• Patrick Dawkins

Scientists Call on Beekeepers to Be Heard

After a couple of bedding-in years, the 3rd New Zealand Honey Bee Research Symposium will take place on June 29 with an emphasis on facilitating connection and collaboration between those carrying out research into New Zealand’s honey bees and those who are set to gain the most from that work – beekeepers. We caught up with event organiser Ashley Mortensen who explains what attendees can expect, while inviting beekeepers to register.

The first two iterations of the Honey Bee Research Symposium have seen a range of scientists present their work, and that will once again be the case at Te Pa Convention Centre in Christchurch on June 29. However, organisers hope to get a little more out of the event this time around.

When the Symposium concept was initially conceived, in 2020, the idea was to facilitate presentation of ongoing research and findings, while fostering greater connections with the apiculture industry. In year one the event was forced online due to Covid-19, while last year it provided a packed schedule of research presentations. This year, more two-way dialogue will be encouraged.

“There will be a session that is intended for industry discussion, dialogue, feedback, whatever people want it to be,” Mortensen says.

“It will be an open session for the audience to make comment, make suggestions. We are hoping it will be a workshop of sorts, where various ideas about honey bee research can be proposed and discussed.”

The New Zealand Honey Bee Research Symposium will have an even greater emphasis on connecting beekeepers and scientists in Christchurch this June than it did here, in Rotorua last year.

While the final schedule of proceedings and speakers has yet to be finalised, it will cover a broad range of research work being carried out into the honey bee or closely related fields. Last year presentation topics were as varied as honey bee gut bacteria and metals of the brain, American foulbrood bacteriophages, over-stocking of hives, monitoring pollen sources, as well as an update on the giant willow aphid bio-control programme.

The Symposium is conveniently held in the same venue as the Apiculture New Zealand conference and the day prior to that major gathering of beekeepers. Around 50 people attended the Symposium last year, where each speaker had 15 minutes to outline their work, before fielding questions from the audience.

Mortensen, herself an entomologist with Plant and Food Research, encourages beekeepers to attend, saying there is “an alignment that needs to happen” between scientists and beekeepers.

“We hope to have greater tie in with industry and industry perspective and what people see as topics that are interesting, or they need solutions for. Perhaps they don’t even recognise they need a solution for it, it could just be something that is difficult for them and we can try and determine what sort of things could be developed as research projects,” she says.

The event is not solely about scientist-beekeeper collaboration though, Mortensen says. The honey bee research community within New Zealand, while small, needs events like the Symposium to facilitate connections between scientists, who can come from diverse fields of study.

“You end up with a lot of scientists with different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Bringing all those people together within the honey bee research community and facilitating connections, as well as with beekeepers, is the aim.”

Registration costs $45 and can be made online HERE. Lunch, morning and afternoon teas are provided.


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