Vanessa Kwiatkowski and Mat Lumalasi are a couple on a mission.
What started as a hobby for the husband and wife team behind Melbourne City Rooftop Honey has become their life’s passion. As they immersed themselves in the world of bee-keeping and learned about what overseas cities are doing, their mission became clear: bring bees back to our city.
Bees have been swarming the rooftops of Paris for 100 odd years. Urban bee keeping is also thriving in other cities like Other cities like London, Toronto, San Francisco, New York and Hong Kong.
With one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat a result of bee pollination, there’s no underestimating the importance of their mission.
Bees are losing their place of forage because cities are spreading. We want to connect people with their food and start a whole community.
The mission began with friends of the couple putting bee hives on their roofs, they then approached chefs at restaurants. They envisioned having 5 or 6 hives but once word got out there was immediate interest, with 25 odd hives in the first year. So great is the support for what they do, they’re now managing 70 odd hives on restaurant, apartment, and hotel rooftops all over Melbourne, and there’s a waiting list of 500 people wanting hives.
It’s very much a labour of love. Mat gave up his job in IT and says they’ve never been happier, living a basic existence. Together they manage each and every one of the hives (a job that must always be done in twos), including extraction, and bottling and distributing the product.
Each hive produces 30kg honey a year, but it’s about the bees, not the honey, says Vanessa:
If we get honey, it’s a bi-product of having healthy, happy bees. People have to be involved for the right reasons, not the honey.
The honey isn’t blended, so every jar that is sold is a direct reflection of what the bees are foraging in their environment. Fancy a jar of honey from Degraves Lane, Federation Square, or Bourke Street? No problem. Or perhaps you’d like one from the suburbs, say Alphington, Northcote, Richmond or Prahran?
Keep your eyes peeled in the ‘wellbeing’ section of Oh My Goodness for a follow up story with more on why bees are so important to our city and what you can do to help.