Three-year-old Phoenix Rata knows exactly what bees can do.

"They sting you," he said.

But he also knows what bees make.


Phoenix's parents Anne-Marie and Juen Rata are beekeepers committed to bringing bees back into Hamilton city.

But Anne-Marie only caught the bee buzz after one day having to look after the hives by herself because Juen had hurt his arm.

"He'd guide me through the checks and it became such an amazing experience, I found bees are really good for your zen," she said.

"You have to be calm when checking them, so if you're calm, they remain calm. They're just an amazing creature, they really are."

Since then she's gained qualifications in apiculture and set up their new business venture, Zen-Beez.

They are increasing bee numbers around Hamilton by putting beehives on properties in the city including four childcare centres.

One of them is Old MacDonald's Rural Childcare Centre and owner Tracey Aubin says the children are fascinated by their new 'friends'.

"They're wanting to learn, they're hungry for that and if you role model calmness and lovely presence and kindliness to bees and nature - that's what children will grow up inheriting."


Across town near the CBD, Lisa Jewkes says their bees have quickly taken on the role of family pet.

"The children have allergies so I'm trying to think 'what kind of animals can we have? what kind of pets?' so at least we can have the bees," she said. "At least for them it's a little bit interesting and helps them know about biodiversity and how they fit into the whole system being pollinators."

Juen says bees play a very important role

"Without beekeepers helping the honey bee they'll probably die out," he said. "Years ago when I worked as a beekeeper, there was no varroa and you could find wild bees in bush.

"If we don't help them they pretty much die so they need to be treated twice a year, so it's a big responsibility."

With the couple both holding down day jobs – beekeeping is reserved for weekends so the kids gear up in beekeeping suits too – including their youngest five-month-old Eden.

And their reward is a taste of the spoils - honey fresh from the hive.

Made with funding from