Cameron McIntyre is 21-years-old and the big boss behind Betty’s Bees, a local honey business dedicated to giving Sydney-siders a taste of pure, honey goodness created from the flora in our own backyard. He is an environmentalist who’s business is making flowers bloom all over Sydney.
He's also one of the nicest people that I've ever met. He has a deep laugh that comes straight from the belly, rosy cheeks that you kind of want to pinch and as cliche as this sounds, his eyes legitimately glimmer when he smiles. He also gave me free honeycomb to go with my last order so I’m still stoked about that.
I had a chat with Cameron to find out how he manages to hustle his honey day in, day out.
Can you describe how your business works?
We are a small, family business located in Pennant Hills of Sydney’s North, nestled between green bush and one of Australia’s worst roads. We currently have around twenty-three beehives, some in the hills and a few up on an orange orchid in Peats Ridge. Our business plan is pretty simple; to provide real, unheated honey to friends and family, as well as neighbours that live in the area. I want to give people a chance to taste real honey; honey that hasn’t been tampered, heated or processed; honey that is made from flowers and trees that are planted in their own backyards. Currently we supply to a few coffee shops in the area. The idea of being able to get a good cup of coffee when you want to buy honey is a win situation for all. How can you go wrong?
What made you want to work with bees?
My Dad, Stuart, and I have always enjoyed eating honey. Numerous conversations over the years were had about making our own honey. Three years ago we tried to grow our own passionfruit in the backyard and it was unsuccessful to say the least. After researching, we had two options: get bees for cross pollination or stand there with a paint brush at 7am to cross pollinating the flowers by hand, option two wasn’t going to happen. Seven months later we had a hive.
Who is Betty?
Betty is my grandma. She loves nature and the Australian Bush. Over the years grandma has converted her English garden into a native landscape, which encourages all sorts of wildlife to her garden, from her native Kookaburras, Native Minors, Rainbow lorikeets and the Butcher bird that comes to visit her daily. There is even the occasional bush turkey that wanders through. Betty loves the bees and is in peace with them at all times. There will be times when dad and I are beekeeping and we turn around and Grandma will be walking past without a veil on or a bee suit and she's never been stung!
How/why did the business start?
The plan was to keep it to one hive for our pollination and take excess honey for our own consumption. After a couple of swarms caught and a few splits, our hives grew in numbers. In my search for a full time job the idea of beekeeping full time played on my mind a lot. The plan was to rent hives out to people that wanted bees without the hassle of getting set up and the cost that comes up front with beekeeping – Spinner, Smoker, Suits, Gloves, Hive Tools, Boxes Bases, Frames. Even expanding this model to putting bees on roofs of high rises and restaurants and cafes so that they could sell and use their very own raw unheated honey. As part of this idea, we grew our numbers of hives. I now have a full time job and juggle the bees amongst doing that. I'm always pretty busy now.
Do you see this as your ‘real’ career?
It is a real career in the sense that you are working long hours, you're constantly tired and it's labour intensive, but it's a very rewarding and soul-filling career. On the other hand, being actually able to make it my primary income would be very hard and would involve about a thousand hives.
Does your business model work towards the growth of bee population?
Yeah it sure does, friends and family play a huge part in the whole process. The more honey/merchandise sold the more we can continue to keep raising awareness as well as saving the bees. Saving the bees means being able to catch swarms, continue to do live cut out of bees instead of extermination and continue to manage our current hives.
A huge part of helping the bee population to grow involves education. Betty’s Bees has been involved in local council events talking to the public about bees, local markets around Sydney, pre-schools as well as smaller events. Bee populations are dying at an alarming rate world wide due Colony Collapse Disorder (CDD). CCD has been linked to pest that are killing the bees such as the Varroa Mite which has wiped almost half of America’s bee population and the use of pesticides in agriculture and Genetically Modified Crops that contain Round up/Pesticide. If we can continue to educate people on the huge job that bees do for us everyday, we will be moving in the right direction. If we can encourage people to be aware about using pesticides in their gardens and encourage planting bee friendly flowers/trees, we can all work towards saving the bees.
Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?
When I first started beekeeping, I don’t think I would have called myself one. I’m now more aware and alert and realise how important our environment is. We need to continue to respect and look after our planet, us humans have made a huge dent. I really think we should be investing money into renewable energy. It should be our main source of power so the generations to come can still enjoy what we call Earth. I think we should ban fracking in Australia. Scary stuff.
Do you believe that harvesting honey is cruel? (i.e the vegan argument)
I think if you care for the bees and respect them it’s not cruel. I personally would not take honey from the bees if they did not have enough honey. We take the excess honey that is made in preparation for the winter being snowed in, luckily in Sydney we have pretty warm weather all year round which is great for the bees. Some other countries will force feed their bees with sugar water and corn syrup instead of letting the bees naturally collecting pollen and nectar; the bees then get sick. I am very much against this.
I think Veganism is a step in the right direction, with less processed meats as the key. This can also have negative effects; the recent increased demand for almond milk has put more pressure on farmers and the bees. For example, almonds are sprayed with a pesticide to stop diseases and fungus that grows on the tree, farmers spray the flowers and trees during the day which then covers the bees in pesticide as well as the pollen which is fed to the next generation of bees. This weakens the hive leading to CCD. Encouraging more organic farming is the way to go.
Where can we buy your honey and merchandise?
You can order honey, T-shirts, Wax, Lip balm through our Facebook or Instagram account - @bettysbees or through these cafes:
The Corner Café – Pennant Hills.
Karoo & Co – Wahroonga.
Steam Tank Coffee – Hornsby.
Quick Fire Round!
What’s your coffee order?
Piccolo latte – Mothers milk.
Best song to get sexy to?
Heart Don’t Stand a Chance – Anderson .Paak
Favourite honey/bee pick up line?
Honey, you’re the bee’s knees!
Best thing to put honey on?
Cheese. It’s the real deal when you find honey on a cheese plate.
How many times have you been stung by a bee?
I’ve lost count, its definitely over fifty that’s for sure.
Laura is a 21-year-old Italian grandmother who likes coffee, going to bed early and snapchat filters. Follow her on Instagram @laurajmasia.