Jack Stone, Bee One Third Honey
Words by Tonya Turner
Beekeeper Jack Wilson Stone gets stung 20 to 30 times a day, but it doesn’t bother him one bit. The founder of Bee One Third, Jack has no interest in wearing gloves to get his job done.
“They just get in the way,” he says.
Jack started Bee One Third, named after the portion of global food crops pollinated by the honey bee, in 2012. Instead of the full astronaut-style outfit most people think of when it comes to beekeeping attire, 26-year-old Jack is more likely to be found wearing shorts and a jacket with a veil while tending to his 68 hives spread across 15 locations throughout South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
Most of them are located on the rooftops of buildings, activating otherwise unused spaces and keeping the operation in a safe setting.
“The whole idea was to turn grey areas into green spaces, up off the ground, out of sight, out of mind,” he says.
Born in Melbourne and raised in Canberra, Jack later moved to Brisbane where he finished high school in 2007 before packing his bags and heading overseas. He spent three years traveling the globe and farm-hopping throughout Europe. It was during this time he discovered a different way of life and an appreciation for small communities and locally grown food.
“There was this really embedded culture of food and growing together – I witnessed all these beautiful towns,” Jack says.
His work on a small organic farm in California was another experience that left a strong imprint, and when Jack returned to Australia in 2011 he was determined to do something with his newfound knowledge. After trying to grow vegetables without much luck, he decided to turn his hand to beekeeping.
“I’d never really understood the importance of bees or the role they played in the whole cycle,” he says.
The use of pesticides in modern farming has been largely blamed for a dramatic decline in the bee population and the insects’ ability to pollinate our crops. The potentially devastating consequences have brought on a worldwide awareness campaign to protect our bees and encourage more of them in both rural and urban settings.
In Brisbane, Jack has set up beehives on rooftops in James St, Roma Street Parkland, West End, South Brisbane, Ashgrove and Paddington. The client list is diverse, with restaurants and cafes signing up for hives alongside car dealerships and construction companies.
The taste of the honey differs from hive to hive, depending on where the bees gather their nectar. In the early days, Jack kept the honey harvested from each hive separate and jarred accordingly. As his operation has grown, he has started mixing the honey from the hives at each rooftop location, but he says the flavours between rooftops and suburbs still varies greatly.
“Even from beehives within the same six square metres of space, each individual hive produces a vastly and distinctly different type of honey,” he says.
When he takes his product to Sunday markets, Jack sets up a “honey flight” of eight different honeys for tasting, starting with local, light, floral honeys and ending with rural, dark, bushier, woodier honeys.
A one-man operation with plans to take on more staff soon, Jack says one of the beauties of beehives is they are fairly low-maintenance, meaning he can look after a large number of hives by doing the rounds every few weeks.
“Beehives are beautiful, they take care of themselves – you don’t need to be there checking them on a daily basis. You do a bit of work, you leave them for three or four weeks, you do a bit of work, you leave them for another three or four weeks, you do a bit more work and you take off 100kg of honey,” he says.
“So the only maintenance really involved is making sure the bees are healthy in terms of their structure and how they’re getting along inside the hive, and then also giving them enough room to store away extra honey.”
Working from his factory in a shared space in Red Hill, Jack tries to keep things as raw and simple as possible when it comes to extracting the honey following harvest time.
“It’s all by hand, we don’t apply any heat which is kind of beautiful because we keep all those active and operational constituents inside the honey,” he says.
As well as being sold by the businesses with hives on their rooftops, Bee One Third honey is available to buy at stockists across the south-east.