Ethical Beekeeping


Paul and Sheryl Steens granddaughter, Eyla

As a family owned company, we have a strong desire to ensure that everyone who works with us, for us, or provides us with our incredible honey (that's our bees!) is wholly nurtured and given everything they need to thrive.

We work closely with our land partners to ensure relationships are fair and ethical. Our team regularly visits the people we work with who own the land, and the sites themselves to check in, have a cuppa, and ensure that they have everything they need.

The role of our bees is a huge one. Without bees, we would have no pollination. Pollination is the carrying of pollen between plants of different genders to fertilize them, or between different parts of the same plant, which can help the plant to reproduce. If the plants cannot reproduce, they won’t survive. Some plants require vibration to release pollen, which bees help with. This is called ‘buzz pollination’.

As the landmark 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recognizes, “Sacred passages about bees in all the worlds’ major religions highlight their significance to human societies over millennia.”

Paul and Sheryl Steens, founders of Steens Honey

One of the reasons Paul and Sheryl Steens initially came to have their own beehives was because of their love for natural foods, a deep connection to the life-giving resources that nature provides us and a huge respect for the natural world as a whole. Their continued passion for both people and the natural environment ensures not only that we lead the business in an environmentally lead direction, but that ethical practises take a top priority within every business decision we make. We stand by our environmental and ethical views as two of our core values within the team.


Did you know that the average life cycle of a bee is only between 3 weeks and 5 months in total? As with many insects, a bees main job is to keep their species alive. Whilst doing this, they obviously play a critical role in the survival of almost every single other living species on earth. Commonly, people have some key concerns around the treatment of bees when they’re creating honey for commercial purposes. Paul and Sheryl believe firmly in the welfare of anything living and breathing, this is part of their ethos in every aspect of life. As business owners, they are involved in the beekeeping side of the business daily – Paul is the master beekeeper, and it’s his knowledge, innovation and care that has gone into every aspect of the beekeeping side of Steens Honey. Not only was the Steens proprietary Wholecomb extraction process, which allows the honey to be cold pressed and bottled without using fine filters an idea created by Paul and his brother, but he has also created his own recipe for ‘bee patties’ to provide our bees with the optimal nutrients and vitamins to keep them as healthy, happy and full of energy as they can possibly be.

The Steens Beekeeping team checking Hives, New Zealand


Why do bees need feeding?

New Zealand, though a very green country, is not high in the types of pollen that a bee feeds upon. Many species of plant in New Zealand creates pollen that birds feed upon, but bees a bit more picky! The Manuka shrub is one type of flower that bees will bring back into the hives, along with clover, pohutokawa, gorse flower, and a handful of others. Pollen is a bees main source of protein, so in some seasons, when our flowers are not in blossom, bees need another source of food. Enter Paul’s handmade bee patties, made to his own secret recipe, researched, optimized and crafted over 40 years of beekeeping.

Whats in Paul’s Bee Patties?

Along with 40 years of in-field observation, refining and tweaking, Paul did an incredible amount of research to find out what would provide his bees with the very best in nutrition. His experience and knowledge over his lifetime of beekeeping has lead to a recipe that includes, among many other things, brewers yeast, flax seed oil and a number of amino acids. Paul’s bee patties are also fermented to a certain level, to allow the ingredients to form probiotics, which keep our bees healthy, and also makes it easier for our bees to digest.

When do they get fed the bee patties?

Paul’s bee patties are made onsite at our harvesting plant in New Zealand, and taken out by the land team to give to any hives that are looking low in pollen. When they check the hives, they look to see how many pollen cells the hives have (as these are the bees food and energy source), as well as watching the bees as they fly into the hive, to see how much pollen is captured on their legs from nearby flowers.

What does a bee patty look like?

Think… Welsh cakes without the raisins! Little squished patties of nutritional goodness that our bees happily devour and thank us by creating the very best, golden raw manuka honey that you will ever try.

'A beekeeper and his bees' - A Steens beekeeper tending his hives in New Zealand


Ensuring Bee Health

Our beehives are regularly checked and maintained by our land team. When they check the hives, their main priority is to ensure the bees are healthy, that there are no diseases within the hives and that they have the food supply they need, as well as ensuring that the hive structures themselves are maintained and looked after.

To ensure the bees are as healthy and as happy as possible, our land team checks for any potential diseases. New Zealand has laws around ensuring that any known bee diseases are managed, for the safety and comfort of the entire New Zealand Bee population. Thankfully, due to New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries being so strict on anything entering our country, we have a relatively low number of diseases that can pose a threat to our bees compared to most other countries. American Foulbrood and Varroa Mites are two of the most common diseases that can sadly affect beehives in New Zealand, which is why our team regularly checks our hives for health. Any diseases that a hive has, can be so easily spread, thanks to the 5 kilometer radius that a bee can fly, therefore many bees cross paths, and land on the same plants.

Many people are unsure as to why we use a smoker when checking our bees. As you can imagine, checking the hives for food sources, disease and colony health is hugely important for the welfare of the bees. The smoker is used to calm the bees when the hive is opened.  It doesn’t harm the bees at all, it simply masks the pheromone that alerts them to danger. The beekeeper is not their enemy so we gently smoke the hive as we don’t want them to attack (as this will bring them to release their sting, which in turn ends their life). Our beekeepers also have to be gentle in the handling of a hive as it is not in their best interest to stir up the hive for obvious reasons.

Steens do NOT clip our queens bee’s wings. This is a common practise within commercial beekeeping, and the reason many people do this is to ensure that the queen bee does not escape the hive, thus taking her bee swarm with her, leaving the hive empty. To ensure our queens are happy to stay in the hive, we simply make sure that they are incredibly well looked after, comfortable and well fed so we don’t have to practise anything that goes against our values as guardians of these incredible creatures.

The size of a colony inside our hives is always determined by the bees themselves. Many commercial beekeepers encourage more bees than is healthy for the hive, to live within one hive box. Obviously, the more bees, the more honey. But for us, bee happiness and safety takes priority. Our bees live with a comfortable, self determined number of bees in each hive. If the colony is too large, the bees will swarm, exit the hive and find another place to live, which is not in the best interests of the bees, nor is it in our best interests so we ensure that we don’t deliberately overcrowd our hives. After all, a happy bee is a productive bee.


Anything we can do to keep our bees happy and healthy, we go above and beyond to put into practise. Paul and Sheryl have a genuine love and huge respect for bees, as providers of the naturally healing food source, raw Manuka Honey, of sustenance to their family, and of life to all things on earth! (no pressure).

1 comment

Thank you
I’m 91 and would like to hang around awhile longer. Thank you too for your sales as I have a very skinny budget.

Dodie Booher December 17, 2023

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