THE sweet taste of success flows daily from a spoon held above toast by Brian Simpson. It is Pricklepoint Honey and it recently tantalised the taste buds of judges at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
This year Pricklepoint Honey claimed first place in the Small Producers Section for combed honey and second place for the fine-grained creamed honey. The win delighted Brian and his wife, Lyn, who call Bohnock home.
The titles are a reward for countless hours of work that come with caring hundreds of thousands of bees that call Pricklepoint home. It is not the first time Brian and Lyn have entered their honey in Sydney Royal Easter Show competition categories, but it is the first time they have secured a first place.
It is an accolade earned with only five years experience as an apiarist, but in that time Brian has developed a passion for his bees and the environment in which they work to make the honey that he and Lyn enjoy daily, either in tea, on toast, drizzled on porridge or every now and then, on a crumpet.
Brian is modest and says he has a few hives with each colony producing about 60 kilograms of honey each year in optimum conditions.
"If we don't have too much rain, if it's not too hot, or too dry - yes, they are a little fussy," Brian laughs.
Around 30,000 bees call each hive home and they can fly up to three kilometres daily in search of pollen from flowering plants in the area such as clover, ironbark, bloodwood, paperbark and corn.
The result of their labours is a honey that Brian describes as having a light and floral flavour with varying colour and that will change and depends on what is in bloom around his hives.
Brian does not move his hives around the Manning Valley to cultivate a specific flavour or colour in his honey and says this choice also means he limits the risk to his hives to disease and pests.
Colony health is critical and Brian says he dedicates a great deal of time to checking the health of his hives.
Brian says local apiarists are extremely aware of the need to protect our hardworking pollinators from American foulbroog disease and the increasing threat of the varroa mite.
"The varroa mite is the biggest threat to the bee industry in Australia," Brian explained. "Australia is the only continent in the world currently free of the mite."
According to the Department of Agriculture, if the varroa mite were to become established in Australia our healthy population of feral honey bees, and the pollination services they provide, could be reduced by 90 to 100 per cent. Experts are predicting that varroa mites will enter Australia at some time in the future because in recent years, varroa has established in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and movement by transport or natural spread may occur.
Brian is aware of the looming bio security threat, but for now he is diligent about ensuring his bees are safe from a range of beetles, fungus, flies and mites. He knows that healthy hives and happy queens deliver delicious, award winning honey and honeycomb.
It's a measure of success that Brian is happy to claim and cultivate for years to come.