Lindsay Moir has spent over 20 years as a hobbyist beekeeper, much of which time he has served as an AP2, as well as an active member of the Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeeper’s Club. MAGGIE JAMES poses some key questions to the North Canterbury apiarist to find out how Moir made his start in the hives, learn about his contributions to the industry and the changes to beekeeping he has witnessed over the past two decades.
MJ: How long have you had an interest in beekeeping?
In the mid-1990s living in Christchurch, learning a bit about bees and having a midlife crisis, I paid $100 for a bee hive, with no idea that I had to register myself and the apiary on the NZ Apiary Register … until informed by the hive vendor!
My father, Graham, who died when I was a baby, was a semi commercial beekeeper in Waitahuna, Otago. One of the earliest photos I have seen of myself is as a baby surrounded by 60 of his hives. I still have his 1949 market garden and beekeeping diary documenting AFB control practises now frowned upon, such as shook swarming and scorching boxes!
MJ: Where are you based and what hives do you have?
Our lifestyle block at Amberley, North Canterbury holds three family cottages. I have five hives here, currently shifted temporarily off site as the bees’ flight path annoyed my daughter in her 2000 plant strawberry patch. We have successional flowering for bees including a vege garden, 20 stone and pip fruit trees, raspberries, 80 pinot noir and riesling grape vines, along with ten sheep and two cats.
Shelter is Pinus radiata and tree lucerne. Bees love the latter and sheep appreciate it as fodder.
The hives are of Italian stock, a temperament well suited to hot dry nor-westers, and requeened annually with caged mated laying queens.
Varroa treatments are twice yearly using alternating synthetic miticides. I have not yet required a third miticide treatment. I believe in hit ‘em early, hit ‘em hard! Clover and multifloral honey is produced for family use. On hive inspection, to prevent a skin reaction to propolis when my skin peels away, I mostly wear gloves.
MJ: What is your occupation and does this aid your beekeeping?
I am a carpenter by trade, semi-retired. Apart from buying in frames, I make my own gear. I doubt I will retire as a hobbyist beekeeper.
As an Authorised Person Level 2 (AP2) I undertake hive inspections from Belfast through to Kaikoura for the National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan (NAFB PMP). Also, as an AP2 contracting to AsureQuality, I carry out hive inspections for the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) Apiculture Surveillance Programme in North Canterbury. My contracts include hobbyist and commercial apiaries, and if the apiary is large e.g. 60 hives, I take along another person to help lift boxes.
I am one of the longest serving AFB recognition course tutors and assessor of written tests, having carried out that task since 2000. The course and test enable a beekeeper to apply to the Management Agency of NAFB PMP for their Disease Elimination Conformity Agreement (DECA). I also undertake Certificate of Inspections (COI), if requested by a non-DECA beekeeper for which they pay me.
MJ: How do you network and have continuing education?
Since 1998 I have been a member of the Christchurch Hobbyist Beekeepers’ Club, with 15 years on the committee.
I am co-writing a beginner’s course for the club. It will start as a full weekend course, with monthly follow up at our field days. We will use a 30-minute video made by the Southland Bee Society on introduction to beekeeping. This covers the basics of all you need to do as a beekeeper.
In the past, when I have shown this to groups of 30, at the end asking them, “who wants to be a beekeeper?” There is always at least two who decide beekeeping is not for them. This is an easy way of culling out some wannabees. Attendees will acquire a nuc colony and follow the various aspects of expansion into a hive.
Like many beekeeping clubs, we find once someone has had a season or two learning, they then move on, and this creates quite a turnover of members.
Every July for AP2s throughout NZ there is a two-day course at Lincoln, this year with major emphasis on the Privacy and Biosecurity Acts.
I’m looking forward to the national Apiculture Conference 2022 in Christchurch.
MJ: Since you got involved in 1998, what are some of the changes that have impacted hobbyist beekeeping?
There were very few women in the club in 1998, whereas these days it is probably half female membership.
Many hobbyists now want bees, but dislike the hands-on approach of looking after the hive and pay others to attend to their hives. There is also an increase in hive rental demand.
Beekeepers, commercial and hobbyist, were more self-sufficient, and this knowledge gave them a better understanding of hive dynamics, particularly bee space. Not understanding this concept, makes managing a hive difficult in getting wax drawn out in a manner conducive to hive productivity.
Electronic media is a great educational tool, but for many YouTube is their mentor! This type of learning does not give any concept of hands on. There is so much info available, often confusing an inexperienced beekeeper. Many don’t realise some practises viewed online are not suitable for the New Zealand situation, such as open syrup feeding, or perhaps practises illegal here, like antibiotic treatment for AFB.
A good online tool for Kiwi beekeepers is Trev’s Bees. I have never met or spoken to the guy, but his videos are good. The Hive Hub app is also informative.
With loss of easy-going attitudes, sense of humour and open mindedness, people panic easily, do not trust their gut instinct and therefore people are becoming less hands on, less analytical and dependent on Google for beekeeping knowledge.
MJ: As an AP2 have you ever been chased off a property by an animal or human?
No, but once declined to inspect an apiary in a paddock of rutting deer!