Tambo Valley Honey


The smell of honey mingles with the smell of burning leaves as apiarist, Ben Murphy, uses a bee smoker to flush out some bees. Plucking a wooden panel filled with beeswax and honey from a hive, bees crawl over Ben’s bare hand. “They are well behaved bees in this hive,” said Ben.

The simple tools of a beekeeper; wooden hives, bee smoker and white overall; belie the complexity of the ancient agricultural practices, which Ben has been replicating and operating as Tambo Valley Honey for 10 years. Ben began his working life as a butcher’s apprentice but had the chance to swap butchering for bees. He knew nothing about bees but took over the hives from his mentor and friend, Ian Cane. “When I was bitten on the first day and my hand swelled up, I thought I had made a bad decision,” said Ben. Luckily, Ben is not allergic to bees. He is bitten between 15 to 25 times a day. “Some days I don’t get any bites.” said Ben.

Hives are made from blue wooden boxes which sit in stacks with the hive at the bottom housing the queen and her drones. The rest of the boxes are filled with worker bees flying in and out filling the panel inserts with golden honey. Hives are kept on private land as well as on land leased from the government. “It is not possible to get into beekeeping without the leases,” said Ben.

Ben travels long distances to tend to his hives. Sometimes as far as Batemans Bay and closer to home: Bruthen, Dargo and Bumberrah. Ben and his wife, Stacey, have 1,000 hives and approximately 50,000 to 60,000 bees. The couple are building their supply back up to the levels they had before the devastating 2019 bushfires. “It takes a while to recover,” said Stacey.

The hives have to be moved around to ensure the bees have enough food. “Moving them by truck is a marathon effort,” says Ben. “I need to time it for when the bees go back into the hives and drive at night.”

Once a year Ben drives the bees to Robinvale to be put to work cross pollinating the almond orchards. “They are massive agricultural operations,” said Ben. “The almond farmers depend on our bees.”

Ben and Stacey produce 10-15 different varieties of honey including red gum, yellow box and grey gum. Ben can taste test all 15. Tambo Valley Honey supplies their honey to Northern Ground, The Stables, Albert and Co. Luckes Grocer, IGA and many local businesses.

The couple have built a shop and café in the main street of Bruthen which opened recently. They have a live hive on-site, to work in collaboration with other East Gippsland businesses and bee related products, including Sailor’s Grave Brewery from Orbost, Nicholson River Soaps and Little Bumble Wraps.

The planning process has caused a rollercoaster of emotions for them. “We have had a few sleepless nights,” said Ben. “But, we have chosen the right people to help deliver our project. We have a clear idea of what we want it to look like. We want to do it right” The pandemic has interfered with Ben and Stacey’s time-line and caused price rises in building costs. “It took time but we look forward to new employment opportunities being created as a result of our project” said Stacey.

Ben and Stacey are excited about the opportunities in East Gippsland. “The region is untapped, said Ben. “People exploring their own back yard has been one of the positives out of the pandemic. East Gippsland is full of hidden gems and has something for everyone”

“Despite the set-backs, we are very excited about the new shop" said Stacey.