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 we strive for in our daily living. This ideology is a core part of our business.
Our hives are kept in small, permanent apiaries, within 100km of where we live. We manually crush, strain, and bottle our honey, and allow our bees to create their own natural comb in warré hives. We don't truck bees around to pollination contracts. Our workshop and honey shed run on renewable energy. These choices mean that we use considerably less energy and machinery than a typical commercial beekeeping operation.
All of our packaging is recyclable and reusable glass, and our hives are made from locally sourced or high-quality reclaimed timber. We paint the exterior of the hives with a blend of beeswax and pure Tung oil. Any plastic used is recyclable, and we limit plastic in our business as much as possible (with an aim to remove it all-together). We immediately decant the honey into jars and keep it in a cool room so it is never stored in metal or plastic.
Nearly all of our honey is sold locally to chefs and wineries, or distributed to high-end food stores around Adelaide.
We sell honey exclusively from bees raised in our own custom-built warré hives. Our hives do not use foundation sheets, wires, or queen excluders.
Wild honey means wild bees. With a few exceptions, the bees in our hives are locally adapted strains ideally suited to the climate and region, caught from swarms in the coastal wilderness. We keep track of the family lines of our bees to maintain diversity.
We practice zero-input beekeeping. This means that we only take as much honey from a hive as will allow the bees to survive the season without intervention - a difficult and fine line to walk.
Unspun honey is harvested in small batches and we do not mix honey from multiple hives together. Each batch produces a maximum of 14kg of honey, and usually closer to 12kg. It is never filtered, blended, or heated above hive temperature (We press the 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, a term collectively called terroir. No two batches are the same because some plants might only flower once in ten years, or at different times from one year to the next. Even two hives in the same apiary will taste different because the bees from each hive will inevitably gather nectar from different sources and in different quantities.
Honey from our hives is always multifloral and our apiaries are carefully located so that the bees have access to a wide range of floral sources at all times of the year. When we notice a dearth in flowers in an area at a particular time of year, we plant native trees and flowers that will cover that gap in following years, increasing the biodiversity of the region.
Many of our hives are located near large swaths of remnant coastal wilderness, making Unspun honey as close as possible to organic. We 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, we chose compassion for the bees above all else. We are in a partnership with our bees and treat them with care and respect.
Most of our bees are local strains, derived from cutouts and swarms in both urban and forested areas within 100km of where we live. A few of our bee families are from inter-state: bees acquired before we were confidently catching local swarms. One family of bees is from a breeding program based out of Sydney, bred over many generations to select for hygienic behaviour.
We try not to keep aggressive strains of bees, and we propagate the families that do best over winter and have a history of being locally adapted. Our bees are black, yellow, and tiger striped.
What they have in common: they are healthy, and they do well in the climate where we live.
Who we are
Unspun Honey is owned and operated by Matthew Waltner-Toews and his family. We are first generation, self-taught beekeepers who started in 2014. No-one in our family has, to the best of our knowledge, ever kept bees before.