Photo from Apiculture New Zealand

John Burnet is a hobbyist beekeeper and has been a Wellington Beekeepers Association committee member for over 20 years.

How long have you been keeping bees?

About 30 years. One of my team transferred to Auckland and was looking for someone to take over his two hives. I offered and quickly became addicted! I currently have eight hives, four of which are located in Wellington Botanic Gardens (primarily for educational and pollination purposes).

Can you tell me a little bit of background about yourself?

Until last year I was a hobbyist beekeeper with a full time job in the head office of a bank in Wellington city.  When I retired last year I chose to expand the beekeeping supply business I had been running for the last five years primarily for the Wellingon Beekeepers Association members. Beekeeping products are sourced from around NZ and overseas and the business keeps me busy several hours a week. My wife often complains that a five-minute sale takes me over 20 minutes!

What’s the most rewarding aspect about being a beekeeper?

As with most beekeeping clubs in NZ, membership has grown dramatically (now 350 members) and I enjoy outlining the basics of beekeeping to new members, demonstrating the basic equipment and giving them a hands-on experience with bees up close at the club hives at Chartwell.

How do you think members of the public can help or support bees?

I get lots of calls from members of the public about getting into beekeeping, hosting a hive or swarm collecting. When the ongoing commitment and responsibility of beekeeping is explained, many people realise beekeeping is not for them but are usually willing to encourage bees by planting bee-friendly trees and shrubs in their garden and by avoiding the use of insecticides.  I have been instrumental in introducing bees to a couple of local schools, Wellington Zoo, Zealandia, (Wellington’s Wildlife Sanctuary) and more recently Wellington’s Botanic Garden.

What’s your favourite bee fact?

A honey bee can visit between 75 and 3000 flowers in one trip.