Mat Lumalasi of ‘Rooftop Honey’

Words and photography: Cory White

I mulled for hours over how to introduce Mat Lumalasi. I had all sorts of clever anecdotes about his name being a derivative of the word “Illuminati” and trying to cleverly relate it to a world of secret Honey Bee facts that explained the nature of the Universe. It turns out that the interview with Matt was so interesting and fact rich that I was ,once again, astounded at just how important the humble little Bee is for us humans and the future of Planet Earth. In short, Matt is responsible, with the help of his partner Vanessa, for bringing Bees back to Melbourne city. Their Rooftop Honey Project is one of the most impressive and important projects I have been privy to. Read on, look them up and devour a world of Bee facts which will bewilder you. I can guarantee you will never swat one again!

Nicknames? Luma, its easier than Lumalasi

Why bees? We didn’t think we had enough room for chickens so I suggested that a box full of stinging bees.

Dispell the top 3 Bee misconceptions. 1: All bees you see foraging in your garden are females.  2: Bees only eat pollen and Nectar . Only wasps hang around at a BBQ. 3: Smoke distracts bees, it doesn’t pacify them. They think a bushfire is coming and they prepare to flee the hive, ignoring us tending to them.

Coffee of choice? Romcaffe or Jasper.

Where would we find you at 8 am on a Sunday? After my dawn rowing session I am usually jogging home from Sth Melbourne to Heidelberg. No, I’m usually just having a coffee and reading something from the Internet.

Do you ever call your partner Vanessa “honey”? Ha, nah. She’s my “baby”, not my honey.

In a couple of sentences explain why bees are so important to humans: Bees play a very serious role in the pollination of plants and are responsible for 1 out of every 3 mouthfuls of food that we eat. There is a lot of industry that is totally reliant on bee pollination like almonds and cherries. The famous quote comes to mind from Albert Einstein: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination. No more man”.

Are you a sweet-tooth? Definitely.Chocolate firstly, Ice cream, confectionary. Dessert before mains.

What can bees offer city folk? We are really excited about a true local product coming from the heart of the city, Im not sure about any other produce harvested from the CBD. We have really distinct flavours from each hive which people can get behind and support, like Melbournians and their footy teams. Go Heidelberg Honey! We have also noticed that the bees attract other wildlife back into the city like dragonflies and birds, which have also been pushed out of the urban jungle.

In your wildest dreams, which building in the world would house your rooftop Hives? I think it would be a really cool experiment to see if bees would survive in a giant glasshouse in Antarctica during the summer. They could pollinate the crops for food at the Antarctic Station and then be taken back to Australia once summer is over.

Do you have a personal culinary specialty that is inspired by honey? I make a mean Honey Ice cream with only 4 ingredients. Simple and tasty.

“ Without the help of my partner Vanessa, I ……“ don’t think such a project could have ever happened. Her passion for gardening and cooking led us to bees. Together we are a really dynamic team and I couldn’t imagine trying this venture with anyone else”.

Is it true some hives can have an evil queen? We have had some experience with an evil queen. This can be general bad behaviour like with all animals, but we have also been told that it can be a result of inbreeding.

11 important bee/honey facts we should all know? 1:Bees don’t eat meat, wasps do. 2:All of the bees in the hive eat bee bread (pollen/nectar) except the queen, she eats royal jelly. 3:Drones/Males are only kept for the “honey” season. They don’t forage, clean, nurse or heat and they are kicked out to die in Winter. 4:There can be up to 80,000 bees in a large hive. 5:The honey is their food supply for when it is too cold and wet for them to fly. 6: Bees recognise our scent and recent studies claim that they can even recognise faces. 7:Bees don’t like getting up early. 8: Apparently 10AM onwards is good for them. 9:A bee loses its stinger when it stings and ultimately dies, therefore they only sting when their life is in immediate danger. 10:A healthy queen can lay up to 2000 eggs a day in Summer and can live for as long as 4 Years.11: Bee stings have been used to treat Arthritis, M.S and Muscular Dystrophy with ongoing studies to scientifically prove the benefits.

Ocean or mountains? Oceans for sure.

Dream escape? Driving around the world in my Land Rover Defender.

If you didn’t live in Melbourne where would you live? I like the idea of buying an island and setting up to be totally sustainable. We will be neutral like Switzerland.

Please use this opportunity to explain what a “swarm” is. A swarm is a massive cluster of bees with a queen at the centre, which have left the old hive. A swarm usually happens because they have run out of room or the Queen has become too old and been overthrown by a new young queen. A swarm is generally very passive and only interested in keeping the Queen alive until the scouts find a suitable place to make a new home. Apparently you can pick up a swarm with bare hand. I haven’t tried it yet.

What is the most important lesson in manhood you have been taught? I suppose it was my father that taught me that if you want something, its up to you to go out and make it happen. No one else is going to do it for you.

Last but not least, Stones or Beatles? Beatles

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