Davis and John Bryans show Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Bev Shipley how honey is processed. The Alvinston company is celebrating 100 years of honey-making at Murno today (Saturday) from 10 am to 4 pm with a bee-beard competition at 1 pm weather permitting.
What started with a swarm of honeybees from Napier has swelled to a thriving family business with imprints around the globe.
Munro Honey in Alvinston is marking is 100th year in business this weekend and owners John and Davis Bryan say the company has quite a colourful history.
In 1914, Warren Munro – who had an interest in beekeeping – cut a branch off a tree heavy with a swarm of honeybees in the nearby village of Naiper. He took them home to Alvinston and began caring for them and making honey.
Like many others, Munro enlisted during the First World War and his family took care of his beloved bees. When he returned, he spent some time learning the trade and then set up a honey house in Alvinston in 1923.
Meantime, Howard and Vince Bryans wanted to set up a beekeeping business in their family’s tradition and bought some bees from Munro.
Years later, when Warren Munro died in a car accident, Howard Bryan and his wife, Mavis, bought his business. Their children and grandchildren run what has now become one of the largest honey operations in Ontario.
Davis Bryan says the basics of honey making haven’t changed a great deal since Munro started – although the process is now almost completely mechanized.
What has changed is how the bees are used. When Munro started, he primarily produced honey and lots of it selling 30 pound pails to hospitals in the area and as far away as England.
Now, Bryan says, with the evolution of farming and large orchards and vegetable patches, the bees are used for pollination. “Everybody had an orchard years ago, then all of the sudden they had a commercial orchards… that’s when they had to start to get these orchards pollinated…because of the high concentration of plants,” says Bryans.
The Munro bees travel – by transport – as far away as New Brunswick to pollinate the wild blueberry crop there.
And just like the Bryans learned from Warren Munro, they have passed along their knowledge of the industry. In the 1970s, students from Tanzania, Africa would travel to Alvinston to learn the trade.
“They found out they couldn’t raise much honey, but their raised a lot of wax because it was easy because they could melt it and put it in block, and ship it all over the world,” says Bryans. Tanzania and other African nations soon became a leading exporter of beeswax. “It decreased the value a wax for a number of years.”
While the Munro bees and the knowledge the company has gained has traveled all over the world, Bryans says he still loves the art of beekeeping for its simplicity.
“It’s (being) outdoors, being out and around and seeing nature – seeing what’s going on,” says Bryans of his love for the industry. “We see more of what is going on out in the world.”