She started as the swarm catcher.

Now bees – keeping them, teaching about them – have taken over from being a hobby to being a full-time job.

Sara Russ of Lion Apiairies was a preschool teacher and realised how fascinated young children were with bees so started bringing hives to school. That has now become a multimedia, interactive presentation of video, sculpture and real bees.

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And after visiting schools for about seven years, Russ says it is still "my favourite thing to do".

"It's a lot of fun. During terms one and four, being seasonal – bees don't like coming out of their hives in winter time - I put them in an observational beehive that has glass sides. [The children] can see the bees crawling around, working on the frames and they can see the larvae in the cells and they can see the honey and the pollen packed into the cells."

Each presentation normally takes about an hour and after the presentation the children make a candle out of beeswax and make a model bee out of playdough or pipecleaners.

"I demonstrate how pollination works and why bees are important and the anatomy and what to do if a bee comes near and how we can help save the bees."

Russ says her unusual occupation started as a hobby "that became a sideline, then become a fulltime job". Lion Apiaries, the company Russ runs with her husband, now employs 13 and has "lots and lots and lots" of hives.

"I was a swarm catcher," says Russ, explaining she would respond to calls from the council and pest controllers when people called about swarms. "So often I would find people had hosed down the swarm of bees hanging on their tree or one person lit a fire underneath it because everyone knows you smoke the bees, right?. But it came down to a lack of education. People didn't understand what the bees were doing it and why they were doing it. They thought the bees would make their home there and didn't realise they would move on. So I just thought someone needs to educate them."

And, as an early education teacher and a child in kindy, Russ knew that person was she.

She already had an observational beehive as a marketing tool for her honey stall and the "simple little talk" she developed using picture cards grew to roll-up banners and a powerpoint presentation.

Now preschools approach her and she has enough work to keep busy.

"I'm a thespian at heart," she admits, "and it's highly entertaining watching me up there larking about."

- YUDU.co.nz