With a state-of-the-art new venue, a diverse range of expert speakers and trade displays, as well as social events, national competitions, reports and an AGM, Apiculture New Zealand’s (ApiNZ) Conference is back in the South Island, June 30-July 1. We take a look at what attendees can expect and check in with the industry body’s chief executive Karin Kos as excitement builds for the largest individual primary sector summit in the country.
There will be plenty to capture beekeepers’ attention at ApiNZ’s conference and Kos says they can expect to earn tangible benefits from attending the event, to be held at Christchurch’s new Te Pa Convention Centre. While a diverse line-up of expert speakers, from New Zealand and abroad, will no doubt prove that true, the venue itself will also add to the occasion.
Te Pa, a product of Christchurch City’s wider “rebuild” following 2011’s earthquakes, hosted its first conference in May and has a busy calendar of events to follow, including the June 30-July 1 clustering of beekeepers.
“The venue is amazing,” says Kos, who visited it in May, along with the rest of the organising committee.
“It is world class and that will add to the experience. It is still very new and we will be one of the bigger conferences they have had so far.”
It is the first time the national conference has been held in the South Island since 2018, when Blenheim played host. Since then, there have been two events staged in Rotorua, with the 2020 conference cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While Kos says almost 1300 delegates attended last winter’s event in Rotorua, they are expecting more like 700-1000 to attend this year. The decrease largely explained by the lesser number of beekeepers in the South Island.
In a coup for conference organisers and those attending, popular entomologist Dr Sammy Ramsey will be attending in person. Dr Ramsey captured attention at the 2019 event in Rotorua with a presentation of his ground-breaking findings into the habits of the ever-present varroa destructor – proving the parasite mite feeds on honey bee fat body tissue and not haemolymph (blood) as previously believed. This year Ramsey has updated varroa research to present, as well as his recent studies on another honey bee parasite: tropilaelaps mites.
Joining Dr Ramsey as a keynote speaker will be fellow American entomologist Dr Jamie Ellis, who will address the conference by a pre-recorded presentation and then live video to field questions – a technique used at last year’s conference by international experts when borders were closed. Dr Ellis conducts research in the areas of honey bee husbandry, ecology and conservation and integrated crop pollination. His presentation is titled What is killing our bees (and what we can do about it)?. Both Ramsey and Ellis will also sit on panel discussions on pests and disease, and varroa.
Kos says it has been a huge amount of work behind the scenes to get Dr Ramsey to New Zealand in these uncertain times, but being based in Thailand for his latest research made a trip to New Zealand more practical. Dr Ellis’s expertise will be of great value too she says.
“Sammy might be more well known, but attendees should not underestimate Jamie. We have spoken to him several times and he is so knowledgeable, especially around bee health,” Kos says.
While in previous years the conference has stretched to three days, this year the schedule is more tight, spanning just two. Following the honey bee expertise of Ellis and Ramsey, the third keynote speaker will be well known to most New Zealanders, former comedian and now mental health advocate Mike King who will address the conference on the later subject, but whose comedic skills should help entertain.
Alongside those speakers, delegates will benefit from the expertise of the likes of scientists Dr Pike Stahlmann-Brown, Dr Phil Lester, Dr Gertje Petersen, as well as Plant and Food Research scientists Dr James Sainsbury and Michelle Taylor.
Discussions between delegates and industry experts, including representatives of the Ministry for Primary Industries, on subjects important to the state of the apiculture industry will also take place, such as “Enhancing the value of Aotearoa’s monofloral honeys” and “What is the path for exporting more honey while maintaining premium prices?”.
“They are all pretty topical subjects. We try to make them quite practical and I think there is something for everyone. There is never a shortage of good topics in our industry. There are fascinating things to deal with and this event is about pulling all that together,” Kos says.
Beekeepers have been increasingly supportive of the national honey competition over recent years and the judging of honeys prior to conference this year will mean more time to celebrate the best produce. Those wanting to enter should be aware of the advanced timeframe for honey submission because of the earlier judging, meaning samples must be received prior to the conference.
Various other competitions, from beeswax to photos, will also take place at the event, plus ApiNZ will host a gala dinner and present major industry awards on the final night, Friday July 1. Earlier that day, the ApiNZ AGM will take place, all at the Convention Centre.
Surrounding all that will be the usual mixing point at the trade display area, which will include around 70 different stands.
Ticket prices for ApiNZ members and students are $160 for a single day or $300 for both days, non-members will pay $220 and $408. While some beekeepers have baulked at the prices, Kos defends them and says the price comes with the quality of the event they are hosting and is actually less than other large primary industry gatherings.
“There are good incentives to come and for a commercial beekeeper it is almost part of doing business. You need to be there to catch up with suppliers, fellow beekeepers and I think it should be regarded as a cost of business for beekeepers,” she says.
While the conference itself is limited to two days this year there are two other events expected to draw some attendees to Christchurch a day earlier. The 3rd New Zealand Honey Bee Research Symposium will see scientists present their work the day prior to conference at the venue, while a Professional Learning and Development Day based around food safety will be hosted by ApiNZ at the Tait Technology Centre, also on June 29.
Full conference details and registrations are available via apinz.org.nz/apinz-conference