Beekeeping can be a fascinating hobby but it requires just about the same commitment to owning a pet. You need observation skills and some physical skills and no matter your age, you will always keep learning with bees. At times a hive may need feeding. During the spring hives will swarm because that’s the natural way bees propagate especially when the bees become overcrowded. During spring a hive will need attention every fortnight. Timing is essential in beekeeping and therefore you have to commit to working the hives on time.
Read the Wellington Beekeepers face book page and answer the five questions posed from the Ontario Beekeepers web page. If you think you would still like to have bees, welcome aboard.( http://www.ontariobee.com/research/getting-started/is-beekeeping-for-me)
A Beekeeping club will not teach you everything. You are best to read a few books to get an understanding of the language beekeepers use; (look up the glossary of beekeeping terms). A Beekeeping club can guide you through some beginner things and we hope that you will buddy up with a beekeeper close by so that you either learn off that beekeeper or you learn together.
Don’t jump into beekeeping too quickly as it might not suit you. Work along side another beekeeper to see it this hobby suits you before you commit money to this hobby.
Use your local libraries for books to borrow.
A recommended book you start with:
“First Lessons in Beekeeping” by C.P. Dadant.
Also a good beginners book is “Starting with Bees” booklet available from Apiculture NZ $15.00 as an introduction for NZ beekeepers.
If you don’t want to spend any money and can read off the computer screen, down load a PDF of the original book:
Another introductory book is Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees by Malcolm Sanford & Richard Bonney.
Slightly more advanced books:
Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand 4th Edition by Matheson & Reid [$50]
The Beekeeper’s Handbook 4th edition by Diana Sammataro & Alphonse Avitabile
If you think you would like to go commercial beekeeping in the future :
The bee book – Beekeeping in Australia, 3rd edition by Peter Warhurst & Roger Goebel
Honey Farming by R O B Manley
The Hive and the Honey Bee, a Dadant publication.
Things to accomplish in your first beekeeping season are:
1. Learn to light a smoker so that it keeps going for about half an hour.
Sounds easy but isn’t.
2. Learn the parts of the hive. Beekeepers can speak a different language. Stop us and ask if you do not understand. If you don’t understand there will be others in the room that also don’t.
3. Learn to handle the hives parts. Some are heavy especially honey supers but there are ways to get around this. i.e. Put some honey frames in a smaller box and carry a few at a time.
4. Learn to uses the hive tool correctly. You have to be gentle and slow. Squashed bees cause other bees to sting. The hive tool should be sharp.
5. Learn the biology of the bees. It’s a cold blooded insect but produced its own heat to survive and reproduce.
6. Learn to identify the different casts of bees, finding a queen is not necessary – just look for eggs. [You may need glasses.]
7. Attend the club Apiary and field days, if you don’t have standard protective clothing, just bring a broad rimmed hat and some fly screen netting to tuck into clothing. Yet someone may have some spare veil.
8. Learn how to sight and sample for Varroa mite numbers. We all have to sample mite numbers before we treat and after we treat so see that our treatment has been effective.
9. Learn how to treat Varroa. It’s going to get more complicated in a few years when the mites become resistant to some of the miticide strips. If you don’t treat on time, your hive is dead. When you see mites on bees, your hive is only a couple of months away from death. Alternative Varroa treatments work but are much more intensive and time consuming. As a hobbyist you will have time to do this.
10. It is a good idea to keep a note book of what’s flowering when. Look at flowers. See if bees are working it. Is it for nectar and or pollen. Look at the colour of the pollen, is that what you are seeing in your hive? Some flowers are not attractive to bees. Why is this? An apiary diary is also a good idea for recording your beehive manipulations.
Purchase from ApiNZ or down load a PDF of Nectar and Pollen sources of New Zealand by R S Walsh and use as a reference:
11. One thing that is important is for members to take their hives through winter so they come out healthy and vibrant in the spring.
Ideally it would be good for new members to start with a nucleus colony perhaps bought from a commercial beekeeper.
Any swarm caught should be put on to new foundation frames and fed sugar syrup to get them going. Don’t be complacent – AFB hives can swarm.
Purchasing nucs and hives off the internet has its hazards. A nucleus should have bees covering all frames, at least two frames of brood and a couple with pollen and honey. It should come with a new miticide strip.
It is important to register your hive – refer to the AFB web site. http://www.afb.org.nz
Nelson Beekeepers Club – web site is: https://nelsonbeekeepers.org.nz/
New members are welcome to attend a meeting first to check us out before joining.
If you are interested in taking up beekeeping, or meeting with other beekeepers, and live in the top of the south, this is the club to join! We meet at 7.00 pm on the first Tuesday of every month from February to December inclusive, at the Waimea Rooms of the second grandstand at the Richmond A&P Showgrounds. Lower Queen St Richmond. Membership is $35 and includes a membership of the A&P Society. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org