The Buzz Blog

Welcome to our blog 'The Buzz'.  Here we will keep you updated on what is happening in the world of bees and honey and anything else that we think you would be interested in.  If there is a topic you would like to hear about drop us an email and I'll see what we can do.

Book Review: 100 Years of Claude Stratford

Written by Stephanie on May 27th, 2016.      0 comments

100 Years of Claude Stratford is a remarkable story of the diverse experiences, challenges and trumpets of Claude Stratford, founder of Comvita.  If you are starting or building a business, are a beekeeper, interesting in nature's healing properties, need some inspiration or just want to read a real story about a real person with dogged determination - this is your book!

Claude Stratford, was a walking Claude Stratfordadvertisement for natural bee products, with his daily health regimen consisting of bee pollen, manuka honey, olive leaf extract, multi-vitamins and Omega 3 capsules.

No one would have predicted that Claude Stratford would reach the milestone of 100+ years. Claude was a sickly child and suffered from chronic health problems well into adulthood.  He sought first to heal himself and then others, with his developing knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants and bee products.  This quest became his life passion, ultimately gaining expression in the company he founded at the age of 63 years old: Comvita Limited.

Beekeeping has been a constant in Claude's long career.  He started keeping bees at 11 years old, when he left school.  During his teenage years he ran a small commercial beekeeping business in Richmond, along with a prize-winning poultry farm.  He would cross the Cook Strait to sell his honey in Wellington. He then started an apiary businesses in the Waikato and the Peria Valley in Northland.  It wasn't until he was 64 years old, when he moved to the Bay of Plenty to be closer to his children, that he saw an opportunity to set up a honey and pollen-inspired health product business, Comvita.  It was meant to be his modest retirement venture, but today the NZX-listed business is turning over more than $80 million a year and has 250 staff in New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Europe, Asia and the United States. "It was really a hobby that just simply took off. It's gone beyond my expectations."

Mr Stratford retired in 1992, at 82, but continued to run a small pollen processing firm  until he was in his mid-90s – when he was a finalist for a Bay of Plenty Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

"I didn't actually know what it was to be well until my mid-30s. Around the ages 24 to 26 I suffered a lot of ill-health – I was just generally run-down – and when I was about 26 I read a book on pollen remedies by Marjorie McCormick called The Golden Pollen. I started producing and consuming bee pollen at that stage and I've been taking it for the last 80 years."

During his long career he has worked on Auckland's waterfront, driving taxis, selling insurance, growing comfrey, milling flour and working for Healtheries.  He is a man of amazing great tenacity and determination.  He has been married five times and had many personal tragedies. His first wife and fourth baby died during child birth, and has lost two adult daughters.  Many of his early business ventures failed and he just walked away and started all over again from scratch. 

He says it's been a mix of hard work, dogged determination, optimism and his Christian faith that's seen him through.  What an inspiration! 

Information for this blog post was sourced from

Read more or purchase '100 Years of Claude Stratford'

Products of the Hive: Propolis

Written by Stephanie on May 20th, 2016.      0 comments

Trees produce resins and gums to protect themselves against insect or fungi attacks.  Bees are ingenious because they scrap the sticky resins and gums then add wax and some saliva turning into an amazing product called propolis.  They carry it in their pollen sacks, on the back of their legs, and take it back to the hive.  Propolis mаkes аn excellent wаterproof fіlm whіch аlso hаs аntіbаcterіаl аnd аntіfungаl propertіes.

The colour varies, depending on it's source, it can be gray, tans, shades of brown or nearly black.

Bees use Propolis in the Hive to:

  • block up holes and cracks
  • as an antiseptic
  • guard the hive against disease
  • polish the inside of the brood cells
  • wrap dead insects and animals, dead mice can be found completely sealed in propolis like a mummy
  • smear it on rough places in the hive to make it easier for them to move around and protect their delicate wings
  • reduce the size of the entrance to the hive

Aren't they amazing creatures!  Here's some photos.

propolis on bee-275    propolis and bee-836
   Bee with propolis in it's pollen sacks                    Bee working the propolis in the hive

Human uses for Propolis:

Bee propolis has been used for centuries for healing, it invigorates the immune system and is highly effective at fighting infection and viruses. It has proven remarkably successful again influenza viruses, when taken before the virus takes hold. 

It is well known for use in oral hygiene and healing of mouth complaints (including ulcers).  A few years ago we meet an elderly beekeeper in Canada who was proud he still had all his teeth and his teeth and gums were very healthy.  He put it down to adding a couple of drops of propolis tincture in his coffee every morning!  It would be great for a mouth wash.

Becuase of it's powerful antiseptic qualities propolis is perfect for healing cuts, sore, etc and has been reported to have a dramatic effect on cold sores and shingles.

Propolis is available in many forms these days, it can be found in a tincture, creams / balms, lozenges, toothpaste, mouth sprays, etc.  Keep them in your cupboard as a safe and effective healer, germ-buster and rapid rescue treatment for all different types of skin tissue, whether inside or outside the body.

You can purchase these propolis products from Sweetree:


Products of the Hive: Honey

Written by Stephanie on May 13th, 2016.      0 comments

Honey is one of the oldest known sweeteners.  It has been an essential part of our diet since earliest times and there is increased interest in its culinary and health properties.  But what is honey?  How is it made?  How is it extracted from the hive? What is it good for?

What is Honey?

Honey is a thick, golden liquid created by hard working honey bees from nectar they collect from flowers.  Honey  is a solution naturally occurring elements found in the nectar such as sugars and water, along with amino acids, organic acids, proteins, lipids, anti-oxidants, dextrins and minerals.  Honey also contains a number of different enzymes that bees add to the nectar that make it that special and unique product we love so much.

How is Honey Made?

Bee-on-orange-flower1During warm sunny days bees move from flower to flower collecting a sugary liquid, nectar, produced by each flower.   A foraging bee will use it's long proboscis to suck the liquid from the flower and store it in it's honey stomach (this a special extra stomach just for storing nectar) until it gets back to the hive.  While the nectar is in the honey stomach it mixes with enzymes that change its chemical make up.

When back at the hive the forager bee transfers the honey to a young working bee.  This bee can chew on the nectar for about half an hour, adding more enzymes to break down the complex sugars and turn them into simple sugars.  These simple sugars make it easier for the bees to digest and will decrease the risk of the honey going off. This is the reason why honey can last for a very long time.  

The bee then deposits the honey into a honeycomb cell.  The bees in the hive fan the honey in the cells with their wings to evaporate excess moisture.  When the honey is at the correct moisture content the bees seal the honey with wax from their abdomens, this is called 'capping'.  To find out how bees make beeswax read our blog on beeswax.  Bees save this honey for eating during times of shortage. 

An interesting fact is that a bee's honey stomach can hold up to 70mg of nectar, it weighs just about as much as the bee does.  A bee would need to visit between 100 - 1500 flowers to fill their honey stomach.  


How is the Honey Extracted?​

Beekeepers normally have beehives with frames inside that the bees draw out beeswax comb into cells for storing honey.  Once the frames are filled with honey the the frames are taken out of the hive and the wax cap pings cut off to expose the honey in the cells.  The honey can then either be pressed or placed in a centrifuge to spin the honey out.  Honey can then be packed or creamed then packed.

capping-544          honey extractor-879
Cutting the 'capping' off a frame of honey                           Extracting honey by centrifuge 

Honey's taste, aroma, colour and texture differ considerably depending on the type of flowers the bees of that hive visit.  And of course the type of trees and plants that grow in each region of the country differ depending on a variety of factors such as climate, soil type and temperature, altitude, humidity and geographical location.  At Sweetree we don't blend honey from different areas, so each of our honeys are a true reflection of that area's flora.  Much like a great wine reflects the terroir of where the grapes have grown, Sweetree Honey’s different varieties reflect the area and season the bees worked their magic.  From the buttery and salted toffee apple taste of of Marokopa Spring to the gorgeous caramel and butterscotch flavour of the Hakarimata.


What is Honey Good for?

Of course, as mentioned at the start of this blog, honey is one of the oldest known sweeteners.  Have a look at our many recipes using honey.  There are many different uses for honey, read our blog, you may be surprised at some of the uses!  Not only is it delicious to eat, honey is hailed for its medicinal properties – it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and packed with highly valuable nutrients.  It is used in medical bandages, cough mixtures, throat lozenges, on sores, burns, etc.  It is also fantastic for our skin, have a read about how you can add it to your skin regime.

Check out Sweetree's range of Waikato honeys here


Boost Your Immunity With Bee Products

Written by Stephanie on May 6th, 2016.      0 comments

Winter's not to far away, the time of year that we are more likely to get the dreaded lurgy.  No one likes being sick, especially if you're like us and you work for yourself.  The work doesn't get done and you don't get paid unless you are working.  To reduce the risk of catching bugs over winter the best thing we can do is to boost our immune system now.  The bees produce some of the best natural immunity boosting products around!


Bee pollen is collected by honey bees.  As the bee moves from one flower to another it places flakes of pollen into pollen baskets on its back legs.  It combines the flakes with nectar to make a granule of bee pollen.

Bee pollen is an incredible natural source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  Studies have shown that it has a nutritional composition that surpasses that of virtually any food eaten.  Regular consumption of bee pollen aids your general health and well-being.  Just some of the benefits reported from bee pollen are: Sustained energy, enhanced immunity, reduced stress, relief of inflammation, more rested sleep and better skin condition.

Bee pollen raises the immune system’s capability of producing antibodies for the destruction of the various influenza viruses that come and go.  Studies show that the white blood cell count is increased in those taking pollen. Gamma globulins are the “stuff” antibodies are made of, and antibodies are our only internal defense against viruses. White blood cells of various types consume harmful bacteria and other foreign matter that enters the blood or lymph stream. In short, pollen appears to boost our immune system protection.


Bees collect sticky resins and gums from trees and add special antibacterial properties to it.  This propolis is used in the hive to block up holes, as an antiseptic and guards the hive against disease.

Bee propolis has been used for centuries for healing, it in
vigorates the immune system and is highly effective at fighting infection and viruses. It has proven remarkably successful again influenza viruses, when taken before the virus takes hold.




Not only is it delicious to eat, honey is hailed for its medicinal properties – it is  anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and packed with highly valuable nutrients.  All honey has these benefits but Manuka honey has particularly strong healing properties.

Honey is also a great medium for transmitting the benefits of herbs, spices and other helpful plants into your body at the same time.  The best additions are of course ginger, garlic, lemon (rind and juice) and cinnamon.  Ginger  has chemicals that target the most common cold viruses.  Lemons contain antioxidants which are needed for a strong immune system. And a  daily dose of ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder with 1 tablespoon honey may help boost the immune system and protect the body from viral, bacterial and fungal diseases.

So next time you think about making yourself a cup of tea instead grate some ginger and lemon rind and steep that in hot water before pouring over a cup with lemon juice, a good dollop of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  And maybe add a few drops of propolis tincture as well!


Check out Sweetree bee products that will help you build your immunity:


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What do our customers say?

"This honey so delicious!  It taste just like when I was a kid, rather than the supermarket brands"  Anna Bradford, Rotorua
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