“If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Albert Einstein (allegedly)
This week’s new thing was an Introductory Course in Beekeeping, held at The Beehive Solutions in Drury.
Keeping bees is one of those things I’ve been vaguely interested in – like keeping chickens and growing my own vegetables – but something I’ve never really found the time to do much about. But at the same time, bees are something that I believe we have a duty to know about, and to help protect. Bees are responsible for around a third of the world’s food supply. They are vital to pollination of plants and crops, and it’s been said that if bees disappeared tomorrow, life wouldn’t last too long. Pesticide use and deforestation is responsible for declining bee numbers.
So I decided to bite the bullet and do an introductory course to learn more about what we can do to protect the bees, and to learn if becoming a beekeeper is feasible for me.
Greg, the owner of the Beehive Solutions and President of the Franklin Beekeepers Club led the two day course, and went into a lot of detail about how to get started with beekeeping, and also how the industry works. It’s always fascinating to learn from someone who is passionate about their subject matter, and here’s a short summary of what I learnt;
- New Zealand prohibits or limits the use of a lot of pesticides, and bees are protected by the EPA
- Colony Collapse Disorder is a big problem in countries which have a high use of pesticides
- Beekeeping is a pretty easy hobby. You don’t need to spend much time with the bees, you just need to know what to look out for – for example diseases such as American Foul Brood (a very big problem for all beekeepers) or varroa mites, and other issues such as if your hive is about to swarm.
- Beekeeping is pretty expensive. Just to get set up with your kit, tools etc costs around $1,200.
- There’s a lot of money to be made from selling honey, or bees, therefore beehive theft is actually a thing.
- Here in NZ it is illegal to sell or barter honey that has not been extracted in a commercial kitchen.
- Toxic honey is a thing, and can be very dangerous or even fatal.
- Bees are fascinating. I learnt a lot about they they communicate with each other, how they work out which flowers have nectar or pollen, and how the colony works.
While I’m not sure that my landlord would be massively impressed with me setting up a hive on my small lawn right now, this is something that I would definitely consider doing in the not so distant future. Also, I’m pretty sure that the bee keeper outfit suits me.
I’d also definitely recommend the course if you want a good introduction to beekeeping.