Living with bees

by Mike Isle

Alissa and Glynn Cleaver have a small property in Kirwee with 37 varieties of fruit trees mostly growing on espaliers and beehives to produce their Kirwee honey.

“Growing the fruit trees along wire protects them from birds, and the fruit hangs down and looks great. It means we can plan our garden better and the children are able to easily pick the fruit they want,” says Alissa.

“When we first moved here, there were absolutely no bees to be seen so we swapped a few chicken coops for beehives and started from there, and it has become a family business. I call them Glynn’s midlife crisis, where most guys have cars, Glynn has taken to bees.”
Glynn comes from the Wakefield family — well-known honey producers in New Zealand.

“We can trace our honey back to the hive it came from, and each jar has a code to identify it. The colour of the honey changes as well depending on where the hives are kept. It is raw honey, not heat treated, and we have hives from Akaroa, up to Heathcote, Springfield, Whitecliffs and beyond, there are so many different blossoms for the bees to feed from. My nan helps, and my mum does the grafting of the queens. Our children Max, Rex and Jack, are all involved helping to make the boxes and frames. They have their own beekeepers suits and are learning how to care for their own hives. We tell them if they like the honey they need to know what to do to care for the bees.

“Bees are very therapeutic — since the earthquakes, Glynn has had to learn to relax again, and the bees are great for this — we breed quieter bees. Max and I are allergic to bees, so we are extra careful and ensure we have EpiPens available.

People need to realise you can get stung anywhere or an allergy can appear at any time, and EpiPens are lifesavers.

“You can find nan at most of the markets selling our honey; she loves interacting with the public.

We treat our bees well and love working with them. We rent hives and help with pollination; it is a lifestyle we love.

Living rurally is certainly relaxing, and we live as organically as possible and would love to live totally off-grid but are not quite there yet.”