In conversation

Ruby Jones

In conversation

Summer is a season where nature never ceases to disappoint. With blue skies and sunshine being a non-negotiable, we take the time to relax and appreciate all that the sunny months have to offer. Whilst we rest up, nature continues to work hard with our bees sitting high on the list of ‘hardest workers’.

We owe a lot to the bees, responsible for pollinating one third of the world's food as well as cotton flowers and other essential crops – there’s no denying that our bees are worth looking after. Dedicated to increasing New Zealand’s bee population by supplying happy, healthy hives to urban areas, we had the privilege of catching up with Jessie and her mum Vicki from Bees Up Top.

Ruby Jones

Starting from the beginning, tell us about yourself and how Bees Up Top first came about?

The journey for Bees Up Top really began when I lived with a beekeeper. Growing up in Bethells, I had always been interested in bees so when I started flatting with a beekeeper, the following three years of my life were a BUZZ!

Our flat was based in an urban area and our small backyard was perfect for the flat beehive which we kept in the chicken coop. We harvested honey, made honey beer, rescued swarms, and even ordered a new Queen on the internet with the mailman delivering it to our front door - that really blew my mind.

Following this, my husband and I took a year off and travelled Central and South America, here we worked with beekeepers and learnt from them - I was hooked. When I returned to New Zealand an idea was sparked to put bees on rooftops in urban areas, the first beehive was placed on top of The Novotel Hotel, and it has blown up from there!

Was there a reason why you chose urban based rooftops as the place to rehome rescued bees? Tell us a little more about urban beekeeping and the benefits for bees in these city areas.

Urban areas are a haven for bees because of all the food! Auckland City is planted in colour all year round with the bees especially loving the old trees and Pohutukawa at Christmas time. Resident gardens and balcony gardens add to this too with bees in the city making three times more honey than the bees at Bethells Beach!

Ruby Jones

A super important part of our eco-system, bees are amongst some of the hardest working creatures on the planet pollinating a large number of produce that we eat on the daily. With the bee population in drastic decline, it’s important (now more than ever) to educate people on the importance of bees and how to look after them which is what you’re doing with your hive programme. Can you share a little more about this programme and how people can get involved?

Bees are so important because they pollinate one third of the world’s food. Not only that, bees also pollinate cotton flowers which contribute to the clothes we wear. The loss of bees would also impact the meat and dairy industry because bees pollinate Alfalfa and Clover flowers that cows feed on.

Bees Up Top rescues bees for free! Every spring/summer, I respond to hundreds of call outs from Auckland residents who have a bee swarm in their backyard that need saving - it’s a very busy time of the year for me but I love it! It’s so important to rescue our little pollinators because they can’t survive in the wild anymore without the help of humans.

The bees that we rescue become rooftop bees. You can help by calling Bees Up Top if you find a bee swarm that needs to be saved or you can host a rescue hive. It’s pretty special being delivered honey at Christmas time that your bees have made.

You must have some incredible rescue stories, what has been your most memorable swarm saving mission?

One year I had to climb 10m to rescue a colony that had set up in the branches of a flowering Pohutukawa tree. There was a whole office of people watching me. It was scary, my legs were shaking but such an adrenaline rush!

Ruby Jones

Bees are known to travel 5km for pollination, do you notice a difference in honey depending on where each urban hive is located?

Yes, depending on where a hive is located changes the flavour, texture, and colour of the honey. I love harvest time and trying all the different types of honey straight out of the hive!

Bees Up Top is a real family affair with your infamous mum Vicki oftentimes seen on social media lending a helping hand or out and about educating the next generation on the importance of our bees. How important was it for you to have whanau involved in Bees Up Top?

My mum is my biggest supporter! I love beekeeping with her because she is so fun to hang out with and there is never a dull moment. She is a schoolteacher, so we run the kids’ classes together and they absolutely love her.

As you know it has been an interesting end to this year and with summer well and truly around the corner, we want to know what you’re looking forward to this season? What’s on the horizon for Bees Up Top and yourself?

Summers are the best spent at Bethells. We’ll be spending hours at Bethells Lake and the beach followed by delicious meals on the lawn at home.

It’s incredible how our senses can link us to memories from our past. Whether it’s the smell of SPF that reminds you of childhood at the beach or the feeling of a fab silk dress against freshly sunkissed skin, our senses come to life in summer. What little things spark your best summer memories? I can imagine you have quite a few living at Bethells!

I love the smell of honey pouring out of the hives when you walk past them, it’s so dreamy!

Ruby Jones

When the sun is cranking, what are your warm weather wardrobe must haves?

I love a cotton dress! It’s the soft feeling that never disappoints, especially when sunburnt skin involved.

Lastly, what words of wisdom do you follow in business and life and what advice would you give to aspiring businesswomen?

If you have an idea, just give it a go. Running a business takes a lot of hard work but it’s so worth being your own boss!

Photography by

Lydia Rachel Photography

As told to

Courtenay Lewis

Shop The Look