Amy Archer is 10 years old, and she’s a third generation beekeeper. But it wasn’t exactly planned. A chance encounter two years ago reignited her father’s latent interest in bees and spawned a thriving little community-driven eco-business, which she now runs with her brother, Caleb.
Her father, Brett, explains... “I was driving along, minding my own business, just off Ponsonby Road, when I noticed a huge swarm of bees covering part of a parked car. “There were about 20-30 people standing around taking pictures of this monstrous swarm - all looking very scared.”
Instinctively, Brett grabbed a cardboard box out of a nearby wheelie bin and started to gently push the bees into the box with his hand.
“People were screaming, you’re going to die, you’re going to die,” he laughs. “But I didn’t. I didn’t even get stung.”
So, Brett now had around 15,000 bees in a box on the back seat of his car - now what?
“I immediately went online, searching for beekeeping equipment. I found a place nearby and drove straight over. There was a lovely lady behind the counter, and the conversation went something like this:
“Hello, I’d like to buy one of your starter hives.”
“Great, are you getting into beekeeping?”
“Where are you getting your bees from?”
“I already have them.”
“Oh, really. Where are they?”
“They’re in my car.”
The woman just looked at him, shook her head and walked away. Luckily for Brett, a young girl out the back of the shop had overheard the conversation and came out. She was more enthusiastic, and helped him get all the equipment he needed.
Fast forward a couple of years and Brett still had the same colony of bees, in the same hive, in his back garden, plus another nine in the carport. “Much to my wife’s disgust,” he smiles.
How did one hive grow into 10?
“After the swarm incident, I really wanted to get my children involved, so we sat down and watched Barry the Bee (a Pixar movie),” he explains. “It’s a story about how all the bees go on strike and consequently the flowers all die,” he says. “It’s frighteningly similar to what could happen to our world if bees stop our pollinating plants.”
After the film, the family sat around and had a conversation about how they could help bees in their immediate community.
“We took this concept and said, let’s catch some more swarms and let’s make some hives,” says, Brett. “So we got in contact with the local bee swarm alert service and that’s how it started.”
This last season there were 180 bee swarms in the greater Auckland area, and Brett and Amy captured around 10% of those - all using the tried-and-tested cardboard box method.
Word soon got around the neighbourhood that the Archers were doing this and people started enquiring whether they, too, could have a hive in their own back garden - and reap the benefit of having lovely, fresh honey on tap.
“That’s when I got the kids to write up a proper business plan with finance, production, education,” he says. “I got them to look at all the processes, the making of the hives, the maintenance plan to look after the bees, honey collection, and how it could be most efficient for us to do all this. It was a great exercise for them.”
And now, with a little help from their father, Amy and her brother Caleb, pretty much run the business themselves.
“Amy collects the bees and builds the hives, and Caleb maintains the website and has set up a pricing and invoicing system,” says this very proud dad.
“Between us, we manage 10 beehives in the local area,” he says. “For practical reasons, we made a conscious decision to keep it small and keep it local. We get to see each hive about every four weeks, to check for Varroa and to make sure the hives are in a healthy working condition, and also to collect the honey.”
Amy and Caleb have both turned into little eco-warriors, and they are currently putting together presentations to give to other children about the importance of bees and bee husbandry.
To learn more about starting your own hive you can contact the Archers through their website www.beezhq.nz
This editorial is part of a series brought to you by Angela Saunders of Ray White Damerell Group, featuring some of the characters and personalities that live and work in our neighbourhood. To discover more great local stories check out their blog at rwponsonby.co.nz/blog χPN