Inspired by her beekeeping granddad but once afraid of bees, Jess Curtis is on her way to a life surrounded by them.

The 18-year-old Cardrona Valley apprentice beekeeper has won this year's Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) Ron Mossop Youth Scholarship.

Curtis has been working part time for Taylor Pass Honey in Wanaka as part of her ApiNZ apprenticeship studies as well as helping her granddad with his 50 hives on the family's sheep and beef farm, Branch Creek Station.

"It's quite early on for me. I've only just really started my apprenticeship.


"I kind of applied for this scholarship not expecting to get it at all".

The scholarship includes $2000 towards her training costs, a one-year membership of ApiNZ as well as attendance at its national conference.

"It's really cool to get that recognition and get my name out there.

Jess Curtis. Photo / Supplied
Jess Curtis. Photo / Supplied

"I'm excited to go to the conference and meet people there and get a connection in the industry".

Curtis finished school last year and spent part of this year travelling around New Zealand with her boyfriend.

She said beekeeping had been ever present in her life — right back to when she was 5 years old.

"I always tended to step on them and that wasn't exactly a pleasant experience.

"I was scared of bees back then, but I was always fascinated when granddad came home covered in bees and smelling of honey.


"Once he got me the suit and we went out a few times, I just loved it".

She aimed to develop the family farm's business to include tours where she could educate people about sustainable living and the role of beekeeping in that.

"I'm always looking at things we do on the farm and seeing how we can do it better.

"A lot of things with farming get misinterpreted and misunderstood.

"Beekeeping's a good way to show that you're looking after the land, you're looking after the crops and bees are super important, so that's helpful".

Working at Taylor Pass Honey helped her see how a commercial honey operation should operate.

"Taylor Pass is a lot more commercial than what we are, so it's really good to get that perspective.

"It's really efficient and tidy and well done. It's really good to see that and ... change out what we're doing on our property and get things running really smoothly".

The ApiNZ apprenticeship took two years, but there was more to bees than just books, Curtis said.

"Even with the apprenticeship, I feel like once you've completed it you still need the experience and the guidance from them [ApiNZ].

"I wouldn't consider myself qualified afterwards but it's a good step in the right direction".