A Kid In A Zoo

I was ten years old when I first fell in love with bees. I remember that day 30 years ago when my parents gave me a book called Beekeeping in the UK.

A boy sitting down on grass wearing yellow gum boots. He's opening a jar he's using to catch bugs.

Even at that very young age, I had always been fascinated by animals, and it wasn’t unusual for me to be reading books on all different species. However, as I turned the pages, I suddenly realised the complexity of these tiny, beautiful creatures.

The book gave a basic description of their anatomy, how they made their nests and the way their colonies functioned like a well-oiled machine.

Up close, they looked like they were wearing yellow fur coats and glazed aviator goggles. It also showed pictures of beekeepers, clad in their astronaut-like masks and suits that made them look like they were from outer space.

This was especially appealing to me as a young boy, and I imagined what it would be like to be inside one of those suits, covered from head to toe in bees. And despite the fact that life would take me in many different directions before I would arrive back to bees as my life’s passion, I still remember this moment, holding that book in my hands, feeling I had discovered something unlike anything before.

I grew up in a little town called Seville in the Yarra Valley. Anyone who has been to the Yarra Valley knows it’s a picturesque spot, just an hour’s drive from Melbourne.

The valley itself surrounds Victoria’s Yarra river and is home to wineries, luxury accommodation, boutique food suppliers and artisans.

To this day, it feels like home. My parents had a property there – first 20 acres and then a larger 70-acre lot.

I was lucky that they loved animals too, and at home, we had what I would consider our own private zoo! This included many exotic birds, antelope, kangaroos, and albino wallabies, just to name a few.

From a very young age, I was caring for and learning about animals that other children didn’t know existed. As a kid, I was forever catching lizards and bugs.

Dangerous species didn’t seem to bother me, with scorpions and spiders becoming some of my more unusual pets. Before bees, I was very keen about keeping freshwater fish, and by the age of 14, I had over 20 tanks housing rare species from all over the world.

I always wanted to breed them as I knew, even at that age, that animals that were breeding were in prime condition, living in a healthy environment.

Looking back, I can see this is where it all began. I might not have known that holding that book in my hands, and gazing upon that beekeeper as though they were some extraterrestrial hero, would become the passion that now fills my life completely. This is just the beginning of my journey, and it is always a pleasure sharing it with you.

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