Kim Kneijbers | Beekeeper & fabric artist

Auckland City | December 2015

"A third of all the food we eat is pollinated by bees“... more text below images

Kim Kneijbers Beekeeper & fabric artist | Auckland City | December 2015

Kim Kneijber is a bee activist. Along with her involvement in the NZ Beekeeping Association ( and the Auckland Beekeepers Club. Kim also runs a mobile bee keeping service from the back of her ute. 

Every week Kim makes the rounds of her 30 +beehives located around Auckland City in various neighbourhoods.  For a modest price she puts her beehives in the backyards and gardens of Aucklanders, and she works alongside the homeowners educating them on bee husbandry and keeping them in a steady source of home grown honey. 

One Friday in December 2015 we tagged along with Kim to visit her bees in homes in Birkenhead and Remuera. Next month we’re planning a trip to Kim’s bees on the Auckland Town Hall balcony. 

If you’re interested in learning more about having a beehive in your home contact 021 1495724 or or visit 

Meantime here's some information about the wonder of bees: 

• A honey bee is an insect that collects nectar from flowers and turns it into honey

• There are three types of honey bees in a colony: a queen bee, worker bees, and drones

• The worker bee and the queen are both female bees but only the queen is allowed to reproduce

• The drones are male bees. Their only job is to mate with the queen and the queen’s job is to lay eggs and ensure the hive’s social structure (how the bees get along) is maintained by pheremones (scent that the queen releases)

• The worker bees have many jobs including cleaning, finding pollen, collecting honey, water and propolis, building new combs, taking care of baby bees (called larvae), and defending the hive

• Bees have a marvellous brain the size of a pin head. A bee can recognise land marks and retain the information on nectar and pollen sources for more than a week

• The honey bee has three basic body parts - head, abdomen and thorax

• On the head, the honey bee has five eyes, a pair of antennae, a tongue and jaws called mandibles

• Bees use their tongue to suck water, nectar and honey

• They use mandibles for moving pollen and shaping beeswax

• The thorax is a middle portion of the honey bee and it contains flight muscles

• The honey bee has two pairs of wings and three pairs of legs

• On the rear legs of a honey bee are special structures and hairs that help the bee clean itself and carry pollen

• The abdomen is the longest part of a honey bee and has most of the important organs

• It is covered with hard segments that protect the honey bee and also help keep it from drying up

• The honey bee sting (found only in female bees) is on the tip of the abdomen

• The abdomen also contains glands like the scent and wax-secreting glands in worker bees, male reproductive organs in the drone bees, and female reproductive organs in the queen bee

• A worker bee’s maximum flight range is about five kms but most collect nectar and pollen within 800 metres of the hive

• A honey bee flies at approximately 24 kph

• Insects have an exoskeleton (on the outside), while we humans have bones on the inside

• A bee heart is a long thin tube consisting of eight chambers; five of which are very distinct. Each chamber takes in haemolymph from a small opening which closes when the abdomen pulses which pumps the blood forward

• A bee doesn’t have blood vessels like a human; the haemolymph circulates through the whole of its body. Air is taken into the body through sphericals (little holes) along the sides of its abdomen

• The average life of a worker bee is six weeks in summer and four to six months in winter

• Bees use their antennae to smell. They can detect nectar two kms away

• Apart from flying, bees use their wings to: evaporate surplus moisture from the nectar, ventilate the hive of stale air, cool the hive by introudcing cool air and discharging warm air

• Bees also have the ability to disconnect their wings from their flight muscles and use them to generate heat

• Bees see in a slightly different colour range to humans

• Many flowers have colured ultra-violet streaks we call “nectar guides” to guide the bee to the nectar in the base of the flower

• A bee’s egg is 1.4mm long and 0.4mm wide. The egg shell (chorion) does not crack open like a hen’s egg but dissolves and flakes away from the body of newly hatched larvae

• Bees build a six sided hexagonal cell up to 5.35mm wide and 15mm long on a upward angle of 9 to 14 degrees

• $3.4b of New Zealand’s economy is attributable to pollination by honey bees

• About one third of our food comes as a direct result of honey bee pollination

• Around 9,000 to 12,000 tonnes of honey are produced annually in New Zealand

• About 5,551 New Zealanders keep bees and there are about 575,872 beehives in New Zealand


POD thanks photographer Lottie Hedley.