Club Catch Up: Frank Lindsay, Wellington Beekeepers Association
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A beekeeper would be hard pressed to have contributed more to their local club and the industry than Wellington Beekeepers Association’s Frank Lindsay has. Now into his 70s and having spent 52 years as an apiarist, both hobbyist and commercial, Lindsay has helped educate, advocate and bring beekeepers together, earning him life memberships to three beekeeping bodies and a trove of knowledge.
A conversation with Frank Lindsay on beekeeping is littered with pearls of wisdom.
"Once you get to 10 mites per hundred bees the hive is dead, you just don’t know it," he advises, and "It takes five years to learn an area, and then you start enjoying beekeeping again. You’ll make all those mistakes to start with though."
Then there’s the philosophical side of keeping bees to discuss too.
“The thing about beekeeping is, it's a new picnic spot every day. Really great places." And…
"Anybody who's new is enthusiastic, and that's all you need. Awareness and enthusiasm and away you go."
For Lindsay, beekeeping was new in 1970 and, over five decades on, the enthusiasm remains undeniable. He started keeping bees as a teenager. His mother said he would give it up by 70, but that birthday has passed and still he has 60-odd hives of his own, plus plays an important role managing the Wellington club’s hives.
For 30 years Lindsay worked for Telecom, while keeping about 150 hives. At 48 years-old, “once the kids had left home”, he took an early retirement and moved into full-time beekeeping with just short of 500 hives, before scaling numbers back in later years.
No matter the amount of hives to his name though, Lindsay has had constant heavy involvement in beekeeping through his local club, and industry groups, even contributing to international research. He – along with wife Mary-Ann who has been a constant supporter and influential in club goings on too – were founding members of the Southern North Island Beekeeping Group (SNIBG), which recently celebrated 50 years advocating for beekeepers. Lindsay’s efforts in apiculture have gained the well-healed beekeeper a trio of life memberships, to the SNIBG, the Wellington Beekeepers Association and, former national industry body, the National Beekeepers Association.
Current Wellington club president James Withington is glowing in his praise for Lindsay’s contributions.
“He has given a huge amount to the club,” the president says.
“It wouldn’t be what it is without him. He looks after the club apiary and has them fizzing at the bung, then you have all the work he does behind the scenes. He writes articles, mentors new people, and, if you pick up the phone and say there is something wrong with your hive, he will be there in 15 minutes to look at it. This is all at detriment to his own business and hives.”
A former club president himself, on two separate occasions, Lindsay says plenty has changed through the years, not least the amount – and attitude of – members.
“When I started, there were about 40 members, and they were all old men and whatnot. You would ask them a question and they would tell you a few things, but it was often ‘oh, you'll find out'.”
Not happy with the direction of the club, along with some other younger members, Lindsay said they were given the advice to ‘go vote them out’. So they did.
“We decided amongst us who's going to do what, then we went to the AGM and voted them out. The president had been in the role for 30 years at that stage. They all got a shock. It didn't go down well with the older members, but that wasn't a problem for us," he says looking back.
A half century on, the Wellington Beekeepers Club is “totally different”, with membership peaking at about 360, and now sitting around 200.
“There are now lots of woman involved and a lot of education goes on. There are members going into schools and talking to kids and that sort of thing. There's generally a focus on that way and a focus on training,” Lindsay says.
The life member has been at the forefront of that training.
“He will write an article for a lot of clubs around the country and they will basically tell me, ‘we did what Frank said’. His knowledge bank is phenomenal. I hang around with him and, any day you do that, you feel like a beginner opening the hives for the first time.
“Frank is the guru in our club. He is the go-to person if there is anything wrong with the bees.”
It is not just about helping to educate clubmates though, Withington explains.
“He’s got 52 years of beekeeping experience and has been a great advocate to the government. He has written a lot of guidance documents around disease control, AFB, varroa. Frank often makes submissions to select committees and occasionally he is asked to front them, especially around disease control in the industry. He does a lot of lobbying governments to ensure the best for the industry.”
After attempting to fully detail the long involvement of Lindsay with the apicultural industry, the current president of the Wellington club concludes with a simple summary earnt through five decades of giving back.
“He is one of the most amazing guys there is.”