From Hawaii to Northland: sharing a passion for Beekeeping and Bees

In celebration of International Women’s Day we would like to introduce you to one of our female beekeepers, Noelani Waters. 

Noelani grew up in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. This instilled a great love of nature and rain, surrounded by dense rainforest jungles, as well as created a deep sense of community being from a small island.

She found her found her way to New Zealand and the Far North a couple of years ago on honeymoon and really loved it here.

When one year ago a job with Comvita job popped up in bee breeding in the Far North she applied.

Noelani worked at Comvita’s breeding unit in the Far North of New Zealand.

We asked Noelani what it means to her to be a female beekeeper?

"I strongly believe that women have an important role to play in the future of beekeeping. I have had the pleasure to know and work with many strong female beekeepers in my short career and some of the top people in our field are women. I see the culture changing worldwide. Women have a place here and have a lot to offer."

How did you get involved in beekeeping (and when)?

I first got my taste of beekeeping during in my first year of my bachelor’s degree in Tropical Agriculture in 2010. I instantly fell in love.

What do you love about beekeeping?

I love working outside everyday with such incredible and critically important creatures as honeybees. They provide endless fascination and opportunities for learning no matter how many years you practice beekeeping. I also love that my work perfectly combines the art of farming and applied science.

What have you learned in beekeeping or from bees that can apply to other areas of life?

Beekeeping requires that you are in the present moment and paying attention to the small details or you have the direct consequence of getting stung. This presence is a gift to carry into my daily life.

What part of your beekeeping practices are based in old traditions? What part of the practice has been influenced by modern practices / technologies?

Our daily work of maintaining beehives and raising queens is, by nature, an old tradition of bee stewardship to support pollination and honey production. Newer technologies employed here include the practice of instrumental insemination of queen bees for our breeding program to promote stock improvement and genetic diversity. The health of bees is so important to Comvita customers.

What practices do we employ that keep the long-term health of the hive in mind?

I have learned first-hand that the health and wellbeing of the bees is truly at the forefront of this business and know this is built from the ground up, in each beehive. This translates to valuing quality over quantity and sourcing our pride and success from that model. Taking care to think about how each task can be done with kindness, to reduce the stress on our hives and ensure they are as strong as possible, is a daily practice employed at our unit.

What about beekeeping where you are in New Zealand makes the job special?

Our breeding unit is located on a beautiful 700 acre farm in the Far North of the North Island in a fairly isolated area near Doubtless Bay. This environment is perfect for a selective breeding program where we hope to get optimal queen mating and limited exposure to excessive neighbouring hives that could cause stress or exposure to pests and disease.

What’s one word you’d use to describe the feeling you experience when beekeeping? Awe. How do you incorporate Manuka into your daily routine?

I add Manuka honey into my coffee every morning, yum!

What should other women know about beekeeping?

Beekeeping is hard and fascinating work with many areas of specialization for everyone to find their place in. The main prerequisites are love of bees, curiosity, ability to work hard, and willingness to be stung regularly.


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