This week the Chronicle caught up with bee keeper Alan Bennett.
Tell us about how you came to be a bee keeper?
I was brought up with bees as it is the family business that my father started in 1976. I got my first bee sting at 1 month old on my eye. I used to be a dairy farmer then circumstances changed and I have been in the family business for the last 3 years.
What training is required?
Practical experience, work for a bee keeper. There are some courses that you can do. I had to do a course so that I could be approved by MAF to inspect hives for disease.
How many beehives do you have?
Why do you wear white suits?
Bees are attracted to colourful objects and see dark colours as a threat. They are not attracted to white so they don’t see you as a threat.
Where do you run your bee keeping operation from?
The business (honey house) is based in Te Kowhai but we have hives around Raglan, Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Waingaro, Ngaruawhia, Te Kowhai, Whatawhata and some further in the King country.
Describe your business and what is involved?
Running bees, maintaining the health of the hive to produce a honey crop in the summer. We have 2200 hives which is a lot of bees to manage. We extract our own honey, so summer is a busy time with harvesting honey then extracting it straight away. There are 7 people involved in the business from hive management to marketing. As a business we do not feed our bees sugar which is common practice. We solely feed our bees honey that they have produced themselves which is better for the health of the bees and there is also no risk of contaminating honey with sugar.
Do you specialize in any particular type of honey?
We specialise in UMF Manuka Honey
What are the barriers or difficulties you face in your business?
Bio security threats, importation of honey which would lead to diseases that are not in the country yet which could have devastating effects on New Zealands bee population. People trying to sell anything off as manuka honey which leads to a lack of faith when exporting pure UMF Manuka honey.
What are your plans for the future?
To expand the business, increase in hives and produce more UMF Manuka honey.
Ok so do you get stung often and do you build a tolerance to the stings?
Yes, I do get stung. It’s just a small part of the job. You do build up a resistance to stings (it only hurts for a couple of seconds and I don’t get a mark when I get stung now).
What do you like about bee keeping and the rural life?
I get to see a lot of the country, spend time working outside. Its rewarding seeing these little bees work together to produce lots of honey.