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  • Writer's pictureDave Black

Titbits from a Beekeepers Day Out in Waikato

For the second year running an informative, social and well-organised field day was hosted by New Zealand Beekeeping Inc in Waikato on Saturday August 19. Around 100 beekeepers attended the ‘In the Beehive’ gathering at Hautapu Hall near Cambridge where the early arrivals could have a cuppa with New Zealand’s only EV ute, the four-door LDV EV T60. Beekeepers congregated amidst a small collection of trade displays or checked out the honey tasting competition and a variety of expert speakers presented.

Around 100 people made their way to Hautapu Hall in the Waikato for the ‘In the Beehive’ event hosted by NZ Beekeeping Inc on August 19, where experts presented on a range on topics relevant to beekeeping. Photo: Orini Honey Packers – Hamilton.

It’s well worth a visit next time and you have a better than average shot at winning a raffle prize. Here’s some of the key titbits I picked up…

New RMP Template Explained

Byron Taylor (AsureQuality) provided an overview of MPI’s new Risk Management Plan (RMP) template for honey exporters. These need to be in place by November 1. At 157 pages for the Bee Product template and 87 pages for the Honey Storage, these appear quite daunting, but the size is due to a new ‘Know, Do, Show’ layout with all the various modules and their guidance in one place, rather than anything else.

I thought it was quite helpful, and I’m sure Taylor was thinking ‘don’t shoot the messenger’! He described the scope of non-conformances with the plans to date, which largely centred on documentation and traceability. For example, monitoring audits and reviews might have been carried out, but they were not recorded, or product recalls were potentially inoperable. As usual, there was a surprising (to me) amount of ‘off-topic’ discussion about trade, exporting, non-compliances, and so on.

Talking Pollination

Plant and Food Research scientists Ashley Mortensen and Melissa Brousard presented recent studies into more efficient pollination of orchards using honey bees. Mortensen has been wondering about the trade-off beekeepers make when considering the use of colonies for honey production or pollination. As seasons and market requirements change, we need to think about the trade-off again. By using a ‘foragers/frame of bees’ unit of measure, we know that smaller colonies perform better in some circumstances. We should also think about ‘shook swarms’ for pollination. Swarms have a high motivation to forage (to gain carbohydrates for energy and lipids for comb construction), but have no brood to service and don’t need to spend much time regulating temperature and humidity in their hive. Artificial swarms (like shook swarms) also provide benefits for varroa management for an Integrated Pest Management system. I think the next step has to show precisely what kind of pollination unit will be effective for the various pollination scenarios and revisit the industry’s pollination standards and audits.

In the run-up to lunchtime a recorded presentation by Brousard presented her research regarding pollination under covers. Openings above the hive location seemed to be helpful in reducing bee losses, but it is a complex problem and one without a clear solution. Robin Barker-Gilbert from Zespri outlined the future growth in kiwifruit crops, the early ‘RubyRed’ and Gold increase being the most notable developments (Waikato has a large proportion of the Red). The ideal stocking rate was still assumed to be 10 hives/ha, but it was pointed out that Zespri could be facing an industry with 30% less hives this year, and pollen for application was liable to be a) expensive and b) in short supply so the price for pollination hives might be increasing. That’s all another reason for re-examining the pollination standard.

A range of honey varieties were on display so attendees could expand their honey palette.

More Titbits – AFB, Varroa, Honey Markets & Government

Dwayne Hill (the AFB Management Agency’s Northern Region Operations Manager) had some mildly encouraging local statistics on AFB hot-spots in Waikato and Bay of Plenty and noted that a replacement for Clifton King had been appointed and would soon be formally announced. Ian McDonald, Business Development Manager for P&B Group, (an agent for Hyundai Trucks) provided a beginner’s guide to ‘green’ truck engine developments, specifically battery EV and hydrogen fuel cells. Mark Godwin and Jane Lorimer reminded us of the Honey Origin project, which now has a website to refer to.

After a hearty lunch for everyone Michelle Taylor worked to persuade us there were plenty of effective options in the varroa management ‘toolbox’. The most important thing was monitoring, not just to see the effect of your treatment, but actually to see when to treat next. At the moment there is no getting around the need to treat, but you can choose what to use, what to use next, and when to do that.

Professor Phil Lester, Victoria University of Wellington, talked about the iRNA gene silencing treatment fed in sugar syrup, still under development, but promising.

Ian Fletcher was thinking out loud about MPI’s intransigence and its failure to resolve the mānuka definition for Northland beekeepers (issues which he has well covered in Apiarist’s Advocate’s pages too). Kiwifruit growers have already found out how difficult it is holding the Government to account for its own incompetence, and there didn’t seem any prospect of that changing. He discussed some options, which led nicely into open discussion about marketing honey with Russell Berry from Arataki, and Logan Bowyer of Mānuka Orchard. These two companies operate in different markets, Arataki generally supplying packed honey to end-users while Mānuka Orchard broker bulk honey to packers.


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