Hawkesbury Show bee couple's sweet story spans 60 years of marriage

Sweet story: Enid and Eric Whitby of Engadine were honey stewards at the Hawkesbury Show in Clarendon in April. Picture: Sarah Falson
Sweet story: Enid and Eric Whitby of Engadine were honey stewards at the Hawkesbury Show in Clarendon in April. Picture: Sarah Falson

If you visited the recent Hawkesbury Show, you may have met Eric and Enid Whitby in the honey section of the grand pavilion.

The couple, who live in Engadine, have kept bees for 55 years and showed no signs of slowing.

Though they said they were "winding back", bees seem to be in their blood, and with 200 hives and some 60,000 to 80,000 bees per hive, they own millions of the insects.

But it all started with the one European honey bee hive in a dead old tree out the back of Enid's parents' place down in Emmaville.

"My father-in-law wanted the dead tree for the firewood for his bakery to cook the bread," Eric said. "My brother-in-law said 'when you get a few stings I'll collect the bees'. That was like throwing the gauntlet down.

"Everything we did was wrong."

We try to encourage other beekeepers by what we do here.

Eric Whitby

Eric - suffering from more than a few stings - picked-up a book from the Commercial Apiarists' Association and the rest was history.

"It's just a general interest and I like talking to people," Eric said of the hobby, which has become a profession, and the Whitbys now rent out their bees to farmers to pollinate their crops.

Though the couple - who keep Carniolan honey bees - still get the odd sting today, Enid said the key is to be "deliberate and gentle and you don't get many stings at all".

In April, the Whitbys were stewards at the annual Hawkesbury Show in Clarendon, where they presided over the honey section.

"We try to encourage other beekeepers by what we do here," Eric said.

The couple's honey has won them numerous ribbons at the Sydney Royal, where Eric was a judge this year, and they still collect swarms near their Sutherland Shire home.

Eric and Enid have been keeping bees for 55 years and have won ribbons at the Sydney Royal. This year, they presided over the honey display at the rural Hawkesbury Show. Picture: Sarah Falson

Eric and Enid have been keeping bees for 55 years and have won ribbons at the Sydney Royal. This year, they presided over the honey display at the rural Hawkesbury Show. Picture: Sarah Falson

Most of their bees are currently pollinating avocados and citrus on a farmer's property at Peats Ridge, and in the past they have taken their charges to pollinate cherries at Marulan and stone fruit at Kulnura.

Eric is the former president of the NSW Apiarists' Association Sydney Branch and has been managing the honey section at the Hawkesbury Show for nine years.

The couple will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in September, alongside four kids, 10 grandkids and eight great-grandkids.

"We have a few notches on the belt," Eric said.