A GENTLE hum fills the breeze as afternoon light begins to filter through the backyard branches of Jack Stone's suburban Brisbane home.
The urban beekeeper is checking his brood chamber in search of pollen stores, honey supply and, of course, checking that the royal queen is doing well in her prestige position.
All his backyard beehives rest on concrete blocks, just high enough to keep the toads away.
Jack is in his element as European honeybees swarm the sky, momentarily dazed before catching the queen's scent and heading back to their abode.
"This is what I live for," Jack said, lifting a frame into the light and inspecting the bees' handiwork.
"It's a great sign when honey loosely drips from the frame. It's a sign the honey flow is on - this is perfect."
An undying interest and an ever-growing passion to educate people on the importance of their food origin has lit a fire inside the young entrepreneur, who moved back to Brisbane in late 2011 when he and a friend founded Bee One Third -Neighbourhood Honey in 2012.
"It's not actually honey that we're after. Pollination is the aim of the game in this process as, without ripe flowers the bees have nothing to visit to collect their food," Jack said.
"People are beginning to become more aware of their surroundings in the city - more aware of the plants and systems that they live within."
Jack said the awareness it raised for communities and for people to re-engage with their food was important as it showed the consequences of supporting large industries which, ultimately, didn't do consumers any favours.
From simple beginnings, the business has grown from one small rescued swarm to 45 individual hives - or ecosystems - placed across the Brisbane CBD.
"I remember doing all the research and putting my name on a swarm list before I got the call out to my first rescue at the base of Mt Gravatt," Jack said.
"It was an amazing sight to behold. I had the frames and everything to go and we went out in my grandma's car. The swarm was about eight feet (2.4m) off the ground on the overhanging branch of a palm tree."
The most important thing for anyone wanting to rescue a swarm is to remember they are docile in this state and will often not sting.
"Their main aim during swarming is to find a new secure home. Scouting bees will relay messages to the rest of the colony. It's important to catch a swarm before they decide where to settle.
"As the sun sets, the returning bees smell out the location of the queen through her pheromones in their new swarm box, and safely return to their colony."
Passing the nectar between each other, the bees digest honey and develop it into wax, building hexagonal patterns which they fill with eggs, honey and pollen.
Jack's desire to educate people about where their food comes from and reconnect them with nature was the catalyst for creating his neighbourhood honey business, where consumers can buy honey made from the flowers in their own backyards.
"We work with a number of different precincts, including James Street in Fortitude Valley, and we're getting reflections of where the bees are pollinating through the flavours and colours in the honey.
"Every single beehive is completely different and I have 45 individual ecosystems (or hives) - ever strengthening, ever fluctuating. It's a seasonal operation.
"We're planning to grow that into 100 to 120 around south east Queensland within the next 12 months. We are loving the look of both the north and south coasts."
Dealing with these individual ecosystems, Jack has a hands-on perspective about what monitored environments are capable of doing.
"Bees are great educators and promoters of what is happening in the world around us. They can travel for up to five kilometres in search of food, so they prove to be fantastic indicators of the state of our local environments.
"They don't just go to the nearest trees in flower; they search out the richest sources of protein and carbohydrate (pollen and nectar) to bring home. Suburban areas are usually rich with food, so we are less concerned with their diversity of diet."
Jack said many other urban beekeepers were looking for specific flavours of honey, so many placed up to 30 hives in an area in order to yield a certain strain, such as tea tree or yellow box, whereas Bee One Third had chosen to follow the seasonal flow of urban flavours.
"We're not looking at a specific type of flower to represent; we're looking at representing areas, regions and neighbourhoods.
"By doing that, we're able to achieve a direct representation of what that neighbourhood has had in flower at the time of harvest and, if we were to take pollen analysis, we'd be able to identify the huge variety of flowers the bees have visited."
The absurd diversity of the Bee One Third honeys is certainly a treat for any who are able to get their hands on a bottle, with Jack harvesting honey only when the bees can afford to spare a few kilograms.
"I am always inspecting for fresh eggs, honey stores, making sure the hive is running as it should, checking for pests and implementing measures for smooth operation."
With resounding support from the Brisbane community, Jack and Bee One Third are well on track to continue connecting consumers with produce.
"I like to think we're contributing positively to the bee population and, even if you can't see them in your yard, to know they are out there working.
"The best thing to do is plant bee-friendly herbs and plants that provide a source of nectar and pollen for the bees. We can all help in small and simple ways."
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