Four gen­er­a­tions work­ing the hives

Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook - - AUTOZONE - MATTHEW SAL­MONS

The Cleavers of Kir­wee Bees aren’t your typ­i­cal bee­keep­ers. Glynn doesn’t like honey and Alissa’s al­ler­gic to bee stings. But this fam­ily busi­ness is all about the bees.

Started by Glynn and Alissa Cleaver, the cou­ple have man­aged to rope in the kids, their par­ents and even Glynn’s grand­mother, known to all as Nan.

‘‘We’ve got four gen­er­a­tions work­ing with us here, from our kids – the youngest is five – through to Nan who’s 81. She’s the sec­re­tary who rides shot­gun around Selwyn. And my wife who makes all the wood gear, hand creams and pro­cesses all the honey. To me, who lifts re­ally heavy boxes,’’ Glynn said.

The Cleavers moved to Kir­wee in 2009. When their home was dam­aged in the Septem­ber earth­quakes, the stress of the long, un­fin­ished process of re­pair meant the fam­ily needed some­thing to dis­tract them.

‘‘Rather than go­ing in­sane, I got back into bees,’’ Glynn said.

Hav­ing first got his hands into hives with his neigh­bour at a young age, Glynn said even af­ter a ‘‘mis­spent youth’’, he had enough knowl­edge and pas­sion to get back into it. From one sec­ond­hand hive, the fam­ily now have 50 at their house and many more at se­cret lo­ca­tions from Christchurch to Horo­rata.

‘‘We didn’t find out that Alissa was al­ler­gic to bee stings un­til we had more than 100 hives out there,’’ Glynn said.

Al­though Alissa was undergoing a two year long treat­ment to build re­sis­tance to bee stings, the fam­ily still kept suf­fi­cient epi-pens and steroid in­jec­tions on site, just in case.

Breed­ing was key to calm bees and avoid­ing stings, Glynn said. De­pend­ing on fac­tors such as weather and where they stood, the fam­ily could open hives with­out the bees be­ing up­set at all.

‘‘She’s a mis­er­able game if you have to do two laps of your car ev­ery time you open a hive.

‘‘You’ve got to be re­laxed to work with bees, al­most zen. It teaches you how to force your­self to re­lax.’’

To avoid var­roa mites, Kir­wee Bees used an all-nat­u­ral method rather than chem­i­cals. Small pa­per sheets coated in salic acid in each hive pre­vented in­fes­ta­tions of the de­struc­tive mite. Glynn said they only used as much salic acid as was in a head of broc­coli each year.

Avoid­ing chem­i­cals also al­lowed Alissa to sell their bees’ wax hand cream to the Christchurch Hospi­tal ICU staff, Glynn said.

The all-nat­u­ral at­ti­tude ex­tended to the honey, Glynn said, with the fam­ily pro­duc­ing it raw in small batches. Each batch came from one area, so honey from Rolle­ston would taste dif­fer­ent than a batch from the hives in Kir­wee.

‘‘We can trace back from hive to hive. You can see the colour dif­fer­ence in the jars.’’

Small batch honey still had ‘‘all the good­ies’’ like pollen to help with hay fever, Glynn said.

‘‘It’s just bet­ter for you.’’

The honey and other prod­ucts were for sale on their web­site, Face­book page and mar­kets around Selwyn.

Glynn him­self did not go in for the honey; for him it was all about the bees.

‘‘The best part is play­ing with these guys [bees]. Get­ting out into the pad­docks on a nice warm sum­mer’s evening and smelling the honey as they dry off the nec­tar. Lis­ten­ing to the hives hum. It’s good be­ing out in the coun­try.’’

In fu­ture, Kir­wee Bees hoped to open pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties at their home while con­tin­u­ing their ed­u­ca­tion ses­sions like Teas and Bees and the Selwyn Bee­keep­ers group to sup­port those get­ting into the in­dus­try.


The Kir­wee Bees fam­ily out­side their home and base of operations.

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