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Archive for February, 2012

We’ve had quite a few kids into the hive recently which gives me the occasion to wax lyrical about all things honeybees, beeswax and honey.

The thing that usually has the most misconceptions surrounding it is what beeswax is exactly.  So, here are a few things you may not have known about beeswax…

  1. Beeswax is produced by wax glands on the underside of the abdomen of a bee.  It is clear liquid when exuded and becomes wax upon contact with air.

    Bees' wax glands

    Bees' wax glands

  2. Worker bees are usually allocated to wax production between 12 – 18 days of age! (is there something there for Gen Y perhaps?!)  The bees collect the wax with their legs and then chew it to soften it and make it malleable (to make the honeycomb structure in which they store flower nectar to ripen into honey.
  3. Beeswax is clear/white when exuded.  Discolouration occurs when the wax is stained by honey, pollen, propolis (or by beekeepers overheating the wax).  To read more about why Queen B candles are so light in colour, read our blog post on Why The White Wax Queenie?
  4. A bee makes around 10 nectar gathering trips per day (and can carry 25 – 5- milligram’s of water or nectar per trip).  Flower nectar is simply ‘unripened’ honey.  It takes 82kgs of nectar (ie around 165,000 trips) to make 1kg of honey.  In the course of those 165,000 trips, worker bees will fly around 4 million kms’ (100 times around earth).
  5. Bees consume a lot of energy in the production of wax using around 8 – 10kgs of honey to produce 1kg of wax.

This is some of the unspoken magic in every Queen B candle.  There is literally thousands of hours of bee flight and the work of thousands of honey bees in every single candle.  Don’t get me wrong, bees like to work hard.  It’s in their DNA.  They are born and literally start working immediately.  It is quite something to observe.  However it is still lovely to acknowledge that as you enjoy the beautiful golden light of your Queen B candle.

Of course, after all that hard work by our bee sisters, we treat our beeswax like gold at Queen B.  It is thoroughly washed, settled and filtered over 48 hours to remove any impurities (like pollen, propolis or dust) all of which have a massive impact on how a beeswax candle burns.  Having clean, unadulterated beeswax is just as important as finding the right wick in creating Queen B candles.

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After much contemplation I have decided it is simply impossible to narrow down my other highlights from Tasmania to a ‘fourth’.

Do I write about the couple of nights I spent with customers who became friends and recently moved to Tassie having designed and built the home of their dreams?  This is the view from their balcony (that’s Maria Island in the background).  It is such a privilege and inspiration to share someone else’s dream.

Living the Dream - Balcony View in Orford

Living the Dream - Balcony View in Orford

Or do I write about the extraordinary beauty of Freycinet National Park, and the angel (from the Blue Mountains) who I gave a lift to and who returned the favour tenfold when I started the walk to the Wineglass Bay Lookout only to have a panic attack and flashbacks to when I got lost on a mountain in Canada 17 years ago?! (long sentence… long story)  I can’t actually recall thinking much about it in the last 16 years, but then again, I haven’t done much bush walking in the ensuing 16 years either.  My recall was certainly very powerful on the day, and it just so happened that said angel who I gave a lift to just happened to be a bushwalking guide and just happened to have had panic attacks herself in the past, and just happened to know exactly what to do!  I made it to the lookout (which was spectacular) and put those demons behind me.  The photograph below is from the lighthouse walk in Freycinet National Park.

Freycinet National Park

Freycinet National Park

Another highlight for me was staying at a B&B in Swansea called Schouten House.  The owners, Cameron and Jodie, moved to Swansea from South Australia about 5 years ago.  Anyway, as I was paying and saying goodbye, it somehow came up that I made beeswax candles.  Jodie asked me what the name of my business was.  When I told her it was Queen B, she got quite teary.  Evidently someone does read my blog and in some ways my journey was providing comfort or inspiration for their own fabulous journey into small business, following their dream and creating something that is unique and filled with integrity!  At a time when I was utterly exhausted and questioning everything, it was an absolute gift to have that feedback.

Schouten House

Schouten House

Another highlight for me was simply the sheer beauty of the Tassie countryside.  Here a vineyard with Freycinet National Park in the background.  I can never get enough of the Australian countryside and I’m a complete sucker for a roll of hay, a field of poppies (yes, they grow poppies for opium in Tassie!), cattle, rolling hills and vast blue skies.

Scenic beauty on the East Coast of Tassie

Scenic beauty on the East Coast of Tassie

I kind of ruled out making Bridestowe Lavender Farm my fourth highlight because again it was all about bees, and I wouldn’t want you thinking that I need to get a life or anything like that.  Below is a photograph looking across the lavender fields to their apiary.  Not only do the bees pollinate the lavender, but they also sell Bridestowe Lavender Farm honey from their hives.

Apiary at Bridesdowe Lavender Farm

Apiary at Bridestowe Lavender Farm

Bees pollination lavender at Bridestowe

Bees pollination lavender at Bridestowe

Another gratuitous bee close up

Another gratuitous bee close up

After my stint beekeeping, I went to Cradle Mountain for a couple of days and did the Dove Lake walk on one of those days.  The walk started cloudy and moody (which is actually kind of beautiful when you’re in Cradle Mountain), but cleared up to reveal her glittering beauty.  I also happened upon a very tame wallaby sitting on a rock and had my moment of kangaroo whispering which ended up with the wallaby having a little neck and back scratch all the while one eye closed and urging me “a little lower… a little to the left… no down, now right… yes, that’s it… now scratch”!

Dove Lake walk with Crade Mountain clouded in background (this was at the start of the walk)

Dove Lake walk with Crade Mountain clouded in background

Dove Lake walk with Cradle Mountain in rear

Dove Lake walk with Cradle Mountain in rear

Incredibly tame local

Incredibly tame local

My least favourite part of Tassie was Strahan – I think partly because of the weather (15 degrees, raining and windy for the 3 days), partly because one company owns the entire town (yes, all the various levels of – overpriced – accommodation, plus the pub, the fish shop, the cafe, the restaurant, the tourism centre, even the boat that does the cruises on the river) and its pretty kitsch.  However, having said that, I did the cruise (because I wanted to see the leatherwood forests from the amazing Franklin River, and the photograph below is one of my favourites from the entire trip.  Talk about shades of gray…  I don’t usually acknowledge shades of gray in life!

Macquarie Harbour (Strahan)

Macquarie Harbour (Strahan)

Another big highlight was meeting Yves Ginat, the beekeeper behind Miellerie honey which we sell a LOT of at the hive.  Yves honey is sublime and he has the artisan approach and attention to detail that we love at Queen B.  Learning about beekeeping told by a beekeeper with a strong french accent makes it all sound about as divine and romantic and pure as I know it to be… apart from the fact that he must have been bathing in oil of olay because I also met his 16 year old daughter!  Amazing.  I think he may have been hoeing into the royal jelly – known throughout Asia as a youth elixir.

Yves from Miellerie Honey

Yves from Miellerie Honey

And finally, I couldn’t not have told you about the boat trip that I did around Tasman Island which included an endless array of seals which were just fascinating to watch.

Seal off Tasman Island

Seal off Tasman Island

More seals around Tasman Island

More seals around Tasman Island

So there it is… a little late in finishing, but you get the gist.  If Tassie weren’t on your bucket list prior to now, put it on there.  I actually think the Tasweigans have it right (as opposed to being backward)!  Life is a little slower, but they do what they do REALLY well (amazing honey, amazing wines, amazing cheeses, amazing beauty, great opium – if you’re into that sort of thing, fabulous museum, great cooking school etc etc and they seem to be really into supporting Australian made).  Even the Pure Tasmania tourism campaign (which is a little ironic given they are still systematically destroying their old growth forests) is clever.  Tourism NSW, where the bloody hell are you?

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