The business of beekeeping

27 Mar 2018

Move over queen bees and make way for Roger Stoch, the king of Perth’s beekeeping scene and producer of our favourite raw honey products, Pure Naked Honey.

 Hobbies come in many forms. Some people spend their weekends golfing, while others may like to salsa dance, fish, cook or crochet.

Roger Stoch realised his number one interest – beekeeping – could be so much more than a pastime. Taking his fascination in bees, he established his boutique operation, Pure Naked Honey, and now produces some of Perth’s finest quality raw honey, full of the flavour of WA’s native vegetation.

Here’s the buzz on one of our favourite local artisan businesses.

 

TBT: How did you get into the honey business and what were you doing beforehand?

RS: I was previously in Project Management for 30 years, but always had an interest in bees, dating back to when I was about 12 years old growing up in South Africa. Not so long ago, I took bee-keeping up as a hobby again.

 

TBT: How does Pure Naked Honey operate as a business, and how quickly has it grown?

RS: Although beekeeping started as a hobby a few years ago, it quickly escalated to an artisanal business. In less than 2 years, Pure Naked grew into a boutique business working with local homeowners who act as hosts for my hives. This gives me a great spread across the Perth metropolitan region, resulting in amazing variations in honey colours and tastes.

 

TBT: Initially, were you anxious about being stung?

RS: Yes, I was (anxious) and I still am to a slight degree. Being wild creatures, it is essential to have a healthy respect for bees when you enter their territory. I keep reminding myself to err on the side of caution and wear all the gear – bees have a way of seeking out vulnerabilities in your armour!

 

TBT: Have you been stung often, and how do you avoid being stung?

RS: It varies, sometimes I can go without being stung for months –

There have been rare occasions where I have been stung multiple times. I wear an all-in-one beekeeper’s suit and leather gloves, and use smoke to calm the bees.

 

TBT: For those who are unaware, how crucial are bees to our environment and ecosystem?

RS: All of Australia’s introduced fruit, vegetables and nut species rely heavily on pollination by European Honey Bees, which were introduced into Australia in 1822. Approximately one-third of what we eat is reliant on pollination by honey bees.

 

TBT: How and when do you harvest your honey?

RS: I harvest the honey in person, so it’s a really hands-on business. I only harvest honey when there is a healthy surplus in the hive – generally for six to nine months of the year – but this varies with location and seasonal changes. I make sure that I always leave behind adequate honey stores for the hard-working girls. In this sense, Pure Naked sources honey responsibly and ethically.

 

TBT: What makes Pure Naked Honeycomb unique?

RS: The bees build honey comb directly into round forms that we place into the hives to create a unique circular product that is 100 per cent raw and does not undergo any processing whatsoever after being harvested. We simply just add the outer packaging and ship it off to our stockists.

 

TBT: Are there any factors that affect the flavour of the honey and are any of these influences desirable?

RS: Bees will produce varying flavours of honey throughout the year, based on the nectar sourced by the colony. It is not unusual to see a huge variation. Generally, as a rule, lighter coloured honey is subtler in flavour and darker honey is more robust.

Taste is a personal preference however, if you are using the honey for its medicinal value, you will get greater benefit from the antimicrobial activity levels that are more prevalent in certain honeys.

 

TBT: In your opinion, what’s the most surprising fact about beekeeping?

RS: A worker bee only produces approximately one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its life time.

 

TBT: And what’s the most enjoyable aspect of beekeeping?

RS: Opening a hive for the first time in a new location and finding it packed to the brim with nature’s liquid gold!

 

TBT: Finally, how do you best enjoy your honey?

RS: On an authentic fresh croissant, with a thick layer of butter, honey over the butter. Honey comb on yoghurt or ice-cream is pretty good too.

 

DID YOU KNOW: There are over 2,000 Native Bee species found across Australia with approximately 800 Native Bee Species located in Western Australia. Only 11 species are known to store honey. Pure Naked Honey is produced by the Italian honey bee.

 

Want to add Pure Naked Honey to your cheese boards, or as Roger recommends, to your pastries and ice cream? You’ll find it instore at The Black Truffle (RRP: $13.50 for plain jarred honey; $15.95 for jarred honey with honeycomb, and for rounds of pure honey comb).