Pictured standing left to right: Issac Holback, Gus Vautier, Nico Buda, Esme Hollings, Saffanah Rahman and seated Sterling Williamson
Year 5 and 6 students at Te Aro School look after the school’s two hives. The students look after the bees and help with extraction and honey making. Last year they harvested 60kg of honey from their hives which was sold as a fundraiser at their school fair.
We chatted to some of these young beekeepers about their work.
What’s the most rewarding thing about beekeeping?
Everyone– The honey!
Esmé– It’s really fun and with our bee suits on you don’t have to worry about stings so the bees can crawl all over your hands it’s really nice.
Issac – It’s also really fun investigating things and checking to find out what’s true and false by looking in the hive. We learn things from looking at the hives.
Sterling – I love finding out how different they are from us. And the honey they make is so fresh and delicious. Also it’s really nice to see all the flowers growing through the fence around the hives. They are growing so much because the bees are there.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Sterling – Making sure the hive is safe. You can kill bees so easily by doing one thing wrong.
Issac – And bees have lots of enemies. (the students learnt this the hard way when they lost a hive to a wasp attack last year).
Saffanah – Even though you’re wearing a bee suit you worry about getting stung. But that has gotten less for me.
What’s your favourite fact about bees?
Issac – I love that you can make medicine out of honey and that it helps infections. And it’s amazing how some bees defend themselves against hornets by getting all around them and cooking them.
Sterling – They keep me warm! They pollinate cotton which is used to make clothes.
Esmé – Bees make 1/12 tsp of honey in their lives – which is not much when you think about how much we have on our toast
Saffanah – Bees beat their wings 250 times per second that’s really fast!
Do you have any highlights from your time beekeeping?
Esmé – Once I saw a queen lay an egg. She just crawled into the honeycomb and left a white thing behind us. It was amazing.
Sterling – Helping to make the honey. You can lick it straight off the table!!
How did Te Aro School get started with beekeeping?
Principal Sue Clement – I wanted to encourage the kids to do something active to help the environment. We discussed different environmental problems and what we could do, and the kids were really keen to get hives. We fundraised to buy our first hive about five years ago and have been learning so much since then. We’ve had great support from the Wellington Beekeeping Club.
In the winter months while the bees are keeping warm inside the hive, the Te Aro beekeepers research how to improve life for bees. Currently some of the topics they are investigating are local areas for bee-friendly planting and bee baths.