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Why Waiheke Island is a great place to be a bee

Richard Evatt, who’s known as Sticky Ricky, on Waiheke Island with some of his “girls”.

The sweet side of Waiheke.

Former interior designer Richard Evatt began keeping a few bees on the side after he became a stay-at-home dad on Waiheke Island in 2010. After harvesting the honey, the family had more than they could eat, so Evatt set up a stall at Ostend Market. Nine years down the track, the man they call Sticky Ricky has more than a hundred hives.

He describes beekeeping as somewhere between a science and a craft. “I must have read about 70 books on the subject, watched a lot of YouTube videos, and even got myself a couple of jobs working for other beekeepers, to test myself and find out whether or not I liked bees,” he says.

Richard Evatt.

Evatt’s Waiheke Honey Co now produces an array of native-bush honeys, including pōhūtukawa and mānuka, as well as a range of lip balms and beeswax candles. It’s a family business, with wife Sheena – known, of course, as “Queen Bee” – often labelling the honey jars, and sons Leo and Lex helping out in the school holidays.

The island’s bountiful landscapes produce a wide variety of pollens and nectars that provide foraging bees with a balanced diet. Most of the local vineyards don’t use insecticides, and when birds peck at the ripe grapes, bees are attracted to the juice that drips onto the grassland flowers beneath the vines. That leads to “a hint of cabernet” in the floral, golden-syrup flavour of the multiflora honeys, reckons Evatt, who affectionately refers to his bees as “our girls”. Waiheke Island, he says “is a great place to be a bee”.

Read more: The old-school goldsmith making jewels with a story on WaihekeAn artistic endeavour to make Auckland the most bee-friendly city in the world

This article was first published in the March 2019 issue of North & South.

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