Wendyl Nissen: Honey, it's just not worth it

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Suburban bee-keeping is sure to get neighbours squawking, explains Wendyl Nissen.

After visiting Waipuna Lodge a final time Wendyl Nissen received vital information for and against bee-keeping. Photo / Thinkstock
After visiting Waipuna Lodge a final time Wendyl Nissen received vital information for and against bee-keeping. Photo / Thinkstock

It's not every Sunday morning at 8.30 that I find myself driving to Waipuna Lodge in Panmure. I've been to Waipuna Lodge twice in my life, once for a wedding and once for a work "day away".

The wedding was lovely but the conference cost me eight hours of my life. I watched a woman with a whiteboard who had an annoying habit of asking us to draw our feelings and choose animals to represent our magazines.

I chose a shark. It wasn't a popular choice in her eyes. She was aiming more for things like kittens and puppies.

My eyes ached at the end of the day from the amount of rolling back in my head I had made them do in response to this woman.

It was not enough, it seems, to deter me from another visit to the lodge. I was determined to become a bee-keeper and the bee-keepers were having their annual conference there. "Anyone want to come with me to learn about keeping bees?" I asked the family.

No one would look me in the eye so it was just me, sitting at the back of the room at the "Introduction to Bee-keeping" session.

I learned about queens, drones and workers. I heard about larvae and capping, royal jelly, propolis and pollen. I got quite enthusiastic.

And then I heard about the neighbours.

"What can happen," said the wonderfully informed woman leading the session, "is that it rains for three days so the bees don't leave the hive. They won't defecate in the hive so after three days when there is a gloriously sunny morning they all leave and empty themselves on your neighbour's car." She then showed us a picture of a car.

Readers will be well aware that I keep hens. Recently our neighbours moved out. They were the ones right next to the fence where my hens live. I do my best to keep them quiet but they're a rowdy lot, especially if a stray cat ventures near them and at dusk when they spend a good half hour arguing over where each one should sleep in the camellia tree.

"Do you think it was the hens?" I asked my husband. "Well, they never said anything," he replied.

Apparently if you keep bees neighbours have no troubles saying things. If a child gets stung it is your bee that did it.

I live in a street where people pay the equivalent of Tonga's gross national product to live in their immaculate houses. The fact that my house looks like something transplanted from 1970s Titirangi is bad enough. No security gates with alarms and intercoms for me. No minimalist concrete structures up our way. Just the occasional waft of patchouli from the laundry powder we churn out in the basement and the squawks of chickens. Adding a few hundred bees to the neighbourhood would not be conducive to friendly neighbourhood relations.

"It's best to check if anyone is allergic to bees in your neighbourhood," we were told. Apparently the sting continues to pump poison even after it has been lodged in the skin.

"Bees developed their stings to deal with bears, so they are pretty effective."

"Lord," my inner voice screamed. "Not on your life!" I bought a book and got a free hive tool which gave me a nasty cut on my finger as I hurried away from Waipuna Lodge, this time never to return.

- NZ Herald

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