Absolute despair was what Di McQueen-Richardson and her husband Scott felt when the bushfires hit their farm twice in northern NSW, decimating their beekeeping business.
They evacuated twice – once in August 2019 for almost a week and again in November for 10 days.
“It was pretty scary stuff. We thought we had lost everything not being here and we were relying on reports we were getting every day – two or three times a day we thought, ‘This is it,’ and the fires have hit. We just had no idea of what was ahead of us – we were distraught,” she told news.com.au.
“Thank goodness for the fire brigade, they did an amazing job of saving our house and our bees. We lost pretty much all of our foraging area in every direction and bees can forage for up to 5km so that was all gone. We also had four months of continuous smoke, which severely impacted the bees as well so we had to feed the bees to keep them alive and we had to replace all queens in most of the hives.”
But after the bushfires, with the bees’ food source wiped out, they didn’t know how they were going to survive.
It was a thrifty Christmas gift idea that would save their finances and their property.
Di McQueen-Richardson used her naturopath background for the balms.
“We created beeswax-based balms initially for Christmas presents as we didn’t have spare money and we made balms for family and friends and they loved it and it kicked off into a fully fledged business in its own right,” Ms McQueen-Richardson said.
She drew on her natural therapies background to create a range of 25 balms for therapeutic and cosmetic uses, which are infused with oils, herbs and flowers, and are sold under the brand HoneyBee Hives.
The beeswax-based balms, include oils, herbs, flowers and essential oils. Picture: Supplied
Most popular are the lip balms and an aches and pain balm. But the product uses are broad with ones for baby bums, pregnant bellies and beard and hair. The balms come in three sizes – 15g, 40g and 100g – and range in price from $6 to $30.
“The newest one that we are about to launch is a calming lip balm, so it’s for situations where people don’t want to make it obvious that they are feeling anxious and it’s infused with rose petals and other calming herbs and essential oils,” she said.
But the 53-year-old realises her balms wouldn’t have been a success without Spend With Us, an online marketplace set up to showcase and sell products from bush businesses.
Di McQueen-Richardson with her husband Scott Richardson who runs the bees side of the business.