Photo by Bruce Barnard

Ralph and Jody Mitchell own the award-winning business Kaimai Range Honey and provide pollination services for kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty.

How long have you been keeping bees for?

About 20 years, but 14 years as our own company, Kaimai Range Honey.

 Can you tell me a little background about yourself, your enterprise and how you started specialising in pollination?

We are a multi-award-winning family business based in the Kaimai Ranges wintering 1500 hives. We provide pollination services locally and produce specialty honeys throughout the North Island.

 What crops do you specialise in?

Gold and green kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty (but not under full cloth). We have not failed a Pollination Hive Audit in the 14 years we have been operating.

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

  • Getting to work together with our awesome team of young beekeepers, in some of the most amazing parts of the country (and knowing that by helping and training good young beekeepers, we are giving something back to our industry for the future).
  • Sitting on the lid of our beehives, eating our lunch, on a sunny day – watching the bees do their thing!

Do you have any advice for new beekeepers?

Take bees seriously – even if you only have a few hives make sure you know your legal and moral obligations. Think about the bees’ needs and look after them properly – they are not just a tool to make money. If you don’t have the time or dedication to do it right, just don’t do it!

What’s your best beekeeping memory?

Winning the Quintessential Honey Competition in 2009 and the 2017 ApiNZ Supreme Honey Award, bringing our total to 12 honey awards!

What’s your favourite bee fact or bee trait?

That bees can actually identify a few people by face and everyone else by smell. So our bees know who we are and that we are their beekeepers.

 If you weren’t a beekeeper, what would you be doing?

Jody would be a commercial sign writer and Ralph would be a hot fireman?? (Just joking – he would be a farmer.)