New hub for Southland beekeepers

A hub designed to connect both commercial and hobbyist beekeepers in Southland has been established by the national apiculture body as more people in the region take up the activity.
Apiculture New Zealand set up the hub earlier this month to help bring beekeepers in the region closer together, and bring Southland into line with similar hubs in other regions across the country.

Chief executive of Apiculture New Zealand Karin Kos met with members of the hub at October’s Southland Bee Society meeting and said it was an exciting time for beekeepers in the region.

“Beekeeping is growing as a hobby and commercially, and it is important to have strong local hubs supporting both new and longstanding beekeepers. The meeting was a good opportunity for me to meet the committee members and speak to the membership on Apiculture New Zealand activities, and also to hear about local activity in the Southland area. The Hub is looking to build on their membership and support a long tradition of bringing together local beekeepers keen to keep learning and sharing ideas.”

Chairman of the Southland Bee Society Murray Christensen said the establishment of the hub was an exciting moment for the industry in the region.

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A hub helping connect commercial and hobbyist beekeepers in Southland has been established in the region

He said it would help bring the commercial and hobby sectors closer together, which was something that hadn’t happened much in the past.

And with recent global campaigns around environmentalism and the importance of bees to the planet, Mr Christensen said the establishment was coming at the perfect time with more and more people attracted to beekeeping as a way to have a positive impact on the environment.

“Everybody’s conscious of the issues with bees and it’s always in the media about bees dying out and bees becoming extinct and all that sort of thing… people are interested in keeping some bees in the backyard because they’re passionate about, or they love the idea of doing something with, bees. They love the idea that they’re doing something to help the planet. So it’s more of a feel good, friendly thing.”

Mr Christensen said education around beekeeping was important to ensure they were kept properly and hives were safely maintained to fulfill their potential.

A variety of tertiary courses are run across Southland for apiculture, with Mr Christensen also running non-tertiary classes to help get people started.

He said he used to sell hives and beekeeping equipment to people without training, but now only did so to people who undertook his classes in order to ensure they were up to date with everything that needed to be done.

“For me to sell anybody hives or bees now I need to be happy that they’ve got a reasonable level of competency about them or they are prepared to take on a course or join the bee society and get involved with what we do. They can find a mentor that can help them through the tribulations that they’re going to run into along the way.”

Beekepers were also recently further educated on the prevention of the bee-killing disease American Foulbrood by National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan New Zealand, which allowed both commercial and hobbyist beekeepers in Southland to become accredited to manage their own hives in preventing the disease from spreading across the region.

“We’ve got the lowest incidence of it anywhere in the country but in autumn there was a significant amount of it around the Winton and Centre Bush area,” Mr Christensen said. “There was a little bit of a concern there and that’s why we ran courses.”

He said outside of people being drawn to beekeeping due to it being good for the environment, he said it was a great activity to relax and escape from other pressures in life.

“If you’re at all interested in insects and in nature, it is such a soothing, relaxing thing to be doing. If I’m having a bad day and I can possibly get away – like everything else is gone belly up and the world’s picking on me – and I can possibly get away and get my bee suit on, I forget about everything and just go and play with bees.”

This article was originally written for The Advocate. You can read the published version here

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