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Monique from New Zeeland
"I spent weeks looking for an app that I felt comfortable with and tried about 20 others out."
Meet Monique, she lives in a rural town, Dannevirke, from New Zealand and she is an organic beekeeper
If it’s not already obvious from the pen name, Monique is a beekeeper whose narrative is strongly intertwined with that of her honey bees.
Monique, together with her husband and her kitty cat, Wedgley, create a beautiful team that works together and gets through everything. They have planted a small home orchard in their yard and purchased bumblebees every year to help with pollination. After a few years, Monique decided to take the plunge and got herself into beekeeping. Once she received permission from the local government, nothing could hold her back.
What do you love most about beekeeping?
I love watching the bees as they are so orderly.It is fascinating to learn how wax and honey are made and how their life cycle works in the hive.The best part is to watch the bees arrive back from foraging and seeing all the different colours of pollen they manage to collect.
How many years of experience as a beekeeper do you have and why did you start beekeeping?
This is currently my first winter of beekeeping, so I am not sure that I have much to contribute on an educational level, but I am more than happy to write the occasional article about my own experiences and beekeeping antics. I have two hives; the first one obtained from capturing a swarm and the next one for which I purchased a nuc. Both are very different in various ways.
What advice would you give to beekeepers who are just beginning their journeys?
Have patience, read lots from different sources and take notes. If you ask two beekeepers the same question, you are likely to get four methods of doing a particular thing. Therefore, ask around and read as much as possible, so that you can form your own opinion after you practice things.In the end, I am almost self-taught as there is no beekeeping club here. I think the best thing a new beekeeper can do is to join a beekeeping club or find a competent mentor.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges of being a beekeeper?
Sifting through so much differing information can be confusing, so you need to have patience.The bees have been living their way for thousands of years, so let them teach you as well. The biggest challenge for me so far has been the dreaded varroa mite and overwintering.This is my first winter. One of the things that scared me the most was learning about AFB(American foulbrood) because if we get AFB confirmed in a hive, we must burn both - the disease and the bees.Because of this, my two beehives will always be in "equipment isolation", meaning that my equipment will never leave my property and no one else's equipment will enter on to my property.This means that as a beekeeper I cannot contaminate my bees. Of course, my bees can still rob an infected hive and so bring AFB to their own hive, but at least I am doing everything I can to prevent contamination.
What are your beekeeping plans for the future?
My next task is to learn how to rear my own queens so that I can keep my bees healthy and docile.
How did you find out about Apiary Book?
I spent weeks looking for an app that I felt comfortable with and tried about 20 others out.
What is your opinion about the app?
My one wish is that the weather forecast part of the app would be upgraded somehow. Even though it is the only app that I let use the location function of my cell phone, it still gives me the weather for a town 50km away whilst there is a weather beacon 600 meters from my apiary. I use the app in conjunction with another weather app that shows me the barometric pressure, as I have noticed it is better to open the hives if the pressure is increasing or remaining stable. If the barometric pressure is falling, the bees become less tolerant of their hive being opened. There is a lot the app can do and I need to spend more time experimenting with it to use it to its fullest potential.
Tell us about what it means to be an organic beekeeper
We try to do as much as possible organically, this includes tending our home orchard and vegetable garden. It can be a little tricky at times such as when you are dealing with a varroa outbreak.This means that I will use oxalic acid vaporisation or formic acid to treat.
These are considered organic here as well as a few other products. However, if they fail and I think they are not performing as well as they should, I will sparingly use chemical products. It is better to use a mild chemical for a short burst of time than end up losing my bees and having to start again. It is very commendable to be fully organic, but even nicotine is considered an organic compound and one drop of that can kill a human; so organic does not necessarily equate to being safe. For my bees, just like my fruit trees and vegetables, I will always try organic methods first and only if they start to fail, I will resort to non-organic compounds.
Beekeeping in New Zealand
New Zealand holds a long track of beekeeping in the history books. Bees have captured the fascination of New Zealanders for more than 150 years, when they were brought to the country from England by a lady known as Miss Bumby. She arrived with 2 hives of bees in 1839 and now there are over 7000 beekeepers in New Zealand and over a third of a million hives.Approximately 300,000 of these are owned by the 612 commercial beekeepers in the country.
During this period, beekeeping has shifted from being a lifestyle choice, into an increasing industry. New Zealand is now acknowledged as one of the world’s most modern beekeeping countries and it’s a leader in several important fields.
Geographically, it is an isolated country but this aspect is considered an advantage for not being around too many bee diseases. New Zealand has 28 native and 13 introduced species of bee, thanks to its hospitable environment. All of them feed on nectar and pollen and have some role in pollinating plants. The bees’ pollination efforts on pasture legumes like clover have been estimated to be worth $500 million each year. Indeed, their right to be called “the angels of agriculture” is well deserved.
When it comes to honey, there is a large variety of honey, diverse and unique as the native trees and flowers of kāmahi, mānuka, pōhutukawa, rewarewa and rātā. Among them, Kamahi Honey, Manuka Honey, Beechwood Honeydew, Clover Honey and Acacia Honey are high-quality, monofloral honeys that present distinctive flavour profiles. Differences in climate, soil types and the natural diversity of floral types have contributed to the expansion of other regional varieties of honey across New Zealand.
ApiNZ estimates the industry is worth $5 billion, taking into account the value of pollination services to the agriculture and horticulture industry, pollinating pastoral clover, seed crops, vegetables, berries and stone fruit.
Apiculture New Zealand - https://apinz.org.nz/join-us/ is the peak body representing the New Zealand apiculture industry. It creates opportunities for and advocates on behalf of members on industry issues. All the sectors including beekeeping, market, beekeeping clubs or affiliate, dispose of different membership types such as : commercial membership, non-commercial membership, beekeeping club memberships, packers and producers (export) memberships, packers and producers (domestic) memberships, affiliate memberships, health products and food products memberships.
ApiNZ also manages an agency which administers The National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan - https://afb.org.nz/
In 2018, the organisation introduced The New Zealand Apprenticeship in Apiculture - https://apinz.org.nz/training-and-education-nz-apprenticeship-in-apiculture-2/ and a Youth Scholarship in Beekeeping - https://apinz.org.nz/scholarship-in-beekeeping/ . Both aim at encouraging new beekeepers and young New Zealanders to pursue beekeeping as a full-time vocation and learn the best practices.
Among the most important beekeeping associations in New Zealand are the following:
New Zealand Beekeeping Incorporated - https://nzbeekeeping.co.nz/, an organisation that represents beekeepers operating hives.
The Southern North Island Beekeeping Group http://www.snibeekeeping.nz/contact.php, aims to educate, and cultivate beekeeping in the lower half of the North Island.
The UMF Honey Association https://www.umf.org.nz/, oversees all use of the UMF quality trademark, and supports licensees and consumers through a number of programmes and activities.