Jack Wilson Stone parked his first beehive in his mother’s East Brisbane backyard in 2012. Only thing was, he wasn’t a bee person. Wilson Stone had exactly zero experience with bees.
But he had an idea. It was the culmination of working on farms overseas and a cycling trip through Europe, where he developed a passion for food and conscious consuming. During this 18-month stint, he was drawn to farming communities in California and on the border of Germany and Hungary.
“Every garden and allotment would have something different – you could see who was the chicken person, the goat person, the vegetable grower,” he says. “There was a beautiful symbiotic relationship, not just within the environment, but with the people within their environment.”
Now, Wilson Stone is very much a bee person — an apiarist, as they’re known in the industry — for Bee One Third Neighbourhood Honey. On any given day, you might spy him in a local hotel or office building, smiling as he wheels along his red trolley.
In recent years Bee One Third has swarmed from one hive to more than 100, spanning 20 locations in southern Queensland. Each is home to tens of thousands of bees, and together they produce 10 tonnes of honey per year. The hives are spread over rooftops, in backyards. Two Subaru centres have offered some space, giving away vial-size samples with each car service as part of a corporate responsibility program.
The honey is bottled according to location. The clear jars display anything from a pale liquid that might crystallise or cream, to an opaque, almost-black matter that comes out thick on the spoon. These qualities differ from area to area, season to season, and show the diversity of plant life even just in Brisbane, as the bees travel up to five kilometres to search for proteins and carbohydrates.
Bee One Third is still considered artisanal within the industry, in terms of its size. Just a team of three, Wilson Stone’s work in the field is backed by Chris Hagen, who takes care of the production at the Bee One Third warehouse, and Hamzeh Mohammad Hassanyan, a beekeeper trained in Iran and skilled in constructing beehives, apiary stands and the all-important hive frames.
On the roof of Hotel Jen on Roma Street, deep in the city, Wilson Stone points out the different colours within the honeycomb, illustrating the fascinating spectacle of a queen bee emerging from her cell for the first time. He approaches the task with an educational slant, offering facts about the crucial role of these creatures (Bee One Third runs beginner and advanced beekeeper courses).
With concerns about the global decline of bee populations, Bee One Third is doing its part in social and environmental responsibility, balanced with passion and entrepreneurship. “We’re focusing on the importance of educating people to invite bees back into their neighbourhoods,” Wilson Stone says.