Club Catch-Up: Big BOP
CLUB CATCH UP BROUGHT TO YOU BY HIVE WORLD NZ
By Dave Black
Maybe it’s because beekeepers generally seem to have a problem with authority and structure, they are what we kindly call ‘independent’, that the Bay of Plenty Bee Interest Group is a little different. There is no formal structure, no chairperson, no membership fee, and no rules. It’s not even a requirement that you own bees. We don't promote or represent anyone. We have around 320 of these rebels on our newsletter list. Just quietly. some of them belong to more regular beekeeping organisations too.
Our ethos is about participation; you get what you give, nothing is done for you. Anyone with an interest in bees and their habitat, however peripheral, is welcome to a meeting. Our beekeepers lend or exchange equipment, advise and sympathise, or lend each other sites, skills, and books, even bees, mostly on a one-to-one basis. We have members young and old, adept and equipped for anything from box-making to queen rearing; microscopy to mead. Apart from modest self-improvement and out-reach, the group builds networks and support.
One of the associations we have maintained over the years has been with the 1650ha TECT All Terrain Park, owned and operated by Western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga City Council, and financially supported by the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust (TECT). As a centre for expansive adventure and educational opportunities the TECT permits an apiary site, and provides a modern, sustainable building we use for our winter meeting programme, equipped with modern audio-visual equipment, kitchen, and toilet facilities.
Winter meetings are topic based, while the summer programme visits member’s own, mostly suburban and lifestyle, home apiaries. The last Sunday of every month will find us peering into hives of all kinds offering, often unsolicited, advice and kept in good humour by a shared ‘bring-a-plate’ tea. These visits might have someone expert in demonstrating a particular operation, undertaking a COI perhaps, or examine something the owner is concerned about, or maybe a joint ‘field day’ for networking with a group like the local branch of the New Zealand Tree Crops Association.
Tauranga and its surrounding towns are a pretty busy spot, the climate generally mild but with a decent range from the beaches into the hills above. While there’s lot of forage, there are lots of hives too, with a large local beekeeping population and a significant annual seasonal import of something like 80,000 hives for four months of pollination. It can be challenging.
While the region has been relatively lucky as far as the Covid-19 restrictions on social activity are concerned, for a while we too enjoyed web-hosted virtual meetings at times. The group has also evolved a sizeable and active Facebook membership of over 600 participants that helped to keep everyone engaged.
A presence on the internet hosted by Weebly helps us manage the opportunities we can offer. There we use a multi-layer map tool to display members who will collect swarms or carry out Certificates of Inspection, and where we monitor the local results of Tutin tests we bulk-submit. We also have three small extractors members can hire, via online booking. To the extent we need to fund things we cover the cost with a gold-coin donation from the regulars at the monthly meeting or the extractor hire.
For us, the BOP group exists to facilitate shared knowledge and experience, in a social setting where potentially everyone has something to contribute, including people that have never (or never intend to), keep their own honey bees. Keeping bees for a hobby or a business succeeds with good information about many things, for example information about biology, weather and horticulture, carpentry, engineering, to legal, employment, and compliance matters. It’s valuable then, that the group appeals to a wide range of people with different interests. With beekeeping at the core of what we do, providing opportunities to lift the skill of beekeepers beyond proficient to real expertise is an essential process. Rather than teach, our collective role is to provide opportunities to learn, and to learn by doing, by participating, by communicating, and by seeing what is possible.
For a group that started meeting around a Palmers Garden Centre café table nearly ten years ago it’s been quite a journey.