Our business is one of only a few at the forefront of natural beekeeping and true, local artisan honey production.
We strongly believe that the high quality of our product is a direct result of our unconventional philosophy: compassion and ethical treatment of our bees.
Sustainability is a way of life, and something my family constantly strives for in our daily living. This ideology is a core part of my business.
I keep my hives in small, permanent apiaries, within 100km of where I live. I manually crush, strain, and bottle my honey at home, and allow my bees to create their own natural comb in Warré hives. My business doesn't truck bees around to pollination contracts. Very soon, my workshop and honey shed will be run entirely off of solar power and rainwater. These choices mean that I use considerably less energy and machinery than a typical commercial beekeeping operation.
All of my packaging is recyclable and reusable glass, and my hives are made from locally sourced or high-quality reclaimed timber. I paint the exterior of my hives with a blend of beeswax and pure Tung oil. Any plastic used is recyclable, and I limit plastic in my business as much as possible (with an aim to remove it all-together). I immediately decant my honey into jars and keep it in a cool room - I do not store it in metal or plastic.
Nearly all of my honey is sold locally at farmers markets or to local chefs and wineries.
I sell honey exclusively from bees raised in my own custom-built Warré hives or from clean, wild hive removals (from a tree, for instance). My hives do not use foundation sheets, wires, or queen excluders.
With a few exceptions, the bees in my hives are locally adapted strains ideally suited to the climate and region. I keep track of the family lines of my bees to maintain diversity.
I practice zero-input beekeeping. This means that I only take as much honey from a hive as will allow the bees to survive the season without my intervention - a difficult and fine line to walk.
My honey is harvested in small batches and I do not mix honey from multiple hives together. It is never filtered, blended, or heated above hive temperature (I press my honey at 25 ºC and store it in a cool room). Each batch of honey is unique to the apiary, the hive, and time of year. Two batches are rarely the same.
Honey from my hives is always multifloral. My apiaries are carefully located so that my bees have access to a wide range of floral sources at all times of the year. When I notice a dearth in flowers in an area at a particular time of year, I plant native trees and flowers that will cover that gap in following years, increasing the biodiversity of the region.
True, 100% organic honey is (sadly) not possible where I live, however, many of my hives are located near large swaths of remnant coastal wilderness, making my honey as close as possible to organic. I strive to follow the Australian Organic Standard and the International Demeter Standard for Apiculture.
Compassion and science
While there are standards for organic honey and natural beekeeping, there is no standard for ethical beekeeping.
Where the above standards are often strict in their requirements, I chose compassion for my bees above all else. I see myself as being in a partnership with my bees, and I treat them with care and respect.
Most of my bees are local strains, derived from cutouts and swarms in both urban and forested areas within 100km of where I live. A few of my bee families are from inter-state: bees I acquired before I was confidently catching local swarms. One family of bees is from a breeding program based out of Sydney, bred over many generations to select for hygenic behaviour.
I try not to keep aggressive strains of bees, and I propagate the families that do best over winter and that show the highest levels of hygienic behaviour. My bees are black, yellow, and tiger striped. They are Mt Gambier bees, unique to our area.
What they have in common: they are healthy, and they do well in the climate where I live.
Who we are
Unspun Honey is owned and operated by Matthew Waltner-Toews, a first generation, self-taught beekeeper who started in 2014. No-one in his family has, to the best of his knowledge, ever kept bees before. He comes from a family of doctors, professors, veterinarians, and scientists. His wife is a doctor who thankfully supports his bee-madness.
Matthew has two young children who haven't let him sleep in five years, and they take up most of his time. He has previously been a landscape architect, an environmental consultant, a marine biologist, a bird ecologist, and a university researcher. His peculiar background allows him to see the landscape differently from most beekeepers. He thought about doing a PhD on colony collapse disorder (CCD), but quickly realised that keeping bees was far more enjoyable than sitting behind a desk.