burning BEE-UTIFULLY…


Queen B beeswax candles are made with 100% pure Australian beeswax a pure cotton wick and copious amounts of hand made love. We stock beautiful and stylish candle holders, personalised candles, votive candles and pillar candles that nourish the human spirit and our environment.

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