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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

Fostering Beekeeper Collaboration


The Tairāwhiti Hub of Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) has been hard at work bringing beekeepers together since Cyclone Gabrielle made for a devastating and unique back-end of the beekeeping season. A post-cyclone BBQ get together, a zoom meeting to discuss recovery and, most recently, a field day attended by 42 beekeepers with some important topics on the agenda have all taken place.

Barry Foster, chairman of ApiNZ’s Tairāwhiti Hub leads a group encouraging collaboration between local beekeepers through social and educational gatherings, both online and in-person.

“It was very successful and there is definitely a need for beekeepers to get together and do these sorts of things,” says Hub chairman Barry Foster of the May 26 event at Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) in Gisborne.

It’s Foster by name and nature for the life member of ApiNZ, for who finding a model to foster greater collaboration within the beekeeping industry is a passion. This autumn, in the Tairāwhiti region, it’s been an important undertaking too.

First Cyclone Gabrielle brought devastation to the area in February, washing away hives and many access routes to apiaries. Soon after that disaster a BBQ get together was held for beekeepers to literally and figuratively ‘chew the fat’.

While the human recovery from such a devastating event was aided by that gathering, the topic of bee health and management was obviously front and centre too, with several curve balls for beekeepers to negotiate.

“The cyclone event happened and beekeepers had to pick up drowned hives and fix up other things. In the mean time they didn’t get around all their hives to get strips in at the right time and, if you are too late by a few weeks, that can be critical now,” Foster says.

Not surprisingly, varroa infestations became a big challenge for beekeepers across the district and so, once again, the local ApiNZ hub called a meeting – this time online via Zoom. Hub member John Mackay reported on that ‘meet-up’ last month.

The success of that medium in aiding knowledge transfer on key issues, such as varroa management, will likely be used again Foster says. Sometimes you can’t beat a get together in person though and the May 26 field day exceeded expectations as, despite access issues still limiting some beekeeper’s ability to attend, more than 40 from Tairāwhiti and surrounding regions made it to EIT.

Varroa was once again a hot topic, with Martin Laas of Midlands Apiaries and the ApiNZ Science and Research Focus Group presenting on varroa monitoring and management, while an in-hive demonstration on mite washes and sticky boards was also given. Pollination was also a key area of discussion, with experienced beekeeper Dennis Crowley of Tauranga providing advice.

All in all, it was another successful event and Foster puts it down to four key factors. First you need champions to lead organisation and promotion, and himself, hub secretary Steve Jackson and Mackay played that role. Then an appropriate venue is required. The EIT campus was that, with club hives, audio visual technology in meeting rooms, a BBQ, and all at no charge. A topical programme must also be set and last, but not least, food and drink to get the conversations flowing.

With such a strong turnout, you can bet it won’t be the last get together for East Coast beekeepers, be it in person or online – all in the name of Fostering collaboration.



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