"Bee-obsessed" Jody Mitchell and her husband Ralph are all abuzz as they prepare to compete at the 2022 Apimondia - World Beekeeping Awards in Turkey in August.
The master beekeepers, both aged 53, have owned their multi-award-winning family business Kaimai Range Honey Limited for 17 years.
The couple is following a family tradition of beekeeping in the Kaimai Range.
Kaimai Range Honey has placed in the top three of the NZ Apicultural National Honey Awards every year since they first entered in 2009. They have also won the Quintessential Honey of NZ and Commercial Beekeepers of the Year Awards several times.
But on August 24 to 28, the Mitchells will show their native honey to the world at the Apimondia - International Apicultural World Beekeeping Awards in Istanbul.
Jody said the organisers had invited them back to compete at Apimondia after first competing in 2019.
"We have been told we are the only New Zealand competitors taking part in the competition, and we're very excited to be representing our country at these prestigious awards.
"People need to understand New Zealand produces more than just Manuka honey. We know we have got all these amazing native honeys, we just need the rest of the world to take notice."
The pair produce and supply six main varieties of unique rainforest and bush honey locally and overseas, including at the Tauranga Farmers Market.
This includes Rewarewa, Tawari, Blackberry, mono-floral Manuka and their Kaimai Special "bees-own" rainforest blend and Waikato pasture honey.
"We also export to the Middle East and the UK and supply a packer in Katikati who on-sells the honey under their own label."
The Mitchells own 1300 beehives and winter most of them between the Kaimai Range and the Waikato on just under 400 acres of family land between the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park at their Kaimai Range family property.
They also winter some of their hives at their own property in Taranaki and on a Department of Conservation site.
"On average we produce 50 tonnes of honey a year," Jody said.
They also provide pollination services to green and gold kiwifruit orchardists between Kaimai Range and Otamarakau.
Jody, aka "Honey Gypsy", said beekeeping was in her blood. Her mother's great-uncle Roy Edwards was one of the first beekeepers in the Kaimai Range in the 1920s.
"Working with bees is more than a passion, I am obsessed, bee-obsessed," she said.
"When I was a kid I was really scared of bees and would throw up and pass out if I was stung. Now I am the biggest bee-nut there is..."
Roy Edwards owned Te Poi Apiaries and his late son Don and Jody's father Roger Garnett were also both beekeepers in the Kaimai Range.
Jody said she had been involved in beekeeping for 20 years and her husband Ralph for 24 years after he recovered from a life-threatening crash, and followed a family tradition.
"Ralph grew up on a dairy farm in Cornwall, UK, and we were both sharemilking cows in the Waikato when he was hit by a truck and trailer unit on Kaimai Range in 1996.
"Our daughter Tamara [Hammond] and her husband Daniel who have been working for us for seven years, are going to take over the principal beekeeping and pollination services, while Ralph and I will further develop the organics side of the business."
Their second daughter Zoe's boyfriend Tyler Thomas also worked for the business as a beekeeper.
Jody has also been asked to help judge the 2022 Apiculture NZ National Beekeeping Awards in Christchurch between June 28 and July 1.
"When they asked me if I was sick of winning, and would like to I like to help judge the NZ honey awards, I jumped at the chance. I am really excited."
The Mitchells were the American Foulbrood disease - an infectious, notifiable, bacterial brood disease that weakens and kills honey bee colonies - coordinators for the Bay of Plenty for about 10 years. They train and mentor other beekeepers.
Jody said they had just started using bioform biodegradable honey frames produced by Auckland-based beekeeping equipment suppliers Ecroteck.
She believed they were the first company in New Zealand to use these biodegradable frames.
"Some people may not be aware that one-third of the world's food is the result of bee pollination, and as a beekeeping family, we take this responsibility very seriously. Without good beekeepers unfortunately there will be no honey bees."
"We could keep growing our business bigger and bigger but we are now all about quality over quantity and ensuring we keeping look after our honey bees. If you look after your bees properly they'll reward you with amazing honey."
According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand's export earnings from honey are worth more than $340 million a year.