The hum of the car, the hum of the refrigerator, the hum of the washing machine, the hum of the beehive. Becoming a hobbyist beekeeper is increasing in popularity. It is also more accessible than you may have previously thought with over 25 beekeeping clubs across New Zealand and a buy in of around $300 for everything you need.
The Whangarei Bee Club is one of the largest beekeeping clubs in New Zealand with around 300 club members. At a recent club meeting, Heather, a club member and beekeeper described beekeeping as therapeutic – and advised you will get hooked. Beekeeping also has multiple layers of benefits. One club member trained her dog to detect AFB and sells bee venom for beauty products, members make lip balms and wax wraps, it is good for pollination, the environment and then of course there is the honey!
Paul, another club member recommends coming to a club day prior to purchasing a beehive to ensure beekeeping is for you. There are many benefits to joining a club. Firstly, there is the social side. Whangarei Bee Club meets monthly with a morning tea and guest speaker before stopping for lunch where at a recent meeting the members suddenly pulled out 6 tables, threw over table cloths and out came about 30 pizzas. The club members are very friendly and happy to share as much information with interested future beekeepers as possible.
More importantly however, the club can provide you with basic knowledge about bee keeping, contacts and support. When beekeeping, Varroa and AFB can pose a real problem. The club can point you in the right direction for purchasing your hive, getting bees, registering your hive (through https://apinz.org.nz/) and any apiculture (beekeeping) resources so you can ensure you are compliant along with providing ongoing support. According to Apiculture New Zealand there are over 870,000 beehives currently registered in New Zealand.
After lunch, interested club members head outside to the hives to check on the bees. The beekeepers used a smoker which calms the bees before opening up the hive. The bees started to buzz around however the keepers are so slow and careful that the bees do not get upset. There is plenty of honey in the hive and members also have a taste of the product! Eventually the queen was spotted – identified by a green dot on her head. One of the other members mentions that the green on this particular queen indicated she was a 2018 queen – they have a 5-year life cycle, the year is identified through their colour.
While the bees do tend to slow down for winter, now is a good time to start thinking if bee keeping may be for you and to get in touch with your local club. In terms of timing, once you are set up in say November by that summer you should be seeing some honey. And by the following summer you almost certainly will be eating some delicious honey it off a slice of toast!
Look out for the Queen Bee below – she is there in all of her glory!