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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

No Pigeonholing Nelson’s Beekeepers


Apiarists come in all shapes and sizes, ages and stages of life, and the Nelson Beekeeping Club’s membership personifies that, drawing together over 100 diverse beekeepers in the top of the South Island.

Club secretary Mary Dowie says the club is largely hobbyist beekeeper based, meaning people from all walks of life gather at their monthly meetings.

“What really fascinated me is the diversity of people involved. The only thing you could say about a gathering of beekeepers is you couldn’t pigeonhole any of them,” Dowie says.

“We have one member who is 16, still hasn’t finished school, then we have some who have been retired a number of years, and all the ranges in between, both genders. You certainly meet people who you wouldn’t in the normal course of events.”

The club has been running for a little over 10 years and some members have been with them that whole time. With an apiary of a half dozen hives at Nelson A & P Showgrounds, a small extraction plant housed at a club member’s property and a recent purchase of a microscope for detailed inspection of bees or other matters of the hive, the club is well setup to support their wide range of beekeepers.

The Nelson Beekeeping Club hives at their local A & P Showground.

Perhaps of most value to the club is the inclusion of some ideal beekeeping mentors though.

“We are lucky to have guys like Nigel Costley, who was a beekeeping tutor for many years, and Scott Williamson, who is currently taking level 3 and 4 apiculture training courses. There is a depth of people who have been members right from the start, which is quite impressive,” Dowie says.

In recent months several American foulbrood cases have been recognised around the Nelson town area and the club has played an important role in helping members work through the procedures required in terms of destroying hives.

“There has been a substantial focus, in the past three meetings, about AFB and a potential outbreak. People were starting to get concerned. If you are a new beekeeper coming in to an environment of thou shalt burn your hive, then you wonder if it is nurturing and encouraging. However, it is a reality,” Dowie says.

As for Nelson as a beekeeping region? Well, there is not much high-value manuka honey to be had, but it has its benefits to the beekeeper and bees all the same.

“We are incredibly pollen rich. Where a lot of beekeeping literature will recommend pollen supplements, especially through early spring, we are the exact opposite. We are a cropping area, we have orchards around, and we are a well gardened area. It is not all open grass fields and monoculture,” Dowie explains.

A variety of orchards in the Nelson area, including kiwifruit, makes for a pollen rich region.

Club meetings are held the first Tuesday of each month (except January) at the Show Grounds, and usually begin with the apiary manager going through the club hives, along with whoever wishes to join in, followed by an indoor session from 7-9m where guest speakers often address the members. However, it is the casual conversations that draw most beekeepers to the club Dowie believes.

“I think what people really enjoy is that we stop the meetings halfway through and everyone gets a chance to have a natter. Check in, have a talk and compare notes.”

For more information on the Nelson Beekeepers Club, or to join, visit



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