August was Bee Aware Month in New Zealand, so my blog posts over the last few weeks have focused on the importance of bees in our gardens, cooking with honey and what we can do to help bees survive.
Kim Kneijber – bee hero
This week I want to celebrate one of my personal bee heroes, Kim Kneijber, who has devoted almost a decade of her life to caring for bees and promoting issues affecting their wellbeing.
Kim’s fascination with bees began in 2004 when a swarm landed in her garden. She started keeping her own bees, joined the Auckland Beekeepers' Club, and now supports the club with several roles within the committee.
Kim also sells honey at her local farmers' market, produces her own honey mead, teaches, is an apiary inspector, and manages more than 20 beehives for clients all over Auckland.
When you rent a hive from her you can learn how to harvest honey, manage the hive and help protect bees from threats such as the varroa mite. If you want to start keeping your own bees, get in touch with the Auckland Beekeepers' Club, who will introduce you to the bees at their apiary, offer support with a beginners' course and buddy you with one of their beekeepers to get you started.
My urban hive
I was very excited when Kim arrived to install my new beehive in my vegetable garden in central Auckland. Even though I grew up watching my father tend bees, I’m often away from home so it’s great to have the welfare of my bees in such capable hands.
My bees started off in a "single super” hive, but Kim has recently added another layer, as the population in my garden will increase as we enter the warmer months.
She says it’s a really lovely hive, filled with nice-natured bees – even moving them did not particularly upset them.
The National Beekeepers’ Association tells me that city hives can produce up to triple the amount of honey as rural hives, so I'm looking forward to a bumper honey harvest.
The mayor’s honey
I was surprised to discover from Kim that there are beehives on the front balcony of Auckland’s Town Hall. Kim is the Honorary Beekeeper for these hives and was instrumental in installing them in 2010.
The blue and white hives are what are known as "sentinel hives” as they are located close to a major port and therefore act as an early warning system for biosecurity threats coming into the country. Kim inspects them regularly, and has developed a seasonal management plan that supports the bees in their environment.
The honey produced goes to mayor Len Brown for civic gifts, and a limited number of jars are sold annually to pay for the upkeep of the hives and research.
Kim hopes the town hall hives will help encourage more urban beekeeping in Auckland. The idea of having beehives attached to public buildings is growing in popularity worldwide, with hives at the White House, the Paris Opera, the Chicago City Hall, Berlin’s Legislature and on rooftops in New York’s Times Square.
Cooking with honey – this week’s recipes
My last honey recipe for Bee Aware Month is Honey Mustard Dressing.
This delicious dressing suits just about any type of salad, and will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Try it this week to get yourself in the mood for spring – or enjoy it with all those lovely autumn harvests if you're in the north.
National Beekeepers' Association of New Zealand
I’ve joined forces with New Zealand’s National Beekeepers’ Association to work on projects that help promote and protect kiwi honeybees.
Together we hope to spread the message that bees are vitally important and that they need our help to survive.
Bee aware month
Bee Aware Month is an annual event, held in August each year, to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of our bees in New Zealand.
Find out more about issues facing bees, and how you can support them on the National Beekeepers’ Association’s Bee Aware Month webpage.