Meet the keeper - Glen
Glen Cleaver is a Beekeeper, Queen Rearer, and industry leader in Canterbury. He lives just down the road from where Buzz Club co-founder Wilbur grew up. Glen was a key mentor and mate to Wilbur while keeping.
We sat down with Glen on a rainy Winter's day to chat.
When and how did you get into beekeeping?
When I was a kid, all of our family had bees, uncles and that. So I sort of grew up with bees.
We started beekeeping when we moved here, um so that was before the earthquakes, a year or so before the earthquakes. I started up as a hobby in the back yard and it sort of grew from there.
What do you like most about beekeeping?
Best thing I guess is everyone leaves you alone when you have a bee suit on.
I don’t like honey, but I like playing with the bugs. I really like the bees. I like queen rearing.
And what honey’s do you produce?
We do a few different varieties that we normally do by area. We only have a small extraction plant. So we extract from each area, so all the different honeys, you can see the different colours of them - they all come from different places. So you will get a different flavour of honey from somewhere like Christchurch City compared to being out here.
What areas do you have hives in?
We go from Hanmer to the Peninsula, and from Springfield to the Main Rivers.
What do you do when you’re not beekeeping?
Hahahaha I’m not really ever not beekeeping. We’re going fishing hopefully on Sunday. We the kids and the wife as well, she likes coming finishing, so we will go down the canals. But this will be the last time I really get a chance till after February because we start building up for Queen rearing now, so we’re already going through the hives checking for drones and their health, and then in August my first lot of queens go out. So in 6 weeks' time, I’m flying up to the North Island with a load of Queens and it doesn’t stop.
Then the last question I have for you is: What inspires you?
Hahahahahaha! F*ck sake. Getting out of bed in the morning alive. I guess trying to improve our breed stock in New Zealand. I send a lot of Queens to the North Island because they are just full of mongrels up there. The bees that is, not the people! And it’s rewarding. Every time you go into a beehive you find something new compared to previous jobs. It’s a different level of stress I guess. Queen rearing is very stressful because you have to have queens ready when the customer needs them. So it doesn't matter what the weather is doing, you’ve got to have queens otherwise they go somewhere else. But other than that, you know getting out in the sun and walking around different farms and stuff and doing bees is pretty cool.
Have you got anything else to add Wilbur?
Wilbur: What is your favourite and least favourite thing about beekeeping?
So I check for diseases in other people's hives, and when you find it, it’s a weird feeling. When my brother-in-law (who works for me) finds AFB (AFB is American Foulbrood) it's like ‘oh fuck’ but it is a good thing because it actually means that he's still out there actively looking for it. When you find it you must burn your hives, the ones that are infected otherwise the disease can spread, which would be devastating for New Zealand’s bee population.
When you find it in other people's hives and they miss it you have to kill the hive, and it doesn’t feel that good. My least favourite thing would be telling people they have to burn their hives.
My favourite thing about beekeeping? I guess helping other people, because it gives you a bit of a buzz (no pun intended). I’ve helped a lot of people in between hobbyist and semi-commercial, commercials, and I just love talking shit about bees.
Following the interview, we kept chatting about Glen’s time keeping and his family's involvement. Glen's mother still plays a big role in his business.
…She’s 87 now and she comes out and does like 40-hour + weeks in summer. At the moment she’s inside being housebound because we’re not doing a lot of the paperwork (we trace everything like our honey, our bees, everything back to the original hives). Because she’s not doing that she's going stir crazy and winding up the neighbours and she throwing shit at cats haha!
Wilbur: She’s a harder case than Glen!
Yep, 10 feet tall and bulletproof.
We’ve also got jack there (Glen’s son). He started off collecting swarms. He’s got 30 hives now. He’s 13. He wants to buy his own ute and get his license. So he's going to be making more money than me shortly!