When Ali and Peter Bell launched Bells Honey way back in 1984, they could never have known that 35 years down the track, they’d have three sons following them into the industry as The Swarming Sons.
From Bells Honey to Swarming Sons
Ali and Peter met at Black Forest Station in the Mackenzie Country. Ali worked as a Jill-of-all-trades, Peter as manager of the station’s beehives. The inevitable happened and they married, bought the bee business off the station and moved to Twizel to establish Bells Honey.
Ali says they arrived in Twizel with an old Worsely, an even older J2 Bedford truck, a fridge and a Labrador called Yogi. They’d sold everything they could to make some cash to get started and mixed the bees alongside casual work for a few years, until in 1988 taking the plunge into full-time beekeeping.
A busy beekeeping family is born
The early 1990s was an almighty juggle for Ali and Peter. First, Tom arrived, then George and Brian, all born at two-year intervals. Ali and Peter had also bought 2ha on the outskirts of Twizel and were busy building a home and the infrastructure to support their business. Much of this they built themselves.
The Swarming Sons take their first steps
As the three boys grew, they began accompanying their parents out beekeeping. Ali says at first, they were good for nothing more than “squashing the lunch and messing up the first aid kit.” But it wasn’t long before the boys were giving a helping hand, even if they had to stand on boxes to see into the hives. Ali and Peter were very proud of the boys and this early start was to become the foundation of the Swarming Sons love of the industry.
As a family, the Bells made the most of what the Mackenzie Country had to offer. The boys were never bored. They would tramp together and ski at Ohau Ski Field. The boys developed a love of hunting and as they got older would take off into the hills together, accompanied by the next generation Labrador, Ben. They were also keen rugby players, something that George especially pursued right through high school.
The Scout Bees
Today Mackenzie Country Honey, as Bells Honey is now known, is a sustainable outfit with 2500 hives, employing six people. Brian has flown the hive, and established Hamner River Honey in North Canterbury. George and his wife Claire have winged their way south to Te Anau and own Southern Lakes Honey. Tom is home in Twizel with his wife Tarsh, and they are preparing to take over Mackenzie Country Honey from Ali and Peter.
The Swarming Sons is born
The Swarming Sons is an initiative conceived by the boys to showcase the honey of their respective regions. They want to see their environmentally sound, carefully crafted, artisan product bypass the bulk buyer, going directly from the hive to the customer.
Bee keeping on...
After 35 years in the business, Ali and Peter still think beekeeping is the best job in the world.
“We are practical people,” Ali says. “We like working for ourselves and being in the outdoors.
“We are our own boss. We get as much out of our job as we put in. It's exciting and a challenge – the race to get jobs done on time and the hives right. Every day is different
Three Swarming Sons to be proud of
Ali and Peter are excited to watch the sons embrace the industry. take a unique approach to beekeeping and showcase their product to the world.