Village News

The bees knees

01 May 2024

Kāpiti Village residents John and Ping in the garden

Inside Kāpiti Village, a thriving community of almost 100,000 residents happily co-exist alongside Metlifecare retirees, thanks to the careful nurturing and dedication of villager John McKinney.

For nine out of the ten years that John and his partner Ping have lived at Kāpiti Village, he has maintained beehives inside the expansive grounds, an undertaking he describes as “a wonderful little hobby”.

“I’ve always been very keen on nature and the outdoors, so I really enjoy looking after bees,” says John. “They are amazing, and you never stop learning.”

John also keeps seven hives outside of the village and uses a registered commercial kitchen to extract the honey and produce a Kāpiti Village blend. Last season, his busy bees produced more than a quarter of a tonne of honey, filling 700 jars.

“Jarring up the honey at the end of the season is one of the best parts of the job. Ping is the chief bottler, so she gets very busy at times of the year when we start to decant.”

Beekeeping can be hard work with lots of heavy lifting involved, but John has adapted his technique to ease the physical side of the job.

“This is the first harvest season where I’ve started lifting the honey frame by frame, rather than lifting the whole box. I’ve had to align my normal process with retirement living.”

Not surprisingly, John’s beekeeping skills are very popular with fellow residents.

“Folk throughout the village really get behind the concept. The bees pollinate their flowers and vegetable plots, and we have people planting areas of wildflowers specifically to help feed the bees. They take a lot of nurturing and looking after.

“Pots of honey make great Christmas stocking stuffers, so we sell a lot around that time of year, and recently we donated jars of honey as prizes for our village’s outdoor summer celebration day.”

But bees aren’t the only thing that keeps John busy in retirement. He’s actively involved in resident-led sustainability initiatives and until recently, oversaw the village’s predator free project. Last year he completed an honours degree at Victoria University.

“Living at Kāpiti Village is tremendous. Retirement for me is a time in life when you’re in control. You can really spread your wings and fly!”

A fitting analogy for this busy beekeeper.

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