Sweet As

Melbourne apiarist and architect Nic Dowse’s collective, Honey Fingers spreads the joy of beekeeping.

Beekeeping and collecting honey has always fascinated us; the more you explore it, the more you don’t know and the more enchanting it becomes. Ask Melbourne apiarist (and architect), Nic Dowse, founder of Honey Fingers.

Nic and his friends make up a collective of passionate creatives who celebrate ‘bee culture’ in Melbourne.

“Bee culture is a term used to describe the special culture that exists between bees and humans. Promoting, exploring and experimenting with bee cultures; the intersection between bees and humanity; a celebration of our symbiosis is what drives our research and practice,” shares Honey Fingers.

Honey Fingers started around eight years ago as an urban beekeeping network; placing and managing hives on rooftops and backyards in Melbourne’s inner-north, and then harvesting the honey (never all of it – they only ever take the excess). “As a general rule, the urban environment is very, very bee friendly. There is such great botanical diversity,” says Nic.

“It’s a little bit counter-intuitive. I remember when I first started beekeeping I had my bees down in the Otways – there was a nectar flow in spring with the creeping daisies and clover that comes out – and then nothing until the messmate flower in summer and then nothing again until the following spring. Whereas in Melbourne, they pretty much have a nectar flow from spring all the way through summer and autumn … then in winter, when the spotted gums and other things are flowering. It makes for really happy, healthy hives – the more honey that’s in the hive, the more energy they have to go and find more.”

Nic’s passion is realised in lots of different ways through the Honey Fingers Collective, with collaborations with florists, designers, ceramicists and food makers. He also lectures and writes poetry and this year he published a zine called Beehives, which shows some of the images he has collected from his travels around the world researching the history of beekeeping.

“In many cultures, beekeeping is much more than simply producing honey. It is often at the intersection of local craft traditions, religious or spiritual beliefs and agriculture. Looking at these various hives reminds us that beekeeping traditions are ancient and the relationship between honeybees and humans is a deep one. Beehives, in particular, presents an idea that we beekeepers may be separated by geography, language, religion and culture – but everyone has a word for beekeeping.”

Honey Fingers offers a series of classes that run through the basics of beekeeping, available online. The classes are ‘hands-in hives’, where Nic and his team run through set-up and maintenance of a hive, disease identification and treatment and all the things you need to know to start. Then all you need to do is catch a swarm …

honeyfingers.com.au

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