Four generations working the hives
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.