At Australian Unity, we like to do things a little differently.
Which is why we keep bees on the roof of our head office in Melbourne. Our ‘urban bees’ are the brainchild of Melbourne City Rooftop Honey, who place beehives on unused rooftops, balconies and gardens throughout the city to raise awareness of bees and the vital role they play in our ecosystems.
“The honey bee plays a very important role in the sustainability of the food supply chain,” explains Mat Lumalasi of Rooftop Honey.
“They are the key to the pollination of the agricultural and horticultural crops that produce a large proportion of the food we eat.”
Why we need to look after our bees
Put simply, if there were no bees, there would be no food.
Bees allow plants to reproduce through pollination. Seventy per cent of the world’s leading food crops benefit in some way from animal pollination.
“These plants pollinated by bees also contribute to the food system by feeding birds and insects,” Mat says.
“If this food source was eliminated, the whole food chain would suffer. Bees are vital for the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity.”
Habitat loss and climate change are threatening the bee population, but it’s pesticides that are responsible for killing the bees that make many crops possible. The EU has banned neonicotinoids, which are some of the most harmful pesticides that attack the bees’ nervous systems.
You can help bees from the significant threat they’re under by “stopping using chemicals in your garden,” says Mat. “Plant bee-friendly plants when possible and buy local honey to help the beekeeper to cover the costs of beekeeping and enable them to keep looking after bees.”
The benefits of honey
Honey has natural anti-bacterial properties; it can be used to clean wounds and also heal minor cuts and grazes according to some research. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties too, with some studies suggesting it can soothe and treat sore throats and diarrhoea.
“There’s also anecdotal evidence to suggest that locally-made honey can reduce hayfever and allergy symptoms,” says Mat.
When you buy honey, make sure you buy local. “This supports your local economy, local producers and also means you know where your food is coming from,” says Mat.
“Large corporations have been caught blending and adulterating honey; always get it straight from the source. Raw honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil. It will often crystallise over the cooler months, but you can gently warm it and turn it back in to liquid honey.”