New Zealand's farmers may be renowned for their beef and lamb but many of them would agree with Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor's assessment that bees are the most important animals on the planet.
He heaped praised on the winged critters this morning at the Prime Minister's official residence in Wellington, where four pupils from Te Aro School had come along to check out two beehives that have been in the gardens of Premier House for the last 12 months.
"They're pollinators, their honey tastes so great, and they're vital to many of our crops," O'Connor told the youngsters.
"The more people who appreciate bees, and know how to look after them, the better off we'll be as a world."
It's Bee Aware month, and the Minister was preaching to the converted.
Te Aro School has had beehives for nearly five years, and last season the three hives looked after by teachers and years 5 and 6 pupils produced 137 kilograms of honey.
The pupils were in protective gear but the Minister said he didn't need one of the meshed helmets.
"These can't be angry bees, they're Jacinda's bees," he said.
O'Connor told the children he was considering bringing bees and the honey industry into the Animal Welfare Act, to ensure there were enforceable protections on their feeding and care.
This is the 10th year that Apiculture New Zealand has promoted September as Bee Aware Month.
The national educational campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of bees to our ecosystem, food chain and economy.
Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos said the organisation enjoyed good support from Federated Farmers, and farmers in general.
"Farmers have a lot of wonderful crops that need pollination. We work with farmers well on issues such as pesticide use, and they're supportive of beekeepers being on their land. That relationship is very important to us," Kos said.