Buzz around new school

A desire for people to have “as much fun as Winnie-the-Pooh” has inspired Grass Esposti to set up her own beekeeping education centre on the Matakana Coast last month.

Beetopia offers everything the budding or seasoned apiarist could want. There are 16 bee hives for practical demonstrations, and beginners, intermediate and advanced beekeeping courses on offer. In addition, there is a showroom stocked with books, hiveware supplies and beekeeping protective apparel. During spring, bees themselves will be on sale.

For students coming from out of town there is even a Bee & Bee – cosy, bee-themed accommodation.

Grass says the idea of Beetopia, which is located in an orchard of 700 fruit trees, is not so much to make money but rather to give people a genuine appreciation of the art of beekeeping. At the same time, it aims to enlighten people who might otherwise see beekeeping as a way of making a quick buck.

Grass says the hype around manuka honey and the spectacular prices it fetches has persuaded some that there is easy money to be made. But she warns harvesting manuka honey requires a lot of investment and hard work, and there can be bad years as well as good.

Grass fears that if people get into beekeeping for the wrong reasons and become disillusioned when things don’t work out, they are likely to abandon their hives, allowing the bees to starve and succumb to disease. 

She says to be a good beekeeper, it’s necessary to first have a love for the bees.

“It’s like having another family member. You can’t just forget there are bees in your garden and not feed them,” she says.

Grass says the rewards are enormous for someone getting into beekeeping for the right reasons, and it’s not confined to the honey and protein-rich pollen that can be harvested. 

“As far as a hobby goes it is extremely stimulating. It’s fun. You are kept on your toes the whole time, and you’re inspired to read up on what you are doing,” she says. 

“There’s an adrenalin rush to beekeeping that quickly becomes addictive.”

Beetopia is at 158 Omaha Flats Road. Email: